Higher Education Quick Takes
The New York Legislature on Thursday passed a plan supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that will cut retirement benefits for future state and local government workers, The New York Times reported. The cuts would affect new employees at public institutions such as the State University of New York and the City University of New York. According to the Times, the measure would save $80 billion for state and local governments over the next 30 years, even though one of the more contentious proposals in the measure -- a plan that would let new workers opt out of a traditional pension and let them choose something similar to a 401(k) --– would now be open only to new non-unionized workers who earn $75,000 or more, under a concession made by Cuomo.
Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, a union representing 20,000 faculty members and staff at CUNY, said the plan -- also referred to as Tier 6 -- flowed from an ideological agenda of protecting the rich. “Tier 6 will hit CUNY especially hard; it will undermine CUNY’s ability to attract and retain the best faculty in national searches. I remember being told more than 20 years ago when I came to CUNY that one thing CUNY was able to offer was good benefits, including a decent pension,” Bowen said.
“We were hoping it would be defeated but that is not the way it turned out,” said Denyce Duncan Lacey, Director of Communications for the United University Professions, a union representing 35,000 faculty members and professional staff at state-operated SUNY campuses.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Chicago State University to reinstate a former adviser to its student newspaper that the institution fired in 2008 in the wake of a series of critical articles, the Student Press Law Center reported. The judge's decision sided with Gerian Steven Moore, ruling that the public university had violated his First Amendment rights and ordering him to be reinstated to his job as executive director for communications or a similar position. The decision did not go entirely for the plaintiffs, however, as the court ruled against the newspaper's former editor, who had sought action against the former administrators who helped bring about the demise of the Tempo, the student newspaper at the time.
Colorado's attorney general on Wednesday announced a $4.5 million settlement with Westwood College Inc., over allegations that the for-profit higher education provider engaged in deceptive business practices. Westwood will pay $2 million to the state and credit $2.5 million toward restitution for students who used the college's tuition financing plan. The state's complaint had alleged that Westwood inflated its job placement rates and misled prospective students about the average wages of graduates, transferability of course credits and the total cost of Westwood degrees. It also alleged that the college failed to disclose the terms of its student financing program.
Westwood made no admission of liability as part of the settlement. In 2009 the college agreed to a $7 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice related to a complaint about filing false claims for federal student aid. It is also the subject of an investigation by the Illinois attorney general. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, on Wednesday called for the college's accreditors and federal agencies to "immediately review whether the school has the sufficient institutional integrity and academic quality to continue receiving taxpayer-funded financial aid."
A jury on Wednesday sided with the parents of two students killed in the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, finding the university negligent for waiting to inform the campus about the gunman, the Associated Press reported. After deliberating for three and a half hours, jurors awarded $4 million each to the families of two women who were among the 33 dead. Lawyers for the state -- who had argued that university officials did all they could in the face of an unprecedented tragedy -- immediately filed to reduce the size of the verdict, the AP reported.
Tablet ownership is increasing among college students and high school seniors, according to a survey released by the Pearson Foundation. Among college students, ownership is now 25 percent, up from 7 percent a year ago. Among high school seniors, the figure is now 17 percent, up from 4 percent. A majority of college students (63 percent) and high school seniors (69 percent) believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within five years. The survey was conducted in January by Harris Interactive. More than 1,200 college students and 200 college-bound high school seniors responded.
A team of lawyers continued their barrage of legal actions challenging the accuracy and legitimacy of law school placement rates, threatening class actions against 20 more schools. David Anziska, the lawyer leading the group, said that the 20 schools -- like the 14 previously sued -- had misrepresented their post-graduate employment rates. He also warned that "at the end of this process, nearly every law school in the country will be sued.” The schools cited in this round include some more-visible names than the prior targets. The 20 schools are American University Washington College of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, Loyola Marymount University Law School, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, New England School of Law, Pace University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law, St. Louis University School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, Seattle University School of Law, Stetson University College of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, University of Miami School of Law; University of St. Thomas School of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law, Western New England University School of Law, and Whittier Law School.
The Education Department will track the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and release the data to the public, sorted by high school, the department announced Tuesday. The website, which lists the number of students per high school who have completed and submitted the form, is intended to help high school counselors (and others) and uses data from the Education Department's systems, the first time such data has been made available. The numbers will be updated every two weeks.
Advocacy groups, including Campus Progress, US PIRG, Rebuild the Dream and other student groups, delivered 130,000 letters from students to Congress on Wednesday, asking the lawmakers to stop the interest rate on subsidized student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. President Obama has urged Congress to stop the rate increase, and Congressional Democrats have called for the change as well. Keeping the interest rate for subsidized loans at 3.4 percent would cost about $5 billion.