Higher Education Quick Takes
Members of the faculty at Shorter University, which recently instituted new faith statements that, among other requirements, ban gay staff members, have consulted with the American Association of University Professors, which is concerned that the new requirements threaten academic freedom. In a letter to the university's president, Donald Dowless, and Joe Frank Harris Jr., chairman of the board, the AAUP's associate secretary wrote that the association wished "to convey its concerns over the ramification of these requirements for the exercise of academic freedom at Shorter University."
"Additional allegations we have received about adverse actions that the administration has already taken against faculty members" add to the organization's concerns, Associate Secretary Robert Kreiser wrote. The faith statements have caused an uproar at the Georgia Baptist university, which did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
When the time comes for a freshman to move on to sophomore year, the odds that the college retains him might hinge on whether it retained his friends. Relationships are more important than a student’s academic ability, financial aid, ethnicity or socioeconomic status in determining whether he will complete the transition to a second year, according to a new study published in Social Psychology of Education. Researchers at Rhodes College, a small liberal arts institution in Tennessee, and Welch Consulting in Washington analyzed the social networks of the institution’s entire class of 2012, examining the social and academic connections between things such as course registrations, team and club rosters, and residence hall records. Unsurprisingly, James Eckles and Eric Stradley found that students “on the outside of the social network” are more at risk for attrition. But they also found that whether a student’s friends stick around makes a difference -- every friend who left made a student five times more likely to leave, and every friend who stayed made a student 2.25 times more likely to stay.
Congressional negotiators are close to reaching agreement on a $1 trillion budget for the federal government in 2012, with a vote expected by the end of the week. The measure would draw from competing House and Senate budget plans to pay for the Pell Grant Program, enacting changes to both the grant program itself and to subsidized undergraduate student loans.
The six-month grace period on subsidized student loans, in which the government currently pays the interest after a borrower leaves college, would be eliminated, saving about $400 million for the fiscal year. The length of time over which a student can be eligible for a Pell Grant would reportedly also be cut to 12 semesters from the current 18, which would affect about 62,000 students, according to a lobbyist with a higher education association. Students without a high school diploma or equivalent credential will also reportedly be barred from receiving Pell Grants, and the family income at which the government would expect a recipient of federal financial aid to contribute nothing to the cost of his or her education would drop from $30,000 to $20,000 per year.
Senate Democrats had proposed the change to the interest rate subsidy; the other cuts were drawn from a House Republican budget plan. But other proposed cuts in the House plan would not be enacted, including a proposed change to the income protection allowance that the American Council on Education estimated could affect up to 400,000 students.
Full details on the final bill are expected today.
Three members of the marching band at Florida A&M University were arrested Monday and charged in the beating of a woman as part of a hazing ritual for the band, the Associated Press reported. The beating -- with fists and a metal ruler -- broke the woman's thigh. The alleged incident took place three weeks before a member of the band died in what authorities believe was a hazing-related death. As of Monday night, the three students who were arrested were in jail.
An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Dean College freshman who was seen on video attacking a student in a fight over a pair of sneakers, The Boston Herald reported. Images from the video -- in which other students watched and cheered, but did not intervene -- stunned many, prompting many to wonder why no arrests had been made. (The college expelled a total of nine students in the incident.) Authorities said other arrest warrants may be issued, but that the former freshman being charged was the "primary aggressor" in the case.
The top Democrat on the House of Representatives oversight committee announced an inquiry Monday into the pay of chief executive officers at for-profit colleges, saying it was part of a larger questioning by his panel of "excessive" compensation for corporate executives. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a speech to a consumer group today (see video below) that he had sent letters to the CEOs of 13 for-profit education companies, asking for the compensation agreements to help "determine whether salaries, bonuses, and other compensation are appropriately tied to the performance of students they educate, the vast majority of whom pay for their education with federal tax dollars."
Officials of several of the companies targeted by Cummings issued statements defending the compensation they pay as appropriate; a statement by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities declared the lawmaker's inquiry to be "more politics."
A panel of Division I college presidents has recommended that the National Collegiate Athletic Association cut the number of football scholarships in the top competitive level to 80 from 85, restrict the number of non-coaching staff members in some sports, and bar foreign tours by teams during the summer months, all to save money. The recommendations of the Resource Allocation Working Group, one of several panels appointed by President Mark Emmert to consider significant changes in NCAA rules, are to be voted on by the Division I Board of Directors at next month's NCAA convention. The panel is also proposing that the number of scholarships awarded at any time in Division I women's basketball be reduced to 13 from 15, and that the number of grants awarded by Football Championship Series teams drop to 60 from the current 63.
Robert Berdahl was named Friday to serve as interim president of the University of Oregon, following the ouster of Richard Lariviere, who clashed with the State Board of Higher Education. Lariviere's tenure in office will end this month. Berdahl has held several prominent positions in higher education, having served as president of the Association of American Universities, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, and president of the University of Texas. He also has strong ties to the University of Oregon, having served there earlier in his career as a history professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Berdahl has criticized the ouster of Lariviere -- and has backed the soon-to-be-former president's call for more autonomy for flagship universities that are part of state systems.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, on Saturday kicked off a new effort to help women in Muslim nations study science at women's colleges in the United States. Through the program, the New York Academy of Sciences will provide the women with mentors, and participating women's colleges will provide financial assistance. "Today’s next Madame Curie could be sitting in a high school classroom in Cairo, Jakarta, or Mogadishu, yearning for opportunities to explore her potential. The United States is determined to help give her that chance," said Clinton, in announcing the new effort.