Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 13, 2018

College students having a “ruff” time can get some relief from canine friends, a new study has found.

The report from the University of British Columbia, published in the journal Stress and Health, shows that exposure to therapy dogs helps boost students' well-being.

Researchers interviewed 246 students before and after cuddle and petting sessions with therapy dogs.

"The results were remarkable," Stanley Coren, co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC, said in a statement. "We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session."

Students felt significantly less stressed and more energized after interacting with the dogs, though the happy feelings weren’t necessarily lasting, the study found.

Previous research indicates that female students benefit more from therapy dogs than men, though that was not the case with this study.

March 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Jennifer Francis, research professor in the department of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University, explains why extreme winter weather is also a part of climate change. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 12, 2018

A new analysis from The Wall Street Journal builds on earlier reports on declines in the number of new international students in the United States. The Journal examined student visas issued last year and found that they were down 17 percent. The decline was particularly notable (28 percent) for students from India, one of the major sources of international students in the U.S. 

March 12, 2018

In “Admissions Insider” this week:

And more …

March 12, 2018

Many women and others at the University of Oxford reacted with anger to a photo posted on Twitter showing a female employee scrubbing away a chalking that said "Happy International Women's Day" from the steps of an Oxford building.

The university responded with its own tweet saying, "We are deeply sorry for this and for offence caused. International Women's Day is hugely important to Oxford. This should not have happened."

March 12, 2018

Clifford Adams, an assistant professor of music at the University of Cincinnati, is on administrative leave until he retires on May 1, over comments he made to a student about Muslims, Cincinnati.com reported. "The university is committed to excellence and diversity in order to create the best living and learning environment on behalf of our students, faculty and staff," Greg Vehr, university spokesperson, said in a statement. "We take seriously all allegations of discriminatory behavior. The university investigated this matter and followed the process for review under the collective bargaining agreement with the faculty."

Adams was investigated after he asked students to write about the song “Walk on Water” as an assignment. In response to a Muslim student’s interpretation, Adams wrote, among other comments, that the U.S. president’s “first sworn duty is to protect America from enemies, and the greatest threat to our freedom is not the president, it is radical Islam. Review this list of Islamic terrorist attacks and then tell me about your hurt feelings.” Of Muslim women, he wrote, “Muslim females are safer in America than in any Middle Eastern country. How dare you complain while enjoying our protection!” He also said, “As you well know, young Muslim women are murdered by their father or a brother for dating -- or for holding hands with -- a non-Muslim boy …” Adams publicly apologized for his remarks after they were shared on social media. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

March 12, 2018

The Department of Education last week announced it was extending the window for students who withdrew from a failed for-profit law school before its closure to request discharge of their federal student loan debt.

The decision means that about 300 students who attended Charlotte School of Law could be eligible to have their student loan debt cleared.

Federal regulations state that students who withdrew from a college or university not more than 120 days before its closure can apply to have their loans automatically cleared, a process known as closed-school discharge. But the secretary of education has the authority to declare exceptional circumstances to extend that window so students who withdrew earlier can be eligible for loan forgiveness.

The department in August designated April 12, 2017, as the earliest date students could have withdrawn from the law program and still receive automatic loan forgiveness. Now, Charlotte students who withdrew on or after Dec. 31, 2016, can be eligible for closed-school discharge. That date fell shortly after an announcement from the Obama administration that it would cut off the law school’s access to Title IV federal aid, a major blow to its viability as an institution.

North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein, since well before Charlotte’s closure last year, was asking Secretary Betsy DeVos to extend the closed-school discharge window and praised the decision in a statement Friday.

As of November, when the more narrow eligibility guidelines were in place, just 79 Charlotte students had applied for loan forgiveness. Kyle McEntee, the executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency, said expanding eligibility for loan discharge was unexpected but the right decision by the department.

“This signals to other for-profit institutions that the ED will not necessarily let them wiggle out of accountability by stringing students along,” he said.

March 12, 2018

Brown University has suspended its men’s varsity swimming and diving team after an investigation into allegations of hazing.

“After a comprehensive investigation into allegations of hazing and the conclusion of the full student conduct review process, the Brown University men’s varsity swimming and diving team, in its capacity as a student organization, had been found responsible for multiple violations of Brown’s code of student conduct,” the university said in a statement released Friday.

The charges are attached to an incident in October, when new members of the team vandalized school property, put on a skit and vomited after excessive alcohol consumption, according to The Providence Journal. In addition, older members drew inappropriate images on new members’ backs.

The university suspended the team until May 27, prohibiting all team activities. After that, Brown plans to enforce a deferred suspension through Dec. 21, meaning the team will be banned from representing the college in sports competitions but will be permitted to participate in other activities, like practices.

The team will be on probation during the spring 2019 semester. Brown requires the team, coaches and athletics staff to create an “organizational learning and development plan, and a strategic plan for rebuilding,” according to the statement.

March 12, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday weighed in on a dispute over whether states have the authority to regulate federal student loan servicers, issuing a legal interpretation saying that the federal government exclusively has the power to provide that oversight.

DeVos argued, as the Trump administration has elsewhere, that those regulations conflict with federal law and the obligations of federally contracted entities.

The pre-emption notice was blasted by Democratic officials as well as consumer groups who called it another attempt to weaken protections for student loan borrowers. Industry groups had argued for the declaration, saying that states across the country enacting their own particular rules would create a “regulatory maze.”

It’s not clear, though, what immediate effect the notice will have. When word of the pre-emption declaration leaked ahead of its publication, Democratic attorneys general said it would not stop their enforcement activities.

The states’ role in regulating servicers is likely to be settled for good either by the courts or by Congress. Legislation currently in the House to reauthorize the Higher Education Act would effectively bar the states from any oversight role.

And while loan servicer groups have focused on state rules such as licensing requirements, the Trump administration has argued in court attorneys general do not have the legal authority to sue those companies.

Several states -- along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- have sued servicers for misleading or overcharging borrowers, including a lawsuit brought by Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey against the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency over deceptive practices.

In January, the Department of Justice issued a court filing in response to that case, arguing Healey did not have standing. Earlier this month, a Superior Court judge rejected a motion by PHEAA to dismiss the lawsuit, although the ruling did not address the pre-emption issue.

March 12, 2018

After several years of high turnover and a 17-month search, Suffolk University appointed Marisa Kelly president, according to The Boston Globe.

Kelly became interim president of Suffolk in 2016 when former president Margaret McKenna was controversially ousted after about 12 months in the role.

Although Kelly was widely considered to be an effective interim, she was initially cut from the search process. Kelly was then reintroduced at the last minute and, despite some dissension, was approved first by a narrow margin and then a significant majority of board members, according to the Globe.

Suffolk is going through a difficult period, partially because it is a four-year private college that charges $55,000 for tuition and board, in Boston -- a city saturated with universities. Also, numbers of high school graduates are falling in the Northeast and families are struggling to pay for private postsecondary education, the Globe reported.

Before Kelly was reinstated as a candidate and then the new president, the board was considering two finalists: Patrick F. Leahy, president of Wilkes University; and H. Keith Moo-Young, former chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities.

In an interview with the Globe, Kelly said her plans for the college include advertising across the country, using Boston as a point of attraction. In addition, Kelly said she hopes to receive more financial support from alumni. During her 20-month tenure as interim, Kelly focused on fund-raising, accepting one alumni donation of $10 million -- the largest the college has received. Kelly also plans to improve the law school.

“We were coming out of a time of a lot of turmoil, and it was wonderful to see how much, irrespective of that, the entire community really just focused on our students,” Kelly told the Globe.


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