Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 11, 2012

Two House of Representatives committees announced a joint hearing Wednesday on the National Labor Relations Board's agenda in higher education. Congressional Republicans have frequently clashed with the NLRB on issues outside of higher education. But now the NLRB is exploring the right to collective bargaining for graduate students and faculty members at private colleges. A statement announcing the hearing said: "Higher education officials are concerned the NLRB’s efforts to impinge into postsecondary schools could lead to reduced academic freedom and higher costs for students."

 

September 11, 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced a series of amendments to its July report on private student loans, including two statistics the bureau now says were incorrect.

The report, which called for increased regulation on private student loans, including asking Congress to consider allowing borrowers to discharge those loans during bankruptcy, understated the proportion of student borrowers who hadn't exhausted their federal loan options. Since some students did not take out federal loans at all, and in some cases did not apply for federal financial aid, 55 percent — not 40 percent — of private student loan borrowers did not first exhaust their eligibility for federal loans, which have more flexible repayment options than most private loans.

But the report also overstated how many loans were made without college involvement. From 2005 to 2007, the proportion of loans made without a college's involvement or consent grew from 18 percent to more than 31 percent, the agency said. It had reported earlier that as many as 70 percent of loans were made without college certification.

That correction was the result of an updated methodology developed with industry experts and sample student lenders, the agency said. The previous number had not counted loans if the lender did not provide specify in what program (undergraduate, graduate, medical, law, and similar classifications) the borrower was enrolled, meaning many undergraduate loans were missed, the agency said in its report. The new methodology used proxies (such as "course of study" or "year in school") from the data to determine the program type.

The agency said the corrections do not affect the report's conclusions. "While the frequency of [direct-to-consumer] borrowing is lower than the Agencies had previously concluded, the risk of consumer harm related to DTC lending programs is unchanged from the original analysis," the consumer protection bureau wrote in its report on the changes.

September 11, 2012

The Middle East Studies Association of North American has written to senior Iranian officials asking them to stop official newspapers from attacking the International Society for Iranian Studies. That group typically holds its annual meeting in North America, but this August held its 2012 meeting in Istanbul, with the goal of allowing more scholars in Iran to participate. As described in the letter from the Middle East Studies Association, an officially supported newspaper ran an article on the international group, saying it was dominated by "Royalists" and "Zionists," among others. Following this article, many of the scholars based in Iran canceled plans to go to Istanbul for the meeting. The letter to Iranian officials said, "The open pursuit and free expression of knowledge and ideas, without fear of reprisal and discrimination are guaranteed under Iran's Constitution.... MESA urges the authorities in Iran to work towards and protect the free exchange of ideas, freedom of expression in all forms, and the unrestricted pursuit of academic research without fear of intimidation and persecution."

 

September 11, 2012

Florida A&M University is defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of a student who died in the middle of hazing by the marching band by saying that it was the student's fault he participated, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Papers filed by the university said that Robert Champion, the man who died, should have known that hazing was wrong and dangerous and against university policy, and so the university should not be held liable. Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family, said he was stunned by the argument. "We cannot ignore the irony and audacity of an institution in blaming Robert for his death," he said. "Blaming students for hazing allows the culture of hazing to become deadly."

September 11, 2012

Demand to earn an M.B.A. isn't what it once was, and top business schools are as a result seeing declines in applications, The Wall Street Journal reported. For the class that just entered, Columbia University's applications were down 19 percent, the University of Michigan was off by 17 percent and Yale was down 10 percent.

 

September 11, 2012

Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for university advancement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, resigned Sunday after being told of an investigation into whether he and another development official had been taking personal trips paid for by the university, The News & Observer reported. The trips appeared to be to watch a son of the other employee play college basketball games. The other official -- Tami Hansbrough, a major gifts officer -- has been placed on leave. She has another son who was a star basketball player for UNC. University officials said that Kupec and Hansbrough were in a relationship, but that Hansbrough did not report to Kupec. Kupec, a former star quarterback for UNC, has been praised by officials there for his fund-raising successes. He issued this statement: "I have been privileged to have worked with incredibly talented faculty, students, administrators and staff. I have worked with gifted Chancellors. But most of all, I have been fortunate to work with a score of passionate alumni and friends who love this University and who have paved the way through their generosity to make Carolina a true gem. I will miss you all but in my heart I will always be a part of the Carolina family."

September 11, 2012

The governing board for California's 112 community colleges on Monday approved a policy of systemwide priority enrollment for students who have an educational plan in place and are working toward a credential or toward transferring. The proposal, which marks a substantial shift for a system with history of open access, was one of a set of recommendations last year by a state task force. The priority enrollment plan, while controversial, has also been praised for being a completion-oriented means of coping with deep budget cuts.

September 10, 2012

A new ranking of colleges -- the Alumni Factor -- will debut today. As the name suggests, most of the criteria are based on alumni views of their own colleges. Only 2 of the 15 criteria do not come from alumni surveys. Four of the criteria are related to wealth: average household income, percentage of graduates in high-income households (above $150,000), average net worth of households, and percentage of graduates in high net worth households (above $1 million). Other criteria -- such as preparation for job success and immediate job opportunities -- focus on careers generally, not pay. The new ranking effort is led by Monica McGurk, formerly of McKinsey and Company. In an interview, McGurk said that her company has figured out a reliable way to get representative samples of alumni to survey and that these names are not provided by their alma maters. She said that typically about 200 alumni are needed per college, and that they are evenly distributed in age, but that people are not surveyed until they are at least two years out of college. She declined to say how the company identifies the alumni.

Asked if her system favors colleges that educate investment bankers over, say, teachers, given the wealth-based criteria, McGurk said that it did not. She noted that other criteria in her methodology, such as friendship development at college, and social and communication skill development, have nothing to do with salaries or wealth. And she said some colleges that have over the years educated many teachers (she named Spelman College as an example) did quite well in her rankings. While the criteria are ranked equally in the Alumni Factor methodology, the company will offer a tool for prospective students to set their own methodology in the rankings, so they can count factors they care about, and not others.

The Alumni Factor plans to make money by offering low-cost access to its rankings, with the idea that students and families will want to see them, and that some alumni may as well. The company also plans to sell its data to colleges that may be able to compare themselves to peers, having access to aggregate data. McGurk declined to say how much the company would be charging colleges.

 

September 10, 2012

Stanford University researchers are using MRI images to study the brain patterns of literary Ph.D. candidates while they read Jane Austen. The early results suggest a very high level of brain activity prompted by close reading of the novelist.

 

September 10, 2012

As more colleges -- public and private -- are coming to rely on community college transfers, four-year institutions are doing more to welcome them, The Los Angeles Times reported. Four-year institutions are creating special orientation programs for transfers, setting aside space in campus housing, creating clubs and offering scholarships.

 

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