Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 3:00am

A Senate appropriations subcommittee crafted a bill Wednesday that would increase spending on the National Science Foundation to $6.9 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, $426 million more than the agency is receiving this year but slightly less than would be allocated in parallel legislation in the House of Representatives. The Senate measure approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies includes $5.55 billion for research, $122 million for research equipment and facilities; and $857 million for the foundation's science education programs. It also would provide $878.8 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, $59.8 million above the 2009 level.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 3:00am

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has released the latest AASHE Digest, a 356-page report that compiles campus news on sustainability in 2008. Among AASHE's findings are that, in the last year, more than 66 sustainability-focused academic programs were created, at least 13 sustainability-themed research centers were opened and plans for 33 more were announced, and more than 130 green buildings were planned, started, opened or awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The Digest chronicles progress in the United States and Canada.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 3:00am

President Obama on Wednesday signed the Supplemental Appropriations Act, a war spending measure that includes a provision allowing for the GI Bill benefits of service members killed in duty since Sept. 11 to be transferred to their children, as McClatchy Newspapers has reported.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 - 3:00am

Diploma mills have never shown much respect for state or national borders, so the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have issued a joint set of guidelines on "effective practice" in preventing the spread of disreputable institutions. The document covers such topics as defining diploma mills, agreeing on the importance of the role of quality assurance bodies, and finding ways to share information about these institutions with the public.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Tuesday saying that it is "gravely concerned about state sponsored or state encouraged violence in Iran," which "has the potential to undermine further the already fragile status of academic freedom in Iranian universities." The statement added: "As an association devoted to the protection and expansion of free expression on university campuses, the AAUP supports the right of students and faculty to express their views of public events and national policy without fear of intimidation, arrest, or physical harm."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

A new report, "Setting Up Success in Developmental Education," explores how state policies influence the chances of getting more students into college-level work at community colleges. The report, released Tuesday by Jobs for the Future, looks in details at approaches in 15 states, focusing on four issues: how to align standards to minimize the need for remedial work, how to assess students and place them in courses, how to evaluate innovations, and how to use incentives in measuring performance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

Harvard University on Tuesday started the process of eliminating the jobs of 275 staff members, The Boston Globe reported. While many other universities have eliminated even more positions, the layoffs at Harvard -- which has a larger endowment than any other university, even after the declines of the last year -- are likely to receive more media attention than those at other institutions. The Globe article includes links to letters from Drew Faust, Harvard's president, and Marilyn Hausammann, the vice president for human resources. Beyond those losing jobs, an additional 40 staff members will be offered positions with reduced hours.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation Tuesday that would provide $161.3 million each for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, less than the $170 million that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee would provide for the 2010 fiscal year in parallel legislation it passed last week. The endowments are receiving $155 million in the current, 2009 fiscal year, and President Obama proposed spending $171.5 million on the NEH and $161.3 million on the NEA.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday released its policy for transferring educational benefits to spouses and children under the new, Post-9/11 GI Bill. Intended in part as a retention incentive, service members wishing to transfer their GI Bill benefits must have served at least six years and commit to another four (although there are specific exceptions for those nearing retirement age). The ability for service members to transfer benefits to family members -- rather than use them or lose them, themselves -- has been highly anticipated by many in the military: “Transferability of GI Bill benefits is the most requested initiative we receive from our service members, and we believe it will assist us in retaining highly qualified military personnel," Bill Carr, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, said in a statement announcing the new policy. Down the road, the policy could potentially lead to shifts in who uses GI Bill benefits, and how. The Post-9/11 GI Bill goes into effect in August, and service members can make transfer designations online starting Monday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - 3:00am

During the last year, Tufts University awarded grants to 288 alumni who work for nonprofit groups or in the public sector to help them repay their student loans. The grants -- which ranged from $500 to $5,000 and for which alumni may reapply annually -- are part of what may be the broadest program of its kind. Many colleges have programs to repay the loans of alumni in selected fields. The Tufts program, in contrast, is open to all of its alumni providing that they are working in government or for nonprofit groups, and provided that they are repaying loans they took out to attend the university.

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