Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department's federal student aid office has fallen short in several ways of ensuring that foreign medical schools are meeting federal requirements that their students pass licensing exams, meaning that there is no assurance that student loan funds were "disbursed only to students who attended schools that were eligible to participate in the Federal student loan programs, the department's inspector general said in an audit last month. The audit found that the federal student aid office was "not timely in taking appropriate actions against schools identified as having failed to submit the required pass rate data or meet the pass rate threshold, inconsistent in its methodology for calculating pass rates, and accepted from some foreign medical schools pass rate data that were not complete or were not in the required format."

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 4:44am

Indiana University at South Bend has dismissed Otis B. Grant, a tenured professor, for "serious personal and professional misconduct," The South Bend Tribune reported. Grant could not be reached, but is appealing the decision. While the university did not detail the misconduct of which Grant was accused, the Tribune has previously reported on allegations that he allowed non-employees to grade some student work, canceled classes, and dismissed students from classes without due process.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

Following a major e-textbook pilot last year, the California State University System announced Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.

Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold.) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:00am

Rick Santorum last week told an audience at the Detroit Economic Club that President Obama "had a war on private education" and that his administration has unfairly attacked private-sector, or for-profit colleges, that do most of the worker training for new jobs, according to a transcript published by The Detroit Free Press. The surging Republican presidential candidate promised that his administration would have a different attitude.

"He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they're abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business," Santorum said. "Yet they are going to be the principal tool, along with community colleges, to respond to this, what I believe will be exploding demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers to do the jobs of the future."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Mario Macis of Johns Hopkins University examines how compensating blood donors could increase the blood supply. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:00am

Two more colleges have sued the Obama administration over its requirement that religious employers, including colleges, provide insurance covering birth control -- despite a recent compromise that would require the insurance company, not the institution, to pay for that coverage. Louisiana College, a Baptist institution, and Geneva College, a Pennsylvania college affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, filed lawsuits Tuesday with assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund. They join two colleges that have filed suit through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Alliance Defense Fund says that more lawsuits can be expected.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted Tuesday to oppose a bill in the State Senate that would ban graduate research assistants from unionizing, The Detroit Free Press reported. In doing so, the board disregarded the wishes of senior administrators at the university, who believe that the graduate assistants should count as students and should not unionize.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 4:29am

The University of Utah has changed its admissions policy for older applicants -- those who have been out of high school for seven years and who have not previously enrolled in a college -- following a complaint that it violated the rights of one such individual, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The new policy specifies exactly which courses in high school applicants must have completed, earning certain minimum grades. The complaint concerned an applicant who was rejected -- without as clear a system in place -- when he mentioned having only a fourth grade reading level.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 3:00am

California's community colleges face an unexpected $149 million budget cut this year because of low property tax revenue and a "dramatic" increase in the number of students who qualify for tuition waivers, Jack Scott, chancellor of the 112-college system, said in a written statement. The shortfall, which would represent a 2.75 percent decrease in the system's overall budget, follows $502 million in previous cuts. Scott said colleges would have to cope by further reducing course offerings, borrowing more money and eliminating jobs.

The Community College League of California told the Los Angeles Times that the state typically picks up the slack when the system's tuition and tax revenue lag. But a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance said the gloomy predictions were premature, according to the newspaper.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 3:00am

Rick Santorum, enjoying a surge in support in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, on Monday said in a speech that he is not "anti-science," but that Democrats are, CBS News reported. Santorum has been criticized by many scientists for, among other things, suggesting that there is not a consensus that global climate change is real and is significant. Speaking in Ohio Monday, he said that the science of global warming is "political science," based on "phony studies." He elaborated: "When it comes to the management of the Earth, they are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology, and using the resources we have to be able to make sure that we have a quality of life in this country and [that we] maintain a good and stable environment."

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