A state panel on Tuesday recommended that Rutgers University and the academic units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey be merged, reviving a proposal that has periodically surfaced in the state, The Star-Ledger reported. Generally, the panel recommends an enhanced role for Rutgers in the state and greater efforts to keep the best New Jersey high school students in the state for college. The task force, which was headed by former Gov. Tom Kean, presented a broad range of recommendations about public higher education in New Jersey. Its report can be found here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday upheld injunctions issued by a lower court that would allow a blind law school graduate to use assistive technology software when taking the bar exam. The decision is the latest on the question of what accommodations people with disabilities are entitled to when taking state licensing exams for various professions.
Arkansas is the latest state in which pro-gun advocates are seeking to make it possible to carry weapons on campuses. Arkansas Carry is seeking legislative support for a bill to override a 2003 attorney general's opinion that colleges and universities could legally ban concealed weapons from their campuses -- even weapons held by permit holders -- if the institutions posted signs to that effect, Arkansas News reported. While state law does refer to some entities having this right to ban weapons, Arkansas Carry says that the reference is meant to cover private businesses, not colleges and universities.
India's government is planning the country's first comprehensive survey of higher education, The New York Times reported. The effort is being conducted out of the belief that a lack of reliable statistics about students and colleges hinders the development of the best policies.
The Association of American Law Schools is facing the prospect of a protest at its annual meeting in San Francisco this week because of a call by a labor group to boycott the Hilton hotel where parts of the meeting will be held. The association moved many sessions out of the hotel in response to the concerns, but leaders of the group note that there is no strike (just a boycott call) and that the organization signed a contract with the hotel nine years ago. Leaders of the association sent a letter to all law deans in December outlining efforts to move many sessions out of the hotel but also voicing concern that some speakers scheduled for the meeting had reported feeling "badgered and harassed" by demands that they move their sessions.
Some eyebrows are being raised in Florida over new data showing that some community college graduates -- generally in programs oriented toward science careers -- are earning more upon graduation than those who finish four-year degrees elsewhere, The Miami Herald reported. Those who graduate with an associate in science degree at a community college are reporting an average starting salary of $47,708. That's higher than the average for bachelor's degrees at either the state's public universities ($36,552) or private colleges and universities ($44,558).
Italy's parliament gave final approval in December to a controversial set of reforms for the nation's universities, The Wall Street Journal reported. The reforms would involve evaluating the quality of university research and of university efforts to train students for available jobs -- and funding formulas would change to reward institutions that do well and to cut funds to the others. Total government support for higher education is expected to be drop significantly over the next year, and many students and faculty members who have been taking to the streets in protests say that the changes will only exacerbate overcrowding and other problems created by years of inadequate budgets.
One of the hot ideas in higher education accountability circles is that public universities should have their financing based in part on how successful they are. A fight in Indiana may demonstrate how difficult that could be. The state is planning to distribute some of its support for public colleges based on an incentive formula, rewarding colleges for higher graduation rates, educating more low-income students and other goals. But as The Indianapolis Star reported, public universities that would not do well under the formula are questioning its fairness.
David Noble, a history professor at Canada's York University and one of the most outspoken critics of distance education, died last week at the age of 65, The Globe and Mail reported. In the book Digital Diploma Mills and in other writing, Noble argued that online education depersonalized higher education and eroded its quality. Noble was an activist on many issues, frequently finding himself in the middle of large public controversies. He led a campaign, for instance, to stop York from calling off classes on Jewish holidays, arguing that the practice discriminated against non-Jewish students. In 2007, Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, settled a lawsuit by Noble, who accused the university of blocking his candidacy for a job there because of his views. As part of the deal Simon Fraser expressed "sincere regret" for the way it had treated Noble.
Congress and many state legislatures will convene for their 2011 terms within the next week, with one overriding priority dominating their agendas in most cases: cutting spending to try to bring the budgets of their states (or in Congress's case, the country) into better balance. Those efforts are certain to create challenges for colleges and students, as higher education funds are one of the largest areas of many states' budgets that are not constitutionally mandated, and Congressional Republicans are promising significant cuts in non-military domestic spending. A Wall Street Journal article today -- citing House Republicans' plans to rescind some federal spending already approved -- predicts that "the top targets could be programs whose budgets saw a jump under Democrats, like foreign aid and Pell Grants for ... college students."