Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Friday, July 2, 2010 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- President Obama called for bipartisan support of comprehensive immigration reform here Thursday in an address at American University, but the speech itself included only brief mentions of where he stands on the immigration issues that dominate higher education's agenda -- and none of the positions he took were new. Among the elements of a wide-reaching reform, Obama said he would hope to see the adoption of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would help students stay in the United States even if they entered illegally as children. "We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education," he said. "The DREAM Act would do this, and that’s why I supported this bill as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator — and why I continue to support it as president."

The president also voiced support for providing visas for foreign students to stay in the country after completing their degrees at U.S. colleges and universities. "While we provide students from around the world visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities, our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States," he said. "Instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs on our shores, we train our competition."

Friday, July 2, 2010 - 3:00am

Texas Tech officials are refusing to comment about why a professor at the university's health science center recently lost his endowed chair, but KCBD -- a local television station -- has been running a series of stories about an apparent incident involving showing pornography to students. The first reports indicated that the professor, Rod Hicks, was out of town and so was instructing students via a video hook-up. When class was over, he didn't disconnect, and the students then saw pornography streaming from his computer. The latest reports indicate that the instruction was taped, and that the tape may have gone straight from his instruction to his non-curricular video. Hicks isn't responding to questions from KCBD or Inside Higher Ed. A university spokeswoman said that Texas Tech could not comment on the situation because it is a personnel matter.

Friday, July 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment -- which has more than 650 colleges committed to various environmental goals -- has removed 15 institutions from its list. The 15 colleges removed "had missed the first three initial reporting requirements: (1) an Implementation Profile due within two months of their start date; (2) a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory due within one year of their start date; and (3) a Climate Action Plan due within two years of their start-date," said a statement from the group. Initially the organization said it would not release the names of these institutions, but when Inside Higher Ed noted that old lists of members were cached online, the group released a list: Birmingham-Southern College; Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science; Chicago State University; College of the Sequoias; Crafton Hills College; Hiwassee College; Interdenominational Theological Center; North Central Michigan College; Palo Verde College; Salem Community College; San Bernardino Community College District; San Bernardino Valley College; Springfield Technical Community College; the University of the Arts and Webster University.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 3:00am

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives on Wednesday proposed folding money for Pell Grants into a Senate-passed spending bill aimed at providing emergency appropriations for military aid and disaster relief. The amendment by Rep. Dave Obey, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, would include $4.9 billion designed to close most of a $5.7 billion shortfall in the Pell Grant Program and another $10 billion to help states avoid layoffs of elementary and secondary school teachers. While the idea is likely to face opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats opposed to adding funds for domestic priorities to legislation that is supposed to be limited to other purposes, House leaders have sought to blunt that criticism by offsetting the proposed new spending by redistributing money from elsewhere in the bill. College leaders are desperately hoping Congress finds some way to clear the Pell shortfall, since a failure to do so could result in a sizable cut (of as much as $800) in the size of the maximum Pell Grant next year.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A union seeking to organize adjuncts has reached an agreement with Central Michigan University on an election that will decide on collective bargaining. The union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, has been complaining that the administration has been refusing to negotiate a reasonable deal on who could vote -- and protests were planned for Wednesday. Those events shifted after news of a deal on the vote. Under the agreement, those teaching the equivalent of at least one quarter time will be allowed to vote.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Phoenix plans to require all students who enter the for-profit institution with less than 24 hours of college credit to participate in a free, three-week orientation program aimed at ensuring that students are ready for college-level work, the university's parent company, the Apollo Group, announced in a quarterly financial report Wednesday. The company said it expected that the change -- which will expand a pilot program -- would, along with changes in its marketing strategy designed to focus on stronger students, hurt its 2011 enrollment levels, "net revenue operating profit, and cash flow. However, we believe that these efforts are the right thing to do for our students and, over the long-term, will improve student persistence and completion rates and therefore reduce bad debt expense and position us for more stable long-term cash flow growth."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 3:00am

While many universities have suffered stock losses in the last two years, Louisiana auditors uncovered an unusual loss at Grambling State University. The News Star reported that the university lost more than $1 million on stocks that were purchased illegally because the funds were restricted to use on university facilities.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 3:00am

A new policy brief by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Southern Regional Education Board outlines steps states can take to improve the college readiness of their students. Among the suggestions:

  • The development and adoption of college readiness standards in reading, writing, and math -- jointly by K-12 schools and postsecondary education.
  • High school assessments that measure students’ progress on the readiness standards.
  • Public school curriculum that reflects the standards.
  • Senior-year high school courses designed to raise students’ skill levels in reading, writing, and math.
  • Professional development for current and aspiring teachers on using the readiness standards in their instruction.
  • The use by colleges and universities of students’ performance on the high school tests for college placement.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Princeton University is facing demands for increased payments to Princeton, N.J., Bloomberg reported. Princeton provided $10 million last year, more than many other private colleges provide their localities, but local residents -- aware of the university's wealth in comparison to most of American higher education -- want more. Peter Kann, co-chair of Princeton Future, a civic organization, said: "The town budget is strapped and schools are looking at laying off teachers.... Then there is this enormously rich university. They give the appearance of being wonderful donors to the town, but compared with what they would be giving if they were paying property taxes it’s really trifling.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The results are in for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for 2010. The annual award -- from the English department at San Jose State University -- honors the worst opening sentences for imaginary novels. This year's winner is from Molly Ringle of Seattle: "For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss -- a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil." The contest Web page features details on the winner and various runners-up and dishonorable mentions.

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