A federal official has recommended that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reverse its decision to provide tens of millions of dollars to help the University of Iowa replace three buildings that were damaged in 2008 flooding, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported. The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an audit this week recommending that Homeland Security officials not provide $83 million in funds to replace three buildings that have been part of the university's efforts to rebuild in the wake of devastating floods. The audit was prompted by a complaint that FEMA should have repaired rather than replaced the buildings. Iowa officials said they were hopeful that Homeland Security administrators would reject the inspector general's recommendation, the newspaper reported.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Research Universities Futures Consortium, a group of 25 research universities across the country released a report Thursday highlighting the challenges facing the universities. The report identifies six major issues: increased competition over scarce resources, the increased cost of regulatory compliance and the lack of indirect cost recovery, the lack of standardized performance metrics, the lack of proper infrastructure to analyze data, poor communication about the value of research universities, and the lack of proper understanding of the complexities of research administration and leadership.
The report echoes many of the concerns found in the National Research Council's latest report on actions that state and federal lawmakers, research universities, and businesses can take to ensure that the country's research universities maintain their position as the best in the world.
The 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party contains a number of provisions raising eyebrows among Texas academics. For instance, the platform says, "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning), which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." With regard to college tuition, the platform wants to end the policy (endorsed by Governor Rick Perry in the Republican primaries) of granting in-state tuition rates to some students who lack the legal documentation to live in the United States. And the platform wants "merit-based" admissions for all public colleges, and seeks to eliminate the "10 percent" plan -- which admits students from the top 10 percent of high school classes and which has helped to diversify Texas colleges.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Thursday to uphold most parts of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed in 2010, means that several parts of the law applicable to colleges will remain in place. College health plans will still have to comply with more stringent regulations, including the eventual elimination of lifetime benefit caps, following rules put forward in March. And one of the law's most controversial features -- the requirement that employers include contraception as a fully covered preventive care measure with no cost-sharing -- will also stay in place. Several Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian colleges have sued over the requirement, saying it interferes with their right to practice their religion. Those cases could eventually end up before the Supreme Court in a later term.
The Illinois Labor Relations Board has certified the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Union as the exclusive bargaining representative (through two units) of full-time tenured/tenure-track faculty members, and of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members. The union originally wanted to represent both groups in the same unit, but the university objected. After several rounds of legal fighting, the union filed for -- and now has won recognition -- for two separate units. United Faculty is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.
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.
Although women are being appointed as medical school deans in larger numbers than was true two decades ago, they remain dramatically underrepresented in the schools' top jobs, served at less-prestigious institutions, and have far shorter tenures in the jobs, according to a study to be published in the August issue of Academic Medicine. The study finds that women were 15 percent of the deans appointed between 2000 and 2006, but were only 7 percent of all appointees over all from 1980 through 2006. Men were twice as likely as women to serve at highly ranked medical schools, and female deans had an average tenure of just three years, compared to 5.4 years for men.
A panel of experts has released recommendations on how college teams can minimize the dangers of sudden deaths of players during conditioning exercises. The recommendations follow number of deaths during practices. Coaches are urged, among other things, to use gradual increases in demands on athletes so they can acclimate themselves to the physical demands, to introduce new activities gradually, and not to use conditioning exercises as punishments.