Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

The U.S. State Department has released a written statement on the issue of third-party study abroad providers operating credit-bearing educational programs in Cuba. In a written statement that confirms study abroad professionals’ prior understanding of the changing regulatory environment, the State Department indicated that “academic service providers” are now eligible to receive “specific” licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to offer for-credit educational programs in Cuba on behalf of accredited American undergraduate and graduate institutions. “The goal is to provide study-abroad options for students whose university or college does not have a stand-alone Cuba program but which is nevertheless prepared to grant course credit for formal study in Cuba,” the State Department said in its statement.

While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S. colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the third-party study abroad providers' applications for licenses to run such programs were stalled.  One such provider, Academic Programs International, announced it had finally received a license late last month.

The State Department indicated that all applications from academic service providers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It plans to issue new regulatory guidance on these issues in the Federal Register and the OFAC website in the coming months.

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Schwartz of Mount Holyoke College explores the historical events that inspired Victor Hugo to pen Les Misérables. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Most universities will face only minimal effects from the automatic budget cuts that went into effect at the beginning of the month, according to a report released Thursday by Moody's Investors Service. The report looked at the projected financial effect of the 5 percent cuts to domestic discretionary spending, known as sequestration, and found that only 1 percent of colleges and not-for-profits stood to lose more than 3 percent of their annual revenue as the result of the cuts.

Research universities were most likely to be hit hard by the cuts because federal funding for scientific research is one of the areas affected. While some financial aid programs -- particularly federal work-study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant -- will also be cut, the Pell Grant, bedrock of need-based financial aid programs, is safe for the 2013-14 academic year.

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 4:30am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday unveiled a new database on consumer complaints on various financial services and products, including student loans. “By sharing these complaints with the public, we are creating greater transparency in consumer financial products and services,” said a statement from Richard Cordray, director of the bureau. “The database is good for consumers and it is also good for honest businesses. We believe the marketplace of ideas can do great things with this data.”

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 4:37am

Journal publishers and others are investigating Benjamin A. Neil, a professor in the accounting department, for what some are calling plagiarism, The Baltimore Sun reported. A librarian who is a plagiarism watchdog notified Towson officials and others of what he saw as plagiarism, and the Sun did its own review, which it said "shows passages with identical language and others with close similarities to scholarly journals, news publications, congressional testimony, blogs and websites. In many cases, there was no attribution." Neil denied wrongdoing, saying "I don't think I've done anything wrong. The issue seems to be that I didn't put things in quotes. But I've given attribution to people."

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

At least 12 students were killed by a mortar strike at Damascus University on Thursday, The New York Times reported. Government and rebel forces blamed one another for the attack, which took place at an outdoor café close to the civil engineering building. Students were reportedly taking an exam inside the building at the time of the strike.

Thursday’s was the second major attack on Syrian university students this year. In January, more than 80 people were killed by explosions at Aleppo University.

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Greece's parliament on Thursday approved legislation that will lead to numerous mergers of programs at the nation's universities, the Associated Press reported. Government leaders argue that the law will allow for efficient use of funds (which are in short supply in the country) to promote quality programs. Students rallied against the law and police used tear gas on a protest outside of the parliament building.

 

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Brenda Scheer, dean of the University of Utah architecture school, resigned on Thursday, following an 11-year tenure and a recent period of controversy, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Scheer has been criticized for the resignation of Prescott Muir as architecture chair. Students and faculty members accused Scheer of forcing Muir out, prompting her to apologize and Muir to agree to continue in the role. But the criticism of Scheer continued.

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Federal authorities have charged 11 people in the Detroit area in four separate crime rings in which people applied for student loans for which they were not eligible, costing the government more than $1 million, The Detroit Free Press reported. The schemes generally involved distance education providers where students need not be physically present in class. Those applying for the loans lacked either a high school diploma or a GED and thus were not eligible.

 

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 4:24am

Towson University is disputing claims -- which have received considerable local media coverage -- by the White Student Union about plans for crime patrols on campus. The White Student Union is an unrecognized group, and the university is noting that one of its leaders who has been quoted isn't and never has been a Towson student. The group says that it is starting crime patrols on campus due to what it says is an increase in crime by black people against white people. The reports of the patrols have disturbed black leaders in the area.

On Wednesday, Towson released a statement from Deb Moriarty, vice president of student affairs, and Bernie Gerst, the chief of police, noting that crime rates are low on campus, and have been going down. Further, the statement said that statistics aren't tracked by race or gender but that there is "no evidence that people are victims of crime as a result of their race." As to the activities of the White Student Union, the statement said: "We will continue to work vigorously with students who feel threatened by the proposed activities of this group to ensure their safety and to help them find their voice to take back their power from those they feel are denigrating them. Immediate action will be taken in response to any reports of verified threats to the physical safety of individuals or groups within our community. In response to the establishment of the 'WSU crime patrols' at Towson University, we do not encourage the general public to take the law into their own hands, for both their personal safety and legal protection."

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