Deficit hawks in the U.S. Senate seeking to force their colleagues to offset the costs of extending the Bush-era tax cuts tried on Wednesday to kill off funds that help college financial aid offices cover the costs of providing federal grants to students. But in passing the tax bill, senators defeated the amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to eliminate the "administrative cost allowance," which provides a $5 payment to participating colleges for each student who receives a Pell Grant for an award year. "Many schools -- particularly those serving the greatest numbers of low-income students -- depend on these funds to staff, train, and fund their financial aid office operations," Justin A. Draeger, president of the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in a news release urging senators to reject the amendment. "Such cuts would have a dramatic negative effect on institutions' ability to serve students." The tax bill, as passed in the Senate, includes several provisions important to colleges.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The economic downturn of the last two years has challenged many colleges completing multi-year fund-raising campaigns -- especially those that announced ambitious targets prior to the sharp drops on Wall Street in the fall of 2008. But Columbia University on Wednesday announced that it is about to meet its $4 billion target (early) and that it is extending the effort and upping the target to $5 billion. The campaign was originally supposed to close at the end of 2011, but the university has already raised $3.9 billion. The campaign is now aiming for $5 billion by the end of 2013.
Reforms in the medical school curriculum may have a dramatic impact on the success rates of minority medical students, according to a new study in the journal Medical Education. The study examines the impact of an "integrated medical curriculum" -- in which courses focus more on problem-solving than on memorization -- at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Traditionally high failure rates for black and Latino medical students on the Step 1 licensing exam dropped dramatically for those who went through the new curriculum, the study found.
Presidents of the Patriot League, a conference of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic colleges with strong academic reputations, have decided to hold off for at least two years on any decision to offer athletic scholarships in football, The Express-Times reported. Those who have opposed scholarships have said that the additional spending is not appropriate right now, but football boosters at some campuses have been pushing hard for a change. While Daniel H. Weiss, president of Lafayette College, has opposed football scholarships, the chairman of the Friends of Lafayette Football on Wednesday denounced the decision, telling the Express-Times that the conference members' presidents "have no guts and offer no leadership."
The American Sociological Association announced Wednesday that it is moving its 2011 annual meeting away from Chicago. “A very protracted labor dispute between the service workers of UNITE HERE Local 1 and Chicago hotels has been taking place and there is no end in sight,” said Sally T. Hillsman, the association's executive officer, in a statement. “Without any sign of an imminent resolution, the ASA Council voted unanimously to move the meeting from Chicago because ASA cannot guarantee that the facilities and environment necessary for a successful meeting will be available.” A new location will be announced in a few weeks.
The drive by the American Federation of Teachers to unionize faculties in the University of Wisconsin continues to advance. Already this year, faculty members have voted to be represented by the AFT at the system's Superior and Eau Claire campuses. In the last month, petitions have been filed for union elections at the system's campuses at La Crosse, River Falls, Stevens Point and Stout, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
A study released Wednesday found that 79 of the 152 medical schools in the United States have strong conflict of interest policies with regard to ties to the pharmaceutical industry. That figure is up from 45 last year. The analysis was conducted by the American Medical Student Association and the Pew Prescription Project, two groups that have pushed medical schools and hospitals to limit their ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
A state judge on Monday declined to block an academic reorganization of the University of Toledo, The Toledo Blade reported. President Lloyd Jacobs wants to reorganize the colleges in the university, but the American Association of University Professors charged that a lack of consultation violated the university's contract with the faculty.
Universities in several countries are adding programs in Islamic finance, Bloomberg reported. Businesses have a shortage of experts on the subject -- and so graduates of the programs are in demand. Among the institutions with programs: International Islamic University of Malaysia and La Trobe University, in Australia.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal of a ruling by New York State's highest court upholding the use of eminent domain to obtain certain properties for a new Columbia University campus in West Harlem. The Supreme Court's refusal to consider the case ends years of legal fights over Columbia's expansion plans.