Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 22, 2009

How could things get worse in California, where voter rejection of a series of budget measures Tuesday has left public higher education planning for deep budget cuts? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, could go after the state's student aid program -- and the Los Angeles Times reported that is a serious possibility. According to the newspaper, the governor is considering a plan to eliminate new CalGrants. Over a year, 77,000 new grants would be awarded, at a total cost of $180 million. As students currently on CalGrants graduate, the program could be phased out, with even larger savings.

May 22, 2009

For months, Texas legislators have been lobbied about the state's "10 percent" admissions law, which admits all high school graduates in the state who are in the top 10 percent of their classes to the public institution of their choice. The University of Texas at Austin wants to limit the law, because too large a share of its freshman class is admitted that way. Advocates for minority students want to preserve the law, saying it has brought diversity to higher education. The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would limit how much of a class could be admitted under 10 percent and that measure moved to the House of Representatives on Thursday. There, the House approved a surprise amendment late Thursday -- while not yet approving the bill in its entirety -- to keep 10 percent statewide, but to only offer those in the top 8 percent admission to the University of Texas at Austin, The Dallas Morning News reported.

May 22, 2009

The Global Campus of the University of Illinois, an online program that has been controversial with faculty members, has had sufficiently disappointing enrollment numbers that the university's board this week approved major revisions in the program. But the Chicago Tribune reported that those disappointments didn't hurt leaders of the campus financially and that 10 staff members received bonus payments of 7 to 9 percent of their salaries during the program's first year. The payments ranged from $6,732 to $19,040.

May 22, 2009

It's not just U.S. News. Rankings of various types are having an impact on higher education all over the world. A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy examines the impact of these rankings, with a focus on four countries: Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan

May 21, 2009

College officials who complain about the ever-growing volumes of federal regulations that apply to their institutions have a new way to vent. The federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance has created a Web site where college administrators or others can identify federal student aid rules that are "duplicative, no longer necessary, inconsistent with other federal regulations, and/or overly burdensome"; a committee of officials will then review and make recommendations to Congress on how lawmakers might streamline or reduce the regulatory burden on colleges. Review will begin on July 15, so start your bitchin'.

May 21, 2009

The mayor of Providence, David N. Cicilline, has been floating ideas for weeks on how to get tax revenue out of private colleges -- alarming many of them in the process. On Wednesday, he formally unveiled his proposals, which will be considered by Rhode Island lawmakers, The Providence Journal reported. One bill would allow local governments to tax private colleges $150 for every full-time student enrolled from out of the state. The other bill would subject private colleges to local property taxes of up to 25 percent of what entities that are not tax-exempt would pay.

May 21, 2009

For years, various groups have urged that academic medical centers should reduce the total hours and consecutive hours that medical residents work, and focus more on educational programming for them. A study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation and the University of California at Los Angeles examines the cost of enacting such reforms, and says that they would cost teaching hospitals $1.6 billion annually. The report acknowledges that society might benefit from such changes, but raises questions about whether academic medicine can afford them.

May 21, 2009

Brandeis University has told all employees that it will suspend for one year any institutional contributions to retirement funds. The university has been facing a serious budget shortfall, leading to a controversial plan -- currently under review -- to sell a highly regarded art collection. Many institutions have been trying of late to add retirement incentives to encourage more senior employees to consider retiring. Brandeis employees can continue to make their own contributions to their retirement accounts. The university will save $7.4 million by suspending its contributions.

May 20, 2009

Brigham Young University's Idaho campus has shut down the student groups that back the Democratic and Republican parties, The Rexburg Standard Journal reported. University officials said that the move was designed to assure that the campus is seen as politically "neutral," but some students are complaining, noting that campus chapters of political parties are common at other institutions.

May 20, 2009

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Cal.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would address one, California-specific inequity in the funding formula under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. Maximum benefits payable under the new GI Bill, which goes into effect in August, are tied to the maximum charges assessed by public colleges in each state. In California, which by a quirk of state law calls tuition “fees,” that trick of semantics leaves veterans exactly $0 that they could apply toward a private college tuition bill (they can apply $6,586.54 per term toward their fees, but that does them little good at most private institutions). “California’s prohibition on tuition was meant to hold college costs down, not unfairly drive them up for our state’s veterans,” Rep. McKeon said in a statement announcing the introduction of the Veterans Educational Equity Act, which would allow veterans to use the full $6,586.54 to offset tuition and fees at private colleges.

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