Public higher education and states need a "new compact" to promote the needs of states and colleges, according to a new report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The report urges public colleges and universities to adopt accountability measures, deal with concerns about college affordability, link priorities to state needs and report on institutional outcomes. But the report stresses that these commitments will be difficult to make without consistent state financial support.
California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed his own idea on Thursday to make the University of California and California State University systems spend $10 million each on education technology.
The new money was designed to allow the two systems to increase the number of online courses available to undergraduate students. Instead, under the budget Brown made law Thursday, the two universities will get to keep the money and spend it any way they want. Brown used his line-item veto power to take the strings off the money, although both UC and Cal State say they will go ahead with plans to buy technology with the funds. "Eliminating these earmarks will give the university greater flexibility to manage its resources to meet its obligations, operate its instructional programs more effectively, and avoid tuition and fee increases," his veto message said.
Even though they don't have to, both systems said they plan to spend the money on technology. “We’ve made a commitment to provide the $10 million, so it’s not going to affect our plans,” said Steve Montiel, a spokesman for the UC president's office.
Michael Uhlenkamp, spokesman for Cal State Chancellor Timothy White, said the system thinks technology can help address a critical need and that it can use the money to alleviate bottlenecks.
"So while there is no legislative mandate in the budget to accomplish this, we’ll still continue to work along those lines," he said in an email.
An earmark that gives nearly $17 million to the California community college system and mandates the system spend the money specifically on ed tech remained in the budget Brown signed Thursday.
Dean Florez, the head of the pro-online education 20 Million Minds Foundation and former majority leader in the California Senate, said Brown's veto should make colleges think about spending more on online education rather than less.
"Governor Brown vetoing his own earmark for online education in the CSU and UC, emphasizes that funding for said programs should not be limited in any way,” he said in a statement. “The California Community Colleges, who serve 2.4 million students and already have approximately 17 percent of their courses online, will still receive $16.9 million in dedicated funds for expansion of online access. In light of the advances made in the CCC system, we hope that the other two segments will follow through with their assurances of online program advancement to alleviate system-wide bottlenecks.”
The University of California at Berkeley is struggling to pay the bills on its newly renovated $321 million football stadium, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A major part of the plan was to sell premium seats, at $40,000 to $250,000 each for use for 40 to 50 years. The university's plan for paying off the debt on the stadium assumed that, by this month, the university would have sold 2,902 of the seats. In fact, the university has sold only 1,857 seats, and 16 purchasers have stopped payments and are giving up their seats.
Lincoln Educational Services this week announced that it will close five campuses in Ohio and Kentucky. The for-profit institution, which offers automotive technology and other academic programs, said legislation Congress passed last year to eliminate federal aid for "ability to benefit" students had resulted in dramatic enrollment declines at the five locations. That legislation prohibits students who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent from participating in federal aid programs. Shaun McAlmont, Lincoln's CEO, said in a written statement that the company was saddened that those students "continue to be marginalized by legislation that treats them differently than so-called 'traditional' students."
To try to increase enrollment during the summer -- to boost graduation rates and revenue -- some colleges are discounting tuition and offering other perks. In most cases, the strategy has shown little payoff.
A New York State judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Columbia University, finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue over Columbia's management of a 1927 gift by Italian-American families, Bloomberg reported. The gift was used to create La Casa Italiana as a center for Italian scholarship and culture at the university. But the suit charged that the university permitted numerous programs at the center that weren't connected to the donors' intended mission. The suit was brought by the Italic Institute of America, and the judge ruled that the institute didn't have standing to sue, despite its shared interest with the donors in Italian culture.
New York University is breaking new ground in compensation for higher ed executives and star faculty members by providing loans for vacation homes, The New York Times reported. President John Sexton received $1 million in loans for a home on Fire Island, while others have received assistance to buy second homes in other prime vacation areas. The article notes that many colleges provide homes for presidents, and some institutions in places like New York City -- where housing is expensive -- provide housing assistance for many others. But the article says that help for second homes is "all but unheard-of in higher education."
John Beckman, a university spokesman, told the Times: "The purpose of our loan programs goes right to the heart of several decades of sustained and successful effort at NYU: to transform NYU from a regional university into a world-class research residential university." The loans help attract and retain talent, he said.
Among the critics of the practice quoted in the article was Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a former president of George Washington University who has been a defender of high salaries and benefits for higher education leaders. "That’s getting to be a little too sexy even for me, and I have a good sense of humor about these things," he said. "I don’t think that’s prudent. I don’t mind paying someone a robust salary, but I think you have to be able to pass a red-face test."
In a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday, consumer advocacy groups, higher education associations and others asked the bureau to require that colleges give prior approval before students borrow private loans, saying that the bureau has the power to require full certification by institutions. Right now, students "self-certify," meaning they sign off on a form that includes information about federal student loans and other forms of financial aid. Requiring colleges to certify that they are aware of the loans, the groups argued, would help ensure that students have already maxed out their federal loan options (many private loan borrowers have not), because federal loans usually offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans.