Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 1, 2012

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley has asked the National Institutes of Health to explain why it has provided a new grant to a researcher who was barred from receiving federal funds several years ago in a conflict of interest controversy. In a letter to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, Grassley questioned a $400,000 grant awarded to Charles Nemeroff, who resigned from Emory University in 2008 amid an investigation into his failure to report fees received from a pharmaceutical company in violation of institutional rules.

"It’s troubling that NIH continues to provide limited federal dollars to individuals who have previously had grant funding suspended for failure to disclose conflicts of interest and even more troubling that the Administration chose not to require full, open and, public disclosure of financial interests on a public website,” Grassley wrote in the letter, which he copied to Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, which hired Nemeroff in 2009.

Grassley was critical of the Obama administration last year for revising its conflict of interest rules in ways that some ethics experts thought were not strong enough.

 

May 31, 2012

Dozens of law professors have signed a joint letter to President Obama urging him to take steps to help college students who lack the legal documentation to permanently reside in the United States. President Obama has backed proposed legislation that would create a path to citizenship for such students, but the letter argued that the administration has "clear executive authority for several forms of administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries: deferred action, parole–in–place, and deferred enforced departure." Through these means, the administration could remove the fear many of these students (many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and who have few ties in their original countries) of being deported, the letter says.

 

May 31, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Michael Bunce of Murdoch University explains his work using DNA testing to identify the non-declared contents of some traditional Chinese medicines. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 31, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Only in this town would the move of a group of policy analysts from one think tank to another be big news. But the departure of Education Sector's four-person higher education policy team for the New America Foundation, announced Wednesday, is noteworthy.

The changeover is significant to some extent because it comes in the wake of drama involving turnover and turmoil at Education Sector; its most recent executive director, Richard Colvin, left last month barely a year after being named, and the interim executive director who replaced him, John Chubb, was on the education advisory team for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign until he quit a few days ago.

Several people at Education Sector were unhappy with what they saw as an unwelcome shift into politicization at the historically nonpartisan policy organization, and the group's departure leaves Education Sector without higher education expertise, although a spokeswoman said that would soon be remedied.

But the move by the Education Sector émigrés -- Kevin Carey, who will head New America's education policy team, Amy Laitinen, Stephen Burd and Rachel Fishman -- gives New America a deep bench of higher education policy analysts. They will join, among others, Jason Delisle, an expert on student loans and federal education finances, who noted that there has been significant overlap between the two organizations over time. (Burd formerly worked at New America, and is not the only education policy analyst to have moved from one to the other previously.) "When Kevin and his team were looking to make a move, we were a natural choice," Delisle said.

Carey said via e-mail that he had "been in the same position as policy director at Ed Sector for going on seven years and this felt like the right time to step up into a broader leadership role." He added: "New America is a great organization with a lot of complementary strengths so it feels like a really good fit."

May 31, 2012

About 900 colleges nationwide have agreements with banks or financial services companies for debit or prepaid cards for financial aid disbursement, student identification cards and other services, despite concerns and occasional controversy about fees on those cards, according to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's Education Fund. Despite inroads from banks and other companies offering prepaid debit cards, Higher One still dominates the market, with agreements on more than 500 campuses.

Prepaid debit cards can come with high fees, including a 50-cent "per swipe" fee for Higher One cards if they are used with a personal identification number (as a debit card) rather than a signature (as a credit card). The report calls on colleges to negotiate agreements with lower fees and to provide students with a range of options, including checks and bank deposits, for financial aid disbursements.

May 31, 2012

The California Senate on Wednesday passed two bills that would require the state to create free, online textbooks through open source materials for the top 50 courses taught in the state, the Associated Press reported. Senator Darrell Steinberg, the sponsor of the bill, said it would protect students from the "exorbitant" prices charged by some publishers. The American Publishers Association is opposing the legislation, which now moves to the Assembly.

 

May 31, 2012

New Jersey should establish guidelines for the compensation of community college presidents, which varies enormously from institution to institution, the state's comptroller said in a report Wednesday. "There are no state standards or guidelines for college trustees to rely on when setting compensation terms for their president," said the comptroller, Matthew Boxer. "As a result, there are huge disparities in not only the salaries of community college presidents, but other forms of their compensation as well. We’re not suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s appropriate to set boundaries when schools are spending taxpayer dollars."

May 30, 2012

High schoolers who make overnight visits to colleges they are considering are engaging in potentially dangerous or illegal behavior, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education at Susquehanna University and the group Students Against Destructive Decisions. A survey of more than 1,000 teens who said they had been on an overnight college visit found that:

  • 16 percent reported drinking alcohol on the visit.
  • 17 percent had sex or engaged in "intimate sexual behavior" during the trip.
  • 5 percent reported using drugs other than alcohol.
  • 2 percent drove while impaired.
May 30, 2012

Faculty members at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are debating whether too many students are earning A grades, The Star Tribune reported. One proposal under consideration is that transcripts should indicate the share of each class receiving a particular grade, so that an A might have less value in courses in where many such grades are awarded.

 

May 30, 2012

Pericles Lewis has been named the inaugural president of the Yale-NUS College, a new institution jointly created by Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Lewis is a Yale professor whose work focuses on British and European literature who has been involved in designing the academic programs of the new college.

 

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