Higher Education Quick Takes
Scientists in China are calling for reforms of the system of distributing funds for research, China Daily reported. Government officials and university administrators now make some of the decisions about which projects should be funded. Scientists want senior scholars to play more of a role, since they understand the potential of various projects seeking funding.
In Wisconsin, the average faculty member at the state's technical college system earned more in 2011-12 than the average faculty member at the state's university system, according to an analysis by Gannett Wisconsin Media. The reason is "overages," pay that faculty members in the state for teaching more than the required number of courses. Overage pay averaged $12,000 per technical college faculty member, compared to $1,400 for University of Wisconsin professor. And 67 technical college instructors earned more than $50,000 in overage pay.
The University of Iowa has hired a lawyer to defend two medical school officials (one of whom has since left the university) who are facing charged in Jordan, despite never having traveled there, the Associated Press reported. The two are charged with making a death threat to Malik Juweid, who was fired by the university last year and returned to his native Jordan. An Iowa spokesman said that the charges were baseless.
Bev Kearney has resigned as women's track and field coach at the University of Texas at Austin following an investigation into what she called a “consensual intimate relationship” with "an adult student-athlete." The Austin American-Statesman reported. The relationship took place in 2002, but was only recently reported to the university. In an interview with the Austin newspaper, Kearney said that she "displayed poor judgment," but questioned the way the university has investigated what happened. Her lawyer told the newspaper: "We believe that Ms. Kearney has been subjected to a double standard and has received far harsher punishment than that being given to her male counter-parts who have engaged in similar conduct."
Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at UT, told the American-Statesman, “In the case of a head coach and a student-athlete on his or her team, the university’s position is that that cannot be condoned in any event. ‘It can’t happen’ is what the university’s position is on that.”
Since 1993, Kearney's teams at Texas have won six national championships.
In a white paper released today, the Institute for Higher Education Policy calls for several changes to the financial aid system, part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, which gave grants to organizations to recommend what changes they would make to federal financial aid. The institute calls for making the Pell Grant an entitlement and keeping it at the center of need-based student aid programs, but making larger changes to other student aid programs. Among its suggestions: reforming the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to provide "emergency" financial aid to students; rewarding completion, including a form of loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients who complete college on time; tying campus-based aid to student debt repayment levels; matching college savings for low-income households and encouraging employers to match employees' student loan repayments for the first five years after graduation.
Several more papers in the Gates effort are expected from other organizations and advocacy groups in the coming weeks.
In the weeks before Congress reached a last-minute agreement on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, a proposed cap on deductions for charitable giving alarmed colleges and universities. That wasn't included in the final compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff," but one provision does slightly dent the tax advantage for donations, including to colleges. The package Congress voted on Tuesday reinstates the Pease Amendment, which reduces the value of tax deductions for wealthy households. The value of deductions is reduced by 3 percent of a taxpayer's income over a certain threshold -- $300,000 for taxpayers married and filing jointly, $150,000 for married taxpayers filing separately and $250,000 for unmarried individuals.
The Pease limitation is a concern, said Brian Flahaven, director of government relations for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. But the group was far more worried about the proposed deduction cap or other limitations. "Anything that increases the cost of giving, and this would, certainly could lead to some decline in giving," Flahaven said. "The effect is much less than a cap."
Gerda Lerner, considered one of the pioneers of women's history, died Wednesday at the age of 92. An obituary in The New York Times detailed her career, much of which was spent at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She focused on the history of women in the United States when such a focus was highly unusual among historians. In 1972, when Lerner was teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, she created a master's degree in women's history -- the first graduate degree in the field.
The Association of American Universities on Thursday issued a statement backing reform of gun laws in the United States. While calling for reform of gun laws, the statement also calls for improvements in the treatment of mental illness and consideration of the "culture of contemporary media" in promoting violence. "We claim no special expertise in these domains," the statement says, but it calls for a comprehensive solution to gun violence, noting the tragedies at Virginia Tech and in Newtown, Conn.