Higher Education Quick Takes
The 26 osteopathic medical schools in the United States have received more applications for admission during this academic year -- with three months left for applications -- than during all of last year. As a result, this will be the fifth straight year in which applications have set records, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. At this point, the colleges are receiving about 20 applications for every available spot.
Students at the University of California at Irvine are protesting an apparent criminal investigation by a local district attorney into an incident last year in which some students heckled repeatedly during a campus talk by Israel's ambassador to the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported. While some students continue to defend the heckling, others at Irvine who said that the heckling was wrong argue that the university's punishment of the group found to have organized the disruption was sufficient.
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.
Some families and financial aid administrators are reporting technological troubles with the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and Education Department officials have told the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators that they are working on the problem, NASFAA reports. The scope and degree of the problems are unclear; a few financial aid officers have reported significant problems, but the aid directors' group says it has had few reports so far.
Southwestern University's board has voted to keep the institution's name, ending a period of study and debate over whether the name was sufficiently reflective of the university's identity. "The research showed that Southwestern University is not well known among prospective students − those who live within Texas and particularly those who live outside Texas − and that most people do not associate the name 'Southwestern University' with a private liberal arts institution," said a statement from the board, which also called for a "visibility campaign" to promote Southwestern. In a December interview with The Austin American-Statesman, Jake Schrum, the president of the university, explained the need to consider a name change this way: "Looking at our name and thinking about a national liberal arts college of real quality — is that a disconnect? The name Southwestern University sounds like a regional public university. It's that whole thing of having to explain so much that the quality of what we're doing here and the type of institution we are — not that we're wanting to become, but that we are — is lost in the shuffle." But the idea of a name change didn't catch on with students -- and angered some alumni.
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.
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.