Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 15, 2009

Carrying signs with slogans like "Why was my friend shot?," students at Grand Valley State University held a protest Friday over the police shooting of an unarmed student in his off-campus apartment, The Grand Rapids Press reported. While police officers indicated that the student was shot in a drug raid, the student's family members and friends said he wasn't a drug dealer.

March 15, 2009

The Arizona Board of Regents has voted to maintain a popular scholarship program for students who achieve certain testing scores, despite a request from university presidents to eliminate it, The Tucson Citizen reported. The presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona had argued that the funds ($27.5 million) would be better spent elsewhere and that the students who earn the scholarships have access to other sources of financial support. But in a rare snub of a public request by presidents, the regents voted to keep the awards.

March 14, 2009

Rhode Island authorities have charged John Dawson, who was fired as associate dean of continuing studies at Roger Williams University, with stalking faculty members, in connection with letters and postcards he sent them, The Providence Journal reported. Dawson, who could not be reached for comment, allegedly sent letters with various accusations, some of them including sexually explicit language, to about 40 faculty members -- sometimes trying to make it appear that the materials were sent by other faculty members. In one case, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal, harshly attacking state judges, and signed an administrator's name. The letter was printed.

March 14, 2009

John Baldwin, president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, has repaid Texas Tech $15,404 for flying his wife, who lives in New York City, to Texas for university events, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. Baldwin also repaid $2,000 for Town Car service for his wife to and from New York City airports, and $1,804 for his membership in the Harvard Club in New York City -- also expenses he had billed to the university. Texas Tech officials said that they appreciated the help of Baldwin's wife at Texas Tech events, but that university policy bars the spending of institutional funds on event travel to campus for spouses who live in other cities. The expenses surfaced in an audit ordered by regents in response to the need to economize in light of the recession.

March 14, 2009

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday ordered the University of Alaska System to return to direct state ownership 250,000 acres of land provided by state laws in 2000 and 2005. The land transfers were designed to boost the university's endowment, but were challenged by environmental groups. While the challenge survived a lower court's review, the Supreme Court found that the laws giving the university the land violated the Alaska Constitution's ban on "dedicated funds," portions of the state budget that must be spent on certain areas, because the acts specified that any land sales would be used to support the university endowment. The decision said that the university was "an important state institution" that would benefit from a larger endowment, but that the constitutional prohibition could not be ignored.

March 13, 2009

The chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has asked the university's trustees to keep tuition flat for the 2009-10 academic year, citing the financial situation of students and families. Chancellor Dave Gearhart said the proposal, which would represent the first year of no tuition increase in 24 years, is contingent on state legislators supporting the governor's proposal to partially restore a $5 million budget cut imposed this year.

March 13, 2009

The University of Missouri has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a football player who died during a 2005 preseason workout, the Associated Press reports. The settlement, in which the university and a group of officials admitted no wrongdoing, ends a legal battle over the death of Aaron O'Neal, 19, who collapsed during a voluntary workout in July 2005. The lawsuit alleged that university employees did not take precautions required by O'Neal's sickle cell trait. Meanwhile, the family of a 19-year-old player who died in offseason conditional drills at the University of Central Florida last year is suing the institution, the AP reported, saying that coaches and trainers ignored signs of Ereck Plancher's fatigue. University officials have repeatedly defended their response.

March 12, 2009

The 2009 federal spending bill that President Obama signed Wednesday reverses a 2007 change that led to sharp increases in costs for students who use prescription birth control. The change, which was made in 2005 deficit reduction legislation but took effect in 2007, eliminated an incentive for drug companies to offer discounted prescriptions to college clinics and other health care providers through the Medicare program, causing students to pay hundreds of dollars more a year. The American College Health Association urged that the incentive be restored, and the Associated Press reports that now that it has, pharmaceutical companies are discussing whether and how to reinstate the discounts.

March 12, 2009

The Education Department's plan to carry out state-by-state auctions among lenders for the right to originate federal student loans for parents got a little dicier Thursday, as the country's biggest lender announced that it would not participate in the auctions. Sallie Mae sent a letter to its customers informing them that the company would not bid in any of the auctions because it believes the existing setup for setting interest rates and determining who should originate so-called PLUS loans is far preferable to the system Congress enacted in 2007. Despite significant opposition from financial aid officials and lenders, especially in light of the much broader changes the Obama administration is proposing in the federal student loan programs, the Education Department announced this month that it was proceeding with the auction. Sallie Mae's decision poses a threat, though, because under the regulations, if there are not enough "qualified bids" in a particular state's auction, the existing system of Parent PLUS loans stays in effect, as the lender noted in its letter.

March 12, 2009

The University of Waterloo, in Ontario, wants to largely eliminate small classes -- those with fewer than 10 students -- for undergraduates. They are too expensive to run, officials said, when the Ontario institution needs to limit spending. So the provost has announced a new way to discourage professors from offering these courses: They will no longer be counted in the teaching load of faculty members.

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