Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 3, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a gathering of presidents of historically black colleges and universities Wednesday that their institutions are essential to the future of the country's education system -- and that they must do a better job helping students get degrees. That dual message, delivered to the 2009 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference here, is consistent with the forceful ideas put forward this summer by John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the Obama administration's new head of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Duncan filled his speech with praise for the tradition of historically black colleges' doing more with less, preparing generations of black leaders despite often comparatively "meager resources." Other colleges could have much to learn from HBCUs in these lean times, Duncan said, singling out institutions such as Elizabeth City State University and Philander Smith College. But while black colleges will benefit heavily from the economic recovery package and other federal aid, they, like other institutions, will have to become more cost efficient. Duncan also challenged the institutions' effectiveness, noting that the teachers they produce are less likely than their peers to pass certification tests and that many of the colleges have graduation rates below 20 percent, an "unacceptable outcome for students.... And just like other institutions of higher education, HBCUs cannot explain away big differences in graduation rates simply by reference to the usual suspects. The management practices of those colleges have to be part of the explanation -- and part of the solution."

September 3, 2009

More than half of the 165 colleges providing information to the American College Health Association reported instances of the H1N1 virus on their campuses, the association said in the first of what will become weekly reports from a survey of institutions. Combined, the colleges in the survey -- which is designed to supplement federal surveys by providing a campus-specific picture of the swine flu outbreak -- reported 1,640 cases, or about 7.9 per 10,000 students. Instances were highest in the Southeast and far Northwest, the ACHA reported, and the illness remains mild so far. "Despite brisk disease activity on campuses in some regions of the country, we have just one report of hospitalization and no reported deaths due to influenza," said James C. Turner, president of the association and executive director of the Department of Student Health at the University of Virginia.

September 3, 2009

A final deal to revive Antioch College -- independent of Antioch University -- will be signed Friday. The agreement was announced by the Great Lakes Colleges Association, which has helped promote the negotiations between the alumni leaders who will be managing the revived college and the university's board.

September 3, 2009

The following meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.

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To submit a listing, click here.

September 2, 2009

A new report from the National Humanities Alliance finds that the average cost per page of a sample of eight humanities and social sciences journals is $526, almost twice the costs for science and technology journals. The analysis of the eight journals was conducted to help disciplinary associations get a better understanding of the economics of their publishing ventures, at a time of increasing pressure to embrace the open access movement, in which research is available online and free. The humanities alliance's report finds that open access would not be a "sustainable option" for the journals studied. At the same time, the report suggests that a more complete study -- going well beyond the eight journals -- is needed. Such a study might better examine differences among journals in the humanities and social sciences disciplines, the current report says. The new report may be found here. Analysis of it from the American Historical Association may be found here.

September 2, 2009

The State Department has issued guidance that bars its EducationUSA centers from forming partnerships with commercial recruitment agents who represent specific universities. The guidance, which applies to the 450 EducationUSA centers that are designed to provide objective advice to international students contemplating study in the United States, cites the lack of objectivity of commercial recruiters among other objections, many of which are consistent with concerns raised by the National Association of College Admission Counseling and other groups.

September 2, 2009

The University of Miami is investigating an incident in which police officers questioned a student -- subsequently revealed not to be the person the officers were looking for -- at gunpoint, The Miami Herald reported. The incident has attracted considerable attention because some communications students witnessed it and made a videotape, which is on the Web site of The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper.

September 2, 2009

Harvard University's medical school is backing away from new rules about student interaction with reporters, following complaints that the policy would block discussion of key issues, The New York Times reported. The controversial policy -- which officials have now vowed to change -- said that all interactions between students and the press needed to be coordinated by the deans of students and public affairs. Harvard officials claimed that the policy was designed to help students, not muzzle them. But students noted that the policy followed student activism (much of it covered by reporters) demanding that the medical school and others pay more attention to issues of conflict of interest in biomedical research. And students argued that university officials shouldn't be required to be involved when students may well be criticizing the university.

September 2, 2009

There may be a new standard in luxury residence halls in Boston, The Boston Globe reported. A new high-rise at Boston University features magnificent views of the city and the Charles River. Amenities, which the Globe said leave parents stunned, include large private bathrooms, walk-in closets, and full-length mirrors.

September 2, 2009

In-state students at all Indiana University campuses will be eligible for "incentive grants" of $200 to $300 a year if they achieve at least a B average this academic year. Had the program been in place last year, a majority of Indiana students would have qualified. The university announced the program amid legislative criticism of tuition increases.

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