Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 10, 2013

Amherst College spent $19 million on architectural and other expenses for a planned $245 million science building that the college has now decided not to build, The Boston Globe reported. Amherst officials say that they still need and plan to find a way to build a new science facility, but that the planned building was creating too many problems. The Globe article uses the Amherst situation to discuss competing pressures on colleges as the plan the best spaces for scientists. In the Amherst case, some science professors say that the project grew more expensive and more complicated in part because of a desire for architectural details (a light filled atrium, for example) as opposed to focusing on the basic lab spaces that the professors need.

 

July 10, 2013

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.

July 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Ryan Sullivan of Carnegie Mellon University explains why California snow is dependent on dust from across the Pacific. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 10, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Eight days after the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans increased to 6.8 percent, the two parties in Congress seemed further away than ever on a compromise that could retroactively undo the increase. A bipartisan coalition of Senate Republicans, Independents and Democrats have put forward a bill for market-based interest rates that has much in common with President Obama's plan, but the Senate Democratic leadership would rather extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate for another year -- a proposal that's a nonstarter with Republicans in the House and Senate. 

The Senate will vote on the one-year extension bill today.

July 10, 2013

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about retention. The articles aren't today's breaking news, but reflect long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts on the changes colleges are making to focus not just on admitting students but on keeping them on track to a degree. The goal is to provide these materials (both news articles and opinion essays) in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here. This is the second in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed's editors will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles and essays, as well as the latest developments involving student retention and persistence. To register for the webinar, please click here.

 

July 10, 2013

A fire that killed a student Monday at Saddleback College, a community college in California, was set deliberately, The Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities have not figured out whether the male student who died was a victim of the fire or set it.

July 9, 2013

London Mayor Boris Johnson is under attack for a quip suggesting that female students are still after Mrs. degrees. Times Higher Education reported that Johnson was on a panel on which Malaysia's prime minister was talking about the increasing number of women enrolling. Johnson said that women "have got to find men to marry." Twitter is full of outrage over the comment. One comment: "Women go to university to bag themselves a husband! Sure, it still being 1953!" Another: "Does this mean I can get a refund on my student loan?! Didn't find a husband at my uni... “

July 9, 2013

A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated a federal False Claims Act lawsuit brought against ITT Educational Services, Inc. by a former enrollment official. A federal judge in Indiana dismissed the suit against the for-profit higher education provider last year, saying the court did not have jurisdiction because the plaintiffs in the case were not the original source of the allegations against the company, as is required under the false claims law. The court also slapped the plaintiffs with nearly $400,000 in fines for having brought, in the judge's words, a "frivolous" lawsuit.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sharply disagreed Monday. The appeals panel agreed that the False Claims Act -- in which parties sue companies or others on behalf of the federal government, claiming that the defendants have defrauded the treasury of funds and hoping to be joined by the U.S. Justice Department -- requires a suing party to come forward with allegations that were not previously in the public domain. But the Seventh Circuit court concluded that the charges made by Debra Leveski, the former employee at an ITT campus in Michigan, differed sufficiently from previously disclosed information about the company that the case can appropriately be heard by the federal court.

In directing the lower court to consider the case, and in at least temporarily reversing the financial penalties against her lawyer, the court said: "We do not know whether Leveski will ultimately prevail, nor do we state any opinion as to whether Leveski should ultimately prevail. But we do believe that Leveski should be allowed to litigate her case on the merits, and thus, sanctions for bringing a frivolous lawsuit are inappropriate."

July 9, 2013

President Obama has named 12 people to receive the National Humanities medal:

  • Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and historian of the Civil War era.
  • William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton University, and author of books about higher education.
  • Jill Ker Conway, former president of Smith College.
  • Natalie Zemon Davis, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus.
  • Frank Deford, the sports writer.
  • Joan Didion, the essayist and novelist.
  • Robert D. Putnam, professor of government at Harvard University.
  • Marilynne Robinson, the novelist.
  • Kay Ryan, former poet laureate of the United States.
  • Robert B. Silvers, co-founder of The New York Review of Books.
  • Anna Deavere Smith, the actress and playwright.
  • Camilo José Vergara, the photographer.

More details about the honorees may be found here.

 

 

July 9, 2013

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will face a third federal investigation related to its handling of sexual assault complaints, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights -- which is already investigating complaints alleging that UNC misreported assault statistics and mishandled student complaints – said it will look into whether the university retaliated against Landen Gambill, who was charged by the campus honor court after speaking out about her rape case. OCR said in a recent "Dear Colleague" letter that taking action against students who issue complaints, either on campus or with the federal government, is illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Gambill was also a party to the initial OCR complaint against UNC. An investigation commissioned by the university found no evidence of retaliation, but said UNC's honor court system is flawed and lacks administrative oversight.

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