The economic downturn of fall 2008 left many colleges -- even wealthy institutions -- with cash flow problems, as their suddenly sagging investments were anything but flexible in providing money in the short term. A new report from Moody's finds that most colleges have recovered and are in much healthier condition with regard to liquidity. "Liquidity risks have stabilized for most universities nearly two years after unexpected cash shortages caused fifteen highly rated private universities to borrow more than $7 billion in taxable debt to bolster their liquidity," says the report's summary. "The healthy liquidity position of most U.S. colleges and universities has also aided bank liquidity facility renewals for the sector thus far in 2011. Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains for some universities that face potential liquidity risks from variable rate debt structures, weak tuition pricing power, investment volatility and cuts in government funding."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Carl Wieman, the Nobel laureate at the University of British Columbia, has released new findings to show that the right approaches to teaching can have a big impact on student understanding of science. The findings, published in Science, show that exercises in which students work through problems together are far more effective than lectures.
WASHINGTON -- National Institutes of Health officials told U.S. senators Tuesday that budget cuts imposed on the agency this year would lower applicants' odds of winning a research grant to roughly one in six, an all-time low. Francis S. Collins, the NIH's director, made that statement at a hearing of a Senate appropriations subcommittee to discuss President Obama's proposal for a 2.4 percent increase in spending on the agency in 2012 -- an increase that advocates for biomedical research say is inadequate, but that could be threatened by House Republican plans for major cuts in federal spending. Collins said that the NIH provided research support to about 20 percent of grant applicants in the 2010 fiscal year, but that that figure would drop in 2011 and could fall much further if the House cuts for 2012 are enacted.
A graduate student who planned to burn an American flag at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge was prevented from doing so by the lack of a burning permit and more than 1,000 students who gathered to protest his idea, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Authorities escorted the graduate student from the scene to avoid violence. His idea was to protest the arrest of another student who was arrested for cutting down and burning a flag.
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Phil Hamilton, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, of bribery and extortion in relation to a job he received at Old Dominion University, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Hamilton was charged with, as a powerful state legislator, obtaining $500,000 in state funds for Old Dominion to create a program he went on to lead as director of the university's Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. Hamilton has denied wrongdoing.
Authorities arrested 25 students at the University of Washington Wednesday, following sit-ins in the president's office and a conference room, The Seattle Times reported. The students were demanding that the university stop doing business with Sodexo, a food services company. The students charge that Sodexo mistreats its workers -- a charge the company denies.
An outbreak of a norovirus (or similar virus) has led Spring Arbor University to postpone its commencement, scheduled for May 14, until May 21. More than 170 students are ill.
As Speaker of the House John Boehner prepares to address graduates of the Catholic University of America Saturday, a group of professors at Roman Catholic colleges and universities has publicly rebuked the Ohio Republican for, they say, abandoning church teachings on social justice with a legislative agenda that neglects "the desperate needs of the poor." Saying they hope Boehner's visit to Catholic will "reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of social justice," the scholars specifically cite his leadership on a 2012 House budget that, they say, would remove "long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society," and that they call "particularly cruel to pregnant women and children." A spokesman for Boehner said the Congressman will be honored to deliver the speech and receive an honorary degree "from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops.”
The Presidential Oversight Committee of the Bowl Championship Series announced Wednesday that the Fiesta Bowl will remain part of the BCS -- the controversial group of contests that determines the national champion in big-time college football -- but that it must pay a $1 million fine for illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending. Duane Woods, the Fiesta Bowl's chairman, told the Associated Press: “The Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors understands and accepts the sanctions imposed by the BCS. We think that these tough but fair measures are consistent with our commitment to reform the Fiesta Bowl's governance and rebuild trust.” Bob Williams, spokesman for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, wrote in a statement: “The BCS task force actions regarding the Fiesta Bowl are serious and constructive steps in the right direction. The NCAA postseason bowl licensing subcommittee will review the task force report as it considers whether to reaffirm the Fiesta Bowl ... for the coming season. The subcommittee is planning to meet next week and expects to make a decision in the near future.”
Authorities are investigating as a murder-suicide the shooting deaths of two men and one woman in a parking garage at San Jose State University, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The dead are connected to the university, but their names have not been released.