Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2013

The University of North Carolina’s public television network is defending its appointment of the controversial author Orson Scott Card to its Board of Trustees.

UNC-TV released a statement clarifying that the Board of Trustees is not involved in the editorial process after backlash from Card’s appointment. Card received national attention over political writings published in Greensboro’s Rhinoceros Times, where he compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, WRAL reported. Card, author of the award-winning books Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, is also vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage and “Leftaliban” in higher education and the news media.

“There have always been board members with a variety of opinions and backgrounds on the UNC-TV Board of Trustees, and the membership of the board is always changing," UNC-TV's statement said. "What has not changed is UNC-TV’s commitment to its mission of providing excellent public television programming for all the citizens of North Carolina."

September 11, 2013

Converse College, a South Carolina college with about 700 undergraduate students, joined the club Tuesday of 10 or so other institutions that have "reset" their tuition rates. The college said it would reduce its tuition by about 43 percent to $16,500 for students in fall 2014. The college said the new sticker price is actually close to the average cost students pay anyway. Colleges generally list higher rates than they charge most students.

September 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico explains how electronically bugging a tropical forest can provide insight about the native species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 11, 2013

Cash payments for good plays, sham and no-show jobs, and regular financial support from boosters regardless of on-field performance – in one player’s case, in excess of $25,000 – were rampant throughout the Oklahoma State University football program from 2001 to at least 2011, the first installment of a five-part Sports Illustrated expose on the team alleges. Part one, which focuses on money changing hands between boosters, coaches and athletes, was published Tuesday. Multiple former players said that 15 to 20 or so athletes received money under the table each year, some directly from football staff members and assistant coaches, with payments ranging from between $100 and $500 for an exceptional play, to thousands per week for little to no work. Many other former athletes and some staff blasted the report online, questioning the sources’ credibility and claiming the assertions were untrue. Oklahoma State President Burns Haggis said in a statement to SI that that officials “will investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action.”

The rest of the series will be published through Monday and focuses on academic fraud and misconduct, drug use and dealing, sex as a recruiting tool, and the fallout for Oklahoma State athletes.
 

September 11, 2013

Enrollment is down 18 percent this fall at Midway College, a private institution in Kentucky, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. As a result, the college is eliminating the positions of about a dozen of its 54 faculty members, and ending all employer contributions to retirement accounts. "As an institution that is so heavily dependent on tuition revenue, cuts have to be made," said John Marsden, the president,  in a news release. "After exhausting all other options, some faculty contracts will be eliminated from this fiscal year in order to balance the budget."

September 11, 2013

Investment in 529 college savings and prepaid tuition plans reached a record level in the first six months of 2013, according to a midyear report released Tuesday by the College Savings Plan Network.

Total investment in 529 plans reached $205 billion and the number of open 529 accounts increased to 11.43 million as of June 30, 2013, up from 10.74 million in December 2011.

“As families reach a crossroad about the value of higher education, our mid-year report finds that they have continued their commitment to save for and invest in college education,” Hon. Michael L. Fitzgerald, Chair of the College Savings Plans Network and State Treasurer of Iowa, said in the report. “The steady increase of total assets, account size and contributions in 529 plans are positive signs that Americans recognize saving for college as a long-term commitment and investment. Fostering this mid-year success, if the government undertakes the new initiative to slow tuition increases, then families’ hard earned 529 savings will go further to cover more college costs.”

 529 plans are offered in 49 states and the District of Columbia. 

September 10, 2013

Officials at U.S. News & World Report have warned that some methodology changes this year might lead to more movement on the rankings -- announced this morning -- than is the norm. That may well be the case, but the top three national universities and liberal arts colleges will be quite familiar to those who have tracked the rankings in the past. And the top 10 lists look pretty familiar, too.

One statistic Inside Higher Ed has tracked is the participation rate of those who participate in the controversial "reputational" portion of the rankings, in which presidents and others evaluate other colleges -- a system many believe leads to high rankings for colleges that have been historically strong and well known. This year, the participation rate of presidents over all dropped two points, to 42 percent. At liberal arts colleges (a sector that has been particularly critical of the rankings) the numbers are stable at 47 percent. U.S. News continues to be unable to get a high participation rate from its survey of high school counselors. Only 11 percent participated this year, the same as last year.

I will add link to rankings and full methodology when they go live in a.m. -sj

September 10, 2013

Spain's university students increasingly face higher fees at the same time as their institutions cut budgets. Seeking to help, some deans have talked about creating an "adopt a student" program in which civic minded individuals would "adopt a student" and pay for his or her tuition, The Local reported. Some students like the idea. But others are opposed. Ana García, secretary general of Spain's Union of Students, said that such a program would make higher education "a form of charity rather than a right."

 

September 10, 2013

Johns Hopkins University on Monday asked a faculty member to remove a blog post, citing national security issues, and then several hours later said that he could restore the post, and that no national security issues were raised. The post was about the National Security Agency privacy debates and encryption engineering. The removal and restoration of the blog post were discussed on the Twitter feed of the faculty member, Matthew Green, and also in an article in ProPublica. The article noted ties between Hopkins and the NSA.

In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, a Hopkins spokesman, Dennis O'Shea, said the following: "The university received information this morning that Matthew Green’s blog contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo. For that reason, we asked Professor Green to remove the Johns Hopkins-hosted mirror site for his blog. Upon further review, we note that the NSA logo has been removed and that he appears to link to material that has been published in the news media. Interim Dean Andrew Douglas has informed Professor Green that the mirror site may be restored."

O'Shea said that "we did not receive any inquiry from the federal government about the blog or any request from the government to take down the mirror site." He said it was not yet clear how Hopkins was informed of Green's blog post.

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said via e-mail that he had doubts about the explanation from Hopkins. He said when a professor is told to remove a blog post that criticizes a government agency with which a university works, one should question why such a request was made. Further, he said that the university owes the public an explanation of how it became concerned. "The university also says that it doesn't know who originally raised the concerns. Really? Why not ask the dean? He would know, right?"

 

 

September 10, 2013

Nearly 100 graduate assistants at the University of Florida were not paid on time on Friday, The Gainesville Sun reported. Administrators blamed the problems on issues associated with the start of the academic year and promised that emergency checks would soon be provided to the students. But grad student leaders said that the university could have avoided the problem and wasn't moving quickly enough to help the students.

 

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