Fixing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may not be enough to ease low-income students' access to federal financial assistance, a new report suggests. The study, by the Institute for College Access & Success, lays out the significant barriers that face students after they've filled out the FAFSA, which the Education Department is working to simplify. The major impediment, the group argues, is a process in which the department seeks to verify the financial information submitted by applicants -- a process that disproportionately affects Pell Grant recipients and disqualifies significant numbers of them. The report includes a series of recommendations aimed at lowering the barriers while still ensuring the integrity of the federal financial aid awards process.
Higher Education Quick Takes
British officials have decided to let BPP, a for-profit institution affiliated with the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, call itself a "university college," a closely controlled and significant term in Britain, Financial Times reported. The new status will also see the British branch, which has focused on business programs, move into many other academic areas. David Willetts, universities and science minister, said that "what matters is the quality of the teaching experience, not the exact legal status of the institution."
Rutgers University has declined a request from Gov. Chris Christie that the institution start growing medical marijuana under the provisions of a new state law, NewJersey.com reported. The law allows for the designation of several nonprofit groups to grow the pot, but the governor had hoped to centralize the operation at Rutgers. University officials said that they feared the impact of growing marijuana -- even at the request of the state -- on the institution's ability to obtain federal research grants.
The University of Texas at Austin last week unveiled a new bottled water - H2Orange -- in bottles shaped like the university's main tower -- as a way to raise money for scholarships. But on Friday, protesters held a rally to criticize the use of plastic instead of refillable aluminum bottles, News 8 reported. University officials said that the plastic being used can be recycled and that there are plans for reusable bottles in the future.
Centenary College, in New Jersey, is closing business programs it operates in Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan after finding rampant cheating among students there, The Star-Ledger reported. The college is also withholding degrees from 400 students at the programs -- giving them the choice of taking an exam to qualify for their degrees or receiving tuition refunds.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Friday called for the elimination of the central office of the Connecticut State University system. Governor Rell's statement followed earlier suggestions she made -- thus far rejected by the system's board -- to rescind raises of more than 8 percent for the system chancellor and presidents. University officials have defended the raises as "equity" measures needed to keep the system competitive. The governor's statement said: "Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why, in these difficult times, the trustees would approve salary increases of as much as 8 percent, 10 percent or 10.27 percent for people who are paid between $285,000 and $360,000 a year."
Trinity College, in Connecticut, is celebrating a significant increase in its alumni giving rate, encouraged by an anonymous donor. The Hartford Courant reported that the donor offered $5 million a year ago -- but only if the giving rate among living alumni hit at least 55 percent. The rate was 47 percent in 2008-9. Following a year of intense organizing, Trinity's rate is now just over 55 percent.
The University of Provence Aix-Marseille has called off a conference on Mediterranean literature after some participants said that they wouldn't interact with an Israeli author scheduled to appear, Haaretz and the Associated Press reported. The university's president, Jean-Paul Caverni, said that the institution would not "hold a conference with those who excluded dialogue."
The University of California at San Diego has announced that it has authorized 33 new faculty searches for 2010-11 -- and that 12 of the searches will be focused on hires who will "contribute to diversity, equity and climate of inclusion at UC San Diego." An additional 7 slots beyond the 33 will be available for "opportunities that emerge throughout the year," with a focus there on diversity and inclusiveness as well. The move follows a year in which the university faced several racial incidents and debates over its climate.
University of Colorado at Boulder announced Thursday that all study abroad programs in Mexico have been suspended for summer and fall due to continuing safety concerns. Boulder sponsors programs in Mexico in Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and Monterrey. The university's office of international education will work with students planning to go to Mexico this fall to find alternate locations for a study abroad experience.