Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Congressional negotiators are close to reaching agreement on a $1 trillion budget for the federal government in 2012, with a vote expected by the end of the week. The measure would draw from competing House and Senate budget plans to pay for the Pell Grant Program, enacting changes to both the grant program itself and to subsidized undergraduate student loans.

The six-month grace period on subsidized student loans, in which the government currently pays the interest after a borrower leaves college, would be eliminated, saving about $400 million for the fiscal year. The length of time over which a student can be eligible for a Pell Grant would reportedly also be cut to 12 semesters from the current 18, which would affect about 62,000 students, according to a lobbyist with a higher education association. Students without a high school diploma or equivalent credential will also reportedly be barred from receiving Pell Grants, and the family income at which the government would expect a recipient of federal financial aid to contribute nothing to the cost of his or her education would drop from $30,000 to $20,000 per year.

Senate Democrats had proposed the change to the interest rate subsidy; the other cuts were drawn from a House Republican budget plan. But other proposed cuts in the House plan would not be enacted, including a proposed change to the income protection allowance that the American Council on Education estimated could affect up to 400,000 students.

Full details on the final bill are expected today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 4:30am

The reactions haven't been positive to a new ad to recruit top science students to the University of Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the Canadian institution is embarrassed because the ad features bad chemistry. Students are portrayed with beakers or test tubes, apparently engaged in science. One woman is seen standing in front of images of molecules. The problem is that the images of the molecules would be obviously flawed to even a high school chemistry student. Some of the superscripts in the ad should be subscripts, some of the subscripts should be superscripts, some atoms have too many bonds and some don't have enough bonds, professors told the newspaper. Also, the woman seen studying chemistry is actually studying occupational therapy. Another professor reported that colleagues at the University of Montreal were making jokes about chemistry at the University of Ottawa.

 

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Biola University, like many institutions, holds a holiday party at which the president thanks all who work at the institution for their efforts. This year President Barry H. Corey took a nontraditional approach, inspired by the theme song of "The Brady Bunch":

 

 

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Ross T. Ashley has been identified as the man who shot and killed a police officer at Virginia Tech last week, and who then killed himself. Radford University, which is close to Virginia Tech, confirmed that Ashley had been a part-time student there as a business management major. Ashley is suspected in the theft of a Mercedes SUV, but authorities are still trying to figure out why he came to Virginia Tech and murdered a police officer there.

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 4:30am

An article in The Contra Costa Times explores the challenges California State University System campuses face due to high percentages of new students requiring remedial education. Starting next summer, those students will be required to take courses the summer before they enroll (either in person or online) with the goal of reducing the percentage who must focus much of their freshman year on remediation. Many faculty members, the newspaper reported, are skeptical that the summer program will be sufficient. "A 15-hour intervention is just not enough intervention when it comes to skills that should have been developed over 12 years," said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay.

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The Texas Association of Business is paying for billboard advertising that focuses on low graduation rates at community colleges, calling out institutions by name, The Texas Tribune reported. The first billboard ad ran in Austin and said of Austin Community College: "4% OF ACC STUDENTS GRADUATE IN 3 YEARS. IS THAT A GOOD USE OF TAX $? TX ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS." A new ad is focused on the community college district in Dallas.

Richard Rhodes, president of Austin Community College, said that the business group was using an inappropriate measure. He noted that only about 5.5 percent of the college's students are measured in the federal calculation of graduation rates. "People really have to understand the metrics and the data behind the metrics," Rhodes said in a college podcast. "There's a much larger story when we think about community college students and what their intent is and why they come here."

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Robin Bell of Columbia University explains the strange behavior of water beneath the glaciers of Antarctica. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


 
Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A panel of Division I college presidents has recommended that the National Collegiate Athletic Association cut the number of football scholarships in the top competitive level to 80 from 85, restrict the number of non-coaching staff members in some sports, and bar foreign tours by teams during the summer months, all to save money. The recommendations of the Resource Allocation Working Group, one of several panels appointed by President Mark Emmert to consider significant changes in NCAA rules, are to be voted on by the Division I Board of Directors at next month's NCAA convention. The panel is also proposing that the number of scholarships awarded at any time in Division I women's basketball be reduced to 13 from 15, and that the number of grants awarded by Football Championship Series teams drop to 60 from the current 63.

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Robert Berdahl was named Friday to serve as interim president of the University of Oregon, following the ouster of Richard Lariviere, who clashed with the State Board of Higher Education.  Lariviere's tenure in office will end this month. Berdahl has held several prominent positions in higher education, having served as president of the Association of American Universities, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, and president of the University of Texas. He also has strong ties to the University of Oregon, having served there earlier in his career as a history professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Berdahl has criticized the ouster of Lariviere -- and has backed the soon-to-be-former president's call for more autonomy for flagship universities that are part of state systems.

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, on Saturday kicked off a new effort to help women in Muslim nations study science at women's colleges in the United States. Through the program, the New York Academy of Sciences will provide the women with mentors, and participating women's colleges will provide financial assistance. "Today’s next Madame Curie could be sitting in a high school classroom in Cairo, Jakarta, or Mogadishu, yearning for opportunities to explore her potential. The United States is determined to help give her that chance," said Clinton, in announcing the new effort.

 

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