Moody's Investors Service downgraded 34 higher education institutions in 2012 while upgrading only 3, the ratings agency reported Friday, an indicator of ongoing financial challenges facing colleges and universities. Analysts chalked up the downgrades to problems raising net tuition revenue, continued state budget cuts, and enrollment troubles. "Of the seven public universities whose ratings were downgraded in the fourth quarter, five had declines in total full-time equivalent student enrollment," the report notes. Prominent downgrades included the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and Pennsylvania State University.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Chinese authorities have blocked Ilham Tohti, a leading scholar from China’s Turkic Uighur ethnic minority, from leaving the country to start a fellowship at Indiana University at Bloomington, the Associated Press reported. Tohti said he was questioned for hours at the airport before being sent home. Tohti has spoken out about the treatment of Chinese minority groups, and been criticized for doing so by Chinese authorities. A spokesman for Indiana told Inside HIgher Ed that Tohti was scheduled to start as a visiting scholar in Central Eurasian studies at the university.
The University of British Columbia is giving all female, tenure-track faculty members a 2 percent raise, The Globe and Mail reported. The move follows a series of studies that found female professors earning less than their male counterparts. Some of that gap is explained by factors that were not deemed to constitute gender bias. For instance, male faculty members are more likely than are female faculty members to teach in disciplines where salaries are high. The 2 percent raises are an attempt to remedy the portion of the salary gap that cannot be explained by legitimate factors.
Most of the attention related to the controversial "state authorization" regulations that the U.S. Education Department sought to implement in 2010 revolved around their potential application to distance education programs -- which a federal court invalidated in July 2011, and the agency said a year later it would not enforce. But lest college leaders (or state officials) think they were off the hook for the rest of the new requirements related to seeking state approval, the Education Department sent a little reminder to the contrary last week.
In a "Dear Colleague" letter to state education officials, department administrators noted that the delays in enforcement (of up to two years) that individual colleges could seek if they had been unable to obtain authorization to maintain a physical presence in a given state would be exhausted by the end of June 2013. So any institution that has not been granted approval to operate a physical campus in a state under the terms of the 2011 rules by then will risk losing access to federal financial aid funds, the letter notes.
Danish government officials have pledged to make it easier for their universities to recruit foreign talent. But The Copenhagen Post reported that various regulations are actually making it more difficult for them to hire researchers from outside Denmark. Handling the rules and paperwork is so complex that the University of Copenhagen has created an office just to advise foreign scholars on the process.
Faculty members at the University of Miami's medical school are demanding the resignation of Pascal Goldschmidt, the dean, The Miami Herald reported. Faculty members question the way he has managed the finances of the school, and some say that critics of the dean are punished. After a stormy meeting this week, the dean is defending his overall leadership, but also said that there would be a "change in course" and that faculty members would receive raises.
William L. Pollard, who has clashed repeatedly with faculty and student leaders, has resigned as president of Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. Faculty members at the college have twice voted no confidence in him, and students organized a class walkout last year to demand his departure. His critics say he shifted resources away from programs vital to education and the local community. Pollard's defenders have said that he was focused on good management for the institution.
A jury on Thursday awarded $849,000 to a former student who says she was kicked out of the social work program at Wayne State University because of her pregnancy, the Associated Press reported. The university said she was removed for legitimate reasons. But the jury accepted the student's view that the university's poor evaluation of her was due to reviews she received on an internship, where she said her supervisor was offended by her status as an unmarried pregnant woman.