Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Nonwealthy private colleges are often left out of the discussion about how low-income students can get access to and succeed in higher education, with policy makers putting most of their focus on the institutions that disproportionately enroll those students (community colleges and for-profit institutions) and those that they think should enroll more -- flagship public and wealthy private universities. That rankles officials at small private colleges, who argue that their institutions provide more access to those students (and turn them out with better outcomes) than do many other types of colleges.

A group representing those institutions, the Council of Independent Colleges, makes that case formally in a report released Wednesday. The association's report presents data showing that small and midsize private colleges enroll first-generation and low-income students at higher proportions than do public and private research universities, and that those students are likelier to graduate from the private institutions than they are from public doctoral universities. The report also urges school counselors to encourage more students to attend "the institutions where they are most likely to flourish, namely, smaller private colleges," and asks state and federal policy makers to recognize the role these institutions play as they allocate financial aid and other dollars to maximize student success in college.

Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Publishing groups are praising a recent move by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to amend Syrian sanctions regulations to authorize U.S. citizens to engage in transactions related to the publishing and marketing of Syrian manuscripts, books, journals and newspapers. 

The Association of American University Presses, the Association of American Publishers's Professional/Scholarly Publishers division and the PEN American Center issued a statement on Wednesday commending the amendment as “a step in the right direction” while noting concerns about exceptions for government-related publications. The groups, which wrote a joint letter to OFAC in January seeking revision of the trade regulations, have in the past fought successfully for similar changes to the Cuba, Iran and Sudan sanctions.

Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Michelle Miller, a professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University, explains her work to decode how our brains encode information. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

A group of three Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, this week introduced a resolution promoting debt-free public college. Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives put forward an accompanying proposal. The brief Senate resolution describes a plan to help states pay more for higher education, to increase financial aid to cover students' living expenses and to encourage innovation that would make college more affordable.

“A student at a public university today faces tuition prices that are more than 300 percent of what his or her parents faced just 30 years ago, and total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $1.3 trillion,” Warren said in a written statement. “Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.”

The Washington Post reported that the push, which two liberal groups are supporting, is intended to encourage Hillary Clinton to make the plan part of her campaign proposals. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demos released a policy paper this week that attempts to flesh out the plan. The groups are arranging events at 10 college campuses this week to promote it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 4:20am

They're not quite as lucrative as the MacArthur Foundation's so-called genius grants, but the Carnegie Corporation of New York today introduces a new program of fellowships -- worth as much as $200,000 each -- specifically designed to support scholars in the increasingly underappreciated humanities and social sciences. Thirty-two people -- 30 university faculty members and 2 journalists -- received the inaugural set of awards; more information about the grants and the winners can be found here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

The Online Learning Consortium and MERLOT -- the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching -- have merged their two journals on online education. The new journal will be known simply as Online Learning, which is what the OLC renamed its journal after last summer's name changeOnline Learning's existing editorial staff will lead the new journal, but reviewers who contributed to MERLOT's Journal of Online Learning and Teaching will be invited to join the new journal's team, the two organizations said in a press release.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

California Polytechnic University's Queer Student Union organized a demonstration (please be warned that link features an image of excrement) Thursday to protest the university's lack of restrooms that can safely be used by transgender students. The demonstration, in which students were encouraged to use only gender-neutral restrooms on campus, was called a "shit-in."

The demonstrators also circulated a petition urging the university to create more gender-neutral restrooms and encouraged students to sign a fake toilet to show their support. "Trans/gender nonconforming students often cite a lack of all-gender bathrooms as a top concern," the petition reads. "Gendered bathrooms pose a threat to the emotional and physical well-being of this demographic, and often force awkward and uncomfortable encounters for non-cisgender-identifying students. Of the 17 all-gender bathrooms listed on the Pride Center's website, the Queer Student Union has identified only five bathrooms that are reasonably accessible, leaving non-cisgender students with a paltry amount of options when it comes to using the bathroom."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

California's consumer protection agency on Tuesday ordered Corinthian Colleges' campuses in the state to stop enrolling students after tomorrow, the Orange County Register reported. An official of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education said the order would "protect individuals who may have been thinking about enrolling at these schools." The California agency's move is the latest blow -- among many -- for the crumbling for-profit provider; last week, the U.S. Education Department fined the company $30 million.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

CHICAGO -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that he remains open to having his agency cancel the federal student loans of some borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges.

“Everything’s on the table,” Duncan said during remarks at the Education Writers Association conference here. 

Duncan said that the Education Department was working to figure out “a fair and impartial” way to handle the more than 250 claims filed by former Corinthian students formally asking to have their debt canceled.

Consumer advocates, student activists, some Senate Democrats and nine state attorneys general have asked the department to make it easier for federal loan borrowers to apply for debt relief.

They have pointed to a mostly dormant provision of federal law that allows borrowers to assert misconduct by a college as a reason why they shouldn’t be legally responsible for repaying their loans. 

Over the past 15 years “we’ve had, like, four of these cases,” Duncan said Tuesday. “So we don’t have a lot of practice on this. The rules aren’t very clear.” 

“There are certain things in the law that students would have to prove” in order to have their loans canceled, he added. 

Duncan also framed the Corinthian debt forgiveness issue in the larger context of the administration’s crackdown on for-profit colleges. The department last week fined Corinthian-owned Heald College $30 million over allegations it misrepresented job placement rates.

“We’re trying to make up for some real wrongs at the back end,” Duncan said. 

Separately, state regulators in California announced this week that they have ordered Corinthian’s campuses operating under the Everest and WyoTech brands to stop enrolling new students. The emergency action, which takes effect Thursday, means that only a handful of remaining Corinthian-owned campuses, such as its Rochester, N.Y., and Phoenix locations, are allowed to seek new students. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 3:00am

A New York State judge has ordered the State University of New York at Stony Brook to show a legal justification for keeping two chimpanzees caged, The New York Times reported. While the ruling is but a preliminary one in a complicated case over the rights of animals, it represents a win for those who wish to establish that animals caged for research or other purposes should have legal rights.



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