Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 25, 2018

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is in his last year in office, and he got in some swipes at higher education during a speech Wednesday at the California Chamber of Commerce. "What I like about Chipotle is the limited menu. You stand in the line, get either brown rice or white rice, black beans or pinto beans. You put a little cheese, a little this, a little that, and you're out of there. I think that's a model some of our universities need to follow," Brown said, according to an account in The Sacramento Bee. He said that if universities would adopt a "limited-menu concept, everyone would graduate on time."

Brown said that the abundance of course offerings hurts graduation rates. "They have so damn many courses because all these professors want to teach one of their pet little projects, but then you get thousands and thousands of courses, and then the basic courses aren't available. It takes kids six years instead of four years," he said.


May 25, 2018

The University of Chicago has agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle a class action alleging that it failed its fiduciary duty to employees in ways that forced them to pay excessive fees in their retirement plan, Investment News reported.

A St. Louis law firm has brought similar lawsuits against 19 major universities in the last two years, and Chicago is the first institution to have settled one of them. The complaints center around 403(b) defined-contribution retirement savings plans that are similar to the better-known 401(k) but are available for nonprofit institutions.

Generally, the suits allege that universities offered employees too many investment options in their retirement plans, which can confuse employees and also result in higher fees. Arguments also include that universities did not swap out expensive and poor-performing investments for better options and that higher-fee retail-class funds were available instead of a menu made up of only less expensive institutional funds.

In a memo recommending the settlement, the plaintiffs in the Chicago case called it "fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interests of Class members," providing a "substantial and immediate benefit to them in the form of a multi-million dollar cash payment." After legal fees, the settlement funds will be distributed to people who participated in the pension plan from May 2011 through this month.

A statement released by the university and the plaintiffs Thursday said that Chicago denies allegations that the plaintiffs paid excessive fees and insists that its conduct was proper.

May 25, 2018

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which oversees the country's higher ed accrediting bodies, voted Thursday to have a subcommittee study oversight questions involved in for-profit colleges seeking to reclassify as nonprofit entities. 

The decision followed several hours of input from organizations critical of for-profits schools as well as representatives from the sector. Critics have argued institutions -- among them Ashford University, Grand Canyon University, and others -- have sought to reclassify their tax status so they can avoid scrutiny and regulation without fundamentally changing their governance structures.

Congressional Democrats had pressured NACIQI members to examine standards for the conversions as accreditors are one of several regulatory bodies that must approve the applications. 

"If nobody else is doing something, we need to figure out what we can do, if anything, to try to fix this — improve this situation," said John Etchemendy, a former Stanford University provost and NACIQI committee member. "If nothing else, its a consumer protection issue. It's a transparency issue. It's an integrity issue." 

Etchemendy though said the committee was not prepared to figure out what steps to take this week and proposed a subcommittee to make possible recommendations on the matter. 

May 25, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute: Kaitlin Woolley, assistant professor of marketing at the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, looks into how information avoidance can influence how you make your decisions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 24, 2018

New details are emerging about allegations of abuse of students over many years by a campus gynecologist at the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reported that numerous former students have come forward to say that they warned USC years ago about the abuse, and that the university ignored their complaints. "They missed an opportunity to save a lot of other women from his mistreatment," said one former student.

The university's Academic Senate has joined other groups in calling for the resignation of President C.L. Max Nikias. Critics note a series of incidents in which allegations of misconduct by USC officials appear to have been ignored.


May 24, 2018

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Texas, announced Wednesday that Paige Patterson was stepping down as president. The seminary's statement did not highlight the recent criticism Patterson has received over a series of statements and actions he took or is alleged to have taken with regard to women and sexual assault or sexual harassment. Among those comments are that women in seminaries need to work hard to become attractive, and that women should almost always stay with their husbands. The Washington Post reported this week that when Patterson was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in North Carolina, he allegedly told a woman who said she had been raped not to report her allegations to police and instead to forgive the man who assaulted her. Among those speaking out against Patterson have been Baptist women who organized a petition drive contesting his views.




May 24, 2018

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation,  "Grading: Frustrations and Ideas." You may download a copy free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet, on Tuesday, June 19 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

May 24, 2018

Western Governors University is a fully online, competency based institution that now enrolls about 100,000 students. The nonprofit on Thursday announced the creation of a new fund-raising arm that will seek to pay for scholarships for students to attend WGU and to "accelerate innovation on behalf of our students," Allison Barber, the chancellor of WGU Indiana, who will lead the new WGU Advancement, said in a web video.

The fund-raising organization will work with foundations, corporations, associations and individual donors to raise money, WGU said. Early supporters include the Strada Education Network and the Lumina Foundation.

May 24, 2018

Nine U.S. colleges and universities have agreed to start a national scholarship program for international students in what organizers are billing as a next iteration of the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign. 

The #YouAreWecomeHere campaign emerged after the election of President Trump as a social media campaign intended to send a welcoming message to international students. Now organizers of the campaign are asking universities to consider attaching dollars to the sentiment for a scholarship campaign of the same name to launch in fall 2019.

Temple University is organizing the scholarship campaign, which the university said it is starting along with Concordia College, in Minnesota, Eastern Michigan University, James Madison University, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Purdue University Northwest, Seattle University, Shoreline Community College, and Western New England University.

Other colleges interested in participating in the campaign can find more information here. Participating institutions commit to offering an annual, renewable scholarship covering a minimum of 50 percent of the recipient's tuition. 



May 24, 2018

Undergraduate enrollment in the United States, widely measured as decreasing for the last six straight years, fell by more than half a percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016, according to newly released data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The new federal data report shows that the total number of students enrolled in college nationally declined from 17 million to 16.9 million during that same period.

The percentage decline was nearly twice as much during the following academic year (meaning total enrollment during the year as compared to just the fall), falling from 20.0 million from 2015-2016 to 19.8 million from 2016-2017.

The figures were among the highlights of The Condition of Education 2018, a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing the latest statistical information on education in the United States.

The number of degree-granting institutions that enrolled first-year undergraduates also fell along with the number of students, according to the report. There were 4,147 such institutions during 2015-2016 but the number dropped to 3,895 during 2016-2017.

The report, which is used by policy makers and others to monitor educational progress, noted slight upticks in undergraduate retention and graduation rates. The retention rate for first-time undergraduates at four-year institutions was 80.8 percent in 2015-2016 compared to 80.7 percent in 2014-2015. (At two year institutions the rate was 62.3 percent in 2015-2016 compared to 61.3 percent in 2014-2015.)  


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