Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 5, 2014

Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey, one of the top Democrats on the House education committee, announced Tuesday that he was resigning from Congress later this month.

Andrews told supporters that he was leaving Congress to join a Philadelphia-based law firm. He told The New York Times that his decision had nothing to do with an ethics investigation into his alleged misuse of his campaign funds.

Andrews has been a longtime supporter of for-profit colleges in Washington, especially compared with some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate who have been critical of the sector. He most recently joined a letter expressing concern over the Obama administration’s efforts to impose “gainful employment” regulations on the industry.  

Andrews's resignation follows the announcement last month by Representative George Miller, the top Democrat on the House education panel, that he will not seek re-election at the end of this year. 

February 5, 2014

In today's Academic Minutes, Jennifer Neal of Michigan State University reveals the assumptions that many children have about friendship and gender. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 5, 2014

For the first time in 35 years in which researchers have tracked the reading habits of American scientists, they report that the number of scientific papers they read each year has declined, Nature reported. In 2012, scientists estimated that they read, on average, 22 scholarly articles a month. That's a decline from 27 that they reported when the survey was last conducted, in 2005. The survey is a project of professors at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A majority of articles read in 2012 were read online, up from about 20 percent of articles read in 2005. However, the study found that 58 percent of articles read by scientists older than 60 were read on paper, although that includes printed versions of articles downloaded online.

February 5, 2014

Educational Testing Service this week announced that it is offering digital badges that students can earn by taking two assessments the group released last year. Those tests -- the Proficiency Profile and iSkills assessments -- seek to measure what students learn in college. They are not designed to be used by employers, for now at least. But they might have job market potential at some point.

Now students can earn digital badges based on their performance on the two assessments. For example, badges are linked to all four skill areas the Proficiency Profile measures: mathematics, writing, reading and critical thinking. The badges can be added to a Mozilla "backpack" and shared with an "unlimited number of recipients in academia and beyond," ETS said in a news release.

February 5, 2014

Radford University announced Tuesday that it is adding women's lacrosse, but cutting three other teams, The Roanoke Times reported. The teams being cut are women's field hockey, women's swimming and diving, and men's track and field. The university said that the changes were part of a "realignment" to improve athletic offerings, but those associated with teams being cut said they were dismayed.

February 5, 2014

A group of 50 organizations has written to officials at the White House and U.S. Department of Education to "urge the administration to issue promptly a stronger, more effective" set of gainful employment regulations. The group includes higher-education associations, faculty unions, consumer advocates and veterans organizations.

In December a panel of department-appointed negotiators failed to reach consensus on the proposed rules, which would affect vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The department is expected to issue its final draft standards in coming months. A period of public comment will follow their release.

February 5, 2014

Jeff Wilson, associate professor of biological sciences at Huston-Tillotson University, moved into a dumpster Tuesday, planning to live there for a year. Working with students, he plans to show how one could live in a dumpster, using much less space and energy than Americans typically consume. “The overarching goal ... is to test whether one can have a pretty good life while treading lightly on the planet — all from a dumpster that is 1 percent the size of the average new American home,” he said.

February 5, 2014

A bill pending in the New York Assembly that would prohibit the use of state aid to fund or pay membership dues to academic organizations that endorse the academic boycott of Israel was withdrawn from consideration by that body’s Higher Education Committee on Monday, The Albany Times Union reported. A spokesman for the bill’s sponsor, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, told the newspaper, “We are addressing some concerns with the bill." The spokesman did not elaborate further.

The move comes days after a similar bill passed the New York Senate by a wide margin. Similar legislation has also been filed in Maryland, prompting a renewed statement of protest from the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday.

“While it is the position of the AAUP that academic boycotts contravene the principles of academic freedom, the Association has nevertheless asserted that it is 'the right of individual faculty members or groups of academics not to cooperate with other individual faculty members or academic institutions with whom or with which they disagree,' the association said in the statement. “Legislative interference in academic decision-making and with the freedom of scholars to associate and exchange views with their peers is even more dangerous than the academic boycotts this legislation is intended to oppose. That is because this legislation undermines constitutionally protected academic speech and debate in order to promote a particular viewpoint.”

The New York and Maryland bills were introduced after the American Studies Association endorsed a controversial boycott of Israeli universities in December. The American Studies Association has also issued a statement condemning the New York anti-boycott bill.

February 4, 2014

Continuing its focus on problems with the servicing of private student loans, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday released an analysis of its voluntary request for information from the private student loan industry. The bureau was especially interested in information about how loan servicers process the payments of borrowers seeking to pay down their debt ahead of schedule. The CFPB has said it’s concerned that some loan servicers apply prepayments in a way that maximizes their profits but makes the cost of the loan more expensive for borrowers.

In its report, the CFPB found that servicers varied in how they apply prepayments to student loans. Some were able to accept a borrower’s instructions through their online payment platform, while others were did not accept such instructions for certain types of loans. The bureau did not release the names of which entities responded to its request for information.

Rohit Chopra, the bureau's assistant director and student loan ombudsman, vaguely alluded to potential compliance issues in Monday’s report. He noted that it is illegal for companies to charge student loan borrowers a penalty for making early payments on their debt and said that one way for some servicers to ensure compliance with that requirement would be to automatically direct prepayments to a borrower’s loan with the highest interest rate first. In analyzing the servicers' prepayment policies--all of which were submitted voluntarily -- the CFPB did not check to see whether the policies were complying with the law. However, prepayment issues on private student loans could become a focus of the agency's efforts when it officially begins its supervision of large student loan servicers in March. 

February 4, 2014

Long Beach City College is taking advantage of a new California law authorizing it to offer tiered tuition -- charging more in the winter and summer for some high demand courses. An article in The Los Angles Times finds that there are clearly students willing to pay more, in many cases because the regular, less expensive versions are full, semester after semester. At the same time, the article finds continued concerns about the idea of providing some access based on ability to pay more. "It creates two types of students: those who can pay and those who cannot. And it's unfair to the students who have to feed families and are unemployed," said Andrea Donado, student representative on the Long Beach Community College District board.


Back to Top