Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 1, 2013

It wasn't pretty, and advocates for students aren't happy with it. But after almost two years of fits and false starts, Congress on Wednesday passed legislation that would tie interest rates on federal student loans to the market and, at least in the short term, forestall hefty increases that were to hit new borrowers beginning this fall.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin (392-31, with 10 abstentions) after originating in the Senate, which approved it last week. The measure, when signed by President Obama, will reset interest rates on federally guaranteed loans each July based on the previous May's auction of 10-year Treasury bills. Undergraduate loans -- those that are federally subsidized as well as those that are not -- would be set at the Treasury rate plus 2.05 percentage points, while loans for graduate students would be set at 3.6 points above the Treasury rate, and loans for parents at 4.6 percentage points over the T-bill rate. The maximum rate would be capped at 8.25 percent for undergraduate loans, 9.5 percent for graduate student loans, and 10.5 percent for parent loans.

Even as both chambers overwhelmingly backed the compromise, the parties continued to bicker about whose previous versions of the bills were worse, and took credit for different parts of the compromise.

 

August 1, 2013

The University of Maryland University College -- an institution known for distance education -- has announced that it will award academic credit to those who complete six massive open online courses and who pass tests offered for those courses, CBS News DC reported. The MOOCs are introductory mathematics and science courses, and are offered by Coursera and Udacity.

 

August 1, 2013

The U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday approved a renewal of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the federal law that governs work force training. The bill, which hasn't been updated in 15 years, would overhaul a broad range of job training programs at community colleges. The two-year sector supports the legislation. It faces an unclear future, however, in part because the U.S. House of Representatives passed a much different job training bill earlier this year.

August 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Kerry Clark of the University of North Florida explains why Lyme disease is becoming a threat in areas beyond the northeastern United States. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 31, 2013

Kevin P. Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System, announced Tuesday that he plans to step down in January, following a nine-year tenure in the position. He has served as president during a period of deep budget cuts, a faculty unionization drive, a move by the governor to bar such unions and a battle over how much independence the flagship campus at Madison should have. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that Reilly was stepping down after a legislative session in which he had numerous clashes with legislators over reserve funds of the university. But Reilly said that his decision had been in the works well before the most recent legislative session.

The American Council on Education announced that Reilly would become a presidential advisor for leadership at the organization, working on programs to help presidents and other senior administrators. In an interview, Reilly said that he viewed it as crucial to higher education that future leaders be recruited and trained. He noted that in his current position, he has hired 31 chancellors or interim chancellors. One issue he said would like to address is the reluctance of an increasing number of provosts to consider presidencies. He said that he believes the right programs can help provosts see that "while it's not an easy job, it is a job they can do and that is so worth doing."


 

 

July 31, 2013

The Organization of American Historians has released a report on the historians who were part of a large study released by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce last year about faculty members off the tenure track. Among other things, the study found that historians were more likely than other adjuncts to view college teaching as their primary job, and to have hope of full-time or tenure-track work.

 

July 31, 2013

The board of the St. Louis Community College District -- after a 3-3 tie vote -- will not renew the contract of Chancellor Myrtle Dorsey, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Discussion of Dorsey took place in an executive session, so the rationale of board members was not clear. But Dorsey and the district have faced widespread criticism over the handling of an incident in which a female student was attacked in a restroom and her supporters say that the college failed to respond adequately, with campus police letting the suspect go. Dorsey was hired in 2011 and her current contract goes through June 2014.

July 31, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeremy Grabbe of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh reveals that there are some types of brain function that improve with age. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 31, 2013

Centre College on Tuesday announced a $250 million gift -- believed to be the largest ever to a liberal arts college -- that will support merit scholarships. Starting in the fall of 2014, 40 students a year will receive what the college is calling "full ride plus" scholarships, to cover tuition, room and board, all fees and additional money to support study abroad, research or internships. The funds will be available only to students majoring in the natural sciences, computational sciences and economics.

July 30, 2013

E. Gordon Gee, who stepped down as president of Ohio State University on July 1, will make $5.8 million over the next five years as part of a new contract with the university. According to the contract, Gee will serve as a tenured professor in Ohio State's law school and his responsibilities will include "completion of his research on 21st Century Education Policy and will include research, writing and national speaking as well as teaching or lecturing" in the law school, the school of public affairs and the college of education. Gee's annual base salary will be $410,000, and he will receive retirement contributions and a grant of $300,000 to fund his research. After the five years are up, Gee's salary will be equivalent to the highest-paid non-administrative faculty member in the law school.

The new contract waives any compensation Gee would have been entitled to under his previous contract with the university, which would have paid out approximately $6 million in supplemental and deferred compensation over the next four years.

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