Quick Takes: Budget Bill Disappoints Colleges, $175M Gift for Aid in Wisconsin, Penn Eliminates Loans, Transgendered Student Denied Locker, $2.8M Fine for Security Breach, Terrorism and College Education, Students vs. Monkeys

  • Congressional leaders reached agreement on a compromise spending bill for 2008 that is expected to pass muster with President Bush -- in part because it contains far less money for education and health programs important to colleges.
  • December 18, 2007
  • Congressional leaders reached agreement on a compromise spending bill for 2008 that is expected to pass muster with President Bush -- in part because it contains far less money for education and health programs important to colleges. After the president threatened to veto an earlier version of the legislation that would have raised the maximum Pell Grant to $4,435 and increased funds for the National Institutes of Health to $30 billion, up from $28.9 billion in 2007, Democratic leaders -- desperate to avoid the perception that they were unable to get things done -- decided to compromise deeply instead. While they emphasized in their public statements that they still accomplished many of their goals, such as shifting funds from defense programs to domestic social programs, they fell far short of their goals of significantly increasing spending on priorities, such as education and health, that they have argued have gotten short shrift in the years Republicans controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. In the compromise bill, Congress would appropriate only enough funds to fund the maximum Pell Grant at $4,241 (less than this year's level), although money reallocated from federal mandatory programs will set the 2008 maximum grant at $4,731. And spending for the National Institutes of Health would rise to $28.9 billion, $600 million more than President Bush requested but just $133 million more than the 2007 level. Funds for the National Science Foundation would rise by 3 percent, a far cry from the 10 percent increase originally called for. Other higher education programs would suffer because the bill calls for a 1.7 across the board cut. In addition, the legislation would continue to bar the Education Department from promulgating federal regulations on accreditation, a restriction department officials had lobbied hard to overturn.
  • A gift of $175 million is being announced today to create a new fund to provide grants to help low-income students attend public colleges -- two-year and four-year -- in Wisconsin. The Fund for Wisconsin Scholars will within two academic years be awarding 3,000 annual grants worth $1,000 to $5,000 each. The donors are John P. and Tashia F. Morgridge, who graduated from high school in Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. John Morgridge is the former chair of Cisco Systems.
  • The University of Pennsylvania on Monday announced that it would eliminate loans from undergraduate financial aid packages. Under the Penn plan, loans will be eliminated from the aid packages of undergraduates with family incomes of up to $100,000, starting in the fall of 2008, and for all of those eligible for financial aid by the fall of 2009. The cost of substituting grants for loans in the aid packages will eventually increase Penn's aid budget to $110 million, up from the current $90 million. Penn's announcement follows a dramatic increase in aid spending by Harvard University and numerous other colleges making announcements that they would move away from loans.
  • Ethan Santiago, a student at Northern Essex Community College who was born female but who identifies as a male, was denied the right to have a locker in the men's locker room at the Massachusetts institution, The Eagle-Tribune reported. College officials said that they were trying to protect Santiago from potentially being assaulted in the men's locker room. But he noted that he has been using men's bathrooms without incident and added that, following hormone and other treatments, he does not look female and so feels uncomfortable in the women's locker room.
  • The University of California has agreed to pay $2.8 million over a security breakdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory last year, the Associated Press reported.
  • Conventional wisdom holds that more educational and economic opportunities in developing nations will decrease the attractiveness of terrorism groups. But a new analysis by Claude Berribi of the Rand Corporation, which examined the biographies of members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad found that a higher education and a higher standard of living were positively associated with participation in the two groups and with becoming a suicide bomber. The research appears in the new issue of the journal Peace Studies, Peace Science and Public Policy.
  • Scientists have compared the non-verbal math skills (quick counting calculations without writing or saying anything out loud) of Duke University students and monkeys, and monkeys hold their own against college students, Reuters reported.
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