Higher Education Quick Takes
Many colleges in Florida — and potentially other states, including California and Texas — could lose eligibility for their students to receive federal financial aid under a new interpretation of the Education Department's "state authorization" rule. While the rule will not be enforced for distance education, it still requires colleges to be licensed in their own state. The Education Department is currently interpreting the rule in a way that disqualifies state licensure by means of accreditation — a process that allows colleges to bypass the ordinary licensure process and be granted state approval based on their accreditation status.
The Education Department sent letters to several Florida colleges in recent weeks, warning them that licensure by means of accreditation is not sufficient to comply with the state authorization rule. The states and the Education Department have until July 1 to resolve the dispute. At that time, all colleges must be in compliance with the department's program integrity rules, including state authorization.
Huajun Zhao, an associate researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has been charged with economic espionage, accused of stealing research data and materials for a cancer-fighting compound, The Milwaukee Journal reported. Zhao was arrested Saturday and remains held without bail. The charges are based on video of Zhao in a professor's laboratory and searches of his computer hard drive, where he had materials related to the research in question. Zhao also had plane tickets to China for use today. His lawyer told the Journal: "In this earliest stage of a complex case involving a talented professional accused of a serious crime, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves on Dr. Zhao's behalf."
President Obama will today announce a $100 million initiative to invent and improve technologies to understand the brain, The New York Times reported. Officials are comparing the effort's ambition and potential impact to that of the Human Genome Project. Part of the plan is to require study of the ethical implications of the new technologies and new research that could be enabled.
Vanity Fair and "60 Minutes" have released a poll of the public on alma maters. Among the findings:
- Only 32 percent of adults can name the president or dean of their alma mater.
- Asked about the SAT, 39 percent called the test "a necessary evil," while 23 percent called it a "successful equalizer."
- Only 34 percent could name Illinois as the state where you can find Northwestern University. (Washington State was picked by 17 percent, Michigan by 11 percent and Oregon by 6 percent).
- Asked what they wished they had done more of in college, 48 percent said studying, 40 percent said networking, 4 percent said sex and 1 percent said drugs.
Oberlin College marked April 1 by letting kittens take over its website. The site should be back to normal today, but the college has archived the kittens of Meowberlin College here.
Proposed legislation in France would ease restrictions on offering university courses in English, The Connexion reported. Currently, courses must be in French unless they are courses to teach a non-French language or offered by a visiting academic from outside France. Some educators want the option of teaching other courses in English to attract more British and American students. Many universities in European countries that are not primarily English-speaking are adding such courses. But leading French writers have launched a campaign calling the proposed changes "insulting," and the Académie Française has said that any change would "harm the status of the French language in universities."
Faculty and student leaders at Pasadena City College are angry over the college's decision to put Warren Swil, a journalism professor and adviser to the student newspaper, on paid leave, The Pasadena Sun reported. The university says it cannot comment on why Swil was placed on leave. But faculty and student groups have been highly critical of late of President Mark Rocha, and faculty leaders said that they believed Swil was being punished for the extensive coverage of the campus disputes in The Courier, the student newspaper.
The U.S. State Department has released a written statement on the issue of third-party study abroad providers operating credit-bearing educational programs in Cuba. In a written statement that confirms study abroad professionals’ prior understanding of the changing regulatory environment, the State Department indicated that “academic service providers” are now eligible to receive “specific” licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to offer for-credit educational programs in Cuba on behalf of accredited American undergraduate and graduate institutions. “The goal is to provide study-abroad options for students whose university or college does not have a stand-alone Cuba program but which is nevertheless prepared to grant course credit for formal study in Cuba,” the State Department said in its statement.
While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S. colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the third-party study abroad providers' applications for licenses to run such programs were stalled. One such provider, Academic Programs International, announced it had finally received a license late last month.
The State Department indicated that all applications from academic service providers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It plans to issue new regulatory guidance on these issues in the Federal Register and the OFAC website in the coming months.
Pima Community College has responded to a scathingly critical report by a site team from its regional accreditor, which recommended that the Arizona institution be placed on probation. While the college said it takes the criticism seriously, it pushed back on certain findings in the report. For example, it clarified that the now-suspended effort to tighten admission standards was aimed at incoming students who perform at or below 7th-grade level. College administrators did not think these changes constituted a mission change. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association is set to consider the probation recommendation next week.