Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Nine in 10 students in California's unaccredited law schools drop out, The Los Angeles Times reported. California is among the few states with many unaccredited law schools, in large part because the state is unusual in allowing graduates of unaccredited institutions to sit for the bar. Most but not all of the unaccredited colleges are for-profit.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Spelman College announced Friday that it is discontinuing an endowed professorship named for Bill Cosby and his wife. "The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship at Spelman College has been discontinued and related funds have been returned to the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation," said a statement from the college. A spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Bill and Camille Cosby are major donors to Spelman, and an academic building is named for Camille Cosby. The Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation was created by Bill Cosby to provide grants to historically black colleges. Spelman has faced criticism from some of its own students and alumnae for not moving quickly to sever Cosby ties amid the scandal as more and more women accused him of drugging them and having sex with them without their consent. Recently released depositions have indicated that Cosby admitted to such conduct.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of California is about to start accepting letters of recommendation for undergraduate applicants. Most highly competitive private institutions do so (and many require such letters), as do many public flagships. Berkeley will accept one letter from a teacher and one from someone else for each applicant. In an essay in The Los Angeles Times, Ben Wildavsky notes some of the discussion about this new policy. Some see it as an end run around California's ban on considering race in admissions, since letter writers may play up the disadvantages faced by black and Latino applicants. Others, however, think the letters may favor those who are wealthy and well connected, and who may be more likely to attend high schools where teachers have lots of experience in writing such letters, and time to do so.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks first removed the state flag of Mississippi and then restored it to a display of state flags. The flag (at right) was removed because it contains the Confederate battle flag in one corner. In a statement on Facebook, Chancellor Brian Rogers explained both the decision to remove and restore the flag.

"I decided to remove the Mississippi flag from the display of state flags in Cornerstone Plaza. I made the decision because I thought it was inappropriate for a campus that values diversity to display a flag that many see as a symbol of racism. This is not an issue of individual freedom of speech; any individual can express their opinions on this campus. The flags in Cornerstone Plaza are displayed by the institution, not an individual," he wrote. "People have strong opinions on both sides of this issue. The tone and content of some of the responses I received this week have convinced me that it is in the best interest of UAF to return the Mississippi flag to the Circle of Flags, but I do so reluctantly. I encourage members of the campus community to continue a reasoned dialogue on symbols and other manifestations of racism in our community and throughout the United States. I hope that similar discussions nationwide will help the Mississippi speaker be successful in his efforts to change their state flag."

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The Florida Board of Education approved a new performance funding system for its state colleges, most of which are former community colleges, that will determine how to award $40 million to the institutions. The plan resembles a larger performance plan that started last year for the state's universities. The colleges are scored in four categories: completion, retention, job placement and continuing education for graduates, and entry-level wages for graduates. Completion and retention rates will initially be weighed more heavily than the other two categories.

There was some concern from the state's education commissioner that the new performance formula didn't include a measurement for students who receive federal need-based financial aid.

Seven colleges will receive existing funding and a higher share of new money. They are State College of Florida, and Santa Fe, Valencia, Tallahassee Community, Lake-Sumter State, Gulf Coast State, Manatee-Sarasota and Florida SouthWestern State Colleges. Five institutions will not receive any new funding and will have some existing dollars held back until they show improvements. Those colleges are College of Central Florida, Pasco-Hernando State, Daytona State, Northwest Florida State and Pensacola State colleges. Sixteen other colleges will receive existing and some performance funding.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 4:29am

The British government is planning a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union, prompting leaders of British universities to start Universities for Europe to encourage British voters to keep the country in the E.U. British academic leaders fear a loss of E.U. funding for research, and also a lessening of the collaboration between academics in Britain and the rest of Europe. Julia Goodfellow, vice chancellor at the University of Kent and president elect of Universities UK, plans to give a speech today calling for universities to “stand up and be counted” in the referendum on the E.U., Times Higher Education reported.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Japan's Defense Ministry has announced plans, for the first time, to support research at the country's universities, The Japan Times reported. Such support has been considered taboo for years, given concerns ever since World War II about the military's role in civilian society.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Diane Peters, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering University, discusses her work on autonomously piloted vehicles. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, July 24, 2015 - 3:00am

Donald Trump, a Republican candidate for president, on Thursday criticized the federal government for earning a profit on the federal student loan program.

“That’s probably one of the only things the government shouldn’t make money off -- I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans,” Trump said in an interview with The Hill. He said that college students are “swimming in these loans.”

“I’ll see so many young people and they work really hard for four years,” Trump told the newspaper. “They borrowed money. Their parents don’t have much. They work all together and they mortgage their future.”

Trump’s position aligns with that of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, who frequently criticizes the profits the government makes on federal student loans. The Government Accountability Office estimated that the federal student loans given out between 2007 and 2012 are on track to produce $66 billion in profit for the government.

Many Republicans have also called for changes to accounting rules that would result in the federal student loan program being booked as a cost to taxpayers.

Friday, July 24, 2015 - 3:00am

The federal panel charged with advising the U.S. Department of Education on accreditation is calling on policy makers to give it the final authority to decide which accrediting agencies deserve the federal government's recognition.

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity currently only makes recommendations to the education secretary about whether an accreditor meets the federal standards to be a gatekeeper of federal funds. The secretary then gets to make the final call.

But in a set of policy recommendations published online Thursday, the 18-member panel said that it should be “the final decision-making authority on accrediting agency recognition.”

The panel, often referred to as NACIQI, also wants greater power to force accreditors to focus more on student learning and student outcomes. It recommended that policy makers streamline the federal standards for accrediting agencies and establish different tiers of accreditation (as opposed to the current all-or-nothing approach). In addition, the panel said that accreditation reports about institutions should be made available to the public.

The final recommendations come after the panel circulated a draft document last December. The panel previously made policy recommendations for changing how the federal government handles accreditation in 2011 and 2012, but the Education Department asked members of the committee to issue new recommendations as Congress gears up to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. 


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