Higher Education Quick Takes
House Republican leaders have tentatively agreed to a Senate deal to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year, the Associated Press reported Wednesday evening. The deal would extend the interest rate rather than let it double on July 1, but pay for the extension in part by cutting eligibility for students who have been enrolled for more than six years for a bachelor's degree or three years for an associate degree.
The British newspaper The Telegraph sent undercover reporters to talk to admissions agents in China about the chances of gaining admission to competitive British universities, and the answers have created a stir. According to the newspaper, agents that represent the universities are telling people in China that they can earn admission with significantly lower test scores than would be needed by a British student. The Telegraph has also reported that headmasters of some British schools are reporting that their non-British students are earning admission to universities while British students with better test scores are being rejected. The suspicion of many is that British universities, which may charge much more to foreign students than those from Britain, are favoring those from overseas.
Times Higher Education reported that Cardiff University, one of the institutions named in the Telegraph article, has started an investigation into whether pledges are being made to potential students from China that are inconsistent with university policies.
Texas A&M University and Texas Wesleyan University announced Tuesday that the former would assume control of the latter's law school. Employees of the law school will all become Texas A&M employees, but Texas Wesleyan will continue to own the building in which, and land on which, the law school is located. The two institutions envision joint programs between the law school and Texas Wesleyan. A spokesman for Texas A&M said that the institution expected the law school to receive funds from the state along formulas used to support other public law schools.
The war of words and battle of wills between Texas Southmost College and the University of Texas at Brownsville is continuing. The two institutions used to operate jointly, and now the college has said that it will not sell any real estate to the university. That prompted this statement by Francisco G. Cigarroa, president of the university system: "The UT System stated early in the transition team negotiations that leasing facilities is not in the best interest of UTB’s educational mission as it is not conducive for a prosperous and growing four-year university. The UT System’s priority remains to build a vibrant four-year university campus that one day can rival the best universities in the state. Doing so on borrowed land and with leased facilities does not allow UTB to appropriately advance its educational mission. Without access to land for expansion in Ft. Brown, the proposed ‘Educational Village’ would not be practical; therefore, the UT System will move quickly to evaluate alternative sites in Brownsville for future expansion of the main UTB campus and build the required infrastructure necessary to accommodate its students by Fall of 2015."
A group of companies and higher ed groups on Tuesday announced a project aimed at expanding Internet capabilities at rural colleges and universities across the country. The project, called AIR.U., would increase the broadband available to those institutions and their neighbors by harnessing the unused frequencies, called "white space," of defunct television channels. The partners in the deal, which include Microsoft, Google, the New America Foundation and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (among many others), are billing the project as an altruistic effort to "[upgrade] broadband offerings in those communities that, because of their educational mission, have greater than average demand but often, because of their rural or small town location, have below average broadband." The first networks are expected to come online early next year.
A California judge on Tuesday ordered the University of California to reveal the names of police officers cited (critically) in a report about last year's incident of pepper spraying at the Davis campus, The Los Angeles Times reported. That newspaper and The Sacramento Bee sued for access to the names (which were redacted in the report) under the state's open-records law, which the judge agreed applied to the information. The university says that it would be willing to release the full report, but the union that represents the police officers is expected to appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Lou van den Dries, a mathematics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been fined $500 by the state for skipping ethics training that is required of all state employees, the Associated Press reported. He also has now taken the training. Given that Illinois has two former governors behind bars, many professors have said that forcing them to take ethics training is a waste of time. But the law requires it of all employees. In 2007, van den Dries wrote of the requirement: "It is Big Brother reducing us to the status of children. Symptoms: monitoring of the test taking, the 'award' of a diploma for passing the test. It betrays a totalitarian urge on those in power to infantilize the rest of us."
New research by professors at the University of Bristol suggests that biologists may be avoiding scientific papers that have extensive mathematical detail, Times Higher Education reported. The Bristol researchers studied the number of citations to 600 evolutionary biology papers published in 1998. They found that the most "maths-heavy" papers were cited by others half as much as other papers. Each additional math equation appears to reduce the odds of a paper being cited. Tim Fawcett, a co-author of the paper, told Times Higher Education, "I think this is potentially something that could be a problem for all areas of science where there is a tight link between the theoretical mathematical models and experiment."