Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Birmingham, in Britain, has withdrawn a job advertisement seeking people to be unpaid research assistants, Times Higher Education reported. Birmingham withdrew the ad after the university was criticized for not paying people in the position. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, said that not paying researchers “undermines the principles of equal pay and is discriminatory."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 3:00am

A new poll of 1,000 adults -- released by Widmeyer Communications -- has mixed results for those in higher education. About 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they believed college was a good investment, with only 12 percent disagreeing, and the rest saying they didn't know. But the poll found Americans split on whether college is as valuable today as it was 20 years ago, with 46 percent agreeing, and 41 percent disagreeing -- despite countless statements from educators that college is more necessary today than at previous points in American history.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 3:00am

All of the sports except one that were slated for elimination at the University of Maryland at College Park were officially terminated Monday, after seven of eight failed to reach the necessary fund-raising goals to stay alive. But men’s outdoor track and field still must meet “a number of other benchmarks” to keep the sport on the books, the athletic department said in a statement. The university said in November it would cut a third of its sports teams to help mitigate a budget deficit that last year had the athletic department borrowing more than $1 million from the institution. The teams that will not return are men’s cross country, women’s outdoor track, men’s and women’s outdoor track, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, women’s acrobatics and tumbling, and women’s water polo.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The Institute for Higher Education Policy has devised a new classification system to measure the performance and characteristics of for-profit colleges and universities. The framework is an attempt to look at for-profits in a less monolithic way, said Michelle Asha Cooper, the institute's president, and also to be "more outcomes-specific" when tracking the sector. One key measure is a look at markets where for-profits have expanded their operations, and the relative affluence of those markets. Parts of California, for example, have seen rapid growth, according to the system's accompanying report.

The target audience for the framework is lawmakers, Cooper said, adding that it could be used to help inform state-level policies. However, Cooper said findings gleaned from the system are likely to be complex and difficult to generalize. "It doesn't put institutions in neat little buckets," she said.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 4:25am

In March, hundreds of students at Central Connecticut State University held a rally to back Alexandra Pennell, a student who told the crowd that she had been receiving notes in her dormitory room attacking her for being a lesbian. Now Pennell has been expelled from the university and faces numerous criminal charges that she faked the notes, The Hartford Courant reported. Police who were investigating Pennell's allegations installed (with her knowledge) a camera to try to identify who was leaving the notes. Twice the camera was turned off, and during one of those times, a note arrived. Authorities then installed another camera in a hall closet and recorded Pennell leaving the notes herself. Her lawyer declined to comment.

 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 4:28am

California students have struggled (without much success) to win tuition freezes in public higher education. Now a graduate of the University of California at Irvine is trying a new tactic that could succeed where others have failed. He is collecting signatures on a petition for a referendum to the California Constitution that would require public colleges and universities to keep tuition rates at the level that students pay when they first enroll, The Los Angeles Times reported. So colleges and universities could increase the rates each year for new students, but not continuing students. "It's an unsettling and uncertain feeling when you think you are going to afford something and just skate by and suddenly somebody asks for more money you don't have. You feel you are going to lose your investment. You feel you are going to lose your future," said Christopher Campbell, who is organizing the campaign. California higher education leaders are skeptical, and Campbell still needs many more signatures. But such a proposal, if it qualifies for the ballot, could be popular.

 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Heather Mattila of Wellesley College reveals how the health of a bee colony is related to the sexual behavior of the queen. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, July 2, 2012 - 3:00am

In a new report the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning describes various "showcase" models of competency-based degree programs, which are efficient at eliminating redundant coursework or unnecessary degree requirements. There are a variety of sound approaches to competency-based education, the report found, which ensure the quality of a degree by focusing on outcomes rather than the amount of time students spend on coursework. The council also encourages the use of student assessments, which can be used to measure students' prior learning.

Monday, July 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Businesses owned by two trustees of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board were awarded contracts for nearly $14 million from system universities in the last five years, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Guido Pichini, one of the trustees, said that there was nothing wrong with the practice. "They went through the bidding process without me. I don’t oversee any of the contracts," he said. Celestino Pennoni, the other trustee, did not respond to requests for comment.

Monday, July 2, 2012 - 3:00am

On the last business day before the interest rate was scheduled to double on new federally subsidized student loans, Congress approved a bill to keep the interest rate at 3.4 percent for another year. The extension, which cost about $6 billion, was included as part of a highway bill that passed both houses with large majorities.

However, some changes to the student loan program took effect Sunday. Subsidized loans for graduate students, cut last August in the deal to increase the federal debt ceiling, are no longer available. And the "grace period" on subsidized undergraduate loans -- under which the government paid the interest for six months after students left college -- has been eliminated as well.

Also, students receiving Pell Grants lose eligibility after 12 semesters, not 18 -- including those already in the program who have passed the limit.

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