Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

The Graduate Management Admission Council announced a new campaign Friday to recruit more black students into M.B.A. programs and to help them do well on the GMAT, the admissions test sponsored by the council and used for most M.B.A. programs. The mean score of black students taking the GMAT -- 434 -- is about 100 points lower than the mean for all test takers. The council is starting a series of programs, including the distribution of test preparation materials to historically black colleges and a pledge to those colleges that it will waive fees for any of their student who want to take the test but feel unable to do so for financial reasons.

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

Borrowers with lower total educational debt were much likelier to borrow private student loans instead of Stafford loans than were peers with more debt, as were students at public two-year colleges, according to a new analysis of private student loan borrowers. The analysis, by the financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, aims to shed new light on the reasons why some students who might qualify for federal student loans opt instead for costlier and riskier alternative loans.

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new solution to the budget problems at California's community colleges: more part-time instructors. The governor has asked legislators to suspend for five years state requirements that 50 percent of a community college district's educational expenditures be used for instructors' salaries, and that set a goal that 75 percent of instructional hours be taught by full-time faculty members, The Sacramento Bee reported. The community college system is currently facing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts -- with the prospect of turning students away all over the state. The California Federation of Teachers, the largest union of community college faculty members, is opposing the idea. Fred Glass, a spokesman for the union, told the Bee: "Nothing the governor says these days surprises us. He seems to be using this [fiscal crisis] as an opportunity to slash-and-burn education."

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department on Friday said that its primary grant program to stimulate higher education innovation would focus this year on community college programs designed to help adult students and displaced workers. In an announcement in the Federal Register, the Education Department said it would give special priority in this year's grant competition in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to "innovative strategies to benefit working adults and displaced workers who are pursuing degrees or credentials in community colleges," including those that improve "academic remediation; tutoring; academic and personal counseling; registration processes; students' course selection and scheduling; instructional delivery, student support services related to childcare," or other purposes.

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

A new report by Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition of groups opposed to David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" and similar measures, argues that the entire movement is built on false premises and is designed to attack higher education. The report, "Manufactured Controversy," notes that legislative successes for this movement have been minimal, but that the effort still needs scrutiny. "Fortunately, the work of these conservative critics of higher education has been repulsed. Each and every legislative attempt to circumscribe the free exchange of ideas has met stiff resistance and ultimately failed, while legal and institutional attempts have offered nothing more than Pyrrhic victories," the report says. "Even as the threat wanes, it is important to understand that the right-wing critics of higher education are opportunistic and that so long as the academy remains the location of independent thought and vigorous debate, it always will be a target." The study summarizes various groups that have encouraged the Academic Bill of Rights or similar measures, and explores their funding sources, among other issues. Several right-leaning foundations have played key roles, the study says.

Via e-mail, Horowitz said of the new study: "This latest Free Exchange 'report' is yet another Orwellian attack by the teacher unions that seeks to portray the defenders of academic freedom as its opponents. To describe critiques of academic abuses as 'attacks on education' is like describing the opposition to child abuse as 'attacks on adults.' But that's exactly what the Free Exchange report does. It is able to do this by misrepresenting the argument of its opponents, distorting the facts, and omitting the vast body of evidence demonstrating that abuses exist."

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

The Association of Research Libraries has adopted a policy discouraging members from agreeing to confidentiality clauses in the deals they make with publishers and other vendors. While the policy excludes true trade secrets, it states that a growing trend of including confidentiality clauses makes it difficult for libraries to negotiate when they are seeking deals. “While research libraries may have in the past tolerated these clauses in order to achieve a lower cost,” said Charles B. Lowry, the association's executive director in a statement, “the current economic crisis marks a fundamentally different circumstance in the relationship between libraries, publishers, and other vendors.” The association plans to create a mechanism by which its members can share information with one another about their agreements.

Monday, June 8, 2009 - 3:00am

When T. Boone Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State University in 2006 to build a state-of-the-art athletics "village," athletics boosters cheered and critics raised questions about priorities. Now the project is being deferred and still more money may be needed -- due to last year's Wall Street collapse. The money from the Pickens gift, along with some smaller gifts, had been in a special fund, and with investment earnings, its value was $407 million just prior to last year's investment drops. The Tulsa World reported that in a matter of weeks, the fund lost $282 million, forcing delays and more fund raising efforts before the project can get into full swing.

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, to apply for the $700 million in federal stimulus funds -- most of which would go to public education at all levels -- set aside for the state, The State reported. Sanford has been critical of the stimulus plan and has tried to keep South Carolina from spending most of the stimulus funds. The General Assembly was in a legal dispute with the governor over whether it could order him to take the funds, and the Supreme Court backed the legislators.

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

Kicking off the Congressional appropriations process for federal programs relevant to higher education, the House of Representatives panel that sets spending for most federal science programs drafted legislation Thursday that would provide more than $7 billion for the National Science Foundation and $510 million for the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, among other programs. The allocations proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies generally fell short of those recommended by the Obama administration, but would represent significant increases over what the agencies are receiving in the current 2008-9 fiscal year. The NSF, for instance, would receive $5.642 billion for research and related activities under the House panel's proposal, up from $5.183 billion in 2008-9 but less than the $5.733 billion the president proposed. The agency's education programs would receive a 2 percent increase over 2008-9, to $862 million. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive about $4.5 billion for its science programs, about equal to its current funding. Consistent with recent Congressional requirements, the House panel also released a table of projects earmarked by lawmakers for specific would-be recipients, which includes more than 150 projects worth tens of millions of dollars for colleges and universities. Among them: $1 million projects for Claflin University, Drew University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Tech University, and Towson University.

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

A new study published in the journal Economics of Education Review explores how students of different sexual orientations have different academic and extracurricular experiences in college. The study, based on surveys involving more than 40,000 students, was conducted by Christopher S. Carpenter, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine. Among the findings about sexual orientation are the following comparisons of gay to straight students:

  • Gay male students have higher college grade point averages and perceive their academic work as more important.
  • Gay and bisexual males are more likely to report the presence of a faculty member or administrator with whom they could discuss a problem.
  • Gay and bisexual males place more importance on participating in student organizations, volunteer activities, the arts, and politics.
  • Bisexual females are less satisfied with the education they are receiving and spend less time studying.
  • Lesbian and bisexual females place more importance on participation in the arts and politics.

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