A new university system focused on health care -- and financed in an unusual way -- was announced this morning, backed by the German publishing giant Bertelsmann. Arist Education System said it would create a system of graduate and professional health and human sciences institutions. The first institution to join the system is California's Alliant International University, which specializes in psychology, health sciences and law. Like the other institutions as part of Arist, Alliant -- which has been a private nonprofit university -- will become a public benefit corporation, a form of for-profit company that strives to pursue a social mission.
"A budget cut of that magnitude would substantially harm our students and the people of Illinois by most severely impacting the university’s core education and research missions," Robert Easter, the president of the three-campus system, said in a statement. He promised to vigorously lobby against the cuts. While the governor is a Republican, Democrats have the majority in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.
Illinois is one of the few states to see dramatic increases in higher ed spending in the last few years, but none of the money has gone into the classroom -- instead, the state has been ponying up hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a broken pension system.
Divest Harvard, a student group that wants Harvard University to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, started a sit-in Thursday outside the office of President Drew Faust. WBUR reported that Faust agreed to meet with the students if they would agree to leave the building -- and that they rejected the request. On social media Thursday night, the students reported that they were settling in for the night. In 2013, after reviewing the issue, Faust said that divestment was not "warranted or wise."
Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, plans to propose that public universities be required to freeze tuition in graduate and professional programs at whatever levels exist on July 1, the Associated Press reported. The measure is of concern to many university leaders who say that increases for medical and law school can be handled by students who have lucrative job prospects ahead.
A new report -- funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America -- argues that colleges that sell holdings in fossil fuel companies are likely to pay a financial price for doing so. The report is by Daniel Fischel, a consultant who is emeritus professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He analyzed the performance of two hypothetical portfolios over a 50-year period, including energy-related stocks in only one of the portfolios. The portfolio without energy stocks had average annual returns of 0.7 percentage points less than the one with the energy stocks. Fischel released his findings in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal called "The Feel-Good Folly of Fossil-Fuel Divestment."
The findings are sure to be challenged. Many proponents of divestment, for example, do not deny that energy stocks have done well historically, but suggest that changes in society, energy policy and the environment will make many energy companies less profitable in the years ahead. Others note that various divestment movements have always been opposed as financially questionable, and that colleges that have divested have not reported financial harm.
Sojourner-Douglass College, in Maryland, has closed a satellite campus as the college fights to deal with serious financial and accreditation problems, The Baltimore Sun reported. All but one of the employees at the Anne Arundel County campus have lost their jobs. Students are being helped to transfer to college's main campus in Baltimore or elsewhere. The college currently has 750 students, down from about 1,300 before the recent problems.
Auburn University will spend $13.9 million for what it says will be the largest scoreboard in higher education. The new display area on the scoreboard will measure 190 feet by 57 feet, compared to the current 71 feet by 28.5. The image at right shows how large the new scoreboard (shaded area) will be, compared to the current one. Al.com did an analysis of how Auburn's new scoreboard will compare with existing, smaller ones. Auburn fans will have 10,830 square feet of scoreboard, compared to 7,661 at Texas A&M and 7,370 at the University of Texas at Austin.
The board of Boston University announced Monday that it has rejected a proposal from a campus group that the university sell investments in companies that produce guns for civilians. The board also released policies on when the university should sell investments for non-financial reasons. Those policies place a particular emphasis on the dangers of the appearance of the university as a whole taking a political position.
"A fundamental goal of Boston University is to create an environment in which an academic community can productively consider, discuss, and debate a variety of viewpoints on social and political issues and that encourages freedom of inquiry. Such conditions allow scholars to pursue knowledge according to standards of evidence and logic without the encumbrance of an institutional position that may dampen discussion of alternative views," the statement said. "When the university, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal. Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions based on social or political principles should be very rare and occur in only the clearest of circumstances.... Such circumstances exist only when (i) the degree of social harm caused by the actions of the firms in the asset class is clearly unacceptable; and (ii) any potential negative consequences of the decision (including the risk of censorship of competing views within the university or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time) are clearly outweighed by the importance of taking the divestment action in order to lessen or mitigate the social harm."