Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 8, 2019

The University of Virginia announced Thursday that it is instituting a minimum wage of $15 an hour. “As a university, we should live our values, and part of that means making sure that no one who works at UVA should live in poverty,” said a statement from President Jim Ryan. About 1,400 employees currently earn less than $15 an hour. Employees who currently earn between $15 and $16.25 an hour will also receive raises.

March 8, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, digs into the brain to understand why some people are more altruistic than others. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 7, 2019

About 30 students at Liberty University held a protest Wednesday against recent comments mocking the idea of transgender or nontraditional gender identities made by Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president, and his wife, Becki Falwell, The News & Advance reported. Students said they believed it was important to send a message that the comments did not speak for everyone at Liberty. In a televised panel session of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Becki Falwell discussed the couple's new granddaughter, saying, “She’s our granddaughter, and we’re raising her as a girl. We’re not letting her have a choice. God makes the choice of what the babies are going to be and God decided she would be a girl.” Jerry Falwell Jr. then added that she had a doll with her at all times, while his sons "always had guns in their hands."

March 7, 2019

The endowment returns of nonprofit groups lagged those of equity and bond indexes from 2009 to 2016, according to a new working paper (abstract available here) from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Higher education endowments, which made up a majority of the funds in the nonprofit sector, performed worse on average than did other funds.

March 7, 2019

The president of the primary accreditor for historically black colleges on Wednesday took Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, to task for criticism this week of regional accreditors generally and her organization in particular.

Lomax complained in a speech this week that regional accreditors have discriminated against historically black colleges and called on Congress to review the practices of those organizations.

In her letter Wednesday, Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, said that Lomax had quoted her out of context and added that she was "extremely disappointed" that he would make those statements without contacting her first to discuss the accreditation process.

Wheelan wrote that in the last 30 years, her organization had dropped the accreditation of 30 institutions, of which 13 were HBCUs.

"I am perplexed, therefore, that you would propose that SACSCOC has made a concerted effort to adversely affect the accreditation of HBCUs," she said. "If that were the case, how do you explain the fact that 64, or 85 percent, of our HBCU members currently meet and maintain compliance with our accreditation standards?"

In addition to Lomax and HBCU member organizations, the letter also went to Democratic lawmakers in attendance at Lomax's speech.

March 7, 2019

In her first state budget, released Tuesday, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed a tuition-free community college plan that would cost up to $100 million a year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The plan would be designed as a "last-dollar program" and would start in 2021 and include a $2,500 scholarship for eligible students who attend a four-year college. A last-dollar plan means it would cover financial aid for students after all other federal aid and grants were applied to a student's tuition bill.

Whitmer also proposed a tuition-free program for adults called Michigan Reconnect. The program would cost about $110 million and would allow residents age 25 and older to enroll in the state's two-year institutions, career certificate programs and union apprenticeships for free.

March 7, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Seth Frey of the University of California, Davis, looks into how winning poker players use two sources of information where most only see one. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 6, 2019

Robert L. Caret (at left), chancellor of the University System of Maryland, in 2017 sent an email to three university presidents (not in the Maryland system) recommending that they consider arrangements with Pandora Jewelry, which is known for its charms for bracelets, the Associated Press reported. The email, which Caret signed as chancellor, said that he was writing "on behalf" of an alumnus, the CEO of Pandora. The email said that the university leaders might want their alumni relations or other officials to work with Pandora on having charms with university symbols made. He said that the jewelry was "particularly popular among the college age and older." At right is a Pandora charm for Maryland.

Teresa Sullivan, then president of the University of Virginia, was so surprised to receive the email that she wondered if Caret's email account had been hacked, and she emailed his chief of staff. The chief of staff then became alarmed by the ethics implications of Caret's action and filed a grievance against Caret when he was bothered by her repeatedly raising the issue and criticized her for it.

The AP reported that, in a recent interview, Caret said he shouldn't have sent the email but that it wasn't a big deal. "It's something I shouldn't have done. We all stumble," he said.

March 6, 2019

Several dozen students at a basketball game at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville sat together, dressed in black, and did not stand for the National Anthem, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The students were protesting the university's refusal to expel students who wore blackface in a photo that spread on social media. During the game, the students chanted, "No justice, no peace, no racist UT" and "Which side are you on, UT? Which side are you on?" University officials have said that, as a public institution covered by the First Amendment, they can't expel the students who posed in blackface.

 

March 6, 2019

The College of New Rochelle, which said last month that it would likely close by the end of the summer, will officially cease operations at the end of the summer semester and has entered into an agreement that will allow students to complete their education at nearby Mercy College.

The two institutions detailed the agreement in a joint announcement released Tuesday.

An exact closure date "will be shared when that determination is made," New Rochelle president William Latimer and Board of Trustees interim chair Marlene Tutera said in a statement.

"While this is not the outcome we had hoped for regarding the future of CNR, we can take solace in the fact that this is not a reflection of the quality academics that CNR offers nor the impact this college has had on so many communities and for so many individuals for the past 115 years," they said.

The agreement will allow New Rochelle students to automatically transfer to Mercy for the fall 2019 semester. Mercy will also apply to New York State to offer New Rochelle programs that it doesn’t currently offer, including a liberal arts bachelor’s degree and nursing programs.

Mercy said it is hoping to hire several New Rochelle faculty and staff and is exploring the possibility of leasing portions of New Rochelle’s Westchester County and New York City campuses.

In a Feb. 22 memo to the campus, Latimer and Tutera said the college “continues to experience significant cash flow challenges” and that “it appears unlikely that the college will be able to continue operations beyond the end of the summer 2019 semester.”

The college, which enrolls nearly 3,000 students, has struggled to recover from several financial crises in recent years. In October 2016, officials said New Rochelle had “significant unmet financial obligations” that required major budget cuts. Weeks later, the college announced that it had not made payroll taxes for two years and owed about $20 million.

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