Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 19, 2013

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a compromise budget bill that sets federal funding levels for the rest of this fiscal year and next year.

Lawmakers passed the deal on a 64-36 vote and sent it to President Obama, who supports the measure and is expected to sign it into law.

Higher education advocates supported the legislation because it is expected to alleviate automatic, across-the-board cuts to research funding and campus-based student aid programs. The bill increases the overall pool of money available to those parts of the budget, but Congressional appropriators will now have less than a month to hammer out funding for individual programs and agencies.

Part of the legislation passed Wednesday immediately eliminates part of a 2010 student aid law that allowed certain not-for-profit entities eligible for no-bid contracts from the Education Department to service federal student loans. The program entitled those servicers to a minimum of 100,000 borrower accounts, for which the department pays more compared with its accounts with its other, larger loan servicers.

Critics of the program, which included Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who helped craft the budget deal, say it is wasteful of taxpayer funds to provide those loan servicers with “special treatment.”

Although Congress has now ended the program, the Education Department announced Wednesday that its existing contracts with the several dozen not-for-profit servicers would remain in effect, meaning there would be no immediate changes for the approximately 3.5 million borrowers whose loans are managed by those entities.

The department also said it would continue plans to allocate another batch of student loans to the not-for-profit servicers next year, so long as Congress allocates the agency enough money to do so. Those allocations will be based on whether the servicers receive yet-to-be-determined minimum scores on their quarterly performance evaluations.  

The Education Finance Council, the trade association representing not-for-profit servicers, said it was pleased with the department’s announcement.

“We’re glad the contracts won’t be canceled and will be working with appropriators to ensure sufficient discretionary funds are appropriated,” said Samantha DeZur, the group’s spokeswoman. 

A separate provision in the legislation passed Wednesday would cuts the amount of money that guaranty agencies receive for rehabilitating loans in the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan program. 

December 19, 2013

Ireland’s universities stand to lose €3.6 million -- the equivalent of about $4.9 million -- in government funding as punishment for giving unauthorized bonuses to presidents and senior staff, the Independent reported.The bonuses were intended to reward senior staff for taking on extra responsibilities, but they were disbursed without the requisite ministerial approval.

December 19, 2013

Officials of the University of Colorado at Boulder continue to offer new reasons for why they told Patricia Adler, a tenured sociology professor, that she could no longer teach a popular course on deviance that attracts hundreds of students every semester (although they now say she could teach again if the course undergoes a review). The objections concern a lecture on prostitution in which Adler seeks volunteers from her assistant teaching assistants to dress up as various kinds of prostitutes and to discuss (in character) their lives. First, Colorado said that the university was concerned that the activity required approval by an Institutional Review Board. After many professors (and Colorado's IRB) noted that institutional review boards don't review classroom activities, Colorado acknowledged that there was no IRB issue, and said that some students complained that they felt pressure to participate in the exercise (which Adler and many past participants denied).

Then on Wednesday at a press conference, officials said that their primary concern was that some students in the class had their photographs taken (or videos made) of the class without their consent, The Daily Camera reported. Adler told the newspaper that students know that the class -- like many classes -- is videotaped, and that no complaints have been raised. She said come participants ask for copies of the videotape. The press conference followed a closed, emergency faculty meeting called to discuss the Adler case. The Daily Camera obtained a recording of the meeting, and said that "many faculty members angrily expressed their concerns and frustrations with the situation surrounding Adler."

 

December 19, 2013

Maranatha Baptist University has started the process of changing its mascot and team name away from "Crusaders," The Wisconsin State Journal reported.  Matt Davis, the university's executive vice president, said that there have not been controversies over the name, but that the university wants to avoid one. "In light of our global outreach and a more-advanced understanding of how things could be perceived, we want to avoid that," he said.

December 18, 2013

Duke University will add a softball team and increase to the maximum number of allowed athletic scholarships in women’s fencing, swimming, diving and track and field, the institution announced Monday. Reached for comment, a university spokesman attributed the decision to a number of factors, including “the opportunities that can be made available for student-athletes, facilities and services that will be necessary to create a positive experience for them, the competitive landscape (both in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] and nationally), financial implications, and Title IX.”

The Women’s Sports Foundation noted on its website that the organization began urging Duke to make changes a year ago in order to comply with Title IX. Hailing the decision as an "advocacy win," the foundation said it "will likely bring Duke into compliance with Title IX."

 

December 18, 2013

The U.S. attorney’s office has charged a 20-year-old Harvard University student who emailed a bomb threat to campus officials and the student newspaper, CBS Boston reported. The incident led administrators to shut down campus and cancel classes (and scheduled exams) Monday, before local and state police and authorities from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that the four supposedly targeted buildings were clear. Eldo Kim of Cambridge, charged under the bomb hoax statute, will appear in court Wednesday and faces a maximum of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

December 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Lisa Peschel of the University of York discusses the discovery of theatrical works that were only performed in World War II Jewish ghettos. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 18, 2013

Efforts to trim $3.3 million from the budget at Colorado State University-Pueblo could force 50 faculty and staff layoffs, The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper reports. “What the (CSU System) really wants is for the institution to downsize because, over the years, we haven’t grown the way we needed,” the paper quoted the university's president, Lesley Di Mare, as saying. She blamed declining state revenue and enrollment.

December 18, 2013

The Apollo Education Group's global division is buying 70 percent of Open Colleges Australia for $99 million, with additional payments of up to $48 million, the for-profit chain announced Tuesday in a news release. Founded in 1910, Open Colleges offers more than 130 online courses. Company officials hope the Australian institution "provides a platform for Apollo Global to operate and expand in other areas of the region.”

December 18, 2013

The elected council for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has unanimously opted to support the academic boycott of Israel, making it the third U.S.-based scholarly association, after the Association for Asian American Studies and the American Studies Association, to do so.

On NAISA’s website, the president of the association, Chadwick Allen, a professor of English and coordinator of American Indian studies at Ohio State University, wrote that the council opted to write its own declaration of support rather than commit itself to an outside organization’s specific language. In a “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions," the council urges the association’s members “to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.”

Academic boycotts have been deeply controversial: opponents argue that boycotts in general represent a violation of academic freedom, while they say that boycotts against Israel in particular are discriminatory in singling out one nation for criticism. In a message on NAISA's website, Allen wrote that the declaration and the boycott can be discussed at the association’s annual conference in May if members believe it to be appropriate.  The council’s declaration was originally prompted by a member-generated petition.

Pages

Back to Top