Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a 2012 budget proposal that would cut spending on New York's public colleges by 10 percent as part of an overall plan to eliminate a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes. Cuomo's plan, which would also impose a 10 percent cut on state aid to private colleges, also calls for giving the State University of New York System at least some of the increased autonomy and flexibility it has sought in recent years. Leaders at SUNY and the City University of New York were measured in their responses to the governor's plan, praising the new governor for confronting the state's financial problems head-on but expressing concern about the cuts and "how they will impact our ability to provide a quality experience and education for our students," as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher phrased it.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Some families and financial aid administrators are reporting technological troubles with the online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and Education Department officials have told the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators that they are working on the problem, NASFAA reports. The scope and degree of the problems are unclear; a few financial aid officers have reported significant problems, but the aid directors' group says it has had few reports so far.
Southwestern University's board has voted to keep the institution's name, ending a period of study and debate over whether the name was sufficiently reflective of the university's identity. "The research showed that Southwestern University is not well known among prospective students − those who live within Texas and particularly those who live outside Texas − and that most people do not associate the name 'Southwestern University' with a private liberal arts institution," said a statement from the board, which also called for a "visibility campaign" to promote Southwestern. In a December interview with The Austin American-Statesman, Jake Schrum, the president of the university, explained the need to consider a name change this way: "Looking at our name and thinking about a national liberal arts college of real quality — is that a disconnect? The name Southwestern University sounds like a regional public university. It's that whole thing of having to explain so much that the quality of what we're doing here and the type of institution we are — not that we're wanting to become, but that we are — is lost in the shuffle." But the idea of a name change didn't catch on with students -- and angered some alumni.
For-profit college have moved in recent years into offering institutional loans to students, and this trend needs more scrutiny, according to a report released Monday by the National Consumer Law Center, which conducts research on behalf of borrowers. According to the report, high default rates suggest that "schools seem to view these loans more as 'loss leaders' to keep the federal dollars flowing" than as a form of financial aid. Further, the report says that in some cases, the terms on loans are "predatory."
Five faculty members at the Air Force Academy have filed a suit to block a "National Prayer Luncheon" event that they infringes on the separation of church and state, the Associated Press reported. The event, to which cadets and faculty have been invited, features a motivational speaker who describes himself as a "U.S. Marine for Christ." An academy spokesman said that attendance at the event was strictly voluntary.
Instructure, a new company offering learning management systems, is announcing today that it will make its system open source so that institutions can download a version free. The company describes itself as an alternative to market leader Blackboard, but the move also creates competition for open source providers such as Moodle and Sakai. Instructure says that 26 educational institutions have signed contracts and that another 100 are evaluating its offerings.
Members of two national associations of student affairs professionals in higher education -- ACPA: College Student Educators International and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education -- are voting this spring on whether the two groups will merge. Leaders of the two groups negotiated for a long time about the merger plan, and have argued generally that there are enough commonalities of interest and potential economies of scale that a merger makes sense. But a group with NASPA has now formed to argue against the merger. On a website called "NASPA, Yes! Consolidation, No!," the group argues that a merger would "complicate governance," eliminate choices for student affairs professionals, and create "a monstrous annual conference." A spokeswoman for NASPA said that the organization was not responding to the members who created the website. Statements from both organizations' leaders about the planned merger may be found here.
Thirteen percent of public high school biology teachers advocate creationism or intelligent design for at least an hour of time, according to a national study by two Pennsylvania State University professors. A majority of high school teachers are cautious about endorsing evolutionary theory as the clear scientific consensus position, the professors found.
Three postsecondary institutions affiliated with the Assemblies of God and located in Springfield, Mo., may merge, they announced on Friday. Announcements from the three colleges suggested that there may be economies of scale by joining forces, and enhancements of their missions, given their common religious faith. The institutions are the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Central Bible College and Evangel University.