It's rankings season, and that means everyone is rushing out lists of best college for this and best college for that, all leading up to next month's annual celebration by colleges that fare well in U.S. News & World Report's rankings, and denunciation of the magazine by those that do poorly (and a few principled colleges that did well). Gawker responded to this rankings frenzy Monday by releasing a list of the "25 most unranked colleges in America." The website had a problem though when it found out one of the colleges on its list, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, is in fact ranked (just check out its website), and so subbed in another college.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Hilary Pennington wrote to recipients of education-related grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to announce that she would be leaving the position of director of education, postsecondary success and special initiatives. The foundation has been highly influential in recent years in pushing colleges to pay more attention to college completion issues, and this focus has been most notable at community colleges. "Given the momentum we’ve built for the next phase of the postsecondary success strategy, I have decided this is a good time for me to pass the baton. I am eager to get closer to work on the ground than my role at the foundation allows, and to replenish my energy and spirit. And I want to engage more directly the challenges that face societies (the U.S. and elsewhere in the world) seeking to balance the needs of a rising generation of ethnically and racially diverse young people with those of a more homogeneous aging generation –- especially now, at a time when slower economic growth often seems to pit the interests of the young against those of the old." Pennington did not announce details on her next steps, but said she would remain on for a transition period into 2012.
Under a new agreement between Pearson and the Eminata Group, students at three for-profit colleges in Canada will begin getting their course content exclusively via Apple iPads, the companies announced on Monday. Beginning in September, all new students enrolled at CDI College, Vancouver Career College and Reeves College will get iPads from Eminata, which operates the colleges, and will buy e-textbooks from Pearson. Over the next three years, all programs at the colleges will deliver their course content via Pearson's iPad-optimized e-texts.
Sprint has sued Blackboard, claiming that the latter company isn't living up to its end of a deal in which Sprint thought it would have advantages in marketing the use of Blackboard learning management systems on smartphones, Seeking Alpha reported. (Seeking Alpha is a news service focused on stock and business trends.) Blackboard disputes Sprint's assertions. Mobile use of Blackboard services is popular with students and has been a growth area for the company.
A former graduate student has sued Webster University, arguing that he was unfairly dismissed from a master's program in counseling for his lack of empathy, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit also alleges that he may have been punished for criticizing the program. The student says that his grades were good, and that he was not given a chance to improve when questions were raised about his ability during work in the field to show empathy. The university declined to comment on the case.
This month saw one of the more unusual college firings in recent years, with an order of nuns dismissing the president and the board of Our Lady of Holy Cross College, in Louisiana. In his first interview since the dismissal, the Rev. Anthony De Conciliis, the ousted president, said he was given no reason for the dismissal, that he had received good reviews, and that he still doesn't know why he and the board members were fired, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Myles Seghers, the interim president, said in a statement that he also couldn't explain the dismissal.
U.S. Public Health Service experiments in the 1940s in which people in Guatemala were infected with sexually transmitted diseases -- without their consent -- are not only ethically reprehensible by today's standards, but violated standards of the time, according to a statement issued Monday by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. President Obama charged the commission with studying what happened in Guatemala decades ago, and to follow up with a report (still to come) to make sure appropriate ethical standards are being followed today. As to the historical report, the commission found that a similar study was conducted by many of the same researchers in a prison in Indiana, before the Guatemala work. But in Indiana, the prisoners were given a full briefing and gave informed consent. “This finding goes a long way to helping the commission answer the question about whether ethics rules of the time were violated,” said a statement from Amy Gutmann, chair of the commission and president of the University of Pennsylvania.
Gutmann said that the commission's work was important to honor the victims in Guatemala and to help legitimate research today. "Research with human subjects is a sacred trust. Without public confidence, participation will decline and critical research will be stopped. It is imperative that we get this right," she said.
The parent company of Grand Canyon University said in a federal filing Monday that the U.S. Education Department is investigating potential violations of federal law in Grand Canyon's policies surrounding incentive compensation and its compliance with years-old regulations requiring that it ensure "gainful employment" for its graduates. Grand Canyon Education, Inc. said that it had received a notice of preliminary findings last week from an Education Department review that the for-profit college had previously disclosed. Grand Canyon said that the department had not "set forth any definitive findings" regarding its policies for compensating enrollment counselors during a portion of the 2008-2010 academic years, but had requested additional information from the institution about those policies and compensation plans. The university also said the department's preliminary review had concluded that students in Grand Canyon's Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program should not have been eligible for federal financial aid "because it did not provide students with training to prepare them for gainful employment in a recognized occupation," under the government's former (as opposed to recently implemented) way of measuring gainful employment. Grand Canyon also said that the department had accused it of having an inadequate "system to determine if students with non-passing grades for a term had no documented attendance for the term or should have been treated as unofficial withdrawals for the term."
Nearly half of those who've graduated college in the last decade report having taken a course online, but only 28 percent of Americans under 30 say that a course taken online "is equal in value to a course taken in person," according to a report on online education published Sunday by the Pew Research Center. The report is based on a survey of 2,142 adults last spring.