Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 9, 2014

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system to several Republican lawmakers, who criticized the plan. Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department’s budget, Duncan said that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department’s 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system.

 “I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars and whether higher education resources could be better-focused on federal student aid or other established programs,” said Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, a Republican.

Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, cited a December poll that found a majority of college presidents doubted the administration’s proposal would be effective in making college more affordable.

Duncan reiterated that the administration’s goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. “Taxpayers spend 150 billion each year in grants and loans,” he said. “Virtually all of that is based on inputs. Almost none of that is based on outcomes.” Department officials have previously said they plan to produce a draft outline of the ratings system by the end of this spring.

Separately, Duncan also sidestepped a question about whether college athletes should have the right to unionize. Echoing the remarks he made in an interview last month prior to a preliminary ruling in favor of Northwestern football players, Duncan said Tuesday he was concerned that athletic coaches’ salaries do not provide the proper incentives for academic performance. 

April 9, 2014
A new survey has found that male students outperformed their female counterparts on financial literacy aptitude questions but reported behavior that was less financially responsible overall.  The results of the survey of 65,000 first-year students at four-year institutions were released in a report on Tuesday. The report, which was funded by Ever Fi and Higher One, calls for more robust financial literacy education programs. 
April 9, 2014

South Carolina officials have determined that South Carolina State University diverted $6.5 million in funds intended for low-income families to deal with cash flow issues, The State reported. A state report characterized the shift in funds not as fraud but as "a pattern of mismanagement." The university issued a statement asserting that it had changed its policies so this diversion of funds would not continue.

April 9, 2014

Bruce Leslie, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges, has called off plans to replace a humanities core curriculum course with a new course based on the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Many faculty members have objected to the chancellor's plan to add the course. The San Antonio Express-News reported that Leslie notified faculty members in the community college system of his decision Tuesday. "The controversy and divisiveness surrounding this issue have simply outweighed the necessity to push ahead at this time," he said.

 

April 8, 2014

The Project on Fair Representation, the legal team that has brought many legal challenges to the consideration of race, is looking for new plaintiffs. On Monday, the project announced that it has created three websites to invite people to indicate that they feel they have been the victims of discrimination in admissions. The sites seek plaintiffs against Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Officials with the project have in the past said that affirmative action hurts Asian applicants, an argument that appears related to the photos on the home page of each website.

April 8, 2014

Harvard University plans to sign the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment framework. The move does not force the university to take a specific action, like avoiding certain stocks or divesting from fossil fuel producers, which the university has declined to do, but obliges it to consider environmental, social and governance records to the extent they affect investments. A Harvard spokesman said the university will integrate “energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource scarcity, and social issues such as health and safety and employee productivity into investment analysis.” Harvard President Drew Faust also announced Monday the university will do more to confront climate change by supporting climate change research and continuing to cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by the campus.

April 8, 2014

Frances Chan, a junior at Yale University, says that she was ordered by health officials to gain weight or to risk being asked to leave, The New Haven Register reported. Chan is 5'2" and weighs 92 pounds. She says that Yale officials feared she had an eating disorder when she really just has always been thin. She ate junk food and ice cream to try to gain weight, but with little success. Yale officials said that they could not discuss her case because of federal privacy requirements.

April 8, 2014

A newly formed coalition of 20 states is trying to create joint data standards and data sharing agreements for non-degree credentials, like industry certifications. While demand is high for these credentials, data is scarce on whether students are able to meet industry-specified competencies. The Workforce Credentials Coalition, which held its first meeting at the New America Foundation on Monday, wants to change that by developing a unified data framework between colleges and employers. Community college systems in California and North Carolina are leading the work.

Also this week, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a new report that describes states and schools that have worked to broker data-sharing agreements with certification bodies and licensing agencies. The goal of those efforts is to improve non-degree programs and to reduce confusion about the different types of credentials.

April 8, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Hans Meltofte, senior scientist at Denmark's Aarhus University, describes the negative impact of climate change in the Arctic as "already visible" and details the serious ecological consequences that are resulting. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 8, 2014

A report commissioned by the Texas Legislature has found grounds to impeach Wallace Hall, a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents, The Texas Tribune reported. Among the possible reasons cited for impeachment include alleged use of confidential information in inappropriate ways and "unreasonable and burdensome requests" for information by system officials. Hall, who did not respond to requests for comment but who has defended himself previously, is an ally of Governor Rick Perry, a Republican. Hall is among the regents who have been highly critical of Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin, despite the strong support Powers has from faculty members, students and alumni leaders.

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