Higher Education Quick Takes
The Parti Québécois government that assumed power in Quebec on Thursday promptly killed the tuition increases that sparked months of protests, The Canadian Press reported. Annual tuition will return to $2,168, eliminating a $600 increase approved by the prior Liberal government. The new government pledged to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation, while saying that officials would consider other proposals. Some of the student protest groups want tuition eliminated entirely.
A Republican-backed bill to increase the number of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields failed to pass the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. The vote was 257-158, short of the two-thirds tally needed for a bill to pass under a suspension of House rules.
The STEM Jobs Act would have eliminated the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which allocates slots to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States – a sticking point with Democrats, who have introduced their own bill to increase visas for STEM graduates without affecting the Diversity Visa Program.
Clerical workers at the University of Vermont have voted, 339 to 278, to unionize, The Burlington Free Press reported. The ballots included a question on whether to form a union, and which union should represent the workers. On the second question, the top union (but short of a majority) was the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, so a runoff vote will be scheduled to ask the workers whether they want to be represented by the NEA or not.
The Ig Nobel Prizes, an annual spoof of the real Nobels, for 2012 were awarded Thursday night. Among the research achievements honored were work on why coffee spills when you walk (the fluid dynamics award), why some people in a town in Sweden have their hair turn green (the chemistry award), why chimpanzees can recognize other chimpanzees individually from photographs of their rear ends (the anatomy award) and a report about reports about reports (the literature prize). Details of this year's awards may be found here. The first real Nobel for 2012 will be announced October 8.
The district attorney's office in Yolo County, California announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed against the police officers at the University of California at Davis who used pepper spray on non-violent student protesters last year, The Sacramento Bee reported. Several reports have been highly critical of the use of pepper spray in the incident. But a statement from the D.A.'s office said that examining what happened "through the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying was unlawful and therefore warrants the filing of criminal charges."
Opportunity Nation, a coalition of 250 groups including businesses and education organizations, this week launched a campaign that seeks to encourage multiple pathways for young adults to succeed in college and in the workforce. As part of that effort, Jobs for the Future on Wednesday announced $18.5 million in grants for five states. The money is aimed at spurring training and credentials for workers to land middle-income jobs, many of which require some college but not a bachelor's degree. Jobs for the Future said 40 community colleges were participating in the program.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has announced that it will continue to have clergy members offer a prayer before football games, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had asked the university to reconsider the practice, saying it made some students uncomfortable, and that some of the prayers were sufficiently sectarian to violate a court ruling barring such worship at the public university's events. The university says that prayers will be consistent with that ruling, so the foundation says that it considers this a victory.
WASHINGTON -- Congress drew near Wednesday afternoon to passing a stopgap spending bill that would fund the federal government through March 27, 2013, averting a government shutdown without making any changes to financial aid or research appropriations. The bill removes the threat of a government shutdown in the coming months. The Senate voted to expedite debate on the bill, which has already passed the House, and could pass it as early as today.
The Association of American Universities called on the next president -- whether President Obama or Republican nominee Mitt Romney -- to address the nation's long-term financial problems, sustain the Pell Grant and student loans, and take action on immigration. In a policy paper, the association, which represents 61 research universities, said the next administration should work to pass the DREAM Act and provide a path to citizenship for foreign students graduating from American universities with degrees in science, engineering, technology and math. The association also urged the federal government to prod states to increase or maintain funding for public research universities.
The State University of New York has been pushing the idea of "shared services" in which various of the 64 campuses would seek joint contracts or combine functions to save money. Some pairs of campuses have decided that single administrators will perform jobs for both institutions, while many other campuses sought economies of scale with joint contracting. In the first year of the program, the system saved $6 million, SUNY officials announced Wednesday. The money was reallocated to academic instruction and student services, officials said.