Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 3, 2012

The preeminence of American science and technology is at risk and requires "bold investments," according to a report issued Friday by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The report notes that other countries are improving their research infrastructures, and that corporate support of research in the United States is increasingly focused on "near-term results," and not the basic research that can ultimately be more transformative.

Among the recommendations in the report;

  • Long-term growth in research and development spending such that it increases from 2.9 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent.
  • New efforts by the administration and Congress to promote the "stability and predictability" of federal research support.
  • Immigration reform to make it possible for those from abroad who graduate with science and technology degrees to stay in the United States.
  • Significant improvements in science and technology education at the undergraduate level.

 

December 3, 2012

The board of Wilson College has been expected to vote Saturday on whether to accept a controversial plan to admit men to the residential undergraduate program, but announced instead that the board was delaying a decision until January. An announcement from the board said that it needed more time to consider the options. The college has only about 300 women in the residential program, and although men are admitted to other programs, Wilson's identity has been as a women's institution. A panel recommended a number of steps, such as a tuition cut, along with coeducation, to attract more students. Barbara K. Mistick, the president of the college, has warned that Wilson's finances are precarious and that few high school seniors these days seek out a women's college, making it difficult to attract the size of student body that would sustain the institution. In an interview after Saturday's announcement, she said that she backs the coeducation plan and believed enrollment could double within five or six years if men are admitted.

Students and alumnae, however, have criticized the coeducation plan. They have questioned whether the college will attract men in large numbers and have said that they fear losing Wilson's mission as an institution that nurtures young women.

December 3, 2012

Saudi Arabia's Cultural Mission to the United States has banned Saudi students from enrolling in an English language program at Southern Utah University, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The program is currently investigating allegations that it looks the other way at plagiarism and has lax academic standards to keep foreign students enrolled. Saudi students make up 158 of the 182 students enrolled.

December 3, 2012

Emmanuel Christian Seminary, the Tennessee college that cited financial concerns as one reason for threatening to fire a tenured professor for cause earlier this year, has received a $3 million gift from a donor, the largest in the college's history. Emmanuel's president told Chris Rollston, a professor of Old Testament and Semitic studies, that he should look for work elsewhere because his liberal theological views were offending students and prospective donors. Rollston's status at Emmanuel is still in flux, but the college announced the gift, from an unnamed Christian donor, to students earlier this week..

The money will be used for debt reduction and could hasten a merger between Emmanuel and its neighbor, Milligan College, which both institutions have said they are exploring. "Since the discussions between Milligan and Emmanuel began, Emmanuel has been blessed with a significant gift from a donor who has designated these funds to go toward relieving their debt," Milligan said in a statement. "Both institutions are grateful for God’s provision through this donor." A letter of intent between both institutions has begun the due diligence that could lead to a merger, Emmanuel announced.

 
December 3, 2012

Giving students and parents targeted information about colleges' pricing and outcomes is a worthy goal that could improve their decision-making about higher education, the Center for American Progress says in a report released today. But the federal government's process for developing its "College Scorecard" has fallen well short in practice, says the report, which offers a slew of recommendations for how the government could rework the document, particularly with advice from actual consumers. Among the report's findings are that the government should: test ways of communicating the concept of “net price”; emphasize four-year graduation rates, not six-year rates, if further testing confirms that the shorter time-frame is more relevant to students’ decision-making; and develop alternative measures of student debt that matter to students if further testing confirms that traditional measures such as repayment rate or default rate are not meaningful to students.

December 3, 2012

Peter F. Burnham, former president of Brookdale Community College, in New Jersey, was sentenced Friday to five years in jail for using college funds to pay for $44,000 in personal expenses, and for accepting $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for his son to attend Monmouth University when his son's tuition was already covered by financial aid, The Daily Record reported. The prosecutor, Christopher Gramiccioni, said that Burnham was arrogant in thinking he could do whatever he wanted with college funds. "He was the king, and everyone else were his subjects,” he said. Burnham won one concession in sentencing: He will be allowed to have $36,000 that the college owes him for unused vacation days applied to the restitution of $44,497 that he was ordered to pay.

December 3, 2012

The French higher education minister has replaced the interim director of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, an elite institute of political science commonly known as Sciences Po, The New York Times reported

The school’s longtime director, Richard Descoings, died in April. He is credited with increasing the institution’s international profile, to the degree that 40 percent of students come from outside France. However, the national audit office recently completed an investigation of the school's finances from 2005-10, raising questions about Descoings’ compensation – about $700,000 per year – “weak internal and external controls,” abuse of credit cards by staff, “toxic loans” for faculty housing, and the practice of paying some professors more than others, despite the fact that they taught fewer hours.

The Times notes that the controversy seems to stem in part from Descoings’ attempts to recruit top talent. As the newspaper explains, “French professors are civil servants, whose salaries and working hours are strictly controlled. It was difficult for Mr. Descoings to recruit the faculty he wanted without offering the kind of arrangements, on pay and teaching load, that were criticized by the auditors.”

Hervé Crès, a deputy to Descoings and the faculty pick for Science Po’s directorship, has been replaced by Jean Gaeremynck, the head of the finance section for the Council of State.

December 3, 2012

Chris Krumm, the son of a faculty member at Casper College, shot and killed his father with a bow and arrow on Friday while his father was teaching at the Wyoming institution, The Casper Star-Tribune. While the father -- Jim Krumm -- died from the wounds from that single shot, he struggled with his son, allowing students to escape the room. Just before coming to the classroom, Chris Krumm had gone to his father's home and killed Heidi Arnold, an instructor at Casper who lived with Jim Krumm. Chris Krumm killed himself after killing his father. Casper College has created a memorial page with information about the career of Jim Krumm, who taught computer science, and Arnold, who taught mathematics.

 

November 30, 2012

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed bill that would create up to 55,000 new visas for foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which allocates spots to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

This is a second attempt: a motion to suspend House rules in order to consider the STEM Jobs Act failed 257-158 in September. (Such a motion requires a two-thirds majority.) Although there is bipartisan support for increasing the number of visas available to foreign scientists who have been educated at U.S. universities, Democrats have opposed eliminating diversity visas. The White House announced its opposition to the Stem Jobs Act earlier this week. NAFSA: The Association of International Educators is also opposed to passage of the bill, which, the association says, "perpetuates a divisive, us-versus-them approach to immigration reform.”

“NAFSA supports the goal of creating a direct path to green cards for graduates of U.S. institutions of higher education, including but not limited to the STEM fields. Talented, innovative people are found in all fields, and all who are prepared to become productive members of our society and to contribute to our economy should be welcome. We do not support creating a new path for international students by eliminating another immigration program,” the association said in a statement on Thursday.

November 30, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Diana Deutsch of the University of California at San Diego discusses the genetic and cultural factors that give some people perfect pitch. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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