New York University is dropping out of the National Merit Scholarship Program, becoming the latest institution to say that it is wrong to award scholarships in which a standardized test score (in this case the PSAT) is the sole criterion for becoming a semifinalist, Bloomberg reported. Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions at NYU, said, “We simply do not feel that enrolling a larger number of National Merit finalists is a necessary way for us to attract the most academically qualified freshman class." The College Board, the sponsor of the PSAT, has always said that its tests should not be used in isolation for high-stakes decisions, and critics have for years said that using the PSAT alone violates much expert advice about how tests should be used, but the National Merit Scholarship Program has declined to change. The University of Texas at Austin dropped out of the program in 2009.
Higher Education Quick Takes
More than 2 million American taxpayers received as much as $3.2 billion in education tax credits to which they were not entitled, the U.S. Treasury's inspector general for tax administration said in a report Wednesday. The refundable tax credits were expanded as part of the federal economic stimulus legislation in 2009, and the report said an inquiry had found that 1.7 million taxpayers received $2.6 billion even though the Internal Revenue Service could not document that they had attended an accredited college or university. Another half million or so taxpayers got tax breaks even though they did not attend college for long enough, did not have a valid Social Security number, or were claimed as dependents on another taxpayer's return. “Based on the results of our review, the IRS does not have effective processes to identify taxpayers who claim erroneous education credits,” J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a news release.
Officials of the Peralta Community College District have promised to promote transparency, but they redacted large portions of thousands of pages of trustee e-mails that had been requested by journalists, The Contra Costa Times reported. California law generally requires the release of such e-mails, and experts questioned the legality of the district's redactions, the newspaper reported. District officials are now promising to review their policies on such information requests.
Insead, a leading French university, has introduced a series of programs that officials credit with increasing the percentage of students who are female to 33 percent, up from 17 in 2005, The New York Times reported.
About 20 percent of full-time community college students fail to continue beyond their first year, after federal, state and local governments have already spent $1 billion on their higher education, according to a new study by Mark Schneider, vice president at the American Institutes of Research and a former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. The study looked at first-time, full-time community college students who were seeking credentials. Government spending on those students who did not return for a second year has increased, hitting $1 billion in 2008-9, an increase of 35 percent over five years. The $4 billion spent during that period included $3 billion in education-related state and local appropriations, $240 million in state grants and $660 million in federal grants.
"Simply saying that the nation needs more community college graduates and continuing to pump more money and more students into the existing system is not the answer," concluded Schneider, who recently wrote a critical study on the costs and benefits of a bachelor's degree. The report suggested several possible solutions for retaining community college students, including prior-learning assessment, "hybrid" learning platforms, better approaches to remedial education, and performance-based funding.
The board of Central Arizona College, following complaints from employees and others, has announced that it backs President Dennis Jenkins, and will start an investigation of his conduct, The Arizona Republic reported. Employees have accused Jenkins of intimidating them, and of endangering the college's accreditation. Faculty and employee groups have voted no confidence in Jenkins, who has said that he is working on accreditation issues, but who has not commented on other criticisms.
Four students at Florida State University and one teaching assistant in English were arrested in a sting operation in which they went to a location where they thought they were going to meet a 14-year-old, but instead were met by police officers, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. A Florida A&M University student was also arrested.
Alabama now has a second community college president facing questions over his doctorate. Gary Branch, the president at Faulkner State Community College, has only an honorary doctorate, but is regularly called "Dr. Gary Branch," The Press-Register reported. Branch said that he has never hid the honorary nature of his doctorate. He said that he doesn't call himself "Dr.," although many other people do. But the Press-Register noted that Alabama's community colleges have a policy under which all references to any honorary doctorate must make clear that the degree was not earned. The newspaper noted that the state directory of community colleges is among the documents that identify the president of the college as "Dr." News about Branch comes in the wake of the discovery that the president and dean of Bishop State Community College have doctorates from unaccredited institutions.
The University of South Florida Polytechnic says that the hiring of two sons of Marshall Goldman, the chancellor, did not violate anti-nepotism rules, The St. Petersburg Times reported. Goldman was not available for comment. One son was hired as a consultant without his knowledge, officials said, and Goldman reimbursed the university for what he was paid. As for the other son, the university said that he does not report to his father in a job that involves coordinating internships and special events at four business incubators. A spokeswoman for the university said: "USF Polytechnic recognizes the concerns of nepotism and has made additional efforts to ensure we follow proper procedures."