Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Senior University of California administrators are expressing interest in a radical proposal to change tuition policy, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The idea is to replace tuition with a commitment by students to pay 5 percent of their income back to the university for 20 years after graduation. The plan came from Fix UC, a group of students at the Riverside campus. They have presented administrators with data showing that the plan could provide sufficient revenue to the university without creating burdens on current students, and while keeping repayment requirements affordable. Mark Yudof, the university system president, called the plan "constructive," and said he has asked system officials to analyze it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Just a year after being hired to teach history at West Georgia College, an ambitious Newt Gingrich applied to be president of the public institution, the Wall Street Journal reports in an article that examines the paper trail that the political candidate left behind at what is now called the University of West Georgia. The newspaper's review finds that the chairman of the history department at Tulane, where Gingrich got his doctorate, described him to West Georgia as having a "single-minded purpose in life: to become a fine teacher-scholar." The college hired him at an annual salary of $9,700.

After his unsuccessful bid for the presidency, which drew "a chuckle" from administrators, according to one observer quoted by the Journal, he and a colleague created an "Institute for Directed Change and Renewal," which sought to help public schools modernize their operations. He undertook three unsuccessful campaigns for Congress while at West Georgia, before leaving the college in 1977 after being denied tenure. He was elected to Congress the next year.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty anger is growing over comments made last week by Vice President Biden suggesting that faculty salaries are in part to blame for increased tuition rates. In a talk at a Pennsylvania high school, Biden said that "salaries for college professors have escalated significantly," and that colleges are spending a lot on salaries because there is "a lot of competition for the finest professors. They all want the Nobel laureates." In fact, faculty salaries haven't kept pace with inflation in recent years, and furloughs have amounted to de facto pay cuts for many professors.

The New Faculty Majority has organized an online petition -- signed by 619 people as of Wednesday night -- drawing particular attention to the minimal pay and benefits offered to non-tenure-track faculty members. The petition is addressed to Biden and says in part: "We are deeply troubled that you are perpetuating this dangerous myth. In fact, the majority of college and university professors in America, commonly known as adjuncts, now work as perpetually temporary, part-time academic laborers for poverty level wages, little to no eligibility for paid sick leave or health benefits, and almost no access to the basic tools of the profession, such as offices in which to meet students or computers on which to do their work.... Their average pay is $25,000 or less per year for having the same teaching loads and teaching responsibilities as their full-time colleagues."

On Wednesday, the American Association of University Professors also released a letter to Biden, praising the Obama administration's overall higher education policies, but taking issue with the vice president's comments on faculty salaries. Depending on the type of institution, the letter says, tuition rates have grown by 3 to 14 times the increases in faculty salaries in the last three years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis of the University of Arkansas reveals why musical silence is just as important to a composition as the notes themselves. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

 
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

Enrollment in professional science master's programs increased by 15.4 percent in 2011, according to data released today by the Council of Graduate Schools. The enrollments are highest in computational sciences, biology/biotechnology, environmental sciences and mathematics and statistics.

 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

A report released Tuesday by Law School Transparency, a nonprofit advocacy group, found that the majority of law schools do not provide data on whether their graduates are employed as lawyers or whether they find part-time work, among other categories. The report, which comes amid increasing questions about whether law school students are able to find jobs and pay off their debt -- and the value of a law degree -- found that 27 percent of law schools provide no employment data at all on outcomes for the class of 2010. Of schools that did provide such data, 26 percent indicated whether the jobs were legal jobs and 11 percent indicated whether those jobs were full time or part time. "Taken together, these and other findings illustrate how law schools have been slow to react to calls for disclosure, with some schools conjuring ways to repackage employment data to maintain their image," the report's authors wrote. But they also note some changes in recent years, including proposed changes to American Bar Association accreditation standards that would require more data disclosure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors last week sent a letter to the City University of New York chancellor and board chair, citing concerns about the “Pathways to Degree Completion Initiative,” a move by CUNY to enable smoother transfer for its community college students to CUNY's four-year institutions. The initiative was approved by CUNY’s Board of Trustees in June 2011. In the letter, the AAUP said that faculty members had complained about the new framework for the transfer of credits between CUNY’s 19 undergraduate colleges and the way these changes were adopted by “an administration-appointed Task Force and its associated committees,” bypassing elected faculty bodies. The faculty members have also complained about the soundness of the initiative itself and the consequences for academic freedom. (Some faculty members at community colleges have backed the changes, saying that they were necessary to help their students.)

Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor for university relations at CUNY, said the process had been a struggle, but that the initiative would raise quality and increase accountability. “CUNY’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the Pathways Initiative after extensive consultation, hearings, and meetings. Hundreds of faculty have participated in the curricula development process and CUNY’s elected student leadership hailed the reforms as long overdue,” he said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 4:41am

The Illinois attorney general is planning to sue Westwood College, a for-profit institution with four campuses in the Chicago area, saying that it has misled students about its criminal justice program in ways that have left the students facing serious debts without employment prospects, The Chicago Tribune reported. The suit will charge that Westwood is inappropriately recruiting students for the program for a law enforcement career when Illinois requires its police officers to be graduates of regionally accredited institutions. Westwood is nationally accredited so its graduates aren't eligible for the jobs. The suit will say that Westwood "made a variety of misrepresentations and false promises." The students who are enrolling are paying much more than they would have to for a degree that would qualify them for the jobs, the suit says. It notes that to complete a degree in criminal justice at Westwood costs $71,610 (with many students borrowing heavily to pay), compared with $12,672 from the College of DuPage, a nonprofit regionally accredited college.

A Westwood spokesman issued this statement: "We continue to cooperate with the Illinois [attorney general] to resolve any outstanding issues. We are proud of our legacy of helping students obtain their educational goals. We have hundreds of graduates working in the private and public criminal justice field throughout the state of Illinois."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

The salaries of new head coaches at big-time college football programs increased by 35 percent in 2011, USA Today reported. The new average salary is $1.5 million a year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 4:44am

Ward Connerly, a national leader of the fight to end the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions, is being accused of mismanaging the group he created for this effort, The New York Times reported. The critic is Jennifer Gratz, who shares Connerly's views on affirmative action and was the named plaintiff in a suit challenging the consideration of race at the University of Michigan. After the suit, Gratz worked for Connerly. She is accusing him of misusing funds sent to advance his work, paying himself a large salary rather than devoting funds to his cause. Connerly called Gratz a "disgruntled former employee" trying to "besmirch me personally."

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