Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 6, 2014

President Obama, after his party's losses in Tuesday's Congressional elections, said Wednesday that he would seek to find agreement with Republicans on some higher education issues.

Obama said several times during a news conference at the White House that college affordability and student loans are issues on which he was ready to work with Republicans to find common ground during the last two years of his administration.

"We’ve got some common ideas to help more young people afford college and graduate without crippling debt, so that they have the freedom to fill the good jobs of tomorrow and buy their first homes and start a family," he said.

Voters in Tuesday's election, Obama said, sent a resounding message that they want policymakers to "get stuff done" in spite of partisan differences.

"Don't worry about party affiliation," was the message voters signaled to Washington, Obama said. "Do worry about our concerns."

"Do worry about the fact that I'm a young person who's qualified to go to college, but I'm really worried about taking $50,000 a year out in debt and I don't know how I'd pay that back," he continued.

Still, Obama suggested that his willingness to compromise came with some limits, saying broadly that "there's not going to be perfect overlap" between his and Republicans' ideas.

One area over which there will likely be little room for agreement is the role of for-profit colleges in higher education. The Obama administration last week released its final "gainful employment" rule, aimed at clamping down on abuses in the for-profit education industry.

James Kvaal, a top White House domestic policy adviser, on Wednesday brushed off concerns that the future of those regulations was threatened by a Republican-controlled Senate.

Asked about the possibility that a GOP lawmakers would repeal the rule, he said that there was a "very strong case" for the White House to make to Congress over why the rule is important.

"There are a lot of constituents who are affected directly by this rule, and I think there are a lot of constituents who understand the challenge of student loan debt broadly," he said during remarks at the Center for American Progress. "So I feel very good about the case that we can make to Congress that we're doing the right thing."


November 6, 2014

The National Collegiate Athletic Association doubted whether it had the authority to punish Pennsylvania State University over the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, according to internal emails recently made public as part of an ongoing court case.

In one email, the sanctions eventually imposed by the NCAA against Penn State were described as an attempt to "bluff" the college. “I characterized our approach to PSU as a bluff when talking to [NCAA president Mark Emmert] yesterday afternoon after the call," wrote Julie Roe, the NCAA's then-director of enforcement. "He basically agreed b/c I think he understands that if we make this an enforcement issue, we may win the immediate battle but lose the war when the COI (Committee on Infractions) has to rule. I think he is okay with that risk.”

In another email, Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president of academic and membership affairs, said that Penn State would accept the association's punishment because the university was "so embarrassed they will do anything." The NCAA eventually decided to vacate years of Penn State wins, suspend the university from participating in postseason games, and fine the institution $60 million. The historic punishment was criticized by some at the time as an overreach of the association's authority.

The NCAA ended Penn State's postseason ban in September, two years earlier than what the sanction had originally called for.

"Debate and thorough consideration is central in any organization, and that clearly is reflected in the selectively released emails," the NCAA said in a statement Wednesday. "The national office staff routinely provides information and counsel to the membership on tough issues. The NCAA carefully examined its authority and responsibility to act in response to the athletics department’s role detailed in the Freeh report. Ultimately, advised by all information gathered the Executive Committee determined to act and move forward with the Consent Decree."

University officials said that they found it "deeply disturbing that NCAA officials in leadership positions would consider bluffing one of their member institutions, Penn State, to accept sanctions outside of their normal investigative and enforcement process."

November 6, 2014

The University of Denver has released a report examining the role of John Evans (at right, from Wikipedia), its founder, in the 1864 massacre of members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes while Evans was governor of the Colorado territory. The report finds that Evans was culpable for the massacre, and proposes a number of steps the university should take (and that are being considered) to make this history clear and to honor the memories of those who were killed in what has come to be known as the Sand Creek Massacre. The report differs from a similar study produced last year for Northwestern University, the other institution Evans founded. That report, while critical of Evans for his failure to prevent the massacre or to discuss it honestly, stopped short of saying he was responsible for it.


November 6, 2014

Harvard University secretly photographed 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls last spring as part of a study of classroom attendance, The Boston Globe reported. With faculty and students criticizing the action as an invasion of student privacy, the university has pledged to study the issue.


November 6, 2014

Leaders of the University of California System, for the first time in four years, are proposing tuition increases, The Los Angeles Times reported. Officials say that increases of 5 percent a year are needed to provide more funds for a variety of goals, including increasing the number of California residents that the system's campuses admit. The proposal is expected to face skepticism from Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and students.


November 6, 2014

This month's edition of our Cartoon Caption Contest awaits you.

Click here to take your best shot at suggesting a caption that captures the slightly twisted drawing that Matthew Henry Hall has conjured up this month.

To choose your favorite from among the three finalists chosen by our judges for last month's cartoon, please click here.

And we're pleased to announce the winner of September's contest: Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. You can read more about his prize-winning caption here.

November 6, 2014

The Association of American Medical Colleges, along with 120 medical schools and teaching hospitals, has released a letter offering to work with state and federal officials to make sure that institutions and health-care professionals are trained to treat Ebola patients.



November 6, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Paul Arciero, a professor in Skidmore College’s health and exercise sciences department, discusses how the type of exercise you do might make all the difference. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 5, 2014

The founder and CEO of the now-defunct Tri-Valley University was sentenced to 16 years in prison for visa fraud and related charges, the Contra Costa Times reported. Susan Xiao-Ping Su, who was convicted earlier this year, was accused of running a fraudulent school that catered to foreign applicants seeking student visas. Employees of the California-based institution testified during the trial that Tri-Valley had no requirements for admission or graduation.

November 5, 2014

Faculty members at Dartmouth College voted, 116-13, Monday to ban the college's fraternities and sororities and to abolish the Greek system.

Similar votes have taken place before and had no effect, but the past year has been marked by increasing anti-Greek sentiment on campus. Responding to a poll in August, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni said they would like to see the college's Greek system abolished. Last week, more than 230 of Dartmouth's 588 faculty members signed an open letter urging the college to do away with the Greek system. Earlier this month, the college's student newspaper devoted an entire front page to an editorial calling for abolition. At the same time, joining fraternities and sororities is still a popular choice for many Dartmouth students. More than half of eligible Dartmouth students are involved in the Greek system.

While the college has solicited campus opinions on how to change the campus social scene and Phil Hanlon, Dartmouth's president, has spoken publicly about attempts to clean up Dartmouth's hard-partying and rowdy reputation, the administration has remained quiet about whether abolishing the Greek system would be part of a potential solution. Hanlon was silent during the faculty meeting Monday, wrote Joseph Asch, a Dartmouth graduate who once ran for a seat on the college's board of trustees.

"Not a word to counterbalance the cant and ire of an angry mob that had little time for debate yesterday, that called out angrily for an immediate vote on its motion to abolish Greek institutions that have been in place for generations," Asch wrote on his website the Dartblog. "Perhaps Phil is keeping his powder dry? Perhaps he is working behind the scenes to encourage moderation before the social engineers conduct surgery on a central aspect of Dartmouth?"

The college declined to comment Tuesday.


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