Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Brown University agreed Tuesday to pay the City of Providence $31.5 million over 11 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, ending a contentious standoff in which city officials threatened to revoke the university’s tax-exempt status if the institution would not help the city fill its budget deficit. Brown, along with four other colleges in the city, had an agreement in place since 2003 to pay the city $50 million over 20 years, but city officials hoped to rework the agreement as the city’s financial problems became clear.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 3:00am

The California State University System board will consider a policy next week that would freeze the pay of campus presidents, but allow foundations associated with the campuses to pay for raises, The Los Angeles Times reported. The system has been strongly criticized in recent months for increasing pay for some presidential hires amid new rounds of budget cuts and tuition increases. System officials said that the proposal would recognize the limits on state funds, while allowing the system to be competitive in executive pay. While similar arguments have carried the day in some other states, some system critics are not agreeing. State Sen. Leland Yee said that support for students should come before support for presidents. "This latest masquerade demonstrates that the Board of Trustees will raise the salaries of executives by any means necessary,” he said.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Authorities expect to make several charges -- some of them felonies -- today in the investigation into the hazing death last year of a student at Florida A&M University, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Several people will be charged. The student who died was in the university's marching band, famous for its performances and also blamed for years for hazing incidents. On Tuesday, three more members of a special committee formed by the university to study hazing issues resigned, the Sentinel reported. The university created a panel of national experts on the issue, but a majority of members have now quit, citing Florida's open meetings laws, which would have prevented them from meeting in private.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Brazil's Supreme Court has upheld the use of racial quotas by universities, AFP reported. The case before the Supreme Court concerned the University of Brasilia, which set quotas in 2004 that 20 percent of admissions slots would go to black, mixed-race or indigenous students. More than 70 percent of Brazil's 98 public universities have such quotas, so the case was considered likely to influence admissions practices nationally. The quotas were challenged by a right-wing party that argued that they were counter to principles of equity. But the Supreme Court ruled that the quotas were justified as a means to redress the impact of centuries of slavery in the nation.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Microsoft on Monday announced the purchase of 17.6 percent of the Barnes & Noble Nook unit, which also includes the company's college division, The New York Times reported. Microsoft paid $300 million for that share of the business, providing a significant infusion for the Nook/college unit. Barnes & Noble hopes that the partnership and the funds allow it to better compete in the education market with Apple, which has had considerable success with iPad sales and which is moving to expand its digital educational offerings.

 

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

A study released today questions the extent to which Pell Grants and other need-based financial aid improved the retention and success of academically underprepared community college students in Louisiana. The study, conducted by researchers at Noel-Levitz and the American Institutes for Research and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that increasing the amount of financial aid awarded to Louisiana community college students who needed remedial coursework did not improve their academic performance.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:29am

An American Bar Association panel reviewing law school accrediting requirements is divided on whether to continue to mandate that law schools use the Law School Admissions Test. The panel has agreed to put forward two versions on the issue: one that continues the requirement, and one that does not. Statements attached to current versions of the accrediting proposal praise the LSAT, but differ on whether it is appropriate for an accrediting body to require any particular admissions test. It is unclear how many law schools would drop the LSAT if they had that option (while maintaining ABA accreditation), but some law schools have already sought waivers for some applicants, and test-optional admissions policies have become popular with many undergraduate institutions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:31am

The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Monday that would require Vanderbilt University to change its anti-bias policies with regard to student organizations, The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt uses an "all comers" policy of the sort that has been upheld for public institutions by the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that to be recognized as an official student organization, groups cannot discriminate against any student who wants to participate. Some religious groups argue that this endangers their identities as those who do not share their faith could demand leadership positions in the groups. Defenders of such policies note that groups without official recognition can continue to limit membership and can engage in much campus activity, but typically must do so with their own funds rather than university funds. Lawmakers in Tennessee, prompted by the Vanderbilt case, are moving to bar public universities in the state from adopting policies similar to those of Vanderbilt (even though they haven't indicated any plans to do so). And on Monday, the Senate voted to add private institutions to the bill.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The key action corporate leaders can take to improve higher education is to advocate for state-level policies that provide incentives for boosting productivity and that remove barriers to innovation, according to a report released Monday by the Committee for Economic Development. The nonprofit business group called for a focus on "broad-access" institutions, particularly less selective public colleges, two-year institutions and for-profits, because those colleges face the biggest challenges in educating the American workforce. But change does not come from within, the report argues, so businesses must work with state policymakers to nudge colleges to adapt innovations. As for specific policies, the group called for statewide degree attainment goals and performance funding based on student outcomes, rather than inputs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:33am

The Simons Foundation today plans to announced a $60 million grant to the University of California at Berkeley to create a center for the study of the theory of computing, The New York Times reported. The newspaper reported that the work to be done in the center reflects the breadth of fields from the physical and social sciences in which computing theory has growing influence.

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