An American Bar Association panel reviewing law school accrediting requirements is divided on whether to continue to mandate that law schools use the Law School Admissions Test. The panel has agreed to put forward two versions on the issue: one that continues the requirement, and one that does not. Statements attached to current versions of the accrediting proposal praise the LSAT, but differ on whether it is appropriate for an accrediting body to require any particular admissions test. It is unclear how many law schools would drop the LSAT if they had that option (while maintaining ABA accreditation), but some law schools have already sought waivers for some applicants, and test-optional admissions policies have become popular with many undergraduate institutions.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Monday that would require Vanderbilt University to change its anti-bias policies with regard to student organizations, The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt uses an "all comers" policy of the sort that has been upheld for public institutions by the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that to be recognized as an official student organization, groups cannot discriminate against any student who wants to participate. Some religious groups argue that this endangers their identities as those who do not share their faith could demand leadership positions in the groups. Defenders of such policies note that groups without official recognition can continue to limit membership and can engage in much campus activity, but typically must do so with their own funds rather than university funds. Lawmakers in Tennessee, prompted by the Vanderbilt case, are moving to bar public universities in the state from adopting policies similar to those of Vanderbilt (even though they haven't indicated any plans to do so). And on Monday, the Senate voted to add private institutions to the bill.
The key action corporate leaders can take to improve higher education is to advocate for state-level policies that provide incentives for boosting productivity and that remove barriers to innovation, according to a report released Monday by the Committee for Economic Development. The nonprofit business group called for a focus on "broad-access" institutions, particularly less selective public colleges, two-year institutions and for-profits, because those colleges face the biggest challenges in educating the American workforce. But change does not come from within, the report argues, so businesses must work with state policymakers to nudge colleges to adapt innovations. As for specific policies, the group called for statewide degree attainment goals and performance funding based on student outcomes, rather than inputs.
The Simons Foundation today plans to announced a $60 million grant to the University of California at Berkeley to create a center for the study of the theory of computing, The New York Times reported. The newspaper reported that the work to be done in the center reflects the breadth of fields from the physical and social sciences in which computing theory has growing influence.
Jonathan Gueverra, chief executive officer of the University of the District of Columbia Community College since shortly after the college's creation three years ago, has been named president of Florida Keys Community College. The new community college in D.C. is the city's first two-year institution. There have been tensions over whether the college should be fully independent from the four-year UDC, The Washington Post reports.
St. John's College, the Annapolis institution with a curriculum built on the Great Books, has updated its fight song to better reflect its values, The Baltimore Sun reported. The song that has been used for a century featured typical references to fighting. The song didn't get much use lately because St. John's athletic teams are in sports -- crew, croquet, sailing and fencing -- not traditionally associated with marching bands and fight songs. But for this year's croquet match against the U.S. Naval Academy, the college used a new fight song, with books front and center. Some lyrics:
"True love of wisdom is sheltered in her halls.
Seekers of virtue will answer to her call.
Books and a balance are all the tools we need.
St. John's forever. She will make us free."
Brazil's Supreme Court has upheld the use of racial quotas by universities, AFP reported. The case before the Supreme Court concerned the University of Brasilia, which set quotas in 2004 that 20 percent of admissions slots would go to black, mixed-race or indigenous students. More than 70 percent of Brazil's 98 public universities have such quotas, so the case was considered likely to influence admissions practices nationally. The quotas were challenged by a right-wing party that argued that they were counter to principles of equity. But the Supreme Court ruled that the quotas were justified as a means to redress the impact of centuries of slavery in the nation.
Microsoft on Monday announced the purchase of 17.6 percent of the Barnes & Noble Nook unit, which also includes the company's college division, The New York Times reported. Microsoft paid $300 million for that share of the business, providing a significant infusion for the Nook/college unit. Barnes & Noble hopes that the partnership and the funds allow it to better compete in the education market with Apple, which has had considerable success with iPad sales and which is moving to expand its digital educational offerings.
A study released today questions the extent to which Pell Grants and other need-based financial aid improved the retention and success of academically underprepared community college students in Louisiana. The study, conducted by researchers at Noel-Levitz and the American Institutes for Research and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that increasing the amount of financial aid awarded to Louisiana community college students who needed remedial coursework did not improve their academic performance.