Students from different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic backgrounds and at urban and non-urban institutions performed comparably on the Collegiate Learning Assessment after researchers controlled for pre-college academic preparation, according to a study released Tuesday by the Council for Independent Colleges. The study, conducted by Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia sociologist and co-author of Academically Adrift, examines the performance on the CLA of students from a range of backgrounds at two sets of urban and non-urban independent colleges that belong to CIC. While "descriptive results" of students' performance on the exam have appeared to show that first-generation, black and Latino, and Pell-eligible students perform less well than their peers, the researchers find that when they control for students' incoming academic preparation, there are no meaningful gaps in the performance of those groups.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A recent report calling on states to target their financial aid to students with financial need but set expectations and support for college success has come under criticism from the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, a federal panel that advises Congress. In a statement, the federal panel says that the Brookings Institution report released this month (and described by its authors in an Inside Higher Ed essay here) would, if followed, result in states developing many different approaches that link grants to differing measures of on-time enrollment, rejecting "the longstanding, widely-shared goal of an integrated and consistent federal-state partnership in need-based grant aid." The proposal would also reduce grant aid for the "students most at risk in institutions with the least resources to support those students." The authors of the Brookings report said they believed the advisory panel's members had misinterpreted their recommendations.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators released a report Tuesday recommending best practices for financial aid award letters, including 10 elements that it says should be standardized across institutions. Financial aid award letters should clearly state the cost of attendance; total grants and scholarships; the net price after those scholarships are taken into account; and "self-help" options such as the federal work-study program, student loans or parent loans, among other information, the association's task force wrote in its report.
The report also calls for requiring reporting all student loans — including those from private lenders — to the federal government, possibly through an expansion of the National Student Loan Data System.
The recommendations come amid calls from some consumer advocates for total standardization of financial aid awards and reports that some award letters confuse prospective students by including loans when calculating expected payments.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has expanded its investigation of for-profit institutions with a broad inquiry received last week by ITT Educational Services Inc., according to a corporate filing. Corinthian Colleges Inc. is responding to a similar probe. The new federal watchdog group has been tight-lipped about the investigation, but its director has spoken out in the past about colleges with institutional loan programs that have had high default rates. And both ITT and Corinthian have been criticized by consumer advocates for their lending practices.
The University of Notre Dame has joined 42 other Roman Catholic institutions -- including three other colleges -- in filing suit against the Obama administration over a rule that would require most religious institutions to offer employee (and student) health insurance plans that cover contraception at no cost. Colleges, Catholic dioceses, charities and other organizations filed 12 separate lawsuits Monday, alleging that the requirement infringes on their religious freedom. Catholic University of America and St. Francis University also sued, as did Franciscan University of Steubenville, which recently chose to discontinue its student health plan rather than offer insurance covering contraception.
Also on Monday, Ave Maria University announced that it would stop offering student health insurance rather than comply with the federal rules, The News-Press reported.
Religious institutions have sparred with the Obama administration for months over the call to include contraceptive services as part of a broad array of preventive medical care. A compromise -- that insurers, not institutions, would pay for the contraceptive coverage -- did little to quell the outrage among Catholic and some evangelical Protestant colleges, who view the new mandate as an assault on religious freedom.
New State Department guidance could complicate some activities at Confucius Institutes, which operate on many American college and university campuses. The guidance says that the J-1 visa program, through which many scholars from China come to the institutes, does not permit any teaching in elementary and secondary schools (which some scholars have done). Further, the guidance says that Chinese language courses taught at the institutes must be part of colleges' foreign language offerings or separately accredited. Some of the institutes may not meet those criteria. Many colleges have welcomed the institutes for the infusion of Chinese programming they bring to campuses, while others worry about ties to the Chinese government and an emphasis on non-controversial topics.
Many American physicists are worried that the United States is losing its edge in their discipline, The New York Times reported. The article cites instances in which key breakthroughs by American scientists must be followed by work in Europe or elsewhere because of a lack of support in the United States. “While it’s great to support other missions,” Adam Riess, a Nobel laureate at Johns Hopkins University, told the Times, "it would be disappointing to see the U.S. lose or outsource its own leading role in one of the hottest areas of research.”
Alleging false and misleading recruitment materials that overstated earnings expectations and understated the risk of unemployment, an advocacy group is calling for the resignation of a Rutgers University at Camden School of Law administrator. Law School Transparency, a policy organization working to reduce the cost of legal education, said associate dean Camille Andrews sent prospective students information that exaggerated the benefits of attending Rutgers-Camden. In addition to Andrews's resignation, Law School Transparency called for an investigation by the American Bar Association and asked the university to clarify the data in those materials to any prospective students who were contacted.
Dean Rayman Solomon is standing by Andrews. Solomon said the recruitment material was accurate but that he's "open to discussion" about the best way to reach prospective students going forward. The promotion in question targeted potential applicants who took the GMAT, not the LSAT, the typical law school admission test. The goal, Solomon said, was to reach a new audience and introduce the Rutgers-Camden program. Students could then go online to get more information.
"This was one letter saying are you interested, have you thought about it?" Solomon said. "This is not our entire marketing campaign. This is telling people that we have a program."
But were the numbers misleading?
"I don’t know how to respond," Solomon said. "If you have a hundred people, would four of them be misled? Would one be misled? Would 98 be misled? [It was] a piece that was designed to get people to think about something they hadn't thought about. This wasn’t the only information they could get about it."
The transparency group charged that:
- Employment data for recent graduates excluded the 43 graduates (out of 242 total) who were unemployed without making that distinction clear.
- The college claimed that “many” recent graduates had salaries of more than $130,000, while a Law School Transparency analysis suggested that only one to five recent grads were earning in that range.
- Rutgers-Camden exaggerates the likelihood and value of receiving a judicial clerkship. That claim left Solomon "incensed," because he said New Jersey has an exceptional and competitive clerkship program, unlike some other states.
- By contacting students who took the GMAT, Law School Transparency said Rutgers-Camden portrayed itself inaccurately as a "down-economy safe haven that leads to status and riches."
The dean didn't dispute any of Law School Transparency's figures, which came from the college, but disagreed with the analysis.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has announced he will sign legislation headed to his desk that will eliminate legislative scholarships, GateHouse News Service reported. The scholarships -- in which legislators give away scholarships to public universities -- have long been controversial but have survived many previous attempts to kill them. "There is no place for a political scholarship program in Illinois,” the governor said in a statement. “As I have repeatedly advocated, scholarships -- paid for by Illinois taxpayers – should be awarded only to those with merit who are in true financial need. Abolishing this program is the right thing to do."