Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 7, 2014

The University of Oregon announced Wednesday that its president, Michael Gottfredson, was resigning, effective today, The Oregonian reported. He has been in office for only two years. While the move is being described as a resignation, the newspaper noted that it had "telltale signs of a forced departure: Gottfredson does not have a new job lined up, it was announced the day before it takes effect, and he cites spending more time with family as a key motive."

August 7, 2014

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday sent letters to a dozen universities criticizing them for not fully disclosing the arrangements they have with companies to market financial products on their campuses. “We wanted to alert you that this failure to be transparent may pose potential consumer protection risks,” the bureau’s student loan ombudsman, Rohit Chopra, wrote in a letter to twelve Big Ten universities.

The bureau said it looked for the agreements between financial institutions and all Big Ten universities, which represent some of the largest institutions in the country. Of the 13 universities that had contracts with financial institutions to offer products on campus, only one was fully disclosed to the public, Chopra wrote in a new blog post Wednesday.

The CFPB has been probing campus debit cards since last year. Officials at the bureau have said they are concerned that arrangements between colleges and financial institutions to provide debit cards are insufficiently transparent and may have incentives that harm students.

The bureau previously called on financial institutions to disclose the terms of the arrangement, warning companies that it may consider their failure to make public such agreements the type of risky practice that triggers more scrutiny from regulators.

The Education Department is currently in the process of crafting new rules to more tightly regulate campus financial products. The department suggested during rulemaking negotiations earlier this year that it wanted to include a requirement that colleges disclose the agreements they have with banks and other companies to offer debit cards. Federal law already requires such disclosure for credit cards that are affiliated with universities.  

August 7, 2014

More than 100 Middle East Studies scholars and librarians have signed a letter calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions due to concerns about Israel’s policies in Gaza and “the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.”

"Following in the footsteps of the growing number of U.S. academic associations that have endorsed boycott resolutions,we call on our colleagues in Middle East Studies to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and we pledge not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel,” states the letter, which has been posted on Jadaliyya.

August 7, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Dan Jurafsky, a linguist at Stanford University, discusses some common tropes present in many online reviews. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 6, 2014

A group of six Senate Democrats on Tuesday questioned the White House and U.S. Department of Education's oversight of the finances of for-profit institutions. The senators, who were led by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, criticized the department's claim that it was surprised by the precariousness of Corinthian Colleges, which announced it was on the verge of collapse in June, after the department froze its financial aid revenue for 21 days. Corinthian is in the process of dismantling its 107 campuses. The senators asked for the administration to answer questions about its tools for monitoring the solvency of for-profit chains. 

August 6, 2014

New research from professors at Florida State and Vanderbilt Universities questions the assumption that minority students will be less likely to graduate at minority-serving than at predominantly white institutions. The study acknowledges graduation rates are lower, on average, for black students at historically black colleges and universities and Latino students Hispanic-serving institutions than for the same groups at other colleges and universities. But when the scholars controlled for such factors as student educational background and institutional resources, they found that graduation rates were comparable. The scholars who did the research are Stella Flores, associate professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt, and Toby Park, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Florida State.


August 6, 2014

Authorities have charged Robert Walmsley of stealing $110,000 from his former employer, Framingham State University, Boston.com reported. Walmsley allegedly used a university issued card to purchase prepaid Visa gift cards and then used those to buy drugs or to get cash. Before being dismissed, he worked in the university's alumni affairs and development office.


August 6, 2014

The College of Charleston has fired Doug Wojcik as head men's basketball coach amid investigations into allegations that he was verbally and physically abusive to players, The Charleston Post and Courier reported. The coach has denied the allegation. The college fired him "for cause," meaning that it will try not to pay the $1.2 million Wojcik would be owed for the last three years of his contract.


August 6, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Radu Sporea, an engineer at the University of Surrey, discusses the potential obstacles to harnessing the full potential of solar power. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


August 5, 2014

Syracuse University is the nation’s top party school, according to the Princeton Review’s annual college rankings, which were released Monday.

The ranking dismayed Syracuse officials. “Syracuse University has a long-established reputation for academic excellence with programs that are recognized nationally and internationally as the best in their fields,” university officials said in a statement. “We do not aspire to be a party school.”

The Princeton Review surveyed 130,000 students across the country – an average of 343 students per campus – to develop its rankings. The “party school” rankings come from survey questions on alcohol and drug use, the number of hours students spend studying each day and the Greek system’s popularity.

Syracuse has fretted about college rankings in the past. Nancy Cantor, Syracuse’s former chancellor, disdained rankings. She quipped that the U.S. News & World Report rankings “may sell magazines,” but not much else. Syracuse slid down rankings lists under Cantor’s tenure as the university admitted more low-income and at-risk students.

Its current chancellor, Kent Syverud, who took office in January, pledged to pay more attention to rankings. The dubious honor of “top party school” is likely not what he had in mind.

“With new leadership, we are very focused on enhancing the student experience, both academically and socially,” Syracuse officials said in response to the party-school designation. “Students, parents, faculty and the full Syracuse University community should expect to see important and positive changes in the year ahead that will improve and enhance the student environment in every aspect.”

Officials said the rankings came from a “two-year-old survey of a very small portion of our student body” – a claim that misleads slightly.

The Princeton Review conducts formal surveys of colleges once every three years. But the company also offers an online survey, which students can complete any time.

“Surveys we receive from students outside of their schools’ normal survey cycles are always factored into the subsequent year’s ranking calculations, so our pool of student survey data is continuously refreshed,” Princeton Review editors wrote in their 2015 “Best 379 Colleges” guidebook.

Brigham Young University ranked number one among “Stone Cold Sober" universities – a title it has captured for 17 years in a row. To celebrate, the university posted an image on its Facebook page of what may be its preferred celebratory beverage: reduced fat chocolate milk.


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