Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 14, 2013

Robert Barchi's first year as president of Rutgers University has had plenty of controversy: athletics scandals, questions about athletics spending, criticism from the Newark campus that his focus is too much on the flagship campus, and a remark (that Barchi said was intended as a joke) that offended some minority scholars. An article in The Star-Ledger said that while Barchi has won praise for managing the merger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry into Rutgers, and for the move to the Big 10 athletics conference, "[b]y all accounts, Rutgers President Robert Barchi had a difficult freshman year." The newspaper also reported that the board recently awarded him a $90,000 bonus out of the $97,500 he could have received -- and that Barchi donated the money back to the university. A letter to Barchi from the Rutgers board chair said: "We are delighted with the progress Rutgers has seen this past year, and we thank you for your dedication and leadership."

October 14, 2013

Moody’s issued a report last week warning universities of the risks associated with big-time sports and urging caution for those seeking to escalate into elite levels of competition. Focusing on institutions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, the report acknowledges that while big-time sports can boost brand recognition, donor support and student applications, that’s accompanied by growing “financial and reputational risks that require careful oversight.” Those risks include budgetary strain (nine in 10 athletic programs are not self-sustaining and require growing subsidies diverted from other university operations), public scrutiny when scandals hit, depleted debt capacity caused by capital investment in athletic facilities, and uncertain future costs as concussion treatment and the amateur model continue to be challenged.

In June, Moody’s downgraded the NCAA’s credit outlook to negative, citing a major lawsuit angling for athletes to be paid. “Increased public discourse about the best interest of student-athletes combined with highly publicized litigation could destabilize the current intercollegiate athletic system and negatively impact the NCAA and its member universities,” the Moody’s report said.

October 14, 2013

The Task Force on American Innovation, a coalition of industry and scholarly groups, on Friday wrote to Congressional leaders to urge increased focus on promoting innovation in the American economy. "The many companies, universities, and scientific societies that this task force represents share their view that our role as the world’s innovation leader is in serious jeopardy due to inadequate federal support for research and STEM education," the letter says. "We believe that America must maintain a commitment to its competitiveness and future innovation capabilities. This commitment is vital to short- and long-term economic growth, especially in the competitive global economy."

 

October 14, 2013

Three professors were honored this morning with the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for "their empirical analysis of asset prices." The three are: Eugene F. Fama, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago;  Lars Peter Hansen, David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Statistics at the University of Chicago; and
Robert J. Shiller, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University.

 

 

October 14, 2013

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, has encouraged the state's colleges (most of them former community colleges) to develop plans for $10,000 bachelor's degrees (for four years of expenses). But The Sun Sentinel reported that not all of the programs announced have actually started, and that it is unclear just how much demand exists. Broward College, for example, opened registration for such a program a month ago, with 80 slots. To date, no one has signed up.

 

October 11, 2013

Not long ago, Altius Education was a darling of the higher ed innovation world, having teamed up with the nonprofit Tiffin University to create Ivy Bridge College, which was held out as a potential model for public-private partnerships to drive college access and completion. Then Tiffin's accreditor intervened, questioning whether the privately held Altius held inappropriate control over key academic functions at Ivy Bridge that should have been in Tiffin's domain, and calling for the partnership to be shuttered.

On Thursday, Altius's ambitions not only of turning Ivy Bridge into a freestanding institution but also of creating other such partnerships appeared to have formally ended, with an announcement by Datamark that it was purchasing Altius's various technology platforms and taking on several dozen of its employees. Datamark, which provides enrollment marketing and other services to colleges and universities, said it would buy Altius's competency-based learning platform, known as Helix, as well as other technologies and invest $11 million in expanding the company's reach.

October 11, 2013

The U.S. Education Department, citing the partial shutdown of the federal government, has canceled the second round of negotiations over regulations on vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions.  

The department will reschedule the negotiated-rulemaking session when the government reopens, Lynn Mahaffie, the acting deputy assistant secretary for policy, planning and innovation, wrote in a letter on Friday to members of the rule making committee. The session was originally slated for October 21-23.

The panel is tasked with rewriting the "gainful employment" regulations that were thrown out by a federal judge earlier this year. The rules would cut off federal money flowing to career-training programs if they do not meet certain standards that measure their graduates’ earnings relative to the graduates’ student loan debt.

The Obama administration is proposing tighter standards that would apply to more vocational programs. At the first negotiating session last month, it appeared unlikely that negotiators would come to a consensus on the rules. Even if the committee doesn’t reach an agreement, the Education Department could still move forward with its own proposal. 

October 11, 2013

The leaders of six higher education associations on Thursday released a statement deploring the impact of the federal shutdown, stressing the impact not on college-specific programs but on the nature of American government. "We are deeply concerned by the growing resignation of the American people to this 'new normal': the idea that Washington is so broken and dysfunctional that it cannot be fixed, only ignored or ridiculed. Our democratic government is most effective when it embraces open discourse, bipartisan cooperation, and the art of compromise. These traditions have served us well since our founding and are at the heart of the success of the American Experiment," the statement says.

It adds: "We believe this gradual acceptance of government dysfunction should be vigorously challenged and that each college and university can play a role in doing so. We call on higher education institutions around the country to engage in conversations, lectures, and events, both on and off campus, that bring together students, business and community leaders, and the public. We should focus attention on the processes that ensure responsible government and sound budget policy."

The statement was signed by the presidents of the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

 

October 11, 2013

Tuition and fees at the private colleges that are members of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities increased by 3.6 percent for the 2013-14 academic year, according to a survey released by the association. At the same time, institutional student aid budgets at the colleges increased an average of 6.9 percent. NAICU said that this the fifth consecutive year that the average percentage increase in tuition in its survey was below the averages prior to the 2008 downturn in the economy.

 

October 11, 2013

The student who wrote the "Luring Your Rapebait" e-mail to his Georgia Institute of Technology fraternity brothers -- an e-mail that went viral, infuriating many people -- has issued an apology. The e-mail described techniques for getting women drunk at parties with the goal of taking advantage of their drunkenness. In the apology -- published in Georgia Tech's student newspaper -- the author says that his fraternity nickname is "4th Grade Rape Bait" because of "my youthful looks and the connotation of what may happen to someone like me in prison." While the author, identified only as Matthew, offers that explanation, he does not defend himself. "In retrospect, it was a nickname I should not have embraced but continuing to use the term was my fault. As a leader I should have put a stop to it in any reference," he wrote.

"Misogynistic behavior is everywhere online and unfortunately, my attempt to ridicule it in an immature and outrageous satire backfired terribly and in a manner I mistakenly underestimated," Matthew added. "In fact the 'locker room' banter that characterizes this e-mail was wrong in and of itself whether or not contained in a written communication. I am both embarrassed and ashamed at this dialogue and realize now that any sexual statement that is demeaning to women is never a joke."

 

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