Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2013

Students at two Caribbean medical schools operated by DeVry, a for-profit education company, are amassing federal student loan debt -- $310 million in the year ending June 2012 -- despite the fact that the institutions are not accredited by the agency that accredits medical schools in the U.S., according to an article in Bloomberg. The article focuses on medical programs at American University of the Caribbean and Ross University, which enroll hundreds of students rejected by U.S. medical schools and which have higher debt and attrition rates and lower residency placement rates than American medical schools. The article also looks at DVry’s “pay-for-play” system in which it pays U.S. hospitals to provide its students with clinical training in their third and fourth years, with one result being the loss of clinical training spots for students enrolled at U.S. medical schools.

September 11, 2013

India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development announced on Tuesday that it is advancing a proposal to permit foreign universities to open campuses under the Companies Act. The ministry's proposal to allow foreign universities to register as companies appears to represent an attempt to bypass Parliamentary approval of the long-stalled foreign universities bill, which faces stiff political opposition. 

Under the proposed rules, foreign institutions wishing to set up campuses would have to be non-profit, accredited, and listed among the top 400 institutions in one of three major world university rankings. Each institution would have to maintain a corpus fund of at least 250,000,000 rupees, or almost $4 million.

At this point, Kevin Kinser, chair of the educational administration and policy studies department at the State University of New York at Albany, is skeptical that the proposal will become policy. “We’ve been down this road before,” said Kinser, who studies branch campuses. "There are announcements they are going to develop these policies to allow foreign universities to enter, but we haven’t really seen it come to fruition. I’m not going to be out there buying land or negotiating arrangements until something more concrete comes forward.”  

“There are a lot of political interests involved in this,” Kinser added, “and it’s not entirely clear where the actual support comes from for moving in this direction, and whether that support has the political ability to withstand the resistance.”

September 11, 2013

Michigan State University should not have removed a professor from classroom teaching based on a video showing him making anti-Republican statements, the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors says in a statement released Tuesday. Video of William Penn making comments about Republicans led the university to remove him from the classroom. The AAUP statement says that the association "affirms the importance of mutual respect in faculty-student interactions," and the statement does not rule out the possibility that Penn's conduct was inappropriate. But the AAUP says that "a video, however apparently conclusive as evidence of offensive statements or disrespect to students, is not an adequate basis for immediate punitive action against a professor."

The statement continues: "A professor may well experiment with modes of presentation meant to shock. We are not prepared to agree that no professor may do that in the exercise of judgment about means of engaging students. We do not believe that what we know from the release of the video is sufficient as a basis to conclude that Professor Penn should not continue to receive the protections afforded by academic freedom. Indeed, we are concerned by the suggestion that one ten-minute video taken by a student of a professor in a class can be the basis for abbreviating the process leading to suspension of the professor from teaching responsibilities. The harm of a professor's controversial approach to stimulating students’ response, expressing his own take on one 'identity,' is minor compared with the chill on the classroom that arises from a rush to judgment in which there has not been an open fact-finding process or deliberation by a faculty body."


September 11, 2013

Learning management system provider Desire2Learn is putting its $80 million in venture capital funding to use, acquiring its third startup in less than a year. This week, the company announced it has acquired the adaptive learning company Knowillage, which produces LeaP, a system that can index an institution's academic materials. If a student is struggling with a particular topic, LeaP can suggest content that allows the student to attack the topic from a different angle.

Desire2Learn will integrate the technology into its learning system.

"With this system, the teacher will be able ... to ensure that everybody can have access to a tool that continually increases their competency in any given course, in any given concept," said Jeff McDowell, Desire2Learn vice president of marketing and business development.

Desire2Learn previously acquired Wiggio, which creates group management software, and Degree Compass, an analytics tool. McDowell described the acquisitions as "tuck-ins," and said Desire2Learn does not have any future acquisitions "in the hopper."

September 11, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department’s attempts to regulate colleges and universities over the past several years provide good protections for students and taxpayers, the department’s independent investigatory arm has concluded.    

The report by the department’s inspector general was released on the second day of a negotiated rule-making hearing aimed at rewriting the department’s controversial gainful employment regulations. It finds that some type of gainful employment metrics are needed to hold colleges accountable and to protect taxpayer money. The report also applauds the department’s efforts to define a credit hour and require institutions of higher education to be authorized by the state in which they operate.

The inspector general’s office relied on its previous audits and investigations to produce the analysis. It did not appear to evaluate the impact of the regulations or weigh alternative rule proposals.

Representative George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, sought the study from the Education Department’s inspector general in response to legislation being pushed by House Republicans to repeal those regulations and prohibit the Obama administration from enacting new ones. The proposal cleared the Republican-led House education committee in July on a mostly party-line vote, with one Democrat supporting the measure. 

September 11, 2013

Cornell University announced a $100 million gift to its medical college Tuesday. The donors -- for whom the medical school is already named -- are Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The Weills have now given $600 million to the university.


September 11, 2013

Researchers are tapping into data on students to nudge students through college, according to a report released Tuesday by Education Sector.

Technology-driven behavioral nudges range from providing students with course recommendations based on the performance of past students to offering study advice via text messaging or counseling over the phone. “By giving students information-driven suggestions that lead to smarter actions, technology nudges are intended to tackle a range of problems surrounding the process by which students begin college and make their way to graduation,” said the report.

Some researchers found that sending reminders about placement tests, orientation and pre-college tasks via text messages to low-income high school graduates increased the likelihood students would be on campus in the fall.

The report, “Nudge Nation: A New Way to Prod Students Into and Through College,” advocated for further research on mining data for students’ benefits.

“Like many other technology initiatives, these ventures are relatively young and much remains to be learned about how they can be made most effective,” the report said. “Already, however, nudge designers are having a good deal of success marrying knowledge of human behavior with the capacity of technology to reach students at larger scale, and lower cost, than would be possible in person.”

September 10, 2013

Nearly 100 graduate assistants at the University of Florida were not paid on time on Friday, The Gainesville Sun reported. Administrators blamed the problems on issues associated with the start of the academic year and promised that emergency checks would soon be provided to the students. But grad student leaders said that the university could have avoided the problem and wasn't moving quickly enough to help the students.


September 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Stefan Lüpold of Syracuse University explain how females of certain species can pick the father of their offspring after mating with multiple males. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 10, 2013

A report released today by Universities UK attempts to answer the question of where student fees are going, chronicling investments in financial aid, infrastructure, teaching, student services and career placement. The funding model for England’s universities has shifted drastically in recent years; public funding has fallen and been replaced by tuition fees, which were first introduced in 1997 and are now capped at £9,000 (about $14,150) for domestic students. Under the new funding regime, some universities have seen net reductions in their income and others net increases.  


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