Higher Education Quick Takes
Part of the settlement of Mississippi's higher education desegregation case in 2004 was a pledge by the state to raise $35 million to boost the minimal endowments of the state's three historically black universities: Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State Universities. After the campaign was announced, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1 million. Since then, nothing has happened. But the Associated Press reported that state higher education officials are now pledging to develop new plans to raise the money. Hank Bounds, the higher education commissioner, said that "we really need to put forth a really good strategy and see if we can find some success."
Purdue University faculty members are expressing a range of views on Thursday's selection of Mitch Daniels, currently ending his second term as governor of Indiana, as the university's next president. Morris Levy, past chair of the Purdue University Senate, published an open letter to his faculty colleagues, both pledging support for Daniels and raising questions about his appointment. The letter noted that the search committee had requested help from an advisory committee of faculty, students and alumni -- and that that group has stressed that its first criterion for the next president was that he or she be someone with experience leading an academic institution (something Daniels lacks). Levy also mentioned "a cloud of conflict of interest," in that every member of the Purdue board was either appointed or re-appointed by Governor Daniels.
But two faculty members who were on the search committee wrote a column in The Journal and Courier in which they said that the search committee took faculty concerns seriously, tried hard to recruit the best possible academic candidates, and discussed in detail the issues related to picking someone from outside of academe. "This choice is a bold move because the governor does not have the academic credentials that university presidents traditionally have. U.S. research institutions, including Purdue, are the envy of the world, and typically it takes an insider to understand exactly how the process of academic freedom operates to enable us to lead the world in research and education. But there are rare exceptions. Public universities find themselves in exceptional times, and we found an exceptional candidate for these challenging times," they wrote.
The Obama administration stepped up calls Thursday for Congress to stop student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1, even as Senate leaders said that a deal was close to prevent the increase. In remarks to college students at the White House, President Obama called on Congress to act quickly: "There’s still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing," he said. "I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done, and there are conversations taking place, but they haven’t done it yet. And we’ve got to keep the pressure on."
Senate Republicans accused Obama of using the issue to score political points. After months of dueling proposals to prevent the increase, which would apply to federally subsidized student loans issued after July 1, leaders were said to be close to an agreement and that details could be released within days.
Obama said preventing the interest rate increase -- which would apply to about 7 million students -- was an economic issue. At the same time, the Education and Treasury Departments released a report calling higher education critical for increased earnings and social mobility and blaming state cuts for driving up tuition at colleges and universities. "Where we make our investments demonstrates our priorities," the report's authors wrote. "In order to ensure access to higher education, we must all do our part toward our shared responsibility to make these critical investments in today’s students and tomorrow’s workers."
Gay alumni of Bob Jones University, one of the most conservative Christian colleges, have formed a support group and will be marching with students in the gay pride parade in New York City this weekend, local media in Greenville, S.C., reported. Groups of gay alumni -- almost none of whom were open about their homosexuality while in college -- have been spreading at evangelical colleges in recent years, including groups at Wheaton College in Illinois and George Fox University, but Bob Jones has a fraught history with gay students, including once threatening a gay alumnus with arrest if he visited campus.
"Bob Jones University recognizes the right of alumni to organize and support the LGBT agenda and LGBT events. We trust they will respect our right to exercise our belief in the absolute authority of God's Word," the university said in a statement to Fox Carolina.
Mitt Romney continues to be vague about what he would do about President Obama's new policy of not deporting undocumented students who meet certain criteria -- a policy widely praised by education groups. But on Thursday Romney, the Republican presidential candidate this year, proposed an immigration change that is consistent with the proposals of many education groups, and advocates for international graduate students. He proposed that foreign students who obtain advanced degree in math, science or engineering at American universities should be granted permanent residency. Many experts on international education have said that other countries are becoming more competitive in attracting foreign students because of those nations' willingness to keep foreign talent in the country.
Low productivity and growing demand in the health care sector will lead to millions of new jobs in the next eight years, according to a study -- called Healthcare -- released Thursday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The study, one of several put out by the group about the current and future shape of the employment market and the implications for the education system, identified the following ways higher education will be affected by this growing sector demand:
- A bachelor's degree will be required for 24 percent of all health care jobs in 2020, up from 21 percent in 2010. The study noted that the demand for postsecondary talent in health care trails only science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and education occupations.
- A graduate degree will be required for 28 percent of all health care jobs -- the second-highest proportion of all occupations.
- Between 1992 and 2008, the proportion of staff nurses with a bachelor's degree increased from 31 percent to 40 percent. This shift toward bachelor's degrees will crowd members of some minority groups out of the nursing profession: Compared to white and Asians Americans, African-American and Hispanic nurses are more likely to have a diploma or associate degree than a bachelor's degree in nursing.
- There is a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and access to medical school.
- The medical field remains disproportionately white and Asian, even though access is improving for members of other minority groups.
A House appropriations subcommittee this week approved legislation that would cut $14 million from the budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 2013 fiscal year, a reduction of 9.6 percent. The spending bill backed by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies would provide $132 million to the humanities endowment (and an equivalent amount to the National Endowment for the Arts) in 2013, down from the current $146 million. President Obama proposed that the agency receive $154.3 million in 2013.
As more college admissions counselors are seeking specialized training, a newly released paper from the National Association for College Admission Counseling argues that high school college readiness counseling requires standardized training, too. Author Mandy Savitz-Romer wrote that high school college readiness counseling lacks pre- or in-service requirements, or a unified certification or body of knowledge, and she proposed a set of core areas of competency that should be part of a pre-service training program for prospective counselors:
- Psychological processes associated with college readiness
- Social environments that affect students’ resources for succeeding in college
- Microeconomics, especially related to individual decision-making behavior
- Educational reform policies related to college readiness
- Higher education research, including college access and enrollment and college choice theories
- Family engagement models