The U.S. Department of Treasury on Thursday issued a general license allowing accredited U.S. universities to enter into academic exchange agreements with Iranian universities and permitting the export of some educational services, including university entrance examinations. The guidance also permits American universities and their contractors to enroll Iranian students in certain online undergraduate-level courses, including massive open online courses, or MOOCs. In January, Inside Higher Ed reported that the U.S. government had blocked access to the MOOC provider Coursera for individuals in Iran and other economically sanctioned nations.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A dean's list student at Hannibal-LaGrange University who withdrew due to illness in October says he was blocked from returning because he is gay, the Associated Press reported. During the time he was away from the university, he came out on Facebook, and he said that university officials explained their refusal to re-enroll him by pointing him to a morals clause at the Baptist institution that describes homosexuality as a "misuse of God's gift." The student noted that others who violate rules related to sex are permitted to stay enrolled. He said he was told that, to return, he would have to renounce homosexuality. The university declined to comment.
Students at George Washington University are not impressed with their commencement speaker this year, José Andrés, a noted local chef. Washington City Paper noted tweets such as this one, which noted that the chef teaches a course at GW: "The guy who was obviously gw's last resort because if he didn't agree they'd just fire him." Many comments at The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, were even less charitable. Consider this one: "Thanks, GW, for not even making me want to go to my own graduation. I guess it's a fitting end to four mediocre and overpriced years." Some comments did express sympathy for the chef. One said, "I feel pretty bad for the guy. He's accomplished so much in his life, but he is such an incredibly bad fit for GW commencement speaker. He is going to get nothing but complaints. GW should have known better than to put him in this position."
The black student who authorities say was the victim of months of racial harassment by his suitemates at San Jose State University has filed a $5 million claim against the institution, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The claim says that a resident adviser was aware of the situation and didn't intervene as needed. This contrasts with the university's commissioned investigation, which found that there was no knowledge of the harassment by those who could have stopped it.
A statement from the university said that San Jose State officials believe the claim was filed with the wrong state agency for such matters, and that the university does not comment on such claims.
Facebook is the most used social media platform by school, college and university advancement officials, according to the latest version of an annual survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, mStoner and Huron Education. Of respondents, 95 percent reported using Facebook, followed by Twitter (82 percent), LinkedIn (76 percent) and YouTube (68 percent). Those social media tools were popular last year as well. Instagram saw a major increase in use, from 27 to 43 percent of those responding to the survey.
California's community colleges and campuses in the California State University System both have made progress in encouraging the use of a two-year degree aimed at transfer, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. About half the state's community colleges now offer 10 or more versions of the transfer degree, the report found. And Cal State campuses have made "significant progress" in increasing the number of transfer degrees they accept in similar majors.
Challenges remain, however. The report said capacity constraints at Cal State may limit the degrees' promise. It also found that the lack of participation by the University of California means that the transfer degrees are not as much of a "statewide" pathway as intended by the ambitious legislation that led to their creation.
More work also needs to be done at two-year colleges, according to the report. Awareness among community colleges students about the degrees remains limited.
Last year California passed a bill to nudge community colleges and Cal State campuses to comply with the legislation's timeframe, which required all of the new transfer degree tracks to be completed this year.
Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, is among the institutions that called off spring break due to all the snow days that interfered with course sessions. So students this week, which would have been spring break, organized a staycation, and came to the college dressed for the beach, even if they were still going to class.
California's Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has "consistently failed to meet its responsibility to protect the public's interests," a state audit released Wednesday said. The report from the California State Auditor cited a list of agency's shortcomings, including long backlogs of applications for licenses and delays in processing applications, failing to "identify proactively and sanction effectively unlicensed institutions," and conducting far too few inspections of institutions. The bureau, which the legislature created in 2009 after the state's previous regulatory body was killed, challenged the audit's negative conclusion but agreed with its recommendations for improving the agency's performance going forward.
In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Trumble, assistant professor of biology at Baylor University, explains how a whale’s ear wax can help us find definitive answers to a wide array of questions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.