Higher Education Quick Takes
Colleges' “green revolving-funds” -- money set aside to provide up-front capital for investments that reduce environmental impact, such as light bulb replacement -- have quadrupled in number since 2008 and are generating considerable investment returns, a survey by the Sustainable Endowments Institute has found. The report, “Greening the Bottom Line,” is the first survey of green revolving-funds ever conducted. It included data from 52 universities from 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. It found a 32 percent median annual return on green revolving-fund investments, with median total project payback of four years. Funds surveyed ranged in size from $5,000 at the College of Wooster to $12 million at Harvard University, with an average size of $1.4 million. “The trend is clear both in terms of money saved and reduced energy consumption,” said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
When the University of Kentucky announced that its new basketball dormitory would be named, at the request of donors with ties to the coal industry, the Wildcat Coal Lodge, some of the campus objected to such an honor for an industry associated by many with environmentally harmful practices. The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained the full gift agreement and it turns out to not only have "coal" as part of the name, but to require the creation of "an exhibit in the primary entrance lobby which presents in print, photographic, sound, video, DVD and/or other format, a discussion of and tribute to the importance of the coal industry to the Commonwealth of Kentucky." Further, the exhibit "shall be reasonably acceptable" to Joseph W. Craft III, who heads Alliance Coal and who organized the contributions.
The University of California at Berkeley is reconsidering a plan to eliminate five athletic teams, The New York Times reported. Supporters of the teams have been lobbying for their preservation, and some have pledged money to pay for the teams, although those funds are far short of the $80 million that the university earlier said would be needed to keep the teams. The Times noted that the elimination of the two women's and three men's teams would make it difficult for the university to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex bias in programs receiving federal funds. Officials estimate that, if Berkeley went ahead with the cuts, it would need to add an additional 50 women's athletics slots and to eliminate an additional 80 men's slots to comply.
A student at Cape Cod Community College has been diagnosed with the 2009 strain of H1N1, The Boston Herald reported. The last academic year saw many colleges deal with large outbreaks of H1N1, but Cape Cod saw no reported cases. The college is offering free vaccinations for students and faculty members.
Educause and the New Media Consortium have released the 2011 Horizon Report, an annual study of emerging issues in technology in higher education. The issues that are seen as likely to have great impact:
- Over the next year: e-books and mobile devices.
- From two to three years out: augmented reality and game-based learning.
- From four to five years out: gesture-based computing and learning analytics.
The February 2011 edition of The Pulse, our monthly technology podcast by Rod Murray, features an interview with Brian Hughes, associate director of design, publishing and service at Teachers College's Library at Columbia University. He discusses the best ways to get faculty members comfortable with using social media in teaching. Find out more about The Pulse, and listen to selections from its archive, here.
Another day, another flurry of activity related to federal regulation of for-profit colleges. The Government Accountability Office announced Tuesday that an internal investigation into its August report on for-profit institutions had concluded that the office had shown "no bias or conflict of interest" in producing the report, which was released months later with numerous corrections. Advocates for the colleges have gone so far as to sue the agency for "professional malpractice," but the GAO inquiry concedes only that "there were process, supervisory and analytical weaknesses that led to errors and missing context" that were corrected in the followup report. Officials at the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities said they were "extremely disappointed" by the agency's statement and by its failure to make the internal report public. “The fox is not only guarding the henhouse, he’s writing reviews about his own performance,” said Harris Miller, the group's president. “Forgive us if we are not convinced.”
Meanwhile, in a speech on the Senate floor late Monday, Senator Tom Harkin laid out a new series of accusations about the recruiting practices of for-profit colleges. Citing documents collected as part of his committee's investigation into the sector, he discussed comments in which admissions officials at Kaplan University and ITT urge recruiters to capitalize on students' "pain" and "fears" about their futures to encourage them to enroll. “Rather than offering students a better life, these types of strong-arm, emotionally abusive tactics are all too typical of schools that have little or no interest in providing students the academic help and support they need to succeed," Harkin said. "When these types of deceptive and exploitative tactics are used to enroll students, we should not be surprised to see high drop out and high default rates as a result.”
Utah legislators are considering a proposal to raise tuition rates substantially (to cover the full costs of instruction) for students who earn 120 percent of the credits needed to graduate, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Lawmakers say that these students should be encouraged to leave public colleges and universities or to share more of the costs of higher education. But others note that many of these students have so much credit because they are top students who enter college with Advanced Placement or dual-enrollment credit and pursue double majors or minors in addition to a standard program.