Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

As officials and educators from the U.S. and India prepare to gather in Washington this week to discuss collaboration in higher education, a senior officials of the U.S. Commerce Department is criticizing a proposal in India that would allow foreign colleges to set up branch campuses there. Many American colleges and universities (and those from other countries) have been intrigued by the possibility of opening up in India, where demand for higher education far exceeds capacity. But Suresh Kumar, assistant secretary for trade promotion, told The Wall Street Journal that the proposals are seriously flawed. He noted provisions that would require that funds gained through tuition remain in India, and that would require quality to be comparable to main campuses even though the Indian government would be able to require very low tuition rates. "If you suddenly think you can get a Harvard M.B.A. degree in India for $20,000 – it’s just not going to work," he said. "You can’t impose a Western system in India. But India also can’t expect to have the Harvards come here under the current construct."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

With many parts of the country experiencing a wave of anti-tax politics, many community colleges are being especially careful about proposals that would raise local taxes. The Grand Rapids Press reported that Grand Rapids Community College is studying the possibility of going for a tax increase by promising that none of the new revenue would support faculty salaries or pay. In past votes, anti-tax groups have criticized faculty pay (which administrators say is high when factoring in funds professors earn on top of base salary -- a view contested by faculty leaders). So the college may frame the tax increase in a way such that it could not contribute to faculty compensation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Consumer Law Center is criticizing an Obama administration proposal that would allow those collecting debts owed to the government to try to reach debtors via cell phones. Advocates of the proposal say that many of those who owe money don't use land lines, so trying to reach them via cell phones is logical. But the consumer group said that this would create unfair disturbances for debtors, and noted that many of those who owe student loans are facing a terrible job market that limits their ability to repay their loans.

"Giving one of the most abusive industries in the U.S. free rein to inundate people with robo-calls to their cell phones is a terrible idea," said a statement from Margot Saunders, Of Counsel to the National Consumer Law Center. "Cell phone calls can distract people while driving, interrupt them at their jobs, and needlessly impose a cost on struggling families by using up scarce minutes. Debt collectors regularly call land lines to harass and threaten friends, family and even strangers with similar names to the debtor. No one will be safe from receiving abusive calls on their cell phones if this proposal goes through."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Brent Stockwell of Columbia University reveals why the past decade has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of new drugs. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

An instructor in a history class at County College of Morris told a student with a stutter that he should not ask questions during class, and she declined to call on him in class, The New York Times reported. The article uses the case of Philip Garber Jr., the student, to show how students with a stutter are treated. The instructor declined to discuss the matter, and the college declined to tell the Times whether the instructor had been disciplined.

A spokeswoman sent Inside Higher Ed an e-mail saying that college officials were "delighted that Philip is now in a history class where he is fully participating and answering and asking questions. Our standard practice is that once college officials are alerted to any problems a student is experiencing, they take immediate action to resolve those issues. As we do with all students seeking accommodations, we have taken action to resolve Philip's concerns so he can successfully continue his education." Asked if the college considers it legitimate for an instructor to tell a student with a stutter not to talk in class, the spokeswoman responded, "No, CCM does not consider that acceptable behavior."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A federal judge has ordered Brown University to release fund-raising records related to an alumnus whose daughter, a student, accused another student of rape, Bloomberg reported. The student who was accused has sued the university, charging that it falsely found him to have committed sexual assault, and forced him out of the university, in part (the suit alleges) because of a desire to maintain good ties to the alumnus. In that context, the suit sought access to the records, which Brown had argued it should not be required to turn over.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Despite a rapidly growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population in the United States, these students are constantly overlooked in federal higher education policy, including the national college completion agenda, according to a new report by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education.

There is a large disparity among ethnic groups, the report states, with more than four out of five East Asians and South Asians enrolled in college earn at least a bachelor's degree. At the same time, a large percentage (almost 50 percent for each of the subgroups) of Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders report attending college but not earning a degree.

“With globalization as a mantra in the college completion agenda, it is essential to look at the importance of reaping the full benefits of diversity in American society and increasing degree attainment among all underserved communities," said Robert Teranishi, principal investigator at the commission and an associate professor of higher education at New York University.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 3:00am

In a report about public credit released Wednesday, Moody's Investors Service notes that universities, along with other nonprofit organizations, are at an increased risk of adverse tax law changes as a result of the weak economy. Analysts for the company note in the report that while the most severe federal tax law changes, such as requiring nonprofits to pay taxes on investment earnings, are the least likely to occur, states are more likely than before the recession to threaten tax law changes to seek revenue from colleges and universities. The report points to instances of municipalities pressuring nonprofits to increase payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements or seeking to tax college and university revenues, as Pittsburgh tried to do in 2009, and notes that such behavior is expected to continue.

The report also discusses how colleges and universities have improved financial disclosure since the start of the recession, but notes that such disclosures are still less comprehensive and timely than for-profit disclosures.

Monday, October 10, 2011 - 3:00am

The president and the dean of instructional services at Bishop State Community College, in Alabama, have doctorates from unaccredited institutions, The Press-Register reported. James Lowe, the president, lists on his résumé a doctorate from San Francisco Technical University. Latitia McCane holds a doctorate from Lacrosse University. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation said that neither university had ever been accredited by a recognized agency. Both officials said that they worked hard for their doctorates. State education officials in 2008 adopted a policy barring the recognition of doctorates from institutions not recognized by one of the regional accreditors, but the chancellor of postsecondary education said that Lowe and McCane were "grandfathered" because they earned their degrees before the policy was adopted.

Monday, October 10, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Calvin Chen of Mount Holyoke College explains the Italian fashion industry’s increasing reliance on factories owned and operated by Chinese emigrants. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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