Higher Education Quick Takes
The board of the University of Vermont has ended the official volunteer role of Rachel Kahn-Fogel, wife of President Daniel Fogel, in fund-raising and other events, The Burlington Free Press reported. The move came amid an investigation into Kahn-Fogel's apparent pursuit of a personal relationship with a senior administrator at the university, Michael Schultz, associate vice president of development and alumni relations. Kahn-Fogel's interest in Schultz became known when Schultz's wife -- who is currently in divorce proceedings with him -- found unopened letters from Kahn-Fogel to Schultz. He acknowledged in the divorce proceedings that he had secured a post office box to receive the letters privately. Fogel released a statement in which he said that he supported the inquiry, and revealing (with his wife's permission) that "she has long been in treatment for serious mental health issues with which she has struggled throughout her life."
Schultz wrote his doctoral dissertation on issues related to the spouses of colleges and university presidents; Inside Higher Ed has quoted him about the subject and published an essay in which he offered advice to presidential spouses. One of his points: "A good reputation is hard to earn but easy to lose."
Fogel announced in March that he would step down as president next year, after 10 years in office.
Students who arrived at Alpine College, a for-profit college in Washington State, were stunned Monday to find the institution shut down, The Spokesman-Review reported. Many of the students had just started courses, and paid tuition. The owner and the vice president did not respond to requests for comment, but a statement from the college cited financial problems and the poor health of one of the owners. One owner was barred in 2007 from working as a certified public accountant for two years. And a former executive director is facing charges of theft of college funds to make $45,000 in personal purchases, the newspaper said.
It would probably be a cheap joke to call it a mixed marriage -- but the Touro College and University System is announcing today that it is taking over control of New York Medical College from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Touro, which describes itself as "America’s largest, not-for-profit, independent institution of higher and professional education under Jewish auspices," will add the private health sciences institution in Westchester County, N.Y., to its mix of osteopathic medicine and pharmacy colleges. New York Medical College operates a medical school, a graduate school in basic medical sciences, and a School of Health Sciences and Practice. The institutions announced 18 months ago that they would affiliate; under the arrangement to be announced today, Touro will appoint a new board to operate New York Medical College.
Colleges in and around Joplin, Mo., were not among the sites hardest hit by this week's devastating tornadoes, but are playing a role in recovery efforts, raising money, operating as relief centers -- and also trying to verify the safety of their students and employees. An article in The Springfield News-Leader reviewed the efforts. These web pages describe efforts at Crowder College and Missouri Southern State University.
The Thiel Foundation is today announcing its inaugural class of fellows in an unusual program: $100,000 and mentorship for two years as long as the talented recipients agree to stay out of college. More than 400 people applied, and 24 fellowships are being awarded. The idea behind the program is that talented young entrepreneurs should set out to create businesses without waiting for formal education credentials.
Architecture faculty members at Tel Aviv University are angry over the design for a new wing of the architecture school, saying that the design doesn't work with the campus, Haaretz reported. Faculty members say that the university can't object to the design because the architect is also the donor.
The Connecticut Senate ended a Republican filibuster Tuesday and passed legislation that would let undocumented immigrants who attended and graduated from high schools in the state pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, The Hartford Courant reported. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill and Governor Dannel P. Malloy has said that he will sign it.
A Louisiana legislative panel voted Tuesday to endorse a constitutional amendment that would consolidate several boards that govern the state's public colleges and universities into a single board of trustees, The Times-Picayune reported. The measure, which Governor Bobby Jindal has promoted, is one of several being considered in states around the country as they look to centralize decision making, cut costs, or both. A legislative leader in Rhode Island proposed this week that the state's separate boards for elementary/secondary education and higher education be combined into a single Board of Regents, according to The Providence Journal. And Connecticut lawmakers have been discussing a plan that would merge the Connecticut State University and Connecticut Community Colleges systems under a single board, excluding the University of Connecticut.
Six weeks have passed since the comment period closed on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rules for how student health plans provided by colleges and universities would be affected by the health care overhaul. But Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat from West Virginia and chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, waited until Friday to weigh in with a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that reiterated his call for protecting students with pre-existing conditions and guarding against dollar limits on care, and for avoiding unexpected dropped coverage because of clerical errors. But he also went to great lengths to call out insurance companies that say student health plans should not be subject to that law because their market is a volatile one with unique administrative costs.
Rockefeller’s letter, which references various articles and other research, focuses mostly on minimum medical loss ratios, or the percentage of every consumer’s dollar that goes toward actual health care rather than administrative costs. The standard ratio ranges from 80 to 85 percent, but as data the senator cites in his letter show, the ratios for the largest student health plans range from 44 to 94 percent – and the fact that many carriers exceed the 80-percent threshold undercuts their protests, he says.
It’s not surprising to see the pro-Affordable Care Act senator trying to make sure Sebelius isn’t swayed by the insurers’ comments, said Bryan A. Liang, executive director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law. This allows Rockefeller to not only make a clear statement after the comment dust settled, but also remind Sebelius that she too has called on insurers to embrace health care reform. The letter is also particularly timely as more states are applying for ACA waivers, Liang said. Steven M. Bloom, director of federal relations for the American Council on Education, said there’s nothing in the letter that ACE would disagree with; in its own comments ACE took a more ambivalent position on the medical loss ratios, recommending that HHS follow guidance from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.