Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 20, 2009

New Mexico's Senate is blocking legislation to allow a state takeover of the College of Santa Fe, a private college that could close in May without a rescue plan. KOB News 4 reported that senators believe that the college may have more financial obligations than have been discussed. In addition, senators told the station that they worry about the state having enough money for public higher education. Gov. Bill Richardson, however, has pledged to continue to push for the legislation to save the college.

March 19, 2009

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Wednesday issued a statement condemning efforts by a group of professors and others to organize an academic boycott of Israel. Weingarten noted in her statement that the AFT in 2002 came out against a push by British faculty members to boycott Israeli academe. "We believe academic boycotts were a bad idea in 2002 and are a bad idea now. Academic boycotts are inconsistent with the democratic values of academic freedom and free expression," the statement said. Weingarten added: "We want to make clear that this position does not in any way discourage an open discussion and debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or of ways to resolve it. However, we expect that such a discussion would not be one-sided and would consider the behavior of all the relevant actors. An academic boycott of Israel, or of any country, for that matter, would effectively suppress free speech without helping to resolve the conflict. An academic boycott is the complete antithesis of academic freedom; therefore, it should not be supported by any individual or institution that subscribes to this basic principle of higher education and, indeed, of democratic discourse."

March 19, 2009

Add another item to the list of ways in which American higher education is the model for the rest of the world: the salaries of British university leaders is rising sharply, to the dismay of student and faculty groups, The Guardian reported. The average pay of vice chancellors (the British equivalent of president) rose to £194,000, nearly equaling that of the prime minister, and Times Higher Education's annual salary survey found that four university leaders earned more than £300,000. The news -- coming days after university leaders in Britain reported that they might have to double tuition fees -- set off a furor.

March 19, 2009

The governor of Nevada has asked the U.S. Education Department to exempt the state from a requirement that it restore several hundred million dollars in spending on higher education to claim its share of federal stimulus funds, the Las Vegas Sun reported. The economic stimulus law requires states to spend at least as much on higher education in 2008-9 and 2009-10 as they did in the 2006 fiscal year to get their share of the $54 billion state stabilization fund, which is designed primarily to stave off cuts to education and other essential social programs. But Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has been locked in a very public fight with Nevada's college chancellor over the governor's perceived lack of support for higher education, said the federal requirement would force the state to restore $268 million in cuts to higher education, which his aides told the Sun Nevada doesn't have. Gibbons said the requirement intrudes on states' authority.

March 19, 2009

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would more than triple the number of participants in the AmeriCorps national service program and create several new programs aimed at increasing the number of Americans engaged in community service, fulfilling a campaign pledge of President Obama's. The bill, a version of which the Senate's education committee also approved Wednesday, would increase the number of AmeriCorps participants to 250,000 from the current 75,000, increase the education reward they receive in exchange for their service to $5,350 for next year, and link increases in that payment to match future boosts in the Pell Grant maximum to keep up with rising college costs.

March 18, 2009

British universities are divided over whether to embrace the use of a new top grade -- A* -- on students' "A level" exams exiting high school, the Telegraph reports. The University of Cambridge said this week that it would begin considering the new grade because its admissions officials found themselves rejecting too many students who had earned straight A's on their comprehensive exams. But Oxford University and other institutions fear that the change would lead to huge increases in admission for students from the more elite independent and grammar schools, and hurt the prospects of pupils from state comprehensive schools.

March 18, 2009

A coalition of scholarly and civil liberties groups plan to urge President Obama today to abandon the Bush administration's approach of blocking the visas of foreign scholars and writers who hold controversial views, The New York Times reported. The Times said that the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, the PEN American Center and other groups will send a letter to the new administration today saying that the policy of excluding scholars like Tariq Ramadan “compromises the vitality of academic and political debate in the United States at a time when that debate is exceptionally important." The Bush administration blocked Ramadan's entry to the United States, where he was supposed to take a job at the University of Notre Dame, in 2004, saying he had contributed to a charity believed to have ties to terrorism, and the groups are pressing the Obama administration to take a stance in their lawsuit over his case, which is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit next week.

March 17, 2009

At Brown University, the 10-member Commission on Memorials has recommended that the university commission a memorial recognizing a painful past -- the university's ties to slave trading. In 2006, Brown released a report on this subject, and the commission now aims to involve the broader public in a discussion of the institution's early history and its meaning. Other actions taken in response to the report include attempts to improve local public education through a new Urban Education Fellows Program, which forgives tuition for graduate students who serve in Providence-area schools for at least three years.

March 17, 2009

The number of undergraduate students majoring in computer science this year significantly increased for the first time since the dot-com boom, according to the new edition of an annual report by the Computing Research Association. Last year's report showed the apparent start of a recovery, but this year's data suggest a much stronger position for the discipline. Among the findings: Total enrollment by majors and pre-majors in computer science is up 6.2 percent per department over last year. If only majors are considered, the increase is 8.1 percent. This is the first time total enrollment has increased in six years. The average number of new students majoring in computer science per department is up 9.5 percent over last year. Total Ph.D. graduation production among departments in the survey grew to 1,877 -- a 5.7 percent increase over last year.

March 17, 2009

The University of the South, known as Sewanee, on Monday announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Those who wish not to submit test scores will be required to instead provide a graded academic paper and to complete an interview. A statement from the university noted "ample evidence" that colleges don't need SAT or ACT scores to make sound decisions.

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