Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 26, 2013

WASHINGTON -- As Congress begins the long process of renewing the Higher Education Act, the leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce published an open letter to higher education "stakeholders" Thursday, asking for suggestions on rewriting the sweeping law governing federal financial aid programs. Representatives are especially interested in a few areas, they wrote: empowering "students as consumers"; simplifying student aid and loans; increasing affordability, accountability and completion; reducing costs; and balancing "the need for accountability with the burden of federal requirements."

In a statement, the committee's chairman, Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, emphasized paring regulations, simplifying financial aid and providing families with better information. Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, said he hoped to focus on the increasing price of higher education, student debt, barriers to completion, and community colleges.

The committee said it welcomes suggestions -- the more specific the better -- at HEA.Reauth@mail.house.gov.

April 26, 2013

The University of Central Florida has suspended Hyung-il Jung, an instructor, over a comment about "a killing spree," but students say that he posed no danger and was misunderstood, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Jung told a group of students, he said, something along these lines: "This question is very difficult. It looks like you guys are being slowly suffocated by these questions. Am I on a killing spree or what?" Some students have sent a joint letter to the university saying that there is no need for the investigation Central Florida says it is conducting, and that the comment was clearly a joke.

 

April 26, 2013

When it comes to fighting terrorism, Canadian prime minister wants a law and order approach, not social science. The arrest of immigrants to Canada in a plot to attack a train from Canada to New York City has led to some Liberal Party politicians calling for efforts to understand why some people embrace terrorist ideologies. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, is having none of it. It comments that have attracted widespread attention, he said: "In terms of radicalization, this is obviously something we follow. Our security agencies work with each other and with others around the globe to track people who are threats to Canada and to watch threats that may evolve. I think though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression," The Ottawa Citizen reported.

 

April 26, 2013

Pearson VUE, which operates a worldwide network of testing centers for various exams, has been experiencing significant technical problems this week.  The company's Facebook page features numerous comments from people unable to take their scheduled exams or to get information about when they will be able to do so. Some people are posting stories of how hours-long delays likely affected their performance on exams that are crucial to their careers. On the Facebook page, Pearson indicates that it is aware of the problems and is trying to fix them.

"We are continuing our efforts to restore normal service as quickly as possible. We are in the midst of implementing recommendations by our internal and external technology experts, but it is too soon to know how quickly this will improve system performance. Please note that there will likely be additional variations in system performance as we implement these changes," says a statement posted Thursday evening. "We fully appreciate that many of you have been significantly impacted by the circumstances over the past several days, and we will increase testing capacity and operational support to accommodate scheduling and/or rescheduling of those affected as quickly as possible once normal system performance is restored."

April 26, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Neil McLachlan of the University of Melbourne reveals the learned nature of pleasing music. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 26, 2013

St. Louis Community College is facing tough criticism for the way it responded to an incident in which, officials acknowledge, in which a female student was assaulted in a women's room, and being held in a headlock until her cries for help prompted others to come to her assistance, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suspect in the case, also a student, was initially released with a verbal warning to stay off campus. (He has since been arrested.) In addition, the college didn't warn other students about the attack. Myrtle E. B. Dorsey, chancellor of the community college, has issued a letter apologizing for the failure to notify the campus of the attack, and indicating that the college will review its procedures for expelling students.

 

April 26, 2013

A fraternity video in which a student appeared in blackface has sparked outrage at the University of California at Irvine, CBS Los Angeles reported. The student in blackface is portraying the rapper Jay-Z, and the video was made to welcome new members of the Lambda Theta Delta fraternity. “We sincerely apologize if we offended anyone whatsoever," said the fraternity's president. "On behalf of my brothers who were involved in the video, know that it was unintentional. But unintentional or not we do know that it was wrong."

April 25, 2013

A new law in Washington State, requiring that all statutes be converted to gender-neutral language, has led to the elimination of all "freshmen," (at least as an official term), Reuters reported. From now on, they will legally be "first-year students."

 

April 25, 2013

California's Senate education committee is expected to vote next week on a newly amended plan to allow online courses from unaccredited providers to count for credit at the state's three college and university systems.

The committee on Wednesday heard an hour of discussion about the bill, SB 520. The bill's sponsor, Democratic State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- who is the leader of the Senate -- showed up to defend the bill against a parade of opposition by faculty representatives from unions and the state's academic senates. Student support for the idea, which is meant to expand access to over-enrolled lower division classes and lower costs for students, also appeared mixed.

Steinberg offered three new amendments to his bill, which he also amended last week. He said the new amendments will prevent public money from going to private companies and make it possible that colleges can develop their own classes without being forced to turn to outside providers, although seeking aid from private sector technology companies remains a key impetus for the legislation. 

“What are you afraid of?" Steinberg said to faculty who attended the hearing to oppose the bill. "What are you afraid of?”

Faculty representatives expressed concern that unproven private sector companies would be put in charge of students' education. They argued that the solution to access problems in California is more funding for the public higher education systems.

April 25, 2013

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., which has attracted attention for its major purchases of gold, is shifting strategy a bit, Bloomberg reported. With gold prices falling, the Texas fund sold $375 million in gold bars (from a total of what had been $1.4 billion in such holdings) and used the proceeds to buy gold futures and equities.

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