Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 20, 2009

Despite the economic downturn, 67 percent of parents believe in their ability to meet the cost of their children's college education, according to a poll being released today by Sallie Mae and Gallup. However, there are less encouraging signs too. In the last year, the percentage of parents "extremely worried" that the value of their savings and investments would be low increased to 31 percent from 17 percent. Parents also remain worried about tuition increases, the poll found.

August 20, 2009

The recently rediscovered mental health records of Seung-Hui Cho, the 2007 Virginia Tech killer, were released Wednesday, providing little insight into how he turned into a mass murderer, The Washington Post reported. The records indicate that he was never treated at the university's counseling center, despite a judge's order that he get treatment there.

August 20, 2009

Michael Cox, professor of music theory and composition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Church Music since 1990, has taken early retirement, rather than ending his membership in Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, as he would have had to do to continue to teach, the Associated Baptist Press reported. The seminary, which requires faculty members to be affiliated with churches that share its faith, recently said that Broadway Baptist did not meet its tests because it was not sufficiently strong in condemning homosexuality.

August 20, 2009

Most college financial aid officers oppose the Obama administration's plan for expanding but significantly altering the Perkins Loan Program, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The administration's proposal, unveiled as part of the president's budget blueprint for 2010, would turn the program from one that provides about $1.5 billion in loan funds to students at hundreds of institutions to a broader one that provides about $6 billion to students at many more colleges. But several aspects of the proposal -- including ending the practice of the government paying interest on the loans while borrowers in college, and requiring significant matching funds from colleges -- earned opposition from the aid officers surveyed. Nearly four in five said they preferred the current version of the program over the proposed one.

August 19, 2009

Agnes Scott College has decided to no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions. College officials cited research prepared last year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling as well as internal work suggesting that test scores weren't essential to make good admissions decisions. Those who opt not to submit scores will either have to have an interview or submit a graded writing sample. American University is experimenting with a plan to go test-optional by offering that choice this year to early decision applicants only. A spokeswoman said that option would still be open to early decision applicants who are deferred and moved into the regular admissions pool.

August 19, 2009

An academic study has found that the colleges of the University of Oxford were more likely in 2002 to offer undergraduate spots to male than female applicants, even though the female applicants had better grades, The Guardian reported. Oxford officials said that the data are out of date, but also denied that any discrimination took place in 2002.

August 19, 2009

In this budget year, many faculties (unionized or not) have been asked by administrations to accept salary cuts or freezes or other modifications of their work arrangements. The Collective Bargaining Congress of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Tuesday urging faculty groups to resist such calls -- unless they receive more power in shaping the direction of their institutions.

"The AAUP thereby resolves that faculty should work to turn this situation around, and should not give their pay away in temporary measures that do not structurally readjust higher education’s direction," says the statement. "Turning the situation around means that faculty should (a) gain access to full information about institutional finances and all other strategically relevant data, ensuring that institutions open their books to shed light on the institution’s overall condition; (b) exercise a fuller voice in analyzing and making recommendations about budgets and strategic directions, opening the boardroom door to take a central role in institutional decision making; & (c) pursue measures that reverse the long standing trends and protect the core academic functions of higher education, opening up educational opportunity by reinvesting in educational expenditures."

The full statement may be found here.

August 19, 2009

An article in The New York Times details the common practice of drug companies offering to ghostwrite articles in scientific journals in the names of prominent professors. The article describes how professors are recruited, an apparent reluctance by universities or federal agencies to police the practice and the growing pressure from Sen. Charles Grassley to get the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice.

August 19, 2009

Four more University of Illinois trustees have volunteered to quit in the wake of a scandal over trustees and politicians using their influence in the admissions process, the Chicago Tribune reported. Gov. Pat Quinn has threatened to fire those who don't resign, as has been recommended by a special state panel that investigated the admissions scandal. The latest resignation offers mean that seven of the nine gubernatorially appointed trustees have offered to quit, but two are holding out -- with one threatening to fight in court to stay on the board.

August 19, 2009

The University of Pittsburgh will not accept a bequest of $225,000 from George Sodini, who opened fire in a health club this month, killing three women and injuring nine before killing himself, The Tribune-Review reported. Sodini was a graduate of Pitt and the bequest became public this week. But Pitt announced that it believed any available funds from the bequest should go to victims of the shootings and their families.

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