Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:00am

BP has been offering lucrative research contracts -- with signing bonuses -- to marine science researchers in the Gulf region, and the deals have alarmed scientists because of confidentiality clauses and restrictions on access that would be allowed to results, The Press-Register reported. In one case, the company tried to sign on the entire marine science of an Alabama university but was rebuffed over the confidentiality clauses, the newspaper said. One contract offer obtained by the Press-Register would have barred scientists from publishing their research, sharing it or speaking about data collected for at least three years. More than one scientist said that the financial offer was $250 an hour -- and the contract suggests that the work would be used for BP's legal defense. BP declined to comment.

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:00am

The Educational Testing Service announced last week that it is suspending registrations in Iran for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. ETS cited the new sanctions against Iran adopted by the United Nations and the United States, which make it impossible for ETS to handle payments from Iran. The New York Times reported that many experts on international education are outraged by this news, given that the TOEFL is taken by Iranians who want to come study in the United States -- precisely those Iranians who may someday promote democracy in their home country. An official with the International English Language Testing System, a British-based system known by the acronym IELTS, which is a competitor to TOEFL, told Inside Higher Ed that IELTS continues to be offered in Iran.

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:00am

An abundance of articulation agreements doesn't assure easy transfer of credit from community colleges to four-year institutions. That's the conclusion of an article in The Indianapolis Star, which examined the situation in Indiana. Ivy Tech Community College, a statewide community college system, has 500 course-specific transfer agreements with 65 universities, the Star found, but it said that the agreements "can be confusing -- and they are not binding." Even when a university agrees to transfer credits, individual departments sometimes do not.

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:00am

Three artists whose work was to have been displayed in an exhibit at Brandeis University in the fall have pulled permission as a protest of the university's policies on its own collection of art, The Boston Globe reported. The university originally planned to sell its noted collection of modern art, likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars. While the university -- facing widespread criticism -- put the plan on hold, it has yet to rule out sales. The three artists are Bill Viola, who works with videos, and the painters April Gornik and Eric Fischl. Gornik told the Globe: "Frankly, I had thought the whole controversy had been resolved and that the collection was safe and not in danger of being sold.... I didn’t realize there was so much possibility of it being sold. We’ve been very encouraged that the president of the university apparently stated that he doesn’t intend to sell the collection, but without some sort of legally binding evidence, we’ve decided to postpone the show.’’

Friday, July 16, 2010 - 3:00am

The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a 2011 spending bill Thursday that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by $1 billion and provide $5.7 billion to keep the maximum Pell Grant at its current level, closing an existing shortfall. Most other student aid programs would be held at their 2010 levels under the legislation, but Rep. David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who heads the panel, noted that the measure would provide the first significant increase in a decade in job training grants through the Workforce Investment Act.

Friday, July 16, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Texas Investment Management Company is worried enough about the state of the markets that it spent $500 million (about 3 percent of its value) on buying gold, The Houston Chronicle reported. Bruce Zimmerman, CEO of the fund, told the University of Texas Board of Regents this week that the move reflected "a lack of confidence in financial markets," adding that " I wish I could tell you the future looked rosy. Unfortunately, that's not our view. At best, we believe the future is uncertain."

Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan's medical school recently toughened its conflict of interest rules by barring pharmaceutical industry funding to support continuing medical education. That leaves some wondering why the university's president, Mary Sue Coleman, sits on the board of Johnson & Johnson, The Detroit Free Press reported. Coleman sees the situations as different, noting that she is not involved with the kinds of decisions at the medical school that could directly involve Johnson & Johnson's products. "It's essential that U-M have a voice and interact with the business world," a university spokesman told the Free Press. "She thinks it's her duty to understand what the commercial world is doing."

Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Across the University of California system, freshmen from outside of California (including those from outside the United States) will increase to 8 percent this year, up from 6 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported. The increases are intended to bring in revenue, but some worry about the impact on the admission of Californians to the highly competitive university system. Among those from California, Asian Americans are the largest ethnic group, with 40.7 percent of the class. White students will make up 26.2 percent, Latinos 23.1 percent and African Americans 3.9 percent of the class.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Sallie Mae and Student Loan XPress gave illegal inducements to private student loan borrowers at institutions run by Corinthian Colleges Inc., the Education Department's inspector general said in an audit this week. According to the audit, Sallie Mae provided for parents of students at Corinthian institutions to get a "one-time $500 credit towards their closing costs of a new home loan" from the lender if the parent took out a parental student loan (known as PLUS) from Sallie Mae. The audit also uncovered inappropriate inducements made by Student Loan XPress, although the department concedes that a 2009 settlement with the lender may mean that it will not face further penalties. The inspector general urges the department's Federal Student Aid office to consider penalties against Sallie Mae, which disputes the IG's conclusions that the inducements were illegal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 3:00am

American University is expanding its test-optional admissions program. Last year, the university allowed early decision applicants to skip the normal requirement of either an SAT or ACT score. This year, the university wants students to apply early, but they need to not be early decision (binding) applicants. Anyone who applies by Nov. 1 can skip the standardized test scores.

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