Higher Education Quick Takes
The New Faculty Majority, a national group for those faculty members who work off the tenure track, has started offering health insurance plans for members who live in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Lack of health insurance (or lack of access to more affordable group rates on health insurance) is a major issue for adjuncts who work at many colleges that limit access to their coverage.
Colleges could and should do much more to inform their students about the availability of federal loans and the risks of higher-cost private loans, the Project on Student Debt asserts in a new report, which describes promising practices that some institutions use and some troubling practices embraced by others. The report, "Critical Choices: How Colleges Can Help Students and Families Make Better Decisions about Private Loans," describes the extent to which significant numbers of students take out higher-priced alternative loans even though they have not exhausted the limits on the federal student loans they can take.
The report praises practices in which institutions (such as Barnard, Mount Holyoke and Grinnell Colleges and San Diego State University) are rigorous about counseling students who wish to take out private loans and critiques other institutions (which it does not name) that certify students' use of private loans willy nilly or treat private loans in their institutional financial aid awards to students as if the loans without making the nature of the loans clear.
Humboldt University, Berlin's oldest university, announced Monday that Google is setting up a research institute there, the Associated Press reported. The research center will study the evolution of the Internet and its role in science, politics, economics and other parts of life. Other partners will be the Berlin University of Arts, the Social Science Research Center Berlin and the Hamburg Hans-Bredow-Institute
An American Bar Association panel reviewing standards used to evaluate law schools is leaning toward requiring more job protection for clinical law instructors and others who work full time, but off the tenure track, The National Law Journal reported. Many such instructors currently work on year-to-year or semester-to-semester contracts, providing little job security. The plan gaining support would require law schools to have a system of "presumptively renewable long-term contracts" for such instructors. While that would fall short of tenure, it would represent improvements for many instructors, committee members believe.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the University of Minnesota to discipline a student in a mortuary sciences program who posted jokes about a cadaver on a Facebook page, Minnesota Public Radio reported. The student argued that the First Amendment protects the posts, but the appeals court found that the university could take action if it could "reasonably conclude" that the Facebook postings would "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school."
In today’s Academic Minute, Vanderbilt University's Daniel Sharfstein examines the long history of racial assimilation in the United States and why racial categories prove ambiguous at best. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
WASHINGTON -- A federal court today invalidated a recently implemented U.S. Education Department regulation that requires colleges and universities that operate online programs to seek approval from every state in which they enroll students in those programs. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities on behalf of its for-profit-college members, found that the Education Department had not given sufficient notice that it planned to include online programs in the requirement, which represented a major shift in its approach. The court upheld the other two regulations that the career college group challenged in its lawsuit: those that changed the rules governing incentive compensation for recruiters and misrepresentation of colleges' programs and results.
A big name in student finance is entering a market that has been populated mostly by under-the-radar players: the practice of providing insurance for students' payments for tuition and other college-related costs and risks. Sallie Mae, long the dominant player in a student loan player that was upended by the one-two punch of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's scrutiny and the Obama administration's policy changes, announced Monday that it would join with Next Generation Insurance Group to offer products such as the "Student Protection Plan," "a package of tuition insurance, ID theft protection, emergency medical evacuation, and other services to meet the needs of a typical college student." Several other companies have dabbled in providing insurance to refund tuition to students who drop out for documented medical or other reasons, but Sallie Mae is by far the biggest and most visible entity to do so.
Scientists at the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, on Friday announced a joint water research agreement involving counterparts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel; the University of Ghent, in Belgium; and the University of California at Los Angeles. The announcement raised some eyebrows as the Johannesburg faculty voted in March to end ties with Ben-Gurion, saying that the Israeli university was complicit with policies that hurt Palestinians. (Ben-Gurion has maintained that it actually does considerable work with Palestians, and many academic groups have opposed academic boycotts, but the Johannesburg administration followed the faculty vote and allowed to lapse an agreement between the two universities.) While the new agreement has been reported in some publications as an abandonment of the faculty vote, Johannesburg officials say that is not the case. The faculty had the right to bar institutional exchanges, but not those arranged by individual faculty members, the officials said. Ihron Rensburg, vice chancellor at Johannesburg, issued a statement in which he said that the university "upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish."