Higher Education Quick Takes
A survey of students at eight colleges and universities in North Carolina found that 17.4 percent are current users of hookahs, water pipes that have grown in popularity in recent years. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the study say that students seem unaware of health risks associated with the practice.
Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff recently gave a jailhouse interview to The Financial Times in which he said that one of his activities behind bars may soon be advising business schools. The article says: "Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights." The feelings may not be mutual. A spokeswoman for Northwestern's business school said that the institution is not engaged in any discussions with Madoff. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Harvard's business school said Monday morning that there was "no truth" to the idea that it was having any talks with Madoff.)
Leading Australian universities are creating new positions to recruit and retain indigenous students, The New York Times reported. Indigenous people make up 2.4 percent of the population but 1.25 percent of students entering universities, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.
Conrad Volz, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, is leaving his position, saying that the university wants him to focus on teaching and research, and not to be an advocate in environmental debates, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. (He has been a critic of Marcellus shale drilling, and has drawn fire from its supporters.) University officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The National Center for Education Statistics needs increased autonomy to better do its job, according to a report issued Sunday by the American Educational Research Association. The report also calls for flexibility for the Institute of Education Sciences to develop and carry out its research agenda.
The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have rebuffed an effort by Congressional Republicans to use pending budget legislation to hamper the Education Department's ability to implement regulations requiring for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to ensure that their students are prepared for "gainful employment." Few details are available at this point about the compromise reached late Friday night between the White House and Congressional negotiators over a spending bill for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year; it is not entirely clear, for instance, how the legislation will affect federal student aid and research programs, although a post on the White House blog said the deal maintained the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. The post also says that the deal will force the White House to abandon its effort to "double the funding of key research and development agencies," but still permits "strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science."
But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirmed Sunday that the legislation would not contain a provision sought by a group of House members that would bar the Education Department from using any of its fiscal 2011 funds to carry out the controversial gainful employment rules, a new version of which the department is poised to release. The measure would have effectively delayed implementation of the regulations until October at the earliest. Opponents of the measure urged members Saturday to continue to push for the provision, but the Reid spokesman said it was dead.
The gainful employment provision was one of 66 "policy riders" that House Republicans sought to attach to the 2011 budget legislation, "and this was one they pushed for," the spokesman said. "But Sen. Reid and the White House firmly said no."
Accreditors yanked recognition of Compton Community College more than five years ago, effectively forcing it to shut down, but local residents are still pushing for it to be revived, the Los Angeles Times reported. El Camino Community College has been managing a center in Compton, but local residents complain that their low-income community should have its own college. A special trustee overseeing efforts in Compton has been pushing for change, while warning that it will take some time to win accreditation as a free-standing institution. She ousted the campus's chief executive, changed a number of procedures and said in a speech Friday that it was time for some faculty members to "do less-than-better somewhere else."
A long article in The Washington Post examines the ties between The Washington Post Company, the newspaper and Kaplan Higher Education. The article notes that while many credit Kaplan with providing the company with a secure financial base at a time of declining journalism-based revenue, the relationships have not always been smooth and have led to uncomfortable scrutiny. "Post Co. executives blame outside forces, including a drop in political support for private-sector education companies and 'financial and corporate agendas,'" the article says. "They also acknowledge missteps. Current and past officers say The Post Co. did not keep close-enough tabs on its fast-sprawling education unit, even as it focused heavily on customers who were poorer and thus at the riskier end of the business. But they say serving that disadvantaged population is important."
The Florida A&M University board voted Thursday for cuts of more than 200 jobs (many of them paid for to date with federal stimulus funds) and the consolidation of many academic programs, and the elimination of others, WCTV News reported. Students have been organizing rallies against the cuts, which the university says are painful but necessary. "We're going to need more than English to make it out there because we're not just competing with English-speaking people for jobs anymore," said Ciara Taylor, a student in a Spanish program that is being cut.