Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

Ohio State University has spent more than $800,000 on President Gordon Gee's travel expenses since 2007, including more than $550,000 in the last two years, The Dayton Daily News reported. Ohio State officials noted the value of Gee's travel, in reaching donors and others, and in spreading the word about Ohio State across the world. But the newspaper noted that Gee's travel expenses exceeded not only those of two Ohio governors, but also of the presidents of other big public universities with global ambitions and intense fund-raising efforts -- the Universities of Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 4:41am

The Education Department is increasingly relying on collection agencies to obtain funds from those who have defaulted on student loans, but the department is failing to monitor complaints about these agencies, says a new report from the National Consumer Law Center. The center "found that contractors do not maintain accessible complaint systems and some agencies ignore the department’s minimum requirements for handling borrower grievances," the report says. "Overall, the complaint systems used by some collectors display a haphazard approach to resolving borrower disputes. The department also has failed to inform borrowers of the resources available through the agency to address complaints."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

Chester College employees overwhelmingly passed a critical report on President Robert Baines on Monday, saying the institution’s dire financial situation is due to mismanagement at the highest levels. (Separately, the institution's board affirmed its confidence in Baines in a unanimous vote.)

Every non-adjunct faculty member and all but one staff member signed the 15-point vote of no confidence that said the college’s $750,000 deficit and possible closure “were preventable had the president fulfilled his responsibilities and had the board of trustees held him accountable.”

Baines said the anger is understandable, but that he's confident he handled a difficult situation as best he could while enrollment fell and infrastructure crumbled.

The 119-student arts college in New Hampshire must find hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to stay open next fall. Initial fund-raising efforts had yielded $87,000 as of Sunday, encouraging faculty and student leaders but leaving them far short of their ultimate goal.

Among the criticisms of Baines were his failure to raise funds and his slow speed in alerting employees and students to the magnitude of the financial situation. The petition accuses him of saying, “You cannot fund-raise for a sinking ship.”

He disputes ever saying "sinking ship," but said the concept is accurate enough. "It’s very difficult to go out and raise money with the financial situation we’re in," he said. Efforts to find a partner to take over the campus fell through because many of the college's facilities are in disrepair, Baines said.

The no-confidence vote concedes that Chester’s closure is a possibility, and the document outlines employee efforts to help students transition to a new college should that become necessary. But the document expresses hope Chester can be saved – alluding to pledges of $600,000 in donations over the next six years -- and asks that Baines step aside should the college survive.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

The national accrediting agency for Career Education Corp. on Monday decided not to pursue penalties against 71 campuses that had been under review over reported problems with job placement rates. Four campuses, however, were placed on probation. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools had asked the for-profit higher education provider to demonstrate that its job-placement reporting was adequate after a recent review by an outside law firm found that some campuses lacked sufficient documentation. Career Education's president and CEO, Gary E. McCullough, resigned shortly after that news broke. Steven H. Lesnik, the new CEO, said in a news release that the company "had made great strides" but would continue to improve student job placement results.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Amina Eladdadi of the College of Saint Rose explains how mathematical models can help physicians predict the growth of cancerous tumors. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

Anthony Tricoli has quit as president of Georgia Perimeter College, which is facing a $16 million budget shortfall, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The college is planning to suspend contracts, cut travel and delay hiring, among other steps to deal with the shortfall.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Pittsburgh is joining the ranks of public universities responding to budget constraints by restructuring how it administers its campuses. The university announced Monday that it would have two of its (five) regional campuses report to a single president, and centralize numerous administrative functions for the campuses. Under the arrangement, the president of Pitt's Bradford campus, Livingston Alexander, will oversee the university's Titusville campus as well, with Titusville's current provost becoming a campus dean (responsible for day-to-day oversight) and reporting to Alexander. The announcement did not estimate how much the realignment might save.

The University System of Georgia is proceeding with a plan to merge several sets of campuses, and the State University of New York System has pushed (with mixed success) to consolidate the leadership over pairs of its campuses as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012 - 3:00am

Sweet Briar College, faced with financial difficulties caused by lower than desired enrollment levels, is shrinking its faculty, and eliminating two majors, The Lynchburg News & Advance reported. The college has 605 students, but has room on campus for 750-800. Sweet Briar plans to cut the equivalent of 11 full-time faculty positions (though some of the cuts will be of part-timers), bringing the faculty size down to the equivalent of 85 full-time positions. The majors that will be eliminated are German and engineering management. Sweet Briar has been struggling with attracting more students since 2009.

Monday, May 7, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Friday released a report detailing academic fraud in a scandal set off by a report about inappropriate treatment received by a football player, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. The fraud involved inappropriate incidents in 50 classes, ranging from faculty members who didn't show up to unauthorized grade changes for students. Many of the questioned classes were taught by Julius Nyang’oro, former chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department. He resigned from the chair position in September. With the release of the report, the university announced that Nyang’oro is retiring on July 1. “Professor Nyang’oro offered to retire, and we agreed that was in the best interest of the department, the college and the university,” said Nancy Davis, associate vice chancellor for university relations.

Monday, May 7, 2012 - 4:30am

Teacher education students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with the support of some faculty members, are refusing to participate in a pilot project in which Stanford University and the education company Pearson are analyzing whether the students have demonstrated proficiency in their student teaching, The New York Times reported. Because UMass is participating in the project, the students were directed to submit two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, and to take a 40-page take-home test to submit to Pearson. Some states are already planning to use that process as a key part of the credentialing of new teachers. Stanford officials said Pearson has provided key support for the project, which comes at a time that many have questioned the systems currently used by states. At other universities participating in the pilot, there have been no protests, Stanford officials said.

But the students and some professors at UMass say that faculty review of students over a six-month period is a much better way to measure teaching ability, and that good reviews can't be done by people who have never seen the students in person. And so they are refusing to send Pearson the required materials. "This is something complex and we don’t like seeing it taken out of human hands," Barbara Madeloni, who runs the university high school teacher training program, told the Times. "We are putting a stick in the gears."



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