Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut discusses how easily biodiesel fuels can be refined from food industry waste. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Students have not made secret their distaste for Higher One, the company with which many colleges work to issue loan refunds via debit card. At issue are the fees and charges for using the card, which sometimes doubles as a student ID, and the company's and colleges' marketing (which tends to result in students sticking with the card). Nonetheless, a student at Catawba Valley Community College who complained on Facebook about the relationship between the two entities was apparently barred from campus for two semesters because of his comments. Besides criticizing the partnership on the North Carolina college's own Facebook page, he also posted, "Did anyone else get a bunch of credit card spam in their CVCC inbox today? So, did CVCC sell our names to banks, or did Higher One? I think we should register CVCC's address with every porn site known to man. Anyone know any good viruses to send them?" According to a notice of suspension from the college, the student's comment violated a policy against "commission of any other offense which, in the opinion of the administration or faculty, may be contrary to the best interest of the CVCC community." The student has sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in his appeal for reinstatement.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 3:00am

How financially risky are some international branch campuses? The Boston Globe reported, in explaining why some American colleges are having second thoughts on the outposts, that Suffolk University lost $10 million on a branch in Senegal. When the university shut down the campus this year, it decided it would be easier to educate the remaining 104 African students by moving them to Boston than by keeping the operation in Senegal. Suffolk is hardly the first American college to reconsider branch campuses. Here is an article from Inside Higher Ed about the decision of Michigan State University to pull out of Dubai.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday that it had concluded its long investigation into possible recruiting violations involving Auburn University's former star quarterback, Cam Newton. Although the association's terse statement (reproduced in its entirety below) didn't specifically say so, the clear implication was that the inquiry had ended without any findings of wrongdoing. The investigation explored allegations that Newton's father, Cecil, had told Mississippi State University that his son would enroll there for a mere $180,000 payment, which prompted speculation that he might have accepted money to enroll, as he ultimately did, at Auburn. Other players reported that they were paid to attend Auburn, too. But the inquiry was unable to confirm those allegations, the association said.

The NCAA's statement: "After conducting more than 80 interviews, the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Auburn University. The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding. As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Many anthropologists remain furious at Governor Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, for saying this week that his state doesn't need more graduates in anthropology. Now the Associated Press reports that the governor's daughter, Jordan Kandah, has an anthropology degree from the College of William & Mary. Kandah's career path backs the view of anthropologists that their discipline can be preparation for a variety of fields. She was formerly a special education teacher and recently enrolled in an M.B.A. program.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Stanford University, one of the frontrunners in a competition held by New York City to secure a plot of land and city money to build a high-tech campus, has joined with the City University of New York System to create Stanford@CCNY, a demonstration site at the university's City College campus. The site will serve as a pilot site for Stanford's undergraduate curriculum in entrepreneurship, technology management, and related areas. If Stanford's proposal to build a new campus is accepted by the city, it will offer joint degree programs created by faculty from both institutions through 2016, when the new campus would become operational.

Colleges have until Oct. 28 to submit proposals under the competition staged by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Stanford and Cornell University have been the most public about their interest in generating proposals, but other universities, including Columbia, New York University, and Carnegie Mellon University, are also working on proposals. The city plans to select the winner by the end of the calendar year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Western Oklahoma State College has become a powerhouse in community college baseball, and The New York Times explains why. The college, in a remote part of its state, recruits Latino stars from Eastern cities -- and has attracted talent overlooked by other programs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 3:00am

As enrollment at for-profit colleges boomed and the economy weakened, more students took out private loans, according to a report released Tuesday by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics. Between 2003-4 and 2007-8, the percentage of undergraduates with private student loans rose from 5 percent to 14 percent. The increase was steepest at for-profit colleges, where 13 percent of students took out private loans in 2003-4, and 42 percent did so in 2007-8. “In general, the higher the tuition, the higher the rate of private borrowing,” the report’s authors wrote, noting that private nonprofit colleges also saw a sharp increase (from 11 percent of students taking out private loans in 2003-4 to 25 percent in 2007-8).

Many of those students had not exhausted federal student loan programs, which often offer better rates than do private lenders: only 46 percent of private-loan borrowers had borrowed the maximum from Stafford loan programs before turning to private loans. The Education Department strongly recommends that students use federal student loans before turning to private borrowers, and regulations on private borrowing that took effect in 2010 include new disclosure requirements. The NCES data predate the new regulations.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Czech officials have released a draft plan for a reform of the nation's universities, and one controversial measure would add tuition charges, The Prague Monitor reported. Many academics say that tuition would discourage some students from enrolling. Other ideas in the draft include linking funding of universities to their quality, and the mergers of smaller institutions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities today released a guidance document for how its member institutions should work with third-party vendors. The release follows newly-strengthened federal rules for misrepresentations about degree programs, such as through online or television advertising for prospective students. Colleges can now be held accountable for virtually any false or misleading claim made by a third-party vendor. For-profits often hire outside companies to help in "lead generation" for students, which means the colleges face new vulnerability if those vendors run afoul of the rules.

However, officials at the association said the new guidance document was in the works before the new regulations were devised. Brian Moran, APSCU's interim CEO and president, said for-profits recognize their responsibility in being proactive about the "Wild West of Internet ads" generated by unethical companies. The guidelines show how members should exercise control in their relationships with outside marketing firms, and how they should monitor the advertisements themselves.

Moran said for-profits are not directly responsible for the actions of third-party vendors, but that "we are tarnished by the criticism" of shady advertising. He said the new rules create "enormous exposure" for APSCU's members. "There's lots of danger for the unaware."

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