Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 13, 2013

About 2,500 applicants to Fordham University were incorrectly told this week that they had been admitted, when in reality 500 of them had been rejected and another 2,000 had been deferred, The New York Times reported. The notification came with information about financial aid notices and arrived two days before the applicants had expected to hear from the university. The emails came from Student Aid Services, a contractor working with the university. Both the company and the university have apologized and said that they are trying to figure out what happened.

 

December 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Bazbek Davletov of the University of Sheffield explains why Botox could be the next great pain medication. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 13, 2013

Late Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education released further revisions to its proposed gainful employment regulations, which would impose standards on vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The new proposal dropped a loan repayment rate threshold that was added earlier in the negotiated rulemaking process, which is scheduled to conclude today.

The Education Department also released an analysis of how institutions would fare under the rules. Individual colleges were not named. The data showed that 13 percent of programs would fail under the standards. That number is more than double the amount that would have failed under the 2011 attempt to set gainful employment regulations.

December 13, 2013

Research universities are using a wide range of tools to assess and improve undergraduate education, and they are adding methods for assessment and improvement, according to a survey released Thursday by the Association of American Universities. Institutions are mixing the use of quantitative data (such as graduation rates) with student surveys and other tools.

December 13, 2013

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and a major force in global science, on Thursday voted to admit Israel as the first non-European full member nation, and as the first nation added since 1999. At a time that some academics in the United States and Europe are pushing to isolate Israel, the move by CERN was hailed by officials in Israel as a reflection of the strength of the country's scientific enterprise. Israel has been an associate member of CERN, a status countries must maintain for two years prior to consideration for full membership.

December 13, 2013

The University of Texas Board of Regents -- after long hours behind closed doors Thursday to discuss the performance of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin -- decided to keep him on, The Dallas Morning News reported. Powers is popular with students and faculty members, but he has clashed with board members who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT system, said after the meeting that relations between Powers and the board have become "strained," but that Powers was working to improve them.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and civic leaders who have backed Powers, issued this statement late Thursday: “Bill Powers is an outstanding higher education leader for Texas and for the country. That his job was ever in question is a sad indictment of the current state of affairs in Texas, in which the undue influence of the governor’s office trumps common sense and good governance. It is our hope that moving forward all of the Board of Regents will support President Powers and focus on strengthening the entire system for the benefit of all Texans, without some of the board members disrupting the flagship."

Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University is facing its own controversy. The board is scheduled to vote Saturday on an interim president for the flagship campus. Chancellor John Sharp has reportedly nominated Mark Hussey, the system's vice chancellor and A&M's dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, for the position, and Hussey has faculty support, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. But Governor Perry is reportedly pressing regents (all of whom he has appointed) to instead pick Guy Diedrich, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, and a friend of Perry's.

 

December 12, 2013

The president of the University of Michigan plans to go ahead with a controversial cost-cutting program, despite faculty objections. University officials had planned to move 275 staffers from across campus into a single building on the edge of Ann Arbor to save money. Faculty objections have already delayed staff moves beyond April.

Several hundred faculty voted Monday to back a longer delay, but President Mary Sue Coleman made clear on Wednesday her so-called "shared services" plan might be delayed but it cannot be stopped. “The Administrative Services Transformation — our efforts to accomplish routine business functions in a more efficient way — must and will continue,” Coleman said in a statement. “The question for me is not whether the university will mount a shared services program, but how to do so in a way that best meets the needs of the Michigan community.”

The faculty vote on Monday also admonished the administration for spending “tens of millions” on outside consultants. Faculty, in effect, said Michigan faculty and administrators should be experienced enough to run the institution without such paid help.

University officials initially hoped to save $17 million from the plan, but now that figure is down to as little as $2 million in the first year and $5 to $6 million per year in the near term after that. Some of that savings is offset by new costs, including $4 million to fix up the building staff are supposed to be moving to, $1 million a year to lease the building and nearly $12 million for Accenture to work on cost-saving efforts.

December 12, 2013

High school guidance counselors were trading emails and posting comments on listservs Wednesday about unexpected packages from the College Board containing stickers showing a cow. Many wondered why they were receiving the packages -- some were annoyed at the cost and apparent effort to promote College Board services. Others thought the College Board was showing a sense of humor. The source of the stickers? On the last PSAT, there was a question involving a cow that led to much social media discussion after the test.

 

December 12, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Candi Cann of Baylor University reveals the rising popularity of alternative memorials to the dead. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 12, 2013

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University late Wednesday announced that eligible graduate teaching assistants had voted overwhelmingly this week to form a union. GSOC, part of the United Auto Workers, reached a deal with NYU last month in which an election could go forward and the university would halt legal efforts to block an election, and would recognize the results of the vote. The move will make NYU the only private university with unionized teaching assistants. A pro-union outcome had been widely expected. The election was supervised by the American Arbitration Association.

NYU released a statement this morning saying: "We were glad to come to a joint agreement with the UAW on going forward with a prompt election and maintaining neutrality during the voting.  We congratulate the graduate students and the UAW on the vote.  The university will now enter what we expect to be productive negotiations with the union."
 

 

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