Higher Education Quick Takes
A state panel on Tuesday found that the University of Illinois violated state law by awarding a $4.6 million contract for work on the Urbana-Champaign campus to an architectural firm partly owned by the husband of the administrator who oversees campus planning projects, The Chicago Tribune reported. The state panel expressed frustration both over the contract and the failure of the university to promptly inform the board of the agreement. The matter now goes to the state's inspector general.
The U.S. agency charged with overseeing the student visa system has inadequate processes in place to investigate, identify and combat fraud, the Government Accountability Office said in a report to Congress Tuesday. GAO said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, has not done enough to ensure that 10,000 schools and colleges that enrolled a total of 850,000 foreign students as of January have done so legitimately.
"SEVP does not have processes to (1) evaluate prior and suspected cases of school noncompliance and fraud and (2) obtain and assess information from ... field offices on school investigations and outreach events," the GAO report said. "Without a process to analyze risks, it will be difficult for ICE to provide reasonable assurance that it is addressing high-risk vulnerabilities and minimizing noncompliance." The report notes that the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, concurred with its recommendations, which focused on strengthening its procedures.
A special board that oversees Israeli higher education on the West Bank on Tuesday granted university status to the Ariel University Center, Haaretz reported. The action overruled the decision this month of the body that typically would recommend on granting university status, and which opted not to. University status for Ariel has been championed by advocates of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, but has been denounced by many Israeli academics. Some argue that their country doesn't have enough money for its existing universities. Others fear that granting Ariel university status involves using higher education to promote a more permanent Israeli presence in occupied territories.
Brown University on Tuesday announced that it was removing the name of the late Joe Paterno, an alumnus, from an award the university gives to the outstanding male freshman athlete. The university said the decision was based on the report last week that faulted Paterno and other senior Penn State officials for failing to report Jerry Sandusky to authorities promptly upon receiving reports of his conduct.
Students at the new university being created in Singapore by Yale University and the National University of Singapore will not be permitted to hold protests or to form political groups, the new president of the institution told The Wall Street Journal. Pericles Lewis, the new president, said that despite these limits, students "are going to be totally free to express their views." The new university has been controversial, in part because of Yale faculty concerns over Singapore's less than full commitment to democratic values of the sort that are expected at American universities.
Swiss universities are reporting declines in applications from students in other European countries, The Local reported. The Swiss franc is performing well against the Euro, and tuition is up at many Swiss universities, while some European countries do not charge tuition.
The U.S. Education Department today proposed new rules governing federal student loans, which would, among other things, ease the process by which disabled borrowers could have their loans discharged, establish a new income-contingent repayment plan for direct student loans, and expand the government's income-based repayment program. The changes regarding borrowers with disabilities were prompted by concerns (many contained in a 2011 series by ProPublica) that they were being required to jump through far too many hoops to have their loans forgiven. The rules emerged from a round of negotiations that the agency held last winter, and public comments on the proposed changes are due by Aug. 16.
Several days after James H. Ammons announced that he would resign as president in the wake of a hazing scandal at Florida A&M University, the university's board approved an agreement Monday under which Ammons will leave the job immediately, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Ammons has come in for intense criticism for his administration's actions (and perceived inaction) regarding the death of a member of the university's renowned marching band. Under the agreement between the board and Ammons, he will take a sabbatical and then return to the faculty.