Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 17, 2013

In the midst of an investigation by city police, several campus officers including the chief have resigned or been fired from Elizabeth City State University. City officials discovered campus police never investigated 126 crime reports since 2007, including 18 sexual assaults, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations of obstruction of justice and witness intimidation by campus police. The historically black university has enlisted off-duty patrol officers to help with campus security and solve the backlog of cases. The campus police chief, Sam Beamon, resigned Friday after 10 years on the job in the wake of a reported assault in a campus dorm that culminated in city police arresting a staff member after the university failed to act.

May 16, 2013

LaGuardia Community College's enhanced GED preparation program substantially boosts GED pass rates and the likelihood of college enrollment, according to a newly released study by MDRC, a nonprofit social research firm. Students in the program, which is designed to serve as a pathway to college and careers, were more than twice as likely to pass the high school equivalency exam as were students in traditional GED prep courses. They were also three times as likely to enroll in college.

May 16, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that would keep the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another two years at a cost to the government of $8.6 billion -- a measure that underscored the distance between Congressional Democrats and the White House on interest rates. The interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans, need-based loans that don't accumulate interest while students are enrolled in college, will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if Congress does not act. 

The interest rate increase was long planned -- it was written into a 2007 law that gradually lowered interest rates for four years before letting them rebound -- and was supposed to occur last year, but Congress passed a one-year extension of the 3.4 percent rate. The White House and Congressional Republicans have both proposed plans to base the interest rate on the government's cost to borrow, which would allow the rate to vary from year to year.

Congressional Democrats, though, want to keep the rate at 3.4 percent until the issue can be considered in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The legislation proposed Wednesday, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others, would pay for the extension through changes to tax law affecting retirement accounts, the oil industry and tax deductions for foreign companies. The House, meanwhile, will mark up its interest rate proposal at a hearing today.

May 16, 2013

These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar, to which campus and other officials can submit their own events. Our site also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education; please submit your news to both listings.

May 16, 2013

Alberta College of Art + Design announced Wednesday that it has reinstated Gord Ferguson, days after dismissing the art instructor for his role in a performance art project in which one of his students killed a chicken in the college's cafeteria. The statement, issued jointly by the college and its faculty association after the two reached an agreement on the matter, said that the college’s decision to terminate Ferguson "was never intended to be about academic or artistic freedom," but that administrators conceded "the perception this action may have created." It went on to say that Ferguson "acknowledges that he wishes he could have had a greater opportunity to advise and support his student before he undertook his performance" last month, and that the incident had raised awareness about both the importance of academic freedom and the meaning of academic responsibility.

May 16, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Claudia Buchmann of Ohio State University explains the growing gender gap that exists on college campuses. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 16, 2013

The U.S. Education Department has notified Yale University that it intends to fine the institution $165,000 for failing to report several sex offenses nearly a decade ago, the New Haven Register reported. In a letter to Yale President Richard Levin, a department official said that it planned to impose the maximum fine of $27,500 for each of the forcible sex offenses that Yale failed to report in 2001 and 2002, as well as additional fines for several other omissions of information from its reports under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Yale had admitted the violations over nearly a decade of investigation by the government, but university officials balked at the fine.

In a statement e-mailed to the Register, Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said that the university took its reporting obligations seriously. “However, the University believes that the Department’s imposition of maximum fines is not warranted based on the particular situations that resulted in findings of violations,” the statement said, adding that Yale had asked the department to reduce the penalty. "These fines deal with reporting in 2004 or earlier.”

May 16, 2013

Note: Western New England University announced Wednesday that Lois Lerner had withdrawn as the speaker at its law school commencement Saturday, citing her desire not to distract focus from the graduates.)

Officials at Western New England University's School of Law were surely excited when they announced early this month that one of their esteemed alumni -- a high-ranking federal official -- would give the school's commencement address this year. Suddenly, though, the choice isn't looking quite as good, now that Lois Lerner, who heads the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organization Division, is at the center of the white-hot controversy over the agency's questionable scrutiny of the political activity of conservative nonprofit groups. A Western New England spokesman told the Daily Caller that the university was proceeding with its plans to give Lerner its presidential medallion, for public service.

May 16, 2013

Florida Atlantic University has had more than its share of controversies in the last several months, over the naming of its football stadium for a private prison company owned by an alumnus and a professor's in-class exercise in which he invited students to step on a piece of paper with "Jesus" written on it, among others. (The university took heat from many in the public for the professor's actions, and from many faculty members for failing to defend his academic freedom to their satisfaction.)

President Mary Jane Saunders staunchly defended the university's actions throughout both of those situations, but late Tuesday Florida Atlantic's board accepted her resignation, which she attributed to the controversies. “There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community," she wrote in a letter to the board. "The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the President of FAU. I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family.”

May 15, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee considering the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved an amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Grassley 69, which would crack down on fraudulent colleges and require accreditation for higher education institutions enrolling international students.

Other student visa-related amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday included Grassley 77, which calls for a temporary suspension of the issuance of student visas if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not promptly address problems of interoperability between the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and the database that is available to officials at border checkpoints. Meanwhile, Grassley 56, which would limit the authority of the Secretary of State to waive interviews for visa applicants, and Grassley 68, which would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the act related to international students until the full deployment of the long-delayed SEVIS II, both failed in 9-9 tie votes. (You can find all the amendments acted upon so far here.)

“We have learned time and again that there are holes in our student visa program,” Grassley said during the committee hearing. The program has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: although the suspected bombers were not foreign students, two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were.  

In a letter it sent to the committee on Monday, NAFSA:Association of International Educators urged senators not to approve amendments that could pose impediments to international students, arguing that this would undermine national security rather than enhance it. "Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat," the association wrote. The committee will next take up the immigration bill on Thursday.


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