Higher Education Quick Takes
If it happened in football, it would be a big-time violation of NCAA rules. But Webster University announced this week that it had recruited Susan Polgar -- winner of four world championships -- her Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, and her national championship team away from Texas Tech University, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The move helps make St. Louis a major force in the sport. Nearby, Lindenwood University has announced that it will start to offer chess scholarships in an attempt to build up the chess team there.
Colleges and universities must transform undergraduate education in sciences, math and engineering -- in large part by expanding the reach of "evidence-based teaching approaches" -- if the United States is to meet a goal of producing 1 million more bachelor's and associate degree holders in those fields within a decade, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said in a report issued Tuesday. The report, released in conjunction with a webcast featuring the presidents of the University of Virginia and Anne Arundel Community College and other higher education leaders, is built around evidence that significant numbers of those who enter college inclined to study math and science abandon those plans within the first two years, often citing uninspiring introductory courses or an environment that is "unwelcoming" to some groups.
To overcome those problems and produce more graduates -- which the report joins previous studies in arguing is essential to stimulate economic innovation and feed the U.S. work force -- the report from President Obama's science advisory council calls for catalyzing "widespread adoption" of empirically proven teaching methods in key science courses, establishing discipline-based federal programs to train graduate students and faculty members in those methods, replacing standard lab courses with "discovery-based research courses" (and using federal programs to help redesign those courses), closing the "mathematics-preparation gap" that leaves so many students unprepared for college-level science and technical courses, and clearing paths for would-be science and math students from K-12 to community colleges and then to four-year institutions.
The White House's agenda and suggestions overlap significantly with other reports and recommendations made in recent years, including an aggressive push announced last fall by the Association of American Universities.
The American Federation of Teachers Executive Council on Tuesday reaffirmed a commitment to collaborating with the American Association of University Professors on advocacy efforts and union organizing. The announcement extends a relationship created in 2008 as part of an effort to bring more faculty members -- especially at research universities -- into collective bargaining. The joint effort resulted in a big win with the unionization of faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago (although the university is challenging the win). Currently, the AFT and AAUP are jointly organizing faculty members at the University of Oregon.
The National Endowment for the Humanities on Monday named Wendell Berry -- a poet, novelist and essayist with a focus on conservation issues -- as the 2012 Jefferson Lecturer. Berry will deliver the lecture on April 23 in Washington. The lecture, "It All Turns on Affection," will discuss human interaction with nature, as depicted in history, philosophy, and literature.
- Paul M. Bobrowski, associate professor and former dean of the College of Business at Auburn University, in Alabama, has been named dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Dayton, in Ohio.
- Jack Cline, assistant vice president for federal relations at the University of Massachusetts System, has been chosen as director of federal relations at the University of Kansas.
- Thomas W. Durso, senior director of marketing and communications at Holy Family University, in Pennsylvania, has been appointed as associate vice president for college relations and marketing at Albright College, also in Pennsylvania.
- Tracie MacMahon, vice president for marketing and client relations at the National Student Clearinghouse, in Virginia, has been promoted to chief operating officer there.
- Chip Paucek, president and chief operating officer at 2tor Inc., in New York, has been named chief executive officer there.
- Robert J. Pietrykowski, assistant vice president for human resources and chief negotiator at Cleveland State University, in Ohio, has been selected as vice president of human resources at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida.
Nearly half of the for-profit colleges in California are being kicked out of a state student aid program because of their default rates, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Under a California law, those with three-year loan default rates of 24.6 percent or higher are barred from having their students receive Cal Grants. About 4,900 Cal Grant recipients were enrolled at this colleges when the law took effect in the fall. Those who had been previously enrolled were allowed a partial grant.
Every bowl season features pundits debating a playoff for big-time college football. But a more serious challenge may be emerging from the Big Ten. The Chicago Tribune reported that Big Ten officials are talking about a plan in which the top four football teams would be removed from the Bowl Championship Series, and would instead have a playoff. The semifinal games would be played at the higher seeded institution of the two pairs. The site of the championship would be bid out. The Big Ten idea emerges amid concern among many in college football about low ratings for this year's championship game and a noted lack of excitement among fans about many bowl games.
Protests against Sallie Mae's $50 "forbearance fees," which the lender charges to borrowers who cannot pay their loans and opt to let the funds accumulate interest, unpaid, rather than defaulting, have spread to Facebook. Thursday, Sallie Mae changed its policy after a petition to end the fees gained more than 75,000 signatures: after the borrowers have begun repaying the loan, the $50 fee will be applied against the loan's balance rather than pocketed by the company.
But that wasn't enough for many who wanted to see the fees vanish entirely, and many commented on the Facebook page for Sallie Mae's Upromise accounts asking that the policy be changed. The company later removed the Facebook posts, according to before and after screenshots. The "before" screenshot was provided by Change.org, the website where the petition started. (By Monday evening, more comments had appeared. Sallie Mae representatives did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.)
Monday was the 101st anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth -- and Young America's Foundation marked the occasion with release of a national poll suggesting that professors have yet to give the Gipper his rightful place in history. "Americans rate Ronald Reagan as the greatest president, but try telling that to professors on our nation’s campuses. In a recent survey, 60 percent of college professors did not even rank President Reagan among the top ten presidents," said a press release on the poll results. Further, not one of the 284 faculty members surveyed named Reagan as the top president. (President Lincoln had the most support for that spot.) At the same time, the foundation noted that 61 percent of professors said Reagan had been successful, a level of praise that the foundation said was significant give that "the leftist tilt of college professors is well known."