Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 16, 2013

Under pressure from officials at historically black colleges and other institutions that serve large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds, the U.S. Education Department has announced that it will weigh appeals that may allow more families to qualify for federal loans for parents, the Associated Press reported. Changes made in 2011 to the underwriting standards for PLUS loans led to a spike in denials for families that had taken on debt because of the economic downturn, and the changes disproportionately affected students at HBCUs. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), had urged the Education Department to reconsider the underwriting standards.

In a letter sent to the Fudge on Tuesday, department officials said they would review their definitions in negotiations over federal rules for loan programs set to begin next spring, and would in the short term consider appeals from those who had been denied PLUS loans.

August 16, 2013

The presidents of 165 universities in July issued a joint letter calling on President Obama and Congress to adopt policies to promote research and to deal with an "innovation deficit" created by inadequate support for investments in science and technology. The letter -- organized by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities -- was part of an effort by those organizations and many universities to encourage more support for federal research and technology programs. Some faculty members at Purdue University, which is strong in science and technology and where many programs rely on federal support, noticed that their president didn't sign the letter, The Journal and Courier reported. Mitch Daniels, the president, released a statement to the newspaper explaining why he didn't sign: "I have been and will continue to be an advocate of major federal investments in research, particularly basic research," Daniels said. "I will say nothing negative about this letter, but, like many other presidents, I abstained from signing it, in my case, because of its complete omission of any recognition of the severe fiscal condition in which the nation finds itself."

August 16, 2013

A Minnesota jury has ordered Globe University, a for-profit institution, to pay $400,000 to Heidi Weber, who said she was fired for accusing the institution of using false and misleading job placement statistics, The Star Tribune reported. Weber sued under a Minnesota law designed to protect whistle-blowers. Globe said that she was dismissed for legitimate reasons.

 

August 15, 2013

New York City officials on Wednesday issued a report card evaluating the effectiveness of teacher education programs that educate the teachers in the city's public schools. The New York Times reported that some of the results were not favorable to the most prestigious programs. For instance, one in five graduates of Columbia University and New York University received low grades for improving student test scores. But the figure was 1 in 10 for City College of the City University of New York. Evaluating teachers (or their alma maters) in this way is controversial, but city officials said it was important to share the data and raise questions about results.

 

August 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Scherrer of Vanderbilt University lays out a hypothesis that could explain dark matters elusive nature. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 15, 2013

Chapman University on Wednesday announced a $55 million gift for its law school. The gift is believed to be the second largest ever for a law school.

 

August 15, 2013

Public colleges and universities saw their revenue growth fall by more than half and their median expenses grow at almost double the rate of inflation in 2012, Moody's Investors Service said in a report Wednesday. The analysis, which examined median financial data, showed that revenues for public institutions grew by 1.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent in 2011, and that expenses grew at 3.3 percent, a combination that the ratings agency called "unsustainable." "Future expense reductions will likely need to be more significant and include re-evaluation of existing business models to maintain long-term financial health," a Moody's analyst said in the report.

A second report from the service, about median financial data for private colleges and universities, found a slightly more positive picture, as operating margins remained in the 4-5 percent range. "Governing boards and management teams continue to exhibit fiscal stewardship of private colleges and universities by holding median operating margins relatively constant over the last five years even as revenue declined," a Moody's official said.

August 15, 2013

The Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to students who post pro-Israel messages on social media sites as part of a new online public diplomacy campaign. Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister’s office has joined with the National Union of Israeli Students to create “covert units” at each of Israel’s seven universities, each to be headed by a senior student coordinator who will receive a full scholarship; other students who are involved will receive smaller scholarships. The Prime Minister’s office has allocated about $777,000 for scholarships in the upcoming academic year.

August 15, 2013

President Obama is planning a New York State bus tour next week to Binghamton, Buffalo and Syracuse (plus a trip to northern Pennsylvania) to talk about college tuitions and costs, the Associated Press reported. The president has promised to offer ideas about how to make college more affordable.

 

August 14, 2013

The rector (or board chair) of the College of William and Mary has sent a letter to leaders of public colleges and universities in Virginia warning that the state's lack of gay marriage has created "a substantial incentive for our gay and lesbian faculty and staff to leave the Commonwealth’s public universities and colleges," The Washington Post reported. Jeff Trammell sent the letter after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling that paved the way for gay couples in states that recognize single-sex marriage to have the full federal tax advantages of marriage that heterosexual couples receive. Trammell noted that some state officials have been hostile even to awarding partner benefits to gay employees.

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