Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- President Obama continues to make college affordability a key theme of his domestic policy agenda, but to tailor his message to his audience of the moment. On Monday, addressing the members of the National Governors Association, the president reiterated his views -- highlighted in last month's State of the Union address -- that higher education is increasingly important for individual Americans and for the country's economic future, and that rising prices threaten to put a postsecondary education out of reach for many. But while his speeches to campus leaders have focused on colleges' responsibility to contain their own costs and the prices they charge students (and federal carrots and sticks he might use to elicit that behavior), he used his appearance before the governors to reiterate his belief that states share significant culpability for driving up tuition prices.

"Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest," President Obama said in urging the governors to "invest more in education." Describing the college affordability problem as a "shared responsibility," he said the administration has sought to do its part by significantly upping federal spending on Pell Grants and other student financial aid. But "[w]e can't just keep on, at the federal level, subsidizing skyrocketing tuition. If tuition is going up faster than inflation -- faster, actually, than health care costs -- then no matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later we are going to run out of money.  So everybody else is going to have to do their part as well."

The president repeated that he had put colleges and universities "on notice" that "if they are not taking some concrete steps to prevent tuition from going up, then federal funding from taxpayers is going to go down." But the states have to do their part by "making higher education a higher priority in your budgets," the president said. "Over two-thirds of students attend public colleges and universities where, traditionally, tuition has been affordable because of state investments.... But more than 40 states have cut funding for higher education over the past year. And this is just the peak of what has been a long-term trend in reduced state support for higher education. And state budget cuts have been among the largest factor in tuition hikes at public colleges over the past decade. So my administration can do more, Congress can do more, colleges have to do more. But unless all of you also do more, this problem will not get solved."

Robert L. Moran, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said his members were heartened by the president's remarks. They signal, he said, that "just as he's keeping our feet to the fire" on controlling public colleges' costs and prices, "he's not backing off the message that he needs to keep the fire on the feet of the state legislators and governors, too, because if state support goes down, tuition goes up." The president has comparatively little sway over state policies or priorities, Moran said, so his rhetoric and use of the bully pulpit matters.

(Side note: While he did so subtly, the president appeared to directly rebut criticism that a potential opponent in November, Rick Santorum, aimed at Obama over the weekend. Santorum called the president a "snob" for, he said, suggesting that all Americans should go to college, saying that there are "good, decent men and women" proud that their skills were "not taught by some liberal college professor." Without identifying the former Republican senator, Obama told the governors that "[w]hen I speak about higher education, we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment. And they can’t go in there unless they’ve got some basic training beyond what they received in high school.")

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

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.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty leaders at the University of Illinois are circulating a petition calling for the removal of Michael Hogan as president of the university system, The News-Gazette reported. Faculty critics cite Hogan's push to centralize enrollment management decisions, and his "extraordinary bullying" of Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus, whose e-mail messages reveal that Hogan did not think she was pushing her faculty members hard enough to back his views on enrollment management. The letter in circulation says of Hogan: "In our view he lacks the values, commitments, management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this university, and his presidency should be ended at the earliest opportunity." A spokesman for the university system said that Hogan was not resigning and had "unwavering support" from the board.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Chicago Tribune published new details this weekend on the admissions scandal in which politicians pressured the University of Illinois to admit politically connected applicants to various programs. The Tribune exposed the "clout" system in 2009, but has been fighting for information on who actually benefited. The new article details the politicians involved (a bipartisan group) and details the number of requests made and how successful their beneficiaries were (generally more successful than most applicants). In many cases, the applicants had family or other ties to individuals or groups who were major donors to the politicians' campaigns.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dustin Morrow of Portland State University examines the practice of updating classic films for theatrical re-release. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Athletic officials at Radford University were already in trouble when the National Collegiate Athletic Association learned that players on the men’s tennis and men’s basketball teams, and one prospective basketball recruit, received impermissible benefits such as transportation, lodging and meals. But university officials made the case all the worse by “not only providing false and misleading information, but the encouragement of a student athlete to do the same,” Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA and chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions said in a call with reporters Friday. “This conduct, which is really the essence of this case, is obviously inconsistent with the core values of honesty and sportsmanship, and completely counter to a coach’s responsibility to educate student athletes in their program.”

As punishment, Radford will receive public reprimand and censure; two years’ probation; a two-scholarship reduction in basketball for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years; vacation of four wins during the 2010-11 season, when an ineligible athlete competed, and a $2,000 penalty ($500 for each game in which said athlete played); and, self-imposed by the university, a reduction of two official paid visits in basketball during the 2011-12 academic year and the suspension of the head tennis coach during the 2011 season. In addition, the NCAA imposed a five-year "show cause" penalty on any institution that hires two former assistant basketball coaches and a former director of operations, requiring them to explain why they should not limit those officials' recruiting activities.

Radford is the latest to be reprimanded for a deliberate cover-up, following the University of Tennessee and Louisiana State and Ohio State Universities last year. Not only did coaches knowingly violate NCAA rules, the public infractions report says, the head basketball coach in interviews during the investigation didn’t disclose several instances of students getting impermissible travel and lodging from other coaches, and in one instance lied about whether he was aware of such activity. He also told staff and coaches not to provide further information to the NCAA, the report says. It goes on to say that the athlete whom the coach encouraged to “provide false and misleading information” to  the committee ended up withdrawing as a student after undergoing “serious emotional distress.”

This was Radford’s first major infractions case.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Women's Campaign of the University of Cambridge is organizing a petition drive to disinvite Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- the former head of the International Monetary Fund -- to speak at the university. "The Cambridge Union Society's decision to invite Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak this term displays, when interpreted most charitably, a callous desire to exploit gender crime allegations in the service of controversy. At worst, the invitation betrays an abhorrent disregard for the many survivors of sexual violence amongst the student body," says the petition. "We believe that free speech is about more than inviting rich, white, powerful (in this case allegedly rapist) men to define the union's termcard year after year." The petition notes that Strauss-Kahn has not been convicted of anything but says that this is "because of institutional sexism in the legal system."

Katie Lam, president of the group that invited him, defended the decision. "The reason he's been invited is because he's a fascinating figure and has exceptional knowledge in this field," she told AFP. "So I don't think it's inappropriate to have invited him. Speaking at the Union doesn't imply approval or endorsement, or indeed disapproval."

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Coppin State University have voted -- overwhelmingly -- that they lack confidence in President Reginald Avery, The Baltimore Sun reported. "[Avery] has brought neither a clear vision of mission to CSU, nor established a coherent or viable strategic plan, nor wisely allocated resources," wrote Nicholas Eugene, the leader of the Faculty Senate, in a letter to William E. Kirwan, chancellor of Maryland's university system. "We feel that despite the efforts of faculty, Dr. Avery's leadership has resulted in a dilution of the academic quality at CSU." Avery told the newspaper that he would work to improve communication with professors, and he vowed to continue his work at the university.


Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took the night off from speeches on college costs for some basketball Friday -- and dominated the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. In the past, Duncan has called for reforms of college sports, but he used his time in the spotlight Friday to focus on the nation's high school dropout rate (and to make this pass):


Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The rectors of two Russian universities -- Moscow State and St. Petersburg State Universities -- may avoid complying with a Russian law requiring university leaders to report all of their income and assets, The Moscow Times reported. The 2009 law applies to institutions created "by the Russian Federation," but both of those universities were created by Russian royals in the 1700s.


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