Higher Education Quick Takes
A report released today by Universities UK attempts to answer the question of where student fees are going, chronicling investments in financial aid, infrastructure, teaching, student services and career placement. The funding model for England’s universities has shifted drastically in recent years; public funding has fallen and been replaced by tuition fees, which were first introduced in 1997 and are now capped at £9,000 (about $14,150) for domestic students. Under the new funding regime, some universities have seen net reductions in their income and others net increases.
Declines in the total enrollment of American higher education are "credit negative" for colleges and universities, particularly the majority that depend on tuition revenue for operating support, says a review of credit issues released Monday by Moody's Investors Services. "Enrollment declines in higher education are credit negative because they heighten competitive pressure for all universities. This limits opportunity to grow tuition revenue, now the primary revenue for the majority of public and private universities," said the report. "[A]mong traditional undergraduate colleges and universities, the credit effect is more severe for lower-rated, tuition-dependent colleges and universities that lack a strong brand name or market position. For higher rated universities with established student demand, the effect is minimal."
The report added that demographics of students may have a major impact on which institutions feel these shifts. "With the fall 2012 enrollment declines most pronounced for students over the age of 25, the credit effect is most acute for community colleges and for the 30 percent of universities we rate where more than 25 percent of total enrollment is at the graduate level," the report said. "Declining graduate enrollment can disproportionately affect a university since students in graduate programs typically generate more revenue per student than in undergraduate programs."
More than 1,000 impermissible phone calls and other inappropriate contact by officials across Iowa State University’s 18-team athletics program, used to reach nearly 400 recruits, led the National Collegiate Athletic Association to cite the institution for its "failure to monitor" the athletics program Friday. Penalties include limited telephone contact with prospects and a reduction in the number of recruiting opportunities for several sports. Coaches and staff members failed to audit or adequately keep track of the number of phone calls made and text messages sent to prospects, the NCAA public infractions report says, with many coaches claiming that the university’s compliance office never told them to log calls. While 1,400 impermissible calls were placed across all programs, one former student men’s basketball coach sent 160 impermissible text messages to prospects.
Besides several recruiting restrictions, the sanctions include public reprimand and censure and two years’ probation. However, because the penalties were mostly self-imposed by the university several years ago, long before the case’s summary disposition (which does not include a formal hearing) wrapped up Friday, many of the recruiting restrictions have already expired.
The University of Denver went ahead Monday night with its plans to honor President George W. Bush, as a protest went ahead outside the event, The Denver Post reported. Bush appeared at a fund-raising event (closed to the press) for the university's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Anger over the award first surfaced this summer, when word spread that the university was going to honor Bush for "improving the human condition." The university then announced that it would change the award so that it would honor the former president's "global service." That change did not satisfy those who picketed outside the event. They held signs saying things such as "No Awards for War Criminals" and "The Iraq War Is Not a Global Service."
A History News Network poll of historians at highly rated colleges and universities have found that they give President Obama a B- grade on his performance as president. The historians were asked to grade the president in 15 categories. He earned the highest grades (all A-) in communication ability, Supreme Court appointments, integrity and crisis management. He earned his lowest grades in transparency and accountability (C+) and relationship with Congress (C).
Officials at U.S. News & World Report have warned that some methodology changes this year might lead to more movement on the rankings -- announced this morning -- than is the norm. That may well be the case, but the top three national universities and liberal arts colleges will be quite familiar to those who have tracked the rankings in the past. And the top 10 lists look pretty familiar, too.
One statistic Inside Higher Ed has tracked is the participation rate of those who participate in the controversial "reputational" portion of the rankings, in which presidents and others evaluate other colleges -- a system many believe leads to high rankings for colleges that have been historically strong and well known. This year, the participation rate of presidents over all dropped two points, to 42 percent. At liberal arts colleges (a sector that has been particularly critical of the rankings) the numbers are stable at 47 percent. U.S. News continues to be unable to get a high participation rate from its survey of high school counselors. Only 11 percent participated this year, the same as last year.
I will add link to rankings and full methodology when they go live in a.m. -sj
Spain's university students increasingly face higher fees at the same time as their institutions cut budgets. Seeking to help, some deans have talked about creating an "adopt a student" program in which civic minded individuals would "adopt a student" and pay for his or her tuition, The Local reported. Some students like the idea. But others are opposed. Ana García, secretary general of Spain's Union of Students, said that such a program would make higher education "a form of charity rather than a right."
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has lifted the sanction of "on notice" from Ashford University, according to a corporate filing from Bridgepoint Education, the for-profit university's holding company. The commission had been concerned that Ashford would not meet its new standards for accreditation, including a requirement for colleges to have a "substantial presence" in the regional accreditor's geographical domain. But the university apparently resolved those issues. In a related action, Ashford's biggest accreditation victory this year has been to successfully transfer its status to the Western Association of Colleges and Schools, a move that took two tries.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week gave a lift to free speech rights for faculty members at public colleges and universities by ruling that a 2006 Supreme Court decision does not limit those rights. Instead, the appeals court found that a more general First Amendment analysis protects those rights. The 2006 ruling, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, limited the speech rights of public employees. But the decision, which concerned the Los Angeles district attorney's office, noted that the ruling did not deal with identical issues to those found in public higher education. Despite that, some courts have been applying the ruling to faculty disputes at public universities -- while others have not. Faculty leaders have been pushing for clarification of university policies as a way to protect free speech rights amid the uncertain legal environment.
Last week's ruling, which essentially adopted the position of faculty groups with regard to Garcetti, came in a lawsuit by David Demers, a professor who says he was retaliated against with negative performance reviews for writings that criticized the administration. A lower court, citing Garcetti, rejected the suit, which has now been revived by the appeals court. The appeals court sent the case back to the district court, however, and did not determine whether retaliation had taken place.