Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a California Supreme Court ruling that upheld a state law letting some undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition rates at the state's public colleges. The California court's decision last November upheld AB 540, which allows students whose parents came into the United States illegally to pay resident tuition rates if they graduated from an in-state high school and had attended one for three or more years. By declining to hear the appeal, which was sought by a group of students from outside California who said the law discriminated against them because they were forced to pay non-resident rates at California public colleges, the U.S. Supreme Court lets the state ruling stand. California community college and university officials applauded the U.S. court's stance.
Net price calculators, which attempt to show students and parents how much they will pay for college after financial aid, are useful tools but suffer from limitations, the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance wrote in a report issued Monday.
The committee, which advises the Education Department on matters related to financial aid, summarized the conclusions of two panel discussions held in March in its report, "The Bottom Line: Ensuring that Students and Parents Understand the Net Price of College." The report concluded that students and families need to use net price calculators early in a college search, but that the calculators are limited by several factors, including their inability to calculate whether students are likely to receive a merit scholarship. Financial aid award letters need to be standardized so students can better compare institutions, the report's authors wrote. "Financial aid award letters may prove a cautionary tale for net price calculators, unless a consensus about uniformity can be built within the community to avoid confusion and complexity for families," they wrote. But in lieu of additional legislation or regulations, the committee recommended that institutions voluntarily adopt more standardized versions of each tool.
The Alabama Legislature has passed legislation, expected soon to be signed into law, that would bar students without the legal documentation to be in the United States from enrolling at public colleges in the United States. The measure is part of a far-reaching bill -- receiving attention for going beyond even Arizona's controversial immigration law. Many states bar undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates -- and such policies effectively bar students from enrolling because these students don't qualify for government student aid and rarely have the financial resources to afford out-of-state rates. Michael A. Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston and an expert of higher education and immigration law, said that there has "never been any evidence" that undocumented students in any way restrict the access of other students. He said that the Alabama bill exemplified "mean-spiritedness."
The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has finished a 90-year project to create a dictionary of Assyrian, The Chicago Tribune reported. Since 1921, 88 scholars have worked on the 21-volume, 28,000-word dictionary. The institute will sell the dictionary for $1,400 a set.
Fourteen academic luminaries -- among them A.C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Ronald Dworkin, Niall Ferguson and Steven Pinker -- have announced the creation of the New College of the Humanities, which will be affiliated with the University of London. The new college promises many things that critics fear are disappearing from British universities, such as close student-faculty interaction and an emphasis on the humanities. Tuition will be 18,000 pounds a year (nearly $30,000), or twice the charges at the most expensive British public universities.
Students who pay extra fees for online course material at California community colleges may be entitled to refunds on the fees, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Fees charged by publishers for online materials are common in higher education, and college officials have defended them in California. But the dispute in California -- prompted by a student grievance -- concerns a state regulation that fees for instructional material provide students with "tangible personal property." Under that measure, the fee would be legal if students could download and store the online material, but they can't.
The playwright Tony Kushner on Friday accepted an honorary degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and acknowledged the controversy over the award, initially blocked by the City University of New York's board, but later approved by the Executive Committee of the board. The New York Times reported that Kushner said this degree was "the most interesting one I had to work hardest to get," and that he thanked those who helped him receive the honor. "Behind it there stands a shining community of people, of spirits of whom I’m proud to be able to call myself kindred who believe in the necessity of honest exchanges of ideas and opinions, who understand that life is a struggle to synthesize, to find a balance between responsibility and freedom, strategy and truth, survival and ethical humanity," he said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined a small company $120,000 for selling charter flights to college athletics teams without the legal authority to do so. According to an order issued by the federal agency, Global Airlines Services (whose website no longer appears to be operational; a cached version of the site can be found here) and its owner, Harold J. Pareti, contracted with universities to transport their sports teams, and then arranged for actual airline carriers to provide the service -- even though Global "did not hold proper authority" from the Transportation Department to broker such arrangements.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled 7-2 that a pharmaceutical company did not infringe a Stanford University patent on a technology that measures the concentration of HIV in blood plasma -- a result that higher education groups have warned would undercut the federal government's 30-year-old system for determining who owns the rights to inventions created using federal funds. The court's ruling came in a case known as Stanford v. Roche. Coverage to follow on Inside Higher Ed tomorrow.