Higher Education Quick Takes
The Council of Independent Colleges, a group representing more than 600 private liberal arts colleges and universities, is arguing against what it says are myths about student debt (and for its members' affordability) in a new presentation, indicating that the concern around growing student debt might be affecting the group. Among the myths: many students owe more than $100,000 at graduation (in fact, six-figure borrowers are a tiny fraction -- less than 1 percent -- of the undergraduate population). It also points out that its members have generous financial aid and that the high sticker price of tuition at private colleges does not take financial aid into account.
The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to require more transparency from colleges that serve students who are veterans. The bill calls for counseling of students and ways to track feedback on the quality of academic programs. Some for-profit institutions, including the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities and the University of Phoenix, supported the bill.
Recent developments in online higher education will likely benefit the credit ratings of brand-name and niche institutions while possibly threatening for-profit institutions and smaller, regional colleges and universities, according to a new report by Moody's Investor Service. In a report that elides the potential implications of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the continued growth of conventional online programs, Moody's analysts predicted that well-reputed institutions will band together around online offerings to reduce operating costs. Meanwhile, there could "eventually be negative side effects on for-profit education companies and some smaller not-for-profit colleges that may be left out of emerging high reputation online networks," the report said. However, the analysts suggested that well-known institutions that rush too heedlessly into MOOCs could sacrifice their reputational footing. "[T]he rapid pace of the MOOC movement presents the possibility of brand dilution as universities rush to join the trend without controlling the quality of the product/content being posted," they wrote.
The University of Tulsa on Wednesday night fired Geoffrey Orsak as president, a position he had held for only 74 days, The Tulsa World reported. The day before, the university announced that Orsak was taking a leave to care for his seriously ill father. But the announcement Wednesday did not say why the president was dismissed. In his own statement, Orsak said, "I am very disappointed given the lengthy due diligence process for the position that within such a short period of time the board has decided to go in a different direction." Previously, Orsak had been dean of engineering at Southern Methodist University.
Tying a college's Pell Grant eligibility to completion rates could undermine college access for poor and minority students, especially at community colleges, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, wrote in an analysis Monday. Rather than focus on completion rates, Kantrowitz argued, more focus should be placed on increasing the number of Americans with college degrees -- a focus that could even cause completion rates to fall if more students enroll and do not all complete college. Focusing solely on completion, as some fear a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported panel that will focus on student aid as an incentive might do, could end up hurting low-income students, Kantrowitz wrote: "One of the easiest ways to increase graduation rates is to exclude high-risk students. So efforts to boost college completion may directly or indirectly shift eligibility for the Pell Grant program from financial need to academic merit, hurting college access by low-income students."
The annual college rankings of U.S. News & World Report are out today, with only one change in methodology. The two most recent years of guidance counselor surveys, rather than just one year of data, will be used to calculate the counselors' ratings. The participation of college presidents in the survey (by filling out reports on the reputations of other colleges) is up a bit this year, if still way behind the two-thirds participation levels of a decade ago. For the new edition, 44 percent of all presidents participated, up from 43 percent a year ago. Liberal arts college presidents have been particularly critical of the rankings, but their participation rate was also up this year -- 47 percent, up from 44 percent a year ago.
The Obama administration's program to give young immigrants who lack legal documentation to stay in the United States a waiver of deportation has attracted more than 72,000 applicants, The New York Times reported. There has been debate over whether those eligible -- a group that includes many college students -- would risk submitting their names and various pieces of information to the government, and the early results suggest that many are willing to do so.
Harvard University's senior basketball co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, are withdrawing from the university after being told that they are among the students being investigated in a cheating scandal, Sports Illustrated reported. Had they stayed enrolled and been found guilty, they would have lost eligibility for the year ahead of athletic competition. By withdrawing, they may be able to re-apply in a year and gain another year of eligibility. One additional basketball player is also among those being investigated, Sports Illustrated reported.