Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 28, 2013

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. The new gift brings his lifetime giving to Hopkins to $1.18 billion -- making him the first person to top $1 billion in gifts to an American college or university. The new funds will be used for two primary purposes. The bulk of the money will be used to endow professorships for interdisciplinary work in vital areas. The initial appointments will be in water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning, and urban revitalization.

The university will use $100 million from the gift for need-based aid for undergraduates. Hopkins is among the more prominent private universities in the United States that have not declared a need-blind admissions policy (meaning that applicants are reviewed and admitted without regard to financial need). Ronald Daniels, the president, has stated that he has a goal of making Hopkins need-blind. An article in The New York Times about Bloomberg's relationship with Hopkins said that he has financed 20 percent of need-based financial aid for undergraduates in recent years.


January 25, 2013

A report from a panel of higher education experts, including college presidents and foundation leaders, has called for changes to simplify federal financial aid in a white paper released Thursday. The white paper, "The American Dream 2.0," published by HCM Strategists, a public policy consulting group, is part of a larger effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to recommend changes to financial aid to boost completion rates.

The group includes many familiar names -- among its members are Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, and Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and new Purdue University president -- and many of its recommendations are familiar by now as well. In its final report, the group deplores college completion rates (about half of all first-time, full-time students do not graduate within six years), recommends that colleges pay more attention to the needs of nontraditional students, and says that the financial aid system should be easier to navigate and more transparent. The group calls for strengthening the bedrock Pell Grant Program for needy students, and streamlining multiple grants and tax credits. The report also says the federal government should encourage colleges to innovate and invest more heavily in research on financial aid's effectiveness.

The report also says that colleges should link aid "to the extent possible" to outcomes for students and graduates. Accompanying the report were polling data that suggested voters are supportive of higher education, but more aware of (and concerned about) student debt levels than they are about the college dropout rate.

Since several commission members are the leaders of organizations preparing reports of their own as part of the Gates initiative, HCM's effort could represent the closest the different groups will get to consensus on changes to financial aid. Several more organizations are expected to issue their white papers next week.

January 25, 2013

A white paper from the Committee for Economic Development, another entry in an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to redesign federal financial aid to focus on completion, calls for a radical change to student aid: turning the Pell Grant and other need-based aid into block grants for states. The paper, "A New Partnership: The Road to Reshaping Federal & State Financial Aid," calls for requiring states to match 20 percent of federal funds with need-based aid of their own. States would also be required to hold down tuition at public institutions in order to be eligible for federal aid. Grants would be portable across state lines.

The report, one of many released this month from organizations that received Gates grants, proposes the biggest changes so far of any Gates recipient. It also calls for eliminating tax credits for higher education and automatically enrolling student loan recipients in income-based repayment, both ideas that other groups have also proposed.

January 25, 2013

Dolours Price, who was once a key figure in the Irish Republican Army, was found dead in her home Thursday, and her death could change a fight over oral history records held at Boston College, the Associated Press reported. Scholars have been fighting to prevent the papers about the conflict in Northern Ireland from being turned over to British authorities, who have demanded access to the documents, saying that they are needed for criminal investigations. Many scholars have urged courts to block the records' release, saying that pledges to those interviewed -- including Price -- to maintain their confidentiality for set periods of time should not be broken. It is unclear how the death of Price -- which some are suggesting was suicide -- will affect the legal issues of the case, an appeal of which has been filed by researchers with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ed Moloney, who led the collection of the oral history records, and Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, pledged to continue to fight the release of the papers. "Throughout the last two years of our fight to prevent her interviews being handed over to the police in Belfast, our greatest fear was always for the health and wellbeing of Dolours,’’ Moloney and McIntyre said in a statement. ‘‘Now that she is no longer with us, perhaps those who initiated this legal case can take some time to reflect upon the consequences of their action.’’


January 25, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh Press is printing new copies of two collections of poetry by Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet selected by President Obama, and the press is preparing to release a new volume, which will include the inaugural poem, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Orders are coming in fast. The books currently available from Pitt are City of a Hundred Fires and Looking for the Gulf Motel.



January 25, 2013

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the launch of the 100,000 Strong Foundation, which aims to expand opportunities for American students to learn Mandarin and study abroad in China. The foundation, housed at American University, in Washington, D.C., grows out of a U.S. State Department initiative to increase the number of Americans studying in China to 100,000 over four years. According to the latest numbers available, 14,596 Americans studied in China in 2010-11, representing a 4.9 percent increase from the previous year.

“What we’re trying to do as a foundation is to create a permanent, independent infrastructure around supporting study abroad and the study of Mandarin,” said Carola McGiffert, president of the 100,000 Strong Foundation and formerly a senior adviser to the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the State Department. 

The foundation is being established with $2 million in seed funding -- $1 million each from the Ford and Florence Fang Family Foundations. McGiffert said first steps will include launching a media campaign to promote study in China and raising funds for scholarships.

January 25, 2013

ITT Technical Institute is the latest for-profit higher education provider to go big with scholarships. The institute's holding company announced in an earnings call on Thursday that it hopes to expand a pilot program to all of its campuses by the end of the year. Company officials said early returns showed that discounting tuition has had a positive impact on student enrollment. The scholarship reduces net tuition to $28,000 from $44,000, according to a written statement from Trace Urdan, an analyst with Wells Fargo Securities.

January 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Emile van der Zee of the University of Lincoln reveals how dogs attach names to objects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


January 24, 2013

The Heritage Hall Museum, in Alabama, has canceled a short of work by Troy University faculty members. The Daily Home reported that some of the art caused offense. "It was supposed to be a group exhibit for Troy University’s communication/fine arts/design program," a museum official said. "There were nine artists that contributed, and the theme was ‘A Sense of Place.’ There was a piece by Ed Noriega that showed cans of Ajax, I guess, that had been relabeled, and had swastikas on the top. There were also some digitally altered images of the Virgin Mary holding a dead chicken in one hand and a broom and dust pan in the other. But the biggest problem was with the swastikas.” The art work with the swastikas was about Alabama's immigration laws, considered "ethnic cleanser" measures by the artist.


January 24, 2013

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor leading its inquiry into whether it inappropriately handled the federal prosecution of Aaron Swartz has provided some details on the investigation. In an open letter published in The Tech, MIT's student newspaper, Hal Abelson pledged a full and open inquiry, and said that the issues were extremely important. "This matter is urgently serious for MIT," Abelson wrote. "The world respects us not only for our scholarship and our science, but because we are an institution whose actions are and always have been guided by the highest ideals and the most thoughtful judgment. Our commitment to those ideals is now coming into question. At last Saturday’s memorial, Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman described his mental state: 'He faced indifference from MIT, an institution that could have protected him with a single public statement and refused to do so, in defiance of all of its own most cherished principles.'"

Abelson also announced the creation of a website on which MIT students and faculty members can suggest questions that the review should consider. The site can be viewed by people without MIT affiliations, but they may not contribute.





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