Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

Howard University announced Wednesday several responses to student protests last week, but student leaders said that the university wasn't going far enough to deal with their concerns about inadequate services, The Washington Post reported. The university agreed to expand the hours that the financial aid office is open and to start a recycling program. But -- citing the expenses involved -- Howard officials said that they would not provide wireless Internet access or 24-hour access to a library.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

California is suing Gerald Buckberg, a medical professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, charging that he and other officers of a charity he created used it to support their own research and business activities, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state is seeking both to recover funds from the charity and to disband it. The suit charges violations of a state law barring the use of charity funds to benefit founders or directors of the charity. As an example of a violation, the suit says that the charity gave Buckberg money to create an education DVD, the rights to which are owned by the professor's company. The charity also donated funds to UCLA for an endowed chair for whcih Buckberg (unsuccessfully) applied. Buckberg did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already been accused of meddling with the leadership at Texas A&M University, his alma mater. Now the governor has given an interview in which he suggests that the flagship Texas A&M campus will soon restore the bonfire tradition that ended 10 years ago, after the collapse of the pre-bonfire construction killed 12. The Texas Monthly reported that in an interview about the bonfire, Perry said: "It's really going to be interesting when bonfire is reintroduced on the campus again, and it will be. I will not be surprised if it happens by 2011, maybe even 2010. I think bonfire will be back on campus. The kids will have the experience again.” Perry apparently didn't check in with the university on this issue. The Houston Chronicle reported that R. Bowen Loftin, interim president at A&M, issued a statement saying that there were no plans to restore the event. “I don't hear the students rising up and demanding it," he said. "To have [the bonfire accident] happen to you one time is something that you can get past. If you did it again, and it happened again, you have no way to excuse yourself.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

British academics are debating the practice of awarding points toward students' grades just for showing up, The Times Higher reported. Some professors say that the practice encourages attendance, while critics see it as bribing students to do what should be expected of them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Rutgers University faculty members have voted to agree to delays in salary increases, with the goal of assuring that the university can avoid layoffs and significant cuts that would have been necessary without the savings from not having to add salary funds, The Star-Ledger reported. The faculty union, affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, demanded certain concessions in the deal. Among them: No across-the-board increases in teaching loads.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Academe's own version of the inflation rate, the Higher Education Price Index, fell to 2.3 percent in 2009, down sharply from the 5 percent rate in 2008, the Commonfund Institute announced today. The price index is designed to be a more accurate reflection of colleges' and universities' costs than is the broad Consumer Price Index, because it uses products and services that are more typical of what postsecondary institutions purchase in a given year. The Commonfund Institute added two features to the index this year, aligning HEPI with the July to June fiscal year that most colleges use and for the first time providing regional figures, which ranged from 3.4 percent in the New England region to 2.0 percent in the East South Central and South Atlantic regions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Pearson on Tuesday formally unveiled its new test of English skills for those seeking an education in the United States or at colleges elsewhere with instruction in English. The new test has been in the works for some time, with strong support from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which represents M.B.A. programs and has been dissatisfied with the Test of English as Foreign Language, which is run by the Educational Testing Service. Pearson said that hundreds of institutions worldwide are ready or getting ready to accept the new test, called the Pearson Test of English Academic. Sixty-two of the business schools in GMAC so far plan to allow applicants from non-English speaking nations to use the Pearson test. ETS was already facing growing competition from the International English Language Testing System, known by its acronym, IELTS and co-sponsored by the English testing entity of the University of Cambridge, and British and Australian organizations that encourage international education. A statement from ETS Tuesday said: "The addition of a new testing program reflects the growing and robust nature of the global English learning marketplace.... The key to any program's success depends on university acceptance. With 7,000 participating universities and colleges worldwide, TOEFL remains the leading choice of admissions officials due to its exceptional reliability and quality."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 3:00am

The Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas announced Tuesday that they would collaborate to bring a branch of the Washington-based think tank to casino central to study the problems and issues of the West. The joint venture, the Brookings Mountain West Initiative, will be financed by private funds and modeled on the think tank's Metropolitan Policy Program.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Wyoming is facing protests over its decision to name a center for international students after Dick Cheney, the former vice president, who donated $3.2 million that was used for the program, the Associated Press reported. Those circulated petitions and planning a protest for Thursday, when Cheney will be on campus, say that the university's reputation will be hurt by the association with Cheney, given his role in promoting the invasion of Iraq and support for interrogation techniques that many view as torture. But in an op-ed in The Casper Star-Tribune, the university's president, Tom Buchanan, defended naming the center for Cheney. "Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, Catholic or Protestant, gay or straight, white or black, you are welcome at the University of Wyoming. Should we subject potential donors and the purpose of their gift to public referendum? I think not," Buchanan wrote.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - 3:00am

Pennsylvania State University is trying a new strategy to raise funds for student aid. The Associated Press reported that the university is sending an appeal to the parents of students who were admitted to the honors college (who get a $3,500 merit scholarship) and who didn't apply for need-based aid. The appeal notes that the bad economy has increased demand for need-based aid, and asks parents to donate back the merit scholarship. So far, Penn State officials have raised $228,000 through the appeal.

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