India's government is planning the country's first comprehensive survey of higher education, The New York Times reported. The effort is being conducted out of the belief that a lack of reliable statistics about students and colleges hinders the development of the best policies.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Employees of the University of California who are at the top salary levels -- earning more than $245,000 -- are threatening to sue if pension rules are not changed to enlarge their potential retirement earnings, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The employees say that the university committed to basing pensions on their actual salaries, not just the first $245,000 earned, and that failure to do so would make it more difficult for the university to attract talent. The demand comes at a time that the university is cutting pension benefits to deal with a massive deficit in the retirement fund.
A state judge in Florida ruled Thursday that the Legislature and not a new higher education board has the right to set tuition rates for the state's public universities, the Associated Press reported. The board was created in part to limit the political intrusion into decisions such as setting tuition rates. Appeals are expected.
The American Economic Association's board plans to discuss whether the organization should have an ethics code dealing with conflicts of interest, The New York Times reported. While many association leaders believe the group will not take action, the idea is that economists who participate in public life through op-eds, testimony and so forth should disclose ties they have to banks or various other financial entities. Critics of the association have said it should take a stand and develop policies comparable to those that require medical professors to disclose ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Just before leaving office as New York State's attorney general and becoming the state's governor, Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of a national center that will help students and their families better understand their student loan options, The New York Times reported. The center is being created with funds from settlements reached by various colleges and lenders with New York State -- all arising from Cuomo's inquiry into the relationships between lenders and colleges. New York State Higher Education Services Corporation will manage the new center, and the New York Public Interest Research Group will start a publicity campaign to let students know about the center.
Stephens College will earn $1 million as a result of its employees losing more than the 250 pounds required in the unusual challenge from an anonymous donor, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The college's employees collectively lost 302 pounds.
The Association of American Law Schools is facing the prospect of a protest at its annual meeting in San Francisco this week because of a call by a labor group to boycott the Hilton hotel where parts of the meeting will be held. The association moved many sessions out of the hotel in response to the concerns, but leaders of the group note that there is no strike (just a boycott call) and that the organization signed a contract with the hotel nine years ago. Leaders of the association sent a letter to all law deans in December outlining efforts to move many sessions out of the hotel but also voicing concern that some speakers scheduled for the meeting had reported feeling "badgered and harassed" by demands that they move their sessions.
Some eyebrows are being raised in Florida over new data showing that some community college graduates -- generally in programs oriented toward science careers -- are earning more upon graduation than those who finish four-year degrees elsewhere, The Miami Herald reported. Those who graduate with an associate in science degree at a community college are reporting an average starting salary of $47,708. That's higher than the average for bachelor's degrees at either the state's public universities ($36,552) or private colleges and universities ($44,558).
Italy's parliament gave final approval in December to a controversial set of reforms for the nation's universities, The Wall Street Journal reported. The reforms would involve evaluating the quality of university research and of university efforts to train students for available jobs -- and funding formulas would change to reward institutions that do well and to cut funds to the others. Total government support for higher education is expected to be drop significantly over the next year, and many students and faculty members who have been taking to the streets in protests say that the changes will only exacerbate overcrowding and other problems created by years of inadequate budgets.
One of the hot ideas in higher education accountability circles is that public universities should have their financing based in part on how successful they are. A fight in Indiana may demonstrate how difficult that could be. The state is planning to distribute some of its support for public colleges based on an incentive formula, rewarding colleges for higher graduation rates, educating more low-income students and other goals. But as The Indianapolis Star reported, public universities that would not do well under the formula are questioning its fairness.