University absorbs cost of missing federal aid for online program

The University of Wisconsin (UW) System’s new and much-touted Flexible Option online degree program launched last week without the federal financial aid promised to students.

A University of Wisconsin student studies on her laptop.

UW System officials acknowledged that they knew about the issue privately for months but forged ahead because they thought it would be resolved before the launch.

Three weeks ago, with the matter still up in the air, they decided to absorb the cost of financial assistance that students would normally qualify for under federal rules.

The in-house financial assistance will continue until the issue is ironed out with the U.S. Department of Education, according to UW System officials.…Read More

Private universities: Online college rankings’ laggards

The 2014 U.S. News college rankings drive home a point trumpeted by many in higher education last year: Public universities are well ahead of their private counterparts in online education.

Two in 10 fully online college students attend private universities.

A perusal of the U.S. News rankings, released Jan. 8, shows that public campuses dominate the top of nearly every category. One would have to look well down the list of top online bachelor degree programs to find a private school in the ranks.

The same goes with graduate business programs, where Indiana University at Bloomington led the way, and graduate education programs, a category led by Northern Illinois University.

U.S. News announced that it had changed its college rankings methodologies to emphasize one-year retention rates and include peer-review data based on universities’ evaluations of each other.…Read More

Universities brace for another year of security breaches

A Montreal student was expelled in fall 2012 after discovering a security flaw in his college’s computer system – a flaw, he said, that could have easily exposed the data of thousands of students.

security-breach-universityAt first, Hamed Al-Khabaz said he didn’t realize the seriousness of his actions.

He thought he was helping, he said, by following up on a hole he had previously reported to his college. But then the phone rang. The president of Skytech Communications, the maker of the system called Omnivex, was on the line.

While the company decided against any criminal charges and even later offered Al-Khabaz a scholarship, the student was expelled from Dawson College soon after.…Read More

Higher Education’s Big (Data) Bang: Part One

At a conference in October devoted to exploring the perks of Big Data in higher education, the event’s keynote speaker had a surprisingly contrarian take on the subject.

Universities are investing millions in Big Data.

“Big Data is bull—,” Harper Reed, the chief technology officer of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, said to an audience that included many campus IT officials hoping to learn more about Big Data’s benefits.

Reed, who used the power of data to help Obama secure reelection, said the term is just a marketing tool meant to drive college and university IT officials toward expensive technologies for storing and analyzing data.

If true, it’s a PR move that’s working.…Read More