Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Many colleges in Florida — and potentially other states, including California and Texas — could lose eligibility for their students to receive federal financial aid under a new interpretation of the Education Department's "state authorization" rule. While the rule will not be enforced for distance education, it still requires colleges to be licensed in their own state. The Education Department is currently interpreting the rule in a way that disqualifies state licensure by means of accreditation — a process that allows colleges to bypass the ordinary licensure process and be granted state approval based on their accreditation status.

The Education Department sent letters to several Florida colleges in recent weeks, warning them that licensure by means of accreditation is not sufficient to comply with the state authorization rule. The states and the Education Department have until July 1 to resolve the dispute. At that time, all colleges must be in compliance with the department's program integrity rules, including state authorization.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 4:18am

Huajun Zhao, an associate researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has been charged with economic espionage, accused of stealing research data and materials for a cancer-fighting compound, The Milwaukee Journal reported. Zhao was arrested Saturday and remains held without bail. The charges are based on video of Zhao in a professor's laboratory and searches of his computer hard drive, where he had materials related to the research in question. Zhao also had plane tickets to China for use today. His lawyer told the Journal: "In this earliest stage of a complex case involving a talented professional accused of a serious crime, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves on Dr. Zhao's behalf."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 4:22am

President Obama will today announce a $100 million initiative to invent and improve technologies to understand the brain, The New York Times reported. Officials are comparing the effort's ambition and potential impact to that of the Human Genome Project. Part of the plan is to require study of the ethical implications of the new technologies and new research that could be enabled.


Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

The Orange County Register is selling three universities ads that will appear in special weekly sections that will contain "positive" news about the institutions, The Los Angeles Times reported. A memo from an administrator at the University of California at Irvine -- one of the participating universities -- said that its public relations staff would serve as "content advisors, idea generators and collaborators" on the project. The participating institutions, in addition to Irvine, are Chapman University and California State University at Fullerton. Each will pay $275,000. Register officials said that they would still make final decisions on content, and that the news pages would not be affected by the pledges about the kind of content to appear in these special sections.

Jeffrey Brody, a professor of communications at Fullerton and a former Register reporter, said that the new approach would be "wonderful for the universities," but he questioned whether this was appropriate for a newspaper. "If publishing the sections is dependent upon advertising revenue from the universities, then the Register might as well call itself a newsletter rather than a newspaper.... If this is the way Publisher [Aaron] Kushner intends to revitalize the newspaper industry, he needs to brush up on journalism ethics and principles."

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University, is denying a report that the institution and its students are becoming more liberal. New York magazine reported that opposition to gay marriage used to be a united political belief at the university. But over the last week, while two Supreme Court cases about gay marriage captured national attention, the university was quiet on the issue and some students said that there were a range of opinions on the issue.

But the day after that article ran, Falwell sent a letter to the author of the article, stating that Liberty remains a conservative institution, even if the political mood has changed a bit. "[M]ost of our faculty, staff and students are very conservative politically and theologically. I do not see that changing at all," he write. "For example, in Liberty’s voting precinct, Romney won 93 percent of the vote and that precinct had, by far, the highest turnout in the area. Students still are very much pro-life and pro-traditional marriage just like they have always been and the ones who voted for Romney indicated those two issues were the main reasons they supported Romney over Obama. The only shift I have noticed in recent years has been more support among conservative Christians, especially young ones, for libertarians. In Virginia, only Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot in the Republican primary and Ron Paul won at the campus precinct. So, if anything, our students are becoming more conservative on the issue of limiting the size and scope of government while remaining conservative on the social issues."


Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Sam Sommers of Tufts University demonstrates how our behavior is often influenced by the context of our daily lives.  Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Proposed legislation in France would ease restrictions on offering university courses in English, The Connexion reported. Currently, courses must be in French unless they are courses to teach a non-French language or offered by a visiting academic from outside France. Some educators want the option of teaching other courses in English to attract more British and American students. Many universities in European countries that are not primarily English-speaking are adding such courses. But leading French writers have launched a campaign calling the proposed changes "insulting," and the Académie Française has said that any change would "harm the status of the French language in universities."

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty and student leaders at Pasadena City College are angry over the college's decision to put Warren Swil, a journalism professor and adviser to the student newspaper, on paid leave, The Pasadena Sun reported. The university says it cannot comment on why Swil was placed on leave. But faculty and student groups have been highly critical of late of President Mark Rocha, and faculty leaders said that they believed Swil was being punished for the extensive coverage of the campus disputes in The Courier, the student newspaper.

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

The U.S. State Department has released a written statement on the issue of third-party study abroad providers operating credit-bearing educational programs in Cuba. In a written statement that confirms study abroad professionals’ prior understanding of the changing regulatory environment, the State Department indicated that “academic service providers” are now eligible to receive “specific” licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to offer for-credit educational programs in Cuba on behalf of accredited American undergraduate and graduate institutions. “The goal is to provide study-abroad options for students whose university or college does not have a stand-alone Cuba program but which is nevertheless prepared to grant course credit for formal study in Cuba,” the State Department said in its statement.

While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S. colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the third-party study abroad providers' applications for licenses to run such programs were stalled.  One such provider, Academic Programs International, announced it had finally received a license late last month.

The State Department indicated that all applications from academic service providers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It plans to issue new regulatory guidance on these issues in the Federal Register and the OFAC website in the coming months.

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Pima Community College has responded to a scathingly critical report by a site team from its regional accreditor, which recommended that the Arizona institution be placed on probation. While the college said it takes the criticism seriously, it pushed back on certain findings in the report. For example, it clarified that the now-suspended effort to tighten admission standards was aimed at incoming students who perform at or below 7th-grade level. College administrators did not think these changes constituted a mission change. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association is set to consider the probation recommendation next week.


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