The e.Republic Center for Digital Education and Converge Magazine last week named the most technology-savvy community colleges in the country, based on a recent survey of community college officials. Montgomery County Community College, in Pennsylvania, received the highest marks among colleges with more than 7,500 students, whose top finishers also included two colleges from Virginia and two from Maryland. Laramie County Community College in Wyoming took the top spot among mid-sized institutions (3,000 to 7,500 students), while Panola College in Texas won the small-college category. The survey asked voters to assess the community colleges based on several metrics, including their use of distance education, available technology training, and the extent to which they had integrated Web 2.0 tools. The full rankings are available on the center's Web site.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Members of the adjunct union at Rhode Island College have voted to ratify a contract, the union's first with the college and the first for any adjunct union in Rhode Island, The Providence Journal reported. The contract provides for a 3 percent pay increase this year, the same level other faculty members at the college are receiving. Union leaders said that they were pleased as well with a range of codified benefits, including seniority and job security rights, a grievance procedure that includes binding arbitration, and leaves of absence for circumstances such as illness and bereavement. The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
An Evergreen State College professor has been placed on leave after an audit revealed that he could not account for at least $50,000 that he collected from students for study abroad trips he organized to Chile, The Seattle Times reported. Thirteen students have settled a dispute with the college over payments and are receiving refunds.
In an attempt to show that there are no "trick questions," the University of Oxford has for the first time released samples of interview questions used in the admissions process, The Times of London reported. Mike Nicholson, Oxford’s director of admissions, told the newspaper: "The interviews are all about assessing academic ability and potential.... The aim is to get candidates to use their knowledge and apply their minds to new problems while allowing them to shine. No special knowledge is required and there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers.” Among the questions released: "What is language?" and "Why might it be useful for an English student to read the Twilight series?"
Usually groups like the Project on Student Debt are worried about college students taking on too large a loan burden. But in a report released Thursday, the group argues that many community college students are actually hurt because their institutions do not give them access to federal loans. As a result, the group says, the students either work so much that they hurt their chances of succeeding academically, or turn to riskier and more expensive private loans instead. The report examines the reasons why some community colleges shun the federal loan program and how their decisions hurt their students.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the formal launch Thursday of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, about which university officials are very excited. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities anticipates that the institute, which will replace the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the Agriculture Department's chief provider of academic research funds, will significantly boost the amount of federal funds for ag research that flows to universities. Also Thursday, a conference committee of the U.S. Senate and House approved a compromise spending bill for the Agriculture Departnt that would increase spending on agricultural research to $2.767 billion in 2010, up $174 million over 2009. The National Institute of Food and Agricultur would receive $1.343 billion, $176 million more than what President Obama requested.
The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded this morning to Herta Müller, a German writer of novels, short stories and essays, "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed," according to the Nobel committee. Müller was born in Romania, where her family was a member of the German minority in that country, and her writing and activism in opposition to the CeauÅŸescu’s dictatorship led to her censorship in Romania, clashes with the government and her eventual move to Germany. The University of Nebraska Press published her book Nadirs (in a translation by Sieglinde Lug, a professor of German and comparative literature at the University of Denver). Two of her books are available through Northwestern University Press: The Land of Green Plums and Traveling on One Leg.
Ninety-two percent of the 273 colleges and universities in a sample being tracked by the American College Health Association reported new cases of H1N1 or similar illnesses in the last week studied, up from 91 percent the previous week. The highest rates of activity are in states in the Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, District of Columbia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania). More details and H1N1 resources are available on the association's Web site.
Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, is proposing that Congress bar the National Science Foundation from supporting research in political science. While the NSF is best known for its support for the physical sciences, computer science and engineering, it has a long history of also supporting work in the social sciences. A statement from the senator said: "The purpose of this amendment is not to restrict science, but rather to better focus scarce basic research dollars on the important scientific endeavors that can expand our knowledge of true science and yield breakthroughs and discoveries that can improve the human condition." While such an amendment is unlikely to be enacted, the American Political Science Association is organizing letter-writing efforts against the measure.
While 89 percent of Latino young adults (ages 16 to 25) say that a college education is important for success in life, only 48 percent say that they themselves plan to get a college degree, according to a new national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center. A report by the center offers an overview of the reasons for this gap -- and identifies financial pressure to support a family as a key issue.