While the University of Michigan saw record numbers of applications and enrolled students this year, it also saw an 11 percent drop in the number of black, Latino and Native American freshmen, The Detroit News reported. Michigan has been the center of much public discussion about affirmative action in higher education -- both because the university led a national effort to defend affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court and because the state's voters in 2006 barred state entities from considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. With this year's decline, under-represented minority students make up 9.1 percent of the freshman class, compared to 10.4 percent last year and 12.6 percent for the last class admitted prior to the 2006 ban.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Surveys by two regional groups of financial aid directors suggest that, despite assurances from the U.S. Education Department, many college officials are worried about the impact that proposed changes in federal student loan programs will have on their institutions and students. The Western and Southern affiliates of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators both asked their members whose institutions are still in the lender-based Federal Family Education Loan Program about the impact they envision from President Obama's proposal to shift all federal lending to the competing direct loan program, a change that would be carried out by legislation that has passed the House of Representatives and will soon be introduced in the Senate. Two-thirds of aid officers said that they were "very" or "extremely" concerned about the prospect of making such a shift by July 2010, as the legislation currently envisions, and nearly half said they expected a significant or severe impact on their budgets. Education Department officials have repeatedly sought to assure aid administrators that the many institutions that have made the shift have had an easy time of it.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $385,000 to the libraries of Columbia and Cornell Universities to explore collaboration in ways that the announcement says could create "the most expansive collaboration to date between major research libraries." While details on how the collaboration will work remain under development, Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell, said possibilities include several models in building collections. The universities might "separately build collections in and share via expedited document delivery or electronic access," or "we might also collectively build one collection in some fields, or continue to collect materials at the local level to support instruction and collectively build at the research level." Other areas of possible collaboration include "combining forces for technical processing," such as acquisitions, cataloging, electronic resource management, and data management, or developing a "shared technology infrastructure," with a possible focus on digital preservation, she said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates and Ford Foundations are throwing their weight -- and a combined $6.1 million -- behind a set of programs at Washington State's community colleges that are designed to increase college completion. The Washington State Student Completion Initiative, which the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is announcing today, will use $5.3 million from Gates and $800,000 from Ford (plus support from the state legislature) to expand two existing programs and start two others. The initiative will extend the state's Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program to pre-college and college-level degree programs and increase the financial incentives that are now available, through its Student Achievement Initiative, to public colleges that increase the number of students who reach graduation and other milestones. The community college board will also use the money to enroll more students in 80 "gatekeeper" classes by improving their design and creating online versions of them, with open educational resources. And lastly, seven colleges in the Washington system will use the Gates and Ford money to change their math curriculum in a bid to increase by 15 percent the rate at which students successfully complete remedial math.
Nikole Churchill was crowned as Miss Hampton University this month, a victory that was seen by some as significant because Churchill is not black and Hampton is a historically black university. Churchill wrote a letter to President Obama about both her win and concerns that "my crowning was not widely accepted" and that many "negative comments" have been made on the campus because she is not black. She invited the president to visit Hampton "so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent." She told the president that some have called her "lil Obama." The Daily Press published an article about the controversy Tuesday, noting that the campus was divided by whether Churchill should have won, and quoting a pageant official as saying that Churchill did not have the university's permission to have posted her letter to Obama online. Later Tuesday, Churchill gave the newspaper an apology to the university, in which she said of her letter to Obama: "I have now come to regret writing this letter and disappointing the very students that I now represent. I took the comments of a few and blew it out of proportion. In reality, all comments that have been directed towards me and the reception I received at the Hampton University versus Howard University football game on Saturday, October 10, 2009 were genuinely supportive."
The University of Texas System announced Monday that it would study the possibility of merging its San Antonio campus and its separate Health Science Center, which is in the same city. System officials said they had appointed a panel of national and local experts to decide whether the two institutions would be stronger as one or if they would be better off continuing to collaborate. “The UT System is all about maximizing efficiencies and doing what is in the best interest of our institutions, which makes this explorative process a worthy effort,” said James R. Huffines, chairman of the university system's Board of Regents. The system's new chancellor, Francisco G. Cigarroa, was president of the Health Science Center at San Antonio until February.
Bobby Lowder has long been a controversial trustee of Auburn University, seen by many as exercising too much control over the institution and its football program. But now there are questions being raised because Lowder's business reputation -- in theory part of the expertise he brought to Auburn's board -- is being challenged. Lowder recently quit the bank he led for 28 years as federal and state regulators seized it, Fortune reported, leading some to question why he leads the university's Finance Committee.
A California judge has ordered the state to stop considering race and ethnicity in a scholarship program for students entering the health professions. The judge ruled that the program could not, under the state's Proposition 209 ban on consideration of race and ethnicity, consider minority status. The judge did rule that the state could favor applicants who are economically disadvantaged. The Pacific Legal Foundation brought the case on behalf of a woman who was denied a scholarship.
A national study has found that officials at George Washington University tweet more than those of any other campus. The study analyzed Twitter accounts of university administrators acting in official capacities, not those of students. George Washington officials tweet an average of 57.7 times a day. GW was followed by the University of Washington (49.8) and the University of Florida (45.8).
Members of the adjunct union at Rhode Island College have voted to ratify a contract, the union's first with the college and the first for any adjunct union in Rhode Island, The Providence Journal reported. The contract provides for a 3 percent pay increase this year, the same level other faculty members at the college are receiving. Union leaders said that they were pleased as well with a range of codified benefits, including seniority and job security rights, a grievance procedure that includes binding arbitration, and leaves of absence for circumstances such as illness and bereavement. The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.