Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 2, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education failed to reach an agreement with Corinthian Colleges on how to sell or close its 107 campuses, the department said Wednesday. The two sides last month agreed to an initial plan, through which the feds released held financial aid payments to the cash-starved for-profit chain. Announcements of that deal said negotiators would finalize the phasing-out arrangements for Corinthian by July 1. The department said yesterday that the plan remained due by that date.

“While we did not reach an agreement yet with Corinthian officials, we are optimistic that further conversations with the company will produce an acceptable plan in the next few days that protects the interests of students and taxpayers,” said Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, in a written statement.

The company said in a statement it continues to work cooperatively with the department and that they expect to have an agreement completed in the next few days.

Mitchell told reporters Wednesday afternoon that there were “no immediate consequences” for missing the July 1 deadline.

“We extended the MOU under which we were operating with them,” he said. “We’re doing a day-by-day extension.”

(Note: this story has been updated to include additional remarks from Mitchell). 

July 2, 2014

The College Board has issued a statement on behalf of itself and the Educational Testing Service, apologizing for a T-shirt that was made and sold by high school and college teachers who gathered in June to grade Advancement Placement exams in world history. Those who grade the exams have a tradition of creating a T-shirt, but this year's version offended many Asian Americans who were at the event. The T-shirt plays off of the Chinese Communist revolution in ways that struck critics as offensive. (There was a question about it on the AP exam.)

Hyphen Magazine published images of the T-shirt.

"It is unacceptable that one of the AP Exam Readers created a T-shirt that mocked historical events that were the cause of great pain and suffering, and promulgated racist stereotypes that further marginalize a racial minority," said the College Board statement.

July 2, 2014

The Middle East Studies Association has written to U.S. and Israeli authorities protesting recent Israeli raids on several Palestinian university campuses. The letter states that Israeli authorities have been attacking nonviolent protest and seizing student property. The letter acknowledges that Israel has in recent weeks been searching for three kidnapped Israeli youth (who have since been found, murdered). But the association says that it believes that "collective punishment against educational institutions and their students are never acceptable and cannot be justified." Israeli authorities have said that their military actions in the West Bank in recent weeks had been to try to located the kidnapped youths or to gather intelligence about them.



July 2, 2014

A new law took effect in Idaho Tuesday allowing people to carry guns on campuses -- a measure opposed by many faculty leaders and others. In response, Idaho State University -- for the first time -- armed its public safety officers with semi-automatic pistols, Reuters reported.


July 2, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt, the Gregory R. Choppin Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University, discusses his work with atomic element number 98: californium. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


July 1, 2014

(Note: A spokeswoman for the Education Department said Tuesday morning that the deadline remains in place and that the plan is due today.)

The U.S. Department of Education apparently has revised its July 1 deadline to reach an agreement with Corinthian Colleges on a plan to sell or close the for-profit chain's 107 campuses and online programs.

Corinthian is facing a severe cash crisis, due in part to a freeze the department last month put on the company's federal aid payments. Then, on June 23, the feds and Corinthian announced a short-term deal, through which the company received $16 million in released payments in exchange for agreeing to work on a phasing-out plan. However, an announcement on the department's website about that preliminary agreement has now been edited, having dropped "no later than July 1" for the final plan's deadline.

"Corinthian is expected to submit details of the plan to the U.S. Department of Education," the statement now says, "and we will update this announcement with the details of the plan in the near future."

The new ambiguity about Corinthian's fate is certain to draw criticism from consumer advocates, California's attorney general and a dozen Democratic U.S. senators, who have called for a halt to the company's recruitment and enrollment of new students. The department, however, has said it is seeking to minimize disruption to Corinthian's 72,000 students. The for-profit said it would struggle to find buyers if new enrollments are suspended. In addition, the federal government could lose as much as $1.2 billion on students' discharged loans if Corinthian shuts down.

The company also announced on Monday that its creditors had freed up an additional $9 million in funding. The banks had held that money after the department froze its payments.

Corinthian owns the Heald College, Everest and WyoTech chains. Experts have said that Heald, which holds regional accreditation, is likely the most valuable to a potential buyer. In a corporate filing Monday the company said its board had voted to sell Heald. The chain enrolls about 13,000 students at its 12 campuses, which are located in California and in other Western states.

July 1, 2014

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will reopen a 2011 investigation into academic misconduct at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the university announced Monday.

The original investigation concluded that the university had not violated any NCAA rules when it allowed no-show classes in African and Afro-American Studies to count toward students' athletic eligibility.

At the time, it was determined that -- as other students also took the courses -- there was no indication that athletes received more favorable treatment than non-athletes. No evidence was found that the students received grades without submitting some work even if the classes did not meet, the university said in 2012.

In December, Julius Nyang'oro, a former chair and professor of African studies at UNC, was indicted on a felony charge of accepting $12,000 for a course he did not actually teach. Earlier this month, Nyang'oro, who had not previously commented on the allegations, said he would now cooperate with an investigation, his lawyer told The News & Observer of Raleigh. An Orange County district attorney said last week that he was now considering dropping the fraud charges against Nyang'oro.

"The NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff," Bubba Cunningham, UNC's athletic director, said in a statement.

July 1, 2014

Apple will this month continue the gradual expansion of its course management system, iTunes U. In an update expected to roll out around July 8, the company will finally add discussion forums, enabling students and instructors to discuss the course without leaving the app. Instructors will also be able to build courses directly on their iPads without having to use a computer. 

July 1, 2014

"Hiring Trends in Higher Education" is a compilation of articles and essays on the challenges and strategies of colleges in hiring the best talent, for faculty and administrator positions. Download the news and opinion articles -- collected in a print-on-demand booklet -- here.

This booklet is part of a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, editors of Inside Higher Ed, will lead a free webinar on the themes of the new booklet on Thursday, July 31 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Sign up here.


July 1, 2014

Public higher education unions dodged a bullet Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a group of home health care workers who mainly take care of their own family members in Illinois don’t have to pay union dues if they don’t want to. Plaintiffs in the case, Harris v. Quinn, sought the larger goal of ending exclusive representation and mandatory union dues for public employees generally, but Justice Samuel Alito in reading the opinion of the court said that the ruling applied only to this special class of “partial-public employees.” (The court, in a five-four vote, said that requiring these loosely affiliated state employees to pay union dues when they didn’t want to was a violation of their First Amendment rights.) Alito indicated, however, that the longstanding precedents in favor of mandatory union agency fees for public employees were based on “questionable foundations” – which many observers took to mean that the court would be open to revisiting the broader issue of open union shops at some point in the future.

William Herbert, executive director of the Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining and Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said a decision that overturned the closed shop concept in the public sector more broadly would have “destabilized” labor relations and collective bargaining nationwide.  But, based on Monday’s ruling, faculty collective bargaining is not immediately affected, he said. Advocates of agency fees -- which are required in 26 states, including Illinois -- say that they protect unions from "freeloaders" who would benefit from but not contribute to their cause, and keep the unions on sound financial footing.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that while the court “upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let’s be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today’s decision makes it worse.”


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