Advocacy groups, including Campus Progress, US PIRG, Rebuild the Dream and other student groups, delivered 130,000 letters from students to Congress on Wednesday, asking the lawmakers to stop the interest rate on subsidized student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. President Obama has urged Congress to stop the rate increase, and Congressional Democrats have called for the change as well. Keeping the interest rate for subsidized loans at 3.4 percent would cost about $5 billion.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The board of Santa Monica College has approved a plan to charge a much higher price for certain courses, typically to students who enroll for them after the two-year institution has filled its allotment of state-funded courses, the Los Angeles Times reported. Under the plan, the college would create a nonprofit foundation that would charge as much as $200 a unit for high-demand courses such as English and math, compared to the standard rate of $36 (which is due to rise to $46 this summer).
College officials said they believed the program was on solid legal ground, but critics express the concern that such an approach amounts to privatizing public higher education, and a spokesman for the California Community College chancellor's office told the Times the plan did not appear to comply with state education codes.
Robert J. Birgeneau announced Tuesday that he will retire as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley at the end of 2012. He was appointed in 2004, and said that he originally hoped to lead the campus for seven years, but opted to stay due to the severe budget pressure the university has faced. Birgeneau has faced student criticism over budget cuts, and what many students believe was excessive force in dealing with protests. But he also pushed hard through private fund-raising to protect Berkeley from raids on its faculty talent.
Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan on Tuesday signed legislation that classifies research assistants at public universities as students who are ineligible for collective bargaining, The Detroit Free Press reported. Republican legislators and the Republican governor enacted the legislation amid a move to unionize research assistants at the University of Michigan. Union supporters and Democrats have blasted the legislation.
A sit-in at the German University in Cairo has entered its third week, Ahram Online reported. Students are demanding protection of their rights to dissent, following the expulsion of two students and the suspension of two others over earlier protests. Those students were protesting actions by Egypt's rulers. The university told them, in advance of the protest, that they could have a silent protest, but punished some students after they shouted their views during the demonstration.
The Education Department will track the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and release the data to the public, sorted by high school, the department announced Tuesday. The website, which lists the number of students per high school who have completed and submitted the form, is intended to help high school counselors (and others) and uses data from the Education Department's systems, the first time such data has been made available. The numbers will be updated every two weeks.
Another group of college presidents and chancellors has been invited to the White House for a meeting on college affordability and productivity. Details about the meeting, scheduled for March 23, are scant, including whether President Obama will attend (as he did when another group of college presidents was invited to White House in December).
According to an email forwarded to Inside Higher Ed by a person connected to an invited guest, "administration officials will engage presidents and chancellors in exploring constructive solutions to bringing down college costs, making higher education more affordable and attainable, and regaining America’s global leadership in higher education attainment."
The White House has focused increasingly on college costs and productivity as Obama ramps up his re-election campaign, including proposals to tie some forms of financial aid to measures of "value" in higher education.
Canadian athletic officials gathered last weekend to discuss what they consider a worrisome trend: Most of the top female hockey players in the country go to colleges and universities in the United States, The Edmonton Journal reported. Many said that Canadian universities have failed to put enough money into their programs, frequently operating with just a head coach, and not the assistant coaches found on teams in the U.S.