Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 7, 2014

A former West Virginia University football player is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the five major conferences, alleging that an agreement to cap athletic scholarship  at levels too low violates antitrust laws. The Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conferences limit scholarships to amounts lower than the actual cost of attending college and "far below" what the free market would produce, says the lawsuit, first reported by AL.com. (One study found that full scholarships fall an average $3,500 short of the full cost of attendance.)

Shawne Alston, the plaintiff, is seeking an injunction to prohibit the NCAA and conferences from maintaining the current NCAA bylaw that limits financial aid to its currently defined grant-in-aid value (including tuition, books, fees, room and board, but not out-of-pocket expenses). The lawsuit, which seeks to represent former Football Bowl Subdivision football players who have played in the major conferences since February 2010, also seeks damages for the differences between scholarships awarded and the full cost of attendance.

A separate, high-profile lawsuit alleges that the NCAA violates antitrust law by benefiting financially off athletes' image, who are forbidden from profiting from their own likeness. NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said officials "just received a copy of the complaint and are evaluating it as it relates to similar cases filed by the very same plaintiffs' council."

March 7, 2014

A former assistant professor of Spanish at Missouri State University has been charged with taking semi-nude photos of men in locker rooms on campus, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Eduardo Acuna-Zumbado was reportedly seen taking photos in January and additional photos were later found on his cell phone. Acuna-Zumbado was a member of the faculty from 2008 through Monday. A university lawyer declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure. Acuna-Zumbado could not immediately be reached for comment.

March 7, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Robert Goldstone, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, explains that those who copy others' ideas play a crucial role in the overall creative process. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


March 7, 2014

Shorelight Education, a new player in the growing business of developing pathway programs for international students, sought and won an injunction to prevent the release of its contract with the University of Kansas to the Lawrence Journal-World, the newspaper reported. Shorelight, which has teamed with Kansas to recruit international students and operate a first-year experience program combining academic and English as a second language coursework, argued that release of the contract -- requested by the newspaper under open records law -- would compromise proprietary information that could help other corporations replicate its business model. The newspaper reported that while administrators hope that the program will boost international student enrollment, some faculty are concerned about issues of academic oversight.

March 7, 2014

President Obama on Friday will lay out more details about the education proposals in his budget and also discuss his administration’s efforts to get more students to apply for federal student aid.

The President and First Lady Michelle Obama plan to visit a high school in Miami where they will kick off a previously-announced initiative by the Education Department to boost completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. Education Department officials will share data with states and high schools on which of their students have begun the FAFSA so that counselors can work with those students to actually complete the form, which is required to receive federal grants and loans for college.

As part of her recent higher education push, Mrs. Obama has been speaking out about the importance of applying for federal aid. Last month she tapped a public service announcement encouraging students to fill out the FAFSA.

In a fact sheet accompanying the Obamas’ trip, the White House touted a 33 percent increase in the number of FAFSA forms filed over the course of the Obama administration, which shortened and streamlined the application.  The number of FAFSA submissions increased from 16.4 million in 2008-2009 to 21.8 million in 2012-2013, the White House said. But efforts to target low-income students, in particular, have had more mixed results. The percentage of low-income students who filed a FAFSA for the first time in the 2013 fiscal year ticked down to 57.1 percent from 60.3 percent the previous year, failing to meet the department’s own goal.  

Department officials have said they are also considering allowing web developers to build third-party services and applications that can interact with the FAFSA form, which is currently available only through the government’s website. 

March 7, 2014

Yeshiva University’s many financial woes continue, according to yet another recent downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service, which considers Yeshiva's bonds to be junk.

The highly respected Jewish university in Manhattan has only enough cash on hand to cover seven weeks of operations, though it has a $75 million line of credit that can cover an additional 42 days, according to Moody’s. The university also revealed, in this week’s belated release of its audited financial statements for last year, that its operating losses were $173 million from summer 2012 to summer 2013. Moody’s expects a similarly dismal performance this year.

Yeshiva also got a warning from its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which found insufficient evidence that the university is assessing student learning.

On the upside, the university has a $1.1 billion endowment, relatively stable enrollment and a plan to sell $250 million worth of real estate. Yeshiva is working on a plan to turn things around, but Moody’s analysts worry it will take too long, so the rating agency’s outlook for the university is negative. “Given the severity of deficits and low liquidity, we anticipate it will take several years before management, in conjunction with consultants, can stabilize financial performance,” the analysts wrote.

March 7, 2014

Some Pennsylvania legislators are working on a plan that would allow the larger institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to break away and become independent "state related" universities, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The move comes at a time that some system campuses are experiencing enrollment declines and that they all face state budget cuts. System leaders oppose the plan, saying that it would lead to higher tuition rates for those campuses that break away, and would undercut those institutions that remained in the system.


March 7, 2014

Victory University, a for-profit institution in Memphis, is shutting down, Memphis News Channel 3 reported. Rumors have circulated about financial problems at the institution, which has 1,600 students.


March 7, 2014

The majority of the dozen or so athletes who've sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association over concussions have been football players, and in the top division, they've all been former athletes. But the first current Division I athlete to sue over the issue is a female cross country runner from Stanford University. Jessica Tonn alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the NCAA failed to adequately educate coaches and athletes about concussions and did not implement proper guidelines and procedures to detect head injuries, the Los Angeles Times reported. Tonn says in the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. district court, that she "suffered a head injury as a member of the track team" and "needs medical monitoring." The NCAA did not respond in time for publication.

March 6, 2014

Stanford University has revoked the M.B.A. of Mathew Martoma, who was recently convicted of insider trading, but that's not why he lost the degree, The Wall Street Journal reported. During his trial, it was revealed that Martoma was kicked out of law school at Harvard University for falsifying transcript grades, and Martoma didn't report this to Stanford when he was applying there. Stanford applicants sign a statement saying that offers of admission can be revoked for certain actions, such as "a serious lack of judgment or integrity” prior to enrolling. As a result, Stanford has now revoked his offer of admission, which has the impact of making his degree invalid.



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