Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 24, 2014

John Lippincott announced Thursday that he will retire as president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education a year from now. He has been president of the association since 2004, having previously served as vice president for communications and marketing at CASE and associate vice chancellor for advancement at the University System of Maryland.

 

January 24, 2014

Wisconsin’s two major education unions are planning to merge, in light of declining memberships following 2011 anti-union legislation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Under the plan, the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, which includes faculty at public, postsecondary institutions, would join with the National Education Association-affiliated Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest K-12 teachers union. The new union would be called Wisconsin Together, tentatively starting in September. A vote on the merger is slated for April.

Following Act 10, which made union membership and dues-paying voluntary, the K-12 union has lost about one-third of its members, according to the report. The higher education union has about 6,500 members, down from a peak of 16,000. Kim Kohlhaas, AFT-Wisconsin president, said the new structure would allow the union through pooled resources to focus on professional development and advocacy for public education – not just faculty working conditions. “I think Act 10 was a huge eye-opener for us,” Kohlhaas told the Journal Sentinel. “I think historically even the union got caught up in [collective bargaining], and it used to be a lot of contract organization. This allows us an opportunity to focus on that completely differently.”

If approved, the joint AFT-NEA union become the sixth such union nationwide, after those in Minnesota, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and New York.

January 24, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Sawicki of American Public University describes the discovery of a number of new species in the subterranean caves of Florida. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 24, 2014

The University of Michigan Board of Regents today named Mark S. Schlissel as the institution's next president. Schlissel is provost of Brown University. Before being named provost at Brown in 2011, he was dean of biological sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, where he also held the C.H. Li Chair in Biochemistry.

He will succeed Mary Sue Coleman on July 1. Coleman is retiring after 12 years as president at Michigan.

 

January 24, 2014

The parents of an Auburn University student who was kidnapped on campus in 2008 have filed a claim alleging that her murder could have been prevented if the institution had its own police force, which it eliminated in the 2000s to save money. Since then, Auburn has relied on city police to patrol campus, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported. Lauren Burk's parents also allege that the university failed to follow federal security recommendations. They are suing the Alabama Board of Adjustment for $1 million in damages; the state's constitution protects state entities (including Auburn) from lawsuits seeking monetary damages. An Auburn spokesman reached for comment said, "It is Auburn University’s policy not to comment on pending investigative issues."

January 24, 2014

The number of federal direct student loan borrowers who were enrolled in an income-based repayment program rose by 20 percent in the last three months of 2013, as the Education Department launched a large outreach campaign to get more people to use the benefit.

Slightly more than 1.3 million borrowers had loans in an income-based repayment plan at the end of last December, an increase of 210,000 from the end of September, according to recently released federal data.

The increased participation in the program occurred as the Obama administration in November and December sent emails directly to more than 3.5 million borrowers that it believed could benefit from enrolling in the plans, which cap loan payments at a percentage of a borrower’s discretionary income and forgive any outstanding balance after 20 or 25 years.

During the same period, the number of borrowers participating in the similar but less generous income-contingent program remained roughly the same at 580,000.

Despite efforts by the Obama administration to better publicize and ease the application process for the income-based repayment program, enrollment remains relatively low compared to the overall federal direct loan portfolio, which includes 11.7 million people who are currently actively repaying their federal direct loans. An additional 5.5 million are in deferment or forbearance, and another 2.4 million direct loan borrowers are in default.

The Education and Treasury Departments planned to announce on Friday another aspect of the administration's campaign to enroll more borrowers in the programs. TurboTax will display a banner on its website that links to the Education Department's "repayment estimator," which provides information on enrolling in the programs.

The government will also include, during the upcoming tax season, a message about federal student loan repayment options on the envelopes of tax refund checks mailed this year. About 25 million of those envelopes will be mailed to tax filers this year, the departments said. 

January 24, 2014

Facing enrollment declines, Iowa Wesleyan College plans to close about half of its academic programs and to shrink its faculty, The Gazette reported. The jobs of  22 of 52 professors and 23 of 78 staff members will be eliminated. The college will also eliminate 16 of 32 major programs, including studio art, sociology, history, philosophy of religion, communication and mass communication, and forensic science.

January 23, 2014

While linguistics remains a relatively small major nationally, it has been seeing significant growth nationally, from a little more than 700 bachelor's degrees awarded in 2000 to 2,200 in 2012 -- a period in which there has not been dramatic change in graduate enrollments. Further, 70 percent of the undergraduate enrollments are women. These are among the figures in the first report of the Linguistic Society of America on the state of the discipline. While the new report features some longitudinal data based on other sources, the new report will seek to annually track changes in the discipline.

January 23, 2014

A judge has ruled a taped interview of an alleged killer conducted as part of a sociology study off-limits to Montreal police, The Globe and Mail reported. Luka Magnotta, a stripper and porn actor accused of killing and dismembering a 33-year-old Chinese student, participated in a study on the sociology of sex work conducted by two University of Ottawa professors in 2007, five years before the alleged murder took place. After reviewing a transcript of the tape, Justice Sophie Bourque of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that while the right to confidentiality in academic research is not absolute and must be weighed against other societal goals, in this case the harm to academic research done in releasing the tape would outweigh the benefit.

 

January 23, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Kathryn Medler of the State University of New York at Buffalo explains why sweets can be experienced differently by people of different weights. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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