Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 22, 2009 - 3:00am

It's not just U.S. News. Rankings of various types are having an impact on higher education all over the world. A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy examines the impact of these rankings, with a focus on four countries: Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 3:00am

For years, various groups have urged that academic medical centers should reduce the total hours and consecutive hours that medical residents work, and focus more on educational programming for them. A study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation and the University of California at Los Angeles examines the cost of enacting such reforms, and says that they would cost teaching hospitals $1.6 billion annually. The report acknowledges that society might benefit from such changes, but raises questions about whether academic medicine can afford them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 3:00am

Brandeis University has told all employees that it will suspend for one year any institutional contributions to retirement funds. The university has been facing a serious budget shortfall, leading to a controversial plan -- currently under review -- to sell a highly regarded art collection. Many institutions have been trying of late to add retirement incentives to encourage more senior employees to consider retiring. Brandeis employees can continue to make their own contributions to their retirement accounts. The university will save $7.4 million by suspending its contributions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 3:00am

College officials who complain about the ever-growing volumes of federal regulations that apply to their institutions have a new way to vent. The federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance has created a Web site where college administrators or others can identify federal student aid rules that are "duplicative, no longer necessary, inconsistent with other federal regulations, and/or overly burdensome"; a committee of officials will then review and make recommendations to Congress on how lawmakers might streamline or reduce the regulatory burden on colleges. Review will begin on July 15, so start your bitchin'.

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 3:00am

The mayor of Providence, David N. Cicilline, has been floating ideas for weeks on how to get tax revenue out of private colleges -- alarming many of them in the process. On Wednesday, he formally unveiled his proposals, which will be considered by Rhode Island lawmakers, The Providence Journal reported. One bill would allow local governments to tax private colleges $150 for every full-time student enrolled from out of the state. The other bill would subject private colleges to local property taxes of up to 25 percent of what entities that are not tax-exempt would pay.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - 3:00am

Brigham Young University's Idaho campus has shut down the student groups that back the Democratic and Republican parties, The Rexburg Standard Journal reported. University officials said that the move was designed to assure that the campus is seen as politically "neutral," but some students are complaining, noting that campus chapters of political parties are common at other institutions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - 3:00am

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Cal.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would address one, California-specific inequity in the funding formula under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. Maximum benefits payable under the new GI Bill, which goes into effect in August, are tied to the maximum charges assessed by public colleges in each state. In California, which by a quirk of state law calls tuition “fees,” that trick of semantics leaves veterans exactly $0 that they could apply toward a private college tuition bill (they can apply $6,586.54 per term toward their fees, but that does them little good at most private institutions). “California’s prohibition on tuition was meant to hold college costs down, not unfairly drive them up for our state’s veterans,” Rep. McKeon said in a statement announcing the introduction of the Veterans Educational Equity Act, which would allow veterans to use the full $6,586.54 to offset tuition and fees at private colleges.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - 3:00am

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has been a major player in nearly every important piece of higher education legislation for at least the last two decades, and with Congress poised to take on a potentially enormous higher ed challenge -- President Obama's proposal to transform the Pell Grant and student loan programs -- the Massachusetts senator appears likely to be in the thick of things again. The Hill newspaper, citing Congressional Democratic sources, reported Tuesday that Kennedy's brain cancer is in remission and that he is set to return to the Senate after the Memorial Day recess. Kennedy has been promising for months that he would return to lead Congressional efforts to enact President Obama's health care reform plan, but lots of commentators have played down that possibility. Kennedy heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that would play a central role in reform of both health care and the student aid programs. The Obama proposal to end the guaranteed loan program and use the proceeds to make Pell Grants an entitlement will get its first Congressional hearing tomorrow before the House Education and Labor Committee, the House equivalent of Kennedy's panel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 3:00am

The faculty union at Robert Morris University, in Pennsylvania, has agreed to cut the size of the raise it was assured under a contract for the next academic year so that the university can devote more money to financial aid. Under the contract, professors were to have received raises of 2.75 percent. But more than half of that total (1.45 percent of base salaries) will be given up, producing an extra $180,000 in scholarship funds. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. In a statement, Gregory G. Dell’Omo, the university's president, said: "Our faculty were under no obligation to take this action, which is a testament to how deeply they care for their students."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 3:00am

In the seven weeks that Stanford University has made available free videos of a course on applications for the iPhone and iPod, it has received more than 1 million downloads, the university announced. According to Apple, seven weeks is the fastest time ever for a course on iTunes U. to reach 1 million downloads.

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