Higher Education Quick Takes
In the latest fallout from the British government's decision to raise tuition substantially at the country's universities, a leading secondary school there is encouraging its students to apply to foreign universities, The New York Times reported. Students are looking abroad both to save money and because of a shortage of slots this year in entering classes.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut has proposed that his budget office review all non-faculty hiring by the state's public colleges and universities, The Mirror reported. "It's an added control mechanism that we make sure we are actually spending as much money as we possibly can in classrooms as opposed to in administration positions," the governor said. Higher education officials are opposing the idea, saying that it would cause needless delays.
Many Australian academics worry that the availability of online tools is encouraging more students to skip class, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The article cites professors who talk about lots of empty chairs in their classes -- and there are surveys to back up their impressions. One survey found that 19 percent of students spend more than 20 hours on campus each week, down from 32 percent in 1994.
Research published Sunday in the journal BMC Public Health finds that higher levels of education are correlated with lower blood pressure and lower incidence of other factors -- such as smoking and weight gain -- associated with health problems.
Republican leaders in the U.S. House Friday released temporary budget legislation that would end the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program and cut $129 million in earmarked funds distributed in 2010 through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The measure, which would extend funding for the federal government until March 18, is designed to give Congressional leaders and the White House more time to reach agreement on spending legislation for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends in September. A failure to reach agreement would result in a government shutdown, and the parties seem far apart right now, with the Obama administration and, to a lesser extent, Senate Democrats opposed to the deep cuts contained in the appropriations measure the House passed this month. The temporary measure introduced on Friday would cut $4 billion over all; $64 million of that would come from eliminating LEAP, which provides federal matching funds to states that use their own money for need-based aid. President Obama's 2012 budget would eliminate that program, too. Unlike the House's 2011 bill, the temporary measure would not cut funds for the Pell Grant Program.
Belmont University has officially recognized Bridge Builders, a group focused on discussion of gay issues, after previously rejecting the organization's requests for official status, The Tennessean reported. The reversal follows an extended debate over gay rights at the Christian university -- after a lesbian coach was ousted in December. In February, the college amended its anti-bias policy to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Two articles in the Los Angeles Times offer a devastating critique of how the Los Angeles Community College District has managed a series of massive bond issues (total of $5.7 billion) for construction in the community college system. While the articles note the construction of some key buildings to meet pressing needs, they also note example after example of poorly planned or poorly executed facilities. One article focuses on these flaws, identifying such problems as heating and cooling units installed upside down, uneven steps, defective plumbing and ceiling tiles that would not withstand an earthquake.
Further, the article details numerous other cases where major spending on planning and designing facilities ended up being a waste as officials decided not to build those facilities. Other examples of questionable spending in the article include funds for a feng shui expert ($250 an hour) and $350,000 on video production (including chartered helicopters for aerial shots) to produce public relations material on the construction campaign. Larry Eisenberg, head of the building effort, defended it to the Times, but e-mail messages he sent that were obtained by the the newspaper suggested that he too sees serious problems. In one e-mail, he wrote, "Our new buildings are fundamentally flawed.... We cannot control lighting systems, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems, security systems, building management systems, etc. We have buildings that leak.... We are opening buildings that do not work at the most fundamental level."
The second article details donations by companies that have won contracts for the facilities to the campaigns of those elected as trustees of the district and to the campaigns on behalf of the bond measures.
A Louisiana judge has refused to block a study for the Louisiana Board of Regents on the idea of merging Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Advocate reported. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has called for consideration of the merger -- an idea strongly opposed by advocates of the historically black Southern system. Some of those supporters charge that the lack of diversity on the Board of Regents makes the body unconstitutional -- an argument rejected by the judge.
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that state immunity bars a national pharmacy association from suing the University System of Georgia for copyright violations. The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, came in a long-running legal fight in which the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is seeking redress for the alleged misappropriation by a University of Georgia professor of material from the association's licensing examinations. While legal claims against the professor are still pending, the 11th Circuit panel concluded that the Board of Regents of the university system is immune from suit.