Higher Education Quick Takes
Daniel Strickland, an assistant professor of engineering at Santa Clara University, was tragically killed last fall. A feature in The San Francisco Chronicle details how several recently graduated students are staying on at Santa Clara to try to finish a project Strickland launched with the goal of improving the way power is provided in the developing world.
"Irregularities" have been found in an executive master's degree in business program of Baruch College of the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. While all details have not been released, the problems involve a program head accused by college officials of faking signatures of professors to improve the grades of some students who might otherwise have dropped out of the program. Students whose records were affected are being given the chance to make up work so that their degrees will not be affected.
A feature in The Los Angeles Times explores the role of the humanities and social sciences at the California Institute of Technology, which this year will see only one person graduate with a major in the humanities and social sciences who does not also have a major in the sciences. While it is rare to major in the humanities, many humanities courses are popular and Caltech requires students to take the equivalent of a humanities or social sciences course each semester. Warren Brown, who teaches medieval history, said: "These kids are going to become scientists, engineers and mathematicians, and they are going to move out into a world that often doesn't understand what they do, doesn't understand why it is important or tries to manipulate what they do for financial or political reasons.... These kids have to know they are moving out into a human society and have to understand how human society works."
Officials with the central office of the California Community Colleges have told San Francisco City College to stop paying trustees their $500 per meeting stipend when the trustees don't show up, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The college has long paid the trustees -- regardless of whether they attend or are on vacation or are otherwise unavailable, and many trustees miss meetings. The state office says the college may be violating state law, but the college says it is within its rights and that it plans to continue the practice.
A panel of finance experts met Thursday at an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute – called “Which way out? Confronting the problems of student loans” – to discuss increasing federal, institutional and student responsibility to combat massive student loan debt and high rates of default.
The panel comprised Richard George, chairman, president and CEO of the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, Art Hauptman, an independent public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance, and Edward Pinto and Alex Pollock, two AEI scholars focusing on housing and financial policies. Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University, moderated the event, and Bill Bennett, who was secretary of education under President Reagan, delivered an opening presentation.
The refrain of the discussion – that higher education institutions need to have “skin in the game” by paying a penalty when their students default on loans – is a familiar one in discussions of how to keep colleges from reaping all of the benefits and none of the costs of high tuition rates.
George also proposed that “vulnerable cohorts,” students more likely to drop out of college and default on their student loans, should not be allowed to borrow until they have demonstrated academic persistence toward finishing a degree; until that point, colleges should carry the cost burden for students. He said if colleges participated in this campaign that their “skin in the game” would carry less risk, as students more likely to default on their loans would have been weeded out before being allowed to borrow.
Bennett said it’s time to subject higher education to the same level of scrutiny given to K-12 education: “It’s time to look at the whole enterprise of higher education,” he said. “I expect resistance to that, but the questions are there, and more are coming.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $68.5 billion budget for the Education Department for fiscal year 2013 along party lines Thursday, but one big Obama administration initiative was missing: a "Race to the Top" for higher education intended to spur changes in state systems. The administration had requested $1 billion for the initiative, which would have been modeled on its competitive grant program for states' K-12 schools. The omission is particularly striking because the Democrat-controlled Senate has usually been supportive of the administration's higher education proposals.
The committee cited budget constraints as a rationale for not funding the program, and said Congress might take it up in future years. So far, legislators have held no hearings on the Race to the Top for higher education. "The committee notes that the concerns the administration has raised about rising college costs are very serious ones, and agrees that action is needed to reduce burdens on families and improve outcomes for students," the Appropriations Committee noted in its report.
The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment. Many fights lie ahead on spending for fiscal year 2013: Congress is considered unlikely to pass a budget before the November elections.
A new document leaked Thursday raises yet more questions about the ouster of Teresa Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia. Board members have suggested that Sullivan was not "bold" enough or engaged in the kind of strategic thinking that they wanted. But in the memo to board members, Sullivan said she had been explicitly told not to do a full strategic review, but went on to outline a series of strategic issues that needed addressing. Sullivan also outlined difficult challenges -- including a view that some departments at Virginia are resting on their laurels -- suggesting a willingness to ask tough questions. On campus Thursday, faculty members were saying that the memo suggested board members had been terribly unfair in their (minimal) explanations of their decision to seek a new president. The Daily Progress published information about the leaked memo.
Amid all the anger, someone has decided to make a humorous criticism of the university's board by offering it a "final exam." One of the multiple choice questions:
Instructure, the learning management provider, today announced a deal with the Cisco Networking Academy, an educational program of Cisco Systems that partners with universities, community colleges and high schools to prepare students for the company’s certification exams. Under the deal, Cisco Networking Academy would use Canvas, Instructure’s open-source learning management system, to deliver its I.T. courses to about 1 million students worldwide, according to a press release. It is a coup for the young company, which captured a modest 1.2 percent share of the LMS market last fall.