Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 10, 2015

An internal audit released Tuesday by Illinois's College of DuPage found the community college invested far more in an investment pool than college policy allowed, and that this decision resulted in a loss of $2.2 million, The Chicago Tribune reported. College policies barred investing more than 5 percent of the college's money in local government funds, but DuPage officials placed 29 percent of its money in such a fund, without authorization to violate the college's policies. When that fund revealed that it had been defrauded, losing much of its investors' money, DuPage lost $2.2 million. Had the college followed its policies, it would have lost less than $400,000. Two finance officials from the university have been placed on administrative leave pending the final results of an ongoing investigation.

"These actions are utterly unacceptable," said the college's acting interim president, Joseph Collins, in a news release. "We are taking steps now to ensure this breach of trust with the taxpayer never happens again. We are addressing each of the auditor's recommendations…. In the meantime, we must continue to focus on doing our best work to serve our students and the region."

The audit is just one of a number of problems the college has been dealing with in the last year and a half. The Chicago Tribune reported that the audit was available to top administrators months ago, but was suppressed. The report resurfaced after a new Board of Trustees majority took over and President Robert Breuder was placed on leave.

June 10, 2015

The Public Policy Institute of California released a report Tuesday identifying successful online courses in the state's community colleges.

Success was defined as having at least 70 percent of students earning a passing grade, and if student performance is at least as good as face-to-face versions of the same course. The study also defined success as when students in an online course continue to do well in subsequent same-subject classes either online or in a traditional setting.

The study found about 11 percent of online courses in 2013-14 were "highly successful" and they varied widely from one another. The courses were successful due to their design and the way they were delivered to students, although there wasn't a systematic pattern in online course success.

"This dispersion suggests that the factors determining online course success occurred neither at the college level, the subject level nor at the course level. Instead, success was determined in individual course sections. Design and delivery of online education in California's community colleges is idiosyncratic, depending primarily on the initiative of individual faculty members operating within the constraints and resources of their departments and colleges," the report said.

June 10, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Sarah Allen, a psychologist at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, discusses how best to bounce back from a concussion. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 9, 2015

The Obama administration has instructed regulators at the U.S. Department of Education to more aggressively pursue colleges found violating the federal ban on paying bonuses to recruiters.

Officials announced Monday that they repealed a 2002 Bush administration memorandum that largely restricted the department’s enforcement of the incentive compensation ban to using fines rather than tougher penalties like limiting a college’s access to federal aid.

That approach was heavily criticized earlier this year in a report by the department’s inspector general, which said the department has not done a good job of enforcing the ban on tying recruiter pay to student enrollments.

The new memo, signed last week by Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, instructs department employees to claw back all the federal funds a college received while breaking the rules instead of imposing a fine, which in most cases would be lower. The memo also says that the department may “limit, suspend, revoke, deny or terminate” a college’s ability to accept federal loans and grants as a punishment for violating the incentive compensation rules.

 

June 9, 2015

The New York Legislature, winding down its session, has yet to approve legislation proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to require public and private colleges to adopt “affirmative consent policies” -- in which students must explicitly consent to sexual activities. Seeking to build support for the bill, Cuomo wrote an essay on it, with Lady Gaga as the co-author. The piece, which has just been published in Billboard, makes a case for why the legislation, which also includes other protections for those who report that they have been sexually assaulted, is needed. “Last year, the governor’s office asked the state’s public university system to step up on this issue. They did,” write the governor and Lady Gaga. “Now, every public college student in New York is protected by a strong policy against sexual assault. But without changing New York’s laws, private colleges don’t have to live up to the same standard. That’s why the state legislature must pass the proposed bill. Without it, students at private institutions are more likely to be left at risk.”

June 9, 2015

A new special report in the Index on Censorship examines threats to academic freedom around the world. The report includes case studies from Belarus, China, India, Ireland, Mexico, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as an account of girls standing up for education in Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda. Among the many topics discussed are the creation of special committees in Ukraine charged with determining whether professors have “separatist attitudes” (for which they can be fired), new rules in Turkey barring academics from “giving information or expressing their opinions to the media… with the exception of scientific debates and statements,” concerns about corporate sponsorship of academic research in Ireland, accounts of retaliation and death threats against professors and students protesting on behalf of 43 abducted -- and presumed dead -- rural teaching college students in Mexico, and the crackdown on the teaching of “Western values” at Chinese universities.

In its U.S.-focused case study, the magazine examines the case of Steven Salaita, whose promised professorial appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn on the basis of his Israel-related tweets, among other topics.

June 9, 2015

Textbook and student services provider Chegg is getting into the research business and is partnering with CSO Research to turn the Outcomes Survey into a national study of career outcomes for recent college graduates. Today, the survey is used at about 120 colleges and universities to collect information about graduates. The partnership aims to expand that scope to include more than 200,000 students. A spokesperson for Chegg said the survey will now produce new data every three months about how recent graduates are faring in the job market. The first data set should be released later this summer.

June 9, 2015

A first for our Cartoon Caption Contest: we can't identify the winner of our March competition.

The winning caption chosen by readers for our March cartoon was this: "The dean thanks you for your lengthy critique of the college strategic plan. He hopes you like your new office." The author used the moniker ScottF but didn't provide a working email address. If that's you, please come forward to claim your prize, an Amazon gift certificate and a signed copy of the cartoon.

For everyone else, we invite you to suggest a caption for our new cartoon for June, which you can find here.

Or vote from among three finalists for our May cartoon -- the voting takes place here.

June 9, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Brian Southwell, research professor of mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the spread of information, and often, just how wrong it can be. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 8, 2015

Assuming “Bothered” is still interested, Science Careers is offering new advice to the postdoc who asked what to do about a professor who tries to look down her shirt. The original advice offered by Science Careers columnist Alice Huang, a senior faculty associate in biology at California Institute of Technology and former president of Science’s publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, attracted widespread criticism last week for being “sexist.” Huang wrote, “As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can,” and many readers accused her of treating possible sexual harassment casually.

Science pulled the column and later offered an apologetic editor’s note. Late last week, editors published another post called “Better Advice for ‘Bothered,’” referencing the pseudonym the postdoc used to asked her question. The advice -- ranging from a simple “Hey, I’m up here” comment to developing relationships with other faculty mentors and advocates -- is mostly crowdsourced from online commentary and social media posts about the original column. You can read it here.

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