Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

New research out of Ohio State University suggests a silver lining to the cloud of loan debt faced by many students. For young adults aged 18 to 27, the more credit card and student loan debt they hold, the higher their self-esteem. Only once the young adults hit 28 do they start to realize that debt may have a downside. "Debt can be a positive resource for young adults, but it comes with some significant dangers." said Rachel Dwyer, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State and lead author of the study. "Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden." The study is being published in the journal Social Science Research.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors is announcing today that Gary Rhoades stepped down, effective Monday, as general secretary. The imminent departure of Rhoades has been rumored since April. The AAUP statement showered praise on him. "Rhoades has been instrumental in effecting a dramatic turnaround in AAUP’s finances, realizing operating budget surpluses and building a reserve fund. Income has been increased, expenditures have been prudently reduced, and financial oversight has been strengthened," the statement said. It also cited his strong support for AAUP chapters, leadership in defending faculty rights, and success in building coalitions with other groups in higher education. As to why Rhoades is leaving, the statement cited "fundamental differences between the general secretary and the Executive Committee of the AAUP on various matters."

Rhoades -- a scholar of higher education who studied issues related to faculty rights and collective bargaining before taking the AAUP position three years ago -- will return to his tenured position at the University of Arizona.

Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, said via e-mail that plans will soon be announced for an interim period of leadership at the association's office. Asked about the general secretary's role, Nelson said that the AAUP Executive Committee "is committed to the view that the general secretary's major responsibility is running the national office."

Nelson's point about the general secretary's focus in the office may indicate a key disagreement with Rhoades. Via e-mail, Rhoades said that "it is more important than ever" for the general secretary to be doing "as I have been doing, to more consistently and effectively connect with and provide support for leaders and members in the field, to more strategically and directly focus on local organizing opportunities and on national campaigns around resource allocation (prioritizing core academic missions), governance and academic freedom and the future of higher education."

Rhoades also suggested another area of disagreement: "The extent to which the association can get beyond itself. The AAUP is a special organization. But its future success, like its greatest successes historically, lies less in positioning itself largely apart from others, based on special mission, on its laurels or on past precedent, and more in working behind the scenes more consistently and cooperatively with other organizations within and beyond the [Washington] beltway."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a California Supreme Court ruling that upheld a state law letting some undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition rates at the state's public colleges. The California court's decision last November upheld AB 540, which allows students whose parents came into the United States illegally to pay resident tuition rates if they graduated from an in-state high school and had attended one for three or more years. By declining to hear the appeal, which was sought by a group of students from outside California who said the law discriminated against them because they were forced to pay non-resident rates at California public colleges, the U.S. Supreme Court lets the state ruling stand. California community college and university officials applauded the U.S. court's stance.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Union Graduate College's Bruce Tulloch examines a disagreement over reforms to science education in the United States. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Net price calculators, which attempt to show students and parents how much they will pay for college after financial aid, are useful tools but suffer from limitations, the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance wrote in a report issued Monday.

The committee, which advises the Education Department on matters related to financial aid, summarized the conclusions of two panel discussions held in March in its report, "The Bottom Line: Ensuring that Students and Parents Understand the Net Price of College." The report concluded that students and families need to use net price calculators early in a college search, but that the calculators are limited by several factors, including their inability to calculate whether students are likely to receive a merit scholarship. Financial aid award letters need to be standardized so students can better compare institutions, the report's authors wrote. "Financial aid award letters may prove a cautionary tale for net price calculators, unless a consensus about uniformity can be built within the community to avoid confusion and complexity for families," they wrote. But in lieu of additional legislation or regulations, the committee recommended that institutions voluntarily adopt more standardized versions of each tool.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Houston police officers are criticizing Rice University for dismissing a member of its police force after he left campus to assist law enforcement dealing with a man who shot two police officers in a non-campus incident, The Houston Chronicle reported. The Rice officer who lost his job said he rushed to assist when he heard about the incident on a police scanner, and local police officers are calling him a hero. Rice declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said in a statement that the fired officer "left his post when only two other officers were on duty and failed to notify his supervisor of his whereabouts for nearly an hour, which could have endangered the safety of our students and campus."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Goshen College, which last year started playing an instrumental version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before athletic events, will stop doing so and will seek an alternative way to honor the country in ways consistent with the college's pacifist, Mennonite faith. Goshen students, faculty members and alumni have a range of views (and a range of faiths). But the news Monday that the college will stop playing the anthem follows criticism from some alumni and others that it glorifies war and a kind of nationalism that is inconsistent with the college's values.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 3:00am

An investment group is poised to sign a deal to provide funds to Bethany University, a financially struggling Assemblies of God institution in California, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The article referred to the unidentified group buying the university, and quoted Bethany officials as saying that the funds would allow Bethany to "maintain its mission." Details were not provided. Bethany is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and for-profit purchases of or investments in regionally accredited colleges have of late been controversial.

Monday, June 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Fourteen academic luminaries -- among them A.C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Ronald Dworkin, Niall Ferguson and Steven Pinker -- have announced the creation of the New College of the Humanities, which will be affiliated with the University of London. The new college promises many things that critics fear are disappearing from British universities, such as close student-faculty interaction and an emphasis on the humanities. Tuition will be 18,000 pounds a year (nearly $30,000), or twice the charges at the most expensive British public universities.

Monday, June 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Students who pay extra fees for online course material at California community colleges may be entitled to refunds on the fees, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Fees charged by publishers for online materials are common in higher education, and college officials have defended them in California. But the dispute in California -- prompted by a student grievance -- concerns a state regulation that fees for instructional material provide students with "tangible personal property." Under that measure, the fee would be legal if students could download and store the online material, but they can't.


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