Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 30, 2013

E. Gordon Gee, who stepped down as president of Ohio State University on July 1, will make $5.8 million over the next five years as part of a new contract with the university. According to the contract, Gee will serve as a tenured professor in Ohio State's law school and his responsibilities will include "completion of his research on 21st Century Education Policy and will include research, writing and national speaking as well as teaching or lecturing" in the law school, the school of public affairs and the college of education. Gee's annual base salary will be $410,000, and he will receive retirement contributions and a grant of $300,000 to fund his research. After the five years are up, Gee's salary will be equivalent to the highest-paid non-administrative faculty member in the law school.

The new contract waives any compensation Gee would have been entitled to under his previous contract with the university, which would have paid out approximately $6 million in supplemental and deferred compensation over the next four years.

July 30, 2013

After three top-tier universities backed away from it, three new universities have joined a partnership created by the company 2U to access a pool of for-credit online courses offered by other universities.

Baylor University, Southern Methodist University and Temple University will offer its students classes from the partnership, known as Semester Online. That will allow students at those three universities to take courses offered by Boston College, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, and Washington University. Unlike those institutions, Baylor, SMU and Temple will not offer courses into the pool but only draw from it. 

Earlier this year, the three top-tier universities - Duke University, the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University - backed away from Semester Online, citing a variety of concerns.

July 30, 2013

An Education Department proposal to expand the scope and reach of its central database for student aid would violate federal law and distort the database's purposes, a group of higher education associations argued in a letter sent to department officials Monday.

The letter, sent by the American Council on Education on behalf of seven other groups, responds to a request for comment published in the Federal Register in late June, in which the Education Department's Federal Student Aid office proposed to make a set of changes to information collected by the National Student Loan Data System.

The associations' letter argues that some of the department's goals are appropriately tied to the database's original purpose, but it questions a plan to modify legal provisions related to gainful employment programs to collect information about students who do not receive federal financial aid, among other things. "[W]e do not understand how the inclusion of information about unaided students in NSLDS can be justified," they wrote.

The groups also challenged the department's plan to expand the student loan database to collect consumer protection and program evaluation data, and the department's authority to make such changes in a Federal Register notice rather than through legislation. The proposals, they write, "exceed the boundaries of the law in ways that the courts have prohibited and that distort the purposes of NSLDS."

The letter also cites numerous ways in which the department's proposal falls short of its obligations under the Federal Privacy Act.

July 30, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Hannah Dugdale of the University of Sheffield explores the underrepresentation of women as presenters at top-tier academic conferences. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


July 30, 2013

The U.S. Education Department last week announced significant changes in the array of providers it uses to service federal student loans, and the flurry of changes are likely to reinforce concerns among some student loan borrowers about how they and their loans are treated by the servicers (especially when their loans are split among multiple servicers).

The announcement from the department on Friday expanded on an earlier announcement about the agency's plan to phase out the involvement of ACS (which is owned by Xerox) from its student loan servicing team, and the addition of Nelnet. The statement, aimed at financial aid officers, also notes that the technology platform used by four nonprofit loan servicers is being discontinued, and that loans held by those servicers will be transferred to two other nonprofit service providers.

A ProPublica report last year documented the difficulties that some borrowers had encountered from having their loans randomly assigned to servicers (and in some cases multiple ones), including inconsistent or changing information about how much they owe, payment plans, etc.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in March that it would extend its oversight to student loan servicers.

July 29, 2013

A new law in New York State requires colleges to give students information about fire safety in their dormitories or in off-campus housing run by universities, and the information must address specifics about students' housing, such as sprinkler systems, the Associated Press reported. The law goes beyond previous legislation, which required colleges to publish information about fire safety. The new law applies to public and private institutions.


July 29, 2013

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is about to end his tenure as Iran's president, will be starting a university, Bloomberg reported. The university, which will focus on graduate education, will be located in Teheran.


July 29, 2013

Willamette University has evicted Sigma Chi from its fraternity house in the wake of an investigation of Facebook posts by members, The Statesman Journal reported. In May, an anonymous blog posted the fraternity house's private Facebook page, with notes making sexually derogatory comments about female students and faculty members. The comments outraged many on the campus.


July 29, 2013

A University of Montana booster paid for bail and legal representation for two football players arrested for obstructing a peace officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, while many other athletes received clothing, loans, lodging and other impermissible benefits from boosters and athletic staff, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association public infractions report released Friday. For these and other violations, the NCAA cited Montana with a failure to monitor, and issued penalties including scholarship reductions, vacation of wins, three years' probation and a coaching suspension. The head coach and senior athletics administrators learned about the bail payments after the fact and failed to notify compliance officers, the report says.

In May, Montana reached a settlement with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, which requires the university to improve its response to sexual assault. The most high-profile allegations, and the ones that prompted OCR to investigate, were made against football players.

July 29, 2013

In an effort to reduce instances of head trauma among athletes, the Pacific-12 Conference became the second to reduce the limit in full-contact football practices, it announced Friday. Teams will be limited to two full-contact practices per week during the regular season and in the spring, and will reduce contact during preseason two-a-day practices. The limits resemble those imposed two years ago by the Ivy League; the NCAA permits five full-contact practices a week.

As awareness and concern about the dangers of head trauma has grown, some conference commissioners and critics including the National College Players' Association have implored the National Collegiate Athletic Association to do more to prevent concussions. The NCAA, however, points out that it is a membership association and has mostly left it to individual conferences and institutions to take the lead. The Ivy League, Big Ten, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12 have also set up long-term research projects to address the issue.


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