Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 3, 2013

Administrators at the University of Michigan are delaying a controversial attempt at cost savings amid faculty uproar. University officials had planned to move 275 staffers from across campus into a single building on the edge of Ann Arbor to save money. But on Monday, university administrators said the move, scheduled to begin in April, would be delayed "beyond April." It is unclear if the university still intends to finish the move by next fall, its initial deadline to consolidate scores of staffers under one roof. The "shared services" plan has met with opposition from faculty concerned about losing trusted staffers. There are also questions about how much Michigan will actually save as a result. Administrators have gradually bowed to this concern since faculty began going public in recent weeks. The statement Monday from top Michigan administrators, including Provost Martha Pollack, is the clearest sign yet that faculty have been heard.

"We will bring faculty into the process immediately to evaluate the timeline and to ensure the establishment of a shared services program that is structured to meet the needs of our faculty and our students while achieving necessary cost savings," the statement said. "Each school and college will work directly with its faculty so the ultimate outcome is one that provides adequate support for teaching and research."

University officials initially hoped to save $17 million using shared services but now that figure is down to as little as $2 million in the first year and $5 to $6 million per year in the near term after that. Some of that savings is offset by new costs, including $4 million to fix up the building staff are supposed to be moving to, $1 million a year to lease the building and nearly $12 million for consultant Accenture to work on shared services and other cost-saving efforts. 

December 3, 2013

Education Department staff members have recommended that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges -- which evaluates community colleges in California -- be permitted to operate for another year, while it works on fixing problems that the department has identified. The recommendation may be accepted or rejected next week at a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which advises the education secretary on which accreditors to recognize. (Such recognition is crucial as students are eligible for federal student aid only if they enroll at institutions accredited by recognized accreditors.) The department notified the accreditor in August that it was out of compliance with many rules -- and that action cheered advocates for the City College of San Francisco. In July, the accreditor said that it would strip the college of its accreditation -- a decision that has led to intense scrutiny of the accreditor's review, which has been blasted by faculty unions and others as seriously flawed.

The Education Department's staff report says that there has been enough progress at fixing problems at the accreditation agency to give it another 12 months to improve, but it outlines areas of continued lack of compliance as well. Many of the remaining issues are broad and serious. Among them: "the agency must demonstrate wide acceptance of the agency's standards, policies, procedures, and decisions to grant or deny accreditation by educators" and "the agency must demonstrate that academic personnel, as generally defined by the accrediting agency and wider higher education community, are represented on its evaluation teams" and "the agency must demonstrate that it evaluates the appropriateness of the measures of student achievement chosen by its institutions." While these issues extend beyond the controversy over the City College of San Francisco, they relate to criticisms made of the accreditor's handling of that case.

 

 

December 3, 2013

A dramatic expansion of apprenticeships would strengthen the nation's economy while boosting workers' lifetime earnings and benefits by an average of $300,000, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. The report suggests policies to encourage the use of apprenticeships, including tax incentives. Its authors focus on the example of South Carolina, which saw a 570 percent increase in employer participation in apprenticeships over six years.

December 3, 2013

An Alabama woman has been charged with murdering another after a party they both attended in Birmingham to watch the Iron Bowl football game, which Auburn University won in a stunning defeat of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Authorities say that they are still studying why the women got into a heated argument that led to the shooting death of one of them. The Associated Press reported that the victim's sister said that her sister was accused by the shooter of not caring enough about the Alabama loss. "She said we weren't real Alabama fans because it didn't bother us that they lost. And then she started shooting," the victim's sister said.

December 3, 2013

Local work force development organizations face numerous challenges as they seek to help employers fill some jobs that require skilled labor, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Job seekers often do not have the money, transportation or child care options to be able to pursue suggested training, the report found. And many lack the basic skills needed to participate in training programs. 

The report found that in 80 percent of local areas, employers had difficulty filling "middle skilled" jobs (such as welders, truck drivers or machinists) because the positions require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Workers often lack the support to get that training, according to the GAO. To help deal with this problem the U.S. Department of Labor recommends the use of a "career pathways" approach, which combines job training with basic skills education and support services. But little is known about how broadly that approach is being used, the report said.

December 2, 2013

“On the Guarding of the Heart,” a piece for chamber orchestra by Serbian-born composer Djuro Zivkovic was named Sunday night as receipient of the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Born in Belgrade in 1975, Zivkovic has lived in Stockholm since 2000, and teaches at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

December 2, 2013

Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie flip-flopping on a bill that would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition? The New York Times reported that Governor Christie pledged support for the idea during his recent, successful re-election campaign in which he portrayed himself as a Republican who could do well with groups (such as Latino voters) that have not been supporting the GOP lately. But with a bill to offer these students in-state rates about to reach him, Governor Christie has talked about it being "unsignable" because it would cover immigrant students at New Jersey boarding schools. It is not clear that there are many such students, but some advocates for immigrant students are accusing the governor of quickly abandoning the stance he took when running for re-election.

 

December 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Simone Riehl of the University of Tuebingen discusses where and when agriculture arose. Learn more about the Academic Minute -- and catch up on the podcasts you might have missed because of the Thanksgiving holiday -- here.

December 2, 2013

André Schiffrin, whose work at Pantheon Books of Random House and at the New Press was influential in promoting the work of many intellectuals, died Sunday at the age of 78, The New York Times reported. The cause was pancreatic cancer. Among the writers whose work Schiffin championed, the Times cited Jean-Paul Sartre, Günter Grass, Studs Terkel, Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky, Julio Cortázar, Marguerite Duras, Roy Medvedev, Gunnar Myrdal, George Kennan, Anita Brookner, and R. D. Laing.

December 2, 2013

Authorities are investigating how and why an assistant professor of English, Sam See, died last Sunday in a New Haven jail. He had been arrested hours earlier in a domestic dispute involving his husband and protective orders that he and his husband had out on one another. The New Haven Register reported that See was well-regarded by students and scholars, and that many are mourning the death of the 34-year-old academic. But the Register also reported that photographs and phone numbers that match See's can be found on four websites for escorts, and that this news surprised Yale colleagues.

 

 

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