Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 5, 2012

An update to the student loan system that revealed some borrowers' personal information to other borrowers was inadvertent and did not disclose borrowers' birth dates or Social Security numbers, the Education Department said Thursday. A glitch in a new feature allowing students to download their student loan information gave students access to other borrowers' information instead, the department said, but the problem involved only "a small number' of borrowers (two borrowers reported the problem to the department) and was fixed "within hours."

The affected borrowers had access to others' addresses and loan amounts. "While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, we have no reason to believe that any fraudulent activity resulted from this error," department spokesman Justin Hamilton said in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed.

 

October 4, 2012

In the first presidential debate, held at the University of Denver on Wednesday night, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he wouldn't cut federal spending on education, and that he expects spending on the Pell Grant to continue to grow. While the 90-minute debate was peppered with references to education, including higher education, Romney's remarks were the only new policy statements on how the next administration (of either party) might deal with colleges and universities.

But given Romney's support for tough domestic spending cuts, and a consensus even among supporters of the Pell Grant that the program's growth must be contained, the statement was something of a surprise. Obama argued that his challenger's math didn't add up — that Romney couldn't cut both taxes and the deficit and also protect his budget priorities.

Community colleges also got some airtime during the debate, as President Obama praised them as a source for job training programs and Romney vowed to streamline those programs. But the two candidates largely stuck to older campaign themes on higher education issues, including Obama citing ending bank-based student loan program as an accomplishment of his administration.

October 4, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Bärbel Hönisch of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory reveals how rising levels of CO2 are not only warming the atmosphere, but accelerating the acidification of the oceans as well. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

October 4, 2012

Ontario Wooden, a dean at North Carolina Central University, has been arrested and charged with assaulting a colleague, The Durham Herald-Sun reported. The arrest warrant for Wooden said that he "unlawfully and willfully" assaulted a woman (an unnamed employee at the university) "by grabbing her forearm and shoving her against a cabinet, causing scratches and bruises on the forearm and upper left shoulder." The dean was released on bond, and the university declined to comment on the arrest.

 
October 4, 2012

Controversial research on hydraulic fracking has ended at Pennsylvania State University, Bloomberg reported. Many have criticized the research because of its support by a pro-fracking research group, and questions about whether there was sufficient disclosure of that tie. The faculty member who did the original research has left the university, and now there is not any faculty member willing to do the research, so the group cannot continue to fund the project at the university.

 

October 4, 2012

A new feature for student borrowers on the Education Department's National Student Loan Data System might have revealed personal data about borrowers, mimicking another data breach a year ago. The system, a clearinghouse for borrowers and institutions to get information about student loans, recently added a way for borrowers to download all of their data with one click. But some borrowers, when they tried, got information for other borrowers instead, according to financial aid listservs. A similar error happened last year, affecting about 5,000 borrowers: people who logged in to the system saw information for other borrowers instead of their own.

The Education Department was unable to immediately provide any more information about the alleged glitch on Wednesday.

October 3, 2012

The vice chancellor of the University of Oxford on Tuesday announced a major expansion of the university's fund-raising campaign, but also warned that philanthropy cannot replace state support for higher education. Andrew Hamilton, the vice chancellor, upped the goal for the campaign from £1.25 million to £3 billion (or from $2 billion to $4.8 billion). In a speech praising the role of philanthropy, he also cautioned against assuming that it can pay for all the costs associated with the university. Philanthropy is not, he said, "a magic bullet for the future funding of our universities, and nor is it a door through which the state can progressively leave the scene."

 

October 3, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Megan McClelland of Oregon State University explains what a preschooler’s ability to pay attention reveals about their odds of future academic success. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 3, 2012

If elected, Mitt Romney would honor the work permits granted to undocumented young people under an executive order President Obama signed in June, the Republican candidate said in an interview with The Denver Post. The executive order, a short-term alternative to the DREAM Act that President Obama and others favor, halts the deportation of youth whose parents came to the United States illegally and have met certain other criteria, and gives them the right to apply for a two-year work permit. Some young people have begun to take advantage of the opportunity, but others express concern that the policy could be reversed under a Romney administration, causing trouble for them or their families.

But in the interview with the Denver newspaper, Romney said: "The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased. Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."

October 3, 2012

Most articles retracted by medical journals are withdrawn because of misconduct, not research error, and the proportion of articles retracted because of fraud -- while still comparatively small -- has increased 10 times since 1975, says a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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