WASHINGTON -- At a hearing Wednesday afternoon on the Internal Revenue Service's recently issued wide-ranging report on tax compliance at colleges and universities, lawmakers said they were disturbed that the report found a high degree of noncompliance on unrelated business income, revenue earned by nonprofit organizations in ways that are not directly related to their missions. The IRS told lawmakers on the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee's oversight subcommittee that the 34 colleges -- half public, half nonprofit private -- examined most closely during the audit shouldn't be considered a representative sample, and that there are plans to continue looking into how unrelated business income is handled across the sector.
Higher Education Quick Takes
WASHINGTON -- As the days tick down until the rates on subsidized student loans will double to 6.8 percent on June 1, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, proposed a bill that would set the interest rate for federally subsidized student loans at the same rate as the Federal Reserve's discount rate to banks -- currently 0.75 percent. The rate would be good for one year, to give Congress time to come up with a long-term fix. The loans would be funded by the Federal Reserve.
Congressional Republicans and President Obama have called for a market-based interest rate based on the government's cost to borrow, but the interest rate from those solutions would be a few percentage points higher than Warren's proposed 0.75 percent.
An instructor at Barnard College has thrown out several quizzes and added a final exam in response to cheating allegations. In a statement via e-mail, Barnard's vice provost, Hilary Link, said that "the college takes all allegations of cheating seriously. In this particular situation, college procedure was followed in that the professor, in consultation with relevant committees and her department chair, discounted quizzes because of a serious concern that academic integrity may have been compromised. In accordance with college policy, the professor supplemented the course assessment with a final exam. To date, no Barnard students have been identified as having cheated."
Students at Cooper Union took over the office of President Jamshed Bharucha on Wednesday, while he was not there. Students say that they are angry not only at the move to start charging tuition, but their sense that they have been left out of decision-making at the university. A spokeswoman for Cooper Union said that the protest was "a peaceful non-violent action and we continue discussions with students."
Here is a video made by students in the protest outlining their views:
The students are also documenting the protest on Twitter.
Strayer University this summer will begin offering a scholarship under which undergraduates can earn a free senior year if they stick with their degree programs, the for-profit institution announced this week. Students will qualify for a free course credit for every three they compete, and can earn the full 25 percent discount on a degree as long as they do not take two consecutive quarters off. The "graduate fund" builds on a new tuition freeze and an existing, substantial scholarship program the university created last year. Several major for-profits have discounted their prices amid a general trend of declining enrollment.
Stephen Hawking on Wednesday stunned Israelis and set off a day of mixed reports about his motives for calling off plans to attend a major conference in Israel next month. But by the end of the day, it appeared clear that he was honoring the boycott of Israel set up by some pro-Palestinian groups. Early Wednesday, word spread that Hawking was going to skip the conference due to the boycott, but then a spokesman for the University of Cambridge, where Hawking is on the faculty, told The Guardian that the reason the visit had been called off was the scientist's health. Subsequently, the spokesman said he had been wrong, and that Hawking did want to honor the boycott.
The Guardian printed an excerpt from a letter Hawking sent to conference organizers in which he said: "I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."
The decision of Hawking to honor the boycott was greeted as a huge boost to the movement to encourage scholars and others to stay away from Israel. For Israelis and supporters, to have such a prominent scientist honor the boycott -- which has been criticized as antithetical to academic values by many American scholarly groups -- was a major blow.
A low level of educational attainment is the one common characteristic of California's working poor, according to a new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based advocacy group. About one in five adult Californians have not earned a high school degree or its equivalent, the report said, and the state is facing a workforce shortage of 2.3 million college graduates by 2025. To help fix the problem the group recommended better coordination between the state's K-12 and higher education systems as well as a statewide data system to track students' progress.
Time again for Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest. You can suggest a caption for a new cartoon or choose your favorite from among the three finalists nominated for best caption for last month's drawing. And we have news about the winner of March's contest, who hails from South Dakota.
To submit your captions for May's cartoon, please click here. The three entries that our judges find the smartest or funniest or just plain best will be put to a vote by our readers next month, and the winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of the cartoon signed by Matthew Henry Hall, the artist.
Click here to vote on the three captions nominated as finalists for our April cartoon, which should have had special appeal for you Dracula fans.
And congratulations to the winner of the Cartoon Caption Contest for March, Joe Valades, director of academic advising in the Student Success Center at Black Hills State University, in Spearfish, S.D. Find out more about him and his submission here.
Wealthy American universities are cutting way back on their endowments' holdings in U.S. debt, Financial Times reported. In some cases, Treasury securities represented as much as 30 percent of endowment holdings in 2008-9 and that figure is now down to zero in some cases, or very small percentages in others.
Indiana University last year approved -- and then quickly unapproved -- the release of a sex reporting app by its Kinsey Institute, long famous for cutting-edge sex research. Using the app, individuals could report promptly (and anonymously) on their own sexual activities, potentially giving researchers new information on exactly what people do and when and how they do it. The university denied it was being prudish and said it needed only to review privacy protocols. Following months of review, the university announced Wednesday that the app has again been approved for release -- with only one change. That change is that all reports will be placed on hold for geographically defined areas. Only when enough people from a given area respond so that reports could not be linked to any one individual will that information move into the database where it can be studied.