Quick Takes: Pacific Oaks May Close, Urbana U. Cuts Salaries, Obama Suggests Infrastructure Support for (Public) Colleges, New Model Proposed for Medical Education, New Call for Visa Reforms, Merger Sought in Vermont, Western Washington Kills Football

January 9, 2009
  • With rumors swirling that the board of Pacific Oaks College could decide as early as today to close the institution, the president and board chair issued a statement late Thursday that may not reassure. The statement says that the college "is in a financial crisis due to falling enrollment," and that the credit crunch has made it difficult for some to enroll. Two years ago, according to the statement, "the board determined that the college was not sustainable," but decided to try to "correct the financial situation." Pacific Oaks, located in Pasadena, is known for its innovative teacher training programs. Many students, faculty members and alumni blame the college's leaders for the problems, and say that the board and president do not understand the college's mission. The Pacific Oaks SOS Web site outlines the critics' concerns. The college's board is holding a meeting today.
  • Urbana University, in Ohio, has told non-faculty employees that their salaries will be cut by 6 percent from January 16 through August 31, and that those with salaries of at least $75,000 will have their salaries cut by 10 percent, The Urbana Citizen reported. Faculty members' salary is governed by a contract that expires in May, but they are being asked to voluntarily agree to a 6 percent cut now. Officials cited budget deficits and concern about taking on more debt as reasons for the pay reductions.
  • As the federal government prepares to spend as much as $1 trillion to stimulate the economy, curiosity about how it will distribute the money is high, and would-be recipients are looking for signals. So it was not surprising that leaders in higher education -- which, like many sectors of society, hopes to benefit from the government's emergency largess -- were carefully dissecting President-elect Barack Obama's words as he delivered a speech about the economic situation Thursday at George Mason University. Many of them were pleased that the president-elect prominently mentioned investments in science and research as crucial, and some were concerned that he did not say anything at all about increasing financial support for students (although others said they've been hearing that Pell Grants could get a big boost in the stimulus package). But much of their attention was focused on one particular word Obama uttered. In a section on education, he said the government would provide "21st century classrooms, labs and libraries" and "new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers" for "tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities." The omission of infrastructure support for private colleges troubled some officials at those institutions, but officials of the new administration have reportedly been swayed by arguments that public institutions have seen their financial bases -- and, in turn, their literal physical bases -- eroded significantly in recent years.
  • John Garamendi, lieutenant governor of California and a University of California regent, has proposed a new model for medical education. The San Jose Mercury News reported that his plan would combine undergraduate and medical education in a five-year program, which would be the speediest transition from high school graduate to M.D. in the nation. Garamendi has proposed the concept for a new medical school at the University of California at Merced, itself a new institution. While some medical educators are applauding the idea, others question its viability.
  • Strict rules on granting visas to enter the United States and export controls for what leaves the U.S. are hindering research and the economy, and should change, according to a report issued Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences. The report says that too many rules were set up for the Cold War era and have never been adapted -- even as the nature of foreign threats and collaboration has changed. The panel that wrote the report was led by John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, and Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush. On visa issues, the report urges that the application process be changed to include skills-based preferential processing and streamlined so that legitimate foreign researchers and students have an easier time entering the United States. Student visas should be extended so that recent graduates have time to find work with U.S.-based employers, and qualified American scientists should be allowed to vouch for the technical credibility and legitimacy of visa applicants in their field as a means of aiding consular officials and expediting the application process, the report says.
  • Gov. James Douglas proposed Thursday that the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges be merged, although he offered few concrete details, saying a study should determine those, The Times Argus reported.
  • Western Washington University announced Thursday that it will eliminate its football program, having found no other way to deal with a deficit in the athletics budget. The Associated Press reported that the move is being viewed as a blow to Division II football, which will now have only four teams in the West.
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