Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 27, 2014

A group of Congressional Democrats last week introduced a new legislative push to crack down on campus banking products, including student debit cards. Representative George Miller, the top Democrat on the House education committee, and Senator Tom Harkin, the chair of the Senate education committee, along with 63 other Democrats introduced a bill that would ban revenue-sharing agreements between colleges and student debit card providers. The bill would also prohibit gifts from campus card providers to college officials.

The lawmakers said the legislation was, in part, a response to a February Government Accountability Office report that outlined several concerns with campus debit cards and the relationship that card providers have with colleges. Earlier this week, an Education Department negotiated rule making panel failed to reach consensus on a department proposal to impose stricter rules on campus banking products. Department officials had proposed restrictions on the marketing of college-sponsored debit cards and had sought to ban certain fees.

May 27, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission is warning that personal information about high school and college students could be put at risk in the pending sale of property owned by ConnectEDU, which is going through a bankruptcy proceeding. ConnectEDU, which offered college and career planning services, filed for Chapter bankruptcy protection last month. In a letter to the bankruptcy judge Friday, the FTC said that ConnectEDU's potential sale of its assets through the bankruptcy proceeding is not giving its individual customers "reasonable notice and the opportunity to remove personally identifiable data from the service," as the company's privacy policy has said it would.

"We believe that any sale of the personal information of ConnectEDU’s customers would be inconsistent with ConnectEDU’s privacy policy, unless ConnectEDU provides those customers with notice and an opportunity to delete the information," Jessica Rich, director of the federal agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote in the letter. She urged the court to require the company either gave users that right or destroyed the information altogether.

 

May 27, 2014

The president of Cathedral Bible College, in South Carolina, was arrested on forced labor charges after international students complained that Reginald Wayne Miller forced them to work for little to no wages under threat of having their visa status terminated, the Marion, S.C.-based Star & Enterprise reported.  Students interviewed by Department of Homeland Security investigators reported that the college’s classes “were not real and they are set around a work schedule, which is set by Miller,” and that living conditions were substandard.

The Myrtle Beach-based The Sun News reported that bond for Miller has been set at $250,000. 

May 27, 2014

Ronald Haefner, former IT director at Ripon College, was charged Friday with using more than $400,000 in college funds to buy things for himself, The Fond du Lac Reporter reported. Authorities said that Ripon fired Haefner in November 2013 after discovering that he had been making unauthorized furniture purchases for his home.

 

May 27, 2014

Hawaii Pacific University is eliminating the jobs of about 7 percent of full-time faculty members to deal with a 10 percent decline in enrollment, Hawaii News Now reported. University officials said that they needed to realign resources to focus on programs that could grow.

May 27, 2014

The pioneering Olin College of Engineering has accumulated tens of millions of dollars in losses in recent years, eating into its endowment, an article in The Boston Globe reveals. Olin, which was founded in 2002, has been heralded for its distinctive, high-touch approach to engineering education, which has proven expensive even though the institution does not offer amenities such as athletics. The Globe reported that the college spent about $100 million more than it took in from 2008 to 2011, and that its endowment lost significant value as well.

May 27, 2014

The new Thai government, which took over in a military coup last week, on Saturday ordered about two dozen professors and writers to turn themselves in to military authorities, The New York Times reported. Those who were on the list were generally public supporters of holding new elections.

May 27, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Arun Bhunia, professor of food microbiology at Purdue University, is working on new techniques and technology that will more quickly identify the infectious strain. If you missed Monday's Academic Minute, about "sexy" fruit flies, you can read it here. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 23, 2014

Roughly 9 percent of the $511 billion spent in 2011 in the United States on higher education went to financing interest payments or to corporate profits, according to a new analysis from the Center for Culture, Organizations and Politics at the University of California at Berkeley. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) commissioned the report, which found that $45 billion in higher education spending that year was for interest on individual student loan debt or on colleges' borrowing, or went to profits made by for-profit college companies.

The bulk of the $45 billion figure is attributable to student and institutional borrowing. Operating profits among for-profit colleges were roughly $4 billion in 2011, according to the report, and less than $1 billion in 2012 -- due to plunging enrollments in the sector. The student debt figure cited in the report refers to interest payments on both private and federal loans. The bulk of institutional borrowing was to fund "amenities" and construction projects, according to the study, such as for football stadiums.

For-profits got plenty of attention at a Wednesday AFT event to unveil the report. Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat, was there. He urged tighter regulation of the sector.

"This is an insane way to educate low-income students," said Takano. "We need strong gainful emploment rules."

May 23, 2014

A bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers on Thursday called on their colleagues to insert a provision in the upcoming budget that would block the Obama administration’s efforts to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges.

In a letter to the top lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, 37 members of Congress -- 19 Republicans and 18 Democrats -- wrote that the proposed “gainful employment” rule would “increase costs and federal overreach in the higher education system, reduce data transparency, and limit postsecondary options for low-income students.” The administration has said the proposed rule is aimed at cutting off federal aid to low-performing vocational programs, mostly at for-profit colleges, that leave students saddled with high debt and do not lead to good jobs.

The deadline for public comments on the proposed rule is Tuesday. The Education Department is expected to produce a final rule by November. 

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