Higher Education Quick Takes
A survey of admissions officers by Kaplan Test Prep has found that they are increasingly likely to find on social media material that may hurt some applicants' chances of admission. Only a minority of admissions officers say that they consult Google or Facebook on applicants. But the percentage of admissions officers who reported that something they found there had negatively affected an applicant's chances of admission increased in the last year from 12 percent to 35 percent. Some of the material that the admissions officers found: essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photographs and "illegal activities."
An update to the student loan system that revealed some borrowers' personal information to other borrowers was inadvertent and did not disclose borrowers' birth dates or Social Security numbers, the Education Department said Thursday. A glitch in a new feature allowing students to download their student loan information gave students access to other borrowers' information instead, the department said, but the problem involved only "a small number' of borrowers (two borrowers reported the problem to the department) and was fixed "within hours."
The affected borrowers had access to others' addresses and loan amounts. "While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, we have no reason to believe that any fraudulent activity resulted from this error," department spokesman Justin Hamilton said in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed.
Private colleges increased their tuition by an average of 3.9 percent in 2012-13, the smallest rise in four decades, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities announced Thursday. The association said its survey, which included responses from 445 of its 960 members, also found that the average institution's financial aid budget rose by 6.2 percent. The data come at a time of heightened pressure from politicians and the public for colleges to keep their charges within reach of students and families.
The State Higher Education Executive Officers, in an open letter Thursday, laid out a suggested agenda for the next presidential administration (whether President Obama or Mitt Romney) in keeping with many of higher education's requests. The next administration, wrote Paul Lingenfelter, the group's president, should stay focused on increasing the number of Americans with college degrees and keeping college affordable, supporting research while making it more efficient, and facilitate cooperation between higher education and elementary and secondary education. The letter also highlighted the role state funding cuts have played in tuition growth, but didn't suggest that the federal government should do anything (such as maintenance-of-effort provisions in legislation) to reverse the trend.
Ontario Wooden, a dean at North Carolina Central University, has been arrested and charged with assaulting a colleague, The Durham Herald-Sun reported. The arrest warrant for Wooden said that he "unlawfully and willfully" assaulted a woman (an unnamed employee at the university) "by grabbing her forearm and shoving her against a cabinet, causing scratches and bruises on the forearm and upper left shoulder." The dean was released on bond, and the university declined to comment on the arrest.
Controversial research on hydraulic fracking has ended at Pennsylvania State University, Bloomberg reported. Many have criticized the research because of its support by a pro-fracking research group, and questions about whether there was sufficient disclosure of that tie. The faculty member who did the original research has left the university, and now there is not any faculty member willing to do the research, so the group cannot continue to fund the project at the university.
A new feature for student borrowers on the Education Department's National Student Loan Data System might have revealed personal data about borrowers, mimicking another data breach a year ago. The system, a clearinghouse for borrowers and institutions to get information about student loans, recently added a way for borrowers to download all of their data with one click. But some borrowers, when they tried, got information for other borrowers instead, according to financial aid listservs. A similar error happened last year, affecting about 5,000 borrowers: people who logged in to the system saw information for other borrowers instead of their own.
The Education Department was unable to immediately provide any more information about the alleged glitch on Wednesday.
In the first presidential debate, held at the University of Denver on Wednesday night, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he wouldn't cut federal spending on education, and that he expects spending on the Pell Grant to continue to grow. While the 90-minute debate was peppered with references to education, including higher education, Romney's remarks were the only new policy statements on how the next administration (of either party) might deal with colleges and universities.
But given Romney's support for tough domestic spending cuts, and a consensus even among supporters of the Pell Grant that the program's growth must be contained, the statement was something of a surprise. Obama argued that his challenger's math didn't add up — that Romney couldn't cut both taxes and the deficit and also protect his budget priorities.
Community colleges also got some airtime during the debate, as President Obama praised them as a source for job training programs and Romney vowed to streamline those programs. But the two candidates largely stuck to older campaign themes on higher education issues, including Obama citing ending bank-based student loan program as an accomplishment of his administration.
Most articles retracted by medical journals are withdrawn because of misconduct, not research error, and the proportion of articles retracted because of fraud -- while still comparatively small -- has increased 10 times since 1975, says a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.