Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

Moody’s has downgraded the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s credit outlook to negative on account of a major lawsuit threatening the future finances of the NCAA, The Wall Street Journal reported. “Increased public discourse about the best interest of student-athletes combined with highly publicized litigation could destabilize the current intercollegiate athletic system and negatively impact the NCAA and its member universities," the Moody’s report said. The lawsuit in question is is currently awaiting class action certification. Led by former University of California at Los Angeles basketball player Ed O’Bannon, the lawsuit, which is currently awaiting class action certification, argues that current and former athletes are entitled to some of the revenue that universities, the NCAA and other parties make by promoting images of those students. An NCAA spokeswoman said she the association does not anticipate any "substantive issues" based on the Moody's report, as it is a long-term projection and the NCAA's financial rating did not change.

(Note: This headline and article have been updated from a previous version.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

The Association of American Universities on Tuesday announced that eight of its members would serve as project sites for a five-year effort to improve the quality of undergraduate education in science, technology and engineering and mathematics. Each campus will start a major undergraduate STEM education initiative, based on principles that the AAU is pushing for "evidence-based teaching practices." Details may be found here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

Have enrollments in traditional liberal arts fields dropped? Debates over the issue turn up everywhere, and Nate Silver -- the popular New York Times analyst of polling and statistics -- has taken up the issue. He argues that it all depends how you frame the question. If you ask whether certain majors are less popular, you may find that they are relative to other majors. But part of that is because the college population has expanded over time, with many of those going to college -- who might not have in earlier generations -- picking practical majors. But if you look at the percentage of all college students majoring in a given field, you may get a different figure. So, for example, English majors as a share of all majors have fallen in recent years, but English majors as a percentage of all college students have been relatively constant.

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

More than half of all student loan borrowers are concerned they will be unable to repay their debt, according to a paper released today by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, using data from the 2012 National Financial Capability survey. The report found that 57 percent of all student loan debtors are concerned about repayment, and 9 percent of student loan borrowers never attended college at all — either because they borrowed for vocational certificates or because they borrowed on behalf of family members.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 4:27am

Babson College will today formally apologize to Brandeis University for an anti-Semitic incident in 1978, The Boston Globe reported. When the two institutions competed in a soccer game that year, some Babson players placed a sign in their gym that said "Happy Holocaust," while others wore swastikas to practice and yelled "Holocaust" and anti-Semitic phrases at one another. In addition to apologizing, Babson will work with the Anti-Defamation League to train students to study and oppose anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 4:30am

About 1,400 recent graduates of Radford University will be receiving new diplomas because the ones the university handed out had two spelling errors, The Virginian-Pilot reported. An "i" was missing in "Virginia" and an "e" was missing in "thereto." Officials said that the errors were introduced when a software upgrade required that the university retype the words to be used on diplomas.

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Emily Elliott of the University of Pittsburgh explores aging sewer systems and reveals the threat they pose to the environment. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:00am

Colleges have special responsibilities to support young parents and pregnant students under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday. The letter is an update and expansion of previous guidance issued on the topic in 1991. The letter cites studies saying that only 2 percent of women who had a child before the age of 18 earned a degree by 30, and notes that Title IX prohibits discrimination of these students in any educational program, including extracurricular activities. OCR sent the letter -- along with a pamphlet of guidelines, strategies and best practices to support pregnant and parenting -- to all colleges.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 3:00am

Bard College, in New York, has entered into a partnership with Soochow University, in China, to include the establishment of the Bard College Liberal Arts Academy in Soochow University, an undergraduate degree program modeled on Bard’s curriculum. Students who complete the four-year undergraduate program, on Soochow’s campus, would receive bachelor's degrees from both institutions.

Internationally, Bard already awards dual degrees in cooperation with universities in Germany (ECLA of Bard), Kyrgyzstan (the American University of Central Asia), Russia (Smolny College), and the West Bank (Al-Quds University). 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 3:00am

By far the most significant higher education case out of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday was its affirmative action ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (see our coverage here). But universities were parties in two other decisions by the justices as well, and while the issues at play were not specific to higher education, the rulings have implications for colleges as well as other employers.

In both cases, the Supreme Court, divided 5 to 4, narrowly defined employees' rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In Vance v. Ball State University, the majority endorsed a restrictive definition of which kinds of managers count as "supervisors" for purposes of defining discrimination that automatically can be ascribed to the employer. The case involved a cafeteria worker who suffered abuse at the hands of a fellow worker whom she considered to be a supervisor.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the court adopted a stricter standard for retaliation claims than for other types of employment discrimination. The case involved a Middle Eastern physician who believed that he had been discriminated against by a Jewish supervisor and was then retaliated against for complaining about the alleged harassment.

Full analysis of the cases can be found at SCOTUSBlog.

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