Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 25, 2013

A report from a panel of higher education experts, including college presidents and foundation leaders, has called for changes to simplify federal financial aid in a white paper released Thursday. The white paper, "The American Dream 2.0," published by HCM Strategists, a public policy consulting group, is part of a larger effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to recommend changes to financial aid to boost completion rates.

The group includes many familiar names -- among its members are Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, and Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and new Purdue University president -- and many of its recommendations are familiar by now as well. In its final report, the group deplores college completion rates (about half of all first-time, full-time students do not graduate within six years), recommends that colleges pay more attention to the needs of nontraditional students, and says that the financial aid system should be easier to navigate and more transparent. The group calls for strengthening the bedrock Pell Grant Program for needy students, and streamlining multiple grants and tax credits. The report also says the federal government should encourage colleges to innovate and invest more heavily in research on financial aid's effectiveness.

The report also says that colleges should link aid "to the extent possible" to outcomes for students and graduates. Accompanying the report were polling data that suggested voters are supportive of higher education, but more aware of (and concerned about) student debt levels than they are about the college dropout rate.

Since several commission members are the leaders of organizations preparing reports of their own as part of the Gates initiative, HCM's effort could represent the closest the different groups will get to consensus on changes to financial aid. Several more organizations are expected to issue their white papers next week.

January 24, 2013

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor leading its inquiry into whether it inappropriately handled the federal prosecution of Aaron Swartz has provided some details on the investigation. In an open letter published in The Tech, MIT's student newspaper, Hal Abelson pledged a full and open inquiry, and said that the issues were extremely important. "This matter is urgently serious for MIT," Abelson wrote. "The world respects us not only for our scholarship and our science, but because we are an institution whose actions are and always have been guided by the highest ideals and the most thoughtful judgment. Our commitment to those ideals is now coming into question. At last Saturday’s memorial, Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman described his mental state: 'He faced indifference from MIT, an institution that could have protected him with a single public statement and refused to do so, in defiance of all of its own most cherished principles.'"

Abelson also announced the creation of a website on which MIT students and faculty members can suggest questions that the review should consider. The site can be viewed by people without MIT affiliations, but they may not contribute.

 

 

 

January 24, 2013

The University of Illinois System, together with Chicago and state officials, plan to today announce plans for a major technology research lab to be built in Chicago, Crain's Chicago Business reported. The idea is to bring the engineering and technology expertise of the university's flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign to Chicago, and the plan calls for the involvement of other Midwestern universities -- including private institutions and those from other states. “We are in competition with other cities of the world to be a place where great minds want to live. We need to institutionalize that,” said Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, who has been involved in developing the plan.

New York City is supporting the development of a new technology campus by Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and that effort has attracted considerable attention from leaders of other cities.

 


 
January 24, 2013

Colleges and universities in Utah are preparing for enrollment declines (and tuition revenue declines) following a change in the age at which members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go on missionary trips, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Some institutions are imposing hiring freezes and stepping up efforts to recruit out-of-state students as a result. Mormon men can now leave on the missionary trips at age 18 (a year earlier than before) and women at 19 (two years earlier). Up until now, many have enrolled for a few semesters of college before leaving on the trips, and those enrollments are now in danger. Higher education officials still hope to recruit those who have completed their missionary travel, but are concerned about losing the transition from high school to college.

 

January 24, 2013

Mills College has settled a disability complaint by federal officials by agreeing to make 368 changes in facilities by 2014, with additional projects to be completed by 2017 and then 2023, the Bay Area News Group reported. Federal officials had identified inaccessible facilities ranging from bathrooms to drinking fountains to parking to lecture halls. When the various commitments are completed, all lecture halls, auditoriums and the gym will be fully wheelchair accessible.

January 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Stefano Allesina of University of Chicago explores the link between an ecosystem’s diversity and its stability. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 24, 2013

Texas A&M University announced a major campaign to increase enrollment in engineering, with the goal of enrolling 25,000 students (more than double current levels) by 2025. The effort will involve both recruiting more students, but also looking for ways to improve the educational experience of engineering students.

 

January 24, 2013

The Heritage Hall Museum, in Alabama, has canceled a short of work by Troy University faculty members. The Daily Home reported that some of the art caused offense. "It was supposed to be a group exhibit for Troy University’s communication/fine arts/design program," a museum official said. "There were nine artists that contributed, and the theme was ‘A Sense of Place.’ There was a piece by Ed Noriega that showed cans of Ajax, I guess, that had been relabeled, and had swastikas on the top. There were also some digitally altered images of the Virgin Mary holding a dead chicken in one hand and a broom and dust pan in the other. But the biggest problem was with the swastikas.” The art work with the swastikas was about Alabama's immigration laws, considered "ethnic cleanser" measures by the artist.

 


 
January 23, 2013

City College of San Francisco has filed a draft report describing changes the college is making to avoid having its accreditation revoked. The college also released a paper detailing how it would handle being shut down in a worst-case scenario. Progress has been made in correcting a broad range of fiscal and administrative problems at the college, officials said, including across-the-board pay cuts ranging from 2.85 to 5.2 percent. But more work remains, and a "special trustee" the college brought in to help manage the crisis recently asked for an extension to a mid-March deadline set by the accreditor.

January 23, 2013

Three people were shot Tuesday in an incident at Lone Star College’s North Harris campus in Houston. Details were still emerging Tuesday evening, but reports indicated the shooting stemmed from a dispute between two individuals, at least one of whom was a student. Among the injured was a maintenance worker who was hospitalized and in stable condition, Lone Star Chancellor Richard Carpenter said. In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Carpenter said “things could be learned from the incident.”

As the national debate on gun control has grown increasingly contentious, national advocates and state politicians have continued a push to legalize the carrying of weapons on campuses. Just last week, Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell, a Republican, filed a bill to allow people with handgun licenses to carry weapons on college campuses in the state.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, police said at least one person had been detained and another suspect was still at large. It was the fourth shooting on a campus this year, following incidents a week ago at Hazard Community and Technical College in Kentucky and the Stevens Institute of Business & Arts in St. Louis.

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