Higher Education Quick Takes
Tih-Fen Ting, professor in environmental studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, resigned as chair of the Senate at the campus on Friday, after being linked to an e-mail scandal, The News-Gazette reported. Ting was found to have sent numerous e-mail messages from faculty leaders (which they assumed were not being shared with administrators) with the chief of staff of the president of the university system. That chief of staff has since resigned amid a report suggesting she sent anonymous e-mail messages to faculty leaders, seeking to influence their stands on various issues.
"Undergrads," a new online video project by James Franco, is not going over well at the University of Southern California, where it is set, The Los Angeles Times reported. Shots of hard drinking, hook-up culture and plenty of apparently trouble-free wealthy students are stereotypical, many students and university officials say. The university has been pushing hard to be a more serious academic institution, and "Undergrads" is seen by many as outdated at best. Many of the comments students have been posting at The Daily Trojan, the student newspaper, are also critical, but some students are writing that the video is an accurate portrayal of Greek culture at the university.
Sophia Stockton, a junior at Mid-America Nazarene University, in Kansas, got a surprise when her textbook Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues arrived from the supplier she located through Amazon.com for a spring course on terrorism. As WPTV reported, when she opened the used textbook, a bag of white powder fell out. She thought it might be anthrax, and so took it to the police. The substance turned out to be cocaine.
For people from disadvantaged backgrounds, going to college decreases the odds that they will get married, according to a study being published in February's issue of The Journal of Family and Marriage. College attendance decreases the odds of marriage by 38 percent for men and 22 percent for women among those who are the least advantaged, the study found. For those in the highest category of advantage, going to colleges increases men's marriage odds by 31 percent and women's odds by 8 percent. Kelly Musick, a sociologist at Cornell University who did the research, along with scholars at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that the study raises questions about the idea that "college is the great equalizer." What holds true for the labor market, she said, may not hold true for the marriage market.
Vassar College is apologizing for an incorrect notification of some early decision applicants that they had been admitted when in fact they were not, The New York Times reported. A test letter indicating acceptance was viewed Friday by 122 applicants -- only 46 of whom had in fact been admitted. The letter was supposed to have been replaced by another for the 76 who were not admitted.
WASHINGTON -- A panel of online higher education leaders on Friday described complex and expensive safeguards they are using to prevent financial aid fraud. "We're engaged in warfare" to combat increasingly sophisticated fraud rings, said James Berg, a vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer for the Apollo Group, Inc. The scale of fraud attempts can be daunting: Wallace Boston, president of the American Public University System, said his university last August received 68,000 phone calls from two ZIP codes in Mississippi, the vast majority of which were likely fraud-related.
Excelsior College and the United States Distance Learning Association hosted the daylong meeting. Panelists, who were drawn from a sector-crossing range of institutions, stressed the need to be proactive about curbing fraud. Otherwise, potentially onerous federal regulations could be enacted, and online higher education's credibility could suffer. "This provides fuel for those who are critical of online education," said John Ebersole, Excelsior's president.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered City Colleges of Chicago to end a policy of payouts for unused sick days for those who retire from the system while figuring out if it can stop such payments that were pledged in the past, The Chicago News Cooperative reported. The college's board -- at the request of a new chancellor, Cheryl Hyman -- had already ended the policy for new employees. But the colleges' employees have generated $7 million for unused sick days in the last decade. Among the big beneficiaries is the former chancellor, Wayne Watson, who has moved on to become president of Chicago State University. He has already been paid $300,000 for unused sick days, and is due another $200,000.
Hundreds of students have been admitted to South Korean universities through program designed to help the disadvantaged, even though these students aren't disadvantaged, The Chosun Ilbo reported. Since the admissions program covers students who grow up in some rural areas, families are getting addresses in those areas or moving there briefly, so that their children can be admitted without ever having lived there.
Newt Gingrich, trying to upset Mitt Romney in Florida's Republican presidential primary, devoted time during a recent speech to students and their difficulty paying for college. The Washington Post reported that he blamed coddled students living in luxury dormitories. "Students take fewer classes per semester. They take more years to get through. Why? Because they have free money," Gingrich said. "I would tell students: 'Get through as quick as you can. Borrow as little as you can. Have a part-time job.' But that’s very different from the culture that has grown up in the last 20 years.” Gingrich also praised the College of the Ozarks, a work college that he has hailed as a model for higher education.
But for all of Gingrich's demand that college students work their way through college, the Post dug out an article in Vanity Fair in 1995 that said Gingrich didn't work to pay for his own college education, relying on his first wife to work, and family members to provide cash. The article quoted Gingrich's stepmother remembering Gingrich saying: "I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies."
Gingrich did not respond to the Post's request for comment.