Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Gaston Caperton announced Friday that he will step down next year as president of the College Board, which he has led since 1999. A statement from the College Board listed many accomplishments of his tenure, including growth in the Advanced Placement program, shifts in the SAT (most notably the introduction of a writing exam) and growth in membership of the College Board. Caperton's tenure also included substantial growth, however, in market share for the ACT, which now is roughly equal to the SAT as the primary college entrance exam; major controversies over a for-profit spinoff that the College Board shut down in 2002 amid criticism from members that it was wrong for the organization to sell products related to its tests; a major scoring scandal, and growth in the number of colleges dropping the SAT as a requirement -- with those colleges almost uniformly reporting satisfaction with the shift.

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Oxford is investigating allegations that the thesis proposal of Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, a doctoral student who is a son of a former president of Iran, was written with outside help, The Guardian reported. Rafsanjani denies the allegations and says that he is being smeared. The inquiry is particularly sensitive because of recent questions about the legitimacy of a Ph.D. awarded by the London School of Economics and Political Science to a son of Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges and universities that are highly prestigious tend to have high yields (the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll). But U.S. News & World Report has just published an analysis suggesting that, for law schools, the institutions with the 10 highest yield rates include institutions that are identified by the magazine as the 42nd, 71st, 79th and 140th best law schools, and four that aren't ranked. The data suggest that mission may matter more than typical measures of prestige. Three of the law schools with highest yields are affiliated with religious colleges (Brigham Young, Liberty and Regent Universities). Two others are historically black institutions (Southern and North Carolina Central Universities). The others are the flagship universities in Oklahoma and New Mexico, Harvard and Yale Universities and the University of Memphis.

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Many states and state universities have been citing the rising cost of retiree health benefits as a key financial challenge. A Boston Globe analysis suggests that the problem may be equally significant at leading private universities. Last year, for the first time, Harvard University's liability for retiree medical benefits ($812 million) exceeded its pension liability ($763 million). While universities are required to set aside funds for pensions, they are not required to do so for medical benefit liabilities for retirees, and some institutions face significant gaps. Yale University, the Globe reported, has set aside $700 million for its $1.1 billion pension liability. But the university has set aside only $274 million for its $820 million retiree medical benefit liability.

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Tik Root, a Middlebury College junior studying at Damascus University, is missing, and his father said that Syrian officials have confirmed that he is in custody. Middlebury has posted statements from Root's father and from the college's president. Middlebury students have also created a Facebook group to encourage people to push for Root's release. Root's father believes he was watching the protests and was detained along with other observers.

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Professors at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls voted overwhelmingly Thursday to unionize, the River Falls Journal reported, joining several other faculty bodies that have done so even as the state moves to strip public college faculty members of their recently won right to bargain collectively. The River Falls professors voted 148 to 16 to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers branch in Wisconsin.

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Marquette University announced Thursday that it will start to offer domestic partner benefits to employees in 2012, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Both faculty and student groups have asked the university to start the benefit. Marquette, a Roman Catholic university, has faced scrutiny over its treatment of gay employees since its move last year to rescind a job offer to a lesbian scholar for a dean's position. Rev. Robert A. Wild, Marquette's president, sent a message to the campus Thursday explaining the decision to offer benefits. "If we are truly pastoral in our application of the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, I asked myself if I could reconcile that with denying health benefits to a couple who have legally registered their commitment to each other," he said. Cura personalis means "care for the entire person."

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 3:00am

The Institute of International Education has created an emergency fund to help economically distressed students from Japan who are studying on campuses in the United States. The fund, established with support from the Freeman Foundation, will provide grants of up to $5,000 for students from the regions of Japan most affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Accredited American campuses can nominate students on the institute's website.

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Texas Board of Regents is ending a special position it created recently for Rick O'Donnell, who in his work at a think tank has questioned why universities spend so much time and effort on research, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Many faculty members and others have questioned why a research university's board would hire someone hostile to one of its key missions. O'Donnell's think tank and most of the regents are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican.

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Bakersfield College, a two-year institution in California, on Thursday announced a gift of nearly $14 million, most of which will support scholarships. The announcement said the gift was the largest ever to any community college, topping the previous record of $10 million (to Santa Monica City College). Officials of the Council for Resource Development, a group of community college development officials, said that they did not have a definitive list of the largest gifts to community colleges. But at least one community college, Clark College in Washington State, reports that its foundation received gifts that should be counted as the previous top gift at the very least. In the 1990s, Clark received a gift of $12 million and a bequest shortly after of $13 million (from the same donor), and the two donations were so close together that the college has considered them a single gift. But Lisa Gibert, who heads the foundation at Clark, said that they were technically two gifts, so Bakersfield has a claim on the top spot among community college gifts.

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