The National Association for College Admission Counseling has released "Best for Whom?" a report summarizing previously released surveys by the association on the skeptical attitudes of high school counselors and college admissions officers about the rankings of U.S. News & World Report. The report notes that both counselors and admissions officers see the rankings as highly questionable in value to prospective students, but influential nonetheless not only with applicants but with those making decisions at colleges.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Many observers assumed that the shift away from federally guaranteed loans would deal a severe blow to Sallie Mae, but the company is bouncing back, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. By servicing older loans and moving into private lending, the company is having a strong 2011, with shares up 29 percent so far this year.
Pima Community College officials took heat in some quarters (and in some news reports) in the wake of January's shooting of an Arizona Congresswoman by a former student, with some critics arguing that the two-year institution had done too little to respond to the threat he posed. But e-mail messages released Thursday in response to an open-records request by The Arizona Republic show -- as college officials argued -- that they grew increasingly concerned about Jared Lee Loughner's behavior and acted to expel him as complaints from students, faculty members and administrators escalated.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, named a Tea Party activist to a student seat on the Texas A&M University Board of Regents, and bypassed the official system to do so, The Bryan/College Station Eagle reported. State regulations require the appointment of regents who applied through the student government, but Perry's choice applied directly to his office.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday that it had imposed a one-year probation on East Carolina University but instituted no limitations on recruiting, scholarships or postseason competition for a major case of academic fraud in its athletics program. Unethical conduct in the form of academic fraud is among the most serious of NCAA violations, and instances of it have been on the rise. In East Carolina's case, a female tennis player who worked as a tutor for the athletics department wrote a total of 15 papers for four baseball players in the fall of 2009, and then two of the athletes lied to investigators about the violations.
Yet the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions, saying that individual students were entirely responsible for the violations and that East Carolina had "acted appropriately at all phases before and during the investigation," required only that the institution vacate victories in which the guilty athletes had participated. Not only did the university investigate the allegations aggressively, but it altered several policies and practices to avoid future breaches, the NCAA said. Two of the baseball players were declared ineligible through the 2010-11 season; the other two, and the women’s tennis player, were ruled permanently ineligible and removed from their respective teams. The case was adjudicated through the NCAA's summary disposition process, which is used when there is no dispute between the association and an institution over a case.
The University of Florida has withdrawn its directive to students at its study abroad program in Italy not to socialize with the "Jersey Shore" cast filming in the area, MSNBC reported. “Generally speaking, students may participate in activities outside their study abroad program, as long as they meet the academic and living requirements of that program," a spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, a University of Chicago student has won funding for a one-day academic conference on "Jersey Shore," The Huffington Post reported. "I think it's very important for academics not to restrict their work to so-called 'high culture,' but to seriously engage with popular culture as well," said the student, David Showalter.
The business school at Columbia University -- which fares poorly in many analyses of the economic downturn -- has toughened its conflict-of-interest rules. Faculty members voted to require that they all maintain on their b-school webpages a listing of their outside activities so that any links they have to industries they analyze would be visible. Further, in cases where they or family members own at least 5 percent of a company related to their work, they must report that as well.
In December, ProPublica published an article revealing that many medical schools that had adopted tough conflict-of-interest rules to limit or require reporting of professors' ties to the pharmaceutical industry weren't enforcing their rules. That report and other scrutiny may be having an impact. ProPublica reported Thursday that Stanford University has taken disciplinary action against five medical school faculty members who violated rules there by giving paid speeches for drug companies. The University of Colorado medical school this week toughened its conflict-of-interest rules -- joining other medical schools that have increased attention to these issues.
Academic staff members -- including non-tenure-track faculty -- have voted to unionize at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. The vote there was the latest in a series at Wisconsin campuses to unionize, despite the drive by Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans to end collective bargaining by system faculty members. The unions voted in at Superior and elsewhere in the system are affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The vote at Superior was 89 to 5.