Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Maryland authorities who have charged a 21-year-old Morgan State University student with killing a man have reported an unusual confession by the student: He said that he ate parts of the victim's brain and heart, The Baltimore Sun reported. Alexander Kinyua, the student, was "disenrolled" in January from Morgan State's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program following a disciplinary incident.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Education Policy Center, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, evaluates many think tank reports on education policy. The center also issues "Bunkum Awards" for education studies it finds "worthless and mundane," and this year's top "winner" is the Progressive Policy Institute for a study of charter schools. (A spokesman for the institute said that it stands behind its research.) Other entities "honored" by the center include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the New America Foundation and Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The College Board is being criticized by admissions officers and others over a pilot program that will test an August administration of the SAT this summer -- but only for participants in a program for gifted and talented students with a $4,500 price tag. So critics are deriding the program as a "rich kids SAT." Many students have requested an opportunity to take the SAT in August, when they might not be dealing with schoolwork, so the complaint isn't about trying out the idea, but doing so in only one setting. A statement from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (a frequent critic of the College Board) notes questions raised by a private college counselor in a letter to College Board officials: "Why is a summer test being made available only to kids whose parents can pay close to $5000 in tuition and fees? Do not College Board annual reports already demonstrate that students from the highest socio-economic backgrounds significantly out-score other demographic groups on the SAT? Why are other students who are preparing for the SAT over the summer also not allowed to take an August test?  How does the College Board justify making all these students wait until October?"

Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT Program, issued this statement: "This program was announced publicly nearly two months ago. In response to the many requests from students, parents, and educators to consider a summer SAT administration, the College Board will be conducting a pilot SAT administration in August 2012 to begin evaluating the feasibility of a summer test administration. Because of the obvious differences in the logistics of testing in the summer due to school and faculty schedules, a pilot program such as this is the only sound way to work through any potential operational challenges before considering an expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites.  This year's pilot is being conducted in collaboration with the not-for-profit National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT).  If successful, we will examine the expansion of the scope of the summer SAT administration to additional locations in the near future."


Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley has asked the National Institutes of Health to explain why it has provided a new grant to a researcher who was barred from receiving federal funds several years ago in a conflict of interest controversy. In a letter to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, Grassley questioned a $400,000 grant awarded to Charles Nemeroff, who resigned from Emory University in 2008 amid an investigation into his failure to report fees received from a pharmaceutical company in violation of institutional rules.

"It’s troubling that NIH continues to provide limited federal dollars to individuals who have previously had grant funding suspended for failure to disclose conflicts of interest and even more troubling that the Administration chose not to require full, open and, public disclosure of financial interests on a public website,” Grassley wrote in the letter, which he copied to Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, which hired Nemeroff in 2009.

Grassley was critical of the Obama administration last year for revising its conflict of interest rules in ways that some ethics experts thought were not strong enough.


Friday, June 1, 2012 - 4:21am

Some at the University of California at Los Angeles are questioning why Justin Combs is receiving a full-ride athletic scholarship, The Los Angeles Times reported. The questions don't relate to his academic or athletic qualifications, but to his wealth. Combs is the son of Sean (Diddy) Combs, who has so much money that he gave his son a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. UCLA officials stress that funds for athletic scholarships are financed separately from the budget for need-based awards. Justin Combs used Twitter this week to defend the scholarship, writing: "Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!!"


Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 4:27am

Dozens of law professors have signed a joint letter to President Obama urging him to take steps to help college students who lack the legal documentation to permanently reside in the United States. President Obama has backed proposed legislation that would create a path to citizenship for such students, but the letter argued that the administration has "clear executive authority for several forms of administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries: deferred action, parole–in–place, and deferred enforced departure." Through these means, the administration could remove the fear many of these students (many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and who have few ties in their original countries) of being deported, the letter says.


Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Michael Bunce of Murdoch University explains his work using DNA testing to identify the non-declared contents of some traditional Chinese medicines. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Only in this town would the move of a group of policy analysts from one think tank to another be big news. But the departure of Education Sector's four-person higher education policy team for the New America Foundation, announced Wednesday, is noteworthy.

The changeover is significant to some extent because it comes in the wake of drama involving turnover and turmoil at Education Sector; its most recent executive director, Richard Colvin, left last month barely a year after being named, and the interim executive director who replaced him, John Chubb, was on the education advisory team for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign until he quit a few days ago.

Several people at Education Sector were unhappy with what they saw as an unwelcome shift into politicization at the historically nonpartisan policy organization, and the group's departure leaves Education Sector without higher education expertise, although a spokeswoman said that would soon be remedied.

But the move by the Education Sector émigrés -- Kevin Carey, who will head New America's education policy team, Amy Laitinen, Stephen Burd and Rachel Fishman -- gives New America a deep bench of higher education policy analysts. They will join, among others, Jason Delisle, an expert on student loans and federal education finances, who noted that there has been significant overlap between the two organizations over time. (Burd formerly worked at New America, and is not the only education policy analyst to have moved from one to the other previously.) "When Kevin and his team were looking to make a move, we were a natural choice," Delisle said.

Carey said via e-mail that he had "been in the same position as policy director at Ed Sector for going on seven years and this felt like the right time to step up into a broader leadership role." He added: "New America is a great organization with a lot of complementary strengths so it feels like a really good fit."

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 3:00am

About 900 colleges nationwide have agreements with banks or financial services companies for debit or prepaid cards for financial aid disbursement, student identification cards and other services, despite concerns and occasional controversy about fees on those cards, according to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's Education Fund. Despite inroads from banks and other companies offering prepaid debit cards, Higher One still dominates the market, with agreements on more than 500 campuses.

Prepaid debit cards can come with high fees, including a 50-cent "per swipe" fee for Higher One cards if they are used with a personal identification number (as a debit card) rather than a signature (as a credit card). The report calls on colleges to negotiate agreements with lower fees and to provide students with a range of options, including checks and bank deposits, for financial aid disbursements.

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 3:00am

The California Senate on Wednesday passed two bills that would require the state to create free, online textbooks through open source materials for the top 50 courses taught in the state, the Associated Press reported. Senator Darrell Steinberg, the sponsor of the bill, said it would protect students from the "exorbitant" prices charged by some publishers. The American Publishers Association is opposing the legislation, which now moves to the Assembly.



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