Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 12, 2013

An article in The Crimson White, the student newspaper of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, has set off considerable concern with its allegations that sororities at the institution reject potential members who are black. The article details the attempts of two black women with the credentials and characteristics sororities say they value who were the latest to fail to break what the newspaper called "an almost impenetrable color barrier." The national Pi Beta Phi, one of the sororities whose Alabama chapter was mentioned in the article, told USA Today that the organization was starting an investigation of the allegations. A black board member at Alabama is calling for the university to investigate.

 

September 12, 2013

Pennsylvania State University faculty could vote to urge a delay in Take Care of Your Health, the controversial new health care plan for university employees, by a year. implies that the faculty has the power to do this -- is that true? can't the admin continue to igno**********Yeah, I don't know. The faculty senate thinks it has authority but i don't know what uni says since they didn't comment. Have made that clearer at end.---CF

More than 100 members of the Faculty Senate -- a little less than half the body -- moved this week to hold a special meeting by the end of the month to vote on postponing the plan. Such an action is rare for the Faculty Senate, Brent Yarnal, professor of geography and body president, said in an e-mail.

Employees have complained about details of the plan since they were announced this summer, including punitive surcharges of up to $100 monthly each for not completing a biometric screening, smoking and covering spouses eligible for health insurance through their own employers. Faculty and staff members also have raised privacy concerns about the uploading of years of personal medical information onto a third-party provider's website and the nature of the questions in a mandatory, online wellness profile, such as those about drinking habits and mental health.

University administrators have repeatedly said that serious intervention is needed if the university is to tackle skyrocketing health care costs, predicted to increase by 13 percent next year, and that previous, voluntary programs to mitigate costs have not been effective. All information collected and its uses comply with federal health care privacy laws, Penn State has said, including that it is only reported to the university in aggregate form.

Brian Curran, professor of art history and president of the institution's new advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the meeting "a major victory for us."

A university spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the Senate matter. It is unclear if the body has the authority to delay the plan, even if it votes to do so.

September 11, 2013

An official with the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday suggested that a panel of negotiators consider including a program-level cohort default rate as part of proposed gainful employment regulations, which would would measure the employment outcomes of vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. That metric would be a new addition to an annual debt-to-income ratio and a discretionary income ratio.

John Kolotos, the official, who is a negotiator for the rule-making session that began this week, said the department had not vetted the details on how a loan default rate would work. But the department already has an institution-level rate in place, and he said the feds consider a three-year program-level rate of 30 percent (and one year at 40 percent) to be a "viable addition" to gainful employment. It would be a stand-alone measure, he said, meaning academic programs would lose eligibility for federal aid programs if they crossed the threshold, regardless of how they perform on other measures. 

September 11, 2013

The University of North Carolina’s public television network is defending its appointment of the controversial author Orson Scott Card to its Board of Trustees.

UNC-TV released a statement clarifying that the Board of Trustees is not involved in the editorial process after backlash from Card’s appointment. Card received national attention over political writings published in Greensboro’s Rhinoceros Times, where he compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, WRAL reported. Card, author of the award-winning books Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, is also vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage and “Leftaliban” in higher education and the news media.

“There have always been board members with a variety of opinions and backgrounds on the UNC-TV Board of Trustees, and the membership of the board is always changing," UNC-TV's statement said. "What has not changed is UNC-TV’s commitment to its mission of providing excellent public television programming for all the citizens of North Carolina."

September 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico explains how electronically bugging a tropical forest can provide insight about the native species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 11, 2013

Converse College, a South Carolina college with about 700 undergraduate students, joined the club Tuesday of 10 or so other institutions that have "reset" their tuition rates. The college said it would reduce its tuition by about 43 percent to $16,500 for students in fall 2014. The college said the new sticker price is actually close to the average cost students pay anyway. Colleges generally list higher rates than they charge most students.

September 11, 2013

Cash payments for good plays, sham and no-show jobs, and regular financial support from boosters regardless of on-field performance – in one player’s case, in excess of $25,000 – were rampant throughout the Oklahoma State University football program from 2001 to at least 2011, the first installment of a five-part Sports Illustrated expose on the team alleges. Part one, which focuses on money changing hands between boosters, coaches and athletes, was published Tuesday. Multiple former players said that 15 to 20 or so athletes received money under the table each year, some directly from football staff members and assistant coaches, with payments ranging from between $100 and $500 for an exceptional play, to thousands per week for little to no work. Many other former athletes and some staff blasted the report online, questioning the sources’ credibility and claiming the assertions were untrue. Oklahoma State President Burns Haggis said in a statement to SI that that officials “will investigate the accuracy of the allegations and take all appropriate action.”

The rest of the series will be published through Monday and focuses on academic fraud and misconduct, drug use and dealing, sex as a recruiting tool, and the fallout for Oklahoma State athletes.
 

September 11, 2013

Enrollment is down 18 percent this fall at Midway College, a private institution in Kentucky, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. As a result, the college is eliminating the positions of about a dozen of its 54 faculty members, and ending all employer contributions to retirement accounts. "As an institution that is so heavily dependent on tuition revenue, cuts have to be made," said John Marsden, the president,  in a news release. "After exhausting all other options, some faculty contracts will be eliminated from this fiscal year in order to balance the budget."

September 11, 2013

Investment in 529 college savings and prepaid tuition plans reached a record level in the first six months of 2013, according to a midyear report released Tuesday by the College Savings Plan Network.

Total investment in 529 plans reached $205 billion and the number of open 529 accounts increased to 11.43 million as of June 30, 2013, up from 10.74 million in December 2011.

“As families reach a crossroad about the value of higher education, our mid-year report finds that they have continued their commitment to save for and invest in college education,” Hon. Michael L. Fitzgerald, Chair of the College Savings Plans Network and State Treasurer of Iowa, said in the report. “The steady increase of total assets, account size and contributions in 529 plans are positive signs that Americans recognize saving for college as a long-term commitment and investment. Fostering this mid-year success, if the government undertakes the new initiative to slow tuition increases, then families’ hard earned 529 savings will go further to cover more college costs.”

 529 plans are offered in 49 states and the District of Columbia. 

September 11, 2013

Birmingham Metropolitan College is being accused of discrimination against Muslim students for prohibiting students, employees and visitors from wearing garments that obscure the face, including the niqab, a veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the face save for the eyes, The Telegraph reported.  Officials at the college said that caps, hats and hoodies are also prohibited and that there is a need for individuals on campus to be easily identifiable in order to keep students safe. 

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