Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 1, 2016 - 3:00am

President Obama announced Saturday that his next budget will include new funds and programs to promote computer science education in elementary and secondary schools, with the goal that all students in those schools should be exposed to computer science. While the focus is on K-12 education, colleges and universities are expected to be involved in some of the efforts, particularly those on teacher training. The Bootstrap program by Brown University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute is expected to be involved.

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 3:00am

Non-tenure-track faculty members at Wells College -- full time and part time -- have voted to unionize and to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, The Ithaca Times reported. The SEIU is attempting to organize adjuncts in common geographic regions. In May, adjuncts at nearby Ithaca College voted to unionize with SEIU.

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on The Academic Minute, Robert Josephs, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, explains that hormones may have something to do with dishonesty. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 4:00am

The University of Oxford has decided not to take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes at its Oriel College despite alumni threats to withdraw millions in donations, the college announced. The statue, like a plaque about Rhodes elsewhere on the campus, has been caught up in the debate that has swept campuses in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere about honoring historical figures whose pasts included racist or other detrimental acts or statements.

Rhodes, the British imperialist whose bequest endowed the Rhodes Scholarships, has been at the center of the debate in Britain. In December, Oriel College officials said they had begun the process of removing the plaque honoring Rhodes and would review the status of the statue, describing the plaque's wording praising Rhodes as "inconsistent with our principles."

But in the announcement Thursday, Oriel officials said the "listening exercise" the college had undertaken in December had elicited an "enormous amount of input," overwhelmingly in favor of leaving the statue in place. "The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artifacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today. By adding context, we can help draw attention to this history, do justice to the complexity of the debate and be true to our educational mission."

British newspaper reports indicated that Oxford and Oriel have received threats to withdraw millions of dollars in gifts if the statue was removed, though the college's statement dismissed the idea that financial considerations were a factor.

Rhodes Must Fall, the student group leading the opposition, said in a statement on Facebook that the college's decision "breached the undertakings it gave to all students in its December statement. In December, Oriel said that the plaque's display was 'inconsistent with' the college's 'principles.' It seems that Oriel no longer believes this to be the case. This recent move is outrageous, dishonest and cynical. This is not over."

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

Three senior for-profit college executives were sentenced Tuesday on charges related to student financial aid and student visa fraud, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced.

Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria and Anita Chabria were all executives at either Micropower Career Institute (MCI), a for-profit with five campuses in New Jersey and New York, or the Institute for Health Education (IHE), a New Jersey-based for-profit institution. They were charged with defrauding the U.S. Department of Education of $1 million in grants awarded to domestic students. “As part of this fraud,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release, “they falsified and manipulated documents to hide MCI’s failure to timely return financial aid money received by MCI for domestic students who had dropped out of MCI.”

The three executives were also charged with making more than $7 million in profits from a visa fraud scheme in which they collected tuition from international students who were not attending classes as required under the terms of their student visas. “Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria, Anita Chabria and others fraudulently portrayed MCI and IHE to immigration authorities as legitimate institutes of higher learning where foreign students carried full course loads,” the news release states. “In reality, the majority of foreign students at MCI and IHE did not attend the required number of classes.”

Hiranandaney, MCI’s president, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, as was Lalit Chabria, MCI’s chief executive officer and IHE’s president. Anita Chabria, MCI’s vice president and director of a MCI campus in Mineola, N.Y., was sentenced to six months of home confinement. U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken also ordered the three executives to pay $1 million in restitution for the financial aid fraud and forfeit $7,440,000 for the student visa fraud. Two other defendants in the case are scheduled to be sentenced later this year.

One of the two institutions, the Institute for Health Education, is still certified by the U.S. government to enroll international students.

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society announced earlier this week that Lynn Tincher-Ladner will serve as president and chief executive officer of the organization. PTK primarily serves community college students.

Tincher-Ladner will become the honor society's third CEO. She's been with the honor society since 2012, when she worked as the chief information and research officer. She'll officially begin her new role Feb. 1, at an annual salary of $195,000.

Tincher-Ladner is replacing the former president, Rod Risley, who retired last year after serving more than 30 years in the role. Risley had faced allegations of inappropriate behavior from two former students.

"Phi Theta Kappa is a very special organization with a rich history and long-standing tradition of enhancing the lives of community college students," Tincher-Ladner said in a news release. "I am deeply honored to be the president and CEO of this student-centered organization and will work hard on behalf of the members to provide them with the tools they need to be successful."

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

Denver-based Westwood College announced Wednesday it will shut down in March, according to a CBS affiliate.

In November, Westwood, which has 14 campus locations nationally, announced it would stop enrolling new students. The decision came after the college made an agreement with the Illinois attorney general's office to wipe out $15 million in student loans.

In 2012, Westwood settled with the attorney general of Colorado for $4.5 million for deceptive marketing. In 2009, the college agreed to a $7 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice related to a complaint about filing false claims for federal student aid.

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Rhode Island has agreed to pay $1.45 million to the family of a baseball player who died after collapsing during a team workout in 2011. The family's lawyer told the Associated Press that the settlement ends a "hard fought" wrongful death lawsuit first brought against the university more than three years ago. The university also announced that it will establish a scholarship in the player's memory.

While advocating for legislation that would mandate automated external defibrillators be readily available at all Rhode Island athletics events, the player's mother, Michele Ciancola, said her son died of heatstroke and because Rhode Island athletic trainers did not have access to a defibrillator. She said her son's body temperature spiked to 107 degrees, and he was resuscitated five times before dying three days later at a hospital.

"This horrific chain of events provides you with a description of the pain and suffering that my young, healthy son endured," Ciancola said.

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that about one in 10 university students in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy and suggests that many of these students should be diverted from university to shorter-term, professionally oriented programs.

“Those with low basic skills should not normally enter three-year undergraduate programs, which are both costly and unsuited to the educational needs of those involved, while graduates with poor basic skills undermine the currency of an English university degree,” the report recommends. “These potential entrants should be diverted into more suitable provision that meets their needs.”

“Such students need postsecondary alternatives that will address their needs and tackle basic skills. Such alternatives need further development in England,” the report said. “Resources diverted from university provision should be redeployed … to support this.”

An article in The Guardian includes varying perspectives on the OECD report, including critical takes from representatives of the United Kingdom's university sector.

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

The Online Learning Consortium will this year rebrand its main conferences and expand its Quality Scorecard, according to plans released Thursday. The organization's scorecard, which colleges can use to evaluate their own online programs, will soon be offered in Spanish and include new quality indicators for programs that mix online and in-person instruction (the OLC said last year it would put part of a $2.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation toward updating the scorecard).

The OLC's International Conference for Online Learning, held every fall in Orlando, Fla., will now be known as OLC Accelerate, while its Blended Learning and ET4Online events have been replaced by a new conference, OLC Innovate.


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