Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 14, 2018

Cloud software company Kuali has raised $10 million in funding from ed-tech venture capital fund Owl Ventures.

Joel Dehlin, CEO of Kuali, said that the $10 million investment would help Kuali accelerate development of its cloud-based software. The company offers open-source software for research management, financial management and business continuity planning, as well as a student information system.

Kuali became a for-profit company in 2014, having started as a nonprofit, university-led initiative in 2005. With the investment from Owl Ventures, Dehlin said, he plans to expand Kuali’s 70-strong work force and “put fuel on the fire.”

Vicki Tambellini, president and CEO of higher education consulting company the Tambellini Group, said the investment was “positive news” for universities. “Institutions want more options for modern student cloud solutions at predictable cost,” she said.

Phil Hill, co-founder of Mindwires Consulting and co-publisher of the e-Literate blog, noted that, previously, Kuali said it would not seek venture capital. Though Hill agreed that faster development is a good thing, he said he would like to know why the company decided to change course.

February 14, 2018

A second federal district court has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants protection against deportation and work authorization to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, including many college students. In September, the Trump administration announced plans to end the program as of March 5, but a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a temporary nationwide injunction in January that ordered the government to largely reinstate DACA pending the resolution of court challenges.

Tuesday’s ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York similarly orders the Trump administration to maintain the DACA program largely as it existed on Sept. 4 -- prior to the issuance of a memo ending it -- pending a decision on the merits of the cases. Under the terms of the preliminary injunction, the government must continue processing DACA applications, but is not required to consider new applications from individuals who never previously received DACA. 

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis wrote that it is “indisputable” the government can end the DACA program -- which was established in 2012 by former president Obama -- but that it did not offer “legally adequate reasons” for doing so.

“First, the decision to end the DACA program appears to rest exclusively on a legal conclusion that the program was unconstitutional and violated the [Administrative Procedure Act] and [Immigration and Nationality Act],” Garaufis wrote. “Because that conclusion was erroneous, the decision to end the DACA program cannot stand. Second, this erroneous conclusion appears to have relied in part on the plainly incorrect factual premise that courts have recognized 'constitutional defects' in the somewhat analogous Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents ('DAPA') program. Third, Defendants' decision appears to be internally contradictory, as the means by which Defendants chose to 'wind down' the program (namely, by continuing to adjudicate certain DACA renewal applications) cannot be reconciled with their stated rationale for ending the program (namely, that DACA was unconstitutional). Any of these flaws would support invalidating the DACA rescission as arbitrary and capricious.”

Reuters reported that the Supreme Court is expected to consider this week whether to take up the Trump administration's appeal of the first of the two injunctions. The court could announce its decision as early as Friday.

February 14, 2018

The University of Notre Dame’s president delivered an unusually harsh rebuke of the National Collegiate Athletic Association after it denied the institution’s appeal on an academic fraud case.

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions found that a Notre Dame athletics trainer had helped football players cheat, and ordered 21 of the program’s victories from the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons vacated.

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s Infractions Appeal Committee rejected the university’s appeal, prompting a lengthy statement from the university's president, the Reverend John I. Jenkins.

Jenkins refers to the NCAA’s decision as a “dangerous precedent” that “turns the seminal concept of academic autonomy on its head.”

“We believe strongly that a university should make decisions core to its academic mission without having to factor in the possible consequences of an athletic association,” Jenkins said in his statement. “The NCAA has not chosen to ignore academic autonomy; it has instead perverted it by divorcing it from its logical and necessary connection to the underlying educational purpose.”

He also references the recent decision by the NCAA not to punish the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for sponsoring nearly two decades of fake courses largely taken advantage of by athletes to remain eligible. The Committee on Infractions, in a widely criticized decision, said then it could not definitively prove the classes were set up solely for the benefit of athletes, with the NCAA accused in that case of being toothless.

“The notion that a university’s exercise of academic autonomy can under NCAA rules lead to exoneration—or to a severe penalty—without regard to the way in which it is used defies logic and any notion of fundamental fairness,” Jenkins said.

February 14, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Billy J. Stratton, associate professor of English at the University of Denver, explores how literature has been warning about sexual violence in Hollywood for decades. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 14, 2018

Belmont University president Bob Fisher and O'More College of Design president Shari Fox announce Belmont's acquisition of O'More.Belmont University is acquiring the O’More College of Design, the two institutions announced Tuesday.

O’More’s programs will be relocated a›bout 20 miles from Franklin, Tenn., to Belmont’s campus in Nashville. It will be called the O’More School of Design at Belmont University and open on the university’s campus in the fall.

The acquisition will extend financial stability, additional resources and a broad reach from Belmont to O’More, the institutions said in a news release. They highlighted campus housing opportunities, study abroad programs, career development resources and more general education courses as benefits for students.

O’More is a four-year institution with degrees in fashion design, fashion merchandising, graphic design and interior design. It enrolls about 150 students. Belmont is a regional Christian liberal arts university that has grown from about 3,000 students in 2000 to more than 8,000 students today.

Last year O’More parted ways with President David Rosen after about two years. The college of design is financially stable but considered its long-term future before agreeing to the acquisition, current president Shari Fox told The Tennessean. Belmont president Bob Fisher said his university paid no money for O’More but is acquiring both its assets and liabilities.

It’s not yet clear what will happen to O’More’s seven-acre campus or 28 staff members. Its students will be able to move to Belmont with the institution.

The acquisition follows another college contraction in the Nashville area. In March, Aquinas College announced cuts to several programs, layoffs, the elimination of residential housing and the end of student life activities amid a shift in focus back to its roots training teachers for classrooms in Catholic schools.

February 13, 2018

A year ago, Case Western unveiled a mural designed to celebrate women in science and engineering fields. But Cleveland.com reported that the mural, featuring a comic-book style design, offended some women, who didn't like the way women were portrayed. As a result, the university will rotate murals, painting over the mural that has received a mixed reception, so different images can be used for the same purpose.

February 13, 2018

A new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research argues that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had a “significant impact” on the educational and life decisions of undocumented immigrant youth, resulting in a 45 percent decrease in teen birth rates, a 15 percent increase in high school graduation rates and a 20 percent increase in college enrollment rates. The researchers found differential effects by gender, with most of the gains in college enrollment concentrated among women. For men alone, the effect of DACA on college enrollment was not statistically significant.

DACA, which was established by former president Obama in 2012, gave certain undocumented immigrant students who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children temporary protection from deportation and authorization to work in the U.S. DACA recipients have faced uncertainty over their future since September, when President Trump announced plans to end the program after six months.

“Our main conclusion from this paper is that future labor market opportunities or just opportunities in general really matter,” said Elira Kuka, one of the authors of the paper, titled “Do Human Capital Decisions Respond to the Returns to Education? Evidence From DACA,” and an assistant professor of economics at Southern Methodist University.

“People are worried, ‘Why are there some populations that are not going to high school and not investing in education?’” Kuka said. “Maybe the reason is they don’t see improved opportunities -- but if they see improved labor outcomes they will actually invest in their education.”

The paper notes that previous studies found no or negative effects of DACA on college attendance. Kuka said that these earlier studies were limited to the population of individuals who already graduated from high school, whereas their study also looked at the effect of DACA in incentivizing students to finish high school and therefore be eligible for college entry. Another way their study differed, Kuka said, is that she and her fellow researchers focused on a younger group of individuals who are traditionally high school or college age.

February 13, 2018

Professors at Utah Valley University are asking the institution for more transparency about how it assesses sabbatical applications in the wake of enrollment growth. In an open letter to administrators, 60 professors say that five of eight sabbatical applications from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences were rejected in January on the grounds that only one sabbatical could be granted per department due to resource constraints and enrollment increases. One of those decisions was later reversed, but the professors say that based on such a model, each faculty member in a large department could expect to go on sabbatical every 45 years, while one in a smaller department could take a sabbatical every five years.

Scott Trotter, university spokesperson, told the Daily Herald that faculty comments and concerns “are being considered carefully and we will reach out to our faculty members to address them directly.” Utah Valley’s sabbatical policy says that tenured professors who have been teaching for six years may take leave every six years if their applications are approved, “subject to availability of funds and suitable instructional replacements.” But professors say sabbatical applications have historically been assessed by their research merit and that changing how the policy is applied now pits research against teaching, to the university’s detriment.

February 13, 2018

A U.S. magistrate judge has recommended that a student accused of sexual assault at James Madison University be awarded nearly $850,000 after he successfully sued the institution.

The student, called John Doe in court filings, sued the university in 2015 after he was found responsible for sexual assault.

A university panel initially considered him not responsible, but his accuser, called Jane Doe in court documents, appealed that decision -- John Doe was then suspended until the spring 2020 semester and barred from campus.

John Doe filed a lawsuit, alleging his 14th Amendment due process rights had been violated. A federal district court judge ruled in his favor last year, ordering that James Madison reinstate him. The student chose not to re-enroll in the university, according to a university spokesman. If he had returned to the university, he could have been subject to another hearing and disciplined for the alleged assault. 

The magistrate judge has recommended the court give John Doe a total of $849,231 -- roughly $795,691 in attorney’s fees and about $53,539 in litigation costs -- a surprisingly large payment.

The university intends to object to the recommendation, the spokesman said. 

The court’s ruling follows a trend of an increasing number of male students accused of sexual assault who have pursued court action against colleges and won. 

February 13, 2018

The American Bar Association panel that accredits law schools has proposed loosening its restrictions on online education.

Currently, the rules of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar say that no more than 15 of an ABA-accredited law school's required credits can be completed in distance learning courses, defined as those in which at least a third of the course work is done online. Most law school programs include between 83 and 90 credits over all. The ABA has in recent years granted (and rejected) several law schools' requests for variances from the restriction on online courses.

Under the proposal initially approved by the ABA council last week, students could earn up to a third of their credits (between 28 and 30) in distance courses. The ABA proposal would also allow first-year law students to take up to 10 credits online; law schools are now barred from offering distance education to first-year students.

The proposal and other possible changes to the ABA's accreditation standards will be discussed at a public hearing in April, possibly finalized by the ABA council in May and then ratified by the full ABA House of Delegates in August.

At its meeting last week, the ABA council also approved Syracuse University College of Law's request that it be granted an exception to the ABA limit on online courses -- an earlier request had been denied.

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