Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. agency charged with overseeing the student visa system has inadequate processes in place to investigate, identify and combat fraud, the Government Accountability Office said in a report to Congress Tuesday. GAO said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, has not done enough to ensure that 10,000 schools and colleges that enrolled a total of 850,000 foreign students as of January have done so legitimately.
"SEVP does not have processes to (1) evaluate prior and suspected cases of school noncompliance and fraud and (2) obtain and assess information from ... field offices on school investigations and outreach events," the GAO report said. "Without a process to analyze risks, it will be difficult for ICE to provide reasonable assurance that it is addressing high-risk vulnerabilities and minimizing noncompliance." The report notes that the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, concurred with its recommendations, which focused on strengthening its procedures.
The University of Missouri Press will live -- in name, at least, although whether it's too early to know whether its form will live up to the name. The university on Monday unveiled some details about the operations of the reimagined press, nearly two months after it announced plans to phase out the press because of financial constraints, setting off complaints from many critics in academe. Missouri officials described the new iteration of the press as more focused on digital publishing and designed to provide more teaching and training to students. The news release does not say how it would do the latter, but an article in The Columbia Tribune said Missouri faculty members would be peer reviewers, and graduate students and interns from relevant campus programs would help edit its publications.
Speer Morgan, editor of The Missouri Review, a literary journal, and a professor of English, will direct the new press.
The governor of Illinois has signed legislation that significantly restricts the extent to which public universities in the state can use search consultants in hiring, The Southern Illinoisan reported. The bill signed by Governor Pat Quinn was framed as a fiscal measure at a time of constrained state funds. “We want the best and brightest from across America to oversee our universities but recruiting should not come at the expense of the education of our students,” Quinn said in a news release. The law will let universities hire external firms or consultants only for hiring presidents or when a president and board "demonstrate a justifiable need for guidance from an individual or firm with specific expertise in the field of the hiring." A sponsor of the legislation referred to the use of outside search firms as "extravagances" that the state can "ill afford."
Students at the new university being created in Singapore by Yale University and the National University of Singapore will not be permitted to hold protests or to form political groups, the new president of the institution told The Wall Street Journal. Pericles Lewis, the new president, said that despite these limits, students "are going to be totally free to express their views." The new university has been controversial, in part because of Yale faculty concerns over Singapore's less than full commitment to democratic values of the sort that are expected at American universities.
Swiss universities are reporting declines in applications from students in other European countries, The Local reported. The Swiss franc is performing well against the Euro, and tuition is up at many Swiss universities, while some European countries do not charge tuition.
The U.S. Education Department today proposed new rules governing federal student loans, which would, among other things, ease the process by which disabled borrowers could have their loans discharged, establish a new income-contingent repayment plan for direct student loans, and expand the government's income-based repayment program. The changes regarding borrowers with disabilities were prompted by concerns (many contained in a 2011 series by ProPublica) that they were being required to jump through far too many hoops to have their loans forgiven. The rules emerged from a round of negotiations that the agency held last winter, and public comments on the proposed changes are due by Aug. 16.
Several days after James H. Ammons announced that he would resign as president in the wake of a hazing scandal at Florida A&M University, the university's board approved an agreement Monday under which Ammons will leave the job immediately, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Ammons has come in for intense criticism for his administration's actions (and perceived inaction) regarding the death of a member of the university's renowned marching band. Under the agreement between the board and Ammons, he will take a sabbatical and then return to the faculty.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools last week gave Ashford University one month to prepare a report demonstrating the for-profit university's compliance with the commission's criteria for accreditation, according to a corporate filing by the university's parent company, Bridgepoint Education. Ashford last week had its bid rejected for accreditation with another regional accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which found the university lacking in several areas, including low numbers of full-time faculty, high student dropout rates and questions about academic rigor.
Ashford had sought to change its accreditation status in part because the Higher Learning Commission has required that the university demonstrate a "substantial presence" in the region. Now Ashford must respond to a range of questions from the commission that stem from the critical finding from WASC. After submitting the report, the commission will conduct a site visit sometime before a mid-October.