Quick Takes: New Approach to Survey Studies, Ex-President to Provost, Dissecting Spellings Panel, NY Orders Trade School to Close, House Passes NIH Bill, Bringing Custodial Jobs on Payroll, House Extends HEA, Pro-Science Candidates, Reform of Med Schools

September 28, 2006
  • A Stanford University researcher is starting an experiment -- backed with a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation -- to overhaul the way surveys are conducted. Jon Krosnick plans to test a model in which more effort goes into identify potential survey participants and the same group agrees to answer a survey online once a month. The project aims to respond to a problem facing many academic and other researchers who have a difficult time getting people to respond to surveys.
  • Elizabeth Hoffman, who resigned as president of the University of Colorado System last year amid controversies over athletics and Ward Churchill, was on Wednesday named provost of Iowa State University. Hoffman previously was a dean at Iowa State.
  • One day after Margaret Spellings offered her prescription for the future of higher education, the Cato Institute sponsored the first of what will be many more forums in the coming months about the work of the education secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The panel featured commentators from across the political spectrum: The author and blogger Anya Kamenetz bemoaned the absence of student voices and student-centered concerns from the commission's work. Neal McCluskey, an analyst at the libertarian Cato think tank, criticized the secretary and the commission for opening the door to a significantly expanded federal role in higher education. Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John's College, in Maryland, said colleges were already assessing their performance and measuring student learning much more than the commission gave them credit for, and urged Spellings to respect the variety in institutions' missions. And Charles Miller, chairman of the Spellings panel, warned colleges that they need to take the commission's calls for change seriously or risk having government impose solutions, which he agreed was not desirable. A Webcast of the Cato panel, which Inside Higher Ed moderated, should be available on the institute's Web page soon.
  • New York State has ordered Taylor Business Institute, a two-year for-profit institution, to close in January, because of various violations of state education regulations, The New York Times reported. The closure is part of a push by New York officials for tougher regulation of for-profit institutions and marks only the second time in seven years that a college has been shut down. A consultant for Taylor told the Times that officials there were disappointed and thought they were making real improvements in the college.
  • The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill to reauthorize the National Institutes of Health and to allow for budget increases of up to 5 percent a year for three years.
  • Florida International University is moving about 150 custodial positions -- currently outsourced -- back onto the university payroll. The shift should increase both wages and benefits for the employees. In recent years, the trend has been for universities to move custodial positions off of payroll, but Florida International's move follows a similar shift by Brandeis University.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives again extended the Higher Education Act on Wednesday, this time through June 2007, a seeming acknowledgement that there is virtually no chance that Congress will pass legislation to renew the law that governs most federal higher education programs before it ends its work for the year.
  • A new group, Scientists & Engineers for America, is seeking contributions to back pro-science political candidates in tough races. The group has backing from former top federal officials and some prominent scientists.
  • A series of articles being published in The New England Journal of Medicine call for substantial reforms in medical education. The articles note many problems, both in curriculum and financing, and suggest that models that have long been embraced need to be rethought. "Although the dictum 'see one, do one, teach one' may have characterized the way in which clinical skills were learned in the past, it is now clear that for training in skills to be effective, learners at all levels must have the opportunity to compare their performance with a standard and to practice until an acceptable level of proficiency is attained," says a lead article. "An appreciation of the importance of practice and the honest admission that neophytes cannot perform high-stakes procedures at an acceptable level of proficiency demand that we develop approaches to skills training that do not put our patients at risk in service to education."
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