Higher Education Quick Takes
Santa Monica College's plans for two-tiered tuition rates (higher prices for high demand courses) have drawn criticism from those who view it as going against the traditional values of community colleges. But a local couple is responding to the news by donating $250,000 to pay for scholarships for those who can't afford the higher prices, The Los Angeles Times reported. Daniel Greenberg, who is giving the money with his wife Susan Steinhauser, told the Times that he admired the college's president, Chui Tsang, for proposing an innovative solution to the college's financial and capacity problems. "He has not dealt with this by avoiding the issues but by confronting them and hopefully has found a really good way of tackling them," Greenberg said.
Colorado's attorney general on Wednesday announced a $4.5 million settlement with Westwood College Inc., over allegations that the for-profit higher education provider engaged in deceptive business practices. Westwood will pay $2 million to the state and credit $2.5 million toward restitution for students who used the college's tuition financing plan. The state's complaint had alleged that Westwood inflated its job placement rates and misled prospective students about the average wages of graduates, transferability of course credits and the total cost of Westwood degrees. It also alleged that the college failed to disclose the terms of its student financing program.
Westwood made no admission of liability as part of the settlement. In 2009 the college agreed to a $7 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice related to a complaint about filing false claims for federal student aid. It is also the subject of an investigation by the Illinois attorney general. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, on Wednesday called for the college's accreditors and federal agencies to "immediately review whether the school has the sufficient institutional integrity and academic quality to continue receiving taxpayer-funded financial aid."
A jury on Wednesday sided with the parents of two students killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, finding the university negligent for waiting to inform the campus about the gunman, the Associated Press reported. After deliberating for three and a half hours, jurors awarded $4 million each to the families of two women who were among the 33 dead. Lawyers for the state -- who had argued that university officials did all they could in the face of an unprecedented tragedy -- immediately filed to reduce the size of the verdict, the AP reported.
Tablet ownership is increasing among college students and high school seniors, according to a survey released by the Pearson Foundation. Among college students, ownership is now 25 percent, up from 7 percent a year ago. Among high school seniors, the figure is now 17 percent, up from 4 percent. A majority of college students (63 percent) and high school seniors (69 percent) believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within five years. The survey was conducted in January by Harris Interactive. More than 1,200 college students and 200 college-bound high school seniors responded.
A team of lawyers continued their barrage of legal actions challenging the accuracy and legitimacy of law school placement rates, threatening class actions against 20 more schools. David Anziska, the lawyer leading the group, said that the 20 schools -- like the 14 previously sued -- had misrepresented their post-graduate employment rates. He also warned that "at the end of this process, nearly every law school in the country will be sued.” The schools cited in this round include some more-visible names than the prior targets. The 20 schools are American University Washington College of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, Loyola Marymount University Law School, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, New England School of Law, Pace University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law, St. Louis University School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, Seattle University School of Law, Stetson University College of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, University of Miami School of Law; University of St. Thomas School of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law, Western New England University School of Law, and Whittier Law School.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Chicago State University to reinstate a former adviser to its student newspaper that the institution fired in 2008 in the wake of a series of critical articles, the Student Press Law Center reported. The judge's decision sided with Gerian Steven Moore, ruling that the public university had violated his First Amendment rights and ordering him to be reinstated to his job as executive director for communications or a similar position. The decision did not go entirely for the plaintiffs, however, as the court ruled against the newspaper's former editor, who had sought action against the former administrators who helped bring about the demise of the Tempo, the student newspaper at the time.
The board of Santa Monica College has approved a plan to charge a much higher price for certain courses, typically to students who enroll for them after the two-year institution has filled its allotment of state-funded courses, the Los Angeles Times reported. Under the plan, the college would create a nonprofit foundation that would charge as much as $200 a unit for high-demand courses such as English and math, compared to the standard rate of $36 (which is due to rise to $46 this summer).
College officials said they believed the program was on solid legal ground, but critics express the concern that such an approach amounts to privatizing public higher education, and a spokesman for the California Community College chancellor's office told the Times the plan did not appear to comply with state education codes.
Robert J. Birgeneau announced Tuesday that he will retire as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley at the end of 2012. He was appointed in 2004, and said that he originally hoped to lead the campus for seven years, but opted to stay due to the severe budget pressure the university has faced. Birgeneau has faced student criticism over budget cuts, and what many students believe was excessive force in dealing with protests. But he also pushed hard through private fund-raising to protect Berkeley from raids on its faculty talent.