Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators released a report Tuesday recommending best practices for financial aid award letters, including 10 elements that it says should be standardized across institutions. Financial aid award letters should clearly state the cost of attendance; total grants and scholarships; the net price after those scholarships are taken into account; and "self-help" options such as the federal work-study program, student loans or parent loans, among other information, the association's task force wrote in its report.

The report also calls for requiring reporting all student loans — including those from private lenders — to the federal government, possibly through an expansion of the National Student Loan Data System. 

The recommendations come amid calls from some consumer advocates for total standardization of financial aid awards and reports that some award letters confuse prospective students by including loans when calculating expected payments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has expanded its investigation of for-profit institutions with a broad inquiry received last week by ITT Educational Services Inc., according to a corporate filing. Corinthian Colleges Inc. is responding to a similar probe. The new federal watchdog group has been tight-lipped about the investigation, but its director has spoken out in the past about colleges with institutional loan programs that have had high default rates. And both ITT and Corinthian have been criticized by consumer advocates for their lending practices.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 4:32am

At the five most competitive colleges in the City University of New York, the combination of tougher admissions standards and the economic downturn has led to shifts in demographics, with the colleges attracting more students with high SAT scores, and more students who are white or are Asian than in the past, The New York Times reported. At these colleges, the percentage of freshmen with SAT scores of 1,200 or more has gone up 12 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2007 (before the recession) to 26 percent last fall. At the same time, the percentage of black students has fallen from 17 percent to 10 percent. CUNY officials said that the shift were an area of concern, but they noted that many students enter the college as community college transfers, and said that more black and Latino students are graduating than ever before.

 

 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has set off a debate about academic freedom and free expression in South Africa with a last-minute decision to cancel a planned lecture by an official of the Israeli embassy, The Independent Online reported. Some academics at the university had called for the lecture to be canceled to object to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The deputy-vice chancellor, Joseph Ayee, sent an e-mail in which he said: "I have reconsidered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli deputy ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture." A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy told the newspaper that "anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a campaign [of] intellectual terror which rejects everything that the academia believes in: meaning dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech."

 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 4:34am

Students who don't learn civics -- starting at young ages -- are less likely to grow up to be students and citizens who vote and who volunteer, says a report being issued today by the Educational Testing Service. The report urges an increased emphasis on civic education at all levels of education, and urges colleges to look for ways to encourage their students to vote and to participate in public life.

 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Melissa Gibbs of Stetson University explains how an invasive species of catfish is making life hard for the manatees of Florida. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 3:00am

Sarah Lawrence College has had the distinction of being the only competitive college that not only told applicants that they did not need to submit SAT or ACT scores, but stated that it would not accept such scores for review at all. But that is now changing and, effective with the admissions cycle starting this fall, the college is moving to a "test-optional" stance in which applicants have the choice of whether or not to submit. A statement on the college's admissions website explains the new position: "The submission of standardized tests is optional. Along with your transcripts, test scores may provide additional evidence of your academic achievements and potential. However, Sarah Lawrence is committed to a holistic review process, and we know that standardized testing may not accurately reflect the potential and contributions of all students. You will not be at a disadvantage should you choose not to submit your scores."

 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 4:38am

The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts on Tuesday sided with Regis College in a dispute over its plans to build a retirement community, The Boston Globe reported. Massachusetts law gives leeway on zoning rules to educational institutions, but the town of Weston has argued that the planned retirement community should be viewed primarily as residential, not educational. Regis, in an argument that now appears likely to prevail when the case returns to a lower court, has argued that because residents would take courses at the college, and college students in gerontology and social work would have internships at the retirement center, that the plans are for an educational use.

 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 4:30am

Many American physicists are worried that the United States is losing its edge in their discipline, The New York Times reported. The article cites instances in which key breakthroughs by American scientists must be followed by work in Europe or elsewhere because of a lack of support in the United States. “While it’s great to support other missions,” Adam Riess, a Nobel laureate at Johns Hopkins University, told the Times, "it would be disappointing to see the U.S. lose or outsource its own leading role in one of the hottest areas of research.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 3:00am

Alleging false and misleading recruitment materials that overstated earnings expectations and understated the risk of unemployment, an advocacy group is calling for the resignation of a Rutgers University at Camden School of Law administrator. Law School Transparency, a policy organization working to reduce the cost of legal education, said associate dean Camille Andrews sent prospective students information that exaggerated the benefits of attending Rutgers-Camden. In addition to Andrews's resignation, Law School Transparency called for an investigation by the American Bar Association and asked the university to clarify the data in those materials to any prospective students who were contacted.

Dean Rayman Solomon is standing by Andrews. Solomon said the recruitment material was accurate but that he's "open to discussion" about the best way to reach prospective students going forward. The promotion in question targeted potential applicants who took the GMAT, not the LSAT, the typical law school admission test. The goal, Solomon said, was to reach a new audience and introduce the Rutgers-Camden program. Students could then go online to get more information.

"This was one letter saying are you interested, have you thought about it?" Solomon said. "This is not our entire marketing campaign. This is telling people that we have a program."

But were the numbers misleading?

"I don’t know how to respond," Solomon said. "If you have a hundred people, would four of them be misled? Would one be misled? Would 98 be misled? [It was] a piece that was designed to get people to think about something they hadn't thought about. This wasn’t the only information they could get about it."

The transparency group charged that:

  • Employment data for recent graduates excluded the 43 graduates (out of 242 total) who were unemployed without making that distinction clear.
  • The college claimed that “many” recent graduates had salaries of more than $130,000, while a Law School Transparency analysis suggested that only one to five recent grads were earning in that range.
  • Rutgers-Camden exaggerates the likelihood and value of receiving a judicial clerkship. That claim left Solomon "incensed," because he said New Jersey has an exceptional and competitive clerkship program, unlike some other states.
  • By contacting students who took the GMAT, Law School Transparency said Rutgers-Camden portrayed itself inaccurately as a "down-economy safe haven that leads to status and riches."

The dean didn't dispute any of Law School Transparency's figures, which came from the college, but disagreed with the analysis.
 

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