California's community colleges need a sharper, more focused set of goals and the state needs a stronger body to oversee the institutions, a bipartisan panel focused on improving state programs said in a report Tuesday. The Little Hoover Commission argued that the state's scores of two-year institutions suffer because they try to do too many things with too few resources, and that Californians would be better off if the colleges focused on student success in three main areas: basic skills education, career technical education, and preparation for transfer to four-year institutions. It also calls for making the colleges' chancellor's office an independent agency with more authority and responsibility, and for allocating funds to community colleges in ways that encourage and reward student success.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Smith College students and alumnae have come up with a creative response to an alumna's letter to The Sophian, the student newspaper, questioning efforts over the last decade to recruit more low-income and minority students. The letter (currently removed from the newspaper's website) suggested that the college has lowered its standards and abandoned a tradition in which wealthy students with "cashmere coats and pearls" were educated at the college and then went on to become wealthy donors. In response, Smith students have started posting their stories on a new blog called Pearls and Cashmere. Many of the women talk about how they do not fit the stereotypes of the past, and are proud of what Smith has become. Their stories stress that strong academics and diversity are by no means incompatible. And while the women pose in nontraditional ways for the photos that accompany their stories, many put on their pearls.
The letter that set off the fracas said that Smith attracts lesbians, low-income students and those who can't get into the Ivies. But the women who tell their stories on the blog -- white and minority, lesbian and straight -- talk about what they gained from enrolling at Smith, and at a more diverse Smith.
Birgitta Hendron from Washington state and Wiame El Bouhali from Morocco posted together: "Both of us applied to Smith early decision, both of us speak four languages (though not the same four), both of us are products of public school systems on two different continents. Without Smith, Wiame never would have had the chance to study the liberal arts (or build a tornado simulator). Without Smith, Birgitta never would have taken Russian -- the language that has become her passion. In addition to a world-class education and brilliant professors and peers, Smith has given us courage, perspective and confidence. It’s also given us each other -- not lesbians, not Ivy League rejects, but best friends."
A state judge has awarded most of a woman's estate to the foundation that supports Southeastern Louisiana University, finding that the woman's final will -- which left the money elsewhere -- was invalid, The Advocate reported. The judge backed evidence presented by the college that the woman didn't understand the last will, just before her death. Family members who benefited from the final will in turn charged that the university had showered attention on the woman to get her to set up the bequest that will now stand. The estate is worth about $380,000.
Students and faculty members are pressing Harvard University to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled in the 1920s for being gay or being perceived as gay, the Associated Press reported. The students were kicked out after secret trials that only came to light in 2002. At that time, university officials apologized for what had happened. But the organizers of the movement to award posthumous degrees say that the apologies don't go far enough. A rally on the issue is planned for today, when Lady Gaga will be on campus to launch a new anti-bullying foundation. Harvard's policy for years has been to award posthumous degrees only in the rare circumstance where someone has completed degree requirements and died prior to receiving a degree.
Not all Republican presidential candidates question the wisdom of encouraging Americans to seek higher education. Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that President Obama's statements urging all Americans to get at least one year of postsecondary education are "perfectly reasonable," The Hill reported. Gingrich's comments -- on the "Today" show -- differed sharply from those of Rick Santorum, who has been calling President Obama "a snob" for urging all Americans to get some higher education. Gingrich said, "Everybody in America is going to have to get re-educated all the time because jobs are going to change, technology is going to change, and if we're going to compete in the world market, we both have to have the best equipment and the best training."
Northeastern University announced Tuesday that, based on student concerns, it will not consider Chick-Fil-A for a spot in the student union, The Boston Globe reported. The Student Senate recommended the action Monday, based on reports that Chick-Fil-A has donated heavily to groups that lobby against measures that promote equity for gay people. The company did not respond to requests for comment, but has in the past denied being opposed to any groups.
The House of Representatives voted 303-114 Tuesday to repeal the Education Department's credit hour and state authorization regulations, with 69 Democrats joining the all of the chamber's Republicans to back the bill. Higher education groups cheered the House's actions, but the next step for the measure is unclear.
While the bill might be able to attract enough Democratic support in the Senate to become law, the Obama administration has said it strongly opposes any attempt to repeal the regulations, and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has waged a high-profile fight against for-profit colleges. The state authorization and credit hour rules apply to nonprofit, public and for-profit institutions, but Democrats who voted against the measure characterized it as an effort to erode consumer protections.
Some Japanese universities are stepping up efforts to recruit students from India, The Times of India reported. The University of Tokyo recently opened up a recruiting office in India. Officials there have noted Japan's success at attracting students from China is not matched in India. The University of Tokyo has 1,000 Chinese students and only 35 Indian students.
The National Association of College Stores and Amazon.com have settled complaints and a suit over Amazon's claims about the savings it offers customers on textbooks, The Wall Street Journal reported. No money changed hands in the settlement. The college store association said that, after a review of Amazon's methodology for its claims, there is "no current dispute" over the advertising.