Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Ryan Sullivan of Carnegie Mellon University explains why California snow is dependent on dust from across the Pacific. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Eight days after the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans increased to 6.8 percent, the two parties in Congress seemed further away than ever on a compromise that could retroactively undo the increase. A bipartisan coalition of Senate Republicans, Independents and Democrats have put forward a bill for market-based interest rates that has much in common with President Obama's plan, but the Senate Democratic leadership would rather extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate for another year -- a proposal that's a nonstarter with Republicans in the House and Senate. 

The Senate will vote on the one-year extension bill today.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about retention. The articles aren't today's breaking news, but reflect long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts on the changes colleges are making to focus not just on admitting students but on keeping them on track to a degree. The goal is to provide these materials (both news articles and opinion essays) in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here. This is the second in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed's editors will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles and essays, as well as the latest developments involving student retention and persistence. To register for the webinar, please click here.

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

Lawyers representing former athletes who are challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association's commercial use of their likenesses (for which the athletes receive no compensation) are trying to make sure that the association will not punish any current athletes who join the suit, USA Today reported. The lead lawyer in the antitrust suit send a letter asking the NCAA to stipulate that it would not retaliate if a current player is added to the suit, as a federal judge's ruling last week permitted. An NCAA lawyer told the newspaper that the association would never take action against an athlete for joining a legal matter against the association. 
 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

London Mayor Boris Johnson is under attack for a quip suggesting that female students are still after Mrs. degrees. Times Higher Education reported that Johnson was on a panel on which Malaysia's prime minister was talking about the increasing number of women enrolling. Johnson said that women "have got to find men to marry." Twitter is full of outrage over the comment. One comment: "Women go to university to bag themselves a husband! Sure, it still being 1953!" Another: "Does this mean I can get a refund on my student loan?! Didn't find a husband at my uni... “

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated a federal False Claims Act lawsuit brought against ITT Educational Services, Inc. by a former enrollment official. A federal judge in Indiana dismissed the suit against the for-profit higher education provider last year, saying the court did not have jurisdiction because the plaintiffs in the case were not the original source of the allegations against the company, as is required under the false claims law. The court also slapped the plaintiffs with nearly $400,000 in fines for having brought, in the judge's words, a "frivolous" lawsuit.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sharply disagreed Monday. The appeals panel agreed that the False Claims Act -- in which parties sue companies or others on behalf of the federal government, claiming that the defendants have defrauded the treasury of funds and hoping to be joined by the U.S. Justice Department -- requires a suing party to come forward with allegations that were not previously in the public domain. But the Seventh Circuit court concluded that the charges made by Debra Leveski, the former employee at an ITT campus in Michigan, differed sufficiently from previously disclosed information about the company that the case can appropriately be heard by the federal court.

In directing the lower court to consider the case, and in at least temporarily reversing the financial penalties against her lawyer, the court said: "We do not know whether Leveski will ultimately prevail, nor do we state any opinion as to whether Leveski should ultimately prevail. But we do believe that Leveski should be allowed to litigate her case on the merits, and thus, sanctions for bringing a frivolous lawsuit are inappropriate."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

President Obama has named 12 people to receive the National Humanities medal:

  • Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and historian of the Civil War era.
  • William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton University, and author of books about higher education.
  • Jill Ker Conway, former president of Smith College.
  • Natalie Zemon Davis, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus.
  • Frank Deford, the sports writer.
  • Joan Didion, the essayist and novelist.
  • Robert D. Putnam, professor of government at Harvard University.
  • Marilynne Robinson, the novelist.
  • Kay Ryan, former poet laureate of the United States.
  • Robert B. Silvers, co-founder of The New York Review of Books.
  • Anna Deavere Smith, the actress and playwright.
  • Camilo José Vergara, the photographer.

More details about the honorees may be found here.

 

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will face a third federal investigation related to its handling of sexual assault complaints, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights -- which is already investigating complaints alleging that UNC misreported assault statistics and mishandled student complaints – said it will look into whether the university retaliated against Landen Gambill, who was charged by the campus honor court after speaking out about her rape case. OCR said in a recent "Dear Colleague" letter that taking action against students who issue complaints, either on campus or with the federal government, is illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Gambill was also a party to the initial OCR complaint against UNC. An investigation commissioned by the university found no evidence of retaliation, but said UNC's honor court system is flawed and lacks administrative oversight.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 3:00am

A new paper in the journal Academic Medicine questions the validity of the rankings by U.S. News & World Report of primary care programs at medical schools. The study noted that while there is some consistency from year to year, the variability among institutions outside of the top 20 "is greater than could be plausibly attributed to actual changes in training quality. These findings raise questions regarding the ranking's validity and usefulness." Robert Morse, who directs the rankings at U.S. News, said he hadn't seen the research and would need to study it before commenting.

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