A key legislator is calling for the resignation of B. Joseph White, president of the University of Illinois, and other university leaders, as a result of a scandal in which politically connected applicants were given preference in getting in -- sometimes over the strong objections of admissions officers, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune exposed the "clout' admissions system, which the university has since suspended. "They were trusted to protect our university.... In my eyes, they failed in that regard and they should resign," said Rep. Mike Boland, chair of the House Higher Education Committee. While many legislators helped get some applicants get in, the Tribune said that Boland's name does not appear on the patronage lists maintained by the university. A spokesman for the university said that no resignations are expected.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Graduate Management Admission Council announced a new campaign Friday to recruit more black students into M.B.A. programs and to help them do well on the GMAT, the admissions test sponsored by the council and used for most M.B.A. programs. The mean score of black students taking the GMAT -- 434 -- is about 100 points lower than the mean for all test takers. The council is starting a series of programs, including the distribution of test preparation materials to historically black colleges and a pledge to those colleges that it will waive fees for any of their student who want to take the test but feel unable to do so for financial reasons.
Borrowers with lower total educational debt were much likelier to borrow private student loans instead of Stafford loans than were peers with more debt, as were students at public two-year colleges, according to a new analysis of private student loan borrowers. The analysis, by the financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, aims to shed new light on the reasons why some students who might qualify for federal student loans opt instead for costlier and riskier alternative loans.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new solution to the budget problems at California's community colleges: more part-time instructors. The governor has asked legislators to suspend for five years state requirements that 50 percent of a community college district's educational expenditures be used for instructors' salaries, and that set a goal that 75 percent of instructional hours be taught by full-time faculty members, The Sacramento Bee reported. The community college system is currently facing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts -- with the prospect of turning students away all over the state. The California Federation of Teachers, the largest union of community college faculty members, is opposing the idea. Fred Glass, a spokesman for the union, told the Bee: "Nothing the governor says these days surprises us. He seems to be using this [fiscal crisis] as an opportunity to slash-and-burn education."
The U.S. Education Department on Friday said that its primary grant program to stimulate higher education innovation would focus this year on community college programs designed to help adult students and displaced workers. In an announcement in the Federal Register, the Education Department said it would give special priority in this year's grant competition in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to "innovative strategies to benefit working adults and displaced workers who are pursuing degrees or credentials in community colleges," including those that improve "academic remediation; tutoring; academic and personal counseling; registration processes; students' course selection and scheduling; instructional delivery, student support services related to childcare," or other purposes.
A new report by Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition of groups opposed to David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" and similar measures, argues that the entire movement is built on false premises and is designed to attack higher education. The report, "Manufactured Controversy," notes that legislative successes for this movement have been minimal, but that the effort still needs scrutiny. "Fortunately, the work of these conservative critics of higher education has been repulsed. Each and every legislative attempt to circumscribe the free exchange of ideas has met stiff resistance and ultimately failed, while legal and institutional attempts have offered nothing more than Pyrrhic victories," the report says. "Even as the threat wanes, it is important to understand that the right-wing critics of higher education are opportunistic and that so long as the academy remains the location of independent thought and vigorous debate, it always will be a target." The study summarizes various groups that have encouraged the Academic Bill of Rights or similar measures, and explores their funding sources, among other issues. Several right-leaning foundations have played key roles, the study says.
Via e-mail, Horowitz said of the new study: "This latest Free Exchange 'report' is yet another Orwellian attack by the teacher unions that seeks to portray the defenders of academic freedom as its opponents. To describe critiques of academic abuses as 'attacks on education' is like describing the opposition to child abuse as 'attacks on adults.' But that's exactly what the Free Exchange report does. It is able to do this by misrepresenting the argument of its opponents, distorting the facts, and omitting the vast body of evidence demonstrating that abuses exist."
The University of California at Los Angeles announced Wednesday that James Franco, the actor and UCLA alumnus, has backed out of his planned speech on June 12 at the graduation ceremony for the College of Letters and Science. A statement from Franco, released by the university, said: "I deeply regret not being able to keep my commitment to giving the commencement speech at UCLA's graduation this year. Unfortunately the date conflicts with me needing to be on location to begin pre-production on my next film. I wish everyone in the 2009 class the best of luck in all of their future endeavors." UCLA says it is searching for a substitute speaker. Some students had opposed the selection of Franco in the first place, but they wanted a replacement months ago, when the university had more time to find an alternative.
The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System is in an increasingly public fight with the president of the flagship campus at College Station. Mike McKinney has floated the idea that the chancellor's job that he holds might also directly lead the College Station campus, eliminating the job of Elsa Murano, who is the first woman and first Latino to hold the presidency there. Faculty and others oppose the idea of merging the positions. On Thursday, McKinney's first-year evaluation of Murano was released by the university. The Houston Chronicle reported that the chancellor gave Murano average or below average ratings in most category and said that she doesn't carry out policies with which she disagrees. Murano “fails to assume responsibility for decisions. (Should work WITH faculty, not FOR),” the review said. Murano issued a response in which she said: "I completely and absolutely disagree and reject the results of this evaluation.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, to apply for the $700 million in federal stimulus funds -- most of which would go to public education at all levels -- set aside for the state, The State reported. Sanford has been critical of the stimulus plan and has tried to keep South Carolina from spending most of the stimulus funds. The General Assembly was in a legal dispute with the governor over whether it could order him to take the funds, and the Supreme Court backed the legislators.
Kicking off the Congressional appropriations process for federal programs relevant to higher education, the House of Representatives panel that sets spending for most federal science programs drafted legislation Thursday that would provide more than $7 billion for the National Science Foundation and $510 million for the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, among other programs. The allocations proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies generally fell short of those recommended by the Obama administration, but would represent significant increases over what the agencies are receiving in the current 2008-9 fiscal year. The NSF, for instance, would receive $5.642 billion for research and related activities under the House panel's proposal, up from $5.183 billion in 2008-9 but less than the $5.733 billion the president proposed. The agency's education programs would receive a 2 percent increase over 2008-9, to $862 million. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive about $4.5 billion for its science programs, about equal to its current funding. Consistent with recent Congressional requirements, the House panel also released a table of projects earmarked by lawmakers for specific would-be recipients, which includes more than 150 projects worth tens of millions of dollars for colleges and universities. Among them: $1 million projects for Claflin University, Drew University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Tech University, and Towson University.