Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 8, 2013

President Obama on Thursday nominated Ericka M. Miller, vice president for operations and strategic leadership at the Education Trust, to be assistant secretary for postsecondary education. If Miller is confirmed by the Senate, she would largely complete the team of political leaders who will guide the Education Department's higher ed agenda in the president's second term.

Miller has spent six years at Education Trust, which advocates for educational equity at all levels, particularly on behalf of students from low-income backgrounds. Much of Miller's work at Ed Trust and previously has focused on elementary and secondary education. Before her current position, she led the K-12 practice at the executivfe search firm Isaacson Miller, ran an education consulting firm, and worked as a legislative assistant for then-U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat.

Earlier in her career she was an assistant professor of English at Mills College, an independent women's college in California. (She started her career in journalism, at Washingtonian magazine.)

Miller, who is not well-known in Washington higher ed policy circles, would join an Education Department team that would include Ted Mitchell, the New Schools Venture Fund chief who President Obama nominated last month as under secretary of education, and Jamienne Studley, who was named deputy under secretary of education this fall.

November 7, 2013

Faculty at Wellesley College have voted to continue the institution's partnership with Peking University, subject to oversight by the college's Academic Council, according to Thomas Cushman, a professor of sociology who spearheaded a letter-writing campaign on behalf of Xia Yeliang, an associate professor of economics at Peking who was fired in October. Many view Xia's termination as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, although the university says the decision was based on his teaching and research record. More than 130 Wellesley faculty members had signed a letter objecting to the termination of Xia “based solely on his political and philosophical views” and saying that they would urge the Wellesley administration to reconsider the college’s institutional partnership with Peking if it fired Xia.

Wellesley is expected to release a statement on the matter today. In a previous statement, the college's president, H. Kim Bottomly, indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar.


November 7, 2013

The University of California System raised $400,000 in relatively small gifts (averaging about $75) through a crowd-funding campaign for scholarships, and officials said that the effort was successful not only in bringing in money but raising awareness about the need for scholarships, The Los Angles Times reported. For the campaign, individuals pledged to do certain things in return for donations. One student at UC Merced wore a horse head mask for a week after donors agreed to donate. Michael Drake, chancellor at Irvine, will lead donors on a bike ride.

November 7, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, John Broich of Case Western Reserve University explores the contentious history of the municipal water supply. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 7, 2013

Officials at the University of Maryland at College Park knew that many fans would react its move to the Big Ten "emotionally and negatively," so the university planned a public relations campaign to win them over, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Many fans were bothered by the loss of long-time regional rivalries, among other issues. Maryland's response was to "plant positive comments into fan message boards," the article said. Email messages exchanged among university officials talked about seeing all the negative reaction and working to change attitudes. One official talked of plans to "engage professional assistance in helping to drop positive messages into the blogs, comments and message board sites. I will arrange for this service today."


November 7, 2013

A paperwork snafu following the merger of two Georgia colleges may have contributed to an 8 percent enrollment decline, according to officials at Middle Georgia State College.

Middle Georgia State – the combination of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College – is the product of a round of mergers pushed by the University System of Georgia. When the first class of students to attend the merged college used the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year, the online application presented them with these two choices: "Middle Georgia College, Cochran, GA" and "Middle Georgia State College, Macon Cam, Macon, GA.” Students who picked the first received their financial aid normally. Students who picked the second choice didn’t because the identifier was tied to an old school code.

Sheri Rowland, the head of enrollment management at Middle Georgia State, said the problem and resulting delays in offering aid awards caused some students and families to believe the college was providing poor customer service. That, in turn, may have cost the newly merged university some first-year students. “Because of this delay in processing, we wonder if students went elsewhere because they got notification of their financial aid in a much timelier fashion from other institutions than we were able to provide to them this year,” she said.

Rowland said the first-to-second-year retention rate was pretty good, but there was an 8 percent decline in first-year enrollment at the new institution compared to what the total enrollment had been at the two institutions before they merged, which was about 9,100 students. She said no one was at fault and the problem would not occur again.

Rowland said the FAFSA problems didn’t help, but were not the only problem. She said the college has had to rebrand and market itself in a totally different fashion since the merger. “It was a drastic enough difference that it just wasn’t tied to a bad recruiting year,” Rowland said.

The Georgia higher ed system has been pushing mergers since 2011. A recently announced merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University is meeting strong opposition from students and alumni. On Wednesday, local news media reported an iconic globe in the center of Southern Poly campus had been toppled, apparently in an act of vandalism or protest linked to unrest after announcement of the merger.

November 7, 2013

A 2011 lawsuit alleging that Drake University officials tried to keep a student from bringing the service dog she was training into class may proceed in court, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The Drake law school graduate says university officials were hostile toward her from 2006-9 even though Iowa law permitted her to have the dog in public places, the Des Moines Register reported. A Polk County District Court judge had dismissed the case in April 2012, but the student appealed.

November 7, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association charged Chadron State College with a lack of institutional control, its most serious breach of conduct, after finding that a former football coach maintained an outside bank account for the program and gave two players $250 for academic and insurance bills. The coach also allowed an athlete to compete while ineligible and lied or misled to NCAA investigators. The association announced Wednesday that Chadron State, a Division II program, will vacate all football wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons and face recruiting visit reductions. It also charged the university $5,000 and placed a show cause order on the former coach and former athletics director, meaning the penalties will carry over if another institution tries to hire them.

November 7, 2013

The law dean at Case Western Reserve University told colleagues and students that he would take a leave of absence in response to a lawsuit accusing the dean of retaliating against a professor for reporting potential sexual harassment, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported. Lawrence Mitchell, dean of the Case law school since 2011, said in an email message to law school students and staff that he had asked for the leave to avoid having the lawsuit disrupt the school's work, according to the newspaper. The Plain Dealer reported last month on the lawsuit filed by Raymond Ku, a professor and former associate dean who alleged that he lost his administrative post after informing university administrators about incidents he and others witnessed in which Mitchell caressed a female staff member and made inappropriate sexual comments to others. Mitchell has denied the charges, and Case released a statement last month citing inaccuracies in the lawsuit.

November 6, 2013

DePauw University and Wabash Colleges have followed Indiana University in joining Freedom Indiana, which is opposing a proposal that Indiana amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A joint statement from the DePauw and Wabash presidents, Brian W. Casey and Gregory D. Hess, respectively, gave the following rationale: "Our students come from around the country and around the world, and our fundamental goal is to educate them to think critically, exercise responsible leadership, communicate effectively, and tackle complex problems. This depends on attracting talented faculty and staff, a task that is made more difficult by the passage of this amendment. We are also engaged in the enterprise of fostering ideas and innovation, a mission which inherently depends on an environment of openness and inclusion that would be compromised should this amendment be enacted."



Back to Top