Higher Education Quick Takes
As many as 24 members of the 2010 football team at California State University at Fresno -- many of them also on this year's team -- have been linked to welfare fraud, the Associated Press reported. The athletes were identified in an investigation of an employee of a county social services department who has been accused of filing on their behalf for benefits to which they were not entitled. Fresno State officials said that the athletes have been punished but declined to comment further.
Colleges continue to face unusual weather conditions as the academic year starts. Colleges in Pennsylvania, parts of New York State and elsewhere faced flooding -- leading to some closings Thursday. Bucknell University, facing concerns about the Susquehanna River and local creeks, closed Thursday. So did Lebanon Valley College. Susquehanna University on Thursday was helping some off-campus students evacuate from areas that were no longer safe. Montgomery County Community College, outside of Philadelphia, called off classes Thursday night. In New York State, Broome Community College was among the institutions forced to close. The State University of New York at Binghamton has called off classes, but opened facilities for use as shelters by citizens who have been evacuated from their homes.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul federal patent laws, overcoming some last-minute objections from Republicans to send the bill to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. The measure, which has strong support from many higher education groups, is designed to align the U.S. patent system more closely with patent systems 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.
Librarians and archivists at the University of Western Ontario went on strike Thursday, The London Free Press reported. The dispute is in large part over salary levels. University officials said that they would keep libraries open, but that some reference services may not be available.
The sooner community college students enter an academic or vocational program, the more likely they are to complete a degree or transfer to a four-year college, according to research by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. But a newly-released study from the center, which tracked 62,000 students at community colleges in Washington State over seven years, found that only about half ever became a program "concentrators" by passing at least three college-level courses in a single field. Less than 30 percent of students completed a degree or certificate, or transferred to a four-year college within seven years. But students were more likely to succeed if they entered a program.
Two public universities are receiving scrutiny over the rehiring of administrators who briefly retired, started receiving their pensions, and then accepted interim positions with some of the same duties they held before retirement. In Wisconsin, a state representative this week called off a hearing on tuition legislation favored by the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay because of his anger at the rehiring of a vice chancellor who returned to work a month after retiring, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. At the Louisiana State University Health Science Center, an administrator was retired for two weeks before returning to work, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported.
The University of Antelope Valley, a for-profit institution located in California, has announced that it is paying employers $2,000 for each graduate they hire. The "reimbursement for a UAV graduate's first month's salary" applies to hires made this month, and for jobs that relate directly to graduates' field of study. The university is relatively small, and received federal approval to issue associate's and other degrees in 2009. Industry analysts say the "Smart Hire" program, which also promises to streamline the hiring process for employers, is unusual in higher education. Job placement rates of for profits are a hot issue, most notably with the U.S. Department of Education's new "gainful employment" rules. In some cases for profits and law schools have been accused of falsifying graduates' employment data.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has unanimously approved policy changes that will give more autonomy and authority to individual campus leaders. The system will have less power on issues including the creation of new programs and auditing. The move follows a lengthy debate over governance in Wisconsin, set off by proposals (which failed to advance) to give autonomy to the flagship Madison campus. The proposal that was approved applies to all campuses.
Linn State Technical College, in Missouri, is subjecting all students to drug testing, an apparent first for a public college, the Associated Press reported. Linn State officials said that their numerous programs involving heavy and sometimes dangerous equipment -- aircraft maintenance, heavy engine repair and nuclear technology, for example -- necessitate the drug testing. But officials acknowledged that students in general education programs will also now be tested. Civil liberties groups are predicting a legal challenge. "I've never heard of any other adult public educational institution that presumes to drug-test all of its students," said Dan Viets of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association. "They're trying to break some new ground here. I don't think the courts will uphold it."