Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in March sought applications for its "comprehensive" grant program, with the goal of making more than $20 million in awards. But FIPSE has now announced that there will be no grants awarded. "Congressional action on the FY 2011 budget substantially reduced funds available for grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, including new grants under the comprehensive program," said a notice on the agency's website.
Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, on Thursday defended the importance of research at the state system’s universities -- and received a unanimous vote of support from the system’s regents, according to the Texas Tribune.
“Teaching and scholarly research go hand-in-hand in a university of the first class,” Cigarroa said, in what the Tribune described as highly anticipated remarks at the regents’ meeting. Cigarroa’s speech, which is in keeping with his previous statements on the subject, comes on the heels of a forceful defense of the research mission of the flagship, UT-Austin, made by its president, William Powers Jr., on Monday.
Questions about the appropriate balance of research and education at Texas universities -- and the regents’ position on the matter (and whether they fully supported Cigarroa) -- have recently gained urgency due to a set of seven “breakthrough solutions” that have been advanced by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank whose policies are aligned with those of Governor Rick Perry. Among these ideas is a call to separate universities’ research and teaching budgets in order to get more faculty members in the classroom. Many faculty members have seen the push for separation as an attempt to micromanage and reduce support for scholarship.
Days after a speech in which President Obama vowed to reform U.S. immigration policy in part by making it easier for foreign graduates of American universities to stay in this country, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office announced an expanded list of science and mathematics fields whose graduates can stay in the United States for an additional year for more training. "By expanding the list of STEM degrees to include such fields as Neuroscience, Medical Informatics, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design, Mathematics and Computer Science, the Obama administration is helping to address shortages in certain high tech sectors of talented scientists and technology experts-permitting highly skilled foreign graduates who wish to work in their field of study upon graduation and extend their post-graduate training in the United States," the office said in its news release.
Jill McDonald, the head of the British division of McDonald's, gave a talk this week in which she said that many of those put off by the increasing tuition rates at universities should consider working at McDonald's instead, Financial News reported. "We need to acknowledge that the road many young people take today may not be the one we took in the past," she said. "We need to remove the snobbery." Added McDonald (who happens to have the name of her employer): "I am definitely not saying that people shouldn’t go to university if they have the opportunity to do so, but I do believe it might not be the right route for everyone."
The National Junior College Athletic Association's board has voted to limit the number of non-U.S. athletes to one-fourth of scholarship players, USA Today reported. In basketball and volleyball, for instance, that would be three per team. The move follows reports of growing numbers of foreign athletes -- some of them older than most American team members, some of whom it may be questionable to call amateurs -- on some teams.
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."
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.