Higher Education Quick Takes
The College of William & Mary and the Eastern Virginia Medical School announced Wednesday that they are discussing the possibility of the medical school becoming a part of the college. Statements from the two institutions stressed that no final decision had been made, and that any merger would require state approval.
New York City Council on Wednesday approved a series of zoning changes that will allow for a major expansion of New York University, The New York Times reported. The project involves new academic building, dormitories and other spaces and "will change the look and feel of Greenwich Village more than almost any other project in decades," the Times reported. Many in the neighborhood oppose the expansion plan, but the final vote by the City Council was 44-to-1.
A professor at the University of Texas at Austin is facing questions about his credibility after a nonprofit watchdog group said that he did not reveal ties to a drilling company as he led a study on hydraulic fracturing that found that the process produced no groundwater contamination. “UT promoted the study as an independent inquiry into fracking’s environmental risks, but PAI found that the study was actually led by a gas industry insider and UT faculty member, Charles ‘Chip’ Groat, who sits on the board of fracker Plains Exploration & Production (PXP),” according to the introduction to the report by the Public Accountability Initiative, the watchdog group.
After the watchdog group published its report, the Austin American-Statesman reviewed SEC filings and found that Groat had been paid $413,900 in cash and stock by the company last year and holds $1.6 million of the company’s stock. Groat called the report a mix of truth, half-truths and unfounded conclusions, according to StateImpact, an NPR project with local public radio stations that examines public policy issues. The university said Tuesday that it would ask outside experts to review the fracking study, according to StateImpact.
The Public Accountability Initiative recently raised questions about a study on fracking at the State University of New York at Buffalo, as more and more universities become battlegrounds for debates over the issue.
While Pell Grants would be safe even if deep, mandatory cuts to domestic spending go into effect early next year, many other education programs would be at risk, according to a report released Wednesday by Senator Tom Harkin. The Iowa Democrat's report singled out TRIO and GEAR UP, two programs that prepare low-income students for college, saying that the programs could lose $90 million if sequestration goes into effect, eliminating services to more than 100,000 students. During a Senate hearing Wednesday on the effects of the spending cuts, which will take hold in January if Congress does not act on a long-term debt reduction plan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said student loan processing would also be affected.
President Obama announced Wednesday night that he is planning to create a new office to focus on the needs of African-American students at all levels of education, NBC News reported. The office will work with all federal agencies so that "so every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born to the time, all through the time they get a career," Obama said in an address to the Urban League.
Peter Burnham, the former president of New Jersey's Brookdale Community College, on Tuesday admitted that he used college funds for personal expenses, and faces a five-year prison sentence as a result, The Star-Ledger reported. The personal expenses included personal hotel bills, clothing, electronics, alcohol and groceries. Further, the investigation found that Burnham urged his son to apply for a federal student loan to pay his tuition at Monmouth University, even though the son's tuition was already paid by the college as part of the president's employment contract.
A women's rights organization in China is accusing some universities of lowering minimum entrance-exam score requirements for male applicants, Xinhua reported. The organization cited Beijing Foreign Studies University for having a minimum admission score of 639 for women in Beijing who apply as German majors at the university, while for men it is 598. The group also said that Renmin University of China has set a minimum score in four language majors of 601 for male applicants but 614 for female applicants.
Spurred in part by a critical audit of the American system of monitoring student visas, a group of U.S. senators said Tuesday that they would introduce legislation aimed at tightening controls on institutions that enroll foreign students. The comments by Sen. Charles Schumer and others came at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed last week's release of a Government Accountability Office report finding that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, has inadequate processes in place to investigate, identify and combat fraud.
Officials at the University of California at Davis will investigate accusations that two physicians at the university conducted unauthorized research on dying brain cancer patients, the Sacramento Bee reported. The newspaper reported Sunday on the alleged research, and Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi told the paper that the institution would conduct a "comprehensive review."