Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

High school athletes will have an extra year to meet new eligibility requirements and “limited resource” institutions will have more flexibility in adjusting to higher academic standards, leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top athletic programs announced Thursday. Both decisions tweak new rules the Division I Board of Directors adopted in October. The board also pushed back the timelines for the working groups assembled by NCAA President Mark Emmert this summer.

Most institutions must ensure their teams are earning at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measure of classroom performance, by the 2015-16 postseason. (A 930 APR represents a 50-percent graduation rate, the NCAA says.) Low-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities will have an extra year to bring their athletes up to the new standards, and will have more flexibility in meeting benchmarks along the way. But they must also develop “a meaningful APR improvement plan,” that identifies “issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data,” and develops “meaningful initiatives” to address those issues.

After administrators and coaches complained that 2015 was too soon to start enforcing the NCAA’s new freshman eligibility standards, the board of university presidents voted to give them an extra year to prepare athletes. The eligibility rules raised the minimum grade point average in a set of high school core courses from 2.0 to 2.3 (community college transfers must come in with at least a 2.5 GPA), and require students to take the majority of those courses before senior year. Students who don’t meet the GPA minimums will still be eligible for athletic scholarships and practice.

The new working group schedule “allows for a more comprehensive discussion within the membership, but still ensures the presidents can make principled decisions in a timely fashion,” the NCAA said in a press release. The Enforcement Working Group will present its final recommendations at the Board’s next meeting in August. The Rules Working Group, which among other things is charged with paring down the notoriously extensive NCAA rulebook, will present its “first phase” of recommendations “either later this year or possibly” at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Finally, the Student-Athlete Well-Being Group is considering various ways to implement a rule that would award athletes with an additional $2,000 to help cover living expenses. The board adopted the controversial rule in October but rescinded it for modifications in January after more than 160 institutions requested an override.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:35am

The vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education resigned Thursday, a day after Penn officials placed him on leave amid reports that he did not actuall have the doctorate he had claimed to have, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Northern Virginia Community College is the latest two-year institution to announce a partnership with the University of Phoenix, with the announcement yesterday of a transfer agreement. Students from the community college will get a tuition discount when they transfer to Phoenix, according to a news release. They will also be able to tap the for-profit provider's prior learning assessment offerings, which can grant college credit for prior training and work experience. President Obama, who has often been critical of for-profits, has visited Northern Virginia five times for photo ops and to give speeches. Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, is a professor at the college.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 4:28am

The University of Florida is backing off a controversial plan that would have stripped most of the research functions from its computer science department. Bernie Machen, the university's president, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said that new plans were being developed to preserve the department's research role -- the elimination of which outraged many students, faculty members and alumni. The cuts are part of large reductions at the university, resulting from state appropriations cuts. Referring to the computer science proposal, Machen wrote: "As many of you know, the proposal has been met with overwhelming negative response, much of which I believe has been based on misunderstanding." At the same time, he said that some faculty members had come forward with proposals that would meet budget goals and also preserve the research mission in the computer science program. While work is needed to further develop those plans, Machen said that the previous proposal would be "set aside."

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

Sophia, an online learning platform recently acquired by Capella Education Co., on Wednesday released 25,000 free tutorials aimed at college and high school students. The for-profit Capella plans this summer to introduce "Sophia Pathways for College Credit," a souped-up version through which students' competency in subject areas, beginning with college algebra, will be assessed for the granting of Capella credits, company officials said. "It's a low-cost path to getting college credit," said Steve Anastasi, Sophia's interim CEO.

Anastasi describes the open platform as a "social teaching and learning environment" in which teachers, most of them not affiliated with Sophia or Capella, create online tutorials on a variety of subjects that will soon be organized by the learning preferences of students. The crowdsourced content is ranked and given an "academic seal" by self-identified academic experts, who themselves are rated by students. A Capella spokesman said Sophia would be a "sandbox" for experiments on open course content, as well as a resource for Capella students and professors.



Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 4:33am

The Student Veterans of America this month announced that it has suspended 40 chapters at for-profit institutions, saying that they were "using the SVA brand to legitimize their programs." At the time, the group did not name the chapters. Today it released a list of 26 chapters at for-profit institutions that continue to have their charters revoked. "In addition to being a peer support group, SVA chapters exist as campus and community based advocacy organizations. It appears that some for-profit schools do not understand our model, or worse, they understand our model and they choose to exploit it for personal gain," said a statement from Michael Dakduk, executive director of the association.


Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Wally Covington of Northern Arizona University explains why the forests of the American West have become more susceptible to large fires and outlines efforts to restore their natural ecology. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

Civic leaders in El Paso are furious at Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, for calling off a planned boxing event in the University of Texas at El Paso's Sun Bowl, the Associated Press reported. Cigarroa said he acted based on a "higher than normal" risk assessment; he did not provide details on the risk. El Paso leaders said that they feared the chancellor's actions would scare people away from El Paso based on the belief that some sort of spillover violence from Mexico was likely -- which they said was not the case.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Pennsylvania has placed Doug E. Lynch, vice dean of its Graduate School on Education, on leave following the discovery that he claimed to have a doctorate that he did not earn, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn officials first told the newspaper that the institution became aware of the problem several months ago and took "appropriate sanctions," while leaving Lynch in his role. After The Inquirer called Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, for comment, the university announced that Lynch had been placed on "administrative leave." Lynch declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the education school at Penn said that Lynch said he was unaware that he had not finished his doctorate requirements. "He mistakenly believed that it was complete," she said.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 3:00am

William G. Durden, president of Dickinson College, used a ceremony this week to award a posthumous honorary degree to the college's first black female graduate as a way to apologize to her family. Esther Popel Shaw graduated in 1919, and she encouraged her daughter, Patricia Shaw Iversen, to enroll there in the 1940s. DIckinson admitted Iversen, but would not let her live on campus. She then opted to attend Howard University. “There was an injustice committed by the college leadership decades ago against this family,” said Durden. “This action was plain wrong by any humane or moral standard. I wish to acknowledge publicly this wrong and apologize to the family members present on behalf of Dickinson College.”


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