Higher Education Quick Takes
About 470,000 students are on waiting lists for courses at community colleges in California, according to a survey due to be released today, The Los Angeles Times reported. The survey by the state's community college system noted numerous impacts, such as the waiting lists, of a series of deep budget cuts in recent years:
- Enrollment has dropped 17 percent, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-9 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12. More declines are expected this year.
- The number of class sections decreased 24 percent from 522,727 in 2008-9 to 399,540 in 2011-12.
- Two-thirds of community colleges in the state report that students are facing longer wait times to see counselors on academic or financial issues, with an average wait time of 12 days.
A profile in The Lincoln Journal Star examines the career of Steve Rozman, whom the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fired after students organized an overnight sit-in/protest in the building that housed the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Rozman -- an untenured political scientist -- supported the students, but is also credited with helping resolve the protest without violence. Amid political demands that someone be punished, the university fired him, arguing (successfully in court) that he was not being dismissed for political reasons, but because the protests disrupted a class. Rozman accepted a job in 1972 at Tougaloo College, a historically black institution in Mississippi, and said that he has been very happy there, and is not bitter about his dismissal from Nebraska. At Tougaloo, he leads the Center for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, and he has created a volunteer income tax assistance program to help low-income taxpayers.
Students who earn associate degrees from for-profit colleges see substantial earnings returns and, in some cases, outperform their peers who hold two-year degrees from community colleges, according to a new research paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. However, students who drop out of two-year degree tracks at for-profits fare worse in the labor market than do their counterparts at community colleges, found the study, which was authored by Stephanie Riegg Cellini, an assistant professor of public policy at George Washington University, and Latika Chaudhary, an assistant professor of economics at Scripps College.
A U.S. district court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit over the mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception from Wheaton College, the evangelical college in Illinois, saying the suit was premature. In its original lawsuit, Wheaton said it was exempt from the administration's one-year "safe harbor" before insurance would have to begin covering all forms of contraception at no cost for female employees, because it had covered some forms of birth control -- including emergency contraception -- on Feb. 10, the cutoff date for the safe harbor.
Since that filing, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance that would make Wheaton eligible for the safe harbor, because the college was attempting to end contraception coverage when the safe harbor deadline expired. The Washington, D.C., district court found that Wheaton did not have standing to sue the administration and that the suit was premature because enforcement does not begin until Aug. 1, 2013.
The suit is the third to be dismissed in recent weeks. Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic college in North Carolina, lost a similar court challenge in D.C. in July, as did a suit from several states and Catholic employers (but no colleges) in Nebraska.
In Quebec on Monday, many classes resumed at universities that had effectively been shut down by student strikes, CBC News reported. Most student unions have voted to end their strikes, and a controversial provincial law ordered the resumption of classes. But at the University of Montreal and at the University of Quebec at Montreal, some students remained on strike and attempted to block courses from taking place. Authorities arrested 19 protesters at the University of Montreal.
Lon Morris College, a private, two-year institution in Texas that has been facing severe financial difficulties, has announced that it will not hold a fall semester. A statement from the college said that it is working with Jacksonville College and Tyler Junior College to find places for students admitted to the college. The statement said that the college is looking for a "purchaser" or "financial partner."
Several Florida colleges and universities announced over the weekend that they would be closed today in light of the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac. Among the institutions making such announcements: Florida International University, Florida Keys Community College, Miami Dade College, Ringling College of Art and Design, St. Thomas University and the University of Miami.
The storm, expected to reach hurricane force, is headed to the Gulf of Mexico and areas not that far from New Orleans, and more colleges are expected to announce temporary closures today. The American Political Science Association holds its annual meeting this week in New Orleans. On Sunday, the association announced that pre-conference activities on Wednesday have been canceled and that the rest of the meeting should start on time on Thursday.
Morris Brown College, which has been facing foreclosure this week because of its $30 million in debts, filed for federal bankruptcy protection on Friday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The historically black college lacks accreditation and has only a few dozen students, but its leaders said that filing for bankruptcy should delay foreclosure -- and that if a federal judge grants the college's request for bankruptcy protection, Morris Brown would have time to regroup.
Cooper Barton, age 5, has become a hero to University of Michigan alumni as news spread that he was forced to turn his Michigan T-shirt inside out because of a rule in Oklahoma City, where he lives, banning most T-shirts with writing on them in the public schools. There is an exception for the attire of Oklahoma colleges, but not out-of-state institutions. Barton has already received a call from Michigan's athletics director, and tickets to a football game. Now the university's alumni association is calling on all alumni to wear their shirts inside out on August 31 to show solidarity with Barton, AnnArbor.com reported.