Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 21, 2014

A rejected black applicant to the University of Michigan participated in protests last week, charging that the university could increase its black enrollment by admitting students like her, The Detroit Free Press reported. In going public with her story, supporters of affirmative action said that they were trying to focus (as critics of affirmative action have done) on the compelling stories of those turned away. In this case, the rejected applicant is Brooke Kimbrough, who has a 3.6 grade-point average and an ACT score of 23. While supporters said that she could succeed at Michigan, critics said that the university was correct to turn her down, given that her academic record wasn't superior to those getting in. According to the university, the average high school G.P.A. is 3.85 and the 50th percentile of admitted students have ACT composite scores of 29-33.


April 21, 2014

San Jose State University has been taking a number of steps in the wake of the shock and anger over last fall's incident in which a black student was tormented for months by his suitemates. A special panel was charged with recommending ideas on how to promote a more racially inclusive and non-discriminatory environment and last week it issued its final list of ideas. Among them: create a new office of diversity engagement and inclusive excellence, conduct a campus climate survey every other year, study why graduation rates are low for black and Latino male students and develop a plan to reverse the trend, and require all students to take a diversity and ethnic studies course.

April 21, 2014

Northern Kentucky University fired Scott Eaton as athletic director last year for a series of inappropriate relationships with university employees and one student. Since he was fired, an investigation uncovered new allegations that he admitted in court last week. Eaton pleaded guilty to theft in which he used his university credit card to buy more than $300,000 in gift cards for his personal use, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. He agreed to a 10-year jail term. His lawyer said that "he's not happy about the situation, obviously, but he's happy to begin the process of healing.... He regrets his actions."

April 21, 2014

An article in The Wall Street Journal explores the rise of collegiate table tennis (calling it ping pong apparently offends those who are serious about the sport). Texas Wesleyan has built up a powerhouse team that dominates American college competitions, but Mississippi College -- with recruits from China -- is emerging as a challenger.


April 18, 2014

A former assistant professor of medicine and anatomy and cell biology at Wayne State University is accusing the university of fraudulently obtaining more than $169 million in federal grant dollars in a whistleblower lawsuit, the Detroit Free Press reported. Christian Kreipke says the university falsely reported research costs, such as grossly exaggerating the cost of lab rats ($235,000 for 300) or lab technicians' salaries. Kreipke says he reported the alleged fraud, and was later fired in retaliation for being a whistleblower. He filed the complaint in 2012 and it only recently was unsealed in a U.S. District Court.

Wayne State has not been charged with any crime, although federal investigators are familiar with the case and in court documents have expressed an interest in following the lawsuit, according to the report. In a statement, Wayne State officials said: "“The author of the litigation — an individual who was terminated from his employment for research-related misconduct — has attempted to challenge his termination multiple times using several approaches. Without exception, every such attempt has failed decisively. Should Wayne State be served with this latest claim, we will defend aggressively, and we are confident that it will result in dismissal, as have all of his earlier attempts.”

April 18, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education is proposing new eligibility requirements for Parent PLUS loans. Under draft regulatory language sent this week to members of the department’s negotiated rule making panel, parents would generally be barred from taking out PLUS loans if they have any type of debt exceeding $2,085 that is 90 or more days delinquent or that has been sent to a collection agency or charged off. The proposal also changes the look-back period for that “adverse credit” history from five years to two years.

Under a separate policy change that goes into effect July 1, families that are denied a Parent PLUS loan because of an adverse credit history may appeal to the Education Department, which can then provide the loan if there are "extenuating circumstances."

The department’s standards for obtaining a PLUS have been a source of controversy since at least 2011, when officials quietly tightened the requirements. Leaders of historically black colleges and universities and for-profit colleges -- which enroll large numbers of students who rely on PLUS loans -- have said the changes were denying underserved students access to the loans they need to pay for college. Presidents of black colleges, in particular, have pushed the Obama administration to make it easier for families to access the loans. Some consumer advocates and think tanks, on the other hand, argue that the department should keep its credit standards -- or even tighten them further -- so that parents aren’t saddled with large amounts of debt that they cannot possibly repay.

Debit Cards and State Authorization

The department also circulated this week a revised version of its proposal to more tightly regulate campus debit cards. The latest draft keeps in place some of the restrictions on the marketing of campus debit cards as well as the ban on certain account and ATM fees.

In addition, department officials put out a second draft of their rewritten state authorization rule. The proposal would reinstate a requirement -- which a federal judge struck down for procedural reasons in 2012 -- that providers of online education obtain approval from each and every state in which they enroll students.

The new draft of that rule keeps in place a controversial provision that would essentially require states to subject all distance education providers to a formal regulatory review (as opposed to approving the program on the basis of its accreditation or another reason). Some state regulators have said that requirement would impose substantial new burdens on them; it would also likely require many states to change their laws.

The rule making panel will meet in Washington next Wednesday through Friday to discuss the proposals. The department also last week formally added a fourth negotiating session, which will take place May 19-20. 

April 18, 2014

Continuing her push to promote higher education, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday toured Howard University with a group of Chicago public high school juniors and seniors.

The students were participating in the “Escape to Mecca” program, which is aimed at exposing high-achieving Chicago students to Howard University, which is referred to as the “Mecca” of African-American education.

Obama was joined by the rapper and television host Bow Wow for a tour of a women’s dormitory and a discussion session in a campus cafeteria.

“No longer is high school the bar,” she told the 37 Chicago students. “That is not enough in today’s globalizing economy. You have got to go to college, or get some kind of professional training beyond college.”

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on our end -- governments, private sector, the folks with money,” Obama said of the administration’s goal for the country to have the most college graduates in the world by 2020. But, she added: “You don’t have time to wait for everybody to fix the system for you.”

Bow Wow -- formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow and whose real name is Shad Moss -- did not attend college and instead pursued his entertainment career, which began at age 13, according to his manager, Bart Waters. The First Lady on Wednesday praised Bow Wow’s commitment to promoting higher education, and has previously appeared on his BET talk show to discuss the issue. The Obama administration since this past winter has sought to highlight and address the issue of “undermatching” -- the term education researchers use to describe when high-achieving students do not apply to or enroll at the best institutions at which they would succeed.

April 18, 2014

Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State University, will remain  president of the American Association of University Professors for a second term, the organization announced Thursday, along with the other winners of its recent election. Fichtenbaum defeated Jane Buck, a past president of the AAUP, 2,114 to 1,964. The other top three officers also are incumbents. Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at the University of California at East Bay, will stay on as first vice president, while Susan Michalczyk, professor in the Honors Program at Boston College, remains second vice-president. Michele Ganon, professor of accounting at Western Connecticut State University, is treasurer.

All four candidates ran on a platform called “Organizing for Change,” advocating for collective bargaining for faculty where possible and building strong advocacy chapters elsewhere. A full list of vote tallies, opponents and other elections results is available here.

Via email, Fichtenbaum said that today the need for a “bigger and stronger AAUP is greater than at any time since the founding of the AAUP nearly 100 years ago. The corporate attack on public higher education has led to dramatic declines in state support for higher education and ballooning student debt, particularly for working class students and students of color. The values and principles of academic freedom, shared governance and economic security for all of the members of our profession are foundational, because they enable us to fight back against the corporate agenda and ensure that higher education serves the common good.”

Fichtenbaum added: “It is gratifying that our entire slate was reelected and I think it shows our members believe the changes we are making will help strengthen the AAUP.”

Officers serve two-year terms.

April 18, 2014

Faculty members at University of Maine campuses, coping with (and protesting) deep budget cuts throughout the system, were frustrated to learn this week of a $40,000 raise for a top financial official of the system, The Bangor Daily News reported. The salary of Rebecca Wyke, vice chancellor for administration and finance, went to $205,000 recently, up from $165,000 -- even as layoffs and other cuts have been instituted. System Chancellor James Page, said "Is it a lot of money? Yes." But he said Wyke was a finalist for a position elsewhere that would have paid her more. And he said that the system would have been hurt by her departure, adding that "you do need to have the right people in place to get the job done.”


April 18, 2014

The Women's Law Project has filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department, charging that universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are violating gender equity laws by failing to provide enough opportunities for women, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The complaint cited Clarion University as an example, stating that women make up 60 percent of the undergraduate student body, but only 47 percent of varsity athletes. Systemwide, the complaint says, there are 900 slots needed to bring women to an appropriate share. A system spokesman denied any violations.



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