With the smoke not yet cleared from the U.S. Education Department's last round of negotiated rule making -- which produced a series of new regulations aimed at strengthening the integrity of federal financial aid programs and took special aim at for-profit colleges -- the agency appears ready for more. In a statement Friday, department officials said that they would soon be announcing the creation of "one or more negotiated rule making committees to prepare proposed regulations under the Higher Education Act of 1965," and that the agency would hold three public hearings this month (in Tacoma, Wash., Chicago, and Charleston, S.C.) "at which interested parties may suggest issues" for the committee(s) to consider. The announcement gave no clue about what the department might seek to explore in the new round of rule making, as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities noted with a bit of trepidation.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Queen's University in Canada is ending a boycott of the international rankings of Times Higher Education, citing last year's change in methodology by the publication, and the impact of staying out of those and other international rankings. A statement from Queen's noted that appearing in international rankings is key to attracting students from China and India. The statement quoted Chris Conway, director of institutional research and planning, as saying that “Queen’s is still concerned because the rankings focus mainly on research volume and intensity, and although Queen’s is one of Canada’s top research universities, our quality undergraduate student experience and out-of-classroom experience are not fully captured."
Many law schools in recent years have increased spending on merit scholarships, hoping to attract top students and to boost rankings. But an article in The New York Times noted why some of the recipients feel that the law schools are playing a game of bait and switch. Many of the scholarships have grade-point-average requirements that recipients assume they can meet, but some of the law schools use curves on grading that make it virtually impossible for a good number of scholarship recipients to hold on to their grants. This means they end up enrolling at expensive institutions, and are faced with unexpectedly high bills their second or third years.
The University of Alaska at Fairbanks is appealing to students to stop flushing socks down the toilets of the fine arts complex, The Daily News-Miner reported. Officials say that a recent trend of sock-flushing has caused $15,000 in damage and extra labor costs. The university recently posted signs in bathrooms, asking people not to flush socks, and 40 socks quickly turned up. University officials say that they are mystified by the trend, but those posting comments on the newspaper's website have offered several theories.
Princeton University suspended a Spanish instructor four days before he killed himself, The New York Times reported. The suicide of Antonio Calvo last month left many students and some colleagues demanding more information about how the university treated Calvo. The university acknowledged that Calvo was on leave at the time of his death, and it was known that he was the subject of a review on whether he could keep his job, but little else has been clear. Documents obtained by the Times showed that the university suspended him with pay, and barred him from campus, writing to him that officials had "received information from multiple sources that you have been engaging in extremely troubling and inappropriate behavior in the workplace." The letter did not specify the nature of that behavior, but sources have said that while Calvo was popular with the undergraduates he taught, he clashed with graduate students whose teaching he supervised and sometimes considered inadequate.
Amar Bose, the founder of the company with his name that makes high-end audio products, has donated a majority of the corporation's stock to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stipulating that MIT will benefit from dividends, but will not vote on company direction. The New York Times reported that the gift has raised the eyebrows of some tax experts, who note that MIT cannot vote or sell the stock. Some experts told The Times that more detail should be released on the gift, and that it may not be fair to call it a full gift, given the limits on MIT's use of the stock.
Last month's corrections to the National Research Council's controversial rankings of doctoral programs turned out not to fix all the errors. As early as today, the NRC will be announcing additional corrections. Data on time-to-degree and completion rates for programs in the history of art, architecture and archaeology were incorrect in the "corrected" version of the database posted last month. A spokeswoman said that the data for 57 programs have been changed as a result of discovering the error. In another correction, data for a number of Harvard University programs on "tenured faculty as a percentage of total faculty" were incorrect and are being fixed.
President Obama used a commencement speech Friday at Miami Dade College to renew support for legislation that would create a path to U.S. citizenship for college graduates who were brought to the United States as children without documentation to live in the country. Republicans blocked passage of the legislation last year, and Obama acknowledged the political difficulties facing a similar bill this year.
"I know this last issue generates some passion. I know that several young people here have recently identified themselves as undocumented. Some were brought here as young children, and discovered the truth only as adults. And they’ve put their futures on the line in hopes it will spur the rest of us to live up to our most cherished values," he said. "I strongly believe we should fix our broken immigration system. Fix it so that it meets our 21st-century economic and security needs. And I want to work with Democrats and Republicans, yes, to protect our borders, and enforce our laws, and address the status of millions of undocumented workers. And I will keep fighting alongside many of you to make the DREAM Act the law of the land."
Also at the ceremonies, Obama received his first honorary associate degree.
Ohio University on Saturday announced a $105 million grant from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. The funds will be used to expand the class size of Ohio University's osteopathic medical college, and to create a satellite campus for the college in central Ohio.