Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 3:00am

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has announced that it will conduct an audit of its scholarship program, following reports of repeated violations of its rules by one member, The Dallas Morning News reported. The Morning News revealed recently that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, gave 23 scholarships to four of her relatives and two children of a top aide -- violating the foundation's anti-nepotism rules and requirements that scholarship recipients live in the districts of the members awarding the funds.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the legality of a Florida law that bars state employees from using state funds to travel to countries on the U.S. government's list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected a challenge by faculty members from several public universities in Florida, who argued that the state statute conflicts with federal law and intrudes on the federal government's power to control foreign affairs. But the appeals panel, in partially overturning a lower court's split ruling, backed the state's right to determine how its own funds for education (and non-state funds administered at state expense) are spent, including on academic travel.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The White House said Monday that the Obama administration would revamp and simplify its system of export controls -- a set of procedures and regulations that are designed to limit the sharing of certain technological information with foreign parties, but that research administrators and scholars complain often impair their work. University research officials were quick to praise the proposed reforms, which are expected to limit the number and type of technologies with which companies and universities need licenses if they wish to involve foreign nationals in the work.

"The export controls regulations that served the United States well 40 years ago no longer meet the country‟s needs. In fact, many current requirements actually impede our national security and thwart our ability to compete," John Hennessy, Stanford University's president, said in a statement from the Association of American Universities. "[I]n a world of globalized science and technology, our security will come from our ability to 'run faster' than our competitors, not from building walls around our nation. A more agile and responsive system of controls will allow us to focus our energies on serious security risks, make informed decisions, and make them more quickly."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Justice Department has sued Maricopa County Community College District, charging it with illegal discrimination by requiring non-citizens to produce more work authorization documents than are required, the Associated Press reported. U.S. citizens have not faced the additional requirements. A district spokesman declined to comment on the suit.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

New Jersey's low-income students will see their state grants for higher education cut by 8 percent this year, even as they face higher tuition rates, The Star-Ledger reported. The state increased funding for the grants program by 18 percent, but the number of eligible students surged, so the additional funds were not enough to keep the grant size even with last year's level.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

A judge in British Columbia has lifted an injunction that blocked the University of Victoria from moving ahead with its rabbit control plan, but the rabbits may be safe from being killed, The Globe and Mail reported. The judge ruled that the animal rights activists who won the injunction earlier, lacked standing to sue the university over its plan to deal with some 2,000 wild rabbits on the campus by trapping and relocating some of them, killing some of them, and sterilizing others. The controversy has prompted so many offers to take some of the rabbits, university officials said, that if everyone who has offered to do so follows through, no bunnies will be killed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California system's retirement fund faces a shortfall of $20 billion, according to a study released Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. A committee that produced the study offered a number of recommendations for closing the gap, including raising the retirement age for new employees, increasing the contributions made by both the university and its employees, and reducing benefits. Faculty members worry that some of the changes could make employment at the university less attractive for some of the academic talent they would like to recruit. Mark G. Yudof, the system president, recently sent a letter to all employees in which he said some changes are essential. "If we do nothing, in four years, the university will be spending more on retirement programs each year than we do on classroom instruction," he said.

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

An injunction issued by a federal judge last week against new federally funded stem cell research "not only blocks potential life-saving research but also threatens to undermine the system of peer-reviewed science that has helped make America the unquestioned world leader in scientific discovery," says a statement issued Friday by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Council on Governmental Relations. The statement continues: "Embryonic stem cell research holds enormous potential for developing treatments and cures for numerous chronic and fatal diseases. With scientists across the nation positioned to make dramatic advances funded substantially by the National Institutes of Health, this judicial action is particularly disappointing. We hope this injunction will be lifted soon and that the lawsuit will be unsuccessful. As these court actions have made clear, it is imperative that policymakers clarify that federal law unambiguously permits the funding of this critical research."

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to four of her relatives, and two children of a top aide, The Dallas Morning News reported. The foundation provides funds to to members to give out as college scholarships, and while there are relatively few requirements on the awards, there is an anti-nepotism rule that was violated. Another rule that was violated in all of the awards is that those receiving the funds need to live in the districts of the caucus members giving out the money. Johnson told the Morning News that she violated these rules "unknowingly" and would "rectify the financial situation."

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department has selected a Minnesota company, Education Credit Management Corporation, to manage California's federal student loan portfolio, The Sacramento Bee reported. The decision removes EdFund from the federal loan program. EdFund has managed California's federal loans but has been in a series of controversies with the state, with some officials wanting to sell the agency -- a move that is now blocked.

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