Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 23, 2023

Kentucky State University’s finances are “chaotic” and lacking in “effective safeguards and responsible management,” according to a state report released Wednesday.

The audit revealed rampant overspending, a lack of financial controls and inconsistent processes and procedures that placed millions of dollars in federal funding at risk. Former staff members also reportedly misled KSU administrators and the Board of Trustees about university finances, failing to report $15 million in expenditures carried over from one year to the next.

More than $1.3 million in credit card transactions had little or no documentation, the report found. COVID-19 relief funds and grants for the historically Black university were also reportedly misused.

Douglas Allen, the executive vice president of finance until 2021, was also found to be employed at both KSU and Tennessee State University between May and June of 2021, violating the university’s conflict of commitment policy. Allen reportedly did not cooperate with investigations into long-standing financial concerns at Kentucky State and directed staff not to cooperate, either, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Allen is currently listed as vice president of business and finance in the Tennessee State employee directory.

State officials have referred the findings of the report to state and federal prosecutors.

March 23, 2023

A second student this year died by suicide in the same classroom building at the University of Houston, Chron.com reported.

Renu Khator, the president at Houston, shut down Agnes Arnold Hall after the second death and moved classes held there to remote learning for now.

“While we have shut down activities including classes in Agnes Arnold for now, we still need to sit down with students, faculty and staff in the coming weeks to seriously consider our options in regard to the building … I recognize mental health is posing serious challenges on campuses nationwide, including our own,” Khator said.

Many students are angry at Khator because the language she used in announcing the second suicide was similar to her announcement of the first.

“The same exact message as last time,” said one on Twitter. “Are y’all not embarrassed?”

A petition signed by more than 2,300 people said Agnes Arnold is the only building on campus with open verandas on every floor. “Continual refusal to modify the building as it currently exists makes the university not only negligent but complicit in these students’ deaths,” the petition said.

March 23, 2023

The University of Phoenix has received more GI Bill funding than any other higher education institution, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Between 2013 and 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs gave the for-profit institution $1.6 billion in funds for students who enrolled in online or in-person classes.

While the University of Phoenix remains among the top recipients of GI Bill funds, its annual cut has shrunk, from $391 million in fiscal year 2013–14 to $73 million in 2020–21. In 2021–22, the total fell to $69 million, which was still more than any other institution received—even though it ranked fifth for the number of GI Bill students enrolled, according to USA Today.

Seven of the top 10 recipients of GI Bill funding are for-profits, two are private and one is a public university, the newspaper reported.

“These large for-profit college chains have massive recruiting efforts focused on veterans,” Carrie Wofford, president of the advocacy group Veterans Education Success, told USA Today. “They hire lots of salesmen and hold lots of events on military bases in order to target the GI Bill money, which these companies call a ‘gravy train,’ as one whistle-blower told the Senate.”

The University of Phoenix, like other large for-profit institutions, specializes in online learning, which the VA favors because it makes education accessible to more students.

“This may be a more important determinant than profit status for the amounts of benefits paid,” VA spokesperson Gina Jackson told USA Today

The University of Phoenix has come under fire from the federal government in the past for defying bans on recruiting on military bases and misleading students about job prospects.

It is presently considering a potential acquisition by the University of Arkansas System, which would give the University of Phoenix nonprofit status, thereby reducing the extent of its federal oversight. (This paragraph has been updated to reflect the correct  name of the potential merger partner.)

March 23, 2023

A new “meta-analysis” published in The Journal of Higher Education suggests that the Graduate Record Examination is losing its significance.

“Overall, 61.6 percent of reported effects were nonsignificant (i.e. no predictive value of GRE scores on student outcomes),” the study found. “Further, the magnitude of observed predictive relationships decreased significantly over time. The aggregate mean effect across all studies and outcomes was small, significant, and positive: GRE score predicted 2.25 percent of variance across measured outcomes, 4 percent of variance in overall [grade point average], and 2.56 percent of variance in first-year graduate GPA. Sample composition effects by race/ethnicity were notable but nonsignificant, with increasing proportions of people of color within a study sample associated with poorer predictive validity. Likewise, the magnitude of negative effects where lower GRE scores predicted stronger student outcomes increased from 0.16 percent of variance for all-white samples to 5.3 percent for samples comprised entirely of people of color.”

Alberto Acereda, associate vice president of global higher education at the Educational Testing Service, which offers the GRE, said, “ETS continues to stand behind the undeniable value of the GRE test when used as part of a holistic admissions process. There have been countless of studies over the last many decades that speak to the test’s predictive value. Specific to this study, it is worth noting that ETS has never claimed the GRE predicts a student’s GPA beyond their first year. We also believe that some of the authors’ interpretations of their own findings are subject to debate. The GRE has and continues to play an important role in the graduate admissions process as the lone standardized data point of a larger picture of an applicant.”

March 23, 2023

In three decades as the chief lobbyist for the American Council on Education, Terry W. Hartle had a front-row seat for just about every important federal policy discussion that affected colleges, their students and their employees. He retired this winter after 30 years as senior vice president for government and public affairs at ACE, the higher ed association that tries to present a coherent front in advocating for higher education.

In a new episode of The Key, Inside Higher Ed’s news and analysis podcast, Hartle discusses the partisanship and inertia that afflicts today’s politics, politicians’ increased questioning and oversight of higher education, and the implications for colleges, their employees and their students.  

Listen to this episode here, and find out more about The Key here. will add link to episode once it's loaded. thanks.

March 23, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Ted Hadzi-Antich Jr., associate professor of government at Austin Community College, explores one way to help community college students answer questions about their futures. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 22, 2023

West Texas A&M University’s president canceled a drag show that was scheduled to take place on the campus and criticized the event as being demeaning to women, according to ABC 7 News.

“As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” President Walter Wendler wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff members. “Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong.”

The email was titled “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing” and was in response to the drag show scheduled for March 31, ABC7 news reported. The show was planned as a fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization that provides information and support to LGBTQ youth.

“Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent,” Wendler wrote in the email. “No one should claim a right to contribute to women’s suffering via a slapstick sideshow that erodes the worth of women.”

Community members started a petition on Change.org calling for the reinstatement of the drag show, according to local news outlet MyHighPlains. The petition states that “The shunning of this performance constitutes an indirect attack on the LGBT+, feminist and activist communities of the WTAMU student body by targeting an event that is meant to support an LGBT+ charity.” Nearly 4,500 people had signed it as of late Tuesday afternoon.

March 22, 2023

Scripps College president Suzanne Keen is out after less than a year on the job.

Keen announced Tuesday that she was resigning from the presidency, which she assumed in July.

“In conversation with Board leadership, I have made the decision to step down as president of Scripps College. I am very sorry for the disappointment that this news causes,” Keen said in a statement, which did not specify her reason for leaving the post at the women’s college in California. The statement noted that she would continue on as an English professor.

Keen’s LinkedIn profile was updated Tuesday to note her departure and return to teaching. She will join the faculty ranks at Scripps following a sabbatical, the statement concluded.

Scripps College officials did not provide additional details on her resignation Tuesday.

March 22, 2023

Gardner-Webb University has removed O. Max Gardner III from its Board of Trustees. Fellow board members kicked him off for allegedly making threats and other misconduct, Queen City News reported.

Gardner-Webb University is named for former North Carolina governor O. Max Gardner and his wife, Fay Webb-Gardner—grandparents of the since-removed trustee, who shares a name with the former governor—who devoted time and resources to the Baptist university in the 1940s.

Gardner III has been accused of threatening to shoot a contractor and university tenant; threatening the university president and other employees; and “engaging in a relentless campaign of lies and innuendo designed to unfairly attack, threaten, defame and undermine the university, President [Kim] Downs, fellow trustees, and others who work tirelessly to serve students and the university’s Christian Mission,” according to a university spokesperson.

Gardner III did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

March 22, 2023

Rice University issued a strong defense of its affirmative action efforts, even as the Supreme Court is preparing to decide whether affirmative action is legal.

“At Rice, diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence underscores everything we do. They are foundational values of the university that we are committed to as a community and believe are essential to our continued success,” wrote President Reginald DesRoches, Provost Amy Dittmar and Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alex Byrd.

“Like many in the higher education community, the Rice administration is closely following the affirmative action cases before the Supreme Court. Rulings are expected this spring or summer, and while it would be premature for us to speculate or comment before we know the outcomes, we write to you today to affirm Rice’s commitment to uphold diversity, equity and inclusion as a core part of our educational experience and research mission, and our commitment to excellence,” they wrote. “Our admissions office and general counsel are preparing for various outcomes. We will strive to do all we can, within the bounds of the law, to continue to recruit and retain a widely diverse student body. Rice’s student body, faculty and staff are a multicultural reflection of the world, and our goal every year is to enroll a diverse class of the most talented students as well as hire and retain faculty and staff from across the country and around the globe.”


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