Enrollment in Reserve Officers Training Corps participation is up 27 percent over the last four years, The Los Angeles Times reported. The decisions of several elite colleges to restore ROTC units, in the wake of the Congressional vote requiring the end of military discrimination against gay people, have attracted widespread attention, but most of those units are expected to be small. Nationally, students are attracted to ROTC by the lucrative scholarships, and do not appear deterred by ongoing military actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Senate's education panel will hold another in a series of hearings about for-profit colleges next week -- and the committee's Republican members have made clear again that they view the hearings as one-sided and will not participate. Little is known at this point about the June 7 hearing, although its title -- "Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges" -- leaves little to the imagination. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has been persistently critical of commercial colleges, and has staged a set of hearings dating to last summer that focus on various aspects of their operations. In a letter to Harkin Tuesday, his Republican counterpart, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, reiterated earlier concerns that the panel is focusing on for-profit colleges when the underlying problems -- "the rising cost of higher education, student debt and student outcomes" -- exist "throughout all sectors of higher education.... [U]ntil the Majority demonstrates a sincere willingness to hold fair proceedings on higher education, we will not participate in any hearings on this issue."
Cornell University has proposed replacing temporary fences on the bridges over gorges that are omnipresent on the campus with wire mesh nets. The fences were installed last year after a cluster of suicides -- in which students killed themselves jumping into the gorges -- stunned the campus, and led to debate over whether fences were needed. The university said it needed to take action to stop suicides, but many complained that the fences were a constant reminder of the suicides and marred the natural beauty of the campus. A statement from Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said: "We've taken care to submit designs that will preserve the aesthetic value of the bridges and vistas. We believe the designs also will make vulnerable members of our community feel safer and reduce the incidence of a highly lethal and potentially contagious form of suicide."
The Faculty Senate at Cornell University voted this month to stop releasing median grades in courses, as the university has done since 1998. The vote followed research finding that students were using the information to select courses with higher median grades. Median grades will still be available to deans, department chairs and those doing research requiring the information.
Backlash continues against the news that some colleges are paying big bucks for graduation speakers. Legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would deduct from a state appropriation to a public college or university the size of any fee paid to a graduation speaker, The Star-Ledger reported. The move follows criticism of Rutgers University for paying author Toni Morrison $30,000 and Kean University for paying the singer John Legend $25,000 to appear this year. The universities say that students want big-name speakers. One of the legislators sponsoring the bill said that it should be "honor enough to be asked" to attract speakers.
Spending on "529" savings plans for college is up 75 percent in the last two years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state-sponsored plans provide tax breaks for contributions to various investment funds. The article attributed the surge to continued concern among families about college costs, but also to renewed confidence in the possibility of making money through investments.
Five weeks after a tornado forced Shaw University to end its spring semester early, the institution started a summer session on Monday, The News & Observer reported. Student housing on campus is still not available, but Saint Augustine's College is offering housing to Shaw students, and Shaw is providing shuttles between the two campuses.
Amid reports that legislators were not willing to back a plan for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to become independent of the Wisconsin system, Chancellor Biddy Martin acknowledged Friday that the idea -- which had her strong backing -- was unlikely to pass this year, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Martin backed the plan, arguing that Madison needs independence to thrive in an era of limited state funds. The rest of the university system, however, strongly objected, saying that the system functioned better for the state with Madison as a key part.
The leaders of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, are backing the right of students to wear burqas, The Independent reported. Union leaders argue that this right will assure that the universities are welcoming to people of all faiths.