Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have rebuffed an effort by Congressional Republicans to use pending budget legislation to hamper the Education Department's ability to implement regulations requiring for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to ensure that their students are prepared for "gainful employment." Few details are available at this point about the compromise reached late Friday night between the White House and Congressional negotiators over a spending bill for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year; it is not entirely clear, for instance, how the legislation will affect federal student aid and research programs, although a post on the White House blog said the deal maintained the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. The post also says that the deal will force the White House to abandon its effort to "double the funding of key research and development agencies," but still permits "strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science."

But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirmed Sunday that the legislation would not contain a provision sought by a group of House members that would bar the Education Department from using any of its fiscal 2011 funds to carry out the controversial gainful employment rules, a new version of which the department is poised to release. The measure would have effectively delayed implementation of the regulations until October at the earliest. Opponents of the measure urged members Saturday to continue to push for the provision, but the Reid spokesman said it was dead.

The gainful employment provision was one of 66 "policy riders" that House Republicans sought to attach to the 2011 budget legislation, "and this was one they pushed for," the spokesman said. "But Sen. Reid and the White House firmly said no."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A part-time English instructor at Olympic College in Washington has filed a formal complaint with the National Education Association, alleging that his full-time colleagues retaliated against him for speaking out against a state bill that would benefit them but hurt adjuncts. "My treatment by the [Washington Education Association] calls into question the determination and ability of the WEA to provide fair and equal representation to the overwhelming majority (10,000) of the professors who teach 'part-time' in Washington's community and technical college system," the instructor, Jack Longmate, wrote in an April 5 letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. (In Washington, adjuncts are referred to as part-timers, even if some of them work full-time when all of their courses at various campuses are added together. Tenured and tenure-track professors are considered full-time.)

"The WEA has not acknowledged or addressed the serious and unmitigated conflicts of interest that exist between the part-timers, who lack any job security," continued Longmate, "and the full-timers, who have tenure and serve as their de facto supervisors."

Longmate, who was the subject of an earlier article in Inside Higher Ed, testified -- not as a union representative -- in February in front of the House Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives against a bill favored by the union. That bill would establish a way for the state to pay for salary increases for faculty members in the state's 34 community and technical colleges. In his letter to Van Roekel, Longmate said that his Washington colleagues censured him for coming out against a union-backed bill, demanded he resign as secretary of the campus chapter of the Association for Higher Education and rescinded his per diem and lodging for a union lobby day -- and didn't allow him a chance to defend himself. Longmate asked Van Roekel to establish a trusteeship over the Washington chapter to redress what he alleges are violations of its constitution and bylaws, and to bring in a third party to conduct an impartial investigation. Longmate contended that the issues brought forth in his complaint reflect systemic conflicts of interest between full-time and part-time faculty, and he asked the NEA to review its contracts to ensure compliance with its duty of fair representation.

The NEA was not immediately able to comment.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A survey of students at eight colleges and universities in North Carolina found that 17.4 percent are current users of hookahs, water pipes that have grown in popularity in recent years. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the study say that students seem unaware of health risks associated with the practice.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A long article in The Washington Post examines the ties between The Washington Post Company, the newspaper and Kaplan Higher Education. The article notes that while many credit Kaplan with providing the company with a secure financial base at a time of declining journalism-based revenue, the relationships have not always been smooth and have led to uncomfortable scrutiny. "Post Co. executives blame outside forces, including a drop in political support for private-sector education companies and 'financial and corporate agendas,'" the article says. "They also acknowledge missteps. Current and past officers say The Post Co. did not keep close-enough tabs on its fast-sprawling education unit, even as it focused heavily on customers who were poorer and thus at the riskier end of the business. But they say serving that disadvantaged population is important."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff recently gave a jailhouse interview to The Financial Times in which he said that one of his activities behind bars may soon be advising business schools. The article says: "Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights." The feelings may not be mutual. A spokeswoman for Northwestern's business school said that the institution is not engaged in any discussions with Madoff. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Harvard's business school said Monday morning that there was "no truth" to the idea that it was having any talks with Madoff.)

Friday, April 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The Florida A&M University board voted Thursday for cuts of more than 200 jobs (many of them paid for to date with federal stimulus funds) and the consolidation of many academic programs, and the elimination of others, WCTV News reported. Students have been organizing rallies against the cuts, which the university says are painful but necessary. "We're going to need more than English to make it out there because we're not just competing with English-speaking people for jobs anymore," said Ciara Taylor, a student in a Spanish program that is being cut.

Friday, April 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Arizona lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would allow concealed and openly carried guns in public spaces on the state's public college campuses, The Arizona Republic reported. To try to assure passage, the bill's backers had narrowed its scope in recent days; the measure originally would have allowed weapons anywhere on the campuses, including in classrooms. Governor Jan Brewer is expected to sign the legislation, which is one of several such measures moving through states in recent months.

Friday, April 8, 2011 - 3:00am

A professor at Folsom Lake College last week offered to raise students' grades if they helped the college's fund-raising efforts, but the offer was withdrawn after faculty members and students voiced concerns, The Sacramento Bee reported. Bernard Gibson, the professor, did not return calls from reporters.

Friday, April 8, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of Texas at Austin's Mark Simmons outlines the benefits of green roof technology. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California at San Diego and the California Western School of Law have placed a "pause" on talks about merging the private law school into the university. Officials cited the budget crisis currently facing the University of California.


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