Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Leeds is being criticized for holding an alumni event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and restricting attendance to men, Times Higher Education reported. Critics note that Leeds has policies pledging nondiscrimination. University officials said that they could hold the event at the hotel they have reserved only by making it male-only.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A consultant charged with studying a possible merger of Southern University at New Orleans and the University of New Orleans has come up with two options, both of which preserve some of the separate campuses, the Associated Press reported. One option would preserve the separate campuses with separate missions, but merge them into a new University of Greater New Orleans as part of the University of Louisiana System. The other option would shift the missions of both campuses to make them more distinct. In both scenarios, some administrative functions would be shared, and Southern's emphasis on being a historically black institution would be lessened. Supporters of Southern and of black students in Louisiana have strongly opposed changes from the current system, in which Southern's New Orleans campus is part of a historically black system. The consultant's report is available here; the regents are expected to consider the proposal today, and Governor Bobby Jindal and the speaker of the state House both said on Monday that they supported the proposal that would merge the two institutions into one University of Greater New Orleans, as part of the Louisiana system.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Every year there are new complaints about the college admissions process being too complicated and confusing to families. But surveys of students and parents released by the College Board Monday indicated that most in both groups said that the process was relatively clear -- for public and private colleges alike. National surveys like this one tend to be less weighted than much media coverage toward the small minority of students who apply to many competitive colleges, which may explain the differences. On a score of 1-10, with 1 being "very clear" and 10 being "very confusing," parents and students both gave median scores of 3 for knowing how admissions decisions are made. Medians were lower (meaning that respondents said things were more clear) for such issues as knowing whom to call with questions, being able to find needed information on colleges' websites, and completing applications.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education, which administers the GED testing program, announced today that it will join with Pearson PLC, a British-based media company, to develop a new GED test that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and better-equipped to prepare students for college and careers. ACE and Pearson will create a joint corporation to develop and administer the new test, which is expected to be ready in 2014. Starting in April, the new ACE-Pearson entity will begin to overhaul select sites from its 3,400 testing stations in California, Florida, Texas and Georgia so they can offer the existing GED in a computer-based format. That process will eventually extend nationwide, making the GED strictly a computer-based test by 2013. Nearly 800,000 GED tests are taken each year, according to the American Council on Education.

Independently of Pearson, ACE will begin to offer “a transition network that connects GED test takers to career and postsecondary educational opportunities” in conjunction with the test. Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said that such a network will include “a portal or personal counseling to assist in [the] decision to go on in higher education or to go directly into a job.”

The new GED is expected to be released sometime in 2014.

"This bold, far-sighted and innovative partnership will provide a new, fresh approach toward solving an old and pernicious problem -- the incredible waste of human talent represented by the millions of Americans who lack a high-school diploma," said Broad in a press release.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Leaders save all the really tough decisions until right before they head out the door. The retiring president of Tufts University, Lawrence Bacow, announced in an op-ed in the student newspaper Monday that he was bringing the curtain down on the decades-old tradition of the "Naked Quad Run," citing physical and alcohol-related dangers that befall student participants in the annual event. Bacow said that when he became president a decade ago, he decided to try to "manage" rather than end the event, but that he had concluded over time that that was no longer possible. "Given that we can no longer manage the run, we cannot allow this 'tradition' to continue," he wrote. "Even if I did not act now, NQR would end some day. The only question is whether a student has to die first. We cannot allow this to happen, and the Naked Quad Run will not continue."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

With Arizona set to impose more budget cuts on its public colleges, legislators in the state are considering legislation that would save for-profit colleges in the state millions in taxes on their online students, the Arizona Republic reported. The legislation would reduce the state income tax that certain businesses pay when they sell services to out-of-state customers, the newspaper reported; officials at the Apollo Group and Grand Canyon Education, both of which are based in Phoenix and have reportedly lobbied for the change, disputed a state estimate that the bill would save them $33 million combined, the Republic said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Michigan's attorney general has taken a side in Eastern Michigan University's legal dispute with a former student over the right of public universities to enforce anti-bias rules as a requirement for recognition of student organizations -- the student's side. Bill Schuette, the state's top lawyer, has filed a friend of the court brief in a federal appeals court siding with Julea Ward, who was dismissed from Eastern Michigan's counseling program in 2009 for declining to advise gay students in an affirming way -- in conflict, the university said, with its own anti-bias rules and the standards of national counseling associations. A federal judge last summer upheld Eastern Michigan's right to dismiss Ward, rejecting her claims that it had infringed her religious freedom. University officials said in a statement Monday that the arguments in the attorney general's brief relied on "factual distortions" made by Ward.

Monday, March 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The latest in a series of short-term spending bills that Congress will consider this week as lawmakers do battle over the longer-term funding of the government would leave key higher education programs unscathed but eliminate more than $100 million in earmarks for agriculture and other research programs that benefit colleges and universities. The measure, which House Republicans unveiled on Friday, would fund the federal government through April 8 while Congressional leaders and the White House negotiate over a bill to finance government operations through the rest of the 2011 fiscal year.

Monday, March 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday announced a new effort to work with leading women's colleges to encourage women around the world in the areas of leadership and public service. While details are minimal, Clinton said that the State Department would be working with the five "Seven Sisters" institutions that are still women's colleges: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley Colleges. (She noted that the latter college is her alma mater.) "As a first step, we will host a conference this fall bringing policy makers, public officials, academics, innovative thinkers together from around the world to build these new global partnerships, so that once we’ve brought attention to an issue or a leader, we will be able to continue to build and support the work that is being done," she said. Clinton made the announcement at a summit on women's issues organized by the recently combined Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

Monday, March 14, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of Rochester's C. Douglas Haessig explores the mathematical curiosity Pi, and how it has inspired an unofficial holiday. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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