Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Lynn University announced Wednesday that all signs indicate that the four students and two faculty members who have been missing in Haiti since the earthquake there were killed by the disaster. Eight other Lynn students who were part of the service trip were able to return safely to the United States. A statement from Lynn's president, Kevin M. Ross, praised the dedication of those who went to Haiti. "Theirs was a journey of hope. Theirs -- a selfless commitment to serving others," he said. "They were on the ground in Haiti to find, feed and focus on the poor of that nation. In the day and a half before the quake, they did just that -- doling out rice at a distribution center and holding the hands of sick children in a dilapidated orphanage. They intended to do much more. In their absence, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to follow in their stead."

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Advocates for the student press are accusing Los Angeles City College of a series of actions to limit the rights of reporters on the student newspaper there, calling the incidents one of the worst patterns they have seen in recent years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The incidents involve attempts to control content and to discourage reporters from covering various campus events. College officials declined to discuss specifics, saying that they needed to focus on other issues.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Thanks to leaks in the days leading up to it, there were virtually no surprises in President Obama's State of the Union speech last night. As expected, the president called for expanding the government's newly created Income-Based Repayment Program to reduce the payments of up to a million more borrowers with sizable loan burdens and comparatively low salaries. Obama also warned that, because of the country's burgeoning deficits, the administration would freeze most forms of domestic spending beginning in the 2011 fiscal year, for which the White House will release a budget plan in the coming days. That decision could have painful implications for some higher education programs and for scientific research. And in the section of his speech about college affordability -- which focused on exhorting the Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives in passing a student loan reform bill that would direct tens of billions of dollars to Pell Grants and community colleges -- the president issued a challenge to colleges: "And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem." The statement had the feel of a throwaway line, but whether it is that -- or the throwing down of a gauntlet that will be followed by policy in weeks or months to come -- is uncertain.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 - 3:00am

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.

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