A few colleges, the Associated Press reports, have an optional part of undergraduate applications: a letter of recommendation from a parent. Officials say that they get unique details that only a parent might know, and sometimes reflections on a child date back to the time the applicant was in utero.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Students across the country made good on their word Thursday, coming out in droves to support the youth Occupy movement and advocate for affordable, accessible and democratic higher education. Frustrated by rising tuition and student debt, and their lack of influence on the system, students made major waves in the fall with rallies and protests reminiscent of Thursday’s nationally coordinated “Day of Action.” But things slowed down over the winter break, and Thursday was an attempt to get back into the national spotlight.
The most well-attended protests took place, as expected, in California and New York City, where several hundred students rallied. Students in the Washington, D.C., area also had a notable turnout for their march to Sallie Mae and the U.S. Education Department, and the University of Maryland occupation tweeted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised to respond to their list of demands within a week. Protesters in Alabama, Ohio and Texas were active on the Twitter streams. Students at DePaul University said they “seized” an administration office. Although police were on hand on many campuses and city streets, there appeared to be no major confrontations (unlike past rallies). One person drove a car through a group of about 150 students who blocked the entrance to the University of California at Santa Cruz campus, but nobody was seriously injured. Most classes had been canceled in light of the protests, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday announced the creation of a panel of college presidents and other higher education leaders to advise the agency on issues related to international student recruitment, research, and other matters. Agency officials said the establishment of the committee reflected its officials' desire to work with college and university leaders. The panel's members are:
- Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University
- Carrie L. Billy, president of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium
- Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges
- David M. Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island
- Royce C. Engstrom, president of the University of Montana
- Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
- Rufus Glasper, chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges
- Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University
- Marlene M. Johnson, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators
- Eric W. Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota
- R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University
- Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland at College Park
- Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College
- Ruby G. Moy, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific Islander American Association of Colleges and Universities
- Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities
- John Sexton, president of New York University
- Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy
- Dianne Boardley Suber, president of Saint Augustine’s College
- Holden Thorp, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 60 percent of Americans think colleges have a generally positive effect on American life, but noted sharp partisan divides in Americans' views of institutions of higher education. Twenty-six percent of Americans said that colleges have a negative effect on "the way things are going in the country," with the rest of respondents not answering. Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats said that colleges have a positive effect on the country. Among conservative Republicans, 46 percent agreed; among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party, only 38 percent said colleges have a positive effect.
Still, among the population as a whole, the 60 percent approval rating for colleges was relatively high: more saw positive effects from colleges than from churches (57 percent), the news media (26 percent) or Congress (a dismal 15 percent). The Pew Research Center also noted that a 2011 survey found that across party lines, Americans who attended college overwhelmingly believed it was a good investment.
U.S. News & World Report plans to collect and publish new data on colleges in next year's rankings, but will not use the additional data in the methodology for total scores. The new data will cover differential graduation rates based on income and race; the affordability of colleges; and colleges' Internet connectivity. Details are available on the blog of Robert Morse, who leads the rankings effort.
Faculty members are speaking out against cuts due to be proposed by the administration next week at the University of Northern Iowa, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. Officials are preparing the plan to deal with budget shortfalls, and say that they have no choice but to propose deep cuts. Draft plans have been circulating and faculty union leaders say that they show a willingness to go too far. Cathy DeSoto, president of the faculty union, said that current plans would end undergraduate degrees in fields such as physics, geography, religion, philosophy and the teaching of English as a second language. "The reorganization that they've proposed, if it went through, it would eviscerate the university," she said.
A proposed measure that would allow most employers with moral objections a way out of the federal mandate requiring that birth control be covered in employer-sponsored health insurance plans was tabled in the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 51 to 48. The measure, an addition to a highway funding bill known as the "Blunt Amendment" for its sponsor, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, would have allowed any employer (not just religious ones) with a moral objection to preventive care to opt out of offering that care. Religious colleges have strenuously objected to the mandate, which they say violates their religious freedom.
A coalition of college groups on Thursday unveiled the Higher Education Compliance Alliance, a website that collects and shares information about federal laws and regulations governing the higher ed industry. The clearinghouse, spearheaded by the National Association of College and University Attorneys, includes links to legal and regulatory language, advisory reports from various groups, and other information on a wide range of topics.
Last month, Meghan Darcy Melnyk resigned as president of the Mount Royal University Students' Association. On Wednesday, she was charged with robbing a bank in Calgary. Authorities said she walked into a bank and turned over a note to a teller, saying that she had a weapon and wanted money, CBC reported. She was tracked down after leaving the bank with money. Students at Mount Royal are stunned.
The “academic, health and overall well-being” of athletes should be considered first and foremost as leaders of the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences weigh potential changes in the structure of the college football postseason, the faculty athletics representatives of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I member institutions said in a statement sent Thursday to the commissioners and the Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee. allie: this slight rewrite okay, to simplify a bit? dl
Citing research tying length of seasons and numbers of games to negative health and academic outcomes, the faculty representatives said the new postseason model, which commissioners are forming now and which will take effect in the 2013-14 season, must not: increase the current number of games individual teams play (now 12 to 14, depending on how far a team makes it in the postseason); extend beyond Jan. 9 (ideally, not beyond Jan. 1); or interfere with classes and exams.
But while a four-team playoff to replace the bowl system -- an idea with broad support that is likely to emerge from the discussions, recent reports say -- meets those criteria, it could lead to “slippery slope consequences” of too many teams, too many games and too long a postseason, the FARs said. They pointed to the Division I men’s basketball tournament as evidence.
“We know that this concern is shared by all of us, including university presidents and chancellors; conference commissioners; and directors of athletics,” the FARs wrote. “We also know that all of us are concerned with the academic, health, and overall well-being of our football student-athletes. We therefore urge that a critical component in evaluating different post-season models should be what research tells us regarding the factors that most negatively impact student-athlete academic performance and that most contribute to football student-athlete injuries and serious injuries.”