Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 4, 2013

The Dutch education ministry wants to ban universities from investing in derivatives, Times Higher Education reported. Derivatives have become a popular financial strategy for many Dutch universities, but the government fears that twists in the economy could leave the universities in a highly vulnerable position because of the reliance on these investments.

 

January 4, 2013

In the weeks before Congress reached a last-minute agreement on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, a proposed cap on deductions for charitable giving alarmed colleges and universities. That wasn't included in the final compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff," but one provision does slightly dent the tax advantage for donations, including to colleges. The package Congress voted on Tuesday reinstates the Pease Amendment, which reduces the value of tax deductions for wealthy households. The value of deductions is reduced by 3 percent of a taxpayer's income over a certain threshold -- $300,000 for taxpayers married and filing jointly, $150,000 for married taxpayers filing separately and $250,000 for unmarried individuals.

The Pease limitation is a concern, said Brian Flahaven, director of government relations for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. But the group was far more worried about the proposed deduction cap or other limitations. "Anything that increases the cost of giving, and this would, certainly could lead to some decline in giving," Flahaven said. "The effect is much less than a cap."

January 4, 2013

Gerda Lerner, considered one of the pioneers of women's history, died Wednesday at the age of 92. An obituary in The New York Times detailed her career, much of which was spent at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She focused on the history of women in the United States when such a focus was highly unusual among historians. In 1972, when Lerner was teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, she created a master's degree in women's history -- the first graduate degree in the field.

January 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Taya Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University reveals why our moral nature may depend on our response to guilt. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 4, 2013

The Association of American Universities on Thursday issued a statement backing reform of gun laws in the United States. While calling for reform of gun laws, the statement also calls for improvements in the treatment of mental illness and consideration of the "culture of contemporary media" in promoting violence. "We claim no special expertise in these domains," the statement says, but it calls for a comprehensive solution to gun violence, noting the tragedies at Virginia Tech and in Newtown, Conn.

 

January 3, 2013

Harvard Law School is preparing to offer a free course through edX -- the platform Harvard University uses for MOOCs (massive open online courses). But as The National Law Journal reported, the law course (on copyright) won't be totally open or massive. Enrollment will be limited to 500. The course description explains the rationale behind the limit: "Enrollment for the course is limited, in keeping with the belief that high-quality legal education depends, at least in part, upon supervised small-group discussions of difficult issues. Fidelity to that principle requires confining the course to the number of participants that can be supervised effectively by the 21 teaching fellows. The limit on the enrollment does not mean, however, that there will not be access to the course materials. On the contrary, all of the readings and recorded lectures used in the course will be made available to the public."

January 3, 2013

National Collegiate Athletic Association officials offered a sharp-elbowed rebuttal to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's announcement Wednesday that the state would sue the association over the harsh penalties it imposed on Pennsylvania State University in the wake of its child sex abuse scandal. In his statement, Corbett said the NCAA had largely ignored its own procedures by injecting itself "into an issue they had no authority to police and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system," and that the "arbitrary and capricious" penalties that resulted would irreparably harm the university.

The NCAA's executive vice president and general counsel, Donald M. Remy, characterized the lawsuit as without merit. He noted that Penn State officials had signed off on the consent decree that dictated the penalties, thereby "accept[ing] the consequences for its role and the role of its employees" in the tragedy that destroyed the lives of those molested by a former coach, Jerry Sandusky. "Today's announcement by the Governor is a setback to the University's efforts,” Remy said.

January 3, 2013

When the 113th Congress convenes, the leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the subcommittee focusing on higher education won't change -- John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, will remain chairman of the committee, while Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, will return as chairwoman of the subcommittee on higher education. The committee also adds three new Republican members -- Susan Brooks and Luke Messer, both of Indiana, and Richard Hudson of North Carolina.

January 3, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Charles Mitchell of the State University of New York at Buffalo explores the evolutionary advantage of keeping things simple. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 3, 2013

Japan's Education Ministry is preparing to allow universities to use a quarter system in addition to the traditional semester system, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported. In the current system, students take up to 10 courses a semester but the courses meet only once a week, and critics say that there is not enough focus on anything. Under a quarter system, students would take fewer courses but they would meet twice a week.

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