With community colleges in California facing massive budget cuts that could force them to limit enrollments, a new report shows just how against the grain those cuts could go. The California Postsecondary Education Commission projects that enrollment in the state's two-year institutions will top 2 million by 2019, an increase of more than 10 percent from the current levels. The report comes at a time, though, when the 110 two-year colleges are facing an 8 percent budget cut in 2009-10 that, if applied to enrollments, would result in 180,000 fewer students.
Higher Education Quick Takes
One of the hot battles in standardized testing these days is over the M.B.A. market. The Graduate Management Admission Test has long been dominant. In 2003, the Educational Testing Service lost its contract for the exam to ACT and a Pearson division, and a few years later, ETS was talking about encouraging business schools to consider the Graduate Record Examinations as an alternative to the GMAT and a growing number of top business schools have agreed to accept either test. (The GMAT is a general test, and doesn't focus on business skills or knowledge.) On Monday, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions released results of a survey of admissions officers at 260 M.B.A. programs, saying that while 24 percent now accept the GRE, only another 4 percent are considering making that move. Kaplan characterized the mood as one of "wait and see," despite the shifts by a number of highly regarded programs. Kaplan advised would-be b-school students to prepare for the GMAT.
David Payne, the ETS vice president and chief operating officer for college and graduate programs, questioned any assumption that more business schools aren't about to accept the GRE. "Had Kaplan posed the same question 18 months ago to Harvard, Wharton, Stern, Tuck, Darden and Yale, I would assume they might have indicated no plans to explore accepting GRE scores, too. What we know is that now more than 250 MBA programs and seven of the top 10 global MBA programs accept the GRE because it makes good business sense," he said.
Research universities produce economic activity that spills over to their local communities -- but to no greater extent than the "spillover" effect that other types of local economic activity produce, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study, a summary of which can be found here (along with information about purchasing it), was published by two researchers at the University of California at Merced; it finds that a "10 percent increase in higher education spending increases local non-education sector labor income by about 0.5 percent," about the same as the "agglomeration spillovers arising from local economic activity in general," suggesting that "university activity does not appear to make a place any more productive than other forms of economic activity.... We do find, however, that the magnitude of the spillover is significantly larger for firms that are technologically closer to universities in terms of citing patents generated by universities in their own patents and sharing a labor market with higher education," the authors write.
Britain instituted new visa rules this year, and many universities are reporting early indications that their international enrollments could be down by as much as 20 percent, The Guardian reported. Universities report that some find the visa system complicated and that others are getting rejected for visas -- and then turning to options in Australia or the United States.
In 2006, Jon H. Oberg revealed himself as the Education Department researcher who had brought to light revelations that several student loan companies were taking advantage of a loophole in federal law that allowed them to continue to make loans for which they were guaranteed an interest rate return of 9.5 percent. On Monday, the next step in his whistle blowing effort became clear, when a federal court unsealed a lawsuit he had filed under the False Claims Act, seeking the return of $1 billion in subsidies that he says a group of lenders illegally received from the government. Under the False Claims Act, citizens who believe they have identified fraud committed against the government sue, hoping to be joined by the U.S. Justice Department. (The Justice Department declined to join the suit last week, leading to it being unsealed by a federal court in Virginia.) Oberg, a former Congressional aide and staff member at the Institute for Education Sciences who is now a private citizen, is suing Nelnet, Sallie Mae and nine other lenders.
With enrollments soaring at many colleges and universities, those where students drive to class are more frustrated than ever. Features in the Los Angeles Times (on California State University at Fullerton) and by North Carolina's WECT (on Cape Fear Community College) look at how students hunt for spaces. A student at Cape Fear said: "You literally -- I just did it right now -- this guy was just walking to his car and you literally have to follow him to his car to get the spot," said student Allison Puckett. "That's how it works, this year, at least."
A state judge in Louisiana on Monday rejected a lawsuit challenging Tulane University's decision, as part of a post-Katrina reorganization, to shut down a separate division for women, the Associated Press reported. The suit was brought by the great-great-great niece of the woman who donated money to Tulane to found the college. While much of the rhetoric of those backing the suit has focused on the ethical issues associated with honoring the wishes of original donors, the judge's ruling focused on the legal agreement to provide the funds. "The court finds the language of Josephine Newcomb's [the donor's] will contains no enforceable conditional obligation to support plaintiff's claim," the judge ruled.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis last week gave an interview to National Public Radio in which she answered a listener's question about adjunct instructors in a way that some viewed as questioning their commitment to teaching -- but she has now clarified her comments. The comment in question, found toward the bottom of this transcript, is: "[T]he continuance of involvement on the part of part-time faculty members I think is a legitimate issue and should be looked at. Because as it stands, you also find that that faculty member is not as inclined to stay committed to those groups of students that they do teach because they're off to different -- other -- what they call, freeway traveling or teaching.…" The American Federation of Teachers approached the Labor Department about the issue and published this statement of clarification that the AFT received: "Adjunct faculty are being particularly hard-hit by the financial crisis at the state level. They deserve to be represented in collective bargaining, and their collective bargaining agreements should be respected. I certainly was not implying that adjuncts are not committed to their students, or that they are anything other than excellent educators. In fact, my involvement with California community colleges has shown me that they are committed professionals who are dedicated to helping students succeed. What I wanted to get across is that, too often, adjunct faculty do not get the level of compensation or professional supports that full-time faculty receive to advise students academically, follow students through their academic careers, develop the college's curriculum, etc. Too many adjuncts, I noted, wind up needing to move from college to college each week just to put together a small living."
The University of Illinois is eliminating the jobs of most staff members of its Global Campus, an ambitious and controversial effort to create a major distance education unit, functioning largely independently of the university's campuses and their faculties, The News-Gazette reported. A new distance education effort is being planned in its place. The Global Campus has been a source of concern to faculty members from the start, as many said it was created without adequate academic oversight by professors.
David E. Skaggs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, resigned Friday, after less than three years in office, citing a conflict with Gov. Bill Ritter, The Denver Post reported. The Post did not have details on the conflict, but noted that a draft strategic plan for higher education in Colorado, prepared by Skaggs, has upset some college presidents. The plan would create financial incentives for colleges to improve student performance, but some campus-based officials believe the proposal asserts too much state authority.