Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Frank Elgar of McGill University explores the psychological benefits of making time for family meals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 15, 2013

The University of Southern California announced Wednesday that it would receive $70 million from the music producers Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to create an academy designed to encourage entrepreneurship in the music industry. The USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation -- Andre Young is Dr. Dre's real name -- will bring together courses in business, marketing, engineering and the arts, among other disciplines, to try to stimulate creativity in the music industry.

May 15, 2013

St. Mary's College of Maryland, a public liberal arts college, is likely to face a budget shortfall of about $3.5 million after commitments from incoming freshmen came in short of what the college expected, The Washington Post reported. Aiming for a class of about 470, the university has received commitments from only about 360 students so far. Administrators said the college is trying to attract more applicants and enroll students off the waitlist, as well as figure out how to cope with the lost tuition revenue. Administrators said they are not yet sure why the college saw a decrease in commitments after receiving a 14 percent increase in applications, but are looking into it.

May 15, 2013

Fifteen percent of college students have or have a friend who has ordered drugs off the Internet without a prescription, according to a new survey by the Digital Citizens Alliance. The survey of 366 current and recent students found that one in three students took prescription drugs “to get through finals,” and a third of them obtained the pills without a prescription.

May 15, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is using an unusual tactic to promote a bill she proposed on student loan interest rates: asking for "citizen co-sponsors" for the legislation. The bill, one of many proposals put forward in recent weeks to stop the interest rates for subsidized student loans from doubling as planned on July 1, would reduce student loan interest rates to 0.75 percent for a year -- the rate at which the Federal Reserve lends to major banks.

President Obama and House Republicans want a market-based rate for student loan interest; some Senate Democrats would prefer to extend the current subsidized loan interest rate of 3.4 percent while they work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

So Warren's measure isn't likely to pass. But as the first stand-alone legislation from the closely watched freshman senator, it has generated considerable interest online. "If Congress doesn't act by July 1, our students will pay nine times more than big banks," Warren said in an e-mailed appeal to supporters sent via a liberal political action committee, Democracy for America. "Our students are the engine of our economic future, and they deserve at least the same deal as Wall Street."

May 15, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee considering the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved an amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Grassley 69, which would crack down on fraudulent colleges and require accreditation for higher education institutions enrolling international students.

Other student visa-related amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday included Grassley 77, which calls for a temporary suspension of the issuance of student visas if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not promptly address problems of interoperability between the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and the database that is available to officials at border checkpoints. Meanwhile, Grassley 56, which would limit the authority of the Secretary of State to waive interviews for visa applicants, and Grassley 68, which would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the act related to international students until the full deployment of the long-delayed SEVIS II, both failed in 9-9 tie votes. (You can find all the amendments acted upon so far here.)

“We have learned time and again that there are holes in our student visa program,” Grassley said during the committee hearing. The program has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: although the suspected bombers were not foreign students, two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were.  

In a letter it sent to the committee on Monday, NAFSA:Association of International Educators urged senators not to approve amendments that could pose impediments to international students, arguing that this would undermine national security rather than enhance it. "Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat," the association wrote. The committee will next take up the immigration bill on Thursday.

May 14, 2013

Makers of competing learning management systems are coming together to offer prizes to developers for applications that can work across their different products. It's an effort to grow a common "edtech ecosystem." The goal is to spare companies the effort of having to develop every single functionality for themselves. Instead, they can have certain applications that can work across their different products. “I felt for a long time like there aren’t enough integrations and there are too many that are vendor-specific," said Brian Whitmer, co-founder of Instructure, the maker of Canvas. "There’s a lot of lock-in going on.” 

Developers will be given $250 for a program that can run in a common language across Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, and other management systems. Judges will also award $1,000 to developers who come up with the best products.

May 14, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Aaron Sachs of Cornell University reveals how many of America’s iconic urban parks had first lives as cemeteries. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 14, 2013

Cengage Learning, one of the world's largest education companies, may file for bankruptcy, its CEO says. Bloomberg reports on continued restructuring talks at the company, which was sold several years ago to a private equity firm.

May 14, 2013

A student at the University of Washington at Tacoma says she was forced to withdraw because the university changed the way it dealt with her severe nut allergy, ABC News reported. The student said that, last year, the university posted "peanut/nut-free classroom" signs on classrooms she used. But this year, the university didn't use the signs but said it would send a letter to all students in the classes asking them not to bring nuts. The student says this approach is not sufficient. But the university says that it can't assure the absence of nuts, and was trying to take reasonable steps to minimize the risk.

 

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