Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 14, 2013

More medical colleges are  managing conflicts of interest in clinical care, but most still do not meet national standards for dealing with conflicts, according to a study released Friday by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession.  Researchers looked at medical colleges' policies in 2011, and found that nearly two-thirds of medical colleges did not have policies to limit ties to industry in a least one of the areas the study examined, which included gifts, meals, drug samples and payments for travel, consulting and speaking. None of the 133 medical colleges met all of the standards for the 12 areas examined, but a number of medical colleges made progress toward national standards since the institute's previous study, based on 2008 data. The proportion of medical colleges with no policies dropped from more than 25 percent in 2008 to less than 2 percent in 2011.

“We are pleased that the authors recognize the substantial efforts that medical schools have taken over the past several years to strengthen their conflict of interest policies,” said Heather Price, senior director of science policy for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A majority of the medical schools have no policies or permissive policies for accepting drug samples and industry-funded continuing medical education, consulting, honoraria and speakers’ bureaus, according to the study. The findings should prompt medical school administrators to “take bolder steps to rid medicine of industry influence and preserve public trust,” said David Rothman, the institute's president and the study's co-author.



October 11, 2013

The Modesto Junior College student who was ordered by campus security to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day last month is suing the Yosemite Community College District and Modesto officials in federal court. Robert Van Tuinen, an Army veteran, argues that administrators violated his First Amendment rights. In a video capturing the incident, an employee tells Van Tuinen he may only distribute his copies in the campus “free speech area,” and must also fill out the necessary paperwork before doing so. (But due to previous bookings he would have to wait at least three days.)

October 11, 2013

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels has apologized for giving a speech this week at the fund-raiser for a conservative think tank in Minnesota. Daniels was the Republican governor of Indiana before becoming Purdue's president and he vowed to avoid partisan political activity in his new job. So some on campus were bothered by the appearance and an editorial in The Journal and Courier said that his Purdue role "will continue to be questioned and pulled down whenever he steps, however innocently, onto political turf." In a letter to the editor of the newspaper, Daniels stressed that the speech itself was not partisan. But he said that the editorial was correct, and that he should not have accepted the invitation, even if he didn't break any university rules in doing so. "[F]acts and rules aren’t the determining factor here. Perceptions, and understandable misperceptions, matter even more," he wrote. On reflection, this invitation should have fallen on that side of the line. I accept the validity of the criticism and will try to avoid similar judgment errors in the future."


October 11, 2013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that sports at the military service academies will continue through the end of October despite the government shutdown, the Associated Press reported. The Pentagon had allowed for last weekend’s games to be played but it was unclear whether they would continue. Most funding for the competitions is coming from outside sources, not Congress.

October 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Lauren Gulbas of Dartmouth College explores the connection between cosmetic surgery, self esteem, and racial identity. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


October 11, 2013

Kamala D. Harris, California's attorney general, on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges, alleging that the for-profit chain targeted low-income students with false and predatory advertising. The suit alleges that Corinthian, which operates Everest, Heald and WyoTech Colleges, misled potential students about job placement rates. A Corinthian spokesman, in a written statement, said company officials had not had time to review the suit in detail. But the company plans to "vigorously" defend itself, he said.

October 11, 2013

Not long ago, Altius Education was a darling of the higher ed innovation world, having teamed up with the nonprofit Tiffin University to create Ivy Bridge College, which was held out as a potential model for public-private partnerships to drive college access and completion. Then Tiffin's accreditor intervened, questioning whether the privately held Altius held inappropriate control over key academic functions at Ivy Bridge that should have been in Tiffin's domain, and calling for the partnership to be shuttered.

On Thursday, Altius's ambitions not only of turning Ivy Bridge into a freestanding institution but also of creating other such partnerships appeared to have formally ended, with an announcement by Datamark that it was purchasing Altius's various technology platforms and taking on several dozen of its employees. Datamark, which provides enrollment marketing and other services to colleges and universities, said it would buy Altius's competency-based learning platform, known as Helix, as well as other technologies and invest $11 million in expanding the company's reach.

October 11, 2013

The U.S. Education Department, citing the partial shutdown of the federal government, has canceled the second round of negotiations over regulations on vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions.  

The department will reschedule the negotiated-rulemaking session when the government reopens, Lynn Mahaffie, the acting deputy assistant secretary for policy, planning and innovation, wrote in a letter on Friday to members of the rule making committee. The session was originally slated for October 21-23.

The panel is tasked with rewriting the "gainful employment" regulations that were thrown out by a federal judge earlier this year. The rules would cut off federal money flowing to career-training programs if they do not meet certain standards that measure their graduates’ earnings relative to the graduates’ student loan debt.

The Obama administration is proposing tighter standards that would apply to more vocational programs. At the first negotiating session last month, it appeared unlikely that negotiators would come to a consensus on the rules. Even if the committee doesn’t reach an agreement, the Education Department could still move forward with its own proposal. 

October 11, 2013

The leaders of six higher education associations on Thursday released a statement deploring the impact of the federal shutdown, stressing the impact not on college-specific programs but on the nature of American government. "We are deeply concerned by the growing resignation of the American people to this 'new normal': the idea that Washington is so broken and dysfunctional that it cannot be fixed, only ignored or ridiculed. Our democratic government is most effective when it embraces open discourse, bipartisan cooperation, and the art of compromise. These traditions have served us well since our founding and are at the heart of the success of the American Experiment," the statement says.

It adds: "We believe this gradual acceptance of government dysfunction should be vigorously challenged and that each college and university can play a role in doing so. We call on higher education institutions around the country to engage in conversations, lectures, and events, both on and off campus, that bring together students, business and community leaders, and the public. We should focus attention on the processes that ensure responsible government and sound budget policy."

The statement was signed by the presidents of the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.


October 11, 2013

Tuition and fees at the private colleges that are members of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities increased by 3.6 percent for the 2013-14 academic year, according to a survey released by the association. At the same time, institutional student aid budgets at the colleges increased an average of 6.9 percent. NAICU said that this the fifth consecutive year that the average percentage increase in tuition in its survey was below the averages prior to the 2008 downturn in the economy.



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