Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 3:00am

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker vetoed a budget provision on Sunday that would have kicked the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off of the University of Wisconsin’s campus and barred any university employee from working with the nonprofit group. Walker said since the journalism center is a private group, relationships between it and the university should be addressed by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, not lawmakers in the state budget, according to the Journal Sentinel. The veto comes as a relief to Greg Downey, the director of the School of Journalism at UW-Madison, who fought to reverse the Joint Finance Committee’s budget provision after it was introduced in early June. On his blog, Downey wrote a blog post titled “Ten things to consider if you find your research, teaching, or service under political attack,” in which he explains the lessons he learned from this experience.

 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 3:00am

About a month after being banned from postseason competition, the baseball, volleyball, football and men’s basketball teams at Alabama State University have been cleared to play, after the National Collegiate Athletic Association reviewed new data from the institution. The teams had initially been punished for failing to meet the NCAA’s minimum Academic Progress Rate, a score based on athletes’ eligibility, retention and graduation rates. The historically black university accounted for four of the 18 teams banned from postseason play – the NCAA’s harshest punishment for missing APR benchmarks, and one handed down most often to HBCUs – more than any other institution.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 3:00am

The Arabic Overseas Flagship Program is relocating from Alexandria, Egypt to Meknes, Morocco, having determined that restrictions in place to ensure students’ safety were undermining opportunities for informal language and cultural learning. 

Demonstrations against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have swelled in the last week; an American college student in Alexandria was fatally stabbed on Friday while observing a protest. The U.S. State Department has warned against non-essential travel to Egypt in light of the growing political and social unrest, prompting universities to reevaluate their study abroad programs there.

“In recent days, it had become clear that in order to guarantee the safety of our students in Egypt, it had become necessary to establish curfews and limitations on their movements (including escort and shuttle arrangements to and from classes at the university), [meaning that] the students were essentially having to give up many of the kinds of informal language contacts and cultural exploration that overseas immersion study is designed to provide,” Dan Davidson, the president of the American Councils for International Education, which administers the program, said in an email.

“It was as much a concern for the quality of the learning experience available to our students under present conditions in Egypt, as it was immediate specific concerns about the students' immediate personal safety” that the decision was made to relocate the program to Morocco beginning July 6, Davidson said. The program's Egyptian partner institution, Alexandria University, will be transferring some of its language teachers to Morocco to continue working with students.

The yearlong Arabic Overseas Flagship Program began in early June and involves 18 students from five U.S. universities. The Flagship language programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Security Education Program.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 3:00am

Cengage Learning, Inc., the second largest publisher of higher education course materials in America, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday. The move had been expected by financial analysts.

The company hopes to eliminate about $4 billion of its $5.8 billion in debt, the company said in a statement. The company's chief financial officer, Dean Durbin, blamed the company's woes on the move away from traditional printed textbooks to digital offerings, cuts in government spending since the recession, and piracy of its materials.

In a court filing, he said the company is working on a new business plan and pointed in particular to MindTap, a new cloud-based platform the company has elsewhere described as "more than an e-book and different than a learning management system." The company expects to continue to make timely payments to its vendors and offer the same wages and benefits to its employees, it said in a press release.

“The decisive actions we are taking today will reduce our debt and improve our capital structure to support our long-term business strategy of transitioning from traditional print models to digital educational and research materials," CEO ​Michael Hansen said in a statement. "Cengage Learning began an operational transformation six months ago under the leadership of our new senior management team, which is executing bold plans to enhance our customer relationships and introduce innovative digital and print products and solutions to meet our customers’ evolving needs."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 3:00am

Sonoma State University is apologizing for an incident in which a student working an an orientation event for new students was told by an administrator to remove her necklace because it had a cross on it, and that might offend other students. The Liberty Institute, a group that defends the rights of religious people, has written the university, demanding that the student be allowed to wear the cross, which is an expression of her religious faith. A spokeswoman for the university said that the student never should have been asked to take off the necklace, and that the university regrets the incident and wants to make sure nothing similar happens in the future.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 4:24am

A letter from deans at Howard University decries "financial mismanagement" at the institution, including the use of "inaccurate, misleading data" to make decisions on cuts, The Washington Post reported. The deans blame Robert M. Tarola, an independent contractor is senior vice president for administration, chief financial officer and treasurer, and questioned the "fiscal direction" in which he is leading Howard. "We believe this direction places the very survival of the university at risk,” the deans wrote in the letter addressed to Howard trustees. University officials defended Tarola, and said that he has helped improve the university's financial condition.

 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 4:27am

An analysis by USA Today has found 265 colleges at which the odds of students defaulting on their loans are greater than the odds of freshmen graduating. Nearly half of the colleges are for-profit institutions, and about one-third are community colleges. However, smaller shares of the students at community colleges borrow, and their loans are smaller, than at for-profit institutions.

 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 3:00am

A Stanford University alumnus with a history of major donations has given the university its largest gift ever, Stanford announced Monday. John Arrillaga's $151 million donation will support "a variety of university projects," Stanford said. Arrillaga is a real estate developer in Silicon Valley.

 

 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Johnson University, in Tennessee, and Florida Christian College merged Monday, creating the Johnson University System. Florida Christian will now be called Johnson University Florida, and the system will also offer courses online. Current enrollment in Florida is 371, while enrollment in Tennessee is 954.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 3:00am

The tendency of black students to enroll in urban and less-selective public universities and the fact that they attend high schools of lesser quality contribute to their lower graduation rates in college -- but the "primary driver" of the black-white graduation gap is a difference in "pre-entry" traits such as ACT scores and high school class rank, according to a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Though the study (abstract available here) is based on data from Missouri, the researchers suggest that the findings could apply nationally, although they cite several limitations, including that the data are derived only from public four-year universities in the state.

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