Higher Education Quick Takes
A federal appeals court on Thursday directed a lower court to overturn its March 2011 ruling in a legal fight between the University of Illinois and The Chicago Tribune, saying that the student privacy issues raised in the case would be better addressed by a state court. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit states that the newspaper's claim to the information it sought from the university -- about student applicants and their parents, as part of the Tribune's 2009 investigation into political influence in the admissions process -- arose under state law rather than federal law. Numerous higher education groups had joined the university in arguing that the lower court's decision would undermine student privacy protections.
Neither a Republican nor a Democratic bill to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent could muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, meaning that rates are still scheduled to double on July 1. The Republican proposal would have paid for the $6 billion extension by eliminating a preventive care fund in the health-care overhaul; it failed, 34-62. The Democratic proposal would have changed a tax provision that allows some small business owners to avoid paying payroll taxes; it failed to advance on a 51-43 vote.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is today announcing $50 million in grants to help 47 small colleges and universities collaborate to improve their science curriculums, involve more students in undergraduate research, prepare more K-12 science teachers, and increase diversity of science students. The grants range in size from $800,000 to $1.5 million.
Harvard University's alumni association is apologizing for including submissions from the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, in the directory for the 50th reunion for the Class of 1962, of which he is a member. The Associated Press reported that the association has said that it regrets "any distress that it may have caused others" to have included the entries, in which Kaczynski describes his occupation as "prisoner" and his awards as "eight life sentences."
A survey of 500 college students has found that 67 percent can't go more than an hour without using some sort of digital technology, and that 40 percent can't go more than 10 minutes. The independently conducted survey was prepared for CourseSmart, which sells e-textbooks on behalf of leading publishers. The survey found that students today are more likely to bring a laptop to class than to bring a textbook.
Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska failed to comply with numerous provisions of federal financial aid rules and should be forced to repay at least $233,000 to the government, the U.S. Education Department's inspector general said in an audit this month. Among other things, the agency said, the two-year college improperly disbursed federal aid to students who did not have high school diplomas or had not passed ability-to-benefit tests, to students who exceeded the maximum number of allowable credit hours of remedial coursework, and students who did not satisfy academic progress requirements. College officials disputed some of the inspector general's findings, which will go to Education Secretary Arne Duncan for potential action.
Lon Morris College, a private, two-year institution in Texas, has placed all but 11 employees on furloughs, KLTV reported. Miles McCall, the president, has resigned. College officials said that they have called off the two summer sessions that had been planned. Consultants will work this summer on a plan to restore the college to financial health. Employees have also been told that the college stopped paying for health insurance, so they should expect termination of their insurance soon.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers have created a panel to study the regulation of distance education. The commission will be led by Richard W. Riley, the former secretary of education. The issue of how the federal and state governments regulate online programs has grown increasingly fractious in the wake of new rules crafted by the Obama administration.