Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Friday, July 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Demos, the Progressive Change Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers on Thursday released a checklist for evaluating debt-free college proposals, outlining what lawmakers and candidates should include when presenting policy plans on the topic. The requirements include making sure all undergraduates have access to debt-free colleges and having the plan apply to all college costs and not just tuition.

Several presidential candidates have made debt-free college one of their major policy points. But Hillary Clinton, who was recently endorsed by AFT, has not released any plans on debt-free college, although she is said to possibly present a plan on college affordability later this month. Of late, she has been speaking of "college affordability," not "debt-free college."

Randi Weingarten, the president of AFT, said the AFT questionnaire presented to all candidates as part of the endorsement process did not specifically address debt-free college but instead asked a broader question about college affordability. She said Clinton had supported President Obama's free community college plan and discussed states cutting support for higher education. Weingarten affirmed AFT’s stance on debt-free college, saying that they “are looking at all aspects of this, not just college affordability -- making sure the colleges students go to have the support and materials and funding that they need.”

Friday, July 17, 2015 - 3:00am

With its enrollment having dropped by a quarter since 2010, Davenport University will close or merge several of its campuses in Michigan, MLive reported. The university's own news release about the changes focuses on the expansion of its campus in Grand Rapids, which is attracting increasing numbers of traditional-age students and will begin a football program next year, and the possible establishment of a campus in Detroit. But the release notes -- as the MLive article emphasizes -- that Davenport will shift its current campus operations in Flint and Kalamazoo to community colleges in those cities, merge its Saginaw operation into another nearby campus, and close its Battle Creek campus. Enrollment at the private nonprofit university has fallen from about 11,500 to about 8,500 since 2010, MLive reported.

Friday, July 17, 2015 - 4:24am

Joseph Lee, who was named president of Pine Manor College two years ago, has left, with little word on why except that it was a "voluntary departure." Lee took over at Pine Manor as the small private women's college outside Boston started admitting men. A recent piece on WGBH News reviewed the college's financial challenges. On Thursday, the college announced that Rosemary Ashby, who was president from 1976 to 1996, would return as interim president.

Friday, July 17, 2015 - 3:00am

About a third of the 119 students participating in a scholarship program that brings Palestinian students to medical school in Venezuela have dropped out, causing tensions in the Palestinian-Venezuelan relationship, the Associated Press reported. Students complained of a lack of rigor in the program.

Friday, July 17, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Martin Krieger, professor of planning at the University of Southern California, provides a close look at the nature of innovation, creativity and the creation of entrepreneurs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Liberty University, which enrolls more students than any other private nonprofit college, attracts many Republican candidates who give speeches about the dangers of government spending. But The Washington Post noted that Liberty's huge growth has been fueled by federal student aid and loans. In the late 1990s, Liberty was receiving less than $20 million in funds from student aid and loans. Students at the university now receive more than $800 million in federal assistance.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Legal Aid of North Carolina on Wednesday announced the settlement of a suit against Shaw University, which admitted that it rescinded an offer of admission to a student after learning that he had a serious disability. The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights also backed the student, and the university agreed to change policies and to admit the student, meet his needs, and pay the student and his family for the expenses they face while preparing to enroll. The student plans to enroll in the fall. WRAL News reported that the student has cerebral palsy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Nike will pay the University of Michigan a total of $169 million in cash and merchandise over 11 years for the exclusive rights to equip its sports teams, The Detroit News reported. The deal was announced last week, but Michigan revealed the terms of the arrangement on Wednesday. Under the deal, which begins in 2016 and runs through 2027 (with a university option to extend it for four more years), Michigan will receive about $122 million in cash in addition to the apparel and equipment for its 31 varsity teams.

The contract replaces one with Adidas that was worth $8.2 million a year, about half of the new arrangement. The existing deal was the biggest for any public university, although the University of Notre Dame's with Under Armour was reportedly worth $90 million. The Portland Business Journal keeps a database of such arrangements.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of the Witwatersrand, one of South Africa's top universities, announced Tuesday that it will not bring charges against Mcebo Dlamini, a former student leader who in April wrote on his Facebook page that he loved Hitler. The remark was followed by interviews in which Dlamini defended his admiration for the Nazi dictator, saying that he was a "leader" who "uplifted the spirit" of Germans and improved the country's economy. Jewish groups in South Africa called for the university to punish Dlamini, who lost his student government position the previous year for unrelated reasons. South Africa's Constitution exempts hate speech from the normal protections of free speech -- and many in the country said that praising Hitler was hate speech.

The university took a different view on the legal issue, while also criticizing the praise for Hitler. "On the basis of existing case evidence, the legal office found that Mr. Dlamini's utterances did not breach the exceptions to the Constitution regarding freedom of speech. There are grounds for him to be charged for failing to meet his fiduciary requirements as [student government] president. However, given the fact that he has already been removed from this capacity, the university does not deem it appropriate to charge him in this regard," said a statement from the university. "Obviously, the university still holds the view that Mr. Dlamini's remarks were abhorrent and not in standing with the values of this institution. The university remains embarrassed that one of its own could have made such comments. However, given its commitment to freedom of speech as espoused in the Constitution, the university is committed to providing a space for the free exchange of ideas, whether or not it agrees with those ideas."

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The United States has no national policy on foreign language study in elementary and secondary education, let alone in higher education. A new study by the Pew Research Center shows just how different European nations are in this respect -- just about all require children going through schools to learn one foreign language, while more than 20 require students to learn two foreign languages.


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