Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 22, 2015

CHICAGO -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that he remains open to having his agency cancel the federal student loans of some borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges.

“Everything’s on the table,” Duncan said during remarks at the Education Writers Association conference here. 

Duncan said that the Education Department was working to figure out “a fair and impartial” way to handle the more than 250 claims filed by former Corinthian students formally asking to have their debt canceled.

Consumer advocates, student activists, some Senate Democrats and nine state attorneys general have asked the department to make it easier for federal loan borrowers to apply for debt relief.

They have pointed to a mostly dormant provision of federal law that allows borrowers to assert misconduct by a college as a reason why they shouldn’t be legally responsible for repaying their loans. 

Over the past 15 years “we’ve had, like, four of these cases,” Duncan said Tuesday. “So we don’t have a lot of practice on this. The rules aren’t very clear.” 

“There are certain things in the law that students would have to prove” in order to have their loans canceled, he added. 

Duncan also framed the Corinthian debt forgiveness issue in the larger context of the administration’s crackdown on for-profit colleges. The department last week fined Corinthian-owned Heald College $30 million over allegations it misrepresented job placement rates.

“We’re trying to make up for some real wrongs at the back end,” Duncan said. 

Separately, state regulators in California announced this week that they have ordered Corinthian’s campuses operating under the Everest and WyoTech brands to stop enrolling new students. The emergency action, which takes effect Thursday, means that only a handful of remaining Corinthian-owned campuses, such as its Rochester, N.Y., and Phoenix locations, are allowed to seek new students. 

April 22, 2015

A New York State judge has ordered the State University of New York at Stony Brook to show a legal justification for keeping two chimpanzees caged, The New York Times reported. While the ruling is but a preliminary one in a complicated case over the rights of animals, it represents a win for those who wish to establish that animals caged for research or other purposes should have legal rights.


April 22, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, John Christian, an aerospace engineer at West Virginia University, is working to improve the computer imaging systems necessary for a space rendezvous. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 21, 2015

Professors were among the winners of the arts and letters categories in the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes, which were announced Monday:

  • In biography, the winner was The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House), by David I. Kertzer. Kertzer is the Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University.
  • In history, the winner was Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People (Hill and Wang), by Elizabeth A. Fenn. Fenn is the Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Chair in Western American History at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
  • In music, the winner was "Anthracite Fields," by Julia Wolfe, who is on the composition faculty at New York University's Steinhardt School.
  • In poetry, the winner was the collection Digest (Four Way Books), by Gregory Pardlo, who is a teaching fellow in undergraduate writing at Columbia University.
April 21, 2015

For the first time, more than half, or 51.4 percent, of the 550 colleges and universities surveyed for this year's Annual State of the ResNet Report devoted one gigabit of their bandwidth to residential networks, and costs are increasing as a result. Residential network funding jumped from 38 percent last year to 54 percent this year, according to the survey, a joint project by the Association of College and University Housing Officers -- International, the Association for College and University Technology Advancement, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Desktop and laptop computers -- not tablets and smartphones -- hogged the most bandwidth, according to the report. To address the demands for faster speeds and around-the-clock support, 38 percent of the surveyed institutions this year said they have outsourced network providing, compared to 22 percent who said the same in 2013.

April 21, 2015

A group of trustees elected by alumni to Pennsylvania State University's governing board sued the university -- and the board -- to try to seek access to documents related to the 2012 investigation into sexual abuse by a former football coach, the Centre Daily Times reported. The cadre of trustees say they need access to some of the documents the university produced in response to Louis Freeh's inquiry into Jerry Sandusky's behavior -- documents that are protected by a confidentiality agreement -- to do their job as stewards and help develop a strategic plan. But their lawsuit follows an attempt by several of the same trustees to get access to those documents so they could do their own, competing review into the Sandusky matter.

April 21, 2015

A decision by administrators at St. Thomas Aquinas College to cancel a drag show planned by the campus Gender and Sexuality Alliance club has prompted debate at the New York Roman Catholic institution, The Journal News reported. The Student Government Association had approved the event (and allocated $150 in student activities funds for it) but campus officials quashed it this month, saying they worried that without educating students ahead of time, the event would result in participating students being made fun of. But students and faculty members said the administrators' decision belied the campus's reputation for being welcoming and supportive of gay students and staff members.

April 21, 2015

Louise Gunning has resigned as chair of the University of Amsterdam management board amid criticism of her decision to send in riot police to break up a student sit-in, Dutch News reported. Students have questioned whether university leaders continue to consult with students and faculty members.


April 21, 2015

The University of Hong Kong will not require its undergraduate students to visit mainland China, an administrator there said Monday amid blowback from students concerned about China's growing influence on the former British colony, The New York Times reported. A senior official at the university described as "clumsy" his remarks to students last week that "if students do not wish to go to China, they should not come to Hong Kong U."  The Times quoted the president of the university's student union as saying that students should be free to choose where they study abroad, and that mainland China should not be required.

April 21, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Elizabeth Thomas, a molecular and cellular neuroscientist at the Scripps Research Institute, describes her work to cure Huntington’s disease on a genetic level. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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