A report released today by the Data Quality Campaign assesses progress in state efforts to use longitudinal student-level data to gauge and improve students' progress through the educational system. The report concludes that states have made significant progress in building data systems (with a big financial and policy push from the Obama administration) but far less headway in using the data to change educational practices.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Maricopa Community College District's board has authorized Chancellor Rufus Glasper to carry out a series of efficiency moves, The Arizona Republic reported. Among the possible shifts: increases in class sizes, greater reliance on adjunct faculty members, outsourcing of landscaping and a new information technology fee. The consultants who developed the options said that they could save the district up to $48 million a year.
The recent publication of an anti-gay cartoon by the student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame has led to wider discussion of the way the institution treats its gay students and faculty members. On Wednesday, more than 100 people held a rally on the campus to demand the adoption of new policies to ban discrimination, WNDU News reported. The university says that it promotes equity and "inclusiveness" in ways consistent with Roman Catholic teachings.
Twenty-one students and two faculty members from Gustavus Adolphus College are waiting for evacuation from an area near Machu Picchu, where flooding has blocked normal transportation routes. The group was in the area for a January education program called "Education, Health Care and Poverty in Peru." A statement from the college said that the campus has been in touch with the group members, who are holding up well. Helicopter evacuations are expected to start in the next few days.
Flooding in Mexico delayed the return this week of students from California State University at Chico and Butte College, but they have now returned to California, The Contra Costa Times reported.
Officials at Texas Christian University are investigating an apparent branding of a fraternity member that left him with serious burns, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The student and his family are considering filing criminal charges or suing.
In public, advocates for black colleges have been fairly unanimous in speaking out against a plan by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to merge his state's three public historically black universities into one institution. But The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported Wednesday that the president of Jackson State University -- who has criticized the governor's ideas -- has drawn up detailed plans for a merger and has been discussing them with some lawmakers. Ronald Mason Jr., the president, told the newspaper that his plans were not intended for public review. Mason's proposal, like the governor's, would merge Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University into Jackson State. On Wednesday at Jackson State, students met to discuss Mason's now public view, and were sharply critical of it. When he addressed the group by phone from Washington, he was booed several times, the Clarion-Ledger reported and some students said that they felt betrayed. But Mason argued that the interests of the students would be better met by a stronger unified institution than by three institutions without enough money.
Craven Community College has removed from public view artwork that depicts a popular instructor smoking a cigar (as he frequently does), The New Bern Sun-Journal reported. Officials at the North Carolina community college said that they feared the artwork was inconsistent with the college's stance against smoking.
The Baylor College of Medicine has decided to remain independent, abandoning consideration of a renewed affiliation with Baylor University, The Houston Chronicle reported. The medical college, facing severe financial difficulties, attempted a merger with Rice University, but those negotiations ended amid significant faculty opposition at Rice. Many faculty at the medical school were nervous about the idea, floated after the end of the Rice talks, to join forces with Baylor University. Medical college officials said Wednesday that they believed they had a strategy to deal with the financial issues as a free-standing institution.
As part of the negotiated rule making process under way this week in Washington, the U.S. Department of Education released a revised draft of regulations intended to determine whether vocational programs and most offerings at for-profit institutions prepare graduates for "gainful employment." In a plan first released this month and discussed on Monday, the department proposed that it would require that students' annual debt repayment load not exceed 8 percent of their average incomes. Several panelists had questioned the department's statutory authority to introduce a debt-to-income ratio and others voiced concerns about the new administrative burdens the proposals would create for institutions. Department officials decided to keep the 8 percent rule in place, one telling the panel that the department would never suggest a regulation that "we don’t think we have the legal authority to do." The department did, though, offer a bit of a concession, proposing that it would take on many of the responsibilities of calculating and carrying out the rule.
Also back on the table Wednesday was the issue of incentive pay for admissions and financial aid officers, which -- though it seemed to progress Tuesday -- again lagged with Elaine Neely, of Kaplan Higher Education, and Margaret Reiter, a consumer advocate, delivering suggestions for greatly differing revisions. Both issues will likely surface again Thursday, as panelists aim to reach agreement on all 14 of the rules related to the federal financial aid program under reconsideration by midday Friday.
Howard Zinn, an influential leftist historian whose books are widely assigned on college campuses, died Wednesday at the age of 87. Zinn was politically active throughout his career, which included teaching positions at Boston University and other institutions. At BU, he was both a critic and target of John Silber during his presidency there. Of Zinn's books, the most influential is A People's History of the United States, which describes itself as "American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools -- with its emphasis on great men in high places -- to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace." Zinn's Web site features numerous essays, interviews and a bibliography.