Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by the research arm of the North Carolina General Assembly suggests merging several of the state's smaller community colleges with larger ones to save $5 million. The report, written by the legislature's non-partisan Program Evaluation Division, has the state's community college system up in arms, and looking for other ways to cut costs.

Under the proposal, 22 small colleges (defined as institutions with enrollments under 3,000 full-time students) would become satellites of larger colleges nearby. Boards of trustees and advisors would be merged, allowing the state to save money on administration and staff. No campuses would be closed in the consolidations.

Scott Ralls, president of the state's community college system, says mergers would hurt colleges' ability to provide programs uniquely suited to their communities. Part of the strength of the system, he said, is the relationship each college has with local leadership and business owners, allowing them to tailor their services to the needs of students. "They're not just places where classes occur," said Ralls. "They're hubs of local leadership."

Ralls said the legislature often brings up proposals to consolidate colleges in the system when the economy is down, but "not to this extent." He says he is taking the proposal seriously, and is looking into other ways to cut costs. For now, he is hopeful that new measures to streamline the college's remedial and technical education programs, which go into effect next fall, will provide significant savings. But he's confident he can find $5 million in cuts if he needs. Last year, the system worked with legislators to make $115 million in reductions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 3:00am

In an era when many scholars worry about lack of attention and funds for the humanities, Duke and Stanford Universities on Tuesday announced separate, foundation-supported efforts in the humanities. Duke announced a five-year, $6 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the "Humanities Writ Large" initiative, which will support visiting scholars and new faculty appointments, undergraduate research, humanities labs, and support for interdisciplinary collaborations across departments and institutions. Stanford announced a $4 million endowment -- half of the funds from the family of an alumnus and the other half from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation -- to support top humanities graduate students.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 3:00am

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will provide a one-time grant of $3.16 million to help fill a gap left by cuts in federal funds for foreign doctoral study, the Institute for International Education announced Tuesday. IIE, which will administer the program, said the funds would aid about 80 humanities graduate students whose ability to conduct research overseas had been cut off by a reduction for the Education Department's Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 3:00am

A local police chief told The Daytona Beach News-Journal the circumstances that led Bethune-Cookman University to fire its men's basketball coach this week. According to the chief, Clifford Reed was dismissed after he refused to help police investigate a sexual assault charge involving C.J. Reed, the coach's son and a star player on the team. The assault report was made by a player on the university's women's basketball team, and no formal charges were brought against C.J. Reed. The investigation closed after the woman declined to follow through with her initial complaint. That complaint didn't identify her attacker, but authorities said C.J. Reed was the lone suspect. Authorities said that Clifford Reed would not allow detectives to question his son (when the case remained live), was rude to detectives and wouldn't let them take a DNA sample from a couch in the men's basketball locker room. Both Reeds declined to comment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh's Gary Brannigan examines why there is a limited window of opportunity to teach reading comprehension. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Washington Theological Union, a Roman Catholic seminary and graduate school, announced Monday that it "does not have the financial resources" to remain open after the 2012-13 academic year. The 40-year-old institution will enroll its last students this fall and operate long enough to see them through their studies, its officials said. Like many very small institutions, seminaries have been hard hit by the economic downturn of the last several years, and many have closed or looked to merge.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Hundreds of people rallied in Vancouver Sunday to back Rumana Manzur, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia who was blinded in an attack while visiting family members in Bangladesh -- an attack for which her husband has been arrested. The Vancouver Sun reported that participants said they wanted to express public support for Manzur, draw attention to domestic violence and show that the problem is not unique to South Asia.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Two major funders of biomedical research and Germany's leading scholarly society said Monday that they would create what they described as a top-quality, open access journal -- though many of the details of the new venture have yet to be nailed down. Officials from the The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Britain's Wellcome Trust and the Max Planck Society said that their plan had grown from discussions with leading scientists in 2010 in which they expressed desire for a new, more efficient and more financially independent form of scholarly publishing. Although many aspects of the new entity remain uncertain -- including its title, editor and business model -- it is expected to have several unusual features, in addition to being published only online.

The journal's backers said they did not expect to charge authors fees to publish their work (as do some journals that do not charge readers); apart from an editor-in-chief, filtering of submissions are to be done by a board of working scientists, rather than by professional editors (according to Science magazine), and the peer review and editing process is designed to be much faster than normal. "The ethos of the journal will be to avoid asking authors to make extensive modifications or perform endless additional experiments before a paper can be published," Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said in a news release about the venture.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The Senate will hold its first-ever hearing on the DREAM Act Tuesday morning, nearly ten years after the proposal — which would give undocumented immigrants a path to legal status by pursuing a college degree or joining the military — was first introduced.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will join Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano and Department of Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stanley will be talking about the military benefits of passing the act.

In a teleconference with the media on Monday afternoon, Duncan acknowledged that the main purpose of the hearing is to raise awareness, and he emphasized the need to “educate Americans” on the benefits of bringing some undocumented immigrants into the workforce.

“We need to summon the courage and political will (to pass it),” Duncan said. “We need the human potential.”

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act has been introduced in every Congressional session since 2001 — sometimes as a standalone bill, and sometimes as a part of other legislation — and failed each time. It was re-introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in May.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The City University of New York Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution Monday to introduce a new general education framework for and streamline student transfer among the system's numerous two- and four-year institutions. The resolution calls for a 42-credit general education framework, consisting of a 30-credit "common core" among all the system's institutions and a 12 "college-option" credits that are to be designated by each four-year institution. Currently, general education requirements vary by campus from 39 to 63 credits. The resolution also stipulates that student’s electives taken at any CUNY institutions will transfer with full credit to any other CUNY institution. Matthew Goldstein, CUNY chancellor, noted that the new framework “will strengthen and lift the quality of education at our community colleges and help align coursework more consistently with the senior colleges, further enhancing opportunities for student advancement.” CUNY faculty were divided on the changes; most four-year faculty argued that the smaller general education framework would limit institutional autonomy to set curriculum, while some two-year faculty were sympathetic to the easing transfer for their students.


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