The Association of American Law Schools is facing the prospect of a protest at its annual meeting in San Francisco this week because of a call by a labor group to boycott the Hilton hotel where parts of the meeting will be held. The association moved many sessions out of the hotel in response to the concerns, but leaders of the group note that there is no strike (just a boycott call) and that the organization signed a contract with the hotel nine years ago. Leaders of the association sent a letter to all law deans in December outlining efforts to move many sessions out of the hotel but also voicing concern that some speakers scheduled for the meeting had reported feeling "badgered and harassed" by demands that they move their sessions.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Some eyebrows are being raised in Florida over new data showing that some community college graduates -- generally in programs oriented toward science careers -- are earning more upon graduation than those who finish four-year degrees elsewhere, The Miami Herald reported. Those who graduate with an associate in science degree at a community college are reporting an average starting salary of $47,708. That's higher than the average for bachelor's degrees at either the state's public universities ($36,552) or private colleges and universities ($44,558).
The U.S. Education Department has published annual data that examine not only the standard two-year "cohort default rate" for student loan borrowers, but also the rate at which student loan borrowers default over the lifetime of their loans. As is true of other analyses of default rates, the statistics show that students at for-profit colleges are more likely to default on their federal loans than are students from other types of colleges.
Italian students held protests throughout the country Wednesday to object to major higher education reforms being promoted by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi, AFP reported. In Naples, students blocked train tracks, while buildings were occupied elsewhere and police in Palermo had to use tear gas to disperse crowds. The reform plan is expected, among other things, to result in the mergers of some universities and the hiring of non-academics as deans at some institutions.
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday announced a suit against Kaplan Higher Education, charging that the for-profit university was violating the rights of black job applicants by considering credit histories in deciding whom to hire. "This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity," said a statement from the EEOC. Kaplan issued a statement to Bloomberg saying that it conducted the credit checks only for jobs involving financial matters, adding that the company was "proud of the diversity of our workforce."
Tensions at the University of Puerto Rico are rising as a student strike continues over a fee increase, the Associated Press reported. At least 17 people were detained in clashes between protesters and police on Monday.
Congress on Tuesday passed legislation that, in funding the federal government's operations through March 4, ensures that the maximum Pell Grant will remain at $5,550 at least through then. Democratic leaders had hoped to pass legislation that would have set federal spending for the entire 2011 fiscal year, so that Republicans -- who've promised significant cutbacks in federal outlays -- could not initiate that approach until 2012. But with Republicans in the Senate blocking a vote on the Democrats' omnibus spending bill, a compromise was reached that sets spending only through March, at which time the newly configured Congress could begin slashing. The top priority for higher education leaders -- which they got -- was an amendment calling for fully funding the Pell Grant Program, which faces a $5.7 billion shortfall for 2011, and a gap that is expected to reach $8 billion in 2012.
As lawmakers rushed to finish the work of the 111th Congress, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the Senate's version of the America COMPETES Act, ensuring passage of the long-delayed science research bill. By a vote of 228-130, the House passed legislation that had cleared the Senate late last week after many months of false starts and numerous iterations. The legislation renews the 2007 America COMPETES Act, which authorized major increases for research at the National Science Foundation, new programs to encourage innovation, and significant increases in support for math and science teacher education. The renewal, which was criticized by Republican leaders for proposing too-large boosts in spending, was applauded by higher education officials. "COMPETES provides a framework for our nation’s investment in research and education that will strengthen our nation’s innovative capacity and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth," Robert M. Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities, said in a prepared statement.
Even as many universities continue to minimize salary increases for most employees (or to skip raises altogether), assistant football coaches are seeing already generous compensation packages grow, according to a new study by USA Today. In the Football Bowl Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 132 assistant coaches earned $250,000 or more, up from 106 last year. Within that group, 26 assistant football coaches are earning at least $400,000, double the number at that level a year ago.