Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 13, 2013

Overall enrollment in higher education fell by 1.5 percent in fall 2013, marking the second consecutive year of decline, the National Student Clearinghouse estimated Thursday in a report. Enrollments edged up over fall 2012 at four-year private and public institutions, by 1.3 and 0.3 percent, respectively, but dropped by 3.1 and 9.7 percent at community colleges and four-year for-profit institutions, the clearinghouse report said. No region gained students in year-over-year numbers, but the Midwest (-2.6 percent) suffered most with the other regions dipping by less than a percentage point. 

The report also provides data on enrollments by state and gender, among other counts.

December 13, 2013

Yeshiva University this week announced plans for deep budget cuts, the continuation of cuts to faculty retirement accounts and the sale of some buildings owned by the university, The Jewish Daily Forward reported. Like many universities, Yeshiva lost a considerable share of its endowment after the economic downturn started in 2008. But Yeshiva also lost about $100 million due to investments with Bernard Madoff. And the university has been sued for millions by men who say that, as boys, they were abused at the university's high school -- and that officials ignored the problem. In October, Moody's Investors Service Moody's Investors Service downgraded the university's bond rating to Baa2 from Baa1, citing "the university's weak liquidity with a full draw on operating lines of credit, expected covenant breach on lines of credit, deep operating deficits driving negative cash flow, and uncertainty regarding the outcome of litigation."

December 13, 2013

Continued, mandatory tenure systems for law professors got a high-profile vote of support recently from two past presidents of the Association of American Law Schools. Robert A. Gorman, professor emeritus of law at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elliot S. Milstein, professor of law at American University, sent a letter to the American Bar Association in favor of its current requirement that law schools offer professors a system of earning tenure as a condition of accreditation. That stipulation has come under fire in recent years, and it is now under review by the ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. The reviewing council has asked for comment on several proposed alternatives to that requirement, one of which does away with does away with the tenure requirement entirely. Another requires enough “security of position” for faculty to ensure academic freedom and quality recruitment, but does not require tenure as it is traditionally understood. In their letter, Gorman and Milstein argue that it is a necessary condition of employment, given the unpopular positions law school faculty members must argue. Judges and civil servants enjoy tenure-like conditions, they argue, and those who disapprove of tenure frequently misunderstand it. It’s a not a guaranteed job for life, they say, but a means of attracting and retaining top educators.

In an email, Milstein said: “As both teachers and scholars, law professors often play an important role in a society built on the rule of law, to be critical of injustice and advocate for change. Furthermore, clinical professors and their students represent clients whose positions are sometimes unpopular with the powerful. Internally, law school governance is often a process in which what will be taught, how it will be taught, to whom, and by whom are contentious issues. Decisions about what is valued in a law school have an effect on the nature of the legal profession and concomitantly upon law itself.”

In addition to the authors, 14 other past presidents of the Association of American Law Schools have signed on. Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education at the ABA, said the council had received the letter and added it to a growing list of feedback on the tenure proposals. The council is expected to vote on the matter at either its March or June meetings, he said.

 

December 13, 2013

About 2,500 applicants to Fordham University were incorrectly told this week that they had been admitted, when in reality 500 of them had been rejected and another 2,000 had been deferred, The New York Times reported. The notification came with information about financial aid notices and arrived two days before the applicants had expected to hear from the university. The emails came from Student Aid Services, a contractor working with the university. Both the company and the university have apologized and said that they are trying to figure out what happened.

 

December 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Bazbek Davletov of the University of Sheffield explains why Botox could be the next great pain medication. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 13, 2013

Late Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education released further revisions to its proposed gainful employment regulations, which would impose standards on vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The new proposal dropped a loan repayment rate threshold that was added earlier in the negotiated rulemaking process, which is scheduled to conclude today.

The Education Department also released an analysis of how institutions would fare under the rules. Individual colleges were not named. The data showed that 13 percent of programs would fail under the standards. That number is more than double the amount that would have failed under the 2011 attempt to set gainful employment regulations.

December 13, 2013

Research universities are using a wide range of tools to assess and improve undergraduate education, and they are adding methods for assessment and improvement, according to a survey released Thursday by the Association of American Universities. Institutions are mixing the use of quantitative data (such as graduation rates) with student surveys and other tools.

December 13, 2013

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and a major force in global science, on Thursday voted to admit Israel as the first non-European full member nation, and as the first nation added since 1999. At a time that some academics in the United States and Europe are pushing to isolate Israel, the move by CERN was hailed by officials in Israel as a reflection of the strength of the country's scientific enterprise. Israel has been an associate member of CERN, a status countries must maintain for two years prior to consideration for full membership.

December 12, 2013

Colleges in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision spent $90.3 million traveling to and from 35 bowl games last year, but they still made money thanks to the $300.8 million that was returned to the conferences and in turn their member campuses, according to an NCAA audit. In the Southeastern Conference, where colleges both made and spent the most money, campuses got $52,278,677 in bowl payouts, but accumulated $14,762,565 in expenses. However, this was the first year the NCAA did not count bowl bonuses that institutions awarded to coaches as expenses.

December 12, 2013

Haverford College officials are backing away from a pledge to ensure no students are forced to borrow money to attend the private liberal arts college.

College administrators told students this week they are looking to do away with their six-year-old “no loan” pledge to some students – mostly its students from upper middle class households. The new plan still has significant protections for needy families in lower income brackets: Families making less than $60,000 will still not have to take out loans and no family should have to borrow more than $12,000 over four-years, which is far less debt than the average debt-bearing student. (The median family income in the United States is about $51,000.)

The plan still needs the approval by the college's board, which could modify or reject the proposal by college administrators.  But Haverford seems ready to join the likes of Dartmouth and Williams Colleges, which all tried no loan programs but then abandoned them following the recession. The market blew a hole in many university endowment funds, which colleges draw on to provide financial aid.

There has been an increase in aid spending at Haverford -- which awards aid based solely on need -- but the no loan program is not entirely to blame, according to a presentation by college officials posted online by a Haverford student newspaper. Haverford spent $16.9 in financial aid in 2009 and over $23 million in 2013 – an increase of about $6.6 million per year. The no loan program cost about $1.9 million this year. 

Jess Lord, the dean of admissions and financial aid, said the college has been seeking "equilibrium" between access and affordability and long-term sustainability. 

“The truth is that we’ve been having conversations about the long-term sustainability of the financial model since 2008, since the economy took the turn that it took in 2008,” Lord said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

The proposal to scale back the no loan program to only cover the lowest income families will save the college about $800,000 a year. For the Haverford class of 2012, which entered the college before the no loan program took effect, the average four-year debt burden was about $14,000. Nationally, the average debt burden for the class of 2012 is $29,000.

Colleges with no loan programs calculate a family's assets and use a formula to determine what they can afford to pay. The college picks up the difference between what a family can pay out of its own pocket or with scholarships and the college's price -- a gap that would either force families to borrow or send their students somewhere else. Tuition, fees and room and board at Haverford are priced at $59,000 a year.

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