The Educational Testing Service is today announcing that total registrations for the Graduate Record Examination set a record in 2009 of 675,000, a 9 percent increase. Economic downturns tend to make more undergraduates consider graduate school, so the increases are in some sense expected. ETS said that it saw notable gains as well in minority test-takers and in those planning to use GRE scores to apply to business schools -- the latter market being one in which ETS is competing with the Graduate Management Admission Test.
Higher Education Quick Takes
President Obama on Thursday announced the 2009 recipients of the National Medal of the Arts and the National Medal of the Humanities. In the former category, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music was honored for its impact on the world of music. Humanities medals are going to, among others, Robert A. Caro, the biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses; Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Rutgers University and the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family; David Levering Lewis, a professor of history at New York University and the biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois; and William H. McNeill, a historian at the University of Chicago who played a key role in launching the study of world history as a field.
After days of intense debate, much of it with racial overtones, over a recent step competition, Coca-Cola, the sponsor has declared co-winners, the Associated Press reported. Step has historically been associated with historically black fraternities and sororities, so many were surprised when a white sorority from the University of Arkansas won the Sprite Step Off on Saturday, and some observers charged that there must have been scoring irregularities. In the discussion on YouTube of the winning performance by the Zeta Tau Alphas, many of the comments reference that they are white. On Thursday, Coca-Cola announced that a review had uncovered a "scoring discrepancy" and that the scores between the first and second place teams were so close that they would share the prize money and the first place honor. The new co-winning team, whose members are black, is from Alpha Kappa Alpha at Indiana University.
The University of Alabama at Huntsville has started the process of firing Amy Bishop, the faculty member facing murder charges in the killings of three of her colleagues this month, The Huntsville Times reported. Already, the university has suspended Bishop without pay, retroactively to Feb. 12, the date of the murders.
Adjuncts at St. Francis College, in New York, voted this week to unionize, affiliating with New York State United Teachers, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. The vote was 96-47, with union organizers saying that adjuncts needed better pay and benefits. The vote creates the latest collective bargaining unit among adjuncts, who unlike tenure-track faculty members can be unionized at private as well as at public institutions. College administrators opposed the union drive, arguing that collective bargaining was not needed and producing videos of adjuncts who said they didn't want a union.
Albion College, in Michigan, has announced plans to eliminate the equivalent of 15 full-time faculty positions (about 10 percent of the faculty), in anticipation of enrollment declines in the years ahead, The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. The college says that some of the job cuts will come through early retirement, but others may not. Faculty leaders say that they are concerned about how positions -- especially of tenured or tenure-track faculty -- are going to be selected for elimination.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Liberty University violated its tax-exempt status by throwing its weight behind a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. The request states that Liberty's leaders used Liberty Champion, "ostensibly a student publication but one that is actually subject to university control, to run a series of articles" attacking the Democratic candidate (who lost narrowly) and backing the Republican. Americans United also said that Liberty "twice arranged for a 'voter guide' published by the Virginia Family Foundation to appear in the Champion" and that the guide "distorted" the Democratic candidate's views. Further, the complaint states that on Election Day, a senior Liberty official "drove around campus with the College Republicans, rounding up voters." Liberty officials told The Lynchburg News & Advance that the claims were "bogus" and part of a campaign of harassment by the group against the university.
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to reform a system in which legislators can give out college scholarships to anyone they want -- a system that has led to a series of cases of such scholarships going to those with ties to campaign donors, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Senate didn't go as far as backing the elimination of the scholarships, which some reform groups have urged. But the Senate would ban the award of scholarships to anyone whose family could be linked to a campaign contribution without the last five years. Further, family members of recipients would be banned for five years from making a contribution to the legislator who awarded the scholarship. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.
More than 2,400 lecturers at the University of Montreal went on strike Wednesday, six months after their contract expired, CBC News reported. They want more money and smaller classes. University officials said that a strike was premature and said students would be hurt by a prolonged strike. The lecturers have been holding half-day and full-day walkouts, but the work action started Wednesday is open-ended.
The California Community Colleges -- the largest higher education system in the United States -- are projecting a 1 percent dip in enrollment this year. The shift reverses five years of enrollment growth, which brought the total number enrolled to nearly 3 million last year. In a press briefing, Jack Scott attributed the drop to deep budget cuts, which have in turn forced colleges to eliminate course sections. Statewide, he said, about 5 percent of course sections have been eliminated. “Our enrollment is not dropping due to a lack of demand,” he said. He noted that the community colleges statewide are actually educating about 200,000 more students than the state is providing funds for -- further stretching the capacity of the colleges.