Higher Education Quick Takes
American Commercial College's campuses in Lubbock and Abilene called off classes Wednesday as federal agents raided facilities, gathering evidence in a probe of allegations that the for-profit Texas institution incorrectly reports student employment levels, changes grades and falsifies student eligibility forms, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. College officials at the campuses that suspended operations did not respond to calls, but the head of a campus in Odessa said that branch was operating normally. Students told KCBD News that they felt deceived by the college, and some questioned whether officials had taken more loan funds from them than was appropriate. The college did not respond to those allegations.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York today announced that it is making $500,000 grants to Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, as the latest in a series of awards to presidents for "fulfilling their administrative and managerial roles with dedication and creativity." The presidents can use the funds in any way to promote their academic initiatives. Hrabowski was honored for "his development of a culture of excellence and success in preparing students of all backgrounds to become Ph.D. scientists and engineers." Padrón was selected "for innovations that have contributed to a culture of success that has produced impressive results in student access, retention and graduation rates, and overall achievement at a school with a predominantly low-income and minority student population."
Colorado voters on Tuesday rejected a referendum that would have, for five years, restored certain taxes cut in recent years, and designated the revenue gained to support schools and colleges. The Denver Post reported that, with 61 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was attracting support from only 35 percent of voters.
Academics and literary figures are questioning the decision by Delhi University to stop teaching an essay by a respected academic, A.K. Ramanujan, because its references to Rama, a hero-god, are deemed offensive to some nationalist Hindus, Reuters reported. The move by the university is seen as giving in to political pressure and undercutting freedom of expression. On Twitter, Salman Rushdie called the decision "academic censorship."
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Ohio State University is not entitled to tax exemptions on property it owns but leases to others for non-university use, The Dayton Daily News reported. A lower court ruled that the revenue generated by the rentals constituted university use, but the Supreme Court rejected that argument.
Walter M. Kimbrough has attracted considerable attention as president of Philander Smith College, a historically black college, for efforts to improve black male retention rates and for connecting with students through such tools as his Twitter feed, HipHopPrez. On Tuesday, he was named the next president of Dillard University, a historically black institution in New Orleans that was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, but that has since bounced back.
Pearson, the e-learning company, is teaming up with the adaptive software developer Knewton to improve its popular line of e-tutoring products. In a release on Tuesday, the company announced that "Knewton’s engine will power Pearson’s digital content, including its popular MyLab and Mastering series." That "engine" is Knewton's learning platform, which uses algorithms "identifies each student’s strengths, weaknesses and unique learning style" and adapts accordingly as he work through problem sets. Pearson and Knewton have both been on the front edge of a trend in e-learning software that emphasizes "personalized" learning experiences, especially for students in developmental programs.
A recent nationwide study found that the shared student experience of the "freshman 15" is nothing more than a myth. In reality, women gain 2.4 pounds and men gain 3.4 pounds on average, according to the study. The study, conducted by Jay Zagorsky, an Ohio State University researcher, and Patricia Smith, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, pulled data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which cataloged statistics, including weight, of more than 7,000 people age 13 to 17. The participants have been interviewed every year since 1997. The study results showed that college students gain weight slowly throughout college, and no more than 10 percent of all college freshman actually gained 15 pounds or more.
"Repeated use of the phrase “the Freshman 15,” even if it is being used just as a catchy alliterative ﬁgure of speech, may contribute to the misperception of being overweight, especially among young women," the study states.
Stanford University initially turned down an offer from an organization with ties to China's government for $4 million that would have, in part, endowed a professorship in Chinese culture and language because one condition would have barred professors hired with the funds from talking about Tibet, Bloomberg reported. The funds came through the organization sponsoring Confucius Institutes at many American colleges and universities. (Stanford subsequently accepted the funds in another way, supporting programs for which the Tibet issue didn't come up, and so avoiding the question of Tibet.) Officials from many of the colleges that have taken the funds said that the institutes did not have such strings attached to their funds. But some Asian studies scholars see much too close a connection between the funds and various ambitions of China's government. "By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways," said Jonathan Lipman, a professor of Chinese history at Mount Holyoke College. "The general pattern is very clear. They can say, 'We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.' In this economy, turning them down has real costs."