In the prevailing climate of recent Congresses, dominated by the push for belt tightening and the shift of power to the states, college officials and other beneficiaries of federal funds tend to shudder when lawmakers use the words "streamline" or "consolidate" to refer to key programs. Too often, the officials fear, the words "eliminate" or "reduce" will follow at some later date.
The Education Department's proposal to start charging a variable interest rate instead of a fixed, low rate to borrowers who combine multiple federal student loans into one is a "viable option for reducing federal costs" in student loan programs, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a February letter to Republican lawmakers, who had requested the review.
For months now, Brandeis professors have been riled by the possibility that key liberal arts programs -- including instruction in ancient Greek -- would be eliminated. Now the dean who put those ideas up for consideration has withdrawn them.
Adam Jaffe, dean of arts and sciences, recently told faculty members that they no longer needed to view these ideas as being under active consideration. Linguistics and a music composition program also faced elimination and several other departments faced possible reductions in size.
American higher education, long the envy of the world, faces such serious problems -- especially with graduation rates -- that its position is vulnerable, says a report being released today.
The report calls for the creation of new accountability systems in higher education to track problems and progress, and to help lawmakers focus necessary attention on weaknesses. At the same time, the report says that many current accountability systems do little good and end up wasting time and money.