Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The government of Brazil on Tuesday announced a program that will offer 75,000 scholarships and fellowships for Brazilian students and researchers abroad -- with funding of just over $2 billion. The funds will support students and researchers in science and technology fields, and include funds for undergraduates, doctoral students, and scientists starting their careers in Brazil and for researchers from other countries interested in working in Brazil or with scholars from the country.

 

 

 

Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- In a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to keeping the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550 in fiscal year 2012, although the grants are the main reason the Education Department's requested budget has increased 20 percent since 2010. "We desperately want to preserve that maximum Pell Grant," Duncan said, adding that the administration has made "tough calls," including ending year-round Pell Grants and proposing the end of interest subsidies on graduate student loans, in order to make that possible.

Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican member of the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, responded that the department would have to prioritize. "How are we going to pay for this? That's the bottom line," Shelby said. "What are your priorities in the Department of Education? ... You're going to have to make some decisions."

Although much of the hearing was devoted to elementary and secondary education programs, Duncan also responded to Senator Dick Durbin, a frequent critic of for-profit education who called proprietary colleges a "Ponzi scheme" that made him less willing to vote for federal financial aid programs. "We've tried to move in the right direction, and seen significant changes in behavior," Duncan said of the department's program integrity rules. "I think this is going the right way, and I feel much more comfortable in our investments in grants and loans -- more comfortable today than before we did our regulation."

Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 3:00am

A full quarter of colleges students would rather wear a chastity belt than a backpack. This according to research commissioned by Kno, Inc., a software company that sells e-textbooks optimized for mobile devices. Absent any evidence that students want e-textbooks instead the printed kind, Kno's study focused on what students don't want: backpacks full of heavy print volumes that can be easily lost. In a survey of 506 students at four-year institutions, conducted by the marketing research firm Kelton Research, the company says that 25 percent give up sex for year to alleviate the burden of hauling their textbooks around for four years. More than a third said they would stay home on Saturday night for a whole semester. "The findings of the study show a shift in perception from college students and lend new light to the future of digital learning," the company declared in its press release.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- In a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to keeping the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550 in fiscal year 2012, although the grants are the main reason the Education Department's requested budget has increased 20 percent since 2010. "We desperately want to preserve that maximum Pell Grant," Duncan said, adding that the administration has made "tough calls," including ending year-round Pell Grants and proposing the end of interest subsidies on graduate student loans, to make that possible.

Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, responded that the department would have to prioritize. "How are we going to pay for this? That's the bottom line," Shelby said. "What are your priorities in the Department of Education?... You're going to have to make some decisions." Although much of the hearing was devoted to elementary and secondary education programs, Duncan also responded to Senator Richard Durbin, a frequent critic of for-profit education who called proprietary colleges a "Ponzi scheme" that made him less willing to support federal financial aid programs. "We've tried to move in the right direction, and seen significant changes in behavior," Duncan said of the department's program integrity rules. "I think this is going the right way, and I feel much more comfortable in our investments in grants and loans -- more comfortable today than before we did our regulation."

Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Association of Community Colleges has released a report on community college students and Pell Grants. Among the findings:

  • Nearly 80 percent of Pell Grant recipients attending community colleges in 2009–10 had family incomes of less than 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold, and 60.7 percent were below the poverty threshold for a family of four ($20,000).
  • In 2009–10, 98.3 percent of Pell recipients at community colleges had allowable costs associated with attending college in excess of $6,000, and 91.9 percent had allowable costs in excess of $9,000.
  • Whereas only 40 percent of community college students enroll full time, nearly double that percentage of community college students receiving a Pell Grant were enrolled full time in 2009–10.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Twenty-eight universities are today launching a new high-speed computer network that will be available to everyone in their surrounding communities, The New York Times reported. The effort is designed to encourage economic growth in those areas. The project, known as GigU, includes Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Duke and Howard Universities and the Universities of Chicago, Michigan and Washington.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Florida Governor Rick Scott has started talking to appointees to college and university boards about embracing the controversial ideas being pushed in Texas to reform higher education, WCTV News reported. Governor Scott is a fan of Texas Governor Rick Perry, a fellow Republican whose allies are behind many of the reforms. Many of the Texas changes focus on measuring faculty work, and Governor Scott said that was a priority. "One of the things I really like about what he has in there is the fact that we should be measuring our professors," Scott told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday. "I believe students ought to be measuring the effectiveness of our professors because ultimately, it is the families' money paying for this. We really ought to have a measurement system [that is] student-centered."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Washburn University has agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a lawsuit filed last year by two former senior administrators, who charged that the institution's president had fired them because they had cooperated with a review of his performance by board members. Wanda Hill and Robin Bowen, formerly vice presidents for administration and for academic affairs, respectively, at Washburn, sued the Kansas public institution a few months after they were fired last spring. They alleged that President Jerry B. Farley had dismissed them because he considered them disloyal for having shared information with board members about issues related to controversial spending and other topics. Farley declined to discuss the situation with Inside Higher Ed at the time, but told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he disputed the allegations. In a settlement agreement, published by the local newspaper on Monday, Washburn will pay $130,000 to Bowen and $82,500 to Hill (and to their lawyers), and Farley will write a general letter of recommendation for both women. Washburn admits no wrongdoing in the agreement. Hill is now vice president for finance and CFO at Sierra Nevada College; Bowen is vice president for academic affairs at Fitchburg State University.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:00am

An article in The Boston Globe explores how a scholarly idea can take off -- and then come under sustained scrutiny. The idea is that certain traits such as smoking, obesity and loneliness are contagious and spread through social networks. It was promoted in 2007 articles by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University's medical school and James Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. But while the article captured considerable attention beyond academe at the time, it has come under much questioning of late in a series of scholarly papers. Among the criticisms: that the original work didn't adequately rule out explanations beyond social networks for the spread of these traits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Four universities in Pennsylvania are among the 10 postsecondary institutions in the United States that bought the most "green power," according to a list published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The University of Pennsylvania topped the list, purchasing about 200 million kilowatt hours -- nearly half of its total electricity -- in the form of solar and wind power. Penn's Philadelphia neighbor, Drexel University, appears fifth on the list, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is listed third, and Pennsylvania State University is sixth.

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