Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Despite severe budget cuts, the University of California has spent about $2 million on bottled water in recent years, The New York Times reported. The article noted that the expenses include bottled water that goes to campuses in areas known for particularly high quality tap water.

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 3:00am

A group of Democratic U.S. senators and representatives introduced legislation Thursday that would once again make most private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Borrowers could discharge such loans before Congress changed the bankruptcy laws in 2005, and advocates for students have argued since then that the often high-risk and costly loans should be treated like automobile and other forms of consumer loans, which distressed borrowers can discharge.

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 3:00am

A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit challenging a University of Colorado rule barring concealed weapons on its campuses, the Associated Press reported. The suit -- by a student group in favor of concealed weapons on campus -- says that state law bars other entities such as local government from banning concealed weapons. But university officials have said that they do not believe they are covered by the law. The university is considering an appeal.

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Hundreds of college history professors -- many from Texas but others from around the country -- have signed a letter urging state education officials to delay and revise history standards that the historians say distort the field, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Some historians involved said that their reputation is being hurt by the state backing standards that appear to portray only the positive (and conservative) in American history. One historian talked about speaking recently at the University of Oxford and being barraged by questions about the standards.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Future middle school mathematics teachers in the United States are less likely than their counterparts in several other countries with advanced education systems to have taken advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, according to an international comparison that will be released today, The New York Times reported. The study looks at future mathematics teachers in elementary and middle schools, and raises questions about the impact of the middle school teachers' levels of preparation on long-term efforts to attract more talent to math and science fields.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

South Carolina legislators voted narrowly Wednesday to keep the only black member of the board of the University of South Carolina, The State reported. Many political observers expected the lawmakers to vote for another candidate, leaving the board all white, and some black legislators set off a debate by threatening -- if a white candidate won -- to discourage black athletes from enrolling at the university.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Eamonn Daniel Higgins pleaded guilty Wednesday to visa fraud in a case in which he was accused of writing papers and taking exams for foreign students, the Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities said that dozens of students from the Middle East paid Higgins for his inappropriate help from 2002 to 2009, and that he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in his illegal business.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

A House of Representatives subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation that would extend the National Science Foundation's spending authority for five years, approving a slew of new programs as well as affirming lawmakers' intention to continue on a path of doubling the agency's budget. The measure passed by the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education is part of a package of bills that together would renew 2007's America COMPETES Act. The legislation approved Wednesday would, among other things, direct NSF to spend at least five percent of its research budget on high-risk, high-reward research proposals, give grants to colleges to support fundamental research leading to "transformative advances" in manufacturing, and provide grants to encourage research-based reforms in science education.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

A group that advocates for high-quality, affordable student health insurance plans released an analysis Wednesday that suggests the recently passed health care reform law could be detrimental to colleges' and universities' abilities to provide health care and insurance to students.

The Lookout Mountain Group, which calls itself "a non-partisan study group of college health and higher education professionals," said it anticipates that the likely shift of many students to high-deductible "young invincibles" plans (and perhaps their parents' or employers' high-deductible plans) that don't pay for primary and preventative care would be damaging to student health centers and the students themselves. There are mixed opinions on whether students under the age of 27 will choose to stay on their parents' plans -- an option that goes into effect next fall -- rather than buying campus-based policies, but Lookout Mountain thinks students will choose to go for their campus-based policies.

The group added that regulatory and statutory changes will be needed to keep student plans legal past 2014, and that international students will have a hard time finding coverage.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California has significantly increased the share of its undergraduate class admitted from outside California. The university has just offered admission to 12,915 applicants, only about 50 short of last year's total. But while 11,200 of last year's admits were Californians, only 9,420 of this year's admits were from the state. University officials have been frank about wanting more out-of-state students in part for the revenue they bring. A statement from the university said: "The campus increased the number of enrollment offers to international students and out-of-state students as part of an effort to generate additional funds during this time of budget deficits. Since they are not California residents, these students must fund the full cost of their non-resident tuition in addition to what California-resident students pay. Nonresident students pay three times as much in tuition and fees as students from California. The additional nonresident funds will help UC Berkeley maintain academic excellence for all students."

But perhaps worried that this message might not please every newly admitted student (not to mention those who were rejected, and legislators) the statement went on to quote Walter Robinson, assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, as saying of the out-of-staters: "They are all outstanding students and their diversity of experiences and perspectives will further enrich the university experience for the entire student population.”

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