Higher Education Quick Takes
WASHINGTON -- Only in this town would the move of a group of policy analysts from one think tank to another be big news. But the departure of Education Sector's four-person higher education policy team for the New America Foundation, announced Wednesday, is noteworthy.
The changeover is significant to some extent because it comes in the wake of drama involving turnover and turmoil at Education Sector; its most recent executive director, Richard Colvin, left last month barely a year after being named, and the interim executive director who replaced him, John Chubb, was on the education advisory team for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign until he quit a few days ago.
Several people at Education Sector were unhappy with what they saw as an unwelcome shift into politicization at the historically nonpartisan policy organization, and the group's departure leaves Education Sector without higher education expertise, although a spokeswoman said that would soon be remedied.
But the move by the Education Sector émigrés -- Kevin Carey, who will head New America's education policy team, Amy Laitinen, Stephen Burd and Rachel Fishman -- gives New America a deep bench of higher education policy analysts. They will join, among others, Jason Delisle, an expert on student loans and federal education finances, who noted that there has been significant overlap between the two organizations over time. (Burd formerly worked at New America, and is not the only education policy analyst to have moved from one to the other previously.) "When Kevin and his team were looking to make a move, we were a natural choice," Delisle said.
Carey said via e-mail that he had "been in the same position as policy director at Ed Sector for going on seven years and this felt like the right time to step up into a broader leadership role." He added: "New America is a great organization with a lot of complementary strengths so it feels like a really good fit."
About 900 colleges nationwide have agreements with banks or financial services companies for debit or prepaid cards for financial aid disbursement, student identification cards and other services, despite concerns and occasional controversy about fees on those cards, according to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's Education Fund. Despite inroads from banks and other companies offering prepaid debit cards, Higher One still dominates the market, with agreements on more than 500 campuses.
Prepaid debit cards can come with high fees, including a 50-cent "per swipe" fee for Higher One cards if they are used with a personal identification number (as a debit card) rather than a signature (as a credit card). The report calls on colleges to negotiate agreements with lower fees and to provide students with a range of options, including checks and bank deposits, for financial aid disbursements.
The California Senate on Wednesday passed two bills that would require the state to create free, online textbooks through open source materials for the top 50 courses taught in the state, the Associated Press reported. Senator Darrell Steinberg, the sponsor of the bill, said it would protect students from the "exorbitant" prices charged by some publishers. The American Publishers Association is opposing the legislation, which now moves to the Assembly.
New Jersey should establish guidelines for the compensation of community college presidents, which varies enormously from institution to institution, the state's comptroller said in a report Wednesday. "There are no state standards or guidelines for college trustees to rely on when setting compensation terms for their president," said the comptroller, Matthew Boxer. "As a result, there are huge disparities in not only the salaries of community college presidents, but other forms of their compensation as well. We’re not suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s appropriate to set boundaries when schools are spending taxpayer dollars."
Dozens of law professors have signed a joint letter to President Obama urging him to take steps to help college students who lack the legal documentation to permanently reside in the United States. President Obama has backed proposed legislation that would create a path to citizenship for such students, but the letter argued that the administration has "clear executive authority for several forms of administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries: deferred action, parole–in–place, and deferred enforced departure." Through these means, the administration could remove the fear many of these students (many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and who have few ties in their original countries) of being deported, the letter says.
Faculty members at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are debating whether too many students are earning A grades, The Star Tribune reported. One proposal under consideration is that transcripts should indicate the share of each class receiving a particular grade, so that an A might have less value in courses in where many such grades are awarded.
Pericles Lewis has been named the inaugural president of the Yale-NUS College, a new institution jointly created by Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Lewis is a Yale professor whose work focuses on British and European literature who has been involved in designing the academic programs of the new college.
The U.S. Education Department's top-ranking postsecondary education official is heading back to campus.
Eduardo M. Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, will leave the Obama administration to become interim president of California State University at Monterey Bay, the Cal State system announced Tuesday. Ochoa, who had been provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University before President Obama nominated him for the Education Department job two years ago, will succeed Monterey Bay's current president, Dianne Harrison, who has been named to lead California State University Northridge.
Ochoa is the second member of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's higher education political team to leave the administration leading up to the 2012 election, following James Kvaal's decision last fall to join Obama's campaign staff. Political appointees are typically discouraged from leaving in an election year, for fear of signaling lack of confidence in the incumbent's prospects. As assistant secretary, Ochoa has had a typically broad portfolio as assistant secretary, helping carry out (and defend) the administration's gainful employment and other program integrity rules, encouraging the collection of better data about higher education performance and productivity, and urging college leaders to bring their spending and prices under control.
Attorneys general in more than 20 states sent a letter Tuesday urging Congressional leaders to tighten federal rules in ways that could limit the ability of some for-profit colleges to enroll military service members and veterans using government aid. The letter, signed by 21 attorneys general and one state consumer protection official, calls on Congress to enact legislation that would count military and veterans' education aid along with Education Department student grants for the purposes of a federal rule that requires for-profit colleges to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal aid. Right now military and veterans' educational aid is excluded from that total. Changes in the rule are unlikely given the current makeup of Congress.