Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is planning to increase undergraduate enrollment by 15 percent over the next decade, with the additional students coming from out of state, The Boston Globe reported. If the plan succeeds, the share of undergraduate enrollment from outside Massachusetts would grow to 30 percent from 20 percent. The primary goal of the plan: more money from the higher tuition paid by out-of-state residents.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

Students at the University of California at Berkeley staged a 24-hour sit-in this weekend at the anthropology library to draw attention to the extent of budget cuts in general at the university, and to the cuts being faced by specialized libraries, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Most of Berkeley's small libraries are now closed on Saturdays because of budget cuts.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics will be shared by Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson. Ostrom, professor of political science and professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, both at Indiana University at Bloomington, was honored for "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons." She is also the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, at Arizona State University. Williamson, professor emeritus of business, economics and law at the University of California at Berkeley, was honored "for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm."

Ostom is the first woman to win the Nobel in economics.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

A professor at the University of California at Los Angeles last year reported to university officials that he had concerns about the mental health of the student now accused of slashing a classmate's throat last week, the Los Angeles Times reported. The professor, who provided the Times with e-mail documentation, said that the accused student claimed that other students were distracting him while he was taking tests -- even though no such activity was witnessed by anyone. UCLA has acknowledged that it was aware of concerns about the accused student, but has said that it cannot discuss details because of privacy regulations.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

A nonpartisan group of student health experts issued a statement Saturday warning that none of the major proposals under consideration in Congress to reform health care explicitly considers the needs of college students. The organization, the Lookout Mountain Group, cited two major issues. It said that the plans to date do not define "group insurance" to specifically include health insurance sponsored by colleges and universities for their students, and that the various pieces of legislation do not authorize colleges to continue to collect college fees or to use tuition dollars to fund health care for students.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The number of U.S. students visas issued in India fell 25 percent in the last year, The Economic Times reported. Experts told the newspaper that they believed the decline was not due to tougher standards on visas, but because many colleges in the United States appear to be cutting down on financial aid awards to Indian students, making them less interested in seeking a visa.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Chicago is planning a faculty expansion in coming year -- not just the unfreezing of selected positions that some institutions are hoping for this year, but an effort to increase the total size of the faculty. Robert J. Zimmer, the university's president, recently sent faculty members an e-mail in which he noted the impact of cuts in the last year, and said that he believed additional cuts would not be necessary. Further, he outlined plans for a faculty expansion. While details are not yet available, he said the following: "[W]e will institute a program for the gradual expansion of the faculty. Organized by the deans and provost and led by the faculty, we will seek out special opportunities and address key needs through a selected expansion over the next five years. Nothing is more essential to the university, to the evolution of our research and education programs at all levels, and to fostering our distinctive academic culture than the renewal of our faculty. This will be the first time in many years that the university has undertaken a systematic expansion of the faculty, and you will be hearing more from the deans and provost about the organization of this effort." In addition, he said that the university would evaluate the impact of cuts in the size of new Ph.D. cohorts admitted in many programs this year. "Robust graduate programs, in particular doctoral programs, are essential to the nature of the University. We must remain vigilant in our support for these programs," Zimmer said.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

In a speech at the University of Virginia on Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for more Americans to consider teaching careers, and praised the U.Va. students for the rigor and breadth of their programs. But he also suggested that Virginia was the exception that demonstrated problems elsewhere with teacher education programs. "In far too many universities, education schools are the neglected stepchild. Often they don't attract the best students or faculty. The programs are heavy on educational theory -- and light on developing core area knowledge and clinical training under the supervision of master teachers," he said. "Generally, not enough attention is paid to what works to boost student learning -- and student teachers are not trained in how to use data to improve their instruction and drive a cycle of continuous improvement for their students. Many ed schools do relatively little to prepare students for the rigor of teaching in high-poverty and high-need schools. In all but a few states, education schools act as the Bermuda Triangle of higher education — students sail in but no one knows what happens to them after they come out. No one knows which students are succeeding as teachers, which are struggling, and what training was useful or not."

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The College of William and Mary gave a state senator, Tommy Norment, an appointment teaching two courses a year, for $160,000; six months later he sponsored spending measures worth $20 million for the college, The Virginian-Pilot reported. College officials and Norment defended the appointment, saying he was providing good learning opportunities for students, and that his legislative work was not related to his college pay. William and Mary also said that the pay compensated Norment for legal advice he provides to the college. Another Virginia legislator in August quit a job at Old Dominion University. In that case, the lawmaker and the university first denied any link between his having led the effort to obtain funds for a new teaching center and then being hired to lead the center. He quit after The Daily Press revealed e-mails between the legislator and the college -- before the legislation passed -- that discussed his interest in a job there.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 3:00am

The e.Republic Center for Digital Education and Converge Magazine last week named the most technology-savvy community colleges in the country, based on a recent survey of community college officials. Montgomery County Community College, in Pennsylvania, received the highest marks among colleges with more than 7,500 students, whose top finishers also included two colleges from Virginia and two from Maryland. Laramie County Community College in Wyoming took the top spot among mid-sized institutions (3,000 to 7,500 students), while Panola College in Texas won the small-college category. The survey asked voters to assess the community colleges based on several metrics, including their use of distance education, available technology training, and the extent to which they had integrated Web 2.0 tools. The full rankings are available on the center's Web site.

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