Higher Education Quick Takes
The new "Pay As You Earn" program, which lowers the amount that student loan borrowers pay per month in the income-based repayment program from 15 percent of discretionary income to 10 percent, and forgives loans after 20 years rather than 25, will go into effect on Dec. 21, according to a notice in today's Federal Register. Final rules for the program were issued in November.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, is calling on Iowa State University to end restrictions on agriculture-related research at a new public policy institute named for Harkin at Iowa State University, The Des Moines Register reported. Harkin said that the restrictions violate academic freedom, and that he might ask to have his name removed from the center if the measures aren't lifted. The university has said that the new institute must coordinate all agriculture-related research with Iowa State's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. Faculty members involved in the new institute say that this requirement could limit their work, and some see the requirement as a way to assure that research agendas are consistent with those of the state's major agriculture industries, which support the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development.
Tufts University has cleared the way for the Tufts Christian Fellowship to be recognized as an official student group, The Boston Globe reported. The fellowship was denied recognition because its requirement that leaders support "the basic biblical truths of Christianity" violates the university's anti-discrimination policies by imposing a religious test. But the university has decided that, for religious groups that wish to have an exemption for their leaders, an exemption to the anti-bias rules will be permitted.
The University of Notre Dame on Wednesday announced that it would create a recognized gay-straight alliance as a student organization at the Roman Catholic university, one result of a review of the college's policies on gay and lesbian students. Students and faculty have pushed for more resources for gay and lesbian students, including both the gay-straight alliance and the addition of sexual orientation to the university's nondiscrimination clause. While the plan announced Wednesday includes a range of changes, including a new advisory committee on gay and lesbian issues and a full-time staff member to oversee resources for gay students, it does not include any new plans for dealing with faculty issues or action on the nondiscrimination clause.
The National Science Foundation on Wednesday announced an expansion of its graduate fellows program that will allow selected graduate students to work for 3-12 months in one of eight countries. The idea is to encourage international collaboration early in researchers' careers. The countries are Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden.
The American Historical Association, trying to build buzz for its annual meeting in January in New Orleans, is asking historians for names of drinks to be served at hotel bars during the meeting. Among the nominees that have come in so far: ABD, Postmodern Turn, Oral History ("your mouth will never forget it"), the Jacobite Rebellion ("Scotch with just a soupcon of haggis floating in it") and the Dead White Male.
Roger Williams University has announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. "While we recognize that standardized tests accurately measure aptitude for many students, there are many others whose talents are not measured by such tests and they can serve as an artificial barrier to many highly qualified students, preventing them from even considering an RWU education," said a statement from the university.
The Common Application has been facing criticism from some high school counselors and college admissions officials over two changes being made: the elimination of a "free choice" essay topic, and an announcement that the essay maximum of 500 words will be strictly enforced. On Tuesday, the Common Application issued a letter defending the changes. The association said that applicants would have five essay prompts "that will allow students to thoughtfully and creatively write about themselves and their interests." The letter predicted that once the prompts are announced, people will see that applicants have plenty of options. On the length limit, the Common Application noted that colleges can (and some do) have applicants fill out supplemental forms, with essays of whatever length is acceptable to the colleges. The letter notes that Common Application members have varying ideas about essay length, but that some institutions lack the resources to review long essays or see longer essays as "a hurdle for applicants."