A broad coalition of higher education associations, expressing "grave" concerns, has urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to withdraw a federal regulation that would, for the first time, create a federal definition of "credit hour" that the groups argue "federalized a basic academic concept and, at the same time, developed a complex, ambiguous and unworkable definition." The letter, signed by the president of the American Council on Education, Molly Corbett Broad, on behalf of more than 70 college associations and accrediting groups, says that the Education Department has ignored concerns that the groups expressed at various stages of the regulatory process, and that incorporating a definition of the credit hour in the federal regulatory code will "allow the Department of Education [through its accreditation advisory committee] to micro-manage campus academic programs."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Complete College America, a foundation-supported group seeking to improve graduation and completion rates of college students, is today launching a new program to encourage states to focus on these issues. The group is creating a grant program that will award 10 states grants of $1 million each to advance their efforts. In a Views essay at Inside Higher Ed today, Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success and special initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, outlines the thinking behind the new program.
A vice president of the instructors' union at the Milwaukee Area Technical College is criticizing the speed with which the union and the college's board ratified a new contract -- amid debate in Wisconsin over a proposal to end most collective bargaining rights for public employees, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The contract has provisions that protect full-time faculty members from layoffs, but also concessions from the union on health insurance. Jim Benedum, second vice president of union, a local of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the union moved quickly to get the contract approved, and he objected to the message that such haste sent at a time the state might end collective bargaining rights. Before the vote, he said, he felt that "if we approve this, we’re going to be perceived by the public as arrogant snobs." Union leaders denied that the contract vote was rushed and said that Benedum was angry with the union over other issues.
Some faculty members at Texas Tech University are upset about a $500,000-a-year raise, to $2 million a year, for Tommy Tuberville, the head football coach, at a time when they are being told their salaries are frozen, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. University officials have said that the $1.5 million annual salary Tuberville has been paid is below market rates, but that's not swaying some professors. “If that was me, I would have turned it down,” said Julian Spallholz, a faculty senator and human sciences professor, of the coach's raise. “I would have been embarrassed."
A new tool aims to help colleges catalog and present to their constituents the various steps they are undertaking to assess how (and how much) their students are learning. The "Transparency Framework" released this week by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment is designed to bring together in one place the various plans, assessment activities and evidence that a particular college or university is using to gauge student learning. The framework was established to respond, in part, to the disconnect the institute found in a report last year between how much assessment activity campus leaders said they were doing, and how much was visible to the public.
European universities, once seen as entirely supported by their governments, are already relying on diversified funding sources -- but want more flexibility to raise still more money from non-government sources. That is the conclusion of a report being released today by the European University Association. According to the report, public funding accounts for only 73 percent of university budgets, on average, and a majority of universities in Europe already receive more than 10 percent of revenue from sources other than their governments or tuition. While many universities want to raise more money from business contracts and philanthropy, they report that government regulations are often a barrier to doing so, the report says.
The London School of Economics and Political Science has cut its ties to the Libyan government, Times Higher Education reported. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Muammar Gaddafi, who has spoken out in favor of his father's rule, earned a Ph.D. at the university and donated £1.5 million (more than $2.4 million) in 2009, and gave a lecture at the university. The university has, in turn, given executive education programs in Libya. Given the government crackdown on protests there, the institution has "reconsidered" its links, according to a statement.
Republican legislators in Minnesota, newly in the majority, elected former colleagues to two seats on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and in the process ended a tradition of having organized labor represented in one seat on the board, The Pioneer Press reported. The Republicans said that the former legislators they selected will be outstanding regents. For 73 of the last 78 years, organized labor has had a representative on the board. In recent years, that person was Steven Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Democrats and labor leaders have said that the tradition was an appropriate balance to the business leaders typically selected for university boards. "It's just plain wrong that working Minnesotans will no longer have a say in how the university is run," said Shar Knutson, president of the state AFL-CIO.
Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University, addressed some 3,000 students, faculty members and prospective students at a campus gathering Monday -- and decided to illustrate his point about running "the race of life" with a real race, against Natasha Miller, 8-time NAIA champion and 17-time NAIA All-American for indoor and outdoor track and field at Biola. Corey succeeded at illustrating his point, if not at winning the race.