President Obama on Tuesday signaled that he would strongly oppose Republican budget plans that would, among other things, cut the size of the maximum Pell Grant. In remarks at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, he said: "How many of you who are in the audience have gotten a Pell Grant to help you pay your way? How many of you can’t afford to pay another $1,000 to go to school? I know what this is like. Scholarships helped make it possible for me and for Michelle to go to college. It’s fair to say I wouldn’t be President if it hadn’t been for somebody helping me be able to afford college. That’s why I think it would be such a huge mistake to balance the budget on the backs of students, by cutting scholarships by as much as $1,000, forcing students to go without them altogether."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Eighteen percent of freshmen admitted to the University of California system for the 2011-12 academic year are from outside the state, up from 14 percent this year, according to the annual report on admissions released by the university on Monday.
The University of San Francisco has announced an agreement to continue sponsorship of Upward Bound, a program that helps prepare low-income students for college. The university has sponsored the program for more than 40 years, but recently said it would evict the program because of space needs, setting off protests from some on and some off the campus. Under a new arrangement, faculty members at the university will play more of a role in the program, the university will provide classroom space, and some administrative functions will be moved off campus. But the university has pledged to continue sponsorship of the program.
Students at St. John's University in New York are protesting its refusal to recognize a gay-straight alliance, The New York Daily News reported. University officials said that they cannot recognize any group inconsistent with the Roman Catholic teachings of the institution. But students note that the university enrolls gay students, professes a strong commitment to diversity and recognizes Jewish and Muslim student groups, among many others.
A University of Notre Dame investigation into the October death of a student worker during a football practice found the incident to be a "collective responsibility" for which no individual can be blamed, according to a report on the inquiry. Declan Sullivan died when the hydraulic lift from which he was videotaping the football team fell over in high winds, but the investigation concluded that no one can be blamed in the incident. "We did not find any individual who disregarded safety or was indifferent to safety. Consequently, there was not any individual discipline," Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said. "Our conclusion is that it's a collective responsibility that must be deal with collectively as we move forward."
Three academics were on Monday named winners of Pulitzer Prizes in arts and letters. Kay Ryan, who teaches at the College of Marin, won the poetry prize for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press). In a 2009 interview with Inside Higher Ed, Ryan discussed her work and her efforts on behalf of community colleges. Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, won the history prize for The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (W.W. Norton & Company). Siddhartha Mukherjee, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, won the general nonfiction prize for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner).
Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona on Monday vetoed legislation that would have allowed individuals to carry guns on public routes through college and university campuses, The Arizona Daily Sun reported. The measure, which Brewer said she vetoed because it was "poorly written," was strongly opposed by most college officials in the state. It is one of several measures under consideration in various states around the country.
Representative Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over education programs, is clarifying his remarks comparing Pell Grants to welfare. In a radio interview this month, he made the comparison, prompting criticism in Montana, and this Facebook group. Rehberg, who is running for the Senate, still is making the comparison, but said he isn't necessarily comparing those who receive Pell Grants and welfare, but the programs themselves, The Huffington Post reported. In a new radio interview, he said that "the difficulty is, Pell Grants are an attempt to do the right thing, and that is to give the low-income student an opportunity to access higher education, and that's a good thing. And welfare was an attempt to help those most in need. The difficulty is, often times a program is so successful that it grows and grows and grows and grows."
"60 Minutes" on Sunday challenged the veracity of parts of Three Cups of Tea, a book that appears on numerous college syllabuses. The book, by Greg Mortenson, talks about his efforts to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- and many colleges have assigned the book as a common text for all freshmen to read, making Mortenson a regular on the college lecture circuit. According to "60 Minutes," Mortenson's charity has claimed credit for creating schools that don't exist and his story about how he was inspired to this cause by getting lost on a mountain-climbing expedition is false. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle quoted Mortenson as defending the accuracy of his book and his foundation's efforts. But the article also said that he admitted that the story of how he got the idea was based on "a compressed version of events."