Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 8, 2014

Low-income community college students who transfer to highly selective four-year institutions can succeed academically if they receive adequate financial aid, according to an analysis by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Community College Transfer Initiative. The foundation has funded transfer support efforts at 14 selective institutions during the past eight years. The analysis found that community college transfer students collectively maintained a 3.0 GPA while enrolled at four-year institutions, became campus leaders and made it to graduation.

May 8, 2014

The online publishing platform Inkling has cut its digital textbook division to focus on enterprise products. Speaking to TechCrunch, CEO Matt MacInnis confirmed the company would lay off about 25 percent of its staff. The company announced it had signed agreements with the publishers McGraw-Hill Education and Wolters Kluwer, which will use the Inkling Habitat platform for digital content.

May 8, 2014

The New York Public Library announced Wednesday that it has abandoned plans to move its stacks out of the iconic library building in midtown Manhattan. A statement from the library said that a review of the proposal identified better ways for the library to grow and expand lending libraries in the area. The plan to move the stacks infuriated scholars who view the main research collection of the library as crucial to research in many fields. Here are two columns outlining those concerns, and a response on Inside Higher Ed by the head of the New York Public Library.

 

May 8, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Fee, professor of English at Gettysburg College, asks: What constitutes a living wage? Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 8, 2014

The American Council on Education, the umbrella lobbying organization for colleges and universities, on Wednesday said that allowing college athletes to unionize would produce a litany of bad consequences.

In a letter to Representative John Kline, the Republican who chairs the House education committee, Molly Corbett Broad, the group’s president, took issue with a decision last month by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board to classify Northwestern University football players as employees.

Broad said that such an issue should be addressed by Congress rather than be decided by an administrative agency. Her letter came as Kline, who has been critical of the NLRB decision, is set to hold a hearing today billed as an inquiry into allowing “big labor on college campuses.”

Broad also made the case against allowing athletes to unionize by citing “a range of negative and troubling consequences” that would flow from such a decision. Athletic scholarships would become taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code, and would therefore potentially cost athletes money, she said. In addition, if college athletes were able to collectively bargain with their colleges, such negotiations would “undermine the collegial, academic culture” on campuses. And, if college athletic unions were successful in increasing the compensation of their members, the reallocation of resources “would jeopardize institutions’ ability to offer other sports and the educational opportunities they provide to male and female athletes who may not receive athletic scholarships,” the letter said.

Proponents of letting college athletes unionize have also been taking their case to Capitol Hill in recent months. The College Athletes Players Association, which represents the Northwestern players, has been holding meetings with lawmakers, seeking to garner support and fend off any legislative attempt to stop their organizing efforts.   

May 7, 2014

East Carolina University has clarified that students making personal statements at departmental graduation celebrations are allowed to give thanks to God. A chemistry professor set off a debate by telling students that they could not mention God in these statements. The university on Tuesday -- facing criticism from religious bloggers -- issued a statement indicating that the professor was incorrect, and that graduates could thank God.

 

May 7, 2014

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced the publication of two new proposed rules aimed at retaining highly skilled immigrants, including a proposal to allow spouses of certain H-1B visa holders to request authorization to work.

"Allowing H-1B spouses to work would be an important change," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University Law School, told The Wall Street Journal. "Sometimes people aren't willing to come to the U.S. if their spouse can't work."

May 7, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld the right of states to bar public colleges and universities to consider race or ethnicity in admissions decisions. On Tuesday, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a letter affirming the right of colleges without such state bans to consider to consider race and ethnicity, within the limits of other court decisions. "The Departments of Education and Justice strongly support diversity in elementary, secondary, and higher education, because racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation," the letter said. "The educational benefits of diversity, long recognized by the court and affirmed in research and practice, include cross-racial understanding and dialogue, the reduction of racial isolation, and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. Furthermore, to be successful, the future workforce of America should transcend the boundaries of race, language, and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected."

 

May 7, 2014

Inside Higher Ed was wrong to assume on Monday that Rutgers University had resolved the controversies over its selection commencement speaker. The first speaker was to be Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, but she withdrew amid student and faculty protests. On Monday, it appeared that Rutgers had a noncontroversial choice in former New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean. That choice is now being criticized, but not for anything related to Kean. It turns out that, before announcing Kean, the university had approached Eric LeGrand to speak, and he had accepted. LeGrand is a former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed in a game in 2010, and who has gone on to be an inspiring public speaker.

NJ.com reported that LeGrand was called Monday night by the athletics director and told that the university president  "decided to go in another direction for political reasons." News that Rutgers had apparently disinvited LeGrand quickly spread, and the university then apologized, announced that LeGrand and Kean would both speak, and said that there had never been a plan for LeGrand alone to speak.

May 7, 2014

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday announced legislation to allow existing student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and 22 of her Democratic colleagues introduced a bill that would let borrowers who took out both federal and private loans before 2013 to refinance that debt at the current interest rate on federal student loans. “Exploding student debt is crushing young people and dragging down our economy,” Warren said in a statement. “Allowing students to refinance their loans would put money back in the pockets of people who invested in their education.”

Representatives George Miller of California and John Tierney of Massachusetts plan to introduce identical legislation in the House. The refinancing program would be paid for under the Democrats’ proposal by enacting the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which would end some tax breaks for millionaires. That’s likely to face stiff opposition among Republicans.

The proposal is part of a broader election-year effort by Democrats to focus on college affordability and rising student loan debt. Other proposals by Senate Democrats would seek to hold colleges more responsible for student loan defaults.  

Under a bipartisan agreement reached last year, interest rates on federal loans are now tied to Treasury notes. For the current academic year, interest rates were set at 3.86 percent for undergraduates and 5.41 for graduate students. The Congressional Budget Office projects that those rates will increase for the coming academic year to 5.09 percent and 6.64 percent, respectively. The rates will be officially set after a Treasury note auction this week. 

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