Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 4, 2012

Wellesley College is joining edX, one of the primary providers of massive online open courses, or MOOCs, The Boston Globe reported. Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said that the college will try to preserve some of the features of liberal arts colleges in its four MOOCs to be offered through edX. The courses will allow instructors to divide classes into small groups for discussions. "We want to create the aura of a small-group setting, so that students can discuss among themselves," Agarwal said. To date, research universities have dominated the MOOC space. edX's other members are Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas System. Of the 33 institutions that offer MOOCs through Coursera, only one -- Wesleyan University -- is a liberal arts college.

 

December 4, 2012

A new blog for grad students and professors who need a little distraction as the semester winds down is "When in Academia." Nothing long to read -- just quick images on such topics as "When I realize that the professor I was talking about was within earshot," "When a student asks me to excuse a sorority-related absence," "When someone says that I blame everything on capitalism" and "When I hear undergrads talking about their plans for holiday break."

December 3, 2012

Giving students and parents targeted information about colleges' pricing and outcomes is a worthy goal that could improve their decision-making about higher education, the Center for American Progress says in a report released today. But the federal government's process for developing its "College Scorecard" has fallen well short in practice, says the report, which offers a slew of recommendations for how the government could rework the document, particularly with advice from actual consumers. Among the report's findings are that the government should: test ways of communicating the concept of “net price”; emphasize four-year graduation rates, not six-year rates, if further testing confirms that the shorter time-frame is more relevant to students’ decision-making; and develop alternative measures of student debt that matter to students if further testing confirms that traditional measures such as repayment rate or default rate are not meaningful to students.

December 3, 2012

Peter F. Burnham, former president of Brookdale Community College, in New Jersey, was sentenced Friday to five years in jail for using college funds to pay for $44,000 in personal expenses, and for accepting $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for his son to attend Monmouth University when his son's tuition was already covered by financial aid, The Daily Record reported. The prosecutor, Christopher Gramiccioni, said that Burnham was arrogant in thinking he could do whatever he wanted with college funds. "He was the king, and everyone else were his subjects,” he said. Burnham won one concession in sentencing: He will be allowed to have $36,000 that the college owes him for unused vacation days applied to the restitution of $44,497 that he was ordered to pay.

December 3, 2012

The French higher education minister has replaced the interim director of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, an elite institute of political science commonly known as Sciences Po, The New York Times reported

The school’s longtime director, Richard Descoings, died in April. He is credited with increasing the institution’s international profile, to the degree that 40 percent of students come from outside France. However, the national audit office recently completed an investigation of the school's finances from 2005-10, raising questions about Descoings’ compensation – about $700,000 per year – “weak internal and external controls,” abuse of credit cards by staff, “toxic loans” for faculty housing, and the practice of paying some professors more than others, despite the fact that they taught fewer hours.

The Times notes that the controversy seems to stem in part from Descoings’ attempts to recruit top talent. As the newspaper explains, “French professors are civil servants, whose salaries and working hours are strictly controlled. It was difficult for Mr. Descoings to recruit the faculty he wanted without offering the kind of arrangements, on pay and teaching load, that were criticized by the auditors.”

Hervé Crès, a deputy to Descoings and the faculty pick for Science Po’s directorship, has been replaced by Jean Gaeremynck, the head of the finance section for the Council of State.

December 3, 2012

Chris Krumm, the son of a faculty member at Casper College, shot and killed his father with a bow and arrow on Friday while his father was teaching at the Wyoming institution, The Casper Star-Tribune. While the father -- Jim Krumm -- died from the wounds from that single shot, he struggled with his son, allowing students to escape the room. Just before coming to the classroom, Chris Krumm had gone to his father's home and killed Heidi Arnold, an instructor at Casper who lived with Jim Krumm. Chris Krumm killed himself after killing his father. Casper College has created a memorial page with information about the career of Jim Krumm, who taught computer science, and Arnold, who taught mathematics.

 

December 3, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how the Mayans would have viewed the end of the year 2012. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 3, 2012

Hofstra University athletic officials -- responding to the arrests of four basketball players last week -- say that they carefully check the backgrounds of athletic recruits, The New York Times reported. The athletes were arrested after an investigation into a series of thefts from campus dormitories. Among the items stolen: a Sony laptop, headphones, three MacBooks, two iPads, an iPod and cash.

December 3, 2012

With the 2012 presidential campaign complete, the campaign for the Obama presidential library (and to raise money for it) has started, Politico reported. The University of Chicago -- where Obama taught and where Michelle Obama worked -- is considered the favorite. But Politico noted that the University of Hawaii is also making a strong push. Obama was born in Hawaii, his parents met at the university and his sister teaches there.a Jennifer Epstein article... -sj

December 3, 2012

University of Central Arkansas officials are pledging to stop a practice -- recently revealed -- of using funds from the tutoring center and admissions office budgets to subsidize the salaries of coaches, the Associated Press reported. In recent years, about $89,000 of the tutoring center's $217,000 budget has gone to coaches' salaries.

 

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