Higher Education Quick Takes
Students, joined by civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, on Wednesday filed complaints against Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California over their handling of complaints of sexual assaults, The Los Angeles Times reported. The complaints -- filed with the U.S. Department of Education -- charge that the institutions have failed to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault or to accurate report such incidents as required by federal law. The charges are similar to those made recently with the Education Department about Occidental College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. College officials, while acknowledging periodic missteps, have generally said that they make every effort to comply with the relevant laws.
The University of Minnesota at Duluth has fired Rod Raymond as wellness director over numerous charges that he denies, The Duluth News Tribune reported. During the last four years, two students filed sexual harassment complaints against Raymond and he was facing other, unspecified charges. A university statement said that he was dismissed for, among other things, “violation of the Regent’s Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships;" “inappropriate sexual conduct with a UMD student on university premises and during work hours,” and "untruthfulness during an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation." Raymond has denied all charges, and vowed to challenge his dismissal.
The University of Georgia will soon begin offering “soft benefits” – voluntary dental, vision and life insurance – to domestic partners of employees, it announced this week. Approximately 35 percent of the 150 couples to apply for the benefits are same-sex, a university spokesman said. Although law and policy prohibit state money from funding domestic partner benefits in Georgia, the extension of voluntary, employee-paid soft benefits to domestic partners of employees of state institutions, including Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology, dates back to 2002. "The majority of our peers do it, and it's a competitive matter; it's the ability to compete for talent," said Tom Jackson, vice president for public affairs at University of Georgia. The decision followed a recent vote by the University Council to extend full benefits to domestic partners. In a statement, President Michael Adams said that offering full benefits to domestic partners using private funds "will, unfortunately, require further study."
Capella University has received approval from its regional accreditor to proceed with a pilot program in competency-based education that does not rely on the credit hour standard, an approach called "direct assessment." The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approved the for-profit institution's "FlexPath" bachelor of science in business and master of business administration. University officials said the direct assessment tracks could reduce the cost of a degree and the time needed to complete it.
The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.
But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.
Coursera and edX, the two major providers of massive open online courses, continue to partner with more institutions. On Tuesday, edX, a nonprofit started with money from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced it has 15 new partners, including a half dozen in Asia. Both edX and Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based company, have recently touted the global nature of their efforts. Coursera last week gained a prestigious domestic partner: Yale University, which had been taking its time to reflect.
An amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the mark-up of the comprehensive immigration reform bill would allow undocumented students who entered the U.S. under age 16 and who are granted registered provisional immigrant status under the DREAM Act to qualify for federal loans and federal work-study. Immigrant farm workers with blue card status would also qualify.
The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was proposed by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. The committee approved the immigration bill in its entirety in a 13-5 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday revived a bias lawsuit against Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge that had been dismissed by a lower court. In the case, a woman passed over as police chief said she was denied the position of police chief based on illegal gender bias, and was retaliated against for raising complaints about her treatment. The appeals court said that there was sufficient evidence for a full trial on the case. For example, the court noted that her application received no response and that a man got the job, even though a college degree was a requirement for the position, she had bachelor's and master's degrees, and the man lacked a college degree. While LSU offered non-discriminatory reasons for her dismissal, the appeals court said that the evidence in its entirety was sufficient for the case to go forward.