Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- With one month remaining until the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, President Obama will gather students today at the White House to call on Congress to act to prevent the increase, the White House announced Wednesday. Obama and Congressional Republicans have both proposed long-term fixes to the problem that would be based on the interest rates for Treasury bonds, but can't agree on the specifics of the plans -- such as whether the rate should vary from year to year for all borrowers or remain fixed over the life of the loan. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats want to postpone the increase for a year or two to give themselves time to rewrite the Higher Education Act.

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

In death as in life, Margaret Thatcher's relationship to her alma mater, the University of Oxford, is contentious. The Oxford college she attended is currently raising funds for scholarships to be named for the late prime minister. But on Wednesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson denounced the university for not doing more, BBC reported. He noted that Thatcher was the first Oxford graduate after World War II who became prime minister and was never awarded an honorary doctorate. Professors blocked a move to award her the honor in 1995.  Johnson called on Oxford to name a college after Thatcher. Many British academics hated Thatcher and her policies, which they viewed as taking away government support from the institution. But Johnson said that Oxford and other universities, which today depend on tuition revenue from foreign students, should remember that Thatcher's policies made it possible for universities to gain financially from such enrollments.

"I'm still waiting for the Oxford dons to accept the gravity of their error and, in the spirit of magnanimity, to award Baroness Thatcher not only a posthumous doctorate, but why not endow a college?" Johnson said. "Why not have a college in honor of their greatest post-war benefactress as they rake in the doubloons from international student fees?"

The university said that it has no plans to create additional colleges.

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

Alumni of the Thunderbird School of Global Management are protesting plans for the nonprofit business school to create a joint venture with for-profit Laureate Education. The joint venture would allow Thunderbird to set up programs at some of Laureate's network of campuses around the world. A petition signed by nearly 2,000 alumni says: "For-profit education may have its place, but it certainly does not align with the goals, culture or mission of Thunderbird. Furthermore, this selling out of the Thunderbird name will further dilute the brand, and as a result cheapen the value of the degree." The petition cites various investigations of for-profit higher education, and also questions why alumni were not consulted about the possible impact of the alliance on the reputation of their alma mater. Many of those posting comments on the petition cite concerns about for-profit higher education generally, not Laureate specifically, but argue that Thunderbird would be linked to the sector, not just Laureate. "When I tell people I got my M.B.A. from Thunderbird, I would like that to have meaning and not drawing comparisons to University of Phoenix," wrote one alumnus.

Thunderbird has created a webpage devoted to providing information about the collaboration and how it might help the institution. A spokeswoman said via e-mail that some of the criticisms of for-profit higher education made in the petition do not apply to Laureate. "We believe strongly that the Thunderbird-Laureate partnership is a strategic one that will enable Thunderbird to realize its academic mission while providing financial sustainability over the long term," she said. "The partnership with Laureate is a complex arrangement. We have been as transparent as possible about the partnership plans, within the constraints of the MOU. We look forward to sharing more information with our stakeholders, especially alumni, about the specifics of how this partnership will positively impact Thunderbird. We believe there will be even greater support when we are able to do so."


Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Judith Ochrietor of the University of North Florida explains how a dangerous protein can also be dangerous for cancer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 4:27am

A new national poll by Gallup, Microsoft and the Pearson Foundation focuses on whether students used "21st century job skills" in their last year of education. Those who did report higher work quality, and those who finished their education in college, not high school, were more likely to have used and learned such skills during their education. For example, 28 percent of those polled with a high school degree or less said that they had "often" worked on a long-term project that took several classes to complete. That compared with 50 percent of college students or graduates and 65 percent of those with postgraduate work or a degree. Asked whether they had applied classroom lessons to "real problems" in their community or world, only 22 percent of those with a high school degree or less had done so, compared to 27 percent of college students or graduates, and 37 percent of those with some postgraduate work.


Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 4:31am

Flash floods have caused significant damage at Carl Sandburg College, and forced the Illinois institution to call off classes through tomorrow. There were no injuries. Security footage captured the moment when water rushed into one building (visible shortly after 0:30 in the video below).



Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a Sioux tribe's effort to stop the National Collegiate Athletic Association from restricting the University of North Dakota's use of the Fighting Sioux name and mascot. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision dismissing the lawsuit by the Spirit Lake Tribe of Indians, which had sought to enjoin the NCAA from blocking North Dakota's use of the Native American symbols. The court's ruling is the latest of many failed efforts to sustain the university's use of the Fighting Sioux.

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 4:33am

As some students continued to occupy the president's office at Cooper Union Wednesday, others took their protest to commencement, The New York Times reported. Students and alumni are angry at President Jamshed Bharucha over the decision to start charging tuition. Many graduates rose and turned their backs on the president when he spoke. The outside speaker was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In his remarks, Bloomberg did not take a stand on the decision of the university to deviate from the tuition-free system set up by the institution's founder Peter Cooper. But Bloomberg, citing his own history of giving to his alma mater (Johns Hopkins University), urged the new graduates to donate. "As frustrated and as angry as you may be about the school’s present situation, its future really is yours to determine," Bloomberg said. "When you walk out these doors today, do not leave the passion you have shown for this institution and its past and its future behind. Stay involved. Stay committed. And do what Peter Cooper did: Donate what you can."


Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

Kalamazoo College has changed the way it calculates grade-point averages so that only an A, not an A- as has been the case, is worth a 4.0, MLive reported. An A- will be worth only 3.67.  In another change, there will be separate vales for grades of B+, B and B- (3.33, 3.0 and 2.67, respectively). Previously, all three B grades were worth 3.0. Officials said that the college made the change not out of concerns about grade inflation, but to help students applying to graduate schools. Some graduate schools were recalculating Kalamazoo G.P.A.s because its prior system is not widely used.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Transylvania University have voted, 68 to 7, no confidence in President Owen Williams, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Faculty members object to the president's refusal to grant tenure to two faculty members who had passed reviews and who, faculty leaders said, had performed the work they had been told would assure tenure. Professors also criticized the president's management style. Trustees responded with a unanimous vote expressing confidence in Williams.



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