Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 22, 2017

Hickey College, a small for-profit career institution located in St. Louis, will shut down due to low enrollment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The college, founded in 1933, offers degrees and certificates in accounting, culinary arts and graphic design, among other programs. It enrolls 391 students, according to federal data. Hickey is overseen by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, a national accreditor that the Obama administration decided to terminate last year.

June 22, 2017

Southern University is investigating a sex tape featuring a university employee, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The tape was briefly on a pornographic site and was widely shared by alumni before it was taken down. WBRZ News reported that the employee is a high-ranking administrator and that the other person is "an underling."

June 22, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "The OER Moment." You may download the booklet here, free, and sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet on Tuesday, July 18, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

June 22, 2017

Supporters of Westminster Choir College have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court arguing Rider University cannot legally sell the choir college’s campus in Princeton, N.J.

The filing marks an escalation in a battle that has been playing out for months between Rider and a group called the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton Inc. Facing budget deficits, Rider has explored moving Westminster and selling the college and its campus, which is located several miles away from Rider’s main location in Lawrenceville, N.J. That sparked resistance from faculty members, students and alumni who believe Rider is improperly trying to find a way to make money off a financially healthy Westminster in order to make up for its own financial deficiencies.

The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton has proposed spinning the choir college off from the university. But negotiations did not materialize, according to the coalition’s president, Constance Fee. As a result, the group is turning to legal action.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, says Rider has considered selling the Westminster campus to real estate developers. But it argues Rider does not have the right to sell the campus under a 1991 agreement. Westminster merged into Rider under the agreement, which calls for Rider to continue Westminster’s mission and ensure its separate identity, the lawsuit says.

The class action suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of former Westminster board members, current students, their parents, past students and donors. It alleges breach of contract and asks for a judgment that would allow Westminster to operate as a separate nonprofit higher education institution. Alternately, it asks the court to direct Rider to find another entity to operate Westminster on its Princeton campus. It also asks that Rider be barred from selling the Westminster campus to any group that will not keep the choir college in its current location.

Rider disagrees with assertions of the lawsuit and does not believe it serves the best interests of the choir college, said a university spokeswoman, Kristine Brown, in a statement. The university believes it has a strong defense and will prevail.

“As we’ve told the Westminster community, we firmly believe that the choir college’s legacy can best be achieved with an institution that is better positioned to make the necessary investments,” she said. “Working closely with the Board of Trustees and an outside firm, we’ve made significant progress on our search to find a new institution willing to acquire Westminster Choir College and continue its rich tradition.”

June 22, 2017

Last year Achieving the Dream began a $9.8-million project to use open educational resources (OER) to create degree programs at 38 community colleges. A study on early returns, which was conducted by SRI International and the rpk GROUP, found that faculty members are changing their teaching in the OER courses and that students are at least as engaged in the courses as they are in conventional ones.

The project focuses on faculty members that have previous experience with OER or teaching online. While the study found that instructors were very positive about the advantages of OER, they said creating the courses takes up to twice as long. The study also found that 71 percent of participating instructors said they are likely to promote the use of open resources to their colleagues.

“OER gives all students a chance of being equally ready on day one of class and has the promise of cutting costs to students, especially when deployed in full degree pathways," Karen Stout, Achieving the Dream's president and CEO, said in a written statement. "Equally important, OER has the promise of improving student engagement with course materials and can re-energize faculty engagement in course design and spark more dynamic approaches to teaching.” 


June 22, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Noelle Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior at the University of Kansas School of Business, examines whether working memory can help decide whether we get tired of something in a hurry or not at all. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 21, 2017

New in Inside Digital Learning:

June 21, 2017

Six students at Claremont McKenna College say that they are facing punishments that could be as severe as expulsion for their role in a protest in April that prevented Heather Mac Donald from giving a talk on campus, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported. The students' lawyer, in a briefing on campus, blasted the disciplinary process, saying that minority students were being punished for exercising their rights to free speech. Mac Donald is a conservative writer whose views on crime have been denounced by the students as racist, but who denies that she is racist and says that she is a defender of minority individuals who are victims of crime. About 200 students blocked the entrances to her scheduled talk, and college opted to broadcast her talk, from an empty room. Claremont McKenna has not commented on the specific cases, but said after the April incident that it was a violation of college rules to block people from entering a talk.

June 21, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Tuesday that she will appoint A. Wayne Johnson, a financial services executive, to oversee the government's $1.4 trillion student loan portfolio as the next chief of federal student aid.

James Runcie, the previous chief operating officer of FSA, resigned abruptly in May after refusing an order to give congressional testimony. Runcie had also said in emails leaked to the press that he disagreed with the direction of the department under DeVos.

Although he comes from the private sector, Johnson is familiar with student financial aid issues. He holds a doctorate in academic leadership from Mercer University, where he authored a dissertation on private student loan indebtedness.

In 2012, he founded a company specializing in private student loan refinance, where he is still listed as CEO.

“Wayne is the right person to modernize FSA for the 21st century,” DeVos said in a statement. “He actually wrote the book on student loan debt and will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families. He will be a tremendous asset to the department as we move forward with a focus on how best to serve students and protect taxpayers.”

The department said in a release that DeVos will charge Johnson with carrying out her vision to "simplify and modernize the federal student aid process."

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, said Johnson's experience will be an asset to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Johnson to ensure that the office is putting the best interests of students and taxpayers first and operating efficiently to carry out critical tasks -- including getting the data retrieval tool quickly back online for the 20 million families who apply for federal financial aid for college every year, as well as efficiently implementing year-round Pell," Alexander said in a statement.

June 21, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute: Colin Camerer, professor of behavioral economics at the California University of Technology, examines this question. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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