Higher Education Quick Takes
Barbara Mink is the new director of the community college leadership program at the University of Texas at Austin, the university announced this week. Mink, a clinical professor at the university, takes over for John E. Roueche, the program's founder, who stepped down this year after helping train scores of community college presidents during his 41 years at the helm. Earlier this year Roueche announced that he was starting a similar program at National American University, a for-profit. His departure led to speculation about the future of the leadership program and its affiliates, the Center for Community College Student Engagement and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.
Wilson College, a women's institution in Pennsylvania, is considering the strategy of becoming coeducational, The Chambersburg Public Opinion reported. At a campus forum Wednesday, officials said that no final decision has been made, but that they would like to see enrollment increase from the current level (695) to 1,500. Several alumnae at the meeting spoke -- to applause -- of the value of keeping Wilson a women's college.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Educause on Wednesday announced grants to a set of colleges and schools positioned to create or expand "breakthrough" models of college readiness and completion. The latest round of Next Generation Learning Grants, valued at $5.4 million, will go to the following higher education projects:
- Kentucky Community and Technical College System, $1,000,000, for a competency-based associate degree program. (This was profiled on Inside Higher Ed in August.)
- Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, $1,000,000, for a partnership with Columbus State University to develop an online bachelor's degree with a strong service-learning component.
- Altius Education, $300,000, to create “America’s Transfer College,” building on its Ivy Bridge College.
- Ameritas College Educational Services, $250,000, to support the development by Brandman University and University Ventures Fund of bachelor's programs aimed at Hispanic adults.
- University of Washington, $884,000, for an online undergraduate degree-completion program using MOOCs, using Coursera classes.
- Rio Salado College, $970,000, for “All Roads Lead to Student Success,” to help students in early college programs, educational service partnerships, and those seeking to obtain credit for prior learning.
A study released Wednesday by Policy Matters Ohio, a nonpartisan think tank, found that deregulating the governance structure of public higher education institutions -- a primary component of Ohio Governor John Kasich's higher education agenda -- doesn't have a significant effect on outcomes such as enrollment, graduation rate and the number of low-income students who graduate, but could lead to higher tuition rates, at least in the states examined. The study looked at three classes of institutions: "highly deregulated" (Virginia and Colorado), "partially deregulated" (Illinois, New Jersey and Texas), and "coordinated" (Kentucky, Maryland and Minnesota) and compared their outcomes to that of the nation and Ohio over the past decade.
"Given the track record of deregulation in other states, we have little reason to think that this approach will make tuition more affordable, increase access for low- and moderate-income students, or increase graduation rates," the report's authors write. "The primary factor affecting access and affordability is state support for higher education and state targeting of support for low- and moderate-income families."
The report's authors readily acknowledge that most of the deregulation took place about halfway through the decade and that confounding variables in the states selected might have an effect on the overall outcomes.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Wednesday stayed a federal appeals court's order requiring Boston College researchers to turn over oral history transcripts to the British government, citing the scholars' planned appeal to the high court, The Boston Globe reported. Ruling in July in a case involving research into the violence in Northern Ireland during the period known as the "Troubles," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded that concerns about confidentiality, academic freedom and scholarly research could not trump government's interest in investigating crime.
A number of students at Mercer University are upset about the appearance on campus of fliers calling for November or December to be declared "White History Month," The Macon Telegraph reported. "It is just as fair to have White History Month/s as it is to have Black History Month/s. How much will you bet that there will be controversy over this?” the fliers said. The university doesn't know who put them up, and is encouraging students to engage in discussions of issues in ways other than anonymous leaflets.
Tuesday night's presidential debate started out with a question about higher education, as a college student asked President Obama and Mitt Romney about his employment prospects after graduation. Obama went over what his administration has done on higher education, including the changes to the federal student loan program that added new funding to Pell Grants.
Romney said he expected the Pell Grant program to continue growing if he were to become president, a reversal from previous statements, when he said he'd try to change eligibility rules to limit the program's growth. He also said that, in seeking to change the tax code, he might cap the amount of credits or deductions taxpayers could take rather than seeking to eliminate specific benefits, including tax benefits for college tuition.
Education advisers to both campaigns have held debates of their own in the past few days. At a debate at the American Enterprise Institute between Jon Schnur, executive chairman of America Achieves and an adviser to the Obama campaign, and Martin West, an assistant professor of education at Harvard and an adviser to the Romney campaign, West said the administration's regulations on for-profit colleges unfairly targeted the sector. In response to a question about affirmative action, Schnur said the president does not believe in quotas but does believe in diversity.
Nine current and former employees of Northern Illinois University have been charged with felony theft over accusations that they sold university scrap materials and deposited the funds in a private bank account, The Chicago Tribune reported. The employees allegedly referred to the bank account as the "coffee fund."
The Apollo Group on Tuesday announced that it was closing 90 of the University of Phoenix's satellite learning centers and 25 of its campuses, leaving 112 remaining locations. The closures are part of a "re-engineering initiative" that the company said will help the bottom line by 2014. About 13,000 students, or 4 percent of those pursuing degrees at Phoenix, will be affected by the shuttering of locations. But those students will continue to be served online and at alternative sites, according to the company.
The news accompanied the release of Apollo's disappointing fourth-quarter earnings, with a 10 percent decline in annual revenue and a 15 percent dip in enrollment at Phoenix. The company also announced the elimination of 800 jobs, but not faculty positions. Phoenix last week introduced a tuition freeze for current and incoming students.