The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, on Thursday released a letter strongly endorsing the proposed "gainful employment" regulations that are being opposed by for-profit colleges. The letter is designed in part to counter the lobbying campaign of the for-profit colleges, which has portrayed these institutions as helping low-income, minority students advance economically. "For-profit colleges have launched an all-out campaign using the American Dream as bait to trap vulnerable students into underperforming schools and saddle them with a lifetime of debt,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference, in a statement. “We support the Education Department’s efforts to hold these schools accountable by issuing this rule and vigorously enforcing it.”
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Washington State Supreme Court upheld the right of Western Washington University to hold closed disciplinary hearings for a professor who maintained that his rights were violated by the lack of open hearings, the Associated Press reported. The ruling said that state law permits public universities to create their own rules for peer-review based hearings.
More Americans who identify themselves as struggling economically are worried about the affordability of higher education than about any other financial stress, according to a report, "Struggling in America," released Thursday by Public Agenda. The findings, based on interviews conducted with 1,004 adults Nov. 18-21, 2010, revealed that 77 percent of parents who were struggling economically said they were worried about paying for their children's education, making it their most common personal financial worry. In contrast, 61 percent of the same group of respondents said they personally worried that they would not be able to afford to retire, while 45 percent feared being able to pay their mortgage or other debt. Coming in last was the fear of losing one's job (32 percent).
Continuing its campaign against federal efforts to dramatically toughen oversight over for-profit colleges, an advocacy group on Wednesday sued the U.S. Government Accountability Office, accusing Congress's investigative arm of producing a "negligently written, biased and distorted report that foreseeably caused substantial financial injury" to the industry. The lawsuit by the Coalition for Educational Success, which accuses the GAO of engaging in "professional malpractice," stems from the highly publicized report by the agency last July that became the centerpiece of Senator Tom Harkin's investigation into the commercial college sector. GAO later released a revised version of the report that softened some of its findings (though not its underlying conclusions, Harkin and GAO officials insisted). The lawsuit against GAO follows a series of other steps that the coalition and associations of career colleges have taken to challenge the aggressive reviews that both Harkin and the Education Department have undertaken in the last 18 months.
Harold Raveché, who resigned last year as president of Stevens Institute of Technology, has agreed to pay off more than $721,000 in low-interest loans from the institute that were part of a dispute over compensation and governance that led to a lawsuit against Stevens by New Jersey's attorney general, The Star-Ledger reported. The suit, since settled, questioned the oversight by the Stevens board of the then-president. While he lived in a university-owned home, the loans were given to allow him to buy two vacation homes.
The 26 osteopathic medical schools in the United States have received more applications for admission during this academic year -- with three months left for applications -- than during all of last year. As a result, this will be the fifth straight year in which applications have set records, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. At this point, the colleges are receiving about 20 applications for every available spot.
Some families and financial aid administrators are reporting technological troubles with the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and Education Department officials have told the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators that they are working on the problem, NASFAA reports. The scope and degree of the problems are unclear; a few financial aid officers have reported significant problems, but the aid directors' group says it has had few reports so far.
Southwestern University's board has voted to keep the institution's name, ending a period of study and debate over whether the name was sufficiently reflective of the university's identity. "The research showed that Southwestern University is not well known among prospective students − those who live within Texas and particularly those who live outside Texas − and that most people do not associate the name 'Southwestern University' with a private liberal arts institution," said a statement from the board, which also called for a "visibility campaign" to promote Southwestern. In a December interview with The Austin American-Statesman, Jake Schrum, the president of the university, explained the need to consider a name change this way: "Looking at our name and thinking about a national liberal arts college of real quality — is that a disconnect? The name Southwestern University sounds like a regional public university. It's that whole thing of having to explain so much that the quality of what we're doing here and the type of institution we are — not that we're wanting to become, but that we are — is lost in the shuffle." But the idea of a name change didn't catch on with students -- and angered some alumni.