WASHINGTON — A panel discussion at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's annual conference here Tuesday highlighted differences between Senate Democrats and House Republicans as the deadline for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act looms at the end of the year. While many don't expect the reauthorization will be done on time, and perhaps will not be finished during this Congress, the panel highlighted a key divide between the parties: House Republicans, represented on the panel by Amy Jones, education policy counsel to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, favor some consumer disclosures from colleges but fewer mandates and regulations. Senate Democrats, represented by Spiros Protopsaltis, senior education policy adviser to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, are seeking metrics to judge college's value. They emphasized to accreditors that many on Capitol Hill don't understand accreditation or understand its value — a key concern since reauthorization is expected to touch on accreditation and related issues.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit charging that Kaplan Higher Education discriminated against black job applicants by rejecting some people seeking employment because of their credit histories, The New York Times reported. The suit, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said that relying on credit histories has a disproportionate impact on black applicants. The suit was dismissed after the judge agreed to block testimony from an expert witness for the EEOC, finding that the way that witness identified which job applicants were black was not reliable.
For many fans, the continuing whirlwind of athletic conference realignment has been a mixed blessing: while it brings league-hopping programs greater revenue and visibility, it also puts an end to traditional college rivalry competitions. But one state legislator is refusing to accept the latter consequence. Following Texas A&M University’s move last year from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, Democratic Rep. Ryan Guillen has filed a bill that would require an annual football showdown between that institution and the University of Texas at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. Under the law, if either institution chose to forgo the game -- which spanned a century before coming to a halt in 2012 -- it would face athletic scholarship reductions.
However, football fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up. Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at the Vermont Law School, told Sports Illustrated that he doesn't think the bill has "a plausible shot” at becoming law. And if it somehow did, unintended legal consequences could follow, and the universities would likely claim it unconstitutional.
Student and faculty groups at Gustavus Adolphus College are calling for the resignation of President Jack Ohle, saying that he has ignored faculty members and tried to diminish their role, questioning his handling of budget decisions, and arguing that his approach is more like that of a business leader than an academic leader, The Mankato Free Press reported. A website called GustieLeaks has also started publishing documents -- some of them leaked -- about the dispute and about Ohle's leadership. Ohle referred questions to the college's board, which had the college spokesman issue a statement that it was reviewing the situation. The statement said that Ohle has been meeting with faculty and student groups to discuss their concerns.
Harvard University officials have urged all faculty members to be clear in their syllabuses on policies about student collaboration, The Boston Globe reported. Some students complained last year, when the university experienced a major cheating scandal, that instructors were vague about the kind of collaboration that was permitted (and even encouraged) versus the kind of collaboration that would constitute cheating. The Globe quoted from the syllabus for an applied mathematics course to illustrate the kind of specificity now being encouraged. "For problem sets, students are strongly encouraged to collaborate in planning and thinking through solutions, but must write up their own solutions without checking over their written solution with another student," the syllabus said. "Do not pass solutions to problem sets nor accept them from another student. If you are ever in doubt, ask the course staff to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate."
College and university fund-raisers predict that giving to their institutions grew by an average of 5.5 percent in 2012, according to a twice-annual survey by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. If that prediction holds true, giving for 2012 would be higher than the $31.6 billion record high for the 2007-8 academic year. Fund-raisers also predict giving to grow by 5.8 percent in 2013, a rate equal to the average over the past 20 years.
The new chancellor of California's community colleges, Brice W. Harris, has written in opposition to a legal challenge to the system's shared governance structure. California Competes, a nonprofit group led by Robert Shireman, says local academic senates have illegal veto power over board actions, which contributes to a "tangled bureaucracy." Harris, however, said the shared governance regulations are lawful and good public policy. And while he said the group's intentions are well-meaning, they are "seriously flawed."
The Board of Trustees at Cedarville University, a Baptist college in Ohio recently shaken by intradenominational arguments and the resignation of two administrators, voted Friday to cut the college's philosophy major and to approve the unexplained resignation of its vice president for student life. The college said the major needed to be cut due to low student interest, and that a philosophy minor will remain an option; students and alumni argued that eliminating the major damages the college's credibility as a liberal arts institution.
“The last few weeks have been difficult for our university family,” the college's acting president, John Gredy, said in a statement announcing the change. “Please join me in praying that God will bring healing to our brokenness, peace to our hearts and unity to our community.”
The Grainger Foundation has pledged $100 million for engineering programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The funds will be used for endowed chairs, scholarships and facilities.
A blueprint for an eventual overhaul of the nation's immigration system, announced Monday by a bipartisan group of eight senators, would ease the path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants and award green cards to foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The plan calls for a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, and those brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age -- would-be beneficiaries of the DREAM Act -- would face fewer hurdles. The plan also calls for increased enforcement, and stipulates those measures would need to be put in place before undocumented immigrants could receive green cards.