Notes & Coffee: December 11 - 17

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.  

Final GOP deal would tax large endowments – A proposal to tax some large private college endowments made it into the final version of a tax reform bill agreed to by House and Senate negotiators this week. The provision matches the more modest proposal included in the Senate tax bill passed this month, rather than a House proposal that would have affected many more institutions. But many college leaders have said the tax is bad policy and sets a dangerous precedent. At the same time, many provisions in the tax legislation that alarmed colleges and students were left out of the final bill.

“Too much, too fast”? – The Republican-led Congress's early attempt at rewriting the federal Higher Education Act uses incentives and deregulation to encourage new twists on college, including competency-based education, short-term programs and nonaccredited providers. Experts continue to absorb details about the complex bill from Republican leaders on the U.S. House of Representatives’ education committee, which on Tuesday voted to pass a 590-page version. Some applauded the innovation push but worry about the bill’s lack of “guardrails” that seek to keep low-quality offerings in check.

Grand jury report on Penn State hazing finds “indignities and depravities” – A grand jury tasked with investigating broad issues of hazing at Penn State has issued a blistering report asserting that leaders at the university were well aware of pervasive misbehavior in the Greek system and failed to take action. Penn State, responding in court, said that the university has "shown an unwavering commitment to promoting safety and accountability" and that alcohol abuse at college is a "national problem," not a university-specific one.

More college presidents join the millionaires’ club – The chief executives of 59 private colleges and seven public universities took home more than $1 million in total compensation in 2015, according to an analysis released this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Besides being eye-popping — and a record — the figure is notable for another reason: Congressional Republicans are trying to target this millionaires' club with a special tax. Under proposals in both the U.S. House and Senate, tax-exempt organizations would pay a 20 percent excise tax on the salaries of their five top earners, provided those employees earn in excess of, you guessed it, $1 million.

Bottom line up front – Ten institutions on Thursday announced their commitment to providing life sciences Ph.D. students -- current and future ones -- transparent data on admissions, training opportunities and career outcomes. Most students aren't going to end up in faculty jobs, and the founding members of the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science want potential trainees to know that up front. 

More Notes

An administrator says #MeToo

Gender gap in academic seminar questions

Is anyone reading this headline?

When students are fair game

Teen’s dramatic video, revealing his acceptance by Harvard, charms Internet