Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Friday, October 2, 2015 - 4:16am

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which since 1986 has advised the Education Department and Congress on student aid matters, has apparently provided its last advice.

Congress failed to pass legislation by Wednesday's end of the 2015 fiscal year that would have extended the life of the panel. (The legislation would also have sustained the Perkins Loan program, which supports low-income students.) Congress specifically slipped the renewal of another federal higher ed panel, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, into a continuing resolution earlier this week, but did not do so for the financial aid committee.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:42am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will step down as the nation's top education official in December, an Education Department source confirmed Friday morning.

Duncan has overseen a department that has taken an activist role in higher education policy making, from revamping the student loan programs to aggressively cracking down on for-profit colleges and sexual assault to turning up the accountability pressures on colleges.

As has been true with many U.S. education secretaries, whose backgrounds have universally been in K-12 education, Duncan has sometimes not appeared to be the primary driver of the policy changes themselves.

Other news organizations report that President Obama plans to appoint John B. King Jr., the deputy secretary focused on elementary and secondary education, to replace Duncan. A news conference is scheduled for this afternoon to discuss the changes.

A more expansive article on Duncan's resignation will appear later on this site.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 3:00am

A coalition of publishers and library associations on Thursday launched Think. Check. Submit. -- an awareness campaign meant to prevent researchers from publishing their work in "predatory" journals. The launch coincides with a report that suggests the number of articles published in those journals increased almost tenfold between 2010 and 2014. The campaign, which is supported by organizations such as the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers and publishers such as BioMed Central, directs researchers to resources that help them ensure they are submitting their work to journals recognized by the publishing community.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Relationships between municipalities and “anchor institutions” such as universities and medical centers are more important than ever, according to a new study from the National Resource Center, but they lack structure and direction.

Interviews with experts and city officials revealed “anchors to be among the top three, if not the top employer, in 11 of the 12 cities we assessed,” according to the report, “Striking a (Local) Grand Bargain.”

“Universities and hospitals truly are the new city builders. In many cases, these institutions are the largest real estate developer in the city -- and often, the region. In many cases, they are at the center of new and existing economic clusters." The study notes that relations between communities and these institutions have improved notably over the past 10 years, but they still lack structure and are often dogged by mistrust and inconsistent outcomes.

“Most of the progress -- even in cities with good relationships with local institutions -- is often episodic and project based,” the study says. “Our era of shrinking local revenue and mobile capital demands a different relationship.” The authors outline a more robust, long term alternative, a “grand bargain,” built on common priorities.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Laura Crysel, a psychologist at Stetson University, provides a scholarly analysis of a popular Harry Potter personality test. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 4:08pm

Multiple people were killed or injured this afternoon by a shooter at Umpqua Community College, which is located in Roseburg, Ore.

NBC News reported at least 13 people may have been killed and at least 20 others injured. Local authorities are busing students and faculty members to the county fairgrounds.

Oregon is one of seven states where people can legally bring guns on campus as long as they have a concealed weapons permit. The college, which is one of 17 two-year institutions in the state, has about 3,000 full-time students.

According to a college policy, “possession, use or threatened use of firearms (including but not limited to BB guns, air guns, water pistols and paint guns) ammunition, explosives, dangerous chemicals, or any other objects as weapons on campus property, except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations, is prohibited.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 4:07am

The U.S. Senate failed to take action on a last-ditch effort to renew the federal Perkins Loan program, letting the program lapse.

Both houses of Congress needed to pass legislation renewing the program by Sept. 30, the last day of the 2015 fiscal year, and the House of Representatives did so on Tuesday.

But at the urging of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican who has argued for the program's elimination as part of an effort to simplify and streamline the federal government’s student loan programs, the Senate did not follow suit.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 3:00am

In the five years following 2008, state appropriation support for the median public research university declined by more than 26 percent, according a report released Wednesday by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The report found that states spend twice as much on Medicaid as they do on higher education, and that in 11 states spending on corrections surpassed higher education spending.

"Public research universities play a critical role in the American economy, and in the lives of millions of Americans," said Kay Bailey Hutchison, former United States senator from Texas and member of the AAAS Lincoln Project, which authored the report. "Yet in state budgets, higher education competes for resources in areas that are either difficult or impossible to cut."

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Chicago announced Wednesday that it would receive $100 million to create a research institute to study global conflicts. The gift from the Thomas L. Pearson and the Pearson Family Members Foundation is the second largest in the university's history.

The donation is "transformative," said Robert Zimmer, the university's president. "Importantly, the study of global conflicts is a field ripe for groundbreaking research approaches, and the Pearson Institute will seek to inform more effective policy solutions for resolving violent conflicts to make a lasting impact around the world," he said in a written statement.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 3:00am

Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, this week introduced a bill that would create a new "outcomes-based" accreditation system. The proposed legislation, which builds on previous ideas from the two senators, would allow alternative education providers -- as well as traditional colleges and universities -- to access federal financial aid programs if they can meet a bar for high student outcomes. Those measures would include student learning, completion and return on investment.

"We need a new system that encourages, rather than hinders, innovation, promotes higher quality and shifts the focus to student success," Bennet said in a written statement. "The alternative outcomes-based process in this bill will help colleges, new models like competency-based education and innovative providers, and is an important step in shifting the current incentives and creating the 21st-century system of higher education we need."

Rubio, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has hammered on the current higher education accreditation system while speaking on the campaign trail, calling it a "cartel." The alternative system he and Bennet proposed, Rubio said, would be based on higher quality standards.

The bill would allow colleges and providers to bypass a wait to receive federal-aid eligibility while they seek accreditation, instead enabling them to enter into contracts with the U.S. Department of Education, but only if the institutions "are generating positive student outcomes."


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