Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 21, 2013

The University of Nicosia, in Cyprus, announced today that it will accept Bitcoin for the payment of tuition and other fees. The university is also launching a master of science degree in digital currency, which will be offered in online and on-campus formats starting in spring of 2014. The introductory course for the program, Introduction to Digital Currency, will be offered free as a MOOC (massive open online course).

 

November 21, 2013

The federally appointed committee tasked with rewriting the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” regulations will continue its deliberations in December, an Education Department official said on Wednesday. Negotiations over the rules were slated to end Wednesday, but members of the panel were not close to reaching an agreement after more than five full days of debate over the last several months. The committee is charged with rewriting rules that were blocked by a federal judge earlier this year. 

The regulations would condition federal student aid to career-training programs at for-profit and community colleges on their ability to meet certain standards. The department is proposing metrics that would judge graduates’ earnings relative to their earnings, the rate at which former students default on their student loans and whether former students are paying down at least the interest on their loans.

Negotiators were still at odds Wednesday over how those standards should be set, which programs ought to be exempt, and what information schools should be required to disclose to students.  

Representatives from for-profit and community colleges said the rules would unfairly harm their institutions, punishing them for enrolling low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students. Several members of the panel have also said they cannot effectively discuss the department’s latest proposal, which is more stringent than previous drafts, until the department releases an analysis of how the rules would impact institutions.

Department officials have said they are in the process of producing that data on how many programs would pass or fail under its proposal. John Kolotos, the department's representative on the committee, told negotiators Wednesday that the data would be available before the next meeting in December. That session has not yet been scheduled.  The department would be bound by a set of regulations that the panel unanimously supports but would be free to push ahead with its own proposal if negotiators failed to reach an agreement. 

November 21, 2013

Carnegie Mellon University will team up with a New York film and television production company to create an integrative media campus in Brooklyn, the latest addition to the stable of applied sciences campuses that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has helped to create in the city. The new program, which Carnegie Mellon will create in conjunction with Steiner Studios, at Brooklyn's Navy Yard, joins the Cornell University-Technion campus created through an intense competition last year, and projects led by New York University and Columbia University.

November 20, 2013

California Rep. Linda T. Sánchez asked the National Collegiate Athletic Association to "review its concussion policy and take stronger measures to protect the safety of its students." Officials said her letter to the NCAA was prompted by the death of a football player at Frostburg State University, whose family is suing the coaches and NCAA in part over their ignorance of head trauma.

"Student athletes deserve to know that there are policies in place that will protect them in the event they suffer an injury on the field. Concussions can happen to an athlete of any age, any league, and any sport,” Sánchez said in a statement. “These young people might play in non-revenue sports, but that does not mean they should be ignored. My hope is that the NCAA will further focus on head injuries and develop safety plans that encompass all sports, not just football.”

The NCAA requires colleges to have concussion management plans, which include education and treatment requirements and are not limited to football, but does not ensure that the plans are followed. It has made some rules changes in football to reduce head contact, but some argue the NCAA should do more.


 

November 20, 2013

The Big 12 Conference this week launched a three-year marketing campaign that uses its member institutions' athletic visibility to promote academic research and achievements. The campaign includes a website and individual public service announcements for Big 12 universities during nationally televised conference football games. In conjunction with football media days next summer (a sort of preview of the teams and season to come), the Big 12 will host "the first in a series" of scholastic conferences, featuring faculty, students and graduates from the universities.

“When considered collectively, Big 12 universities educate more than 293,000 students annually, giving them the skills and knowledge to contribute to a better workforce, build stronger communities and tackle local and global challenges,” Burns Hargis, president of Oklahoma State University and chairman of the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors, said in a statement. “This campaign is our opportunity to celebrate the significance of that mission while showcasing the vibrancy of our conference-wide academics – as evidenced by the unique accomplishments of each school.”

November 20, 2013

The head of the group that represents North Carolina community colleges trustees is also a higher education headhunter, the Raleigh News & Observer reported this week.

The newspaper said the North Carolina Association of Community College Trustees President Donny Hunter has interests that are "difficult to untangle." The paper said tax records show Hunter is paid $105,000 to be the association's president but also received nearly $118,000 from the association for services that included headhunting. Hunter said there is not a conflict of interest.

November 20, 2013

California Competes, a nonprofit group, has unveiled an online, interactive data tool that charts community college enrollment and degree production rates across California's 1,700 ZIP codes. The group's director, Robert Shireman, a former official with the U.S. Department of Education, said during a phone call with reporters that the map helps identify areas where higher education needs aren't being met. For example, he said Los Angeles would need to add the equivalent of four Santa Monica Colleges if its community college-going rates were as high as Orange County's.

November 20, 2013

The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan has urged its members to describe the issues they face via Twitter and the hashtag #BBUM (for "Being Black at the University of Michigan") is generating discussion at Michigan and elsewhere. Among the tweets: BBUM "is working in study groups and your answer to the question always requires a double check before approval" and "is being the only black person in class, and having other races look at you to be the spokesperson whenever black history is brought up" and "I'm afraid to wear my natural hair ... because I don't want to deal with the questions." The university responded on the hashtag with: "Thanks for engaging in this conversation. We’re listening, and will be sure all of your voices are heard."

This month a black student at the University of California at Los Angeles set off a debate about race with his YouTube video about the experience of being black there.

 

November 20, 2013

A 19-year-old Liberty University student was killed after being shot by a campus police officer early Tuesday morning. In a statement, Liberty officials said the officer, who is being treated in the hospital, "was attacked by a male student in the lobby of a women's-only dorm.... The student was shot and killed." (Note: This item has been updated to clarify the location of the shooting.)

November 20, 2013

The U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday its plan to convene a panel of negotiators to hammer out new regulations on how colleges disburse federal student aid and rewrite a controversial rule requiring online programs to obtain permission from each state in which they enroll students.

The negotiated rule making committee is also expected to tackle the underwriting standards for PLUS loans, the conversion of clock hours to credit hours when awarding credit, and rules governing when a student can receive federal aid for repeated coursework, according to a notice set to appear in Wednesday’s Federal Register.

The department plans to appoint negotiators who represent various constituencies, including students, consumer advocates, businesses, state officials and representatives from different types of institutions. It is currently seeking nominations for members of the committee. The panel will meet for three, three-day sessions in February, March and April, the department said.

The list of topics announced Tuesday, while tentative, largely round out the remaining issues that the Obama administration had announced as regulatory priorities for its second term. The department has already announced its plan to hold a separate negotiated rule making session in January to write new campus safety rules. It is also in the process of negotiating a rewrite of the “gainful employment” rules on for-profit and community colleges that a federal judge blocked earlier this year. That committee met Tuesday for its penultimate day of negotiations and appears destined to finish its work without reaching consensus on a set of rules, leaving the department in the position of being able to impose its own rules.

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