Higher Education Quick Takes
WASHINGTON — With less than a week remaining until the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans is scheduled to double to 6.8 percent, President Obama will take borrowers' questions about student loans via text message, the White House announced Monday. Obama will pick one question to answer per day.
Bard College, in New York, has entered into a partnership with Soochow University, in China, to include the establishment of the Bard College Liberal Arts Academy in Soochow University, an undergraduate degree program modeled on Bard’s curriculum. Students who complete the four-year undergraduate program, on Soochow’s campus, would receive bachelor's degrees from both institutions.
Internationally, Bard already awards dual degrees in cooperation with universities in Germany (ECLA of Bard), Kyrgyzstan (the American University of Central Asia), Russia (Smolny College), and the West Bank (Al-Quds University).
The latest leaks from Edward Snowden, provided to The South China Morning Post, focus on U.S. National Security Agency hacking of backbone computer networks at China's Tsinghua University. A Post article said that documents provided by Snowden showed the hacking to be "intensive." On one day, 63 computers and networks were hacked by the NSA.
Today is another day that the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on a landmark decision on affirmative action in college and university admissions. The affirmative action case is by far the case in this Supreme Court term that was argued the longest ago (back in October) without a ruling yet issued. A hashtag based on the name of the plaintiff #waitingforfisher has turned up on Twitter. Numerous articles have cited various theories about what the delay could mean -- although the authors of those articles typically admit that they are guessing, since the Supreme Court doesn't leak.
One law blog -- Noncuratlex.com -- poked fun at all the impatience by publishing a fake news story in which Chief Justice John Roberts offered the real reason for the delays: "I want to put to rest all of the nutty conspiracy theories that have circulated around the Fisher case," the blog quoted Roberts as telling reporters. "Any speculation that the Court is struggling with drafting the opinion, or opinions, is pure nonsense. The truth behind the delay is far more mundane. As you may have guessed, we’re still waiting for the go-ahead from Madame Zena, the official Court Astrologer."
Ashford University has begun a voluntary buyout program for non-faculty employees, said a spokeswoman for Bridgepoint Education, which owns the for-profit institution. Enrollment has tumbled at the university, which is also grappling with uncertainty about its regional accreditation. To reduce class sizes, Ashford has hired more faculty members while eliminating all of its teaching assistant positions, according to the company. Next month the Western Association of Schools and Colleges is expected to publicly announce whether Ashford has succeeded in a revised accreditation bid. The university's current regional accreditor is the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Professors at Hebrew University are objecting to a plan to add some single-sex courses (in which female instructors would not be permitted to teach male students) as part of a plan to attract ultra-Orthodox Jewish students, Haaretz reported. Israel is currently in the midst of a national debate on how to better integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews into society, and how to encourage more of them to get a (secular) higher education and to pursue employment. Some universities are adding gender-segregated classes to make these students more comfortable and there is a plan for Hebrew University to do so. But administrators -- facing widespread faculty opposition last week -- held off on seeking a vote on the idea. Professors say that segregated classes would be illegal, would discriminate against women and violates academic norms.
The University of California at Berkeley is struggling to pay the bills on its newly renovated $321 million football stadium, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A major part of the plan was to sell premium seats, at $40,000 to $250,000 each for use for 40 to 50 years. The university's plan for paying off the debt on the stadium assumed that, by this month, the university would have sold 2,902 of the seats. In fact, the university has sold only 1,857 seats, and 16 purchasers have stopped payments and are giving up their seats.
FutureLearn, the British provider of massive open online courses, is planning to create "badges" that can be earned for each section of its MOOCs, Times Higher Education reported. This will make it easier for those who enroll to show that they have learned something even if they do not complete the course. Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open University, which created FutureLearn, said that it was "sad" when journalists talk about those who don't finish MOOCs as "dropouts." He said that these badges might change that. "As a vice-chancellor I get very annoyed when I see people who don’t complete [courses] described in negative terms. We’re trying to design FutureLearn pedagogy around a 'mini-MOOC' model, shorter in duration and broken down into bite-sized pieces," he said.