Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year, but President Obama threatened to veto the measure because it would cover the $6 billion cost of the extension by cutting money in the health care reform law for preventive care and public health. Obama has seized the student loan issue as the campaign for the general election begins in earnest, touring college campuses and calling on Congress to act to stop the interest rate from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. 

Democrats in the House and Senate proposed paying for the extension through either changing tax laws that allow owners of some corporations to avoid payroll taxes, or through cuts to oil subsidies. Republicans previously said they wanted a long-term solution rather than a short-term extension, and passed a budget for fiscal year 2013 that allowed the interest rate to increase.

Friday's bill passed 215-195. 

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would have little effect on eligibility for need-based state grants, according to a College Board study that could allay the concerns about relying only on Internal Revenue Service data -- not a more detailed listing of a student or parent's income and assets -- when awarding financial aid. The authors of the report, "Simplifying Student Aid: What It Would Mean For States," examined the possible consequences of relying only on data transferred from the IRS, which would make filling out the complex form much less difficult for students. (Some fear that the application process itself discourages students who would qualify for need-based financial aid.)

In a sample of five states that award need-based grants, the simpler form would have little effect: the number of eligible students decreased by less than 1 percent in Kentucky and Ohio and would increase slightly in Minnesota, Texas and Vermont, the study's authors found.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Ross Brann of Cornell University traces the similarities of Hebrew and Arabic to a time when they were considered a single language. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Two students at the Berlin University of the Arts are offending many with an unusual project. Reuters reported that the students have built a guillotine and posted a video of themselves doing so, and are letting the public vote on whether or not to use the guillotine to kill a lamb. The video may be a stunt, as a spokeswoman for the university said that the students were not serious about killing the lamb and were only trying to create an "artistic provocation." Almost 300,000 people have voted, with a majority favoring the lamb's continued life.

 

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that public colleges and universities do not have the right to bar guns in student or employee vehicles on campuses, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Kentucky does permit its colleges and universities to bar guns on the persons of people on campuses. But the Supreme Court said that going beyond that would be "contrary to a fundamental policy, the right to bear arms."

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Top Russian universities may be poised to use debt to finance major improvements in their facilities, according to a new report by Standard & Poor's. The Moscow Times reported that the S&P report follows a new Russian law giving about 30 universities new financial authority, opening up the possibility for them to use debt. The report found that Russian universities -- which have depended on government grants for facilities -- lag their international peers in investments in their physical plants.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Creighton University has announced plans to sell its struggling medical center in Omaha to a regional health care network. The university, which sold off a large share of the hospital's ownership to another health care company, Tenet, in 1995, said Wednesday that Alegent Health would buy the entire Creighton University Medical Center, and that Alegent would become the university's primary partner for its medical and other health professions students. The university did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:30am

The conference commissioners and other college football bigwigs who run the Bowl Championship Series emerged from a three-day meeting saying they had reached general agreement for the first time on creating a playoff to decide the sport's annual champion each year, the Associated Press reported. The BCS, the sport's current method of picking a winner each year, has been much derided by sports fans and others, but opposition to a playoff has come from some college presidents and from those in college football (particularly in the Big Ten and Pacific-12 Conferences) loyal to the bowl games, which many believe would be threatened under a playoff system.

Details of the new arrangement have yet to be worked out (and college presidents were generally not involved in the discussions), but a four-game playoff is likely. “Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the AP.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

High school athletes will have an extra year to meet new eligibility requirements and “limited resource” institutions will have more flexibility in adjusting to higher academic standards, leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top athletic programs announced Thursday. Both decisions tweak new rules the Division I Board of Directors adopted in October. The board also pushed back the timelines for the working groups assembled by NCAA President Mark Emmert this summer.

Most institutions must ensure their teams are earning at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measure of classroom performance, by the 2015-16 postseason. (A 930 APR represents a 50-percent graduation rate, the NCAA says.) Low-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities will have an extra year to bring their athletes up to the new standards, and will have more flexibility in meeting benchmarks along the way. But they must also develop “a meaningful APR improvement plan,” that identifies “issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data,” and develops “meaningful initiatives” to address those issues.

After administrators and coaches complained that 2015 was too soon to start enforcing the NCAA’s new freshman eligibility standards, the board of university presidents voted to give them an extra year to prepare athletes. The eligibility rules raised the minimum grade point average in a set of high school core courses from 2.0 to 2.3 (community college transfers must come in with at least a 2.5 GPA), and require students to take the majority of those courses before senior year. Students who don’t meet the GPA minimums will still be eligible for athletic scholarships and practice.

The new working group schedule “allows for a more comprehensive discussion within the membership, but still ensures the presidents can make principled decisions in a timely fashion,” the NCAA said in a press release. The Enforcement Working Group will present its final recommendations at the Board’s next meeting in August. The Rules Working Group, which among other things is charged with paring down the notoriously extensive NCAA rulebook, will present its “first phase” of recommendations “either later this year or possibly” at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Finally, the Student-Athlete Well-Being Group is considering various ways to implement a rule that would award athletes with an additional $2,000 to help cover living expenses. The board adopted the controversial rule in October but rescinded it for modifications in January after more than 160 institutions requested an override.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:35am

The vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education resigned Thursday, a day after Penn officials placed him on leave amid reports that he did not actuall have the doctorate he had claimed to have, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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