Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 12, 2013

Under Secretary of Education Martha J. Kanter will return to academic life after she leaves her post this week as the federal government’s top higher education official.

New York University announced Wednesday that Kanter, who first joined the Education Department at the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009, would become a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Higher Education at the university’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She will begin her tenure at NYU in January. “The access, equity, and success of and for our nation’s students will be first and foremost on my mind,” Kanter said in a news release provided by NYU. “I will teach, write and work on what I hope will be only those things where I can have the greatest impact on excellence and equity to change the lives of others for the better."

Prior to her post at the Education Department, Kanter was chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California and was previously president of De Anza College. 

Ted Mitchell, the former president of Occidental College and current head of New Schools Venture Fund, has been tapped as Kanter’s replacement. His nomination is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.  

December 12, 2013

A 19-year-old Baruch College freshman died Tuesday after participating in a hazing ritual about 30 miles off the New York City campus, along with 30 members of the Delta Psi fraternity, the Pocono Record reported. Chen “Michael” Deng, who was pledging the fraternity, was taken to a hospital early Sunday in critical condition with major brain trauma and died Monday. Regional police and the county district attorney are investigating Deng’s death, which Baruch confirmed in a statement.

The statement noted that Baruch has a "zero tolerance" hazing policy. "Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class. Pi Delta Psi did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter," it says. "Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy." Campus officials are also conducting an internal review of the incident.

December 12, 2013

Colleges in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision spent $90.3 million traveling to and from 35 bowl games last year, but they still made money thanks to the $300.8 million that was returned to the conferences and in turn their member campuses, according to an NCAA audit. In the Southeastern Conference, where colleges both made and spent the most money, campuses got $52,278,677 in bowl payouts, but accumulated $14,762,565 in expenses. However, this was the first year the NCAA did not count bowl bonuses that institutions awarded to coaches as expenses.

December 12, 2013

Haverford College officials are backing away from a pledge to ensure no students are forced to borrow money to attend the private liberal arts college.

College administrators told students this week they are looking to do away with their six-year-old “no loan” pledge to some students – mostly its students from upper middle class households. The new plan still has significant protections for needy families in lower income brackets: Families making less than $60,000 will still not have to take out loans and no family should have to borrow more than $12,000 over four-years, which is far less debt than the average debt-bearing student. (The median family income in the United States is about $51,000.)

The plan still needs the approval by the college's board, which could modify or reject the proposal by college administrators.  But Haverford seems ready to join the likes of Dartmouth and Williams Colleges, which all tried no loan programs but then abandoned them following the recession. The market blew a hole in many university endowment funds, which colleges draw on to provide financial aid.

There has been an increase in aid spending at Haverford -- which awards aid based solely on need -- but the no loan program is not entirely to blame, according to a presentation by college officials posted online by a Haverford student newspaper. Haverford spent $16.9 in financial aid in 2009 and over $23 million in 2013 – an increase of about $6.6 million per year. The no loan program cost about $1.9 million this year. 

Jess Lord, the dean of admissions and financial aid, said the college has been seeking "equilibrium" between access and affordability and long-term sustainability. 

“The truth is that we’ve been having conversations about the long-term sustainability of the financial model since 2008, since the economy took the turn that it took in 2008,” Lord said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

The proposal to scale back the no loan program to only cover the lowest income families will save the college about $800,000 a year. For the Haverford class of 2012, which entered the college before the no loan program took effect, the average four-year debt burden was about $14,000. Nationally, the average debt burden for the class of 2012 is $29,000.

Colleges with no loan programs calculate a family's assets and use a formula to determine what they can afford to pay. The college picks up the difference between what a family can pay out of its own pocket or with scholarships and the college's price -- a gap that would either force families to borrow or send their students somewhere else. Tuition, fees and room and board at Haverford are priced at $59,000 a year.

December 12, 2013

The president of the University of Michigan plans to go ahead with a controversial cost-cutting program, despite faculty objections. University officials had planned to move 275 staffers from across campus into a single building on the edge of Ann Arbor to save money. Faculty objections have already delayed staff moves beyond April.

Several hundred faculty voted Monday to back a longer delay, but President Mary Sue Coleman made clear on Wednesday her so-called "shared services" plan might be delayed but it cannot be stopped. “The Administrative Services Transformation — our efforts to accomplish routine business functions in a more efficient way — must and will continue,” Coleman said in a statement. “The question for me is not whether the university will mount a shared services program, but how to do so in a way that best meets the needs of the Michigan community.”

The faculty vote on Monday also admonished the administration for spending “tens of millions” on outside consultants. Faculty, in effect, said Michigan faculty and administrators should be experienced enough to run the institution without such paid help.

University officials initially hoped to save $17 million from the plan, but now that figure is down to as little as $2 million in the first year and $5 to $6 million per year in the near term after that. Some of that savings is offset by new costs, including $4 million to fix up the building staff are supposed to be moving to, $1 million a year to lease the building and nearly $12 million for Accenture to work on cost-saving efforts.

December 12, 2013

High school guidance counselors were trading emails and posting comments on listservs Wednesday about unexpected packages from the College Board containing stickers showing a cow. Many wondered why they were receiving the packages -- some were annoyed at the cost and apparent effort to promote College Board services. Others thought the College Board was showing a sense of humor. The source of the stickers? On the last PSAT, there was a question involving a cow that led to much social media discussion after the test.


December 11, 2013

Activists are questioning proposed new rules on protests at Cooper Union and the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. In both cases, the institutions have in the past faced long-term protests. University officials say that the proposed rules allow for the orderly functioning of campuses, without diminishing the ability of students and others to express critical views. Critics say that the rules go too far.


December 11, 2013

Graduation rates among Division II athletes dropped by an unusually high three percentage points this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Tuesday, but officials say it’s likely due to a technical glitch. The Academic Success Rate – similar to Division I’s Graduation Success Rate, except that it includes non-scholarship athletes -- measures the number of players who graduate within six years or leave in good academic standing. The ASR for cohort entering college in 2006 is 69 percent this year, compared to 72 percent for the six-year cohort that enrolled in 2005.

The division's Federal Graduation Rate, which counts transfers and other departures as dropouts, held steady at 54 percent.

An NCAA researcher, Gregg Summers, said the “very rare” large ASR decline is probably a result of the new reporting system Division II programs used this year. Instead of entering data manually, student by student, the staff transferred the data en masse electronically, and probably let some errors pass through in the process, Summers said. Specifically, because the number of athletes in the tracking system fell short of the number counted in the ASR by about 10 percent, and because the number of students recorded as leaving while eligible was unusually low, officials suspect that many athletes who left their teams while eligible were incorrectly marked as dropouts. (Typically, about a quarter of Division II players leave their sport voluntarily at some point.) Also, after asking a couple institutions whose data seemed off to review their numbers to address this question, their ASRs improved.

Still, NCAA officials acknowledged they would like to see the rate go up. At January’s NCAA convention, Division II members will vote on a new academic rules package similar to one that NCAA President Mark Emmert pushed through Division I in October 2011, which Division II Director Maritza Jones said should help improve the ASR. (This year’s Division I GSR tied an all-time record of 82 percent.) Rates for individual colleges and sports can be viewed in the NCAA's searchable database.

December 11, 2013

Nearly 140 ineligible Southeastern Louisiana University athletes in all 16 sports were allowed to practice, compete and receive scholarships because of the institution’s failure to monitor its eligibility certification process, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Tuesday. The NCAA cited Southern Louisiana with a lack of control over its athletics department and issued penalties including a $25,000 fine, scholarship reductions and vacation of wins from 2005-9 for teams that played ineligible athletes. The mistake stemmed from a compliance coordinator’s misunderstanding of NCAA progress-toward-degree requirements and failure to verify those rules, the public infractions report says, and the subsequent failure of other staff to step in and correct the system.

December 11, 2013

More evidence that all that texting you see isn't about academics? Researchers at Kent State University tracked how much time students spend on their phones, and their grades. More use of phones is negatively related to grades, but positively related to anxiety. The research appears in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.


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