Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty members and librarians at Kean University voted no confidence in the university's Board of Trustees this week, with 94 percent of responding faculty members saying they had lost faith in the board. Professors have clashed with the university's president, Dawood Farahi, for several years. Tensions came to a head early this year when the faculty accused Farahi of including false information on his résumé. After an investigation in which lawyers hired by the board found that Farahi had falsified some of the statements on earlier résumés, the board voted seven to four to keep Farahi in place, a decision that further angered faculty members. Professors voted no confidence in Farahi in 2010.

Ada Morell, chair of the board, said in a statement that she was not surprised by the outcome of the vote, particularly because the faculty union is negotiating a new contract with the state. "Such votes are a common tool employed by labor leaders and part of the democratic process," she said.

The vote of no confidence in the trustees comes after outside groups have continued to find problems with the university. In spring 2011, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education found that the university failed to comply with two of its standards: measuring student learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness. Since the board voted to keep Farahi in place, the commission found that the university is failing to comply with two additional standards: general education and institutional integrity, or adherence to ethical standards and stated policies. A report by the NCAA questioned the institution's control over its athletics department, particularly its women's basketball program.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin's athletics department brought in upwards of $150 million in revenue in 2010-11, more than any other institution and nearly $19 million more than its closest competitor, Ohio State University. The latest annual update to USA Today’s mammoth database on revenue and expenses at institutions in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association notes that just 22 athletic departments are operating in the black. Spending across the 227 public universities for which USA Today could gather data rose by $267 million from a year earlier. (Athletic success at Texas will have some payoff for the institution's academic side, which for the next five years will collect half the profits from its 24-hour cable channel, the Longhorn Network. Last year that amounted to $6 million.) Other top revenue-generating programs include the Universities of Alabama ($124.5 million), Florida ($123.5 million) and Michigan ($122.7 million), as well as Pennsylvania State University ($116.1 million), the Universities of Tennessee ($104.4 million) and Oklahoma ($104.3 million), Auburn University ($104 million) and the University of Wisconsin ($96.3 million).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 4:26am

Legislation in Illinois would bar public universities from using state funds, tuition revenue or student fees for search firms, The News-Gazette reported. The University of Illinois has spent almost $6 million on search firms over the last nine years, including funds on some searches that did not work out well. Critics question whether the spending is necessary, while board members say that search firms have recruited top talent.

 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 4:29am

Georgian Court University is planning to announce today that it will become a completely coeducational institution. The Roman Catholic university in New Jersey currently admits men to its evening and graduate programs, but its residential undergraduate college has been for women only. Men will be able to enroll in undergraduate courses in the fall. In the fall of 2013, men will be able to live on campus. At that point, the university will also add men's athletic teams in cross country, soccer, basketball, and track and field.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Ur of Harvard University explains how archaeologists are using declassified satellite images to locate previously unknown ancient sites. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 3:00am

To help colleges ensure that their approach to disability documentation and accommodations requests is appropriate and equitable, in the wake of multiple federal guidelines changes that have made the work more complicated, the Association on Higher Education and Disability released new guidance on Monday. “Although the amendments and regulatory revisions occurred through separate federal processes, together they reflect a more mature understanding of disability that is essential for fostering a positive campus perspective on disability,” AHEAD wrote. “The concepts described in this document are interrelated components of a comprehensive, professional approach to using disability documentation to make informed decisions.” The guidance notes that requiring “extensive” medical and scientific evidence of a disability is “inappropriate and burdensome,” and explains how accommodations should be made on a case-by-case basis using a “commonsense standard” and “relevant but not necessarily ‘recent’" information.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 3:00am

A compromise may be in the works on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's controversial plan to merge Rutgers University at Camden and Rowan University. Christie has insisted on a merger, and has been facing opposition from faculty and student groups, some legislators and the Rutgers board. The Star-Ledger reported that the compromise involves an independent board for a merged institution, but a continued role for Rutgers in oversight of academic degrees, and some version of Rutgers in the name. It remains unclear if the compromise will pass, but it emerged from behind-closed-doors talks involving key legislators and university officials.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 3:00am

A new ad by the pro-Romney American Crossroads Super PAC tells young voters that President Obama hasn't been good for their interests. The ad uses a statistic that would scare many college students (not to mention parents): 85 percent of college graduates are moving back in with their parents.

 

 

But PolitiFact -- a fact-checking operation of The Tampa Bay Times -- tried to track down that statistic, and couldn't find any proof for it. The best data PolitiFact could find are from the Pew Research Center, which found that among adults ages 18 to 29, 42 percent who have graduated college live with their parents. At the same time, the figure of those 25 to 29 with or without a college degree who never moved out or moved back in with their parents is 41 percent. Figures in the 40s may not comfort students or parents either, but they fall short of 85 percent.
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 4:18am

"Degrees of Debt," a series of articles in The New York Times this week, explores the impact of rising student debt with compelling stories of individual borrowers and their families. The series has generated considerable discussion among higher education leaders, many of whom don't dispute the central premise that some students are borrowing more than is appropriate. But some are objecting to a key statistic and the choice of examples in the series. The series opens with an example of a woman who borrowed $120,000 for an undergraduate degree, and goes on to say that "nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing." Then it says that 94 percent of students borrow for an undergraduate education.

Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, has written to the Times, pointing out that the 94 percent figure is incorrect, and questioning just how typical some of the borrowers in the series are. "While an alarmist tone and extreme examples might make for good stories, they don’t make for an accurate or meaningful portrayal of the experience of millions of students who borrow to finance their college education. To the contrary, the Times presents a seriously distorted and misleading picture," Broad writes. "The Times is wrong when it says that 94 percent of students who earn a bachelor’s degree borrow to pay for higher education. In fact, about 60 percent of students borrow and their average indebtedness is about $25,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the Project on Student Debt and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While the Times highlighted at length students graduating with six-figure debts, very few borrowers actually owe that much."

 

 

Monday, May 14, 2012 - 3:00am

The Indian Cabinet on Thursday cleared two key pieces of higher education legislation that now can move forward for Parliamentary review, The Times of India reported. One bill would require accreditation for all higher education institutions. The other bill would set a process for designating some universities as research excellence hubs.

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