Congressional Democrats and the White House reached agreement Wednesday on the higher education portion of revamped budget reconciliation legislation, the text of which is available here. The measure would provide $36 billion in new spending on Pell Grants (allowing the maximum grant to reach $5,975 by 2017 and linking increases in the grant to the inflation rate, but only from 2013 to 2017), $2.55 billion for historically black and other minority-serving institutions, and $750 million for college access completion grants. And in a turnaround from a few days ago, when it became clear that the legislation would not finance the community-college focused American Graduation Initiative, the measure would provide $2 billion for a competitive grant program for two-year community college and career training programs, aimed at supporting careers of the future. The legislation would also funnel $9 billion to help pay for the health care provisions in the overall budget legislation, and another $10 billion to reduce the deficit. A fuller report on the legislation will appear on Inside Higher Ed Friday.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Anyone for a Constitutional convention? If the debate over health care wasn't evidence enough of how broken Congress is, try this: the San Francisco Chronicle's account of a disagreement between two members of the House of Representatives over resolutions honoring successful college sports teams. According to the newspaper, Rep. Peter Campbell, a California Republican, delayed a vote this week on a resolution recognizing the University of Maryland's men's basketball team for qualifying for the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I tournament. His formal reason for opposing the resolution was that teams shouldn't be recognized for merely earning a spot in a tournament, but his real motivation, the Chronicle reported, was payback for Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who sponsored the resolution. Last fall, Hoyer had (as reported by the Orange County Register) helped scuttle a vote on a Campbell-sponsored resolution recognizing the University of California at Irvine for winning the NCAA's men's volleyball title. Hoyer had acted at the behest of Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat who was annoyed at Campbell for opposing a recycling bill he was pushing. Campbell had opposed that legislation, the newspapers reported, because of a disagreement with Miller over another California water issue. Your tax dollars at work.
California community college students who are eligible for financial aid but don't apply for it may be losing up to a half billion dollars, according to a new analysis by the Institute for College Access and Success. While many community college students in California enroll part time, and such students nationally are less likely than others to seek federal aid, the study said that even among full-time students, those at California community colleges who are likely to be eligible are less likely than those in other states to apply.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology told applicants whether they got in this year last Sunday, at 1:59 p.m. Why? As The Boston Globe reported, the date was 3/14 -- or Pi Day, an ideal time to learn about a future at the institute. Next year, however, with Pi Day falling on Monday, officials won't do the same thing, as they don't want students distracted during the school day.
The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations have written to Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, urging him to assure that the Office for Civil Rights protects Jewish students from harassment or intimidation based on their ethnicity or religion. OCR under the Bush administration gave conflicting signs about whether it considered that it had authority to explore such issues. A statement from the ADL said: "ADL has significant concerns about harassment and intimidation of Jewish students on college campuses – including in the context of heated debate over Israel. We believe the Department of Education should use its civil rights enforcement power to investigate and remedy serious incidents in which Jewish students are threatened, harassed, or intimidated to the point where their college experience is impaired."
In a news conference on the eve of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he would like to see teams whose graduation rates are below 40 percent banned from postseason play. Duncan issued an identical challenge in a high-profile speech at the NCAA's annual convention in January. By Duncan’s proposed standard, 12 teams with poor four-year average graduation rates would miss this year’s men’s basketball tournament: Baylor University (36 percent), Clemson University (37 percent), Georgia Institute of Technology (38 percent), New Mexico State University (36 percent), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (29 percent), University of California at Berkeley (20 percent), University of Kentucky (31 percent), University of Louisville (38 percent), University of Maryland at College Park (8 percent), University of Missouri at Columbia (36 percent), University of Tennessee at Knoxville (30 percent) and University of Washington (29 percent). These graduation rates do not punish teams for players who leave college early as long as they leave in good academic standing. Though the NCAA began banning teams from postseason play for poor academic performance for the first time just last year -- based on its system of Academic Progress Rates -- Duncan said these reforms do not go far enough. The NCAA, however, defended its method of holding teams accountable for their academic performance. “The NCAA shares Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s concern over some institutions that have low graduation rates among their basketball teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament,” Erik Christianson, NCAA spokesman, explained in a statement. "However, imposing a ban on teams for the academic performance of student-athletes who entered as freshman 8-11 years ago is probably not the best course of action. Basing post-season bans on graduation rates penalizes the wrong students."
Faculty members in Tennessee are objecting to proposed legislation that would bar them from collecting royalties on their own books, if they assign them for their courses, The Tennessean reported. The professors say that they are entitled to the compensation they earn on book sales, given the long hours involved in producing the works. But the state legislator who is pushing the bill says that such payments are "kickbacks."
Stuart Dorsey, president of the University of Redlands, quit Tuesday, citing divisions on the campus over budget cuts, The Press-Enterprise reported. The university is facing a budget deficit and considering cuts, including faculty positions."I regret that I, rightly or wrongly, have become the personification and focal point of the budget controversy that is raging and threatens to damage that asset," the president said. "Very, very reluctantly and with deep sadness, but out of respect and love for this great university, I have concluded that it is best for me to step aside." The university is considering a plan to close the computer science, Japanese and speech/debate departments, The San Bernardino County Sun reported.
City University London's closure of a prayer room used exclusively by Muslims has led to a month of protests by Muslim students there, Times Higher Education reported. The university has offered the students a room that is used for prayers by a variety of religious groups, but the students say that they cannot pray in a space where others offer prayers of different faiths.
Alabama's prepaid tuition program may not be able to pay tuition past the fall 2011 semester and still have money to provide refunds to the 44,000 participants who believed their children's tuition would be covered, the Associated Press reported. The program relies on investments, many on the stock market, and when Wall Street prices fell dramatically in 2008, the finances for the program became precarious and it stopped accepting new participants. There are proposals in the Legislature to provide a bailout but it is unclear if one of these will pass, leading some participants to talk of suing the state.