The federal government's policies for reimbursing research universities for the indirect costs of the studies they conduct are inconsistent and outdated, and a broad review is warranted, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday. The GAO report found great variation in how the Defense Department and other federal agencies that sponsor academic research set the rates at which they reimburse institutions, and says that the nearly 20-year-old cap on the amount that institutions can be reimbursed for the administration portion of their indirect costs limits reimbursements for many institutions.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Health care premiums rose by about 7 percent for the typical college employee this year, up several percentage points over the previous year, according to an annual survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The association's survey found that employees with family coverage saw the sharpest increases, with their rates rising by 7 percent (compared to 5.7 percent in 2009); premiums for employees with individual coverage grew by 6.7 percent, up from 3.7 percent in 2009. Among other findings: the percentage of respondents offering health care benefits for same sex and opposite sex partners increased this year, the fourth consecutive year of increases; and a majority of responding institutions are still providing health care benefits for retirees.
A U.S. Senate candidate has pulled advertising that featured imagery from his days as a University of Arkansas football player after institution officials complained that the ad made it look like the university was endorsing him, Arkansas News reported. Rep. John Boozman, a Republican challenger to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, used the university's logo and images of its football stadium to burnish his credentials as a longtime Razorback, potentially violating university policies against against the use of its images in political campaign ads. “We want to maintain neutrality,” said Steve Voorhies, a spokesman for Arkansas.
The National Labor Relations Board has ordered the rehiring of and back pay for three janitors who worked at Nova Southeastern University, The Miami Herald reported. The janitors were involved in a union organizing drive just before the university decided to hire an outside contractor to handle custodial work. Most of the university's janitors were hired, but not these three -- an act the NLRB found was retaliatory. The university declined to comment, saying that the matter was one for the contractor, not Nova Southeastern.
Authorities in Duluth invoked local ordinances to get students to remove racy signs that were placed in an off-campus neighborhood to "welcome" new students to the University of Minnesota at Duluth, The Duluth News Tribune reported. The newspaper quoted police as admitting that they don't always enforce the rules about such yard signs, but that they do so when there are complaints. Some citizens and students are questioning the inconsistent enforcement, while others say that the signs were offensive. While the News Tribune didn't go into details on what the signs said, the local Fox News show did, offering as examples signs that said “I like the taste of Freshmeat,” “Dads, she’s in our hands now,” and “Free breast exams here.”
Joe Peek, a finance professor who has been elected as faculty trustee at the University of Kentucky, is trying to make points with humor, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. He has mocked the university's goal of being among the top 20 universities nationally as unrealistic, while pushing for improvements he says are feasible. He has noted that coaches are fired when they don't meet their goals and asked why the university doesn't act the same way with regard to those in charge of academics. "As a citizen of Kentucky, why are you not pissed off that they don't feel the same way about the academic vision?" And he's even joked about the divide between board members and faculty members. After being elected, he sent out an e-mail saying: "Now that you have foolishly elected me as your faculty trustee, I have lost all respect for you, thereby fully qualifying me to be a UK trustee." His first board meeting is this month.
National Collegiate Athletic Association panels punished Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and the University of Missouri at St. Louis late last week for major violations in their sports programs. The NCAA's Division III Committee on Infractions, in a case processed through the association's summary disposition process, concluded that Lincoln had let ineligible athletes compete in a wide range of sports, including men’s track and field, men’s cross country, men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s basketball, and that the former men's and women's track coach -- who also was athletics director -- had engaged in unethical conduct. All of Lincoln's teams are banned from postseason play in the 2010-11 academic year, and the men's basketball and track and field programs are barred from playing on television. The NCAA's Division II Committee on Infractions, meanwhile, punished Missouri-St. Louis because of gambling-related violations in its men's golf program. The panel found that the university's former golf coach had not only wagered himself, through participation in fantasy football and baseball leagues, but had a former volunteer assistant coach and athletes from the university help him run a fantasy football business that he owned. The university is on two years' probation, and the former golf coach faces restrictions if he seeks to work at an NCAA member college through 2013.
Two bills headed for gubernatorial OK or veto in California would allow the California State University System to start offering doctorates in nursing practice and physical therapy, and the bills have renewed debates over the state's master plan for higher education and the role of doctorates in health fields, The Sacramento Bee reported. Historically, doctorates have been offered by the University of California, not Cal State, but lawmakers approved a bill in 2005 to allow Cal State to offer doctorates in education. Advocates for the new doctorates say that they would fill key needs in the health-care system, but critics charge that the bills reflect the push for credential inflation.
The University of California at Irvine has upheld its decision to suspend the Muslim Student Union on the campus as punishment for organizing heckling during a February speech by Israel's ambassador to the United States, but the suspension time has been reduced to a quarter, not a full year. The original suspension was based on evidence that the heckling was not just a series of individual acts, but a planned strategy to make it more difficult for the ambassador to speak. The Muslim organization had called for the suspension to be lifted, but a statement from the university said: "This process has been exhaustive and detailed. The sanctions described above reflect the need for appropriate discipline following violations of campus policy while recognizing the role of the university in educating students in and outside the classroom." At a press conference Friday, Muslim students denounced the suspension as an unfair collective punishment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state financial aid program in Texas is becoming overwhelmed with applicants who meet both the academic and income eligibility requirements, The Dallas Morning News reported. Despite state moves in recent years to tighten eligibility, about 24,000 eligible students could be left out of the program by next year. The shortfall comes at a time when state leaders have made it a goal to increase the share of Texans who enroll in and complete college programs.