Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Top Russian universities may be poised to use debt to finance major improvements in their facilities, according to a new report by Standard & Poor's. The Moscow Times reported that the S&P report follows a new Russian law giving about 30 universities new financial authority, opening up the possibility for them to use debt. The report found that Russian universities -- which have depended on government grants for facilities -- lag their international peers in investments in their physical plants.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Creighton University has announced plans to sell its struggling medical center in Omaha to a regional health care network. The university, which sold off a large share of the hospital's ownership to another health care company, Tenet, in 1995, said Wednesday that Alegent Health would buy the entire Creighton University Medical Center, and that Alegent would become the university's primary partner for its medical and other health professions students. The university did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:30am

The conference commissioners and other college football bigwigs who run the Bowl Championship Series emerged from a three-day meeting saying they had reached general agreement for the first time on creating a playoff to decide the sport's annual champion each year, the Associated Press reported. The BCS, the sport's current method of picking a winner each year, has been much derided by sports fans and others, but opposition to a playoff has come from some college presidents and from those in college football (particularly in the Big Ten and Pacific-12 Conferences) loyal to the bowl games, which many believe would be threatened under a playoff system.

Details of the new arrangement have yet to be worked out (and college presidents were generally not involved in the discussions), but a four-game playoff is likely. “Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the AP.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

High school athletes will have an extra year to meet new eligibility requirements and “limited resource” institutions will have more flexibility in adjusting to higher academic standards, leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top athletic programs announced Thursday. Both decisions tweak new rules the Division I Board of Directors adopted in October. The board also pushed back the timelines for the working groups assembled by NCAA President Mark Emmert this summer.

Most institutions must ensure their teams are earning at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measure of classroom performance, by the 2015-16 postseason. (A 930 APR represents a 50-percent graduation rate, the NCAA says.) Low-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities will have an extra year to bring their athletes up to the new standards, and will have more flexibility in meeting benchmarks along the way. But they must also develop “a meaningful APR improvement plan,” that identifies “issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data,” and develops “meaningful initiatives” to address those issues.

After administrators and coaches complained that 2015 was too soon to start enforcing the NCAA’s new freshman eligibility standards, the board of university presidents voted to give them an extra year to prepare athletes. The eligibility rules raised the minimum grade point average in a set of high school core courses from 2.0 to 2.3 (community college transfers must come in with at least a 2.5 GPA), and require students to take the majority of those courses before senior year. Students who don’t meet the GPA minimums will still be eligible for athletic scholarships and practice.

The new working group schedule “allows for a more comprehensive discussion within the membership, but still ensures the presidents can make principled decisions in a timely fashion,” the NCAA said in a press release. The Enforcement Working Group will present its final recommendations at the Board’s next meeting in August. The Rules Working Group, which among other things is charged with paring down the notoriously extensive NCAA rulebook, will present its “first phase” of recommendations “either later this year or possibly” at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Finally, the Student-Athlete Well-Being Group is considering various ways to implement a rule that would award athletes with an additional $2,000 to help cover living expenses. The board adopted the controversial rule in October but rescinded it for modifications in January after more than 160 institutions requested an override.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:35am

The vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education resigned Thursday, a day after Penn officials placed him on leave amid reports that he did not actuall have the doctorate he had claimed to have, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Northern Virginia Community College is the latest two-year institution to announce a partnership with the University of Phoenix, with the announcement yesterday of a transfer agreement. Students from the community college will get a tuition discount when they transfer to Phoenix, according to a news release. They will also be able to tap the for-profit provider's prior learning assessment offerings, which can grant college credit for prior training and work experience. President Obama, who has often been critical of for-profits, has visited Northern Virginia five times for photo ops and to give speeches. Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, is a professor at the college.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:50am

Portland State University warned students and employees on Thursday that it had suspended a graduate student and barred him from the campus after he had allegedly made "threats of violence against the PSU community," The Oregonian reported.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Education Department just finished two rounds of negotiated rule making on financial aid issues -- one on student loan regulations and one on the rules that govern financial aid for teacher preparation programs -- but is already planning a third. The department will focus on creating new regulations to prevent fraud in financial aid programs, as well as possibly changing financial aid delivery to electronic funds transfers. The department may also "update and streamline" the rules for campus-based financial aid programs, such as Perkins Loans and Federal Work-Study, wrote David Bergeron, deputy assistant secretary for policy, planning, and innovation in the department's Office of Postsecondary Education.

Public hearings on the rule making process are scheduled for May 23 in Phoenix and May 31 in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

Civic leaders in El Paso are furious at Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, for calling off a planned boxing event in the University of Texas at El Paso's Sun Bowl, the Associated Press reported. Cigarroa said he acted based on a "higher than normal" risk assessment; he did not provide details on the risk. El Paso leaders said that they feared the chancellor's actions would scare people away from El Paso based on the belief that some sort of spillover violence from Mexico was likely -- which they said was not the case.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Wally Covington of Northern Arizona University explains why the forests of the American West have become more susceptible to large fires and outlines efforts to restore their natural ecology. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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