Submitted by Paul Fain on January 8, 2016 - 3:00am
California Governor Jerry Brown on Monday proposed $1 billion in new funding for the state's public institutions, an increase of 3.4 percent. (Roughly $590 million of that amount would come from the state's general fund.) The total of $30 billion in state support for higher education would be an increase of 30 percent since 2012, when California emerged from years of deep, recession-driven budget cuts. Brown warned, however, that the salad days tend not to last long.
"The state’s short periods of balanced budgets have been followed by massive budget shortfalls. In fact, the sum of all the deficits during this period is seven times greater than the sum of all the surpluses," the budget proposal said.
The budget is structured so the University of California and California State University systems could keep their tuition levels flat for another year. Last year Brown struck a deal with UC to prevent tuition hikes.
UC, which is the most selective of the state's three systems, would receive the largest increase under the proposal -- $174 million, or 5.4 percent. Cal State would get $152 million, or 4.6 percent, in new funding. The state's community colleges would see an increase of $376 million, or 4.4 percent.
Brice Harris, the community college system's chancellor, said the proposed money would increase access to community college for almost 50,000 new students.
"The governor’s plan also includes a commitment to improve and expand our efforts to build a stronger workforce to meet the demands of our state’s economy, improve remedial education and help close achievement gaps," he said, in a written statement.
John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, is resigning a year earlier than planned in opposition to Governor Bill Haslam's plan to change the governance structure of the regents system.
In a resignation letter dated Jan. 7, Morgan wrote that he "cannot, in good conscience, continue as chancellor for another year" because he believes "the path being proposed is the wrong one."
Haslam announced in December that he would help draft and support legislation to form separate governing boards for the system's six four-year universities. The universities are under the governance of the 18-member Tennessee Board of Regents, which also oversees 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges.
Under Haslam's plans -- which are still being drafted into proposed legislation -- the existing board would focus mainly on the community and technical colleges, and the six four-year universities would gain more autonomy through independent governing boards. Yet Morgan says the plan is "unworkable and will seriously impair the critical alignment of the state's needs."
Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives and a supporter of the proposed change, said that prior to Morgan's letter, she was unaware of his misgivings about creating individual boards for the universities.
"He's someone that I truly admire in his service to the state and commitment to higher education. I will take his concerns seriously," she said, adding that though she remains supportive of the measure, the Legislature doesn't want to "head in the wrong direction" when it comes to higher education.
Since becoming chancellor in 2010, Morgan has helped advance far-reaching goals of the system. In the last five years credentials awarded by TBR institutions rose nearly 18 percent, helping achieve the system's "Drive to 55" initiative, which aims to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. He has also helped advance goals of the Complete College Tennessee Act, which encourages public higher education to focus on meeting the state’s economic development needs.
Submitted by Paul Fain on January 6, 2016 - 3:00am
Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization, recently surveyed faculty, staff and administrators at colleges that offer competency-based credentials. The group found wide agreement on what makes a strong competency-based program. Key elements include clear program competencies, meaningful assessments and learner-centered programs that prepare graduates to enter the workforce.
For example, the survey found that 94 percent of respondents said assessments must give "substantive, meaningful feedback." Respondents also said competency-based programs should be accessible to students from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Turning those goals into reality isn't easy, however. The survey found, for example, that only 69 percent of respondents had fully adopted meaningful assessments.
A grand jury in Pennsylvania said Tuesday that no criminal charges should be brought against members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity in the suicide of a former member.
According to a lawsuit filed last month by the student's family against the university and the fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, the student was forced to consume "gross amounts" of alcohol and mouthwash, as well as made to swallow live goldfish, fight other pledges and stay awake for 89 hours. The student, Marquise Braham, committed suicide during spring break in 2014, a day before he was meant to return to the fraternity at Penn State's Altoona campus. The chapter was suspended for six years by the university following Braham's death.
The grand jury stated in its report that it found evidence that such hazing did occur -- including locking pledges in closets, excessive drinking, sleep deprivation and forced fighting -- but it was unable to link the behavior to the student's suicide. The jury referred to a suicide note in which the student stated he saw his suicide "coming since [he] was a child." The grand jury also noted that fraternity members refused to name specific members who were responsible for the hazing, making it difficult to sustain any criminal prosecutions. "While there is no question that hazing occurred during the pledging for the fraternity during both the fall 2013 semester and continued for a new pledge class up until Braham's death in March 2014, that hazing was a fraternitywide problem and not limited to just a few individuals," the report reads.
A spokesman for the student's family criticized the grand jury's decision Tuesday, saying in a statement that the members of the jury were "not given access to mental health experts and friends and family of Marquise, who know the truth about the cause of his psychological crises and its direct link to the brutal hazing."
A black vice president has resigned his position at Missouri State University less than a week after a university investigation found no validity to charges made by his supporters that he was being mistreated. Supporters of Kenneth D. Coopwood Sr., vice president of diversity and inclusion, have argued in a petition and elsewhere that he and his office receive inadequate support, especially compared to divisions led by white people. On Thursday, the university announced that an investigation found no evidence to back these charges.
On Monday, Coopwood announced he was leaving. The university released this statement from him: "I agreed to the investigation and actively participated in it. I think that the investigative team took the matter seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. While I accept the investigation and its findings, I have decided it would be best for me to pursue other professional opportunities."
Submitted by Paul Fain on January 5, 2016 - 3:00am
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities on Monday wrote to John King, the acting U.S. secretary of education, to request a "constructive collaboration" between the for-profit sector and the department during the Obama administration's final year. Steve Gunderson, the group's president and CEO, asked King to work with for-profits in the run-up to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which is the law that governs federal financial aid.
"A new year, and new leadership at the department, brings opportunities for new beginnings. My hope is that together we can begin an era of constructive collaboration that never forgets our common mission in serving the students enrolled in our sector's schools. Unfortunately, the past six years have been marked by an era of ideological confrontation where nobody wins -- especially the students," Gunderson wrote.
In the letter Gunderson pointed to steep enrollment declines many for-profits have experienced in recent years, noting that the sector enrolled 562,000 fewer students in 2014 than it did four years earlier. However, he also said for-profits issued more credentials in 2014 than they did during the height of the recession. And Gunderson criticized the department for its aggressive scrutiny of for-profits.
"As much as I am a fan of all sectors of higher education, I believe that no sector could survive the level of investigations and attacks that have been directed to our schools in recent years," he wrote.
Submitted by Paul Fain on January 5, 2016 - 3:00am
Student Veterans of America on Monday announced that Jared Lyon is the nonprofit group's new president and CEO. Lyon had been SVA's acting CEO since October. He replaced D. Wayne Robinson, who stepped down last year.
Lyon is a former U.S. Navy submariner and diver. He also is a former student veteran, having earned degrees from Syracuse University and Florida State University. Prior to arriving at SVA, Lyon worked at Syracuse's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.