Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2014

On a typical day of classes, college students are still more likely to use a laptop than a tablet or smartphone, according to a survey on mobile device use sponsored by Pearson. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found smartphone use growing almost as common as laptop use, however. Nearly nine in 10 students surveyed, or 89 percent, used a laptop on a regular basis, compared to 83 percent who said they used a smartphone. Last year, 72 percent of survey respondents said they used a smartphone. Tablet use is increasing more slowly, with 45 percent of surveyed students saying they used one regularly -- up 5 percent from the year before.

September 11, 2014

Learning management system provider Blackboard has simplified how it licenses its smartphone app Mobile Learn. Colleges and universities can license the app for use across the institution, or they can leave it up to individual instructors and students, for whom the price for the app is $1.99. Previously, the app cost $1.99 a year, or $5.99 for life. The change appears to be a result of the company's announcement this July that it would bundle its products together in different solutions.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect how the licensing system has changed.

September 11, 2014

A former West Virginia University professor who had been nominated to lead its epidemiology department made up credentials for his resume, including his doctorate, and may now face questions about his published works, according to an investigation by NBC News.

NBC's report raises questions about Anoop Shankar and what it called his "history of fraud." Shankar, who left the university in December 2012,  was asked to lead a public health program just as the university was attempting to start a public health school and step up its quest for research dollars in a state with many citizens facing dire short- and long-term health problems. The report also suggested, in an even more bizarre twist, that two people close to Shankar falsely accused another professor of sexual misconduct because that professor was reviewing Shankar's credentials. 

In a statement, university spokesman John Bolt failed to address specifics but said the university "immediately and appropriately followed its policies, procedures and all applicable law to assess the circumstances" since questions about Shankar's credentials were first raised while he was still at the university. He added, "WVU's discoveries were shared with law enforcement and appropriate research funding agencies."  Yet, according to NBC, when Shankar was "forced" out under a cloud, the public was never informed about the situation. After WVU, Shankar moved on to Virginia Commonwealth University. But he is no longer there after it opened its own investigation following inquiries by NBC.


September 11, 2014

Faculty at Florida State University are continuing a months-long struggle against a well-connected politician who may become the university's next president. 

Faculty have long said John Thrasher, a state senator and former speaker of the House who is also chairman of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s reelection campaign, has benefited from his connections and back-room dealings. Now, Thrasher, whose name has been in the mix all summer, is one of four finalists. The Faculty Senate approved a motion Wednesday that called upon the Board of Trustees "not to hire Senator Thrasher as the next president of FSU. Senator Thrasher lacks the stated qualifications required for the position, whereas the other three finalists meet those qualifications."

Thrasher has a law degree, the other three finalists have Ph.Ds. They are: Richard Marchase, a vice president at Alabama at Birmingham; Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System; and Michele Wheatly, the former provost of West Virginia University. 

September 11, 2014

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who has been a leading critic of how the U.S. Department of Education oversees the companies it hires to service federal student loans, indicated Wednesday that she is not satisfied with the department’s effort to overhaul its agreements with those companies. Under pressure from Senate Democrats like Warren, as well as many groups representing students, labor unions, and consumers, the Education Department announced last month that it had renegotiated new contracts with the four main entities it hires to manage payments for federal student loan borrowers.

The new contracts change the payment structure for loan servicers, increasing the rate at which they are paid for accounts in good standing and reducing the amount of money they are paid for delinquent accounts. The servicers will also receive new bonuses if they keep their borrowers’ delinquency rates at certain levels.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Warren grilled an Education Department official over the new contracts, asking why the loan servicing companies would be paid more to manage the payments of borrowers in good standing. She cited analysis by Compass Point that showed that Navient, the loan-servicing business that was previously part of Sallie Mae, stood to receive an additional $20 million under the payment structure without making any changes to the health of their portfolio.

Navient has drawn particular scrutiny from Warren and other student and consumer groups. Federal prosecutors earlier this year accused the company of overcharging military service members. It entered into a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Department of Justice, in which it did not admit any wrongdoing.

William Leith, the chief business operations officer for the department’s Federal Student Aid office, said that while the department estimated that the servicers, in aggregate, would receive more money to service loans, the contracts were designed to help borrowers. He said that the Education Department was on track to complete a 120-day review of whether any of its loan servicers, including Navient, had illegally overcharged service member borrowers. That review will be completed in the next several weeks, he said. 

September 11, 2014

Scott Dalrymple, the new president of Columbia College in Missouri, is marking his forthcoming inaugural in an unusual way. He is organizing a student match on the popular sports video game Madden NFL. Then he will play the winner, and if the student wins, Dalrymple will pay for all of his or her textbooks for a year. Dalrymple issued his challenge in the video below, which moves quickly from "Pomp and Circumstance" to trash-talking about teams that the president (a Buffalo Bills fan) does not favor.



September 11, 2014

Thirty-eight students at Olivet College have been treated at local hospitals in the last two days for symptoms such as nausea, headaches and dizziness, The Lansing State Journal reported. The college has also evacuated a dormitory in which 35 of the students lived. The college is testing for elevated levels of carbon monoxide. (Note: This item has been corrected based on information provided by the college.)

September 11, 2014

In a new level of collaboration, the Five College Consortium will soon begin construction of a 2.5-million-volume library annex that will provide shelving to supplement the capacities of the on-campus libraries. The consortium's members are Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


September 11, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Chris Adami, professor of physics and astronomy, and of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University, discusses his work to improve upon Stephen Hawking’s landmark theories about the universe. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


September 10, 2014

Trustees of the California State University System warned Tuesday that, if the system doesn't get enough state funds, it could be forced to admit only transfer students, The Los Angles Times reported. As more students attend community colleges and qualify for Cal State admission, trustees said, the system is squeezed in its ability to admit freshmen, and that pressure could increase without more state funding.



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