Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 24, 2013

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program released long-anticipated draft guidance about conditional admission and bridge, or pathway, programs on Thursday. Students admitted to the growing numbers of these programs typically have to complete an intensive English sequence or, in the case of bridge programs, a combination of ESL and academic coursework, prior to being fully admitted into a regular degree program. In such cases, many colleges have made it a practice to issue an I-20 -- a document that prospective students present in applying for visas – certifying a student's admission to a regular degree program even if that student starts out in ESL.  However, the new draft guidance suggests they will no longer be able to do this, as an I-20 can only be issued for a program for which a student meets all admission requirements.

"School officials may agree to admit a student into a program of study pending satisfactory completion of admission prerequisites via another program of study (such as, a bridge program or English language program of study)," the draft guidance states. "However, a student must meet all admission requirements for the first program of study and then transfer to the next subsequent program of study upon successful completion of the prerequisites. At all  times, the student must meet all admission requirements for a program of study prior to...issuance of the Form I-20."

The draft guidance also outlines acceptable standards for bridge programs, which some universities run in cooperation with other entities. The guidance would require all schools involved in delivering a bridge program to be SEVP-certified. And while a university may contract with another SEVP-certified institution -- such as an ESL school -- to provide English training or other nonacademic aspects of the program,  all academic coursework must be governed by the university issuing the I-20.

"We are going through it very carefully. It is quite an extensive document," said Patricia Juza, the director of global programs at Baruch College and vice president for advocacy for the American Association of Intensive English Programs. "We’re impressed by the level of detail and the amount of legal foundation for some of the explanations."

"There are a couple of things that might require some institutions to change business practices slightly, such as with bridge programs, I don’t believe from the research we’ve done that all colleges and universities that  have bridge programs issue distinct I-20s for those currently," she said. A few outstanding questions she has include how this new guidance would affect graduate students, specifically, and  the impact on students who are admitted into a degree program but are found to need additional ESL training after arriving on campus.“ We’re not clear whether that school has to issue a new I-20" in that case, she said.

May 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Brennan Peterson of Chapman University examines the psychological challenges surrounding the issue of infertility. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

 

May 24, 2013

Thomas R. Kepple Jr., the departing president of Juniata College, has been chosen to lead the American Academic Leadership Institute, which trains future college presidents and other senior administrators. As the new president of the nonprofit institute, which derives funds from its for-profit subsidiary, Academic Search, Inc., Kepple will oversee the Senior Leadership Academy, which is sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and prepares mid-level administrators for positions as provosts and vice presidents in all divisions) and Executive Leadership Academy (which prepares provosts and vice presidents to become presidents). The latter program is cosponsored by both CIC and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Both organizations receive support from the AALI. Kepple replaces Ann Die Hasselmo as leader of AALI. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to clarify the relationships between the organizations.)

May 24, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would create variable interest rates for student loans, but the measure is likely to stall since Senate Democrats strongly oppose it and President Obama has vowed a veto. Interest rates for federally subsidized Stafford loans will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 if Congress does not act, and both President Obama and Congressional Republicans had originally said they favored a long-term solution. But Congressional Democrats have opposed the House Republicans' plan, which would create interest rates based on 10-year Treasury bonds that would vary over the life of the loan, and want to sustain the 3.4 percent interest rate for another year or two so that Congress can consider the interest rate in the context of the broader renewal of the Higher Education Act.

The Obama administration had originally proposed a market-based solution of its own: as in the House Republican plan, rates would vary from year to year with interest rates in the broader economy. But, once a loan was issued, the interest rates would be fixed over the life of the loan. In a statement Thursday night, Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggested that the administration might support Democratic proposals to push the increase back. "Now is not the time to double interest rates on student loans, and we remain committed to working with Congress on a bipartisan approach to a long-term, fiscally sustainable solution that will help students and families afford higher education now and in the future," Duncan said. "Given the impending July 1 deadline, an extension that protects students against higher rates while Congress develops an alternative solution is another reasonable option."

The bill, H.R. 1911, passed by a vote of 221 to 198, largely along party lines.

May 23, 2013

A Dallas woman who has enrolled in and dropped out of 13 colleges since 2009 -- regularly applying for and keeping federal financial aid -- was indicted Tuesday on six counts of financial aid fraud, The Dallas Morning News reported. When some of the colleges asked her to return aid funds, she refused, and when one college cut off her aid, she filed an appeal.

 

May 23, 2013

The U.S. Education Department today published its annual compendium of all the data you'd want to know about American education: "The Condition of Education 2013." The report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics, includes special focus sections on the employment rates of young adults (noting that those with bachelor's degree are far likelier than high school graduates to be employed) and on various aspects of student debt.

May 23, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, David Vaught of Texas A&M University explores big-city baseball’s rural roots. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 23, 2013

Students, joined by civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, on Wednesday filed complaints against Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California over their handling of complaints of sexual assaults, The Los Angeles Times reported. The complaints -- filed with the U.S. Department of Education -- charge that the institutions have failed to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault or to accurate report such incidents as required by federal law. The charges are similar to those made recently with the Education Department about Occidental College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. College officials, while acknowledging periodic missteps, have generally said that they make every effort to comply with the relevant laws.

 

May 23, 2013

The University of Minnesota at Duluth has fired Rod Raymond as wellness director over numerous charges that he denies, The Duluth News Tribune reported. During the last four years, two students filed sexual harassment complaints against Raymond and he was facing other, unspecified charges. A university statement said that he was dismissed for, among other things, “violation of the Regent’s Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships;" “inappropriate sexual conduct with a UMD student on university premises and during work hours,” and "untruthfulness during an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation." Raymond has denied all charges, and vowed to challenge his dismissal.

 

May 23, 2013

The University of Georgia will soon begin offering “soft benefits” – voluntary dental, vision and life insurance – to domestic partners of employees, it announced  this week. Approximately 35 percent of the 150 couples to apply for the benefits are same-sex, a university spokesman said. Although law and policy prohibit state money from funding domestic partner benefits in Georgia, the extension of voluntary, employee-paid soft benefits to domestic partners of employees of state institutions, including Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology, dates back to 2002. "The majority of our peers do it, and it's a competitive matter; it's the ability to compete for talent," said Tom Jackson, vice president for public affairs at University of Georgia. The decision followed a recent vote by the University Council to extend full benefits to domestic partners. In a statement, President Michael Adams said that offering full benefits to domestic partners using private funds "will, unfortunately, require further study."

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