California State University campuses are withholding grants to about 20,000 graduate students with financial need, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The grants typically cover tuition for the students, and Cal State is instead offering the students a federal loan with a 6.8 percent interest rate. Cal State officials cite looming state budget cuts, which they say require them to hold on to their cash for now, while they consider all options. Graduate students say that many be unable to enroll without the grants. One student told the newspaper: "I was horrified. I started crying once I realized it was happening to everyone."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Fitch Ratings, which analyzes some colleges' credit worthiness, on Friday released an analysis challenging the idea that tuition increases are doing damage to many Americans' ability to enroll, and to higher education generally. "[T]he increase in cost of attendance at U.S. colleges and universities, which began during the mid-1990s and accelerated through the end of the past decade, has not yet had a meaningful impact on enrollment at most institutions," the ratings service said. "The lack of a negative enrollment trend, we believe, underscores fundamentally robust societal demand for postsecondary education and the non-discretionary nature of a college degree."
Athletic cuts at the University of Maryland at College Park have already received considerable attention, but an article in The Washington Post notes that one of the teams slated for elimination is part of a trend that Maryland pioneered -- competitive cheer. Supporters view the athletic accomplishments of squad members on par with those of many other sports, but the activity has struggled for recognition, especially as related to federal gender-equity rules.
Some alumni of Gonzaga University have organized a petition drive to ask the institution to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican cleric who was a leader in the fight to defeat apartheid, saying that his views are inconsistent with Gonzaga's Roman Catholic teachings. Hundreds of alumni have signed the petition that notes Archbishop Tutu's support in South Africa for legal abortion and gay marriage rights. "There are gifted and accomplished leaders from many fields who would be far more appropriate choices to receive such an honor from Gonzaga University. Instead Gonzaga has chosen prestige over principles and popularity over morality," the petition says. The university has not formally responded to the petition drive. When Gonzaga announced its selection of commencement speaker, the press release called Archbishop Tutu "an inspirational voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry."
The student newspaper in the last week has run columns endorsing and criticizing the choice of speaker. "Tutu's public support for abortion, homosexual 'marriage' and contraception clearly identify him as a person who should receive no awards, honors or platforms from a Catholic institution," said one letter. But another wrote to say that many of the Catholic students at Gonzaga in fact share Archbishop Tutu's views, and that the university shouldn't reject graduation speakers who differ with church leaders. "It is especially the beauty of a Jesuit university such as this, encouraging healthy and intelligent discussions, not discrediting someone because we disagree. Last time I checked, disagreeing with Church doctrine didn’t mean you couldn’t participate, unless, of course, the Inquisition is still flourishing," said the author of that letter.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, on Sunday evening vowed at a closed-door fund-raising event that he would substantially shrink the Education Department if he is elected, NBC News reported. In his campaign, Romney has not made many policy proposals on education. But he was more detailed Sunday in outlining two possibilities for the Education Department. "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said. He said that one reason to keep the agency was to have a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions.
Officials at Thompson Rivers University, in Canada, are apologizing for the actions of a staff member who tore down a student's photograph (part of a student exhibition) showing a woman in Islamic dress and holding a bra, CBC News reported. The woman in the photograph has her face and body covered, and is holding and looking at a bra. Saudi officials have criticized the photograph. A statement from Thompson Rivers said that "the university is committed to honoring artistic expression and on a campus with many international stakeholders it is important that we balance cultural sensitivity with freedom of speech, and we value the conversations that this piece of art and all our others inspire."
Iowa Republicans, like their counterparts in Virginia, are questioning the policy of public universities using some of their tuition revenue to pay for aid for low-income students, The Des Moines Register reported. Republican lawmakers say that the policy (common nationally) of paying for some student aid with tuition revenue makes it more difficult for middle class families, who don't qualify for the aid. State Senator Brad Zaun told the Register: "I want this program eliminated. I am hearing from many people that are shocked and did not know this was happening.”
The University of California at San Diego has agreed to institute new procedures to prevent racial harassment and to investigate allegations of such harassment, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The moves settled investigations by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education. The inquiries started after several racial incidents, including a "Compton cookout," an off-campus party that mocked Black History Month by having students dress in the stereotypical attire of poor black people.
The board of Santa Monica College has put on hold a two-tiered tuition plan that outraged many who saw an abandonment of community college values. But The Los Angeles Times reported that trustees are stunned by the reaction the plan received. Trustees say that they still view the plan as one of finding a way to raise money to educate low-income students -- and that they can't believe it was viewed as an attack on low-income students. The Times reported that one trustee viewed the plan as "socialism in action."