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Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Fifteen percent of college students have or have a friend who has ordered drugs off the Internet without a prescription, according to a new survey by the Digital Citizens Alliance. The survey of 366 current and recent students found that one in three students took prescription drugs “to get through finals,” and a third of them obtained the pills without a prescription.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is using an unusual tactic to promote a bill she proposed on student loan interest rates: asking for "citizen co-sponsors" for the legislation. The bill, one of many proposals put forward in recent weeks to stop the interest rates for subsidized student loans from doubling as planned on July 1, would reduce student loan interest rates to 0.75 percent for a year -- the rate at which the Federal Reserve lends to major banks.

President Obama and House Republicans want a market-based rate for student loan interest; some Senate Democrats would prefer to extend the current subsidized loan interest rate of 3.4 percent while they work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

So Warren's measure isn't likely to pass. But as the first stand-alone legislation from the closely watched freshman senator, it has generated considerable interest online. "If Congress doesn't act by July 1, our students will pay nine times more than big banks," Warren said in an e-mailed appeal to supporters sent via a liberal political action committee, Democracy for America. "Our students are the engine of our economic future, and they deserve at least the same deal as Wall Street."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

The Senate Judiciary Committee considering the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved an amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Grassley 69, which would crack down on fraudulent colleges and require accreditation for higher education institutions enrolling international students.

Other student visa-related amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday included Grassley 77, which calls for a temporary suspension of the issuance of student visas if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not promptly address problems of interoperability between the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and the database that is available to officials at border checkpoints. Meanwhile, Grassley 56, which would limit the authority of the Secretary of State to waive interviews for visa applicants, and Grassley 68, which would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the act related to international students until the full deployment of the long-delayed SEVIS II, both failed in 9-9 tie votes. (You can find all the amendments acted upon so far here.)

“We have learned time and again that there are holes in our student visa program,” Grassley said during the committee hearing. The program has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: although the suspected bombers were not foreign students, two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were.  

In a letter it sent to the committee on Monday, NAFSA:Association of International Educators urged senators not to approve amendments that could pose impediments to international students, arguing that this would undermine national security rather than enhance it. "Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat," the association wrote. The committee will next take up the immigration bill on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Individuals unhappy with Cooper Union's recent decision to end its 111-year practice of providing a full-tuition scholarship to all students issued a fake press release Tuesday as MetLife, which lent the university $175 million in 2006 to finance construction of a new academic building, promising to forgive the loan on the condition that the university remain free. 

 

THE FAKE PRESS RELEASE:

 

METLIFE FORGIVES $175 MILLION LOAN TO COOPER UNION, KEEPS TUITION “FREE AS AIR AND WATER.”

NEW YORK - May 14, 2013 - MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET) announced today that it will conditionally forgive a $175 million loan made in 2006 to the Cooper Union, a treasured New York institution currently consumed by a financial crisis. 

Cooper’s interest-only payments to date, which amount to approximately 72 million dollars, will be applied to the total, netting a total forgiveness of $103 million dollars. MetLife’s decision will allow the Cooper Union to preserve its 154 year meritocratic tradition of tuition free education. “Cooper occupies a special place in the soul of New York City, the city which MetLife calls home.” said MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian, “We had to do something.”

“The actions of the Free Cooper Union students who have occupied President Jamshed Bharucha’s office have inspired us to reject the inevitability of this situation. MetLife believes in the transformational power of capital to catalyze growth and increase opportunity. And we take that responsibility seriously; we see ourselves as stewards, in a sense, of our investments. So, though we don’t take lightly the moral hazard which today’s action represents, we didn’t feel we had any choice but to protect the legacy of empowerment Cooper Union embodies.”

“The institution is simply too big to fail,” Kandarian continued, “metaphorically speaking, of course.”

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded by industrialist Peter Cooper in 1859. It’s mission reflects it’s founder’s fundamental belief that an education “equal to the best” should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be “open and free to all”.

In recent years the board of trustees has pursued an expansionist agenda of which the ill-advised 2006 loan is a part. The loan, taken in part to fund an exorbitant new, $111.6 million “landmark” building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architecture which a capital campaign had failed to adequately fund, requires annual interest-only payments of approximately $10.3 million, the majority of Cooper’s operating budget shortfall. In addition, a majority of Cooper’s managed endowment assets were recklessly invested in hedge funds which have diminished the endowment substantially since 2006. In light of these facts, in April 2013 Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Epstein announced that the Board had approved a plan to reduce the full tuition scholarship by half, ending a 154 year tradition and effectively abandoning the Cooper Union’s founding principles.

“In retrospect,” said Kandarian, “when we were offered Cooper’s ‘golden goose’ as collateral for a risky loan, we should have passed.”

MetLife’s actions are intended to stabilize the institution and allow it to continue offering a top quality education which is “as free as water and air,” however they should not be mistaken for a panacea. “These are drastic measures,” said Kandarian, “and as such they are conditional on Cooper’s continued status as a top quality tuition free college. The tuition free model is an essential part of the character of the institution and it’s stakeholders understand that without it the school will be unable to count on the high quality student body to which it is accustomed. The Free Cooper Union students and their faculty and alumni supporters are fighting for this unique, and uniquely American, institution.”

“My concern,” continued Kandarian, “ is that the current President [Jamshed Bharucha] and Board of Trustees do not appear to share in this vision. If Cooper is truly to emerge from this mess, they will need some new faces.”

MetLife continues to be the largest portfolio lender in the insurance industry with $43.1 billion in commercial mortgages outstanding at year end 2012.

“MetLife was a very active lender domestically and internationally in 2012, as we continued to focus on top quality properties in major markets,” said Robert Merck, global head of MetLife Real Estate Investors. “Our strategy for growth is based on prudent risk management and a long-term approach that enables us to execute quickly, process large transactions and provide our customers with world-class service.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Véronique Kiermer, executive editor of the Nature Publishing Group, says that there is more "sloppiness" than in the past in journal submissions, Times Higher Education reported. Kiermer made the remark in a speech at the World Conference on Research Integrity. Among the problems she said she is seeing more of are: missing control tests, poor use of images,  flaws in experimental design and reporting, and problems with the use of statistics.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Aaron Sachs of Cornell University reveals how many of America’s iconic urban parks had first lives as cemeteries. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Cengage Learning, one of the world's largest education companies, may file for bankruptcy, its CEO says. Bloomberg reports on continued restructuring talks at the company, which was sold several years ago to a private equity firm.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 3:00am

A student at the University of Washington at Tacoma says she was forced to withdraw because the university changed the way it dealt with her severe nut allergy, ABC News reported. The student said that, last year, the university posted "peanut/nut-free classroom" signs on classrooms she used. But this year, the university didn't use the signs but said it would send a letter to all students in the classes asking them not to bring nuts. The student says this approach is not sufficient. But the university says that it can't assure the absence of nuts, and was trying to take reasonable steps to minimize the risk.

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The importance of collaboration with U.S. community colleges to realize India's goal of creating 200 such institutions was a major focus of a roundtable discussion on "Advancing U.S.-India Academic Partnerships" held at the Institute of International Education's Washington office on Monday. Governmental representatives participating in the discussion with college administrators included M.M. Pallam Raju, India's minister of human resource development, and Nirupama Rao, the ambassador of India to the United States, as well as several high-level U.S. Department of State officials.

The discussion portion of the meeting was closed to media (only the opening remarks were open), but participants reported that subjects of discussion included not only community college collaboration but also the role of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in increasing India's higher education capacity and the imbalance in exchanges between American and Indian students. (While there are more than 100,000 Indian students in the U.S., only 4,345 Americans studied in India in 2010-11, according to IIE data.) The subject of long-stalled legislation permitting the establishment of foreign branch campuses in India did not come up during the 45-minute discussion.

Monday's roundtable discussion was intended to inform the ongoing, governmental U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue, a component of a larger strategic dialogue between the two countries.

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 3:00am

NAFSA: Association of International Educators is concerned about a series of proposed amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that would, in the association’s words, place “unnecessary and counterproductive impediments in the way of foreign students who wish to pursue their educational and professional goals in the United States.”

“Although these amendments may be justified by their proponents as adding to our security, the truth is that targeting foreign students does nothing to enhance U.S. security, and in fact only accomplishes the opposite,” NAFSA wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to continue marking up the bill today.

Proposed amendments that NAFSA is concerned about include six put forward by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): Grassley 52, 56, 64, 68, 69, and 77. (All are available online here.) These amendments would, among other things, prevent students on F visas from participating in practical training opportunities until full deployment of the long-delayed Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) II and delay the implementation of provisions of the immigration reform bill until one year after completion of a report on the intelligence and “immigration failures” leading up to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Senator Grassley has raised a number of questions and concerns about the student visa program in the wake of the Boston bombings. Neither of the suspected bombers were on student visas, although two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were. New protocols put in place to verify students’ SEVIS status since the bombings have already led to delays at ports of entry. Inside Higher Ed will have continuing coverage of which amendments, if any, are introduced and their potential implications. 

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