Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

The U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey over complaints that its medical school and osteopathic medical school discriminated against students with Hepatitis B. The medical schools revoked the acceptance of students with Hepatitis B, and the Justice Department found this to be illegal discrimination based on disability because no requirements of the medical school programs would have created any dangers by the participation of students with Hepatitis B. The university's action "contradicts" guidance on the issue from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Justice Department statement said. The university has agreed to admit the students and to compensate them for what happened.

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

In order to make good on an earlier pledge to freeze tuition for at least two years, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, formerly Indiana's Republican governor, announced in a letter Monday that the university would be looking for at least $40 million in savings over the biennium. "It has been too easy in higher education for institutions to decide first what they would like to spend, and then raise student bills to produce the desired funds," Daniels wrote. "That approach has run its course. At Purdue, we will make our first goal affordability, accommodating our spending to students’ budgets and not the other way around."

As a first step toward accomplishing those savings, Daniels announced that he would eliminate merit pay raises for all senior administrators, deans and administrative and professional staff with salaries of more than $50,000 for the next two years, a move projected to save $5 million. The freeze would not apply to faculty members. He also said in a Faculty Senate meeting Monday to expect additional announcements later this month.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Thunderbird School of Global Management and Laureate Education announced plans Monday for a joint venture in which the Arizona-based business school would establish academic programs through the for-profit education provider's campuses in cities around the world. Under the arrangement, which is expected to be finalized in June, Thunderbird would remain nonprofit but would look to offer instruction at Laureate campuses in places such as Madrid, Paris, Santiago, Chile, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

At a time of increased scrutiny of law schools, Florida Coastal School of Law has announced the Assured Outcomes Partnership, which it says it intended to “support shared accountability between the school and its students for success in the areas of academic performance, experiential learning, and bar exam passage”.

Under the program:

  • Students will not be academically dismissed during their first year, as long as they meet several conditions, including complying with the attendance policy, attending writing workshops and involvement in the Bar Coaching Program.
  • Students who meet these requirements and are academically dismissed after their first year will receive a refund of $10,000.
  • Students who do not pass the bar exam on the first attempt but are in compliance with the conditions will receive a living stipend while preparing to retake the exam, as well as preparation materials free of charge. Students who make two unsuccessful attempts will receive a $10,000 refund.
  • Students who follow the program but are unable to obtain “substantive practical legal work experience” while enrolled will receive $2,000.

Peter Goplerud, the dean of the law school, said in an interview that the initiative was not in response to a crisis. “Bar results over the last several years have been in the range from about 76 percent first time pass to low 80s on the Florida exam,” Goplerud said, “and our idea in putting this together really was to leverage some of the things that we’ve been doing but to beef it up a little by creating what really is a partnership so that the students have clear-cut responsibilities themselves and shared accountabilities for the outcomes.” (The law school's 2012 bar admission statistics are available here.)

Not everyone is pleased with the development; the non-profit Law School Transparency declined to comment, but linked to a post on the law blog “Above the Law” by Elie Mystal, which says the initiative “only sounds nice if you don’t read the fine print.” “I don’t know what kind of mathematically challenged people think that getting a $10K refund after spending nearly $120K to go to law school and not passing the bar is a good deal,” writes Mystal. “It’s an argument that will only work on stupid people, but that’s kind of the point.”

Goplerud said that he has talked to others that are “very intrigued by it.”

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Leading universities such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully lobbied for the defeat of proposed new ways for the government to pay for research overhead, The Boston Globe reported. Currently universities negotiate rates for a percentage of grants awarded that they receive to cover overhead expenses. Harvard's rate is 69 percent, which is much higher than most rates. The Obama administration wanted to shift to a single flat rate for all institutions, but leading universities opposed the idea and it has now been withdrawn.

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Francis of Emory University explores the role antibiotics played in fueling the Sexual Revolution. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 3:00am

The top two leaders of the University of California System Academic Senate on Friday released a letter expressing "grave concerns" about California legislation proposed last week to require the state's public higher education systems to grant transfer credit for courses or programs provided by an approved pool of providers, potentially including programs that are for-profit and have never been accredited. Supporters of the plan say that it will deal with the state's serious capacity issues in which qualified students can't get into the courses they need to graduate.

Robert L. Powell, the chair of the system's Academic Senate, and Bill Jacob, the vice chair, on Friday released a joint letter reacting to the proposal. The letter stated that the leaders of the Academic Senate were not consulted as the legislation was drafted, and went on to identify several concerns.

The faculty leaders state: "First, limits on student access to the courses this bill targets are in large part the result of significant reductions in public state higher education funding, especially over the last six years. Second, the clear self-interest of for profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education through this legislation is dismaying. In fact, UC’s graduation rates and time to degree performance show that access to courses for our students is not an acute issue as it may be in the other segments. Lastly, the faculty of the University of California, through the Academic Senate, approves courses for credit at the University and reviews courses offered for transfer credit to determine whether they cover the same material with equal rigor. There is no possibility that UC faculty will shirk its responsibility to our students by ceding authority over courses to any outside agency."

The letter adds that the "Academic Senate is committed to exploring how important measures of student success, such as graduation rates and time-to-degree, can be improved." And the letter notes that faculty leaders have backed initiatives that include the expansion of online course offerings by the university. But the letter stressed the role of professors. "There is no alternative to the deep involvement of faculty in courses and curricula and the validation provided by rigorous and continuing review of these," it says.

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 3:00am

Union County College is suing its former president, Thomas Brown, for $409,000 that he received during the course of nearly two decades at the college, The Star-Ledger reported. The dispute concerns funds used for Brown's retirement accounts. The college contends that contributions of $23,000 a year for his retirement funds were supposed to come out of his salary, but instead came as extra payments. Brown denies the charges.

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 3:00am

Professors who study fracking have been at the center of much public debate over the controversial method of obtaining natural gas. On Friday, the University of Tennessee won preliminary state approval to authorize fracking on its land, The New York Times reported. The university says that the plan will generate revenue and also create an opportunity to study the impact of fracking. Many environmental groups say that, based on what is known about fracking, the university should not be using its land in this way.

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 3:00am

The College of the Ozarks is known for its system of providing students with jobs rather than charging them tuition. Now the college is taking things a step further, and refusing to certify private student loans, which some students were still taking out, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The college itself does not use debt, and raises money for buildings before constructing them. President Jerry C. Davis said that he wants to discourage all borrowing. "The driving force behind this is that debt is bad and we should not allow these students to do that," he said.

 

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