Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 11, 2014

David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University, was named Monday as the next secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Skorton, president of Cornell since 2006, will leave the university in 2015. At Cornell, he has helped raise more than $5 billion. Under Skorton, Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology won a competition to develop a teachnology-oriented graduate school in New York City.


March 11, 2014

The South Carolina House of Representatives on Monday twice refused to reverse a $52,000 cut to the College of Charleston's budget -- a cut added by a legislative committee to punish the college for assigning Fun Home, a well regarded memoir by a lesbian, to freshmen, the Associated Press reported. Lawmakers said that they wanted to send a message about the selection of the book.

The college responded to questions from Inside Higher Ed about the vote by releasing this statement from President P. George Benson: "Any university education must include the opportunity for students to engage controversial ideas. Our students are adults, and we will treat them as such at the College of Charleston. As one of the oldest universities in the United States, the College of Charleston is committed to the principle of academic freedom. Faculty, not politicians, ultimately must decide what textbooks are selected and how those materials are taught. Any legislative attempt to tie institutional funding to what books are taught, or who teaches them, threatens the credibility and reputation of all South Carolina public universities."



March 11, 2014

A new article in Educational Researcher develops a typology for government-sponsored international scholarship programs. The lead author, the University of Pennsylvania’s Laura W. Perna, and her co-authors identify 183 government-sponsored programs in 196 countries and find that 76 percent of these programs target graduate or post-graduate (rather than undergraduate) study, 78 percent focus on degree attainment rather than short-term exchange, and 85 percent limit the number of possible destination countries. Just 15 percent of programs allow scholarship recipients to pursue any field of study they wish. Thirty-eight percent of programs cover all expenses, and 59 percent require students to return to their home countries after completing their programs.

The authors divide programs into four main types, based on program characteristics (such as level of study, undergraduate or graduate) and the political and economic dynamics of the sponsoring nations: Type 1, “development of basic skills"; Type 2, “development of advanced knowledge in developing nations"; Type 3, “development of advanced knowledge in developed nations"; and Type 4, “promotion of short-term study abroad."

March 11, 2014

Congressional Republicans introduced legislation Monday to reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation and other agencies, and the bill drew sharp criticism from university research groups. Leaders on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology said that the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186) would streamline science research and education programs to make the country's investments more effective. But in a statement, the Association of American Universities said the funding levels in the bill would fail to keep pace with inflation, and make significant cuts in funds for social, behavioral and economic research.

March 11, 2014

A report released Friday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified a need for greater oversight of the optional practical training program (OPT), which allows international students to stay in the U.S. and work for between 12 to 29 months after completion of their programs. The report found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, does not maintain complete records on which international students are actively working and whether they are working in their fields of study, as required by ICE regulations. A GAO analysis of more than 126,000 records of students participating in OPT found that 38 percent did not include an employer’s name. GAO also found that the records did not contain the dates on which students began working.

"Collecting and monitoring complete information on foreign students approved for OPT would better position ICE to determine whether these students are maintaining legal status in the United States," the report says.

The Homeland Security department concurred with all of the GAO's recommendations, which can be found on page 31 of the report.


March 11, 2014

George Washington University is today announcing three coordinated gifts, for a total of $80 million, for the public health school and related programs. The gifts are from the Milken Institute, the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation. The university is renaming its public health school as the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

March 11, 2014

The software giant Oracle on Sunday announced it will develop a new student information system with a focus on mobile and social features, and provide it as software-as-service.

"No other company on the planet can draw on the rich portfolio of IP, development talent, deployment and implementation experience, and industry expertise than Oracle," Cole Clark, Oracle's global vice president for education and research, said in a blog post. "While I've said in this blog in the past that it's a very exciting time to be a part of the higher education IT ecosystem at this point in the industry's evolution, our focus on developing a modern SIS for higher ed of 2015 and beyond makes this period even more compelling."

Oracle and other enterprise resource planning software providers have recently been challenged by new entrants into the market, such as Workday and Kuali, who have promised more flexible and lightweight student information systems.

March 11, 2014

The Democratic Congressman who last month accused more than 100 colleges of misleading students about the requirements for federal student aid said Monday that he is satisfied with the changes institutions have since made to their websites.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan that “it appears that all 111 of the identified in my investigation have made changes to their websites to clarify their requirements for student aid applications and to ensure that they are in compliance with the law.” He added that the changes colleges made to their websites reflect "a commitment to ensuring that students receive appropriate instructions when applying for financial aid.”

Cummings previously posted a list of colleges that appeared to be either requiring student to submit the fee-based CSS Profile as a condition of receiving federal aid or insinuating that the form was required to access federal grants and loans. Federal law prohibits colleges from imposing such a requirement. 

March 11, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Russell Poldrack, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses his findings of a 14-month study he conducted on his own brain. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


March 10, 2014

Boston University is investigating allegations that Kelly Greenberg, the women's basketball coach, has engaged in bullying and emotional abuse of players, The Boston Globe reported. The investigation follows the decision of four women to leave the team this year, with all four saying that they had been emotionally abused. One said she was so damaged that she thought about suicide. Similar complaints were filed against Greenberg by her team seven years ago. Greenberg declined to comment.


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