The governing board for California's 112 community colleges on Monday approved a policy of systemwide priority enrollment for students who have an educational plan in place and are working toward a credential or toward transferring. The proposal, which marks a substantial shift for a system with history of open access, was one of a set of recommendations last year by a state task force. The priority enrollment plan, while controversial, has also been praised for being a completion-oriented means of coping with deep budget cuts.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced it was seeking proposals for the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to serve as remedial and other general education courses, which are often stumbling blocks for lower income students. The foundation said in its request for proposals that it hopes to encourage high-quality MOOCs that could help improve college completion rates. Currently, most MOOCs are geared to upper-division classes. "Ultimately, our vision is that MOOCs may provide institutions a way to blend MOOC content into formal courses with more intensive faculty, advising and peer support and also provide students an alternative and direct path to credit and credentials," the foundation said.
The University of Rochester has announced that it will no longer require all undergraduate applicants to submit either the SAT or ACT, but they will still have to submit some test. Others that might be used include the SAT subject exams, Advanced Placement tests or International Baccalaureate tests. In a statement, Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid, said: "Many prospective students 'test well' on general standardized exams, and bring that ability to campus, while some are best at mastering specific material in subjects that interest them most, and bring that diligence and focus. Both kinds of students can thrive at Rochester, and both will do best when they find each other here and develop many ways to collaborate and challenge each other."
Two House of Representatives committees announced a joint hearing Wednesday on the National Labor Relations Board's agenda in higher education. Congressional Republicans have frequently clashed with the NLRB on issues outside of higher education. But now the NLRB is exploring the right to collective bargaining for graduate students and faculty members at private colleges. A statement announcing the hearing said: "Higher education officials are concerned the NLRB’s efforts to impinge into postsecondary schools could lead to reduced academic freedom and higher costs for students."
As more colleges -- public and private -- are coming to rely on community college transfers, four-year institutions are doing more to welcome them, The Los Angeles Times reported. Four-year institutions are creating special orientation programs for transfers, setting aside space in campus housing, creating clubs and offering scholarships.
A Towson University student who sparked debate last year by founding a chapter of Youth for Western Civilization is now trying to create a White Student Union, The Baltimore Sun reported. The group he created last year has fallen apart after losing its faculty adviser. L. Victor Collins, assistant vice president of student affairs for diversity, said the proposed group would be evaluated like all others, based on non-political criteria. While Collins said he supported the group's First Amendment rights, he questioned the need for a white organization. "They think they are a parallel comparison to the Black Student Union," he said. "In my observation in American society and history, I don't know if white students have been discriminated against or denied access to institutions. This is a predominantly white institution. I don't understand why they have to [form a group]."
Campaigns by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Native American groups have led most universities that had Native American team names to eliminate them. But Eastern Michigan University, one of those universities, is bringing back (in part) use of the Hurons logo that was replaced with Eagles in 1991, The Detroit News reported. The marching band will now have uniforms that include the Eagles, the Hurons and the Normalites (the original logo). Officials say that they are not violating the NCAA ban (because of an exemption for historical uses of old names) and that the use of all three mascots on the uniform will unite alumni from different eras. Some alumni who remain loyal to the Hurons name are cheering the shift. But Fay Givens, director of American Indian services, said, "I don't like native people being used as mascots in any situation."
In today’s Academic Minute, Nancy Kiang of Columbia University’s Earth Institute explains a recent discovery that hints at the potential color of extraterrestrial plant life. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The debt collection industry is benefiting from the large numbers of people in default on their student loans, The New York Times reported. In the last fiscal year, the U.S. Education Department paid collection agencies more than $1.4 billion to try to collect debts. Critics argue that the government should be doing more to help borrowers avoid default, rather than focusing on collecting the debts. The article opens with a column from a collection industry trade publication in which the author describes attending a rally at New York University at which students angry about debt wore T-shirts with their large, personal debt totals on them -- $95,000, $60,000 and so forth. "As I wandered around the crowd of NYU students at their rally protesting student debt at the end of February, I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represented – for our industry," the columnist wrote. "It was lip-smacking."