Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Thirty-seven percent of community college students this fall were blocked from enrolling in at least one course they desired, according to a survey being released today by the Pearson Foundation. That is up from 32 percent who reported being unable to enroll in at least one course a year ago. The figures this fall were even higher for black students (42 percent) and Latino students (54 percent). Students enrolled part time and those enrolled in remedial courses were more likely to report difficulty in getting into sections of courses.

The foundation also surveyed community college students on distance education, and found that community college students appear to be embracing it. Fifty-seven percent of community college students reported having taken college courses online, 46 percent reported doing so this fall, and 74 percent of those who have taken online courses said that they were satisfied with the experience.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Modern Language Association's Executive Council has issued a statement expressing concern about the impact of rising student debt, and calling on colleges and governments to take steps to minimize debt. "To reduce debt burdens in the future, we call on Congress, state legislatures, and institutions of higher education to calibrate educational costs and student aid in ways that will keep student debt within strict limits. We also call on them to hold in check tuition increases, which often far outpace inflation, and to ensure that degree programs allow for timely completion," says the statement.

An accompanying letter from Russell Berman, the MLA president and a professor of comparative literature and German studies at Stanford University, discussed the importance for advocates of the humanities speaking out on issues of college affordability and student debt. "College education has aspired to achieve more than the imparting of instrumental job training by instead building students’ creativity, argumentative rigor, and cognitive flexibility — capacities of the mind that might of course contribute to career success but that do not involve the mastery of specific job-related techniques or the attainment of preprofessional accreditation. This goal remains valid," Berman's letter says. "It is important to recognize, however, that the liberal arts celebration of an education not linked to professional preparation has existed alongside the promise that higher education would open the door to a fulfilling career. This gap between the appeal of the liberal arts, on the one hand, and the dismal job market, on the other, persists and puts pressure on the MLA’s mission: promoting the study of language and literature. As we rightly defend student opportunities to study the liberal arts, we face a moral obligation to address the career prospects of our students and the economic pressures they will face."

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking comments on private student loans from students, families, colleges and loan providers to prepare a report for Congress on private student lending. In a notice published in today's Federal Register, the bureau said it was seeking information on how students use private loans, what types of comparison shopping tools are available, what best practices are for financial aid offices who counsel private borrowers, and other topics related to the private lending industry. The report must be submitted to Congress by July 21, 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of Miami's Daniel Messinger decodes the common features of interactions between an infant and parent. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 4:05am

Part of the Occupy Wall Street movement is planning to announce on Monday a campaign to encourage people repaying student loans to stop doing so. The idea is that people will pledge to stop repaying their loans when 1 million people agree to do so. The hope is that such a volume of non-repayment would make it difficult to punish those who opt to stop paying. The repayments could continue, however, if certain conditions are met. Those conditions include making public higher education free to students. The campaign was described to Inside Higher Ed by Andrew Ross, a prominent humanities scholar at New York University, who has been involved with the efforts to start the drive.


Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, has announced that Cornel West will be leaving his Princeton University professorship to become a professor of philosophy and Christian practices at the seminary. West has been a key figure in philosophy, cultural studies and African-American studies at Princeton and, before that, at Harvard University. Earlier in his career, he taught at Union Theological. West told The New York Times that he was going to be taking a significant pay cut to leave Princeton, but that he was ready for the move because Union is “the institutional expression of my core identity as a prophetic Christian.”


Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 4:08am

The average compensation for a big-time college football coach is $1.47 million this year, up 55 percent over the last six seasons, USA Today reported. The newspaper's study found that the pay in the six conferences that make up the Bowl Championship Series, the increase was roughly the same percentage, but on a larger base. The average salary in those conferences for a head football coach is $2.125 million. The USA Today analysis found that 64 coaches are making more than $1 million, of which 32 are being paid more than $2 million and 9 are making more than $3 million.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The federal government paid out $1 billion in improper Pell Grant payments in 2011, but the proportion of all payments that were erroneous fell to 2.7 percent -- below the government's target of 3.3 percent and the lowest level since at least 2005, the White House announced Tuesday. The Obama administration credits the drop to new measures that linked the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to Internal Revenue Service data, making it less likely that information about students' family income would be entered improperly. Improper payments in 2010 also totaled about $1 billion, but the rate that year was 3.1 percent because overall grant volume was lower.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- A budget compromise for fiscal year 2012 expected to be approved later this week would increase funding for the National Science Foundation and other federal scientific research efforts. The Senate and House have agreed on a "mini-bus" bill with funding for five cabinet-level departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation, as well as for science and other related agencies. Their budget would increase NSF funding to $7 billion, $173 million more than in 2011 and more than was proposed by either the House or Senate appropriations subcommittees, although significantly less than the $907 million increase President Obama requested in February. 

NASA would face a budget cut of $648 million, mostly in space exploration, but funding for NASA's science programs would increase by $155 million. The National Institute for Standards and Technology would see a $33 million increase to $751 million -- also below the president's request. 

The package also includes a continuing resolution that would avert a government shutdown in December.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday announced plans to create a "meta university." This new university would be a structure that would allow students to simultaneously enroll in programs at multiple institutions. "This would enable a student of astrophysics in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for example, to take up a course in comparative literature at the Jadavpur University. Such creative reconfigurations are expected to create 'new minds' conducive to the growth of innovation," said Singh, in a speech at India's National Innovation Council.



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