Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 14, 2014

Indiana's Martin University has been placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which cited concerns about the institution's finances and governance and the adequacy of its faculty and staff. The commission also placed several other institutions -- Arkansas Baptist College, Oglala Lakota College, Southwestern Christian University, and Salem International University -- on notice, which is less severe than probation. Kansas City Art Institute and Morton College were removed from notice.

March 14, 2014

A federal appeals court has partially revived a whistle-blower lawsuit against several student loan providers accused of improperly inflating their portfolios to obtain higher subsidies from the Education Department.

The case, brought by on Jon H. Oberg, a former Education Department researcher, alleges that a handful of lenders took advantage of a loophole in federal law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in excess federal subsidies.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a lower court erred in dismissing the lawsuit against two of the defendants: the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. The district court will now have to reconsider whether the case against them can proceed.

But the court also upheld the lower court’s decision to dismiss the suit against the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, concluding that the loan provider was clearly a state entity and therefore can not be sued under the False Claims Act.

Four of the other lenders involved in the case collectively paid $57.8 million in 2010 to resolve their part of the lawsuit.  

March 14, 2014

Many students and faculty members consider coffee to be essential to their daily existence. The University of California at Davis could be moving toward offering a major in coffee, The Sacramento Bee reported. The university, already known for its research and teaching on wine, has created the Coffee Center. Faculty members will conduct research on such topics as as the genetics of coffee and sensory perception of coffee drinkers. A long-term goal is establishing a major in coffee.

 

March 13, 2014

The National Science Foundation has selected Fay Lomax Cook, a professor at Northwestern University, to be assistant director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. The NSF is a major player in supporting social science, although some Republicans in Congress have questioned that role. Cook is a faculty fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and a professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern.

March 13, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Charles Marshall, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, discusses the mitigating factors that can contribute to the eventual dying out of a particular species of animal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 13, 2014

An employee group at South Puget Sound Community College, facing criticism, has called off a diversity happy hour to which the white people were not invited, KING5 News reported. The email invitation said that there were other ways for white people to gather. "If you want to create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves, please feel free to do just that," the invitation said. College officials said it was a "mistake" to organize an event that excluded anyone based on race or ethnicity.

 

March 13, 2014

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has told Sojourner-Douglass College that is has until September 1 to show why it should not lose its accreditation, The Baltimore Sun reported. The accreditor cited high debt and questions about financial viability. College officials did not respond to requests for comment.

 

March 13, 2014

Marietta College, a private institution in Ohio, is eliminating 20 full-time positions to deal with a budget shortfall, The Marietta Times reported. College officials said that they needed to make cuts to be able to make investments needed to promote the college's long-term sustainability.

 

March 13, 2014

Some Harvard University students are objecting to the choice of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, as commencement speaker. The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, is divided about the choice, and so ran an editorial endorsing it, but also a dissent criticizing the selection. The dissent cited Bloomberg's support for "stop and frisk" policing that has been criticized as racially based by many black and Latino New Yorkers. "Had Bloomberg been asked to the Institute of Politics, we would have urged our classmates to engage in a respectful dialogue with the former mayor, and to challenge him on his record. But commencement is not a night at the JFK Jr. Forum — every graduate should feel celebrated and included. We realize that no speaker will be acceptable to every single graduate, but to extend an invitation to someone who alienates entire segments of the student body is ill-advised and worthy of condemnation," said the dissent.

The main editorial, however, said that there is value in having a controversial speaker. "Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to," the editorial said. "Whether or not his policies were mistaken or even offensive to some of the student body, he can and will deliver a thought-provoking commencement address. It would be far more troubling if the University chose someone who would deliver a milquetoast speech, devoid of both substance and controversy."

The debate at Harvard comes as some students and faculty members at Rutgers University are questioning the selection of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, as the speaker there.

 

March 13, 2014

The University of Tennessee can't ban the Knoxville campus's annual "Sex Week," the system president has told state legislators, the Associated Press reported. The week, similar to those at other campuses, features a range of events, and Republican legislators have threatened to punish the university financially because of the program. In particular, lawmakers have objected to a panel discussion on pornography and a contraception scavenger hunt. Joe DiPietro, the system president, said in a letter to lawmakers that the First Amendment protects the event, and that the university can't ban it. Further, DiPietro said that he worried that “the attention focused on this matter by the General Assembly is quickly reaching a point that will cause greater harm and damage to the long-term interests of the university than any programming that may occur as result of Sex Week.”

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