Higher Education Quick Takes
Dozens of law professors have signed a joint letter to President Obama urging him to take steps to help college students who lack the legal documentation to permanently reside in the United States. President Obama has backed proposed legislation that would create a path to citizenship for such students, but the letter argued that the administration has "clear executive authority for several forms of administrative relief for DREAM Act beneficiaries: deferred action, parole–in–place, and deferred enforced departure." Through these means, the administration could remove the fear many of these students (many of whom were brought to the United States as young children and who have few ties in their original countries) of being deported, the letter says.
Pericles Lewis has been named the inaugural president of the Yale-NUS College, a new institution jointly created by Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Lewis is a Yale professor whose work focuses on British and European literature who has been involved in designing the academic programs of the new college.
The U.S. Education Department's top-ranking postsecondary education official is heading back to campus.
Eduardo M. Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, will leave the Obama administration to become interim president of California State University at Monterey Bay, the Cal State system announced Tuesday. Ochoa, who had been provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University before President Obama nominated him for the Education Department job two years ago, will succeed Monterey Bay's current president, Dianne Harrison, who has been named to lead California State University Northridge.
Ochoa is the second member of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's higher education political team to leave the administration leading up to the 2012 election, following James Kvaal's decision last fall to join Obama's campaign staff. Political appointees are typically discouraged from leaving in an election year, for fear of signaling lack of confidence in the incumbent's prospects. As assistant secretary, Ochoa has had a typically broad portfolio as assistant secretary, helping carry out (and defend) the administration's gainful employment and other program integrity rules, encouraging the collection of better data about higher education performance and productivity, and urging college leaders to bring their spending and prices under control.
Attorneys general in more than 20 states sent a letter Tuesday urging Congressional leaders to tighten federal rules in ways that could limit the ability of some for-profit colleges to enroll military service members and veterans using government aid. The letter, signed by 21 attorneys general and one state consumer protection official, calls on Congress to enact legislation that would count military and veterans' education aid along with Education Department student grants for the purposes of a federal rule that requires for-profit colleges to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal aid. Right now military and veterans' educational aid is excluded from that total. Changes in the rule are unlikely given the current makeup of Congress.
Bassel Al Shahade, who was a Fulbright Scholar from Syria pursuing an M.F.A. at Syracuse University, was killed Monday in Homs, Syria, the site of government assaults on protesters and civilians. He was killed while filming the attacks by government security forces. "This is a terrible tragedy for Bassel’s family and friends in Syria and for all his fellow students, faculty and friends here in Syracuse who knew him. His death is also a tragedy for the Syrian people, who have suffered many months of tragic violence as they seek greater freedom for their nation," said a statement from Nancy Cantor, the chancellor at Syracuse. "As a university community, we must deplore the senseless violence by Syrian government forces that took the life of Bassel, and countless others over these many months."
High schoolers who make overnight visits to colleges they are considering are engaging in potentially dangerous or illegal behavior, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education at Susquehanna University and the group Students Against Destructive Decisions. A survey of more than 1,000 teens who said they had been on an overnight college visit found that:
- 16 percent reported drinking alcohol on the visit.
- 17 percent had sex or engaged in "intimate sexual behavior" during the trip.
- 5 percent reported using drugs other than alcohol.
- 2 percent drove while impaired.
Faculty members at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are debating whether too many students are earning A grades, The Star Tribune reported. One proposal under consideration is that transcripts should indicate the share of each class receiving a particular grade, so that an A might have less value in courses in where many such grades are awarded.
In many states in recent years, summer enrollments have gone way up at public institutions, as students who struggle to get into sections during the regular academic year take advantage of greater availability in the summer. But in California, higher education budgets are so tight that many community colleges have cut way back on summer programs -- despite student demand, The Los Angeles Times reported. Eight community college campuses plan no summer courses this year, and the community college system's summer enrollment was down 43 percent from 2008 to 2011. A survey by Santa Monica College found that, at 15 community colleges in the Los Angeles area, only one-third of the courses offered in 2008 are going to be offered this year, representing a loss of 6,000 teaching assignments and 168,000 classroom seats.