Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 11, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Philip Marcus of the University of California at Berkeley explains the persistence of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 11, 2014

DeVry Inc. shut all 13 of its Chicago-area DeVry University and Chamberlain College of Nursing campuses Monday, citing an emailed threat that was deemed a "potential security issue," The Chicago Tribune reported. Little information was provided about the nature of the threat, but DeVry officials said in a statement that local authorities had declared it safe to reopen the campuses today.

February 11, 2014

Officials at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California are identifying racist and sexist fliers sent to Asian-American organizations on the two campuses, The Los Angeles Times reported. UCLA students held a rally Monday to protest the flier.

 

February 11, 2014

Wayne State University is standing by Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering, whom faculty members have accused of lacking integrity and, last week, sparked the resignation of a longtime professor. "I really want to emphasize that Dean Fotouhi is doing a good job," Margaret Winters, provost, said Monday. "A great deal of what we see going on here is that some older, more established faculty frankly don't want to see change." Winters said Fotouhi had been hired several years ago to make key changes in the college, such as raising research productivity and boosting enrollment in engineering, and that he was meeting those goals -- to some professors' chagrin.

James Woodyard, an associate professor in the computer and electrical engineering department who has been at Wayne State for more than three decades, announced Friday at the university's Board of Governors meeting that he was resigning due to Fotouhi's "lack of integrity," The Detroit News reported. In an email, Woodyard said Fotouhi had, on numerous occasions, been dishonest about the nature of personnel and budgeting decisions. Woodyard accused Winters of being biased against members of the computer and electrical engineering department and accused the administration generally of not exercising due diligence in its investigation of Fotouhi. Winters said the university had thoroughly looked into claims against Fotouhi on two separate occasions and that the dean had come up clean. Now in his third year, Fotouhi will be formally evaluated in his fifth year, according to Wayne State. Fotouhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


 
February 11, 2014

An electronic textbook pilot has, once again, reported lukewarm interest among college students -- this time at the University of Iowa. Sponsored by Educause and Internet2, the fall 2012 pilot involved about 600 students across 17 different courses, comparing results of students using e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill Education and Courseload to students in similar courses who used print books. Most students preferred the print books, calling them "easier to access and more useful for learning," and few students used the e-textbooks' bookmarking and note taking features.

Additionally, there was "no significant difference" between the grades earned by students using e-textbooks and those using print books. Sam Van Horne, an assessment coordinator in the Information Technology Services offices, said he and the other researchers were surprised by the lack of interest in the interactive features of e-textbooks.  "One conclusion of the assessment researchers was that instructional designers can scaffold the adoption of e-textbooks and their interactive tools by helping students and instructors both use the technology but also understand how the use of tools can benefit learning," Van Horne said in an email. "The assessment researchers are hoping to design and test such interventions with other users of e-textbooks."

In 2013, Iowa expanded the pilot to include products from Bioportal, Mindtap and CourseSmart. The researchers said they are in the process of analyzing preliminary data.

February 11, 2014

The University of Texas System's board expects to spend four to six months finding a new chancellor to replace Francisco Cigarroa, who announced Monday he would step down after his successor is named. 

Cigarroa plans to focus now on practicing medicine, which he has done even as chancellor, and also advise the system as it prepares to establish a medical school in the state's Rio Grande Valley. In recent years he has resisted intense pressure from some members of the Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to fire Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin. Powers has been defended by many students, faculty members and alumni. At a press conference, Cigarroa said he continues to support Powers.

“I evaluate all presidents, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance," he said. "You know [...], I support President Powers, and I’ll continue to evaluate presidents every day, not only President Powers but all 15.” The system has nine universities and six current medical centers.

Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said, not unexpectedly, that Perry, who appoints the board, would have some say in who replaces Cigarroa. 

“His input will be sought and will be certainly considered, but he doesn’t have a direct role in the process," Foster said.

February 10, 2014

The Education Department on Friday announced the negotiators who will hammer out new rules for PLUS loans, campus debit cards, state authorization for distance programs and other topics on the administration’s sweeping second-term regulatory agenda.

The negotiated-rulemaking panel will convene for the first time on February 19 and meet several times over the next several months to address a range of regulations for institutions that receive federal student aid and the companies the handle the disbursement of that money.

Among the more contentious issues the panel will focus on are the eligibility requirements for obtaining a PLUS loan. Consumer advocates and some think tanks have called for tighter eligibility requirements while some historically black and for-profit colleges, whose students and their families rely heavily on the loans, have said the department’s efforts to tighten the underwriting criteria have already cut off college access for low-income and underserved students.

The panel will also attempt to draft rules for student debit cards and other financial products on campus through which students receive disbursements of their federal loans and grants. Advocacy groups, lawmakers and other federal agencies have questioned the lucrative arrangements that some debit card providers have with colleges to offer such products.

In addition, the negotiated-rulemaking committee will also seek to rewrite the department’s state authorization rule for distance education programs. The rule, which required colleges providing distance education to obtain permission to operate from every state in which they enroll students, was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2012. The panel will also tackle the conversion of clock hours to credit hours when awarding credit, and rules governing when a student can receive federal aid for repeated coursework.

Following are the list of negotiators:

Carney McCullough, U.S. Department of Education

Pam Moran, U.S. Department of Education

Chris Lindstrom, higher education program director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group

*Maxwell John Love, vice president, United States Student Association

Whitney Barkley, staff attorney, Mississippi Center for Justice

Toby Merrill, director, Project on Predatory Student Lending, The Legal Services Center, Harvard Law School

Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney, Consumers Union

Carolyn Fast, special counsel, Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, New York Attorney General’s Office

*Jenny Wojewoda, assistant attorney general, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

David Sheridan, director of financial aid, School of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University

*Paula Luff, associate vice president of financial aid DePaul University

Gloria Kobus, director of student accounts & university receivables, Youngstown State University

*Joan Piscitello, treasurer, Iowa State University

David Swinton, president, Benedict College

*George French, president, Miles College

Brad Hardison, financial aid director, Santa Barbara City College

*Melissa Gregory, chief enrollment services and financial aid officer, Montgomery College

Chuck Knepfle, financial aid director, Clemson University

*J. Goodlett McDaniel, associate provost for distance education, George Mason University

Elizabeth Hicks, executive director, student financial services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

*Joe Weglarz, executive director, student financial services, Marist College

Deborah Bushway, chief academic officer and vice president of academic innovation, Capella University

*Valerie Mendelsohn, vice president, compliance and risk management , American Career College

Casey McGuane, chief operations officer, Higher One

*Bill Norwood, chief architect and director, Heartland Payment Systems

Russ Poulin, deputy director, research and analysis, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

*Marshall Hill, executive director, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements

Dan Toughey, president, TouchNet

*Michael Gradisher, vice president of regulatory and legal affairs, Pearson Embanet

Paul Kundert, president and CEO, University of Wisconsin Credit Union

*Tom Levandowski, senior company counsel, Wells Fargo Bank Law Department, Consumer Lending & Corporate Regulatory Division

Leah Matthews, executive director, Distance Education and Training Council

*Elizabeth Sibolski, president Middle States Commission on Higher Education

(Asterisk denotes alternate.)

February 10, 2014

In a first, a star of big-time college football has come out. Michael Sam, who won numerous awards as a defensive linesman for the University of Missouri at Columbia, on Sunday told The New York Times and ESPN that he is gay. He told his teammates last year in the preseason. Last month, a freshman kicker on the Willamette University football team came out as bisexual, at the time becoming the first football player to publicly identify, while playing, as non-straight. While Willamette is Division III, Missouri plays with the elites of college football and Sam has been expected to be drafted in the National Football League.

 

 

February 10, 2014

Loyola University New Orleans on Friday laid off 18 non-faculty employees as part of a plan to deal with a deficit caused by much lower than expected freshman enrollment in the fall, The Times-Picayune reported. In addition, the university announced that the contracts of 12 non-tenured faculty members would not be renewed.

 

February 10, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, James Gibbs of the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains the plight of the snow leopard. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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