Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 4:34am

The University of Wisconsin at Madison has agreed to change the language in a letter it sends to accepted graduate students, following a complaint that one part of the letter was deceptive, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The letter references a stipend and tuition waivers, and the wording that has been questioned also pledged "an additional year of support" for completing a master's degree. What the letter didn't reference was that the additional year involved a smaller stipend and a requirement to work as a teaching assistant.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has cited Kean University for rules violations including impermissible financial aid and extra benefits to athletes. According to the public infractions report, the former women’s basketball head coach is responsible for “a significant number” of the violations that took place from 2007-11, including cash payments and a grade change that allowed an otherwise ineligible student to compete. But because of more widespread violations of financial aid rules, the university’s self-imposed penalties included 2011-12 postseason bans for the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the women’s volleyball team, as well as a 2012-13 postseason ban for the women’s basketball team. The former basketball coach, Michele Sharp, has been placed under a four-year “show-cause penalty,” meaning that any institution that wants to hire her must demonstrate to the NCAA why the penalties against her should not be carried over. The team vacated all records from last season, including its NCAA tournament appearance. Kean itself was cited for a lack of institutional control and a failure to monitor the sports program, and is on four years’ probation.

In its report, the NCAA Committee on Infractions also issued a warning to other colleges in Division III, whose member institutions may not award financial aid based on athletic ability. Kean allowed prospective students to list extracurricular activities including athletics on their scholarship applications, the report says, “resulting in athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance being considered as a criterion for the awarding of financial aid,” and it awarded financial aid to athletes at disproportionate rates. “All member institutions are put on notice that, from this point forward, the committee will consider imposing significantly harsher sanctions when these cases are brought to us in the future,” the report says.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Harvard University’s faculty has taken a public stand against commercial journals that sell subscription “bundles” as a way to get libraries to spend more on journal subscriptions than they otherwise might. In a memo, addressed to the campus and posted on the Harvard Library website, the library’s Faculty Advisory Council said the amount the university spends on subscription “bundles” is approaching $3.75 million. “The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable.”

The memo did not single out any publishers by name, but said that it was "untenable" for the library to renew its current agreements with "at least two major providers." The faculty council advised researchers to raise the issue of exploitative journal pricing with their professional organizations and with each other and consider submitting to open-access journals instead of those “historically key providers.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, William Connell of Seton Hall University shares a recent discovery that is shedding light on the ups and downs of Niccolo Machiavelli’s political life. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

More than 20 years ago, the Posse Foundation established a model in which it brought groups of historically underrepresented students (the "posses" of its name) to selective colleges, where their strength in numbers and the attention of their institutions have helped them succeed where others like them might not have. Now the foundation is turning its attention to military veterans, launching a new program with its first branch at Vassar College.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Occupy Student Debt, an offshoot of the Occupy movement focusing on student debt and urging students to pledge not to repay their loans if other borrowers join them, is planning several events Wednesday to commemorate the total amount of student debt passing $1 trillion. "Demonstrations and creative actions" are planned for Union Square, in New York; the headquarters and regional offices of the student lender Sallie Mae; and at colleges across the country, including the University of Chicago, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union, Hampshire College, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 4:25am

Years of legal battles over Fisk University's famous collection of modern art may be about to come to an end with the university permitted to sell a share in the collection, The Tennessean reported. The Tennessee Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear an appeal in the case, clearing the way for the sale to take place. The dispute concerns works donated by Georgia O’Keeffe, who stipulated that Fisk not sell or break up the collection. Tennessee's attorney general has challenged the sale, saying it would violate the terms of the donation and not serve the public. Fisk, a historically black college, has argued that it needs money from the sale to support its educational mission. Under the current plan, Fisk would sell a share in the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Arkansas, and the collection would appear for periods both there and at the university.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

President Obama has taken his call for Congress to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized student loans to Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado -- all battleground states in this fall's election. But the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said during a press event Monday that he agrees with Obama, saying he supports an extension of the low interest rate, which would otherwise double for subsidized loans made after July 1. 

"Particularly with the number of college graduates that can't find work and can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," Romney said, according to the Huffington Post, which reported that Romney volunteered his position on the interest rate after no reporters asked about it during the news conference, his first since his path to the nomination became all but certain. "There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates on students as a result of student loans obviously, in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market."

Romney has said little about federal financial aid and other higher education issues so far, although he told college students in March to "shop around" on tuition prices and not expect the government to forgive their debt. He also endorsed Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would have let the interest rate rise.

Monday, April 23, 2012 - 3:00am

Some reports have suggested a modest improvement in the job market for new college graduates. But an Associated Press analysis of federal labor data suggests that the situation is far from encouraging. Half of young graduates are either unemployed or are employed in jobs that do not make appropriate use of their knowledge and skills. Many are working as waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist.

Monday, April 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin has hired a Los Angeles law firm, Latham & Watkins, to handle the university's defense of its affirmative action practices before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported. The law firm, with extensive Supreme Court expertise, will be paid a flat fee of $977,000, with up to another $10,000 for expenses.


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