Higher Education Quick Takes
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a 2012 budget proposal that would cut spending on New York's public colleges by 10 percent as part of an overall plan to eliminate a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes. Cuomo's plan, which would also impose a 10 percent cut on state aid to private colleges, also calls for giving the State University of New York System at least some of the increased autonomy and flexibility it has sought in recent years. Leaders at SUNY and the City University of New York were measured in their responses to the governor's plan, praising the new governor for confronting the state's financial problems head-on but expressing concern about the cuts and "how they will impact our ability to provide a quality experience and education for our students," as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher phrased it.
Instructure, a new company offering learning management systems, is announcing today that it will make its system open source so that institutions can download a version free. The company describes itself as an alternative to market leader Blackboard, but the move also creates competition for open source providers such as Moodle and Sakai. Instructure says that 26 educational institutions have signed contracts and that another 100 are evaluating its offerings.
Members of two national associations of student affairs professionals in higher education -- ACPA: College Student Educators International and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education -- are voting this spring on whether the two groups will merge. Leaders of the two groups negotiated for a long time about the merger plan, and have argued generally that there are enough commonalities of interest and potential economies of scale that a merger makes sense. But a group with NASPA has now formed to argue against the merger. On a website called "NASPA, Yes! Consolidation, No!," the group argues that a merger would "complicate governance," eliminate choices for student affairs professionals, and create "a monstrous annual conference." A spokeswoman for NASPA said that the organization was not responding to the members who created the website. Statements from both organizations' leaders about the planned merger may be found here.
Thirteen percent of public high school biology teachers advocate creationism or intelligent design for at least an hour of time, according to a national study by two Pennsylvania State University professors. A majority of high school teachers are cautious about endorsing evolutionary theory as the clear scientific consensus position, the professors found.
For-profit college have moved in recent years into offering institutional loans to students, and this trend needs more scrutiny, according to a report released Monday by the National Consumer Law Center, which conducts research on behalf of borrowers. According to the report, high default rates suggest that "schools seem to view these loans more as 'loss leaders' to keep the federal dollars flowing" than as a form of financial aid. Further, the report says that in some cases, the terms on loans are "predatory."
Five faculty members at the Air Force Academy have filed a suit to block a "National Prayer Luncheon" event that they infringes on the separation of church and state, the Associated Press reported. The event, to which cadets and faculty have been invited, features a motivational speaker who describes himself as a "U.S. Marine for Christ." An academy spokesman said that attendance at the event was strictly voluntary.
State police charged John K. Dunn, a professor of entrepreneurial management at the University of Rhode Island, with three felony counts of obtaining money under false pretenses in connection with an alleged mortgage fraud scheme, the Providence Journal reported. Dunn, who is also a lawyer, turned himself in after the warrant was issued for his arrest, the paper reported. He did not enter a plea and was released on $10,000 personal recognizance pending further court action, according to state police. Dunn is accused of obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars under false pretenses to buy three different properties in Rhode Island.
Seven University of South Carolina swimmers had the same muscle disorder that led to the hospitalization of 13 University of Iowa football players last week, the Associated Press reported. A doctor involved in the South Carolina case revealed the similarities in the outbreaks, which have been linked to athletes who have pushed their bodies too hard. Both groups of athletes had rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle fibers are released into the bloodstream, creating the potential for kidney damage.