Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, on Thursday defended the importance of research at the state system’s universities -- and received a unanimous vote of support from the system’s regents, according to the Texas Tribune.

“Teaching and scholarly research go hand-in-hand in a university of the first class,” Cigarroa said, in what the Tribune described as highly anticipated remarks at the regents’ meeting. Cigarroa’s speech, which is in keeping with his previous statements on the subject, comes on the heels of a forceful defense of the research mission of the flagship, UT-Austin, made by its president, William Powers Jr., on Monday.

Questions about the appropriate balance of research and education at Texas universities -- and the regents’ position on the matter (and whether they fully supported Cigarroa) -- have recently gained urgency due to a set of seven “breakthrough solutions” that have been advanced by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank whose policies are aligned with those of Governor Rick Perry. Among these ideas is a call to separate universities’ research and teaching budgets in order to get more faculty members in the classroom. Many faculty members have seen the push for separation as an attempt to micromanage and reduce support for scholarship.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Days after a speech in which President Obama vowed to reform U.S. immigration policy in part by making it easier for foreign graduates of American universities to stay in this country, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office announced an expanded list of science and mathematics fields whose graduates can stay in the United States for an additional year for more training. "By expanding the list of STEM degrees to include such fields as Neuroscience, Medical Informatics, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design, Mathematics and Computer Science, the Obama administration is helping to address shortages in certain high tech sectors of talented scientists and technology experts-permitting highly skilled foreign graduates who wish to work in their field of study upon graduation and extend their post-graduate training in the United States," the office said in its news release.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Jill McDonald, the head of the British division of McDonald's, gave a talk this week in which she said that many of those put off by the increasing tuition rates at universities should consider working at McDonald's instead, Financial News reported. "We need to acknowledge that the road many young people take today may not be the one we took in the past," she said. "We need to remove the snobbery." Added McDonald (who happens to have the name of her employer): "I am definitely not saying that people shouldn’t go to university if they have the opportunity to do so, but I do believe it might not be the right route for everyone."

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Junior College Athletic Association's board has voted to limit the number of non-U.S. athletes to one-fourth of scholarship players, USA Today reported. In basketball and volleyball, for instance, that would be three per team. The move follows reports of growing numbers of foreign athletes -- some of them older than most American team members, some of whom it may be questionable to call amateurs -- on some teams.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican and chair of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, said Wednesday that Congress “will take steps to reauthorize” the Workforce Investment Act “in the coming months.” The legislation was enacted in 1998 to fund training programs for displaced workers and the unemployed, but it has not been formally renewed since. Many career and technical education advocates have pushed for significant changes to be made to the law when Congress considers it again. At a hearing entitled “Removing Inefficiencies in the Nation’s Job Training Programs,” Foxx said “there are still areas where overlapping programs or services could be further consolidated and improved.” In March, a Government Accountability Office report “identified 47 separate job training programs administered by 9 federal agencies” and that 44 of those 47 programs “overlap with at least one other program.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Both The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News (behind a paywall) are reporting this morning that the retirement of Mike McKinney as chancellor of the Texas A&M University System -- announced this week -- may not have been voluntary. Both articles cite the intensifying debates in Texas over carrying out the ideas of Governor Rick Perry. Texas A&M has been criticized by many for being too quick to go along with some of those ideas about measuring the output of faculty members, but the articles suggest Perry allies don't think the university has moved enough in that direction.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Brian Jensen of the College of Saint Rose reveals how the pesticides we use to make our lawns beautiful could be altering the ecology of streams and rivers. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- National Institutes of Health officials told U.S. senators Tuesday that budget cuts imposed on the agency this year would lower applicants' odds of winning a research grant to roughly one in six, an all-time low. Francis S. Collins, the NIH's director, made that statement at a hearing of a Senate appropriations subcommittee to discuss President Obama's proposal for a 2.4 percent increase in spending on the agency in 2012 -- an increase that advocates for biomedical research say is inadequate, but that could be threatened by House Republican plans for major cuts in federal spending. Collins said that the NIH provided research support to about 20 percent of grant applicants in the 2010 fiscal year, but that that figure would drop in 2011 and could fall much further if the House cuts for 2012 are enacted.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A graduate student who planned to burn an American flag at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge was prevented from doing so by the lack of a burning permit and more than 1,000 students who gathered to protest his idea, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Authorities escorted the graduate student from the scene to avoid violence. His idea was to protest the arrest of another student who was arrested for cutting down and burning a flag.

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Phil Hamilton, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, of bribery and extortion in relation to a job he received at Old Dominion University, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Hamilton was charged with, as a powerful state legislator, obtaining $500,000 in state funds for Old Dominion to create a program he went on to lead as director of the university's Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. Hamilton has denied wrongdoing.

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