Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 3:00am

The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Monday to allow community colleges to opt out of offering low-interest federal loans to their students. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for likely approval, would scale back 2010 legislation requiring all community colleges in the state to participate in the federal loan program by July. Several community college presidents in the state have expressed concern that participation in the federal loan program would put their students at risk of losing federal financial aid if too many students at their institution do not repay their loans. Monday’s vote fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the opt-out bill and Democrats opposing it. Representative Ray Rapp, a Democrat who voted against the bill, told The News & Observer, “This is a frontal assault on the ability of students to pay for college.” Kennon Briggs, the system's executive vice president, told Inside Higher Ed that last year he had told the state legislature, "We prefer that this be a matter of local decision making and of choice because within our system you have varying degrees of wealth, private support and average income." Still, he clarified that the community college system would follow any directive of the state legislature. If the opt-out bill is signed into law, Briggs said that 24 community colleges in the state would participate in the federal loan program and 34 would not.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Adelphi University's Roni Berger discusses her experience as an eyewitness to revolution on a recent trip to Tunisia. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The Duke Endowment of Charlotte on Monday announced a gift of $80 million to Duke University, which will be used to renovate the student union and renovate two other buildings that were part of the original campus plan in 1924. The grant is the largest single philanthropic gift in the university's history and in the endowment's 87 years.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Lu Hardin, the former president of the University of Central Arkansas, on Monday pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges, the Associated Press reported. Hardin admitted to forging a letter to the university's board saying that it could approve a $300,000 deferred compensation package for him, a benefit that later was criticized by many as inappropriate. The letter Hardin wrote was submitted in the name of a university vice president and general counsel, both of whom were not involved in the letter. Hardin quit Central Arkansas in 2008 as the controversy over the compensation package grew, and then became president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. He quit that position on Friday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Seven months after taking the presidency of Capella University and four months into the job, Larry Isaak is leaving the for-profit higher education company. Capella, an online university that focuses on graduate education, issued a cryptic announcement late Friday saying that Isaak has "made the personal decision to step down and will pursue other opportunities." Isaak did not reply to e-mail messages seeking comment, and officials at the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the regional policy group that Isaak headed before leaving for Capella, could not be reached for comment. The compact had not yet hired a replacement for Isaak, who was chancellor of the North Dakota University System before leading MHEC.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- It's one thing for Clayton M. Christensen to share with a bunch of Washington think tankers his warnings that colleges must change or die, as he did at the American Enterprise Institute last month. But directly to the faces of college presidents themselves, at the annual gathering of their main national association? Yet there was the Harvard Business School professor known for documenting how industries get transformed by "disruptive technologies" on Monday, telling hundreds of college chiefs at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education that he was not at all sure in 20 years if their institutions would still be around. Some of Christensen's ideas (drawn from a paper he co-wrote with Henry Eyring of Brigham Young University-Idaho called "The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education") and comments may have stung, notably his prediction that distance education, done well, can subject existing higher education to disruption that could render many existing institutions irrelevant in two decades. "There is good reason for many of us to think that we might be okay in 20 years. But I think we might be wrong," he said.

But with a good-natured, deadpan delivery and a powerful personal story -- having re-learned how to speak after suffering a stroke in July -- Christensen captivated an audience that could well have found his comments disturbing instead.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Nevada at Reno -- facing steep budget cuts from the state -- on Monday announced a plan to eliminate numerous programs and, with them, 225 positions, of which 150 are currently filled. Among the programs that will be eliminated: the School of Social Work, degrees in theater and French, the assessment office and the special collections division of the library.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Keith Pomakoy of Adirondack Community College examines the use of the term "genocide" in connection with recent events in Libya. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report suggests that Indian universities may be able to recruit substantial numbers of Indian graduate students in the United States to return. The issue is key because Indian universities badly need to recruit more faculty talent, and many have assumed that those who come to the United States for graduate study are unlikely to consider jobs in India. The new study -- by researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Pennsylvania State University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences -- interviewed 1,000 Indians who are either pursuing or have finished graduate work in the United States. Only 8 percent said that they strongly preferred to stay in the United States. While many cited obstacles to going home, their answers suggested that the right packages and conditions could attract many of them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

At a Lawrence Summers speech in Boston Monday, the audience questions focused not on economic policy, but on his portrayal in "The Social Network," The Boston Globe reported. In the film, Summers is brusque and dismissive of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, two students who met with him to complain that another student, Mark Zuckerberg, had stolen their idea for Facebook. Summers said Monday that the film was "fairly accurate," including its depiction of his less than warm treatment of the Winklevoss brothers. “I’ve read somewhere, on occasion, that people think I can be arrogant. And, uh, I can’t imagine why. And if that is so, I probably was on that occasion.’’

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