Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2013

Learning management system provider Desire2Learn is putting its $80 million in venture capital funding to use, acquiring its third startup in less than a year. This week, the company announced it has acquired the adaptive learning company Knowillage, which produces LeaP, a system that can index an institution's academic materials. If a student is struggling with a particular topic, LeaP can suggest content that allows the student to attack the topic from a different angle.

Desire2Learn will integrate the technology into its learning system.

"With this system, the teacher will be able ... to ensure that everybody can have access to a tool that continually increases their competency in any given course, in any given concept," said Jeff McDowell, Desire2Learn vice president of marketing and business development.

Desire2Learn previously acquired Wiggio, which creates group management software, and Degree Compass, an analytics tool. McDowell described the acquisitions as "tuck-ins," and said Desire2Learn does not have any future acquisitions "in the hopper."

September 11, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department’s attempts to regulate colleges and universities over the past several years provide good protections for students and taxpayers, the department’s independent investigatory arm has concluded.    

The report by the department’s inspector general was released on the second day of a negotiated rule-making hearing aimed at rewriting the department’s controversial gainful employment regulations. It finds that some type of gainful employment metrics are needed to hold colleges accountable and to protect taxpayer money. The report also applauds the department’s efforts to define a credit hour and require institutions of higher education to be authorized by the state in which they operate.

The inspector general’s office relied on its previous audits and investigations to produce the analysis. It did not appear to evaluate the impact of the regulations or weigh alternative rule proposals.

Representative George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, sought the study from the Education Department’s inspector general in response to legislation being pushed by House Republicans to repeal those regulations and prohibit the Obama administration from enacting new ones. The proposal cleared the Republican-led House education committee in July on a mostly party-line vote, with one Democrat supporting the measure. 

September 11, 2013

Cornell University announced a $100 million gift to its medical college Tuesday. The donors -- for whom the medical school is already named -- are Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The Weills have now given $600 million to the university.

 

September 11, 2013

Researchers are tapping into data on students to nudge students through college, according to a report released Tuesday by Education Sector.

Technology-driven behavioral nudges range from providing students with course recommendations based on the performance of past students to offering study advice via text messaging or counseling over the phone. “By giving students information-driven suggestions that lead to smarter actions, technology nudges are intended to tackle a range of problems surrounding the process by which students begin college and make their way to graduation,” said the report.

Some researchers found that sending reminders about placement tests, orientation and pre-college tasks via text messages to low-income high school graduates increased the likelihood students would be on campus in the fall.

The report, “Nudge Nation: A New Way to Prod Students Into and Through College,” advocated for further research on mining data for students’ benefits.

“Like many other technology initiatives, these ventures are relatively young and much remains to be learned about how they can be made most effective,” the report said. “Already, however, nudge designers are having a good deal of success marrying knowledge of human behavior with the capacity of technology to reach students at larger scale, and lower cost, than would be possible in person.”

September 11, 2013

An official with the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday suggested that a panel of negotiators consider including a program-level cohort default rate as part of proposed gainful employment regulations, which would would measure the employment outcomes of vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. That metric would be a new addition to an annual debt-to-income ratio and a discretionary income ratio.

John Kolotos, the official, who is a negotiator for the rule-making session that began this week, said the department had not vetted the details on how a loan default rate would work. But the department already has an institution-level rate in place, and he said the feds consider a three-year program-level rate of 30 percent (and one year at 40 percent) to be a "viable addition" to gainful employment. It would be a stand-alone measure, he said, meaning academic programs would lose eligibility for federal aid programs if they crossed the threshold, regardless of how they perform on other measures. 

September 11, 2013

The University of North Carolina’s public television network is defending its appointment of the controversial author Orson Scott Card to its Board of Trustees.

UNC-TV released a statement clarifying that the Board of Trustees is not involved in the editorial process after backlash from Card’s appointment. Card received national attention over political writings published in Greensboro’s Rhinoceros Times, where he compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, WRAL reported. Card, author of the award-winning books Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, is also vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage and “Leftaliban” in higher education and the news media.

“There have always been board members with a variety of opinions and backgrounds on the UNC-TV Board of Trustees, and the membership of the board is always changing," UNC-TV's statement said. "What has not changed is UNC-TV’s commitment to its mission of providing excellent public television programming for all the citizens of North Carolina."

September 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico explains how electronically bugging a tropical forest can provide insight about the native species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 11, 2013

Converse College, a South Carolina college with about 700 undergraduate students, joined the club Tuesday of 10 or so other institutions that have "reset" their tuition rates. The college said it would reduce its tuition by about 43 percent to $16,500 for students in fall 2014. The college said the new sticker price is actually close to the average cost students pay anyway. Colleges generally list higher rates than they charge most students.

September 11, 2013

Cash payments for good plays, sham and no-show jobs, and regular financial support from boosters regardless of on-field performance – in one player’s case, in excess of $25,000 – were rampant throughout the Oklahoma State University football program from 2001 to at least 2011, the first installment of a five-part Sports Illustrated expose on the team alleges. Part one, which focuses on money changing hands between boosters, coaches and athletes, was published Tuesday. Multiple former players said that 15 to 20 or so athletes received money under the table each year, some directly from football staff members and assistant coaches, with payments ranging from between $100 and $500 for an exceptional play, to thousands per week for little to no work. Many other former athletes and some staff blasted the report online, questioning the sources’ credibility and claiming the assertions were untrue. Oklahoma State President Burns Haggis said in a statement to SI that that officials “will investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action.”

The rest of the series will be published through Monday and focuses on academic fraud and misconduct, drug use and dealing, sex as a recruiting tool, and the fallout for Oklahoma State athletes.
 

September 11, 2013

Enrollment is down 18 percent this fall at Midway College, a private institution in Kentucky, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. As a result, the college is eliminating the positions of about a dozen of its 54 faculty members, and ending all employer contributions to retirement accounts. "As an institution that is so heavily dependent on tuition revenue, cuts have to be made," said John Marsden, the president,  in a news release. "After exhausting all other options, some faculty contracts will be eliminated from this fiscal year in order to balance the budget."

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