Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst will today announce a major effort to attract more transfer students from community colleges, The Boston Globe reported. UMass will offer those who transfer from community colleges in the state with a grade-point average of at least 2.5 a range of benefits, including priority course registration and housing, scholarships and special advising services. The university is hoping for an increase of at least 20 percent from the 300 community college transfers it typically enrolls each fall.
Students at the University of Arizona are debating a barbed-wire fence installed across a major campus area by a group that wants to protest the way the movement of immigrants is restricted, KGUN 9 News reported. Organizers said that the detours students were forced to take could prompt needed conversations about immigration issues. Some students said that they were annoyed by the inconvenience.
Western Michigan University on Tuesday announced a $100 million gift -- its largest ever -- to create a new medical school. While the university is public, it plans to rely on private funds for the new medical school. The donor is anonymous.
Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the American South, was named Monday by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the 2011 Jefferson Lecture, the top honor the federal government bestows for scholarship in the humanities. Faust is of course also known as the president of Harvard University. Jim Leach, chair of the NEH, said in a statement: "It is a rare individual who can break new ground from both the library archives and the president’s podium." This year's lecture will be May 2.
The union that represents professors in Pennsylvania's 14-campus public college system agreed on Sunday to negotiate a pay freeze for 2012, with its leaders saying they want to "do our part" to help the state deal with its budget gap. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents 6,000 faculty members and coaches in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, said its members would agree to a one-year freeze "in the context of similar sacrifice shared by our administrative and management counterparts.” But the union's statement went on to urge legislators to do their part "by meeting the Commonwealth’s obligation to the State System of Higher Education by restoring the critical funds necessary for our students to have the same opportunities their brothers, sisters, and parents had to improve themselves and to secure Pennsylvania’s future.” Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a 50 percent cut in the budgets for the state college system and Pennsylvania State University.
California's three public college systems cannot educate the state's citizens without more help from their private nonprofit and for-profit peers -- and state politicians and regulators should acknowledge the role of the latter, a new report argues. The report, produced by two researchers at the University of Southern California's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis and funded by the National University System, argues that "the three public higher education systems in California cannot, by themselves, respond to increased demand for higher education," and that "they, and the two private higher education systems, need to be re-engineered to function as five parts of one coherent system, collectively growing in capacity to keep pace with the state’s demand for an educated work force." Among the ideas put forward by the authors, which are certain to face pushback from public college and university leaders at times of state funding cutbacks: allowing "state funding for students to take classes offered by private institutions, especially in high-demand majors such as nursing, science, engineering and math," creating a common course numbering system to allow for easy transfer among colleges of all types, offering "state incentives for nonprofit private institutions to increase student enrollment by up to 10 percent," and changing "the 'quasi-cartel' licensing requirements used to keep some out-of-state programs from competing in California."
In 2009, the Association of Research Libraries urged its members to stop agreeing to nondisclosure agreements on pricing of journal packages, finding that these pacts were undercutting the ability of universities to negotiate fair deals. The Cornell University Library has now taken a public stand consistent with the ARL recommendation. A statement posted on the library website explains: "Occasionally in licenses governing electronic resources, publishers will request that the Cornell University Library (CUL) treat the subscription price as confidential information and not disclose it to third parties. In the past, some libraries have tolerated these clauses in the belief that they might result in a lower cost. This, however, is a position that CUL can no longer accept. It has become apparent to the library community that the anticompetitive conduct engaged in by some publishing firms is in part a result of the inclusion of nondisclosure agreements in contracts."
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Biden will today urge every state's governor to produce a plan to increase college completion, and announce a set of resources (though no new money) designed to help them do that. The announcement, which will come at an education summit here, includes the release of a new “college completion toolkit,” which lays out for states and governors a set of "no-cost or low-cost" programs that some of their peers have used to improve student persistence, increase the productivity of public colleges, or otherwise help states contribute to President Obama's much-touted goal of giving the U.S. the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. The vice president's announcement also discusses a new grant program within the current budget of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education and two proposed programs that are contained in the Obama administration's 2012 budget, all of which are designed to reward institutions that increase completion rates. The Department of Education also announced a state-by-state outline of how much each state has to increase its graduation rate to further the administration’s goals. For most states, that will mean increasing their graduation rates by about 50 percent by 2020. “Right now we’ve got an education system that works like a funnel when we need it to work like a pipeline,” Biden said in a press release. “We have to make the same commitment to getting folks across the graduation stage that we did to getting them into the registrar’s office.”
Two Alabama community colleges -- Bevill State and Northwest Shoals Community Colleges -- have announced that they will deal with state budget cuts in part by shutting down athletic departments, The Huntsville Times reported. Bevill State has men and women's basketball, softball, baseball and track teams. Northwest Shoals has teams in baseball, men and women's basketball, softball, women's volleyball and cheerleading.