Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 11, 2014

The University of Texas System's board expects to spend four to six months finding a new chancellor to replace Francisco Cigarroa, who announced Monday he would step down after his successor is named. 

Cigarroa plans to focus now on practicing medicine, which he has done even as chancellor, and also advise the system as it prepares to establish a medical school in the state's Rio Grande Valley. In recent years he has resisted intense pressure from some members of the Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to fire Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin. Powers has been defended by many students, faculty members and alumni. At a press conference, Cigarroa said he continues to support Powers.

“I evaluate all presidents, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance," he said. "You know [...], I support President Powers, and I’ll continue to evaluate presidents every day, not only President Powers but all 15.” The system has nine universities and six current medical centers.

Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said, not unexpectedly, that Perry, who appoints the board, would have some say in who replaces Cigarroa. 

“His input will be sought and will be certainly considered, but he doesn’t have a direct role in the process," Foster said.

February 11, 2014

Britain's home office has suspended the administration of English language tests run by the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service after the BBC news program, "Panorama," uncovered “systematic fraud” at British test centers. As summarized in this BBC articlePanorama recorded instances of Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) examinees being replaced by “fake-sitters” who completed the test for them, and of a proctor reading the correct answers aloud to test takers.  The news program followed a network of agents who help bogus students from outside the European Union pass the TOEIC, a government-approved English test for immigration purposes, and otherwise obtain student visa extensions fraudulently. 

Thomas A. Ewing, an ETS spokesman, told Inside Higher Ed via email that the issues seem to involve two TOEIC testing centers and that the government’s suspension of TOEIC and Test of English as a Foreign Language exams within the U.K. will not affect test-takers elsewhere in the world. “When testing on a global basis, no test provider can claim 100 percent prevention or detection of fraudulent activity, but ETS does everything it can to detect and prevent rare instances of dishonest test administrators or test takers,” an ETS statement read, in part. 
 

February 11, 2014

Two prominent Republican Senators on Monday continued to push for an overhaul of U.S. accreditation of colleges, seeking to open up federal student aid to non-traditional forms of higher education as a way to lower costs and broaden access. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in a speech at a National Journal event in Miami, called on Congress to establish a new independent accrediting board that would accredit free online courses -- a proposal also floated by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. “Action on this issue can and should be swift,” Rubio said, adding that “members of both parties are beginning to realize that for every day we delay bold accreditation reform, our education system leaves more Americans behind to languish in a dwindling market of low-skill jobs.”

Rubio praised a proposal by Senator Mike Lee of Utahyou mean Utah, right? or is the senator wrong? -sj ** oops, I meant Utah /ms that would allow states and companies to accredit courses. At a separate event in Washington, Lee said that such a plan would help lower the cost of higher education.

In his remarks in Miami, Rubio also laid out several other higher education proposals. He suggested that income-based repayment should be the default payment plan for federal student loans. He said that the various federal income-based repayment programs are underutilized and too confusing for borrowers.

In addition, he proposed a mechanism called “Student Investment Plans” as an alternative option to loan-financing for college tuition. Under the plan, students would have the option of applying for an investment plan from an “approved and certified private investment group” whose investors would pay the students’ tuition in return for a percentage of their income for a set period of time after graduation. 

February 11, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Philip Marcus of the University of California at Berkeley explains the persistence of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 11, 2014

DeVry Inc. shut all 13 of its Chicago-area DeVry University and Chamberlain College of Nursing campuses Monday, citing an emailed threat that was deemed a "potential security issue," The Chicago Tribune reported. Little information was provided about the nature of the threat, but DeVry officials said in a statement that local authorities had declared it safe to reopen the campuses today.

February 11, 2014

Officials at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California are identifying racist and sexist fliers sent to Asian-American organizations on the two campuses, The Los Angeles Times reported. UCLA students held a rally Monday to protest the flier.

 

February 11, 2014

Wayne State University is standing by Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering, whom faculty members have accused of lacking integrity and, last week, sparked the resignation of a longtime professor. "I really want to emphasize that Dean Fotouhi is doing a good job," Margaret Winters, provost, said Monday. "A great deal of what we see going on here is that some older, more established faculty frankly don't want to see change." Winters said Fotouhi had been hired several years ago to make key changes in the college, such as raising research productivity and boosting enrollment in engineering, and that he was meeting those goals -- to some professors' chagrin.

James Woodyard, an associate professor in the computer and electrical engineering department who has been at Wayne State for more than three decades, announced Friday at the university's Board of Governors meeting that he was resigning due to Fotouhi's "lack of integrity," The Detroit News reported. In an email, Woodyard said Fotouhi had, on numerous occasions, been dishonest about the nature of personnel and budgeting decisions. Woodyard accused Winters of being biased against members of the computer and electrical engineering department and accused the administration generally of not exercising due diligence in its investigation of Fotouhi. Winters said the university had thoroughly looked into claims against Fotouhi on two separate occasions and that the dean had come up clean. Now in his third year, Fotouhi will be formally evaluated in his fifth year, according to Wayne State. Fotouhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


 
February 11, 2014

An electronic textbook pilot has, once again, reported lukewarm interest among college students -- this time at the University of Iowa. Sponsored by Educause and Internet2, the fall 2012 pilot involved about 600 students across 17 different courses, comparing results of students using e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill Education and Courseload to students in similar courses who used print books. Most students preferred the print books, calling them "easier to access and more useful for learning," and few students used the e-textbooks' bookmarking and note taking features.

Additionally, there was "no significant difference" between the grades earned by students using e-textbooks and those using print books. Sam Van Horne, an assessment coordinator in the Information Technology Services offices, said he and the other researchers were surprised by the lack of interest in the interactive features of e-textbooks.  "One conclusion of the assessment researchers was that instructional designers can scaffold the adoption of e-textbooks and their interactive tools by helping students and instructors both use the technology but also understand how the use of tools can benefit learning," Van Horne said in an email. "The assessment researchers are hoping to design and test such interventions with other users of e-textbooks."

In 2013, Iowa expanded the pilot to include products from Bioportal, Mindtap and CourseSmart. The researchers said they are in the process of analyzing preliminary data.

February 10, 2014

McGraw-Hill Education on Friday announced it had acquired the adaptive learning company Area9, 13 months after the academic publisher purchased a 20 percent stake. The two companies have partnered to provide adaptive learning technology since 2007, for example through the publisher's LearnSmart series. In 2013, McGraw-Hill also acquired the ALEKS Corporation, another adaptive learning company.

February 10, 2014

Incorrect tax reporting by Harvard University -- suggesting that employees earned millions more than they really did -- has cost those employees considerable sums in overpaid taxes, The Boston Globe reported. Harvard acknowledged the errors on Friday and said that it would either reimburse employees or help them file amended tax returns to receive refunds. But the university acted only after two law professors circulated a letter saying that earlier communication from Harvard has been "misleading as to both the scope of the problem and the university’s responsibility to make some 11,000 employees whole for a monumental mistake by the central administration."

 

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