Higher Education Quick Takes
Moody's Investors Service published two reports Tuesday that underscore the ratings agency's perception of a growing divide between the fortunes of wealthy private colleges -- and the rest. The more substantive of the two reports, which are available only to Moody's clients, focuses on "divergent credit trends" and finds that institutions that were highly dependent on tuition and "weaker market positions" were more likely than "high-reputation institutions" to experience declines in the agency's ratings metrics. A second report on private gifts anticipates a continued rebound in donations in 2011, but mostly benefiting "“highly rated, market-leading universities."
A former assistant football coach at Louisiana State University violated National Collegiate Athletic Association recruiting rules by making excessive telephone calls to prospective players and tried to cover up his rule breaking, the Division I Committee on Infractions said Tuesday in punishing the institution. Despite the penalties, which included recruiting restrictions, the association praised LSU officials for uncovering and aggressively investigating the violations.
he Ivy League will announce today that it is imposing new limits on full-contact football practices. The New York Times reported that the limits, designed to minimize head injuries to players, go beyond the rules of any other athletic conference. Many studies have suggested that limits on full-contact practices may be a key step to minimizing concussions and associated brain trauma experienced by many football players. Studies have found that many football players receive more hits to the head in practice than in actual games. Under the new Ivy rules, only two full-contact practices per week during the season will be permitted, compared with a maximum of five under guidelines of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Fund-raisers at educational institutions estimate that contributions during the fiscal year that ended June 30 will be up 4.7 percent over the previous year, and that the year that started July 1 will see gains of 5.5 percent. Those figures come from a survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. For the year just concluded, the survey found private institutions projecting much better results than did public institutions (gains of 5.7 percent vs. 2.6 percent).
Higher education advocates are again on the defensive in the ongoing battle over Pell Grants, which Congressional Republicans are hoping to cut in deficit reduction talks. Eight college presidents joined student activists and U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both Maryland Democrats) at a rally Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to criticize proposals to cut Pell's budget back to pre-stimulus levels.
Tuesday’s event was the result of some last-minute organization – the presidents were in town for a joint meeting of the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities and the Association of Public Land-grant Universities this week. Staffers for Mikluski, Cardin, and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who was unable to attend the rally, invited the presidents to come participate.
The universities represented in this week's meeting, which are all public research institutions, have a lot to lose if Pell is cut next year because large percentages of their students rely on their grants. At Florida International University, for example, 37 percent of the 43,000-member student body received Pell Grants last year. More than half of those students – 54 percent – received the full grant amount of $5,500.
Mikulski asked students to be more vocal in their opposition to proposed Pell cuts, which could keep many low-income students from being able to afford a college education.
“We need you to flood the airwaves and the broadband,” she told the audience of students and education lobbyists. Student activists responded by talking about their plans to flood lawmakers’ Twitter and e-mail accounts on Monday – which they’ve dubbed “Save Pell Day” – to call attention to their campaign to preserve the program.
Pell Grants were spared major cuts in April, when Republicans agreed to preserve the maximum award amount while cutting the summer grant program -- shielding most of the program's 9.4 million recipients from cuts. But Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would reduce the maximum award by $845 and render 1.7 million current students ineligible to receive the grants.
Campus Crusade for Christ, a major evangelical movement on colleges and universities, is changing its name officially to "Cru," which is the way some of its members refer to it already. Cru was selected among 1,600 names considered. In part, the name change reflects the group's many non-campus operations. But there was also a desire to remove the word "crusade." "It's become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East," Steve Sellers, the group's vice president, told Christianity Today.
Marc Hauser, a prominent Harvard University psychology professor whose research has come under scrutiny, has resigned, The Boston Globe reported. An internal investigation found that he committed multiple instances of scientific misconduct, one paper he published was retracted and two others were corrected -- but many observers have pushed for more details on the nature of what was incorrect in his work. Hauser was not available for comment on his resignation, which was confirmed by a university spokesman.
Gerald Lang, the former provost of West Virginia University, has dropped a suit against the institution, after reaching an undisclosed settlement, the Associated Press reported. Lang resigned in 2009 amid a scandal over an inappropriately awarded degree -- a situation for which he said he was a scapegoat. Officials did not comment on the settlement.
A state judge has ruled that Florida Gulf Coast University should reinstate and provide back pay to David Lounsbury, a fired forensics professor, The Naples Daily News reported. Lounsbury was fired for having students give him checks for a certification exam and depositing them -- a violation of university rules. The judge's ruling upheld one of an arbitrator last year, who found that the university would have been within its rights to punish Lounsbury, but not to fire him. The university plans to appeal.