Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 21, 2012

Congress still has not reached a deal to avert the combination of tax increases and spending cuts -- collectively known as the "fiscal cliff" -- that go into effect Jan. 2. Either a compromise on long-term deficit reduction and tax reform, or the spending cuts that will go into effect if a deal is not reached, will have big implications for federal financial aid and scientific research, as well as other programs important to higher education.

The spending cuts, known as sequestration, are required by the Budget Control Act, the compromise that increased the federal borrowing limit in August 2011. If Congress does not reach a deal, most domestic discretionary programs will be cut by 8.2 percent, including funds for federal research and for some financial aid programs, such as federal work-study. (The Pell Grant is exempt from the cuts in 2013.)

Also on Jan. 2, several tax breaks related to higher education will expire, chief among them the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which currently provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 for college tuition for up to four years. If not renewed, the tuition credit will be limited to two years and will drop to $2,000. The limit for contributing to Coverdell education savings accounts wil drop from $2,000 to $500 per year, and student loan interest will not be deductible for higher earners.

But colleges have found something to fear in proposed compromises as well -- especially those that suggest limiting charitable deductions, part of President Obama's plan to increase tax revenue.

Even if Congress does not reach a deal in time, few expect immediate effects at colleges, as an agreement in 2013 is likely to be retroactive.

December 21, 2012

Bobby Ukrop, a longtime supporter and trustee of the University of Richmond has quit the board amid debate over the institution's plan to replace soccer and track teams with lacrosse, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. He resigned after the board refused to reconsider the decision.

 

December 21, 2012

Official statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association suggest that steroid use is rare in college athletics. But an Associated Press investigation has found that many football players routinely gain 30 pounds or more of muscle a year, without any skepticism from their teams about possible steroid use. The investigation by the AP combined data on football players' weight with interviews with players and other experts, who described the ease with which athletes can escape detection for steroid use.

 

December 21, 2012

Carnegie Mellon police officers reported to Pittsburgh authorities that a threat had been made against Jared Cohon, the university's president, leading to 24-hour police presence at his home, The Tribune-Review reported. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspector, which investigates crimes committed through the mail, said that the agency is assisting in the investigation.

 

December 21, 2012

James E. Hunton, a prominent accounting professor at Bentley University, has resigned amid an investigation of the retraction of an article of which he was the co-author, The Boston Globe reported. A spokeswoman cited "family and health reasons" for the departure, but it follows the retraction of an article he co-wrote in the journal Accounting Review. The university is investigating the circumstances that led to the journal's decision to retract the piece.

 

December 21, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Connie Shemo of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh explains the connection between the women’s foreign mission movement of the early twentieth century and two pioneering female doctors. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

December 21, 2012

Late Wednesday the U.S. Senate passed legislation aimed at requiring colleges to be more transparent about how they serve veterans. The bill, which was approved during gridlock on Capitol Hill, had received broad support from veterans' groups, for-profit institutions and advocates for traditional higher education. First introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican, the legislation was less sweeping than a related Senate bill that quickly stalled.

December 20, 2012

City College of San Francisco is 3,000 students short of an enrollment threshold for state funding, which will lead to an expected budget hit of $6.5 million, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The embattled college, which is facing an accreditation crisis, will lay off 34 clerical workers, 20-30 part-time instructors and 18 part-time counselors to cope with the shortfall, and will also slash salaries for non-union employees. A CCSF trustee attributed the enrollment dip to bad planning by the college and an improving local economy.

December 20, 2012

Scientists in Spain have been holding protests all week over cuts to research budgets, Nature reported. Government spending on science has been cut by 39 percent since 2009. In Madrid, scientists released balloons to symbolize the departure of talent from the country.

 

December 20, 2012

Stanford University Press has started inviting authors to donate some or all of their royalties to a new fund with the goal of publishing more books by younger scholars. Alan Harvey, director of the press, said a few thousand dollars has been raised so far, and that more is likely -- especially when authors of some of the most popular books join the program. The funds will be set aside so that when the press is considering its ability to publish promising work by a young scholar, there is extra money available.

 

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