Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The top Democrat on the House of Representatives oversight committee announced an inquiry Monday into the pay of chief executive officers at for-profit colleges, saying it was part of a larger questioning by his panel of "excessive" compensation for corporate executives. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a speech to a consumer group today (see video below) that he had sent letters to the CEOs of 13 for-profit education companies, asking for the compensation agreements to help "determine whether salaries, bonuses, and other compensation are appropriately tied to the performance of students they educate, the vast majority of whom pay for their education with federal tax dollars."

Officials of several of the companies targeted by Cummings issued statements defending the compensation they pay as appropriate; a statement by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities declared the lawmaker's inquiry to be "more politics."

 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

While many business schools are struggling with decreased interest in M.B.A. programs, those business schools that are at the top of the prestige lists are spending much more to attract top students, Fortune reported. Among "top 20" programs, at least four business schools -- those of Harvard, Northwestern and Yale Universities and the University of California at Los Angeles -- have increased average scholarship values by more than 100 percent since 2004-5, the magazine reported. "It is an arms race," said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "The race has gotten so hot, so fast that schools are using operating money to pay for a lot of these scholarships. No one had ever, ever done that in M.B.A. land. Almost everybody is doing it now."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Members of the faculty at Shorter University, which recently instituted new faith statements that, among other requirements, ban gay staff members, have consulted with the American Association of University Professors, which is concerned that the new requirements threaten academic freedom. In a letter to the university's president, Donald Dowless, and Joe Frank Harris Jr., chairman of the board, the AAUP's associate secretary wrote that the association wished "to convey its concerns over the ramification of these requirements for the exercise of academic freedom at Shorter University."

"Additional allegations we have received about adverse actions that the administration has already taken against faculty members" add to the organization's concerns, Associate Secretary Robert Kreiser wrote. The faith statements have caused an uproar at the Georgia Baptist university, which did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 4:27am

An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Dean College freshman who was seen on video attacking a student in a fight over a pair of sneakers, The Boston Herald reported. Images from the video -- in which other students watched and cheered, but did not intervene -- stunned many, prompting many to wonder why no arrests had been made. (The college expelled a total of nine students in the incident.) Authorities said other arrest warrants may be issued, but that the former freshman being charged was the "primary aggressor" in the case.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

When the time comes for a freshman to move on to sophomore year, the odds that the college retains him might hinge on whether it retained his friends. Relationships are more important than a student’s academic ability, financial aid, ethnicity or socioeconomic status in determining whether he will complete the transition to a second year, according to a new study published in Social Psychology of Education. Researchers at Rhodes College, a small liberal arts institution in Tennessee, and Welch Consulting in Washington analyzed the social networks of the institution’s entire class of 2012, examining the social and academic connections between things such as course registrations, team and club rosters, and residence hall records. Unsurprisingly, James Eckles and Eric Stradley found that students “on the outside of the social network” are more at risk for attrition. But they also found that whether a student’s friends stick around makes a difference -- every friend who left made a student five times more likely to leave, and every friend who stayed made a student 2.25 times more likely to stay.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Barbara Landau of Johns Hopkins University reveals what she has learned about how the brain creates art from her research with a talented artist working to recover from a brain injury. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 4:30am

The reactions haven't been positive to a new ad to recruit top science students to the University of Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the Canadian institution is embarrassed because the ad features bad chemistry. Students are portrayed with beakers or test tubes, apparently engaged in science. One woman is seen standing in front of images of molecules. The problem is that the images of the molecules would be obviously flawed to even a high school chemistry student. Some of the superscripts in the ad should be subscripts, some of the subscripts should be superscripts, some atoms have too many bonds and some don't have enough bonds, professors told the newspaper. Also, the woman seen studying chemistry is actually studying occupational therapy. Another professor reported that colleagues at the University of Montreal were making jokes about chemistry at the University of Ottawa.

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Congressional negotiators are close to reaching agreement on a $1 trillion budget for the federal government in 2012, with a vote expected by the end of the week. The measure would draw from competing House and Senate budget plans to pay for the Pell Grant Program, enacting changes to both the grant program itself and to subsidized undergraduate student loans.

The six-month grace period on subsidized student loans, in which the government currently pays the interest after a borrower leaves college, would be eliminated, saving about $400 million for the fiscal year. The length of time over which a student can be eligible for a Pell Grant would reportedly also be cut to 12 semesters from the current 18, which would affect about 62,000 students, according to a lobbyist with a higher education association. Students without a high school diploma or equivalent credential will also reportedly be barred from receiving Pell Grants, and the family income at which the government would expect a recipient of federal financial aid to contribute nothing to the cost of his or her education would drop from $30,000 to $20,000 per year.

Senate Democrats had proposed the change to the interest rate subsidy; the other cuts were drawn from a House Republican budget plan. But other proposed cuts in the House plan would not be enacted, including a proposed change to the income protection allowance that the American Council on Education estimated could affect up to 400,000 students.

Full details on the final bill are expected today.

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Biola University, like many institutions, holds a holiday party at which the president thanks all who work at the institution for their efforts. This year President Barry H. Corey took a nontraditional approach, inspired by the theme song of "The Brady Bunch":

 

 

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Ross T. Ashley has been identified as the man who shot and killed a police officer at Virginia Tech last week, and who then killed himself. Radford University, which is close to Virginia Tech, confirmed that Ashley had been a part-time student there as a business management major. Ashley is suspected in the theft of a Mercedes SUV, but authorities are still trying to figure out why he came to Virginia Tech and murdered a police officer there.

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