Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Keith Wilson, who served as the face of the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs during the program's rocky first year and into stability recently, is leaving his post as the department's education service director to head a regional office. The move came as a surprise to some who have worked closely with the department on veterans' benefits.

Wilson was a staple at hearings on Capitol Hill after the rollout of the Post-9/11 GI Bill encountered a series of problems in 2009. The program was plagued by processing delays, with veterans' groups and lawmakers calling for improvements. Although the program began to function more smoothly after the backlog was resolved, observers suggested that burnout from the early tumult could have played a role in Wilson's decision.

"His leadership has been instrumental in the success of implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the challenges that have confronted the agency notwithstanding," said Russell Kitchner, vice president for regulatory and government relations with the American Public University System, which enrolls a large number of veterans.

Who will take Wilson's place is unclear, but Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that he will not leave until a replacement has been found. "I just hope that during the transition, the VA maintains the relationship that Keith had developed with the higher education community," said James Selbe, vice president in the department of military operations at University of Maryland University College. "He was really at the forefront as the conversation occurred throughout implementation, especially when changes were being proposed and after those changes were put in place."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Monmouth University has announced that it will be the new home of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection. The collection has been housed in the Asbury Park Public Library, but outgrew that space. Among the items in the collection: books, concert programs, magazine and newspaper articles, and printed ephemera related to Bruce Springsteen and members of his bands.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Cornell University, which has been publicly seeking the chance to build a new applied sciences campus in New York City since July, announced Tuesday that it would join forces with the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in its final proposal. The city is seeking proposals for a new campus to help improve its technology industry, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the winning university could receive one of three plots of land and up to $100 million in infrastructure improvements paid for by the city. The partnership gives the Cornell some international prominence and a longer track record of successful spin-off inventions and companies.

Last week Stanford University, which has also been public about its interest in the competition, announced that it was teaming up with the City University of New York. Columbia University, New York University, Carnegie Mellon University, and others have also expressed interest, though not as vocally as Stanford and Cornell. The universities have until Oct. 28 to file their proposals.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Marine Corps announced on Tuesday a 75 percent cut tuition assistance for service members who take courses during their off-duty time, Stars and Stripes reported. The maximum award has been cut from $3,500 a year to $875. According to Marine Corps officials, the average tuition costs for Marines who receive tuition aid is about $875 (typically two courses a year) so many will not be affected by the change.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Los Angeles Community College District is moving to end ties to one contractor and to one construction company involved in a much criticized multi-billion dollar facilities program, The Los Angeles Times reported. Both companies were among those whose work has come under scrutiny in a recent series of articles in the Times about the facilities program. The contractor was involved in the creation of one building that, on its opening, was missing exit signs and fire extinguishers, and that was found to have light fixtures that were not properly attached to ceilings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Forty-five faculty members at Belmont University have signed an open letter stating that they oppose torture and the death penalty, and back constitutional freedoms, The City Paper of Nashville reported. The letter does not name one of the newest faculty members at Belmont, Alberto Gonzales, but is believed to have been prompted by his appointment. Gonzales was attorney general under President George W. Bush and his views on those issues have been widely criticized by many (while being praised by others).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Tallys Yunes of the University of Miami reveals how computers have greatly simplified the complex process of scheduling umpire crews for Major League Baseball. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, part of the 2009 stimulus legislation, helped states shore up higher education and avoid layoffs and tuition increases but did not avert them entirely, according to a study released Tuesday by the New America Foundation's Federal Education Budget Project.

The foundation conducted case studies on eight states to see how they used their portions of the $48.6 billion program, $39.6 billion of which was intended for education spending. Some practices differed from state to state -- Wyoming required institutions to use the majority of the money for facility improvements, while North Carolina and Nevada used the funds for salaries and benefits, for example -- but overall, they found that most states required at least a portion of the money be spent on salaries and benefits. Since these are ongoing expenses, that might not bode well for the future now that the money has run out. "Looking forward into 2012, institutions in the states selected for this case study are facing uncertain futures," the author, Jennifer Cohen, wrote. "While many of them believe their budget situations have stabilized, they are still functioning under strict
fiscal constraints."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education announced Monday that it and the other "presidential" higher education associations have created a new Commission on Higher Education Attainment. Among the issues the panel will address:

  • The changing nature of students seeking a degree or credential.
  • The ability of higher education to attract, retain and graduate the increasing number of adults seeking a degree or credential.
  • The current capacity of higher education to accommodate the large number of students who will need to enroll if we are to increase the number of graduates.
  • The opportunities to increase efficiency and enhance productivity in meaningful ways.

E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, will serve as chair. There are also three vice chairs: Andrew K. Benton, president of Pepperdine University; Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York; and George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College.

Currently, there are no faculty members on the panel. Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said that the members named thus far will be holding an organizational meeting and may well decide to add other members. He said it was "quite possible" that faculty members would be named at a later date.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Charles Rupprecht of Emory University discusses the likelihood of rabies exposure and outlines efforts to control the disease in wild animal populations. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


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