Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 3:00am

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a Democrat, has ordered state higher education officials to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates as long as they receive work permits through President Obama's new program to eliminate their risk of deportation, The Boston Globe reported. Thousands of students may eventually benefit. Because these students aren't eligible for federal aid, non-resident tuition rates can be prohibitive for many of them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 3:00am

Administrators of intensive English programs are concerned about guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that could change the way colleges make conditional admission offers to international students. Conditionally admitted students typically must complete English language coursework as a prerequisite for entering their degree programs.

In such cases, many colleges have made it a practice to issue an I-20 certifying admission to the degree program in question. Recent verbal guidance from DHS suggests, however, that the institution must issue an I-20 for admission to the English language program instead. Patricia Juza, director of global programs at Baruch College and vice president for advocacy for the American Association of Intensive English Programs, said this could complicate efforts to attract top foreign students. “In some countries it has been easier for a student to get a visa if they have conditional admission to a degree program as opposed to an intensive English program,” said Juza. She added that government scholarship bodies also generally prefer that students have an admission offer -- conditional or not -- to a degree program in hand.

Officials at DHS' Student and Exchange Visitors Program said there’s been no change in policy, but that the agency is simply enforcing current guidelines stipulating that colleges can issue an I-20 only after the student meets a number of conditions, including that “the appropriate school authority has determined that the prospective student's qualifications meet all standards for admission” and “the official responsible for admission at the school has accepted the prospective student for enrollment in a full course of study.” A spokeswoman for DHS, Ernestine Fobbs, said that the department is refining its policy on this subject. She said new draft guidance on conditional admissions and pathway programs – which blend intensive English and academic coursework – will be posted for comment soon, likely before the end of the year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 4:23am

Pitzer College, known for environmental studies, and Robert Redford, the actor known for environmental activism, have teamed up to create a conservancy at the college that will promote study of and conservation of the environment in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times reported. The program will be housed on an old infirmary on 12 acres of land next to the college's campus. The land is a rare coastal sage scrub ecosystem, and students will work on preserving it as part of the program.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 3:00am

New York University has suspended its study abroad program in Tel Aviv. Participating students were evacuated to London on Sunday and have the choice of completing the fall semester at the New York campus or the university’s academic centers in London, Prague or Florence.

“We did not think our students and personnel were in proximate or imminent danger,” John Beckman, a NYU spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We wanted to avoid a situation where the students would get [to] the end of the semester and have difficulties returning home. Given that consideration, the high priority we always place on student safety, and our confidence that we were at a point in the semester where we could ensure they would be able to satisfactorily finish out the semester's work, we thought this was the prudent course.”

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Zachary Blount of Michigan State University explains how scientists have observed bacteria evolve new capabilities over thousands of generations. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

New Zealand's government is threatening to force Auckland University to admit more engineering students, while the university asserts that it shouldn't be forced to expand some programs and not others, The New Zealand Herald reported. The government has provided more funds to the university for this year, and designated the funds for engineering programs. But the university said that spending all of the money on engineering and other government priorities would have resulted in cuts to other programs.

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Maryland at College Park, a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is along with Rutgers University contemplating a switch to the Big Ten Conference, The Baltimore Sun and other publications reported. Newspaper reports indicated that the board of the University System of Maryland was scheduled to receive a written proposal Sunday about such a move, which, if consummated, would give the Big Ten 14 members. Big Ten officials had said as recently as September that they were contented having grown to 12 members this year, and Maryland officials had said they planned to stay in the Atlantic Coast. But Maryland was one of two institutions to oppose an increase to $50 million (from $20 million) in the fee imposed on members that leave the league. (The increase passed despite Maryland's opposition.) Rutgers is a member of the Big East Conference, which has been raided frequently in recent years.

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Colleges have long tried (with limited success) to make sure classes are in fact held on the Wednesdays before Thanksgiving break or the Fridays before various weeks off, but many professors have reported that they call off class in part because few students show up.

At the University of Florida this year, for the first time, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be an official holiday, but the university is now campaigning to be sure classes are held today and tomorrow. Some students are planning to be away for all of this week. But The Gainesville Sun reported that Bernard Mair, associate provost, told faculty members last week that they should not let vacations start early. "I'd just like to encourage you to reinforce that with your students and spread the word in your departments that Monday and Tuesday are not holidays," he told the Faculty Senate. "If students start to try to make that such, you should disabuse them of that idea."


Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

The Association of American University Presses on Friday named Peter Berkery Jr. as its next executive director. Berkery is currently serving as the vice president and publisher of the U.S. law division of Oxford University Press. He has previously worked as a lawyer and as an association official at the National Society of Accountants, the National Paint and Coatings Association, and the American Trucking Association.

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Jewish alumni of Queen’s University, in Ontario, are distressed by the institution’s decision to award former U.S. President Jimmy Carter an honorary degree due to his critical views on Israel, the National Post reported. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Carter Center for advancing human rights, wrote a 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that described Israel as an apartheid state.

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the organization has received about 50 complaints from Queen’s alumni. Of Carter, Fogel told the National Post, “He simply doesn’t meet the test of somebody that is seeking to offer a constructive contribution towards advancing peace. And it’s in that context that we’d express real disappointment that a leading institution like Queen’s would further legitimize or validate him by conferring on him this kind of award.”


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