Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2013

Dartmouth College has called off classes for today to discuss the college's "commitment to fostering debate that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse, and the value of diverse opinions." A series of programs, featuring faculty members and a diversity and social justice consultant, will be held. The college's decision follows a series of threats received by students online -- some citing the students' sexual orientation or race, college officials told the Associated Press. The threats followed a protest in which some students interrupted a program for high school students who have been admitted to Dartmouth. The protesters chanted "Dartmouth has a problem," and said that the college wasn't doing enough to prevent homophobia, racism and sexual assault on campus. The online threats were subsequently posted -- some against students who had participated in that protest, and some against other students.

 

 

April 24, 2013

The Cooper Union, an art, engineering and design college in New York City, announced Tuesday that its board voted to charge tuition to undergraduates for the first time since 1902. That decision is likely to spark controversy among the institution's alumni, who have been fighting the idea since it was raised in 2011. The college will cut in half the full tuition scholarships it offers its students starting in the fall of 2014, leaving a tuition bill of about $20,000 a year, but administrators said they would continue to provide need-based aid, including full tuition scholarships for students eligible for federal Pell Grants.

The move toward charging tuition began 18 months ago, when newly installed Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha announced that the college would seek new revenues to make up for an escalating structural deficit that had grown to about a quarter of the institution's operating budget. The deficit was driven by a combination of an increase in the cost of educating students and a decrease in the average return on the institution's endowment, which includes rents on the Chrysler Building.

A year ago Bharucha announced that the college could start a series of fee-based graduate, online and continuing education programs, as well as ramp up fund-raising, to generate the needed revenue. But given the size of the deficit and the minimal revenue potential of those programs, many Cooper Union students and alumni felt like the college was moving toward charging undergraduates.

 

April 23, 2013

The New York City campus being created by Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology on Monday announced a $133 million gift from Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Cornell alumni who are longtime givers to their alma mater and to the Technion. The new technology-oriented campus was the result of a competition organized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

April 23, 2013

The presidents of the 15 universities that compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference said Monday that they had signed a "grant of rights" that would effectively block any of them from leaving the conference for 15 years, which could slow what has been an overheated series of conference-switching moves. The agreement would mean that any institution that left the conference would forfeit to the ACC its rights to television and other media payments over that period, which would presumably block any of the institutions from leaving for a better deal from another conference. The fact that the Atlantic Coast has joined several other major conferences in signing such agreements, according to Sports Illustrated, reduces the likelihood of major league swapping, although other conference could still be raided by the ACC, Big Ten and Pacific-10 leagues.

April 23, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, David Frayer of the University of Kansas reveals evidence of handedness among Neanderthals and discusses what the new data imply about their capacity for language. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

April 23, 2013

Public universities have a long history of adapting to technological change, but they must speed up their embrace of online education -- and work together to do so -- to remain at the forefront of educating the citizens of their states and the country, argues a new report from two Washington research groups. "State U Online," from the New America Foundation and Education Sector, traces the history of public universities and of online education and suggests that major public universities have been slower than other sectors -- especially for-profit higher education -- to incorporate digital learning into their offerings. The author, Rachel Fishman of New America, argues that the institutions are best positioned to offer a high-quality, affordable digital education that is "grounded in public values," and offers a roadmap for doing so, including creating a clearinghouse where state institutions can "collaborate to provide an easy-to-search library of online courses and degrees," sharing contracts for digital platforms and online support services to meet multiple institutions' needs, and sharing credentialing beyond state borders.

April 23, 2013

California would move aggressively into performance-based funding for higher education under a draft plan being circulated by Governor Jerry Brown, the Los Angeles Times reported. Under the draft of a revised budget blueprint for higher education, which the newspaper obtained weeks before the governor is due to release it, the state would provide annual budget increases of 4 or 5 percent over the next several years, but tie the money to meeting goals such as significant increases in the number of students transferring from community colleges to public universities and in graduation rates, the Times reported. University officials responded coolly to the reported plan, with one saying: "We'd like to go back to the drawing board."

April 23, 2013

U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, has posed the question of whether student visas should be suspended in light of the Boston Marathon bombing. Although neither of the suspected bombers was in the United States on student visas (one was a permanent resident, and the other a naturalized citizen), Paul nonetheless raises the student visa system as an area of concern in a letter about national security and the immigration system, asking: “Finally, do we need to take a hard look at student visas? Should we suspend student visas, or at least those from high-risk areas, pending an investigation into the national security implications of this program?”

Paul raises the issue of potential flaws in the student visa system, as well as in the system for admitting refugees, as part of his broader point that the Senate should not proceed in enacting comprehensive immigration reform "until we understand the specific failures of our immigration system. Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?"

April 23, 2013

State leaders are demanding explanations -- and in some cases urging retribution -- for the University of Wisconsin System's decision to quietly store hundreds of millions of dollars of budget funds in hundreds of accounts spread across its institutions, the Journal-Sentinel reported. A state audit last week found that the university system had cash reserves of $648 million, about a quarter of its annual appropriation, that the funds were distributed among many accounts across the system -- and that the funds had gone virtually unmentioned to state officials.

Wisconsin system officials acknowledged to the newspaper that they did "not draw attention" to the funds in the past, and some legislators accused university leaders of purposely misleading state officials about the system's financial standing. Some called for a two-year freeze on new state support and tuition -- and some went further, suggesting that President Kevin Reilly should consider resigning. Reilly is supposed to testify at a legislative hearing today in Madison.

April 23, 2013

The Minerva Project, the San Francisco-based "hybrid university" trying to appeal to top-tier students that plans to open in 2015, announced Monday that it has joined with a Nobel laureate to offer a $500,000 prize each year to a distinguished educator. Roger Kornberg, a Stanford University professor who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is governor of the newly created Minerva Academy, which will award the prize. The prize is "designed to recognize extraordinary advancements in teaching excellence and impact" in higher education.

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