Higher Education Quick Takes
The official who has driven the U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's increasingly aggressive scrutiny of student loans and for-profit higher education is leaving the agency. Rohit Chopra, the new agency's first student loan ombudsman, said in a letter the Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that he would depart next week after four years of work to "assist borrowers, promote transparency, and hold accountable those who break the law."
Chopra has been a vigilant advocate for student loan borrowers as the agency has taken on issues such as colleges' use of debit cards, companies that offer "debt relief," and debt forgiveness for students whose for-profit colleges may have misled them.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill told a group of college athletics officials Wednesday that while she appreciated the progress they had made in combating sexual assault, college athletes are still too often protected "from the consequences of their behavior," USA Today reported. In a speech at the annual conference of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the Missouri Democrat credited sports officials with taking some steps to crack down on athletes' sexual misconduct, like a new Southeastern Conference rule that bars an athlete from transferring to a league member if he or she has been punished for sexual assault or domestic violence.
But McCaskill, who has led the Congressional push to hold colleges more accountable for stopping sexual violence on their campuses, said more needed to be done to end the long history of athletes getting protection from their athletics departments. "They rely on the failure of the criminal justice system, which allows them the luxury of looking the other way," she said. "An athletic director should not see themselves as a shield to the student-athlete. Indeed, the mandate you have when you join your university is an obligation to protect other students and the campus at large."
In a sign of improved U.S.-Cuba relations and the desire of American colleges and universities to recruit students from Cuba, the Educational Testing Service will offer the Test of English as a Foreign Language there on June 27, The Wall Street Journal reported. Four Cuban students have signed up. ETS also plans to offer the GRE in Cuba.
South Carolina State University's board on Wednesday declared financial exigency, potentially making it easier for the university to eliminate jobs of employees, including faculty members, the Associated Press reported. The university is $20 million in debt. The university received some good financial news Wednesday when a state board gave the university a five-year delay in repaying a $6 million loan. State leaders have repeatedly criticized the financial management of the historically black university. But its defenders have pointed to years of underfunding.
Department chairs at Northwestern Michigan College have voted to unionize and to affiliate with the Michigan Education Association, which is part of the National Education Association. The vote to unionize was 4-0, The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. Full-time faculty members voted earlier this year to unionize with the Michigan Education Association.
Matt Bambrough, Utah Valley University's director of creative services, has done over one of its staircases. In part, the project aims to encourage people to think about whether they need to text at all times and to watch where they are going while texting. In part, it's an art project that some will ignore while going up the stairs.
The new president of the University of Texas at Austin said Tuesday that he would commission an independent review of the academic services the Longhorn sports programs provide to athletes, in the wake of a highly critical news report alleging that players received improper academic help. The "top-to-bottom" review, as President Gregory Fenves called it, will be conducted by Gene Marsh, a former law professor who spent many years involved in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's enforcement system. It was prompted by an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) charging that Texas has "let academically deficient players push the limits of its policy on academic integrity as it has sought to improve its teams' academic records."
Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback whose reputation has been damaged by a football deflation scandal, made a rare public appearance following a report that was critical of him and his team, speaking at Salem State University. The Boston Globe reported that the university's foundation paid him $170,000 for the appearance. The university said that no public funds were used, and that the speaker series in which Brady participated raises money for scholarships.