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.

 

 

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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Antonio Sagona of the University of Melbourne discusses his archaeological excavation of one of the First World War’s most famous battlefields. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 4:39am

Republicans in the California Senate on Monday blocked a vote to confirm Herbert L. Carter for a second term of the California State University Board of Trustees, forcing him to step down, The Los Angeles Times reported. Carter, chair of the board, had been nominated for a new term by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat. Republicans said that they objected to Carter's support for a $400,000 pay package for the new president of San Diego State University, a package that set off a large debate in the state about compensation for public university presidents. Many Democrats (including Governor Brown) have also raised questions about pay for university presidents, but said that Carter had done a good job as chair despite their disagreements with him on that issue.

 

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Coppin State University have voted -- overwhelmingly -- that they lack confidence in President Reginald Avery, The Baltimore Sun reported. "[Avery] has brought neither a clear vision of mission to CSU, nor established a coherent or viable strategic plan, nor wisely allocated resources," wrote Nicholas Eugene, the leader of the Faculty Senate, in a letter to William E. Kirwan, chancellor of Maryland's university system. "We feel that despite the efforts of faculty, Dr. Avery's leadership has resulted in a dilution of the academic quality at CSU." Avery told the newspaper that he would work to improve communication with professors, and he vowed to continue his work at the university.

 

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took the night off from speeches on college costs for some basketball Friday -- and dominated the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. In the past, Duncan has called for reforms of college sports, but he used his time in the spotlight Friday to focus on the nation's high school dropout rate (and to make this pass):

 

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