Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 18, 2009

In a sign of the increased interest by colleges in taking steps to attract more applicants, the Common Application announced that a record 49 new institutions are joining the program, in which applicants can designate multiple colleges to receive their materials. The brings total membership to 392, including a record-breaking 35 public institutions. The numbers are also up for the Universal College Application, a rival to the Common Application that started two years ago with 13 institutions, and now is in the 80s. Some colleges are involved with both applications.

June 18, 2009

The U.S. military academies reported a surge in applications this year, The New York Times reported. Many colleges that are relatively inexpensive or that offer generous financial aid reported application increases this year, and the military academies are free. But they also have military service requirements after graduation that represent a more lasting and serious commitment than most students must make when selecting a college. Still, the Naval Academy reported an application increase of 40 percent, while applications were up just under 10 percent at the Military Academy and the Air Force Academy.

June 18, 2009

The University of California at Davis has agreed to add a women's varsity field hockey team and also to add more money to develop club sports, under a settlement of a lawsuit filed by female athletes charging violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, The Sacramento Bee reported. University officials said that they didn't think the suit was needed, but that they were happy to reach an agreement to resolve it.

June 18, 2009

Illinois College is the latest institution to announce that it will no longer require ACT or SAT scores of all applicants. The requirement will remain in place for home-schooled or international students.

June 18, 2009

President Obama will soon announce a plan for a major increase in support for community colleges, with the goal of promoting job training programs, the Chicago Tribune reported. The newspaper quoted Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, as telling the Democratic Leadership Council on Wednesday that "in the next couple of weeks, you will see a major announcement by the president on community colleges and job training and the rewriting of all the legislation related to job training and community ed. in the country -- but, most importantly, in the area of community colleges." Emanuel said that the goal of the proposal will be to enable community colleges to help five million more workers than they would be able to otherwise.

June 17, 2009

The interim chancellor of North Carolina State University has declared invalid a severance package approved for the former provost by the former chancellor, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. The package for then-provost Larry Nielsen would have extended the provost's pay for three years after he returned to the faculty, which he promptly did -- amid a scandal over the appointment of the former governor's wife to a highly paid position. The scandal ended up leading the sudden resignations first of Nielsen and then of James Oblinger, the chancellor who approved the deal. Jim Woodward, the interim chancellor, said that Oblinger never had the authority to change Nielsen's contract as he did, so the deal will not be carried out.

June 17, 2009

A special state commission examining the way the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign handled admissions involving politically connected applicants heard testimony Tuesday that these decisions were made at high administrative levels, ignoring admissions officers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Keith Marshall, the university's associate provost, told the panel that he had "disdain" for the process, and that decisions made in the admissions officer were overruled by Chancellor Richard Herman and others. Marshall answered several questions by saying "I take my instructions from Chancellor Herman." The Tribune exposed the "clout" admissions system for those with connections, and set off a major scandal, leading to the state probe. While university officials have repeatedly pledged to help authorities understand what happened, they have declined to release to the Tribune information about the test scores and grades of those admitted, even with names redacted. That stance prompted the Tribune to sue the university on Tuesday.

June 17, 2009

Two weeks ago the Internal Revenue Service raised the hopes of many campus business officers by suggesting ways it might relax federal rules governing how employers must account for usage of cell phones they provide to workers, regulations that have proved vexing (and expensive) in some federal audits of colleges and universities. But Tuesday it went even further, as Commissioner Doug Shulman announced that the agency would no longer consider employees' use of employer-provided cell phones to be a taxable benefit. "Secretary Geithner and I ask that Congress act to make clear that there will be no tax consequence to employers or employees for personal use of work-related devices such as cell phones provided by employers," Shulman said. "The passage of time, advances in technology, and the nature of communication in the modern workplace have rendered this law obsolete." (Hat tip to TaxProf Blog.)

June 17, 2009

More than 20 percent of medical schools showed improvement in the PharmFree Scorecard, released Tuesday for 2009, which judges medical schools on how well they prevent conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry. The project is run by the American Medical Student Association, which says that it sees plenty of room for improvement. Of the 149 medical schools in the United States, 9 received an A grade, 36 a B, 18 a C, 17 a D, and 35 an F. Other medical schools received an "in process" grade as policies are currently being reviewed. Two of this year's A grades -- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Mayo Medical School -- improved from Ds a year ago.

June 17, 2009

The chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, whose own term is due to end this month, recommended to the system's regents Tuesday that they fire David Ashley, president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The letter from Chancellor James E. Rogers to the members of the Board of Regents, recommended that "Dr. Ashley's contract not be renewed and that you consider immediate termination of the contract as president.... [T]he problems that have become the subject of much media attention recently are the problems that I long ago asked him and expected him to correct." Ashley's performance has been the subject of significant news coverage and he returned from a trip to Singapore last week amid rumors that he would resign.

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