The latest deficit-reduction plan from the two men who led President Obama's deficit reduction committee in 2010 calls for changes to several programs important to higher education. The plan, released Friday by former Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, would eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on student loans, end PLUS loans to graduate students, use a market-based interest rate for all student loans, and create a "two-tier" system of income-based repayment. The plan, which is unlikely to be passed in its current form, does not call for significant cuts to the Pell Grant.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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A faculty committee at Florida Atlantic University has found that the institution compromised academic freedom by banning the use of an exercise in which students were told to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper and to step on it, The Palm Beach Post reported. The use of such an exercise -- those recommended in a nationally recognized textbook, and though the intent is not for students to step on the paper -- set off a controversy in the state. Subsequently, the university said it would ban the exercise. Florida Atlantic administrators said that they supported academic freedom, but they refused to answer questions about their ban on the class lesson.
The idea of tiered tuition at California community colleges draws strong opposition from students, and the new system chancellor has come out strongly against the concept, but it keeps coming back. Legislation has been introduced to formally grant community colleges the right to charge higher tuition rates for extension courses offered in the summer or winter terms and to award credit for those courses, if they have been at capacity for the previous two years, The Los Angeles Times reported. Many courses have been at capacity in recent years, delaying students from completing their programs. Supporters of differential tuition say that it can provide revenue to pay for courses students need, but critics say that these policies effectively enable wealthier students to have greater access to education and run against the ideals of community colleges.
Princeton University on Sunday named Christopher L. Eisgruber, provost for the past nine years, as the university's next president, effective July 1. He will succeeds Shirley M. Tilghman, who is stepping down after 12 years in office. Eisgruber joined the Princeton faculty in 2001 as director of the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the University Center for Human Values.
A federal judge has ruled that college and university housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The ruling came in a lawsuit by the federal government against the University of Nebraska at Kearney over a student's request to have a therapy dog live with her in university housing. The university maintains that it should not be governed by the Fair Housing Act, and that the judge is extending the law to higher education for the first time. But the judge said that if Congress had wanted to exempt higher education, it could have (or could in the future). The judge's ruling could be appealed and delay the rest of the trial on whether the university violated the act.
The American financier Stephen A. Schwarzman is creating a $300 million scholarship program that he hopes will be a Chinese counterpart to the Rhodes, The New York Times reported. The scholarship would annually support 200 students enrolling in yearlong master’s programs at Tsinghua University, in Beijing.
It’s anticipated that 45 percent of the Schwarzman Scholars will come from the U.S., 20 percent from China, and 35 percent from other countries. The students will live in a new residential college facility, Schwarzman College, for which ground breaking is scheduled for later this year.
Schwarzman said he is personally committing $100 million and is raising the additional funds from private donors, including Bank of America, Boeing, BP, Caterpillar, Credit Suisse, and JPMorgan Chase, as well as New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s personal foundation. The Times notes that the endowment for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, which supports study at Oxford, is currently about $203 million.
A group of experts on African higher education, meeting under the aegis of the African Union this month, has agreed to develop a system of quality assurance for higher education across the continent, a statement released after the meeting announced. Participants in the meeting, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said African nations should collaborate to create the African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council for Higher Education and a quality assurance framework to help students transfer among African universities.
Officials at the Alberta College of Art and Design are investigating the killing by a student of a chicken in the cafeteria of the college, Maclean’s reported. The student said that he was completing an assignment to film a public protest, and he wanted to create the protest by cutting off a chicken’s head. Richard Brown, chair of the School of Visual Arts, said that “we do not condone the killing of animals in this way.” He added that some who were in the cafeteria weren’t bothered, but that others were “very traumatized.”
A former student who created a website that harshly criticized Thomas M. Cooley Law School is protected by the First Amendment and should not have his identity revealed, a Michigan state appeals court ruled this month. Cooley, a freestanding law school in Michigan, had sued the former student in state court, saying that the site the ex-student created, Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam, defamed the institution. Cooley officials obtained a California subpoena compelling the company that hosted the website to reveal his identity, and a lower state court refused to block the subpoena. But the appeals court ruled that Michigan law protects such speech, and sent the case back to the lower court for further review.