Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

A panel of finance experts met Thursday at an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute – called “Which way out? Confronting the problems of student loans” – to discuss increasing federal, institutional and student responsibility to combat massive student loan debt and high rates of default.

The panel comprised Richard George, chairman, president and CEO of the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, Art Hauptman, an independent public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance, and Edward Pinto and Alex Pollock, two AEI scholars focusing on housing and financial policies. Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University, moderated the event, and Bill Bennett, who was secretary of education under President Reagan, delivered an opening presentation.

The refrain of the discussion – that higher education institutions need to have “skin in the game” by paying a penalty when their students default on loans – is a familiar one in discussions of how to keep colleges from reaping all of the benefits and none of the costs of high tuition rates.

George also proposed that “vulnerable cohorts,” students more likely to drop out of college and default on their student loans, should not be allowed to borrow until they have demonstrated academic persistence toward finishing a degree; until that point, colleges should carry the cost burden for students. He said if colleges participated in this campaign that their “skin in the game” would carry less risk, as students more likely to default on their loans would have been weeded out before being allowed to borrow.

Bennett said it’s time to subject higher education to the same level of scrutiny given to K-12 education: “It’s time to look at the whole enterprise of higher education,” he said. “I expect resistance to that, but the questions are there, and more are coming.”

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $68.5 billion budget for the Education Department for fiscal year 2013 along party lines Thursday, but one big Obama administration initiative was missing: a "Race to the Top" for higher education intended to spur changes in state systems. The administration had requested $1 billion for the initiative, which would have been modeled on its competitive grant program for states' K-12 schools. The omission  is particularly striking because the Democrat-controlled Senate has usually been supportive of the administration's higher education proposals.

The committee cited budget constraints as a rationale for not funding the program, and said Congress might take it up in future years. So far, legislators have held no hearings on the Race to the Top for higher education. "The committee notes that the concerns the administration has raised about rising college costs are very serious ones, and agrees that action is needed to reduce burdens on families and improve outcomes for students," the Appropriations Committee noted in its report.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment. Many fights lie ahead on spending for fiscal year 2013: Congress is considered unlikely to pass a budget before the November elections.

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

A new document leaked Thursday raises yet more questions about the ouster of Teresa Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia. Board members have suggested that Sullivan was not "bold" enough or engaged in the kind of strategic thinking that they wanted. But in the memo to board members, Sullivan said she had been explicitly told not to do a full strategic review, but went on to outline a series of strategic issues that needed addressing. Sullivan also outlined difficult challenges -- including a view that some departments at Virginia are resting on their laurels -- suggesting a willingness to ask tough questions. On campus Thursday, faculty members were saying that the memo suggested board members had been terribly unfair in their (minimal) explanations of their decision to seek a new president. The Daily Progress published information about the leaked memo.

Amid all the anger, someone has decided to make a humorous criticism of the university's board by offering it a "final exam." One of the multiple choice questions:

The University of Virginia’s core principles include:
A. short-term return on investment
B. bowing to pressure from rich and powerful alumni in the name of strategic dynamism
C. egregious mismanagement that’s secretive, misguided, and without clear public rationale, according to the head of the AAU
D. excellence, honor and self-governance, innovation and collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge, leadership for the public good, and providing a vibrant breadth of academic offerings within and across our schools.

 

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

Instructure, the learning management provider, today announced a deal with the Cisco Networking Academy, an educational program of Cisco Systems that partners with universities, community colleges and high schools to prepare students for the company’s certification exams. Under the deal, Cisco Networking Academy would use Canvas, Instructure’s open-source learning management system, to deliver its I.T. courses to about 1 million students worldwide, according to a press release. It is a coup for the young company, which captured a modest 1.2 percent share of the LMS market last fall.

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 4:19am

A feature in The Los Angeles Times explores the role of the humanities and social sciences at the California Institute of Technology, which this year will see only one person graduate with a major in the humanities and social sciences who does not also have a major in the sciences. While it is rare to major in the humanities, many humanities courses are popular and Caltech requires students to take the equivalent of a humanities or social sciences course each semester. Warren Brown, who teaches medieval history, said: "These kids are going to become scientists, engineers and mathematicians, and they are going to move out into a world that often doesn't understand what they do, doesn't understand why it is important or tries to manipulate what they do for financial or political reasons.... These kids have to know they are moving out into a human society and have to understand how human society works."

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 3:00am

Statements and rumors of all kinds are flying over the decision of the University of Virginia board to oust Teresa Sullivan as president. The decision, announced Sunday, stunned faculty leaders and many others who thought Sullivan was off to a strong start in her nearly two years in office:

  • The Council of Chairs and Directors released a letter blasting the way events have transpired. The letter said that these academic leaders were "very pleased" with Sullivan's "superb" leadership, and that they were stunned by her ouster, and frustrated by the lack of faculty knowledge of the reasons behind the board's action. The letter called for "a full airing" of the issues.
  • A petition is gathering support calling for the board to reverse itself and to keep Sullivan.
  • Helen Dragas, the rector (board chair) released a letter to the faculty in which she said that "the Board of Visitors understands the serious concern and anxiety raised by the announcement of President Sullivan’s agreement to step down. We comprehend how deeply the entire University family feels a sense of loss and distress at what appeared to be an abrupt turn of events." However, citing confidentiality requirements, Dragas said she could not detail the issues that divided Sullivan and the board. She did, however, say that "there was ongoing dialogue with the President over an extended period of time, regarding matters for which we are responsible. These include ensuring the long-term health and well-being of the University through development of a credible statement of strategic direction and a long-term resource plan."

 

 

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Jennifer Clack of the University of Cambridge reveals how recent discoveries are providing paleontologists with a better understanding of the development of early tetrapods. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 3:00am

Many Greeks are furious with Germany over its stance on the economic crisis in Greece, but Greek students are flocking to German language courses, The Times of London reported. Students are studying at German programs in Greece or traveling to German-speaking countries to learn the language, hoping to stay and find a good job. "I think the situation in Germany and the way they live is of high quality," said Elena Mavromatti, a law student at the University of Athens, who is taking advanced night-classes at the Germanika language school.

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The City University of New York is making big strides on community college student achievement with its Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) effort, according to a report released today by MDRC, an education and social policy research firm. The program, begun in 2005, is an attempt to improve graduation rates. It is aimed at students with remedial needs, and requires participants to enroll full-time in exchange for enhanced support. The study found that it boosts student retention, credits earned and success in remediation -- with a 15 percent increase in students who successfully finish their remedial coursework.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 3:00am

Career Education Corporation is responding to a new inquiry from a national accreditor related to job placement rates, according to a corporate filing by the company. The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges has asked the company, which owns 90 for-profit college campuses, to "show cause" for why accreditation should not be withdrawn from 10 of its institutions. The inquiry stems from the company's earlier acknowledgment that it lacked sufficient documentation for some job placement data. That revelation led to a similar inquiry by another national accreditor -- the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools -- which later cleared the company.

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