Like many university presidents, Daniel Woolf, of Queen's University, in Canada, prepares periodic private memos for his board about challenges facing the university. This week, Woolf's private memo was leaked and posted on Facebook, leading to much discussion of his frank analysis (and comparisons to other universities), Maclean's reported. “At Queen’s, where the financial situation is particularly acute, the quality that once defined the institution is clearly being compromised,” he wrote. "It would have been unthinkable 20 years ago that the quality reputation of undergraduate education at Queen’s would be challenged by Waterloo and McMaster …to say nothing of Guelph – but it is clearly happening.”
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Michigan Board of Regents has voted, over administrators' objections, to allow research assistants to unionize. But the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and a University of Michigan graduate student research assistant, have filed a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission trying to block the move to let the research assistants engage in collective bargaining, The Detroit Free Press reported.
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights is gaining a reputation for tougher and speedier enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But an investigation by The New York Times documents many cases that have languished for years, from well before the current administration. The lead example: OCR has yet to complete an inquiry into a complaint filed in 1998 about opportunities for female athletes at the University of Southern California.
The San Jose Mercury News reported on one case that has been resolved. Santa Clara University has settled a complaint about its treatment of female athletes by agreeing to build an on-campus softball field by 2016. The team currently plays at another campus.
A state audit has criticized the University of California at Los Angeles for spending money from a student activities fund on a student center, and also has raised questions about why campuses in the University of California system with higher minority enrollments have lower per capita budgets, The Los Angeles Times reported. Mark G. Yudof, president of the university system, said officials would strive to explain funding patterns, but he added that "there is absolutely no basis — statistically, historically, or ethically" for linking those patterns to issues of race. A critical look at the university's spending, based on the audit results, is on the Changing Universities blog.
In today’s Academic Minute, Brent Plate of Hamilton College explores the point at which art
becomes blasphemy. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
A full quarter of colleges students would rather wear a chastity belt than a backpack. This according to research commissioned by Kno, Inc., a software company that sells e-textbooks optimized for mobile devices. Absent any evidence that students want e-textbooks instead the printed kind, Kno's study focused on what students don't want: backpacks full of heavy print volumes that can be easily lost. In a survey of 506 students at four-year institutions, conducted by the marketing research firm Kelton Research, the company says that 25 percent give up sex for year to alleviate the burden of hauling their textbooks around for four years. More than a third said they would stay home on Saturday night for a whole semester. "The findings of the study show a shift in perception from college students and lend new light to the future of digital learning," the company declared in its press release.
WASHINGTON -- In a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to keeping the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550 in fiscal year 2012, although the grants are the main reason the Education Department's requested budget has increased 20 percent since 2010. "We desperately want to preserve that maximum Pell Grant," Duncan said, adding that the administration has made "tough calls," including ending year-round Pell Grants and proposing the end of interest subsidies on graduate student loans, to make that possible.
Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, responded that the department would have to prioritize. "How are we going to pay for this? That's the bottom line," Shelby said. "What are your priorities in the Department of Education?... You're going to have to make some decisions." Although much of the hearing was devoted to elementary and secondary education programs, Duncan also responded to Senator Richard Durbin, a frequent critic of for-profit education who called proprietary colleges a "Ponzi scheme" that made him less willing to support federal financial aid programs. "We've tried to move in the right direction, and seen significant changes in behavior," Duncan said of the department's program integrity rules. "I think this is going the right way, and I feel much more comfortable in our investments in grants and loans -- more comfortable today than before we did our regulation."
The American Association of Community Colleges has released a report on community college students and Pell Grants. Among the findings:
- Nearly 80 percent of Pell Grant recipients attending community colleges in 2009–10 had family incomes of less than 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold, and 60.7 percent were below the poverty threshold for a family of four ($20,000).
- In 2009–10, 98.3 percent of Pell recipients at community colleges had allowable costs associated with attending college in excess of $6,000, and 91.9 percent had allowable costs in excess of $9,000.
- Whereas only 40 percent of community college students enroll full time, nearly double that percentage of community college students receiving a Pell Grant were enrolled full time in 2009–10.
Kentucky's attorney general, Jack Conway, on Wednesday sued Daymar College, charging the for-profit institution with overcharging students for textbooks, misleading students about financial aid and failing to offer accurate information about the ability of students to transfer credit to other institutions, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Conway has been leading an inquiry into the practices of for-profit colleges in the state. A Daymar spokesman said the college denies allegations, and plans to defend itself in court.