Quick Takes: Obama Calls for Service, Analysis Favors Subject Tests Over SAT, Moody's Is Cautious on Private Colleges, Loan Jolt for Chicago Grad Students, Big Raise for Governor's Wife, New Community College, British Borrowing Up, Studying Suicide

July 3, 2008
  • Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, used a speech Wednesday at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to call for students to expand their service to their communities and to call for an expansion of federal programs that help them do so. Obama said he would like to link his proposal for a new $4,000 tax credit for college costs to 100 hours of community service a year by college students. He also called for the expansion of AmeriCorps so many more students could qualify for its grants for college or loan repayment. Obama said that "loving your country shouldn't just mean watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it. If you do, your life will be richer, and our country will be stronger."
  • With the University of California Board of Regents getting ready to consider a faculty plan to end the requirement that SAT subject tests be used in admissions, a new report from a University of California research center suggests that the wrong SAT is in the line of fire. "Back to the Basics: In Defense of Achievement (and Achievement Tests) in College Admissions," argued that the main SAT is the test that adds little predictive value to admissions decisions while limiting opportunities for low-income and minority students. The best way to evaluate applicants, the report argues -- citing a series of studies -- is based on grades in college preparatory courses in high school. But the SAT subject tests -- which are the tests the university system is being asked to eliminate -- don't have those problems, the new paper argues. The paper, published by the Center for Studies in Higher Education, is by Saul Geiser, former director of admissions research for the University of California system. The university's Board of Regents will discuss the idea of eliminating the SAT subject test requirement at its meeting this month, but no vote will be taken.
  • Most financial measures of private colleges were up in 2007, according to Moody's, which evaluated colleges and other entities and whose ratings are used in the financing of debt on other financial transactions. But a new Moody's report is a bit guarded about what to expect for the rest of 2008 and 2009. "While nearly all key credit factors improved in FY 2007, we remain cautious regarding Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009, given recent pressure on investment performance, ambiguity in the student loan market, and a substantially weaker economic environment," says the report.
  • Many University of Chicago graduate students will need to find new loans -- quite likely under terms less favorable than they are used to receiving. The Chicago Tribune reported that the university has had to end its use of the "school as lender" program for graduate students because of the inability of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to renew its line of credit. Chicago officials believe that the graduate students who have used the program will be able to find loans elsewhere, but will probably not find some key benefits of the old program, such as the lack of origination fees and a reduction in interest rates after four years of on-time repayment.
  • Questions are being raised about why Mary Easley, the wife of North Carolina's governor, is getting such a big raise this year at North Carolina State University. Her salary as executive-in-residence and senior lecturer increased to $170,000 (from $90,300), The Raleigh News & Observer reported. While some are charging favoritism, noting that her job title did not change, university officials say that her duties have been expanded significantly.
  • Woodland Community College -- formerly a regional center of Yuba College -- has received accreditation as a distinct community college, making it California's 110th, The Daily Democrat reported. With two full colleges -- Yuba and Woodland -- Yuba Community College District now is a new multi-campus district.
  • British university students are borrowing much more money than they used to. The Guardian reported that borrowing last year was up 32.2 percent from the year before, with most of the funds used for living expenses.
  • Canadian academic groups are rallying behind Russel Ogden, a controversial sociologist who charges that Kwantlen Polytechnic University is blocking him from observing assisted suicides, The Vancouver Sun reported. The university maintains that attending an assisted suicide would violate the law banning assisted suicide, but faculty groups maintain that attending for research purposes is not the same as assisting.
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