The American Federation of Teachers Executive Council on Tuesday reaffirmed a commitment to collaborating with the American Association of University Professors on advocacy efforts and union organizing. The announcement extends a relationship created in 2008 as part of an effort to bring more faculty members -- especially at research universities -- into collective bargaining. The joint effort resulted in a big win with the unionization of faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago (although the university is challenging the win). Currently, the AFT and AAUP are jointly organizing faculty members at the University of Oregon.
Higher Education Quick Takes
An investigation by The Washington Post has revealed many millions in earmarks -- grants made by members of Congress to specific institutions, bypassing peer review -- that have gone to colleges that employ close relatives of the lawmakers who obtained the funds, or who have such relatives on their boards. For example, Representative Robert Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, helped get about $440,000 for the University of Montevallo while his wife was on its board. Or there's Representative Robert E. Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, who won $3.3 million over the last 10 years for a scholarship program at the Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, where his wife is an associate dean in charge of scholarships. And Rep. Robert E. Latta, an Ohio Republican, co-sponsored earmarks worth $2.8 million for Bowling Green State University while his wife was a senior vice president there.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, on Tuesday proposed cutting the state's higher education budget by 30 percent, on top of a 20 percent reduction approved last year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Democratic legislators and faculty unions denounced the proposed cuts and said that they would lead to significant tuition increases, but some Republican legislative leaders said that it was time to focus on whether the state has too many campuses.
Amid an ongoing furor over the Obama administration's decision to require Roman Catholic colleges, hospitals and other religious employers to offer health insurance plans covering birth control at no cost, a senior adviser to the president's re-election campaign suggested Tuesday that compromise might be possible. On the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," David Axelrod, a top campaign adviser, said the White House would look for "a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions," The New York Times reported.
Religious institutions' objections were well-known before the final rule was issued in January. But the contraception coverage requirement has become a feature of the Republican presidential campaign, with Mitt Romney, considered most likely to face Obama in the general election, accusing the president of attacking religious liberty.
Many statehouses are seeing student protests this month, as lawmakers deliberate over proposed budget cuts, and symbolism is a common part of the scene -- with students regularly producing coffins for public higher education and so forth. In Kentucky Tuesday, students decided to use a stereotype to make their point. They took off their shoes, WDRB 41 News reported. "If they're going to keep cutting higher education, we're going to fulfill our own stereotypes and we're going to end up being the barefoot state everyone makes fun of," said Olivia McMillen, a student at the University of Louisville.
The increased public focus on community colleges makes this a time for policy makers and others to gain a better understanding of the demographics of the institutions, according to a brief released Tuesday by the American Association of Community Colleges. Many assumptions that people have about college enrollment generally, or about community colleges, are out of date, the brief argues. For instance, many people assume fall enrollment figures are a good indication of total enrollment. But at community colleges, unduplicated year-round enrollments are on average 56 percent higher than fall enrollments. Including non-credit students would further add to the total.
Stanford University announced Monday that it raised $6.2 billion between October 2006 and Dec. 31, 2011, shattering the record for the largest university fund-raising campaign in history and exceeding the university's original goal of $4.3 billion. Before Stanford's announcement, Yale held the record for the largest fund-raising campaign on record, raising $3.881 billion between 2004 and July 2011. Stanford's announcement even exceeds the largest announced goal, $6 billion, which the University of Southern California announced in August.
The $6.2 billion will go to fund cross-disciplinary initiatives in every area of the university, including more than 130 new endowed faculty appointments and 360 new fellowships for graduate students. Many large campaigns include gifts that are paid out over time, so it's particularly noteworthy that more than 80 percent of campaign commitments have already been fulfilled. The university has set up a website detailing what the money will be used for.
During 2011, a record 800,000 people took the GRE, an increase of 13 percent, the Educational Testing Service announced today. ETS officials noted that this increase came in the year that the test featured numerous redesigned features. While not all GRE test-takers end up applying to graduate programs, increases in volume on the test are usually reflected in subsequent applications to graduate schools. If these figures do predict subsequent trends, look for major increases from outside the United States. The increase in the United States was 10 percent, while test-taking in other countries was up by nearly 25 percent. The two largest providers of foreign students to the United States both saw substantial gains, with the numbers from China up 28 percent, and the figures from India up 43 percent.
A majority of more than 800 bankruptcy lawyers in a survey say they have seen an increase in clients with student loans over the past few years and that most of those debtors are unlikely to be able to discharge their loans due to "undue hardship." The survey, published by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, found that 62 percent of the lawyers have seen bankruptcy cases involving student loans increase at least 25 percent since 2008. A paper published with the survey warns of a "Student Loan ‘Debt Bomb,' " and calls for restoring the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.