Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 11, 2013

Kamala D. Harris, California's attorney general, on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges, alleging that the for-profit chain targeted low-income students with false and predatory advertising. The suit alleges that Corinthian, which operates Everest, Heald and WyoTech Colleges, misled potential students about job placement rates. A Corinthian spokesman, in a written statement, said company officials had not had time to review the suit in detail. But the company plans to "vigorously" defend itself, he said.

October 11, 2013

Not long ago, Altius Education was a darling of the higher ed innovation world, having teamed up with the nonprofit Tiffin University to create Ivy Bridge College, which was held out as a potential model for public-private partnerships to drive college access and completion. Then Tiffin's accreditor intervened, questioning whether the privately held Altius held inappropriate control over key academic functions at Ivy Bridge that should have been in Tiffin's domain, and calling for the partnership to be shuttered.

On Thursday, Altius's ambitions not only of turning Ivy Bridge into a freestanding institution but also of creating other such partnerships appeared to have formally ended, with an announcement by Datamark that it was purchasing Altius's various technology platforms and taking on several dozen of its employees. Datamark, which provides enrollment marketing and other services to colleges and universities, said it would buy Altius's competency-based learning platform, known as Helix, as well as other technologies and invest $11 million in expanding the company's reach.

October 11, 2013

The U.S. Education Department, citing the partial shutdown of the federal government, has canceled the second round of negotiations over regulations on vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions.  

The department will reschedule the negotiated-rulemaking session when the government reopens, Lynn Mahaffie, the acting deputy assistant secretary for policy, planning and innovation, wrote in a letter on Friday to members of the rule making committee. The session was originally slated for October 21-23.

The panel is tasked with rewriting the "gainful employment" regulations that were thrown out by a federal judge earlier this year. The rules would cut off federal money flowing to career-training programs if they do not meet certain standards that measure their graduates’ earnings relative to the graduates’ student loan debt.

The Obama administration is proposing tighter standards that would apply to more vocational programs. At the first negotiating session last month, it appeared unlikely that negotiators would come to a consensus on the rules. Even if the committee doesn’t reach an agreement, the Education Department could still move forward with its own proposal. 

October 10, 2013

While it is widely known that many college presidents and head football coaches receive cars in their compensation packages, 94 administrators or coaches at University of Nebraska campuses (and one coach's wife) receive cars, club memberships or both, The Omaha World-Herald reported. University officials defended the benefits as part of the process of attracting and retaining talent.


October 10, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Youth voter turnout, especially among low-income students, is significantly impeded by voter identification laws and restrictions on same-day registration, and educators and policymakers should collaborate to improve civic education and engagement, according to a new report commissioned by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.  Most of the report’s recommendations – including lowering the legal voting age to 17 – are directed at politicians and K-12 schools as opposed to colleges (though it does encourage collaboration with colleges on the issues). But there is some takeaway for higher education as well, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said here at the report’s release Wednesday.

Colleges can “be part of the solution to the K-12 problem” – that is, teachers’ failure to discuss politics and voting laws in the classroom. “[Colleges] educate the teachers, drive curriculum, decide who to admit,” Levine said. “High school curriculum is imitating Government 101.”

Professors could also do more to educate students about the voting process and help them register, said Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a member of the group that authored the report, the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge. He pointed to TurboVote, a Harvard student’s start-up that simplifies registration and reminds students when deadlines approach. “A very small investment can get their students engaged,” Grayson said. “The numbers are better for college students, but they’re still not as good as they should be.”

October 10, 2013

Emerson College officials pledged Wednesday to improve the process by which they handle allegations of sexual assault, The Boston Globe reported. Among other steps, college officials said they would hire an "advocate" to help victims of sexual assault through the investigation and judicial process. The announcement follows filing of a federal complaint by Emerson students saying that the college failed to adequately investigate two recent incidents.

October 10, 2013

The University of Chicago president has clarified the university’s policy about elevator use in the administration building, after some said uniformed workers were not being permitted to use the elevators. “Let me state in the simplest of terms what the policy actually is: the elevators are for everybody’s use,” Robert Zimmer wrote in a statement to facilities staff members. “This includes all of you and other staff members, faculty, students, visitors, vendors, and guests to the university. That has always been my intent, and there will be no policy to the contrary.”

The policy was criticized after reports that a maintenance worker with a hip replacement and a maintenance worker with asthma had to walk up four flights of stairs because they were not allowed to use the elevators in daytime hours. The Service Employees International Union, Local 73, had planned a rally to protest the policy prior to the president’s statement. 

October 10, 2013

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is seeking the resignations of some members of the Norfolk State University board, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The requests come just weeks after the board fired Tony Atwater as president. Norfolk State faces numerous challenges, including the lowest graduation rate among public four-year institutions in Virginia and scrutiny from accreditors.

October 10, 2013

Alice Munro, the Canadian author, was this morning named winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was honored as a "master of the contemporary short story." A statement released with the announcement said: "Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts – problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions. Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning."

Scholarship on Munro, published by university presses, includes: Alice Munro by Coral Ann Howells, (Manchester University Press), Controlling the Uncontrollable: The Fiction of Alice Munro, by Ildikó de Papp Carrington (Northern Illinois University Press), The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence, by Ajay Heble, (University of Toronto Press) and Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro, by Beverly Rasporich (University of Alberta Press).



October 10, 2013

The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities has joined with three other international associations in releasing a statement of 10 characteristics of research universities, including -- notably within a Chinese context -- a commitment to academic freedom.

Specifically, one of the characteristics identified in the "Hefei Statement on the Ten Characteristics of Contemporary Research Universities" is "[t]he responsible exercise of academic freedom by faculty to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching and service without undue constraint within a research culture based on open inquiry and the continued testing of current understanding, and which extends beyond the vocational or instrumental, sees beyond immediate needs and seeks to develop the understanding, skills and expertise necessary to fashion the future and help interpret our changing world."

Other characteristics identified in the statement include autonomy, a commitment to civil debate, and a dedication to research integrity.

The Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, and the League of European Research Universities joined with the leaders of nine elite Chinese research universities in sighing the statement at the C9 consortium's meeting in Hefei, China. 


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