Higher Education Quick Takes
October is typically the most popular month for prospective law students to take the Law School Admission Test -- and this October's totals provide more evidence that all those reports about lawyers struggling to find jobs and pay back loans may be discouraging interest in the field. While 37,780 people took the LSAT in October, that's a 16.4 percent drop from October 2011, the total that year was a 16.9 percent drop from October 2010, and the total for that year represented a 10.5 percent drop. There have not been this few LSAT test-takers in October since 1999.
A new website, Science Works for Us, has been launched to document the impact on federally supported research of the possible across-the-board budget cut (or sequestration) that looms if President Obama and Congress don't reach a budget deal. The site was created by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Science Coalition. Among the features is a state-by-state map showing how much money would be lost to university research if sequestration goes forward.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is among the Republicans being talked about as one who might lead his party to more moderate positions on issues such as immigration. Rubio sits on the Senate science committee, and an interview with GQ created much Internet buzz over his statement in response to a question about the age of the earth. "I'm not a scientist, man," said Rubio. "I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a Democrat, has ordered state higher education officials to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates as long as they receive work permits through President Obama's new program to eliminate their risk of deportation, The Boston Globe reported. Thousands of students may eventually benefit. Because these students aren't eligible for federal aid, non-resident tuition rates can be prohibitive for many of them.
Administrators of intensive English programs are concerned about guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that could change the way colleges make conditional admission offers to international students. Conditionally admitted students typically must complete English language coursework as a prerequisite for entering their degree programs.
In such cases, many colleges have made it a practice to issue an I-20 certifying admission to the degree program in question. Recent verbal guidance from DHS suggests, however, that the institution must issue an I-20 for admission to the English language program instead. Patricia Juza, director of global programs at Baruch College and vice president for advocacy for the American Association of Intensive English Programs, said this could complicate efforts to attract top foreign students. “In some countries it has been easier for a student to get a visa if they have conditional admission to a degree program as opposed to an intensive English program,” said Juza. She added that government scholarship bodies also generally prefer that students have an admission offer -- conditional or not -- to a degree program in hand.
Officials at DHS' Student and Exchange Visitors Program said there’s been no change in policy, but that the agency is simply enforcing current guidelines stipulating that colleges can issue an I-20 only after the student meets a number of conditions, including that “the appropriate school authority has determined that the prospective student's qualifications meet all standards for admission” and “the official responsible for admission at the school has accepted the prospective student for enrollment in a full course of study.” A spokeswoman for DHS, Ernestine Fobbs, said that the department is refining its policy on this subject. She said new draft guidance on conditional admissions and pathway programs – which blend intensive English and academic coursework – will be posted for comment soon, likely before the end of the year.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, announced in a speech Friday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California that he plans to propose major changes in the funding of technical colleges and University of Wisconsin System, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Walker said that funding needs to shift so that higher education institutions are funded not on enrollment or even completion, but on completion in programs that train students for jobs that the state needs.
"We’re going to tie our funding in our technical colleges and our University of Wisconsin System into performance and say if you want money, we need you to perform, and particularly in higher education, we need you to perform not just in how many people you have in the classroom," he said. "In higher education, that means not only degrees, but are young people getting degrees in jobs that are open and needed today, not just the jobs that the universities want to give us, or degrees that people want to give us?"
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, a Democrat, said that Walker's plan sounds like "social engineering" that would force students to study "what industry wants" rather than what students want.
The Rhodes Trust on Saturday announced the 32 American students named as Rhodes Scholars. They will receive two or three years of study at the University of Oxford. Yale University was the institution with the most winners (7), followed by Harvard University (6). Four institutions -- Cornell and Stanford Universities, and the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy -- had two winners each.
New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has announced it is closing its branch campus in Singapore. Tisch's dean, Mary Schmidt Campbell, cited “significant financial challenges that have required increasingly unsustainable subsidies totaling millions of dollars per year.” Tisch projects that its total subsidy for the Tisch Asia campus, which opened in 2007, will exceed 30 million Singapore dollars, or about $24.4 million, by September 2013 -- “and will continue to grow.”
“It was never contemplated that Tisch would need to subsidize Tisch Asia to the extent it has,” Campbell wrote. “Neither the leadership at Tisch, the leadership at NYU, nor the Economic Development Board of Singapore would have approved Tisch Asia going forward had it been clear it would have come to the financial state at which it has now arrived, requiring such a large and ongoing level of subsidy.”
The plan is to close the graduate-level campus at some point over the next couple of years, and no earlier than summer of 2014. Tisch has pledged that all students currently enrolled will be able to finish their degrees, either in Singapore or at one of NYU’s other campuses or overseas academic centers.