Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Smith College students and alumnae have come up with a creative response to an alumna's letter to The Sophian, the student newspaper, questioning efforts over the last decade to recruit more low-income and minority students. The letter (currently removed from the newspaper's website) suggested that the college has lowered its standards and abandoned a tradition in which wealthy students with "cashmere coats and pearls" were educated at the college and then went on to become wealthy donors. In response, Smith students have started posting their stories on a new blog called Pearls and Cashmere. Many of the women talk about how they do not fit the stereotypes of the past, and are proud of what Smith has become. Their stories stress that strong academics and diversity are by no means incompatible. And while the women pose in nontraditional ways for the photos that accompany their stories, many put on their pearls.

The letter that set off the fracas said that Smith attracts lesbians, low-income students and those who can't get into the Ivies. But the women who tell their stories on the blog -- white and minority, lesbian and straight -- talk about what they gained from enrolling at Smith, and at a more diverse Smith.

Birgitta Hendron from Washington state and Wiame El Bouhali from Morocco posted together: "Both of us applied to Smith early decision, both of us speak four languages (though not the same four), both of us are products of public school systems on two different continents. Without Smith, Wiame never would have had the chance to study the liberal arts (or build a tornado simulator). Without Smith, Birgitta never would have taken Russian -- the language that has become her passion. In addition to a world-class education and brilliant professors and peers, Smith has given us courage, perspective and confidence. It’s also given us each other -- not lesbians, not Ivy League rejects, but best friends."

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 4:29am

A state judge has awarded most of a woman's estate to the foundation that supports Southeastern Louisiana University, finding that the woman's final will -- which left the money elsewhere -- was invalid, The Advocate reported. The judge backed evidence presented by the college that the woman didn't understand the last will, just before her death. Family members who benefited from the final will in turn charged that the university had showered attention on the woman to get her to set up the bequest that will now stand. The estate is worth about $380,000.

 

 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 4:31am

Students and faculty members are pressing Harvard University to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled in the 1920s for being gay or being perceived as gay, the Associated Press reported. The students were kicked out after secret trials that only came to light in 2002. At that time, university officials apologized for what had happened. But the organizers of the movement to award posthumous degrees say that the apologies don't go far enough. A rally on the issue is planned for today, when Lady Gaga will be on campus to launch a new anti-bullying foundation. Harvard's policy for years has been to award posthumous degrees only in the rare circumstance where someone has completed degree requirements and died prior to receiving a degree.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Katherine Parkin of Monmouth University explains a fading American custom that made it acceptable for a woman to propose marriage. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Not all Republican presidential candidates question the wisdom of encouraging Americans to seek higher education. Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that President Obama's statements urging all Americans to get at least one year of postsecondary education are "perfectly reasonable," The Hill reported. Gingrich's comments -- on the "Today" show -- differed sharply from those of Rick Santorum, who has been calling President Obama "a snob" for urging all Americans to get some higher education. Gingrich said, "Everybody in America is going to have to get re-educated all the time because jobs are going to change, technology is going to change, and if we're going to compete in the world market, we both have to have the best equipment and the best training."

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 4:34am

Northeastern University announced Tuesday that, based on student concerns, it will not consider Chick-Fil-A for a spot in the student union, The Boston Globe reported. The Student Senate recommended the action Monday, based on reports that Chick-Fil-A has donated heavily to groups that lobby against measures that promote equity for gay people. The company did not respond to requests for comment, but has in the past denied being opposed to any groups.

 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- President Obama continues to make college affordability a key theme of his domestic policy agenda, but to tailor his message to his audience of the moment. On Monday, addressing the members of the National Governors Association, the president reiterated his views -- highlighted in last month's State of the Union address -- that higher education is increasingly important for individual Americans and for the country's economic future, and that rising prices threaten to put a postsecondary education out of reach for many. But while his speeches to campus leaders have focused on colleges' responsibility to contain their own costs and the prices they charge students (and federal carrots and sticks he might use to elicit that behavior), he used his appearance before the governors to reiterate his belief that states share significant culpability for driving up tuition prices.

"Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest," President Obama said in urging the governors to "invest more in education." Describing the college affordability problem as a "shared responsibility," he said the administration has sought to do its part by significantly upping federal spending on Pell Grants and other student financial aid. But "[w]e can't just keep on, at the federal level, subsidizing skyrocketing tuition. If tuition is going up faster than inflation -- faster, actually, than health care costs -- then no matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later we are going to run out of money.  So everybody else is going to have to do their part as well."

The president repeated that he had put colleges and universities "on notice" that "if they are not taking some concrete steps to prevent tuition from going up, then federal funding from taxpayers is going to go down." But the states have to do their part by "making higher education a higher priority in your budgets," the president said. "Over two-thirds of students attend public colleges and universities where, traditionally, tuition has been affordable because of state investments.... But more than 40 states have cut funding for higher education over the past year. And this is just the peak of what has been a long-term trend in reduced state support for higher education. And state budget cuts have been among the largest factor in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade. So my administration can do more, Congress can do more, colleges have to do more. But unless all of you also do more, this problem will not get solved."

Robert L. Moran, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said his members were heartened by the president's remarks. They signal, he said, that "just as he's keeping our feet to the fire" on controlling public colleges' costs and prices, "he's not backing off the message that he needs to keep the fire on the feet of the state legislators and governors, too, because if state support goes down, tuition goes up." The president has comparatively little sway over state policies or priorities, Moran said, so his rhetoric and use of the bully pulpit matters.

(Side note: While he did so subtly, the president appeared to directly rebut criticism that a potential opponent in November, Rick Santorum, aimed at Obama over the weekend. Santorum called the president a "snob" for, he said, suggesting that all Americans should go to college, saying that there are "good, decent men and women" proud that their skills were "not taught by some liberal college professor." Without identifying the former Republican senator, Obama told the governors that "[w]hen I speak about higher education, we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment. And they can’t go in there unless they’ve got some basic training beyond what they received in high school.")
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

Some Japanese universities are stepping up efforts to recruit students from India, The Times of India reported. The University of Tokyo recently opened up a recruiting office in India. Officials there have noted Japan's success at attracting students from China is not matched in India. The University of Tokyo has 1,000 Chinese students and only 35 Indian students.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Association of College Stores and Amazon.com have settled complaints and a suit over Amazon's claims about the savings it offers customers on textbooks, The Wall Street Journal reported. No money changed hands in the settlement. The college store association said that, after a review of Amazon's methodology for its claims, there is "no current dispute" over the advertising.

 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

Public and private colleges alike saw a steady rise in the proportion of revenues they derived from tuition from 1999 to 2009, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Monday. The report, which examined financial and other data provided by institutions, found that net tuition and fees rose to 22 from 16 percent of total revenue at public colleges and universities, and to 40 from 29 percent at private nonprofit institutions.

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