Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 26, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Emily Elliott of the University of Pittsburgh explores aging sewer systems and reveals the threat they pose to the environment. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

June 26, 2013

Colleges have special responsibilities to support young parents and pregnant students under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday. The letter is an update and expansion of previous guidance issued on the topic in 1991. The letter cites studies saying that only 2 percent of women who had a child before the age of 18 earned a degree by 30, and notes that Title IX prohibits discrimination of these students in any educational program, including extracurricular activities. OCR sent the letter -- along with a pamphlet of guidelines, strategies and best practices to support pregnant and parenting -- to all colleges.

June 26, 2013

Moody’s has downgraded the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s credit outlook to negative on account of a major lawsuit threatening the future finances of the NCAA, The Wall Street Journal reported. “Increased public discourse about the best interest of student-athletes combined with highly publicized litigation could destabilize the current intercollegiate athletic system and negatively impact the NCAA and its member universities," the Moody’s report said. The lawsuit in question is is currently awaiting class action certification. Led by former University of California at Los Angeles basketball player Ed O’Bannon, the lawsuit, which is currently awaiting class action certification, argues that current and former athletes are entitled to some of the revenue that universities, the NCAA and other parties make by promoting images of those students. An NCAA spokeswoman said she the association does not anticipate any "substantive issues" based on the Moody's report, as it is a long-term projection and the NCAA's financial rating did not change.

(Note: This headline and article have been updated from a previous version.)

June 25, 2013

Bard College, in New York, has entered into a partnership with Soochow University, in China, to include the establishment of the Bard College Liberal Arts Academy in Soochow University, an undergraduate degree program modeled on Bard’s curriculum. Students who complete the four-year undergraduate program, on Soochow’s campus, would receive bachelor's degrees from both institutions.

Internationally, Bard already awards dual degrees in cooperation with universities in Germany (ECLA of Bard), Kyrgyzstan (the American University of Central Asia), Russia (Smolny College), and the West Bank (Al-Quds University). 

June 25, 2013

By far the most significant higher education case out of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday was its affirmative action ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (see our coverage here). But universities were parties in two other decisions by the justices as well, and while the issues at play were not specific to higher education, the rulings have implications for colleges as well as other employers.

In both cases, the Supreme Court, divided 5 to 4, narrowly defined employees' rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In Vance v. Ball State University, the majority endorsed a restrictive definition of which kinds of managers count as "supervisors" for purposes of defining discrimination that automatically can be ascribed to the employer. The case involved a cafeteria worker who suffered abuse at the hands of a fellow worker whom she considered to be a supervisor.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the court adopted a stricter standard for retaliation claims than for other types of employment discrimination. The case involved a Middle Eastern physician who believed that he had been discriminated against by a Jewish supervisor and was then retaliated against for complaining about the alleged harassment.

Full analysis of the cases can be found at SCOTUSBlog.

June 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — As Congress begins preparing to eventually reauthorize the Higher Education Act, many suggestions have already been put forward for reorganizing and rethinking financial aid programs to better meet the needs of current students. The American Enterprise Institute joined the fray on Monday with several research papers on rethinking grants, loans and the student aid system as a whole to focus on college affordability.

The papers, which centered around a theme of "The Trillion-Dollar Question: Reinventing Student Financial Aid for the 21st Century," focused on a range of subjects — from "promise programs" that aim to help students plan and prepare for college to alternative approaches to student loans and repayment — but aimed to increase institutional accountability, as well as effectiveness for students. They included a look at the historical context for federal financial aid programs as well as the return on investment for federal student aid, and generally emphasized the importance of a research- and evidence-based approach as Congress reevaluates financial aid programs.

June 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati reveals how a volcanic eruption has increased our knowledge of everyday life among the Maya. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

June 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — With less than a week remaining until the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans is scheduled to double to 6.8 percent, President Obama will take borrowers' questions about student loans via text message, the White House announced Monday. Obama will pick one question to answer per day. 

June 24, 2013

The University of California at Berkeley is struggling to pay the bills on its newly renovated $321 million football stadium, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A major part of the plan was to sell premium seats, at $40,000 to $250,000 each for use for 40 to 50 years. The university's plan for paying off the debt on the stadium assumed that, by this month, the university would have sold 2,902 of the seats. In fact, the university has sold only 1,857 seats, and 16 purchasers have stopped payments and are giving up their seats.

June 24, 2013

FutureLearn, the British provider of massive open online courses, is planning to create "badges" that can be earned for each section of its MOOCs, Times Higher Education reported. This will make it easier for those who enroll to show that they have learned something even if they do not complete the course. Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open University, which created FutureLearn, said that it was "sad" when journalists talk about those who don't finish MOOCs as "dropouts." He said that these badges might change that. "As a vice-chancellor I get very annoyed when I see people who don’t complete [courses] described in negative terms. We’re trying to design FutureLearn pedagogy around a 'mini-MOOC' model, shorter in duration and broken down into bite-sized pieces," he said.

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