Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 13, 2015

When officials of the University of Texas System hired Gregory Fenves as the new president of the flagship campus at Austin, they said his base salary would be $750,000. The Austin American-Statesman filed an open records request for documents related to the offer and discovered something that was left off the press release-- the system offered Fenves a base salary of $1 million, and he turned it down, saying that he didn't want to be paid that much. And while he is eligible for a 10 percent bonus based on various performance metrics, that's smaller than the 12 percent bonus the system proposed.

In an email Fenves sent to system officials, he explained why he was turning down $1 million as the base figure. "With many issues and concerns about administrative costs, affordability and tuition, such a salary will affect the ability of the president to work with the Texas Legislature on matters important to the university,” he said. Fenves added that such a large salary would attract “widespread negative attention from students and faculty given the difficult budgetary constraints of the past five years.”

May 13, 2015

Millions of students and families will now pay less to borrow money from the federal government to finance college in the coming academic year.

Interest rates on federal student loans are set to drop by more than one-third of a percentage point following the U.S. Treasury’s sale on Wednesday of 10-year notes. Rates are reset each year based on the yield of the note set by that auction.

The interest rate on new loans for undergraduate students will drop to 4.29 percent from the current 4.66 percent. The cost of new direct loans for graduate students will fall to 5.84 percent from 6.21 percent.

Rates on PLUS loans for graduate students or parents paying their children’s college costs will also tick down to 6.84 percent from 7.21 percent.

The new interest rates for the 2015-16 academic year take effect on July 1. The changes do not affect borrowers with older loans. 



Current Rate


New Rate


Undergrad Direct Loans

Subsidized & Unsubsidized



Graduate Direct Loans



PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS & Parent PLUS





May 13, 2015

While testing companies must respond constantly to allegations of security breaches outside the United States, the Educational Testing Service is investigating a possible security breach on the SAT given in the United States on May 2, The Washington Post reported. The day before the exam was given, a Post reporter received copies of two SAT exams that included many questions used on the May 2 test. Many of the more sophisticated cheating schemes involve having an advance copy of questions.

A statement from ETS, which manages the SAT for the College Board, said it was investigating and that there was a possibility that scores could be delayed. "We are aware of reports regarding the May administration and are working to determine if score holds will be necessary. Any affected test takers will be notified by ETS prior to the planned score release date of May 21. We understand and share the frustration of students and their families when the illegal activities of certain organizations and individuals cause score delays," said the ETS statement. "Our responsibility is to deliver valid scores to colleges and universities -- even when doing so takes additional time."

May 13, 2015

Six Somali-Americans in Minnesota were recently charged by federal authorities with conspiring to join Islamic State groups that are waging war in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal reported that a tough question is being raised at Minnesota Community & Technical College: Why was ISIS attractive to five of its former students? “If a few young people in Minnesota have an idea that life with ISIS is better than life in Minnesota, then that is on us, that is our collective failure,” said Matthew Palombo, a philosophy and global studies professor who is an adviser to the Muslim Student Association at the college.

May 13, 2015

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to publish a new booklet, "Emerging Markets, Emerging Strategies," in our series of print-on-demand publications. You can download a copy free, here. And you can sign up here for a webinar on the booklet's themes, to be held on Tuesday, June 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern.


May 13, 2015

David Alexander announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president of Northwest Nazarene University, effective at the end of this month. His statement did not explicitly reference controversy that has been intense at the institution in recent months, with faculty members and many students and alumni angry over layoffs and what is widely perceived by faculty members as the retaliatory layoff of a popular professor whose work has sometimes been criticized by Nazarene traditionalists. While Alexander apologized for the way the layoffs had been handled and pledged to reconsider them, that was not enough for many critics, who said that they had lost confidence in his leadership.

May 13, 2015

The University of Colorado at Boulder has abandoned plans to fire a tenured philosophy professor and is instead paying him $160,000 plus legal expenses to quit, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The professor is David Barnett and he was accused of retaliating against a female graduate student who said she was sexually assaulted by a male graduate student -- a charge that Barnett has repeatedly denied. Colorado's philosophy department has faced numerous allegations (and findings) of a hostile or harassing environment against some female graduate students and professors. While there has been widespread criticism of some of the sexist conduct found in the department, many philosophers have questioned the move against Barnett and whether there was sufficient evidence to fire him.

May 13, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Heidi Newberg, an astronomer and physicist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, discusses her research on the size of the galaxy. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 12, 2015

Adjunct faculty members at Webster University have voted down a proposal to unionize and to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, St. Louis Public Radio reported. The vote was 268 against the union and 212 in favor, with 53 ballots that were challenged. Even if all challenged ballots backed the union, there would not be a majority in favor. A statement from the SEIU said that adjuncts have “experienced a setback in their quest to have their union on campus officially recognized but believe they have undoubtedly gained a voice on campus.”

May 12, 2015

Colorado will standardize how its public colleges grant credit for prior learning, The Denver Post reports. The Colorado Higher Education Commission will create a comprehensive, statewide prior-learning assessment policy, which it said will provide more consistency and transparency. However, the state's colleges will have a chance to weigh in on the standards before they are finalized, the commission said.

"One of the main goals directing this work is to ensure that PLA credits earned at one public institution will be accepted in transfer and apply to equivalent general education requirements at any receiving public institution," said the commission, "and to unify equivalently applied cut scores for major and elective credit to the greatest extent possible."


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