Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 11, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The leading Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and its higher education subcommittee introduced a bill Wednesday to repeal four controversial Education Department regulations -- including two that aren't currently being enforced. The bill, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, would repeal the gainful employment and state authorization regulations, both of which the Education Department is not enforcing after court action and plans to rewrite in an upcoming round of rule-making. The bill would also block that attempt to rewrite the regulations, forbidding rule making in these areas until after the Higher Education Act is reauthorized.

July 11, 2013

The U.S. system of providing career-related postsecondary training has both strengths and weaknesses, according to a report released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "Extensive decentralization gives rise to many strengths, to diverse and flexible forms of provision meeting the needs of many groups of learners, to a rich field of policy development and innovation, involving state governments and many non-government organizations. The quality of data analysis and academic research available to support policy development is clearly outstanding," the report says.

But at the same time, the report also notes weaknesses. "Three factors may act as barriers to postsecondary attainment," the report says. "First, the basic skills of U.S. teenagers and high school graduates are relatively weak compared with many other OECD countries. Second, decentralization means that the choices faced by any individual are more difficult and more uncertain, with many routes to a target career or occupation. Third, despite public financial support which makes college programs affordable for many students, the financial risks of investing in postsecondary education can be higher in the U.S., because costs and returns are highly variable."

July 11, 2013

Remember Susan Patton? She's the 1977 Princeton University alumna and mother of two Princeton (male) students who wrote a letter to the editor of the student paper urging female students to grab husbands while still in college. An uproar ensued but then died down. Well, Patton is coming back -- and with a broader audience in mind. A Simon & Schuster imprint announced Wednesday that it will publish an advice book by Patton for all young women (not just those at Princeton) to be called Smarten Up: Words of Wisdom From the Princeton Mom. The news release announcing the book included a quote from Patton suggesting she is not backing down on any of her points.

"In this 'politically correct' world where the topics of marriage and motherhood for educated girls are taboo, somebody has to talk honestly with young women about finding husbands, getting married and having babies," Patton said. "That might as well be me! The advice I offered in The Daily Princetonian was intended for the women on the campus of my beloved alma mater, but it is applicable to educated women everywhere who want a traditional family. To avoid an unwanted life of spinsterhood with cats, you have to smarten up about what’s important to you."

July 11, 2013

A Chinese scientist accused of stealing three vials of a potential anti-cancer drug compound from the Medical College of Wisconsin has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of illegally accessing a computer; a charge of economic espionage was dropped, NBC News reported.  Hua Jun Zhao faces up to a $250,000 fine and five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for next month.

July 10, 2013

Amherst College spent $19 million on architectural and other expenses for a planned $245 million science building that the college has now decided not to build, The Boston Globe reported. Amherst officials say that they still need and plan to find a way to build a new science facility, but that the planned building was creating too many problems. The Globe article uses the Amherst situation to discuss competing pressures on colleges as the plan the best spaces for scientists. In the Amherst case, some science professors say that the project grew more expensive and more complicated in part because of a desire for architectural details (a light filled atrium, for example) as opposed to focusing on the basic lab spaces that the professors need.

 

July 10, 2013

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.

July 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Ryan Sullivan of Carnegie Mellon University explains why California snow is dependent on dust from across the Pacific. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 10, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Eight days after the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans increased to 6.8 percent, the two parties in Congress seemed further away than ever on a compromise that could retroactively undo the increase. A bipartisan coalition of Senate Republicans, Independents and Democrats have put forward a bill for market-based interest rates that has much in common with President Obama's plan, but the Senate Democratic leadership would rather extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate for another year -- a proposal that's a nonstarter with Republicans in the House and Senate. 

The Senate will vote on the one-year extension bill today.

July 10, 2013

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about retention. The articles aren't today's breaking news, but reflect long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts on the changes colleges are making to focus not just on admitting students but on keeping them on track to a degree. The goal is to provide these materials (both news articles and opinion essays) in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here. This is the second in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed's editors will conduct a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles and essays, as well as the latest developments involving student retention and persistence. To register for the webinar, please click here.

 

July 10, 2013

A fire that killed a student Monday at Saddleback College, a community college in California, was set deliberately, The Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities have not figured out whether the male student who died was a victim of the fire or set it.

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