Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department’s attempts to regulate colleges and universities over the past several years provide good protections for students and taxpayers, the department’s independent investigatory arm has concluded.    

The report by the department’s inspector general was released on the second day of a negotiated rule-making hearing aimed at rewriting the department’s controversial gainful employment regulations. It finds that some type of gainful employment metrics are needed to hold colleges accountable and to protect taxpayer money. The report also applauds the department’s efforts to define a credit hour and require institutions of higher education to be authorized by the state in which they operate.

The inspector general’s office relied on its previous audits and investigations to produce the analysis. It did not appear to evaluate the impact of the regulations or weigh alternative rule proposals.

Representative George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, sought the study from the Education Department’s inspector general in response to legislation being pushed by House Republicans to repeal those regulations and prohibit the Obama administration from enacting new ones. The proposal cleared the Republican-led House education committee in July on a mostly party-line vote, with one Democrat supporting the measure. 

September 11, 2013

Cornell University announced a $100 million gift to its medical college Tuesday. The donors -- for whom the medical school is already named -- are Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The Weills have now given $600 million to the university.

 

September 11, 2013

Researchers are tapping into data on students to nudge students through college, according to a report released Tuesday by Education Sector.

Technology-driven behavioral nudges range from providing students with course recommendations based on the performance of past students to offering study advice via text messaging or counseling over the phone. “By giving students information-driven suggestions that lead to smarter actions, technology nudges are intended to tackle a range of problems surrounding the process by which students begin college and make their way to graduation,” said the report.

Some researchers found that sending reminders about placement tests, orientation and pre-college tasks via text messages to low-income high school graduates increased the likelihood students would be on campus in the fall.

The report, “Nudge Nation: A New Way to Prod Students Into and Through College,” advocated for further research on mining data for students’ benefits.

“Like many other technology initiatives, these ventures are relatively young and much remains to be learned about how they can be made most effective,” the report said. “Already, however, nudge designers are having a good deal of success marrying knowledge of human behavior with the capacity of technology to reach students at larger scale, and lower cost, than would be possible in person.”

September 11, 2013

An official with the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday suggested that a panel of negotiators consider including a program-level cohort default rate as part of proposed gainful employment regulations, which would would measure the employment outcomes of vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. That metric would be a new addition to an annual debt-to-income ratio and a discretionary income ratio.

John Kolotos, the official, who is a negotiator for the rule-making session that began this week, said the department had not vetted the details on how a loan default rate would work. But the department already has an institution-level rate in place, and he said the feds consider a three-year program-level rate of 30 percent (and one year at 40 percent) to be a "viable addition" to gainful employment. It would be a stand-alone measure, he said, meaning academic programs would lose eligibility for federal aid programs if they crossed the threshold, regardless of how they perform on other measures. 

September 10, 2013

Declines in the total enrollment of American higher education are "credit negative" for colleges and universities, particularly the majority that depend on tuition revenue for operating support, says a review of credit issues released Monday by Moody's Investors Services. "Enrollment declines in higher education are credit negative because they heighten competitive pressure for all universities. This limits opportunity to grow tuition revenue, now the primary revenue for the majority of public and private universities," said the report. "[A]mong traditional undergraduate colleges and universities, the credit effect is more severe for lower-rated, tuition-dependent colleges and universities that lack a strong brand name or market position. For higher rated universities with established student demand, the effect is minimal."

The report added that demographics of students may have a major impact on which institutions feel these shifts. "With the fall 2012 enrollment declines most pronounced for students over the age of 25, the credit effect is most acute for community colleges and for the 30 percent of universities we rate where more than 25 percent of total enrollment is at the graduate level," the report said. "Declining graduate enrollment can disproportionately affect a university since students in graduate programs typically generate more revenue per student than in undergraduate programs."

September 10, 2013

More than 1,000 impermissible phone calls and other inappropriate contact by officials across Iowa State University’s 18-team athletics program, used to reach nearly 400 recruits, led the National Collegiate Athletic Association to cite the institution for its "failure to monitor" the athletics program Friday. Penalties include limited telephone contact with prospects and a reduction in the number of recruiting opportunities for several sports. Coaches and staff members failed to audit or adequately keep track of the number of phone calls made and text messages sent to prospects, the NCAA public infractions report says, with many coaches claiming that the university’s compliance office never told them to log calls. While 1,400 impermissible calls were placed across all programs, one former student men’s basketball coach sent 160 impermissible text messages to prospects.

Besides several recruiting restrictions, the sanctions include public reprimand and censure and two years’ probation. However, because the penalties were mostly self-imposed by the university several years ago, long before the case’s summary disposition (which does not include a formal hearing) wrapped up Friday, many of the recruiting restrictions have already expired.

September 10, 2013

The University of Denver went ahead Monday night with its plans to honor President George W. Bush, as a protest went ahead outside the event, The Denver Post reported. Bush appeared at a fund-raising event (closed to the press) for the university's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Anger over the award first surfaced this summer, when word spread that the university was going to honor Bush for "improving the human condition." The university then announced that it would change the award so that it would honor the former president's "global service." That change did not satisfy those who picketed outside the event. They held signs saying things such as "No Awards for War Criminals" and "The Iraq War Is Not a Global Service."

 

September 10, 2013

A History News Network poll of historians at highly rated colleges and universities have found that they give President Obama a B- grade on his performance as president. The historians were asked to grade the president in 15 categories. He earned the highest grades (all A-) in communication ability, Supreme Court appointments, integrity and crisis management. He earned his lowest grades in transparency and accountability (C+) and relationship with Congress (C).

 

September 10, 2013

Officials at U.S. News & World Report have warned that some methodology changes this year might lead to more movement on the rankings -- announced this morning -- than is the norm. That may well be the case, but the top three national universities and liberal arts colleges will be quite familiar to those who have tracked the rankings in the past. And the top 10 lists look pretty familiar, too.

One statistic Inside Higher Ed has tracked is the participation rate of those who participate in the controversial "reputational" portion of the rankings, in which presidents and others evaluate other colleges -- a system many believe leads to high rankings for colleges that have been historically strong and well known. This year, the participation rate of presidents over all dropped two points, to 42 percent. At liberal arts colleges (a sector that has been particularly critical of the rankings) the numbers are stable at 47 percent. U.S. News continues to be unable to get a high participation rate from its survey of high school counselors. Only 11 percent participated this year, the same as last year.

I will add link to rankings and full methodology when they go live in a.m. -sj

September 10, 2013

Spain's university students increasingly face higher fees at the same time as their institutions cut budgets. Seeking to help, some deans have talked about creating an "adopt a student" program in which civic minded individuals would "adopt a student" and pay for his or her tuition, The Local reported. Some students like the idea. But others are opposed. Ana García, secretary general of Spain's Union of Students, said that such a program would make higher education "a form of charity rather than a right."

 

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