The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, whose own recognition process for accreditors parallels the federal government's, on Tuesday released a revised set of policies and procedures for the agencies, focused on increased requirements for transparency and financial independence.
Higher Education Quick Takes
SunGard Higher Education announced Tuesday that, in partnership with rSmart, the technology giant would help colleges and universities buy and integrate the open-source Sakai learning platform into their SunGard enterprise systems. The move would appear to give SunGard, which has historically focused on administrative software, some entree into the learning management space by selling subscriptions to rSmart's integrated version of Sakai; the arrangement is also likely to be a boost for Sakai. “As our customers seek to address needs of their students and faculty, they have asked us to provide them with greater flexibility,” Fred Weiss, senior vice president of SunGard Higher Education, said in a news release. “Our partnership with rSmart helps achieve this as it provides access to a community-source system with a subscription pricing model." The move follows a similar corporate/open-source partnership announced last year between Datatel and Moodlerooms, a provider of hosting and services for Moodle, another open-source learning management platform.
The technology infrastructure of postsecondary institutions continues to improve -- but the gap between doctorate and nondoctorate institutions, as measured by bandwidth, is also growing, according to a report released by the National Science Foundation. The report contains a wealth of information about the cyberinfrastructure of colleges and universities, including data on the speed and types of institutions' connections to the Internet generally and to research networks in particular, and access to high-performance computing systems. While the data show that higher education as a whole is hurtling forward into better, faster technology, it is doing so unevenly, with the gap widening instead of shrinking. In 2005, 24 percent of doctorate-granting universities and 14 percent of non-doctorate-granting institutions had total bandwidth of at least 1 gigabyte; by 2007, those figures had risen to nearly 39 percent and 20 percent, respectively. (The study estimates that the numbers by 2008 had changed to about 50 percent and 25 percent.) And 62 percent of the non-doctorate-granting institutions had bandwidth of 100 megabytes or less, compared with just 24 percent of doctorate-granting institutions.
Colleges and universities reported $54.9 billion in spending on science and engineering research and development during the 2009 fiscal year, up 5.8 percent from the previous year, according to data released by the National Science Foundation. (Adjusted for inflation, that represents an increase of 4.2 percent.) The largest field within the total is the life sciences, at $32.8 billion, an increase of 5.1 percent. Among all subfields tracked, the largest percentage increase was physics, up 16.4 percent to $1.9 billion. Mathematics saw a 10.9 percent decrease, to $553 million.
In terms of which universities are spending the most on science and engineering R&D, the NSF found very little change. The top five institutions have remained the same since 2004: Johns Hopkins University (in large part because its totals include spending at the Applied Physics Laboratory), University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of California at San Francisco, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Academics are well-represented among the 23 winners, named today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as new MacArthur Fellows for 2010. The awardees receive $500,000, no strings attached, and they didn't even have to apply. The winners include professors at the California Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cornell, Harvard, Oregon State and Stanford Universities; the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, and San Diego; and the Universities of Chicago and Minnesota.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been known to hold back (even when that might be wise), but he seems even more willing to speak his mind in his waning weeks in office, with a veto message he issued Friday prime evidence of that. Schwarzenegger refused to sign AB 1889, which its Democratic sponsors described as mainly aimed at clearing up "technicalities" in controversial legislation enacted last year to reinstate California's regulatory system for for-profit and other vocational colleges. But the new legislation went well beyond mere cleanup, Schwarzenegger suggested in his veto message, taking particular umbrage at a provision that would require the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education to hire five new employees to oversee for-profit colleges -- an unusual effort by a legislature to dictate management by an executive branch agency. "This is both an inappropriate and unacceptable action to micro-manage and burden the implementation of regulatory policy," Schwarzenegger wrote.
He added, with what one can only imagine was a wide grin on his face: "If the author or interest groups wish to make staffing decisions for the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, I suggest they look into applying for the position of Bureau Chief. Applications can be obtained at: www.gov.ca.gov/appointments."
David Kennedy, former principal of Robert Gordon University, plans to return an honorary degree he received from the Scottish university to protest its decision to award an honorary degree next month to Donald Trump, the BBC reported. The university says that it is honoring Trump for his "business acumen," particularly in Scotland. But Kennedy is among many in the region who are outraged by Trump's plans to build a golf course in the area -- over the objections of many local residents.
The violent deaths of students in off-campus incidents have shaken Seton Hall University and the University of Wisconsin at Stout.
At Seton Hall, a sophomore who was killed was among five people shot at an off-campus party, allegedly by someone who tried to attend the party, was rebuffed, and returned with a gun and started shooting. Five people in all were shot, including two other students from Seton Hall and one from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, The Star-Ledger reported. The newspaper quoted an attendee at the party as saying that "the whole crowd was like a stampede. Girls were being trampled on ... it was pure terror."
At Stout, authorities have arrested two students -- one a hockey player and one who was recruited to play hockey -- in connection with the death of a third student, The Chippewa Herald reported. According to authorities, the two students who have been charged got into a fight with the third at a bar; after the fight was broken up, they followed him after he left on his bike, and assaulted him. The assault caused the bike to crash into a concrete wall, resulting in head injuries that killed the student.
Kaplan Higher Education is today announcing its "Kaplan Commitment" program, which it first unveiled this month while urging the U.S. Education Department to revise proposed regulations on the "gainful employment" of graduates of for-profit career programs. Under the new program, students at Kaplan University, Kaplan College or other Kaplan Higher Education schools will be able to enroll in classes for several weeks and assess whether the Kaplan coursework meets their educational needs before making a financial commitment. Kaplan will also conduct various assessments to help determine whether students are likely to be successful. The changes respond to critics of for-profit higher education who have said that some institutions encourage students to enroll -- paying tuition in large part with federal grants and loans -- in programs they are unlikely to complete. Students who withdraw from these Kaplan courses early will not have to pay for their coursework, and they need not receive the federal loans they would obtain to take the courses.
Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, has proposed dividing the College of Arts and Sciences into three new units, and the plan has angered many faculty members, The Toledo Blade reported. Some faculty members object to the idea itself, while others say that they didn't have enough input or that they don't trust the president (a former medical school administrator) to safeguard the arts and humanities.