Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 20, 2015

Oregon's governor, Kate Brown, a Democrat, on Friday signed a bill to create a free community college grant, several news outlets reported. Oregon follows Tennessee as the second state to fund a statewide free community college program. The legislation includes $10 million for qualifying students, who will each receive at least a $1,000 grant. The state also will spend $7 million on related student success and completion programs.

The news earned a celebratory tweet from President Obama:

July 20, 2015

Clemson University's board on Friday issued its second statement this year on Benjamin Tillman (right), a racist 19th-century politician for whom a prominent campus building is named. Students and faculty members have been pushing for years to change the name of Tillman Hall. In February, the board rejected the idea, saying, "Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen. Stone by stone they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so."

Friday's statement -- in the form of a board resolution -- did not make any promises about the building name. But it used much stronger language to describe Tillman. "Benjamin Tillman played a key role in the founding and early success of Clemson," the resolution said. "Benjamin Tillman was also known to be by his own admission an ardent racist and led a campaign of terror against African-Americans in South Carolina that included intimidation and violence of which he boasted about publicly; and for some members of our university family Benjamin Tillman’s legacy included not only contributions to Clemson University but also oppression, terror and hate."

The board also announced that it would create a task force "charged with creating a comprehensive plan to include, but not limited to, any recommendations regarding curating our historic buildings and memorials, developing better ways to acknowledge and teach the history of Clemson University, and exploring appropriate recognition of historical figures."

July 20, 2015

The White House on Sunday announced the death of George Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In his career, Cooper was on the faculty of several historically black colleges, and was president of one, South Carolina State University. He was named to the post in 2013, amid concerns that the White House had moved too slowly to fill the position after John Silvanus Wilson Jr. departed to become president of Morehouse College. "George’s passing is a great loss for my administration, the HBCU and higher education communities, and for everyone that knew him," said the statement from President Obama.

July 20, 2015

Adam Leitman Bailey, founder of an eponymous law firm in New York, is stirring up controversy with a piece in The Huffington Post about why his firm will not hire new graduates of Ivy League law schools. "Our hires come from the top of the classes of the second-, third- or fourth-tier law schools. We find these men and women we take under our wing to be more ambitious and more hungry to excel in the legal profession," writes Bailey, a law graduate of Syracuse University. "They are hardworking and usually grew up with a middle- or lower-class upbringing. We do not hire our clients' sons and daughters unless they demonstrate the same merits as any stranger to our family. The candidates we recruit are those who have been battle tested in one manner or another. They have been forced to compete against their peers to rank at the top of their law school and college classes."

A response in the blog Above the Law called Bailey's essay "the stupidest thing I have read all week," explaining that "any hard and fast hiring rule is stupid. 'Oh, we only hire grads from Harvard' is equally as dumb as Bailey’s ban on all top-tier law grads."

July 20, 2015

The University of Oslo on Friday announced that it has admitted Anders Behring Breivik, who in 2011 killed 77 people in a rampage inspired by his extreme-right political views. Breivik was rejected from the university two years ago when he didn't meet admissions requirements, but work he completed while in prison made him eligible for admission. He will not be able to leave his prison cell, though, and so will not be able to complete all requirements for the political science degree he seeks.

Rector Ole Petter Ottersen explained the decision in a blog post. "By sticking to our rules and not clamoring for new ones, we send a clear message to those whose misguided mission it is to undermine and change our democratic system. It is part of the universities’ mission to uphold democratic values, ideals and practices, also when these are challenged by heinous acts. We are on a slippery slope should we change the rules and adjust them to crimes committed," Ottersen wrote. He went on to note that "we have students who were at the scene where he committed his brutal murders. We have students who lost friends and family on July 22. We do acknowledge that there are moral dilemmas in this case, but the last thing we need is a 'lex Breivik.' We keep to our rules for our own sake, not for his."

A full account, in Norwegian only, is available in Aftenposten.

July 20, 2015

The Group of Eight, which represents Australia's most prestigious research universities, is condemning a new government report that found that those who hold a master's or doctoral degree from one of its members earn on average 15 percent less than graduates of another group of smaller universities, Times Higher Education reported. While non-Group of Eight members are cheering the results, the Group of Eight issued this statement: “We absolutely question the veracity of the methodology adopted. When results are so very different from everything that has gone before, even when using the same survey data, surely some explanation is required, especially in a sector that lives and dies by the rigor of its research.”

July 20, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Jean M. Twenge, a San Diego State psychologist, is delves into the religious practices of the age group she calls "Generation Me." Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 17, 2015

Demos, the Progressive Change Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers on Thursday released a checklist for evaluating debt-free college proposals, outlining what lawmakers and candidates should include when presenting policy plans on the topic. The requirements include making sure all undergraduates have access to debt-free colleges and having the plan apply to all college costs and not just tuition.

Several presidential candidates have made debt-free college one of their major policy points. But Hillary Clinton, who was recently endorsed by AFT, has not released any plans on debt-free college, although she is said to possibly present a plan on college affordability later this month. Of late, she has been speaking of "college affordability," not "debt-free college."

Randi Weingarten, the president of AFT, said the AFT questionnaire presented to all candidates as part of the endorsement process did not specifically address debt-free college but instead asked a broader question about college affordability. She said Clinton had supported President Obama's free community college plan and discussed states cutting support for higher education. Weingarten affirmed AFT’s stance on debt-free college, saying that they “are looking at all aspects of this, not just college affordability -- making sure the colleges students go to have the support and materials and funding that they need.”

July 17, 2015

With its enrollment having dropped by a quarter since 2010, Davenport University will close or merge several of its campuses in Michigan, MLive reported. The university's own news release about the changes focuses on the expansion of its campus in Grand Rapids, which is attracting increasing numbers of traditional-age students and will begin a football program next year, and the possible establishment of a campus in Detroit. But the release notes -- as the MLive article emphasizes -- that Davenport will shift its current campus operations in Flint and Kalamazoo to community colleges in those cities, merge its Saginaw operation into another nearby campus, and close its Battle Creek campus. Enrollment at the private nonprofit university has fallen from about 11,500 to about 8,500 since 2010, MLive reported.

July 17, 2015

Joseph Lee, who was named president of Pine Manor College two years ago, has left, with little word on why except that it was a "voluntary departure." Lee took over at Pine Manor as the small private women's college outside Boston started admitting men. A recent piece on WGBH News reviewed the college's financial challenges. On Thursday, the college announced that Rosemary Ashby, who was president from 1976 to 1996, would return as interim president.

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