Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 23, 2009

Under the new GI Bill, which covers veterans' tuition up to the most expensive resident rate at a public college in the state, private colleges have the option of entering into a matching program with the federal government to cover the balance. How many colleges will participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, and to what extent, has been an open question as many institutions await final regulations. Significantly, the University of Phoenix, which serves more veterans than any other college, does plan to participate in the new GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon program at the maximum 50 percent match, for 30,000 students or more (which would cover current veteran enrollment), according to Patrick Sutliff, who oversees veterans affairs at the institution.

March 23, 2009

The board of the College of DuPage last week adopted a series of policies that effectively give the board more explicit authority over daily management of the college -- including many matters that professors say should primarily be handled by the faculty and the administration. The dispute has been going on for months and focused on a revision of the college's policy handbook. The board did delay a vote on including David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" as college policy -- a measure that was included in earlier draft -- but board members indicated that they may come back to that issue at future meetings.

March 23, 2009

One of the longest serving presidents in higher education, Benjamin F. Payton of Tuskegee University, has announced plans to retire. During Payton's tenure, Tuskegee broadened its educational offerings (and changed its name from Tuskegee Institute to Tuskegee University to reflect that shift). Tuskegee has a prominent role in the history of black higher education and a tradition of long-serving presidents, starting with Booker T. Washington. Since its founding in 1881, the university has had only five presidents.

March 23, 2009

Two institutions in Moorhead, Minnesota -- Concordia College and Minnesota State University at Moorhead -- are calling off most classes today so students and others may help prepare sandbags to deal with serious local flooding.

March 23, 2009

The British government has backed off from a push for people outside the University of Cambridge to hold a majority of the seats on the institution's governing board, The Guardian reported. However, the university has agreed to provide more information about how it uses the government funds it receives.

March 23, 2009

For weeks now, the Senate (at the bidding of a few senators) has been delaying the confirmations of John Holdren to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Jane Lubchenco to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The delays have infuriated scientists because Holdren and Lubchenco are highly respected researchers whose nominations have been widely applauded. Indeed the "holds" placed on their nominations had nothing to do with them, but reflected a longstanding Senate practice in which lawmakers block nominations from going forward as a way of gaining attention for other issues. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, for example, blocked the nominations because of unrelated concerns he has about U.S. policy on Cuba. On Thursday, however, the Senate finally and uneventfully confirmed both officials. Holdren and Lubchenco each issued statements Friday welcoming their confirmations and pledging to make their decisions in office based on sound science.

March 20, 2009

As excited as they are by the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in federal research funds flowing from the federal government's recently enacted economic stimulus package, university leaders are nervous about the accountability expectations that might be attached to the money. Will research agencies expect that recipients will be able to prove that the funds have been used productively? The House Science Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight held a hearing Thursday at which representatives of the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and other key government departments described their plans for following the money. Testimony is available here.

March 20, 2009

James Franco's film credits in Milk, Pineapple Express and other works earned him "Man of the Year" honors this year from Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals. But students at Franco's alma mater, the University of California at Los Angeles, are protesting his selection as this year's commencement speaker. Franco graduated last year, but not all the seniors like what they remember of him. A Facebook group -- UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker -- explains the issue this way: "Anyone who has been in his classes knows he is an average student at UCLA. This is an accomplishment while working in his industry, but he is our academic peer, which makes him an inappropriate choice for a keynote speaker. His academic experiences are too limited thus far to provide him with the wisdom and perspective such a speaker is meant to provide to graduates. Furthermore, we have worked hard as academics for four years: his successes are (thus far) completely irrelevant to that!" Not everyone agrees. A counter-group on Facebook -- Students Against UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker -- says that having a peer speak should be seen as a plus. Further, the pro-Franco group asks: "What's wrong with being 'an average student'? One of the comments made in that group reads 'Unless he's got a 4.0, then he shouldn't be speaking at our graduation' and there are several others with that same sort of idea. Many others treat his films as laughable and completely irrelevant to anything a keynote speaker should have to say. These UCLA students should have more respect for the arts and shouldn't be so pretentious about it."

March 20, 2009

President Obama on Thursday nominated Gabriella Gomez, a senior education aide to the head of the House Education and Labor Committee, to serve as the Education Department's chief liaison to Congress. Gomez, senior education policy adviser to Rep. George Miller, worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers before joining Miller's staff. As assistant secretary for legislation and Congressional affairs, she will be Education Secretary Arne Duncan's top advocate on Capitol Hill. She is well-respected within higher education.

March 20, 2009

Surfline has released its list of the top 10 colleges and universities for surfing. Not surprisingly, California leads the nation, with 6 of the top 10 positions, including top-ranked University of California at San Diego and the runner-up, the UC campus at Santa Cruz. The rankings not only feature information about surfing quality, but lists of professors and alumni who surf, and a special "demerits" category that may run counter to academic thinking. UCSD, for example, is criticized this way: "Due to the workload, missing that 'good day of surf' easily can turn into weeks, months ... even semesters. Remember: when in doubt, paddle out. There's always summer school."

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