Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Labor Monday invited grant applications for the $122-million Career Pathways Innovation Fund. The announcement coincided with the first of four regional community college summits being hosted by the U.S. Department of Education. Introduced last year by the Labor Department, the Career Pathways Innovation Fund replaced the existing Community-Based Job Training Program. Labor Department officials hope this new grant will bolster some of the career pathways models already in place in several states. Financial awards will be given to “community colleges and consortia of community colleges that are developing or expanding career pathway programs in partnership with education and training providers, employers, and the workforce investment system.” At least $65 million of the total funds will be reserved “for projects that focus on the health care sector.” The Labor Department will fund “approximately 40 to 50 grants ranging from $1 million to $5 million.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York approved Monday the creation of the system’s first new community college in 43 years. The new institution, which has been in development since 2008, will adopt strict policies aimed at producing high student retention and graduation rates. All its students must enroll full time and take a predetermined core curriculum; they will have only 12 majors to choose from, all of them career-oriented.

The institution will open in Manhattan in the fall of 2012. It will initially enroll just 500 students, with the eventual goal of having up to 3,000. The Board of Trustees also approved the new community college’s first eight degree programs: associate’s degrees in business administration, energy services management, environmental science, health information technology, human services, information technology, liberal arts & sciences, and urban studies. Now that the trustees have approved the new college, the proposal goes to the New York State Board of Regents for final review of the institution and its initial set of academic programs.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Research published Sunday in the journal BMC Public Health finds that higher levels of education are correlated with lower blood pressure and lower incidence of other factors -- such as smoking and weight gain -- associated with health problems.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Republican leaders in the U.S. House Friday released temporary budget legislation that would end the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program and cut $129 million in earmarked funds distributed in 2010 through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. The measure, which would extend funding for the federal government until March 18, is designed to give Congressional leaders and the White House more time to reach agreement on spending legislation for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends in September. A failure to reach agreement would result in a government shutdown, and the parties seem far apart right now, with the Obama administration and, to a lesser extent, Senate Democrats opposed to the deep cuts contained in the appropriations measure the House passed this month. The temporary measure introduced on Friday would cut $4 billion over all; $64 million of that would come from eliminating LEAP, which provides federal matching funds to states that use their own money for need-based aid. President Obama's 2012 budget would eliminate that program, too. Unlike the House's 2011 bill, the temporary measure would not cut funds for the Pell Grant Program.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Belmont University has officially recognized Bridge Builders, a group focused on discussion of gay issues, after previously rejecting the organization's requests for official status, The Tennessean reported. The reversal follows an extended debate over gay rights at the Christian university -- after a lesbian coach was ousted in December. In February, the college amended its anti-bias policy to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Two articles in the Los Angeles Times offer a devastating critique of how the Los Angeles Community College District has managed a series of massive bond issues (total of $5.7 billion) for construction in the community college system. While the articles note the construction of some key buildings to meet pressing needs, they also note example after example of poorly planned or poorly executed facilities. One article focuses on these flaws, identifying such problems as heating and cooling units installed upside down, uneven steps, defective plumbing and ceiling tiles that would not withstand an earthquake.

Further, the article details numerous other cases where major spending on planning and designing facilities ended up being a waste as officials decided not to build those facilities. Other examples of questionable spending in the article include funds for a feng shui expert ($250 an hour) and $350,000 on video production (including chartered helicopters for aerial shots) to produce public relations material on the construction campaign. Larry Eisenberg, head of the building effort, defended it to the Times, but e-mail messages he sent that were obtained by the the newspaper suggested that he too sees serious problems. In one e-mail, he wrote, "Our new buildings are fundamentally flawed.... We cannot control lighting systems, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems, security systems, building management systems, etc. We have buildings that leak.... We are opening buildings that do not work at the most fundamental level."

The second article details donations by companies that have won contracts for the facilities to the campaigns of those elected as trustees of the district and to the campaigns on behalf of the bond measures.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has placed the University of California at Berkeley on two years’ probation for recruiting violations in its men’s basketball program. A Division I Committee on Infractions report released Friday reveals that the men’s basketball coaching staff made 365 “impermissible recruiting phone calls.” The report notes that the violations began shortly after the hiring of Coach Mike Montgomery and his staff in the spring of 2008. The university’s compliance office “acted quickly” to train the new coach and his staff about NCAA rules and “had processes in place to monitor recruiting telephone calls.” Reviewing these records in the fall of 2008, the compliance officer discovered these violations. In addition to the two years’ probation for the university, the NCAA limited to five the number of official paid visits the men’s basketball team can offer recruits for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Sarah K. Foss, a 19-year-old Stetson University student, was arrested Thursday on charges of stalking and threatening to kill or harm one of her professors, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Authorities say that she apparently became infatuated with her professor and sent him a series of e-mail messages Thursday, including one that said, "If you upset me I will physically hurt you. You know I'm capable." Foss is being held in jail.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California at San Diego, which had several racial incidents last year, has had another. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that someone hit "reply all" on an administrative e-mail sent to all students (theoretically something that none of the e-mail recipients should have been able to do), made "penis" the subject line and "NIGGERS" the entire message text. Black student leaders say that the mass e-mail shows that the university's efforts to assure tolerance have not gone far enough.

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 3:00am

A Texas State University student has founded a new group dedicated to raising money for scholarships for white males. The Former Majority Association for Equality says on its website that its goal is to "financially assist young Americans seeking higher education who lack opportunities in similar organizations that are based upon race or gender. In a country that proclaims equality for all, we provide monetary aid to those that have found the scholarship application process difficult because they do not fit into certain categories or any ethnic group." The group says that it will award five $500 scholarships on July 4. Colby Bohannan, the founder of the group, told The Austin American-Statesman that he noticed many scholarships for female or minority students, but none reserved for white men. "I felt excluded," he said. "If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?"

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