The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Monday to allow community colleges to opt out of offering low-interest federal loans to their students. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for likely approval, would scale back 2010 legislation requiring all community colleges in the state to participate in the federal loan program by July. Several community college presidents in the state have expressed concern that participation in the federal loan program would put their students at risk of losing federal financial aid if too many students at their institution do not repay their loans. Monday’s vote fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the opt-out bill and Democrats opposing it. Representative Ray Rapp, a Democrat who voted against the bill, told The News & Observer, “This is a frontal assault on the ability of students to pay for college.” Kennon Briggs, the system's executive vice president, told Inside Higher Ed that last year he had told the state legislature, "We prefer that this be a matter of local decision making and of choice because within our system you have varying degrees of wealth, private support and average income." Still, he clarified that the community college system would follow any directive of the state legislature. If the opt-out bill is signed into law, Briggs said that 24 community colleges in the state would participate in the federal loan program and 34 would not.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Excelencia in Education is releasing later today a report designed to lay out a path to increase Latino degree attainment. The “Roadmap for Ensuring America's Future” recommends ways in which colleges and communities can help 5.5 million more Latino Americans earn degrees to close race and ethnic equity gaps and meet President Obama’s degree attainment goals for 2020.
The University of Southern California today will announce a $200 million gift to rename its College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles Times reported. The donation, from David Dornsife, an alumnus, and his wife Dana, comes with no restrictions on how it can be spent, to the delight of President C. L. Max Nikias, who told the newspaper the gift was "transformative." USC plans to use the funds to support faculty hiring, research and fellowships, and its officials said the money would especially bolster the humanities and social sciences, the Times said.
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday to rewrite the country's patent laws, mostly in ways that strengthen the hand of institutions (including research universities) and companies over individual inventors. Ninety-five senators voted for the measure, which was backed by many higher education groups. The legislation is designed to align the U.S. patent system more closely with those in other major countries, and it would alter the law so a patent for an innovation would be granted to the first inventor to file an application for it, rather than to the creator of the innovation.
Pennsylvania's four-year institutions of higher education would see a nearly 50 percent cut in state support while community colleges would escape relatively unscathed, according to a budget proposal released Tuesday by Governor Tom Corbett. State support for the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education and the four state-related institutions, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University, all would be reduced by about 50 percent -- from nearly $1.1 billion to $554 million. The state's 14 community colleges would see funding decrease by 1 percent -- from $214 million to $212 million.
"I am here to say that education cannot be the only industry exempt from recession," Corbett, a Republican who is in his first year in office after serving as the state's attorney general. "I ask nothing more of our best educated people than to face up to a hard economic reality. The system in which you have flourished is in trouble." Corbett also noted that increasing levels of state subsidy over the past decades had not done anything to hold down tuition hikes during that period.
The union representing the faculty of the universities of the state system warned that the cuts, if they stand, will result in "massive" tuition increases and threaten to wreak long-term economic damage. Penn State's president, Graham Spanier, called the cut "devastating" and added that the drop in state support that it represents -- from 8 percent to 4 percent of the university's total budget -- "suggests a redefinition of Penn State’s role as Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution."
The leader of the University of the District of Columbia's trustees told members of Washington's city council that the board may require President Allen Sessoms to repay some of the university funds he spent on first-class airfare, The Washington Post reported. Sessoms has come under fire for his spending practices, and the chairman of the UDC board told a sometimes tense meeting of the D.C. Council that the trustees may require the president to reimburse some funds. As has been true in Sessoms' past presidencies, too, his leadership has deeply divided the UDC campus.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court’s 2009 dismissal of a lawsuit by a men’s sports advocacy group that fought James Madison University’s 2006 decision to eliminate seven men’s teams and three women’s teams. Equity in Athletics, the advocacy group, had argued that James Madison “overdid its elimination of male athletes," violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Lawrence J. Joseph, one of the group’s attorneys, wrote in a statement, “EIA is disappointed that the panel did not agree with its positions, but we intend to appeal, either in the form of requesting reconsideration in the Fourth Circuit or asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.”
The University of Nevada at Reno -- facing steep budget cuts from the state -- on Monday announced a plan to eliminate numerous programs and, with them, 225 positions, of which 150 are currently filled. Among the programs that will be eliminated: the School of Social Work, degrees in theater and French, the assessment office and the special collections division of the library.
A new report suggests that Indian universities may be able to recruit substantial numbers of Indian graduate students in the United States to return. The issue is key because Indian universities badly need to recruit more faculty talent, and many have assumed that those who come to the United States for graduate study are unlikely to consider jobs in India. The new study -- by researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Pennsylvania State University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences -- interviewed 1,000 Indians who are either pursuing or have finished graduate work in the United States. Only 8 percent said that they strongly preferred to stay in the United States. While many cited obstacles to going home, their answers suggested that the right packages and conditions could attract many of them.