Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 21, 2018

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers -- although to varying degrees -- expressed frustrations with the proposed White House education budget in a hearing Tuesday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before the House appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education, and related agencies, the first opportunity lawmakers have had to question her publicly since the budget proposal was released.

The subcommittee's chairman, Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, raised concerns that the Trump administration continues to request cuts that lawmakers had already rejected in the previous budget cycle. And Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, the New Jersey Republican who chairs the full appropriations committee, urged better communication between DeVos and her staff and lawmakers -- an issue he said he has also raised with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

"I’m concerned that we have sort of a disconnect here," he said. "It's hard to believe people have been on the job for this long and don’t have staff that understand how the system works."

DeVos told lawmakers that the budget proposal would expand Pell Grant eligibility to more short-term programs, in line with a theme of expanding access to alternative postsecondary pathways. And she said the budget request aligned with lawmakers' goals for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act by streamlining student loan repayment programs and reducing complexity in the financial aid system.

The loudest complaints for DeVos came from committee Democrats. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking member on the subcommittee, said she was "dismayed" that the request did nothing to make college more affordable and instead cut Federal Work-Study and campus-based aid programs.

And in a tense exchange, she blasted the secretary for a recent notice declaring that the federal government, and not the states, had authority to regulate student loan servicers.

"We want to drain the swamp?" she said. "These companies have a track record of predatory practices, of abuses, and state-level investigations have resulted in hundreds of millions in settlements on behalf of students."

March 21, 2018

Photo of Sara J. ZornThe Citadel spent years in court trying to prevent female students from enrolling in the South Carolina military college, conceding defeat on the issue only in 1996, after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Virginia Military Institute to admit women.

On Tuesday, the Citadel announced that -- for the first time -- a female student will lead its Corps of Cadets. The Citadel said Cadet Sara J. Zorn (at right) will be the regimental commander -- the top student position leading the corps -- in the next academic year.

March 21, 2018

A total of 111 employees will be laid off as a result of Wheelock College’s merger into Boston University -- 72 staff members and 39 faculty members.

The employees will lose their jobs after the merger becomes official June 1, The Boston Globe reported last week. The layoffs represent a majority of Wheelock employees, as Boston University offered positions to 93 of the college’s employees.

About a third of those Wheelock employees being offered jobs are tenured faculty members. Those losing their jobs include both full-time and part-time faculty members. But all Wheelock tenured faculty members are being offered positions, according to a release from BU.

“We have been anticipating this point even before the merger was announced,” David Chard, Wheelock’s president, said in a statement. “Losing talented staff and faculty is very difficult, particularly in a tight-knit, mission-driven community like Wheelock. However, as a result of this merger, Boston University has offered us a unique opportunity to retain the academic knowledge and expertise of Wheelock’s tenured faculty and the capacity of many of our high-quality staff members that will ensure the success of the new Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.”

That’s the name of the new college to be created under a merger agreement announced in October that will have Wheelock’s School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies merging with BU’s School of Education. The announcement came several months after BU and Wheelock first revealed former merger discussions in August. Wheelock was facing financial and enrollment challenges.

Employees losing their jobs will receive severance packages and outplacement services, said Diane Tucker, Boston University’s vice president for human resources.

“This is the very difficult and painful part of the merger,” she said in a statement. “It’s hard for people to lose jobs through no fault of their own. We are committed to helping impacted employees with their job search.”

March 21, 2018

A shared cybersecurity initiative has been launched by Indiana University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, Rutgers University and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

The initiative, called OmniSOC, will be based at Indiana University and will review security data from each member campus in real time using human analysis and machine learning.

By pooling resources, the initiative aims to reduce the time it would typically take institutions to identify and respond to security threats on their own.

March 21, 2018

The American Society for Engineering Education this week published a statement in support of scholarly research on diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math education. It was prompted by what the association describes as a “proliferation of targeted [mostly online] attacks on scholarly work addressing diversity and inclusion in STEM education, including work in engineering education specifically.” If engineering education and STEM education researchers are “under threat in this way,” the association says, “they may be deterred from working in the area of diversity and inclusion, which will slow down progress in this critical area, one which has been a national priority for STEM workforce development for several decades.”

March 21, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, S. Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, examines the Erie Canal's role in starting a religious movement. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 20, 2018

Another round of cost cutting is under way at Antioch College, with faculty and staff members who earn more than $40,000 per year being required to take mandatory furloughs and a de facto hiring freeze being put in place.

Affected faculty and staff at the small college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, will need to take 10 days of unpaid leave before June 30, according to The Yellow Springs News. That’s the equivalent of an 11 percent pay cut over the next several months, or 3.8 percent of their annual salaries. No jobs are being eliminated.

Antioch has 118 staff members and 31 faculty members, not including adjuncts. The furlough requirement effectively covers all full-time faculty members but less than half of nonfaculty staff members. Adjuncts will not have to take furloughs.

The cuts will not completely eliminate a shortfall in the current budget, Antioch president Tom Manley told The Yellow Springs News. He did not share the size of the college’s current deficit, but it closed its last fiscal year with a $1.73 million gap in a budget of $17.6 million.

Last year’s deficit shrank from $7 million the year before as the college in 2016 put cuts in place that included the elimination of five positions and decreased salaries for 23 administrators.

Antioch enrolls just 133 students after struggling with admissions in the fall. The college, which is attempting to transition from a free model to one where students pay, netted $1.7 million in tuition and fee revenue last year. It relies on gifts for much of its revenue.

Antioch College was closed by Antioch University in 2008, but a group led by alumni purchased the rights to the liberal arts campus and its endowment, reopening the institution in 2011. The college offered full-tuition scholarships for several years after reopening.

Now, it is also looking for savings from its contracts and consultants. The college is searching for attrition opportunities, holding vacant positions open and not filling voluntary leaves and retirements -- implementing a de facto hiring freeze.

At the same time, Antioch leaders are attempting to grow revenue and diversify their sources of income. They will try to find the right balance between fiscal responsibility and reinvention, Manley told The Yellow Springs News.

March 20, 2018

William Strampel, who was dean of the osteopathic medical school at Michigan State University from 2002 until last year, and who was the supervisor of Larry Nassar, told a group in 2016 that he did not believe the complaints of sex abuse that had been filed against Nassar by gymnasts, The Wall Street Journal reported. The article said that his reaction, subject of a written account at the time, raised new questions about the culture at Michigan State with regard to the complaints. Strampel declined to comment.

March 20, 2018

Essex County College, a two-year institution in New Jersey, is cutting 34 positions next year as it deals with decreasing enrollment and scrutiny from its accrediting agency. 

The embattled college remains under probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, its accreditor. 

The layoffs include 20 full-time staff and 14 vacant positions, which are projected to save the college $2.76 million. Essex is also serving 33 percent fewer students today than it did five years ago, according to NJ.com. 

March 20, 2018

Four plaintiffs who attended Corinthian Colleges programs are suing Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education in U.S. district court over a plan to award partial relief of student loan debt to borrowers defrauded or misled by their institutions.

The department in December announced plans to award relief of approved borrower defense to repayment claims based on the earnings of graduates who pursued a particular program of study at career education programs.

The Associated Press reported last week that students who attended Corinthian programs had begun receiving notices of specific award amounts.

The plaintiffs asked the court to order the Department of Education to grant complete loan relief to borrowers with approved claims and argued that its use of the earnings formula violates the Administrative Procedure Act and constitutes "arbitrary and capricious" rule making.

The plaintiffs are represented by Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending and Housing and Economic Rights Advocates.


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