A big name in student finance is entering a market that has been populated mostly by under-the-radar players: the practice of providing insurance for students' payments for tuition and other college-related costs and risks. Sallie Mae, long the dominant player in a student loan player that was upended by the one-two punch of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's scrutiny and the Obama administration's policy changes, announced Monday that it would join with Next Generation Insurance Group to offer products such as the "Student Protection Plan," "a package of tuition insurance, ID theft protection, emergency medical evacuation, and other services to meet the needs of a typical college student." Several other companies have dabbled in providing insurance to refund tuition to students who drop out for documented medical or other reasons, but Sallie Mae is by far the biggest and most visible entity to do so.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Humboldt University, Berlin's oldest university, announced Monday that Google is setting up a research institute there, the Associated Press reported. The research center will study the evolution of the Internet and its role in science, politics, economics and other parts of life. Other partners will be the Berlin University of Arts, the Social Science Research Center Berlin and the Hamburg Hans-Bredow-Institute
An American Bar Association panel reviewing standards used to evaluate law schools is leaning toward requiring more job protection for clinical law instructors and others who work full time, but off the tenure track, The National Law Journal reported. Many such instructors currently work on year-to-year or semester-to-semester contracts, providing little job security. The plan gaining support would require law schools to have a system of "presumptively renewable long-term contracts" for such instructors. While that would fall short of tenure, it would represent improvements for many instructors, committee members believe.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the University of Minnesota to discipline a student in a mortuary sciences program who posted jokes about a cadaver on a Facebook page, Minnesota Public Radio reported. The student argued that the First Amendment protects the posts, but the appeals court found that the university could take action if it could "reasonably conclude" that the Facebook postings would "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school."
Scientists are increasingly treating addiction as a disease needing treatment. The New York Times noted a consequence of this trend: 10 medical schools have just introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine.
A plan to pay Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State University, $400,000 -- $100,000 more than his predecessor -- has legislators and faculty leaders furious, The Los Angeles Times reported. California State University officials say that system presidents aren't underpaid. But critics say that the proposed salary sends a terrible message and wastes money at a time that the state's public universities are facing deep budget cuts and students are being hit with a new round of tuition increases.
Many law schools are making curricular shifts to focus on practical skills instead of legal theory, The Wall Street Journal reported. The article noted that Indiana University's Maurer School of Law has started teaching project management and that the New York Law School has been adding faculty members to teach negotiation, counseling and investigation. Washington and Lee University's law school moved in this direction in 2008, replacing third-year courses with practical training.
The University of Texas System has sued Ryan O'Neal, the actor and long-time companion of the late Farrah Fawcett, charging that he has held on to an Andy Warhol portrait of the late actress that belongs in the art museum of the university's Austin campus, The Austin American-Statesman reported. The university argues that Fawcett left all of her art to her alma mater. But a publicist for O'Neal said that Fawcett gave him the portrait in question.
In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains the similarity between molecules and Lego bricks, and reveals how chemists use them to build new and useful compounds. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Scientists at the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, on Friday announced a joint water research agreement involving counterparts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel; the University of Ghent, in Belgium; and the University of California at Los Angeles. The announcement raised some eyebrows as the Johannesburg faculty voted in March to end ties with Ben-Gurion, saying that the Israeli university was complicit with policies that hurt Palestinians. (Ben-Gurion has maintained that it actually does considerable work with Palestians, and many academic groups have opposed academic boycotts, but the Johannesburg administration followed the faculty vote and allowed to lapse an agreement between the two universities.) While the new agreement has been reported in some publications as an abandonment of the faculty vote, Johannesburg officials say that is not the case. The faculty had the right to bar institutional exchanges, but not those arranged by individual faculty members, the officials said. Ihron Rensburg, vice chancellor at Johannesburg, issued a statement in which he said that the university "upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish."