Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 9, 2017

The University System of Georgia is continuing to merge institutions -- although these mergers typically involve maintaining multiple campuses. The system announced plans last week for two new pairs of institutions to be merged. Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University would be merged under the Georgia Southern name. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Bainbridge State College would be merged under the Abraham Baldwin name. Details on the plans may be found here.

January 9, 2017

Some employees at Suffolk University last week found an extra paycheck had been deposited in their bank accounts through direct deposit, The Boston Globe reported. But the university now says that was a mistake and that employees must repay the money. The problem was blamed on a switch in payroll systems.

January 9, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Christina Frohock, professor of legal writing at the University of Miami School of Law, discusses the U.S. base at Guantánamo from a legal perspective. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 6, 2017

Talladega College is defending the participation of its band in the parade that will honor the inauguration of Donald Trump as president this month. For about 10 days, reports have circulated that the historically black college's band would participate, and the Trump inaugural committee listed the college among those with bands that would march. The college has repeatedly refused comment even as many students and alumni questioned the idea, saying they view the president-elect as hostile to black people and their interests.

The college has now released a statement in which President Billy Hawkins defends the decision. “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” said Hawkins. “As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

The statement includes several quotes from William R. Harvey, a Talladega alumnus who is the president of Hampton University. “It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band. It will be a teachable moment for them to understand the importance of supporting the leader of the free world, despite one's political viewpoint,” said Harvey. “After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda.”

January 6, 2017

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Thursday introduced and said he would push legislation -- similar to a controversial North Carolina law -- that would bar public colleges and universities from letting transgender people use multiple-unit bathrooms other than those associated with their biological gender at birth. Patrick is a Republican and his position is a powerful one in Texas. Civil rights groups have vowed to fight the bill and have noted that the North Carolina law has led many organizations to move events outside the state. Further, they note that the law would violate the Obama administration's interpretations of federal law -- although those interpretations currently face court challenges and are likely to be withdrawn by the incoming Trump administration.

Many public colleges and universities nationally permit transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

January 6, 2017

A disclosure report submitted to the Senate education committee by Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education, reveals no significant connections to the higher education sector. But the report does include contributions made to a number of Republican national candidates and elected officials within the past five years.

DeVos made contributions to the campaigns of Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush as well as a number of other GOP candidates and political action committees. Notably, she reported no contributions to Trump's presidential campaign.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions received the disclosure report, which includes information on employment, education and other general background information, on Wednesday. Cabinet nominees must also submit a second form including financial disclosures, which remains confidential, five days before a confirmation hearing. The HELP committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for DeVos's nomination Jan. 11.

January 6, 2017

Only about one-quarter of librarians say their libraries support information literacy instruction, even though virtually all of them believe it has a positive impact on graduation rates and success in the work force, a new study by the library-service provider ProQuest found. The 217 high school and college librarians surveyed also said they aren't sure if library visitors understand the importance of being able to find, analyze and incorporate information -- only 21.2 percent of the respondents said so, compared to the 34.1 percent who disagreed. While most of the surveyed librarians (90.8 percent) said they teach information literacy skills through one-on-one sessions with visitors, many librarians (42.4 percent) said they lack a way of assessing visitors' level of information literacy.

January 6, 2017

Older Americans are the fastest-growing group in the student loan market and nearly 40 percent of borrowers over 65 were in default in 2015, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report released Thursday.

Many older borrowers take out student loans or co-sign loans on behalf of children or grandchildren, but they struggle to repay student loan debt along with other expenses. And servicing problems create challenges enrolling in income-based repayment programs created to lower the financial burden of loan debt, the report says.

The CFPB report is based on complaints from older borrowers with both private and federal student loans.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office last month showed that many older student loan borrowers were having Social Security benefits withheld by the federal government to offset defaulted student loan debt.

January 6, 2017

Kentucky's State Senate passed a bill Thursday to replace the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees and change the way its members are appointed, echoing an attempt made by Governor Matt Bevin last year that was blocked by a judge and prompted accreditation trouble for the institution.

The bill, which passed with Republican support on a mostly party-line vote, would allow Bevin to appoint a new, 10-member Board of Trustees drawn from a nominating commission's recommendations. Bevin's nominations would then need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The Senate's president, Robert Stivers, introduced the bill, saying it is intended to fix long-running issues at Louisville, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He added that in the future he intends to introduce a bill requiring Senate confirmation for all state university board members. Democrats, however, said the Louisville measure was being rushed through after it was unexpectedly added to a bill related to dog ownership.

If Kentucky's House of Representatives approves the measure, Bevin could sign it into law right away because of an emergency clause.

The legislation comes after Bevin attempted to reconstitute Louisville's board in June through executive order, a move blocked months later by a judge who called it inconsistent with statutes governing higher education in Kentucky. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges then placed Louisville on probation in December, months after warning that the attempted board changes put the university at risk of falling out of compliance with several standards, including those governing external influence and due process for dismissing board members.

Bevin has appealed the judge's ruling against his executive action. The new legislation's backers said it would nullify the issue. Kentucky's attorney general, who took Bevin to court over the board reconstitution, argued the new bill could cause additional accreditation problems.

January 6, 2017

A state audit found that several Missouri universities took advantage of ambiguous rules governing the state's performance-based funding system to derive more money by changing the benchmarks used to measure them, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The audit said the program's rules need to be clarified but did not blame the universities for taking advantage of the situation.

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