Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 23, 2009

Just days after DePaul University ousted a popular law dean in a dispute over how much of the law school's budget should be shared with the university, an associate dean has quit to protest the way the interim dean was selected without faculty involvement. The Chicago Tribune reported on an e-mail sent by Stephen Siegel, the associate dean, following the selection of Warren Wolfson, an Illinois judge, to serve as interim dean for two years. The e-mail from Siegel said: "In my 37 years of service to DePaul I have served under 5 deans. (I'm not counting interim and acting deans.) Four of them were replaced mid-term.... But every previous time, the university turned to the faculty with expectation and trust that we would step into the breach -- and we did, superbly, working cooperatively to bring the best out of the situation. This time, although we have the most talented and prestigious collection of faculty we ever have had -- we have effectively been put into a two year receivership -- with no consultation, dialogue, trust."

June 23, 2009

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday vetoed House Bill 103, which would have made Texas the first state to require its high-enrollment colleges – those with 20,000 or more students – to bill students’ private insurance for care they receive at campus health centers. The bill had passed relatively effortlessly through the Texas Legislature, by votes of 143-4 in the House and 27-4 in the State Senate, with supporters saying the measure would bring in significant revenue by tapping into the private insurance plans that 70 percent of Texas students bring with them to campus. In listing his objections, Perry said the bill “would likely increase health service costs for college students and their families without increasing the level of service or care.” The governor pointed out, as have other critics of HB 103, that colleges already have the power to bill students’ private insurance plans, but most choose not to because of efficiency issues and the potential for raised cost to students.

June 22, 2009

Examples continue to materialize of ways in which the University of Illinois altered normal admissions processes on behalf of politically connected applicants, according to two new articles in the Chicago Tribune. One article reported on nearly 100 instances in which trustees intervened on behalf of individual applicants. The other article looked at medical school admissions, finding that generally the medical admissions officers managed to fight off the pressure. But in one case, in which the applicant never enrolled, the medical school agreed under pressure to admit a student with low undergraduate grades if he could raise his scores on the Medical College Admission Test to a better but "not a spectacular" level.

June 22, 2009

Eleven faculty doctors at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health received at least $50,000 from drug or medical device companies, with seven receiving at least $100,000, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Last year was the first in which the faculty members were required to report on such outside income, and the newspaper requested the records. The reports come at a time when many medical schools have been criticized for not preventing conflicts of interest in which their faculty members teach and publish in ways that are consistent with the interests of companies providing funds to professors.

June 22, 2009

The University of Maryland Board of Regents on Friday approved the merger of Baltimore Hebrew University, which operates small graduate programs to train teachers for Jewish schools, into Towson University, The Baltimore Sun reported. Baltimore Hebrew has been supported by Jewish philanthropy, but is not affiliated with any Jewish denomination.

June 22, 2009

Brian Diaz, president of Liberty University's now banned College Democrats, has quit his position and announced that he plans to tranfer to another college -- one where Democratic organizations are permitted, The Lynchburg News & Advance reported. Diaz said that he wanted to attend “an institution that fosters diversity within its student body.” Liberty has said that it cannot recognize organizations that back candidates who favor abortion rights or other stances that conflict with the university's religious beliefs.

June 22, 2009

Like community colleges throughout California, City College of San Francisco is facing such deep budget cuts that it is planning to eliminate hundreds of courses and sections. So the college is offering donors the ability to save a course -- and have the course named for them -- for $6,000, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Currently, about 800 classes are slated to be canceled. There are so many classes being killed that the newspaper reported that potential donors have lots of options, including traditional introductory courses in fields such as biology and French, practical courses in fields such as accounting, and electives such as Psychology of Shyness and Self-Esteem and Advanced Kung Fu.

June 22, 2009

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC Inc. are today announcing $16.5 million in grants to 15 community colleges in 6 states to expand remedial education efforts that appear to be having significantly more success than the norm. More than 133,000 students take remedial courses at the colleges involved and the rate at which students move from remedial to college-level work went from 16 to 20 percent for those involved. The strategies involve the use of technology to teach basic skills, mentorships and better coordination between high schools and community colleges. The five states and their participating colleges are: Connecticut (Housatonic Community College and Norwalk Community College); Florida (Valencia Community College); North Carolina (Guilford Technical Community College); Ohio (Cuyahoga Community College, Jefferson Community College, North Central State College, Sinclair Community College and Zane State College); Texas (Coastal Bend College, El Paso Community College, Houston Community College and South Texas College); and Virginia (Danville Community College and Patrick Henry Community College).

June 22, 2009

DePaul University has removed Glen Weissenberger as dean of the law school -- amid a dispute over the law school's financial contributions to the university, according to the Chicago Tribune. Weissenberger lost his job (but will remain on the faculty) after he complained to the American Bar Association about what he saw as the university's disregard for an agreement under which the law school gets to keep 75 percent of its net tuition revenues. The university said that the law school is getting to keep that revenue, and that the decision to remove the dean came before the letter was sent to the ABA. Students have started an online petition to demand the reinstatement of Weissenberger as the dean.

June 19, 2009

The Education Department acknowledged last week that its Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education would have insufficient funds in its 2009 budget to hold its normal "open" competition for innovative projects, partly because Congress had crammed other projects onto the program's agenda. On Thursday, the department announced competitions for two lawmaker-dictated priorities: one to expand graduate-level academic offerings at colleges with large numbers of Hispanic students, and one to identify innovative ways to help students rent textbooks and other course materials.

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