In a new report the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning describes various "showcase" models of competency-based degree programs, which are efficient at eliminating redundant coursework or unnecessary degree requirements. There are a variety of sound approaches to competency-based education, the report found, which ensure the quality of a degree by focusing on outcomes rather than the amount of time students spend on coursework. The council also encourages the use of student assessments, which can be used to measure students' prior learning.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Businesses owned by two trustees of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board were awarded contracts for nearly $14 million from system universities in the last five years, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Guido Pichini, one of the trustees, said that there was nothing wrong with the practice. "They went through the bidding process without me. I don’t oversee any of the contracts," he said. Celestino Pennoni, the other trustee, did not respond to requests for comment.
On the last business day before the interest rate was scheduled to double on new federally subsidized student loans, Congress approved a bill to keep the interest rate at 3.4 percent for another year. The extension, which cost about $6 billion, was included as part of a highway bill that passed both houses with large majorities.
However, some changes to the student loan program took effect Sunday. Subsidized loans for graduate students, cut last August in the deal to increase the federal debt ceiling, are no longer available. And the "grace period" on subsidized undergraduate loans -- under which the government paid the interest for six months after students left college -- has been eliminated as well.
Also, students receiving Pell Grants lose eligibility after 12 semesters, not 18 -- including those already in the program who have passed the limit.
International applications at top universities in Hong Kong are seeing sharp increases, The New York Times reported. Foreign applications are up 55 percent at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 50 percent at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and 42 percent at the University of Hong Kong. (Most universities in Hong Kong keep separate statistics for those from Hong Kong, from the rest of China, and the rest of the world, so these are figures for that latter category.)
Marilyn Haring, dean of the College of Education at Purdue University from 1991 to 2001, is so upset by the university's selection of Governor Mitch Daniels as the next president that she has removed a $1 million bequest from her will, The Journal and Courier reported. Haring cited the governor's lack of experience in academe. "I regard the appointment of Mr. Daniels as a travesty and insult to academics," she said. Haring added that "his record is a political one, not an academic one. Purdue has been widely respected for its many academic accomplishments by faculty, professional staff, students, and alumni — not for its politics." Purdue officials have said that they originally sought a president with an academic background, but came to believe Daniels could do the most to advance the university.
The 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party contains a number of provisions raising eyebrows among Texas academics. For instance, the platform says, "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning), which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." With regard to college tuition, the platform wants to end the policy (endorsed by Governor Rick Perry in the Republican primaries) of granting in-state tuition rates to some students who lack the legal documentation to live in the United States. And the platform wants "merit-based" admissions for all public colleges, and seeks to eliminate the "10 percent" plan -- which admits students from the top 10 percent of high school classes and which has helped to diversify Texas colleges.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Thursday to uphold most parts of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed in 2010, means that several parts of the law applicable to colleges will remain in place. College health plans will still have to comply with more stringent regulations, including the eventual elimination of lifetime benefit caps, following rules put forward in March. And one of the law's most controversial features -- the requirement that employers include contraception as a fully covered preventive care measure with no cost-sharing -- will also stay in place. Several Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian colleges have sued over the requirement, saying it interferes with their right to practice their religion. Those cases could eventually end up before the Supreme Court in a later term.
The Illinois Labor Relations Board has certified the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Union as the exclusive bargaining representative (through two units) of full-time tenured/tenure-track faculty members, and of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members. The union originally wanted to represent both groups in the same unit, but the university objected. After several rounds of legal fighting, the union filed for -- and now has won recognition -- for two separate units. United Faculty is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.
New Jersey legislators on Thursday approved a plan that would merge most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers University, and that would form a partnership (though short of a full merger) between Rutgers at Camden and Rowan University, The Star-Ledger reported. Governor Chris Christie has pushed for the changes (and a full merger between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan). but many have questioned the latter proposal in particular.