Higher Education Quick Takes
Leila Ahmed, the Victor S. Thomas professor of divinity at Harvard University, has been named winner of the 2013 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America, published last year by Yale University Press. The award, worth $100,000, is sponsored by the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville.
Dartmouth College on Thursday named Philip J. Hanlon as its next president. Hanlon, a Dartmouth alumnus, is currently provost and professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan.
Representative George Miller, a California Democrat and the senior member of his party on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has requested information from private student lenders about how they interact with borrowers, and has also asked the Government Accountability Office to examine problems with federal loan servicers. Republicans on the committee have also expressed concern about servicing problems in the past. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a report critical of some private lending practices in July.
Reports have been circulating in China that the government may impose new rules on agents who recruit students for colleges in the United States and other countries, Voice of America reported. Increasing numbers of American colleges have been hiring agents, but the use of those paid in part on commission remains highly controversial. Chinese media outlets have recently been reporting on unscrupulous agents who have taken advantage of students.
Pasi Sahlberg, who directs Finland's Center for International Mobility and Cooperation, is today being named winner of the 2013 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for his 2011 book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Sahlberg is also adjunct professor at the University of Helsinki and University of Oulu. The award is worth $100,000.
The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces six anti-discrimination statutes including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is monitoring more cases than ever before, according to a new report. From 2009-12, the report says, OCR received 24 percent more complaints (28,971, of which it closed 28,577) than in any previous four-year period, and conducted more than 100 compliance reviews. More than half dealt with disability issues, about a quarter with Title IX, 14 percent with sex discrimination and 6 percent with age discrimination. The states with the most reviews were Ohio (nine), California (eight) and New York (seven).
In 2012, OCR resolved 93 percent of 8,051 complaints within 180 days of receipt, compared to 91 percent of 5,964 total complaints in 2008. During that time, OCR says, it streamlined operations, increased capacity and expanded support and assistance, “while receiving and resolving more cases than ever before, and doing it faster.”
Pennsylvania State University on Wednesday revealed the compensation of Graham Spanier, who was ousted as president last year. The university reported total taxable income for Spanier of $3,255,762. This includes $700,000 annual salary, $82,557 of taxable benefits and nonrecurring compensation of $2,473,205 that Spanier was contractually entitled to under the terms of his 2010 employment agreement. Details may be found here. Spanier was indicted this month on charges of concealing information about suspected child abuse involving Jerry Sandusky, obstructing the criminal investigation of Sandusky, perjury before a grand jury and endangering the welfare of children.
Republicans in the House of Representatives nominated congressmen for leadership positions Wednesday, including several for key posts related in some way to higher education. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas will be the new chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, will stay the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. And although he has reached the six-year term limit, House Republicans tapped Representative Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate and the author of a budget considered likely to cut higher education, to continue as chairman of the Budget Committee.
Committee leadership for the Democrat-controlled Senate have not yet been announced for the next Congress, which takes office in January.
The University of Wisconsin System on Wednesday released details about its new competency-based degree offerings, an effort the system first announced in July. Next year campuses will offer degree and certificate programs that are grounded in a series of assessments designed to test student mastery. And the UW Colleges, which are the system's two-year institutions, will offer general education courses in the new competency-based "UW Flexible Option" format. Students will be able to take assessments based not just on self-paced coursework, but on knowledge gained through military and on-the-job training as well as other learning experiences, including MOOCs, the system said.
A task force convened by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities released a final report Wednesday that recommends changes to the Department of Education's annual financial responsibility measurement, a combination of three financial ratios that helps determine whether institutions can qualify for federal financial aid. In 2010, many independent colleges were surprised to find their names on the list of institutions that fell below the department's threshold despite what they viewed as stable finances, forcing them to prove their financial solvency through other costly measures.
The association's review found that the department inconsistently applied its standards and that consistent application would have kept many institutions off the list. The department also interpreted some accounting terms in a way that was inconsistent with updated accounting guidelines, including counting endowment losses -- a common feature of university balance sheets in 2010 -- as expenditures. The task force said officials will work with the department and Congress to make changes to the test.