What would Bill Gates fund? That's the question many in higher education want to know and his annual letter about his interests for his foundation offers some guidance. This year, one of his areas of interest is online learning. "So far technology has hardly changed formal education at all. But a lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the Internet will surprise people in how it can improve things — especially in combination with face-to-face learning. With the escalating costs of education, an advance here would be very timely," he writes. He praises colleges and universities for putting lectures online, but argues that online learning also needs to include interactivity. He also expresses interest in identifying the best educational materials online and better organizing them.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The foundation of the City College of San Francisco is trying to gain control of its $19 million in assets, which have been managed directly by the college, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Foundation officials say that they still want to support the college's students and programs, but they say they need clear independence to maintain credibility in the wake of charges against the former chancellor of the college and two other senior officials that they diverted college funds illegally to political campaigns that benefited the college.
A doctoral candidate at the University of Manitoba twice failed comprehensive examinations, but was reinstated to the program after claiming exam anxiety, according to a complaint filed by a professor, The Winnipeg Free Press reported. The professor claims he has been reprimanded for discussing the case -- and cannot provide documentation for his claims. The university, citing confidentiality, is not discussing the case.
Hotel workers are again having disputes with San Francisco hotels, and some groups are calling for boycotts. The Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association has announced that it may move its annual meeting -- scheduled to start March 31 in San Francisco -- to another city. The association is currently polling speakers scheduled to appear at the meeting to determine the impact of a switch in cities.
Elsevier is pushing the only one of its journals that doesn't use peer review -- Medical Hypotheses -- to start using peer review, Times Higher Education reported. The journal has to date published articles that its editor -- Bruce Charlton, professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham -- believes are "radical, interesting and well argued," Times Higher said. Elsevier started the push to change the publishing process after a controversy over the journal's publication of an article arguing that HIV does not cause AIDS. Charlton is opposing the proposed changes. "Medical Hypotheses has for 34 years been editorially reviewed and radical," he said. "Therefore [the proposals] cannot possibly be acceptable."
President Obama will use his State of the Union address to propose limits on the total amount of federal student loan repayments that a recent college graduate could be required to make, The New York Times reported. The address on Wednesday will feature a series of proposals -- smaller in scale than the reform of health care being debated in Congress -- designed to help families. The loan proposal would cap repayments for recent college graduates at 10 percent of income above a basic living allowance, the Times said.
Chicago State University wants its statue back. A columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times revealed Friday that a $25,000 statue of an African slave (bought by the university with state funds that were earmarked for a financial aid center) is apparently now in the possession of State Rep. Monique Davis. The column reported that the university -- where a new president is trying to get finances and management under control after a series of financial scandals -- doesn't know how the statue got lost, but wants it back. Davis has been refusing to return the statue, despite multiple requests from the university. On Saturday, the Sun-Times reported that Davis was seeking a legal opinion before announcing her plans for the 400-pound work of art.
The body of one of the Lynn University students missing in Haiti has been found and her family members have been informed, WPBF News 25 reported Sunday. She was apparently killed immediately after the devastating earthquake. Three other students and two faculty members from Lynn are unaccounted for. Reports from Haiti suggest that the efforts there have shifted from those aimed at rescuing survivors to those aimed at recovering bodies of those killed. The parents of one of the missing Lynn students who have been particularly outspoken in urging intensified rescue operations ended a vigil they have kept at Lynn's campus in Florida and returned to Massachusetts. In remarks Thursday evening, Lynn's president, Kevin M. Ross, stressed the importance of recovering all of those caught in the earthquake -- even if they did not survive. "This is needed for every grieving father, son, mother, daughter, friend and neighbor who is aching at this very moment for a phone call. Whenever that phone call comes, I join the families of our missing six in demanding that such a call contain news of the whereabouts of the missing. A missing family member, whether alive or dead, must be returned to his or her loved ones," he said. At the same time, he said that the university was not giving up hope, saying "We still believe in miracles."
Applications are up! It's that time of year; the press is full of reports about colleges -- mostly the elites but others too -- reporting surges in applications, and there is detailed analysis of the relative size of the increases at Princeton vs. Harvard and so forth. A few words of caution: Most of the colleges capturing headlines were very difficult to get into last year, and the year before, and the year before that too, so the shift is less dramatic than it might seem. At the many colleges a notch or three below in competitiveness, college presidents will freely admit when not being quoted by name that they have more applications because lots of families are shopping for the best aid packages possible, and that applying doesn't necessarily mean serious interest. At many of these colleges, in fact, the number of applicants admitted may actually go up in anticipation of lower yields (the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll).
Colleges in a tracking project of the American College Health Association are continuing to report fewer new cases of H1N1 or similar illnesses, but some campuses are reporting gains in the percentage of students who have been vaccinated. Nationally, only about 9 percent of students at the colleges being tracked have been vaccinated. But the association is now reporting that with increased availability of the vaccine, some campuses report rates in the 25-30 percent range. Details are available on the association's Web site.