Higher Education Quick Takes
University tuition fees rose by 2.58 percent in 40 developed countries in 2011 (1.76 percent when accounting for inflation), but student aid increased as well, leading to an overall increase in higher education affordability worldwide, according to a study published today by Higher Education Strategy Associates, a research group. While tuition rose significantly in the United States and South Africa, it fell by more than 5 percent in Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Russia and Turkey; and while student aid declined in the U.S., due to cutbacks in Pell Grants, it increased significantly in Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore and South Africa, the group found.
Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives are threatening to cut the budget of the University of Michigan if it does not provide more details on its research with stem cells, The Detroit Free Press reported. The Republicans are specifically demanding information about the exact number of stem cell lines at Michigan, something university officials say is more complicated than it may sound. The university has turned over a report on its work with stem cells, but that hasn't satisfied the legislators.
Some student loan borrowers with the biggest debt loads didn't fully understand what they were getting into when they borrowed the money, a survey of those borrowers has found. The survey, by the advocacy group Young Invincibles and NERA Economic Consulting, asked borrowers who signed a petition about student loan forgiveness what they were told when they took out the loans. About two-thirds of the respondents, who had an average debt load of $76,000, said they didn't understand the difference between private loans and federal loans. Federal loans have more protections and typically lower interest rates than privately offered loans. Two-thirds also said they misunderstood or were surprised by something in the borrowing and repayment process.
Twenty percent said they found the amount of their monthly payments surprising. An additional 20 percent were surprised by repayment terms, and 15 percent were surprised by the amount of interest they would have to pay. Many of those borrowers appear to look back ruefully: "I wish I asked a million more questions than what I did, but at the same time, I don’t think I knew what to ask," one said, according to the report, "High Debt, Low Information."
Borrowers with more than $50,000 in debt are a small fraction -- about 11 percent -- of student debtors over all. The average outstanding student loan debt is $23,300.
Paul H. Frampton, a physicist who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is in an Argentine jail facing cocaine charges, and he is fighting both those charges and the university's decision to suspend his salary, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. Frampton said that the cocaine was planted in his luggage, and that he is confident he will be able to show that in court. But he said he needs his salary paid, and is frustrated that it was cut off. Frampton said that Provost Bruce Carney blocked his pay out of professional jealousy. A university spokeswoman declined to say why Frampton's pay was suspended, but university officials have noted that he is not teaching as scheduled. But Frampton said he has continued to work 40-plus hours a week in prison, and has been advising his graduate students from afar (one of his advisees confirmed this).
Five University of Southern Mississippi students have been stripped of their pep band scholarships, kicked out of the band and ordered into a cultural sensitivity class for chanting "Where's your green card?" at an opposing basketball player from Puerto Rico. Caught on camera during the second round of the National College Athletic Association men's basketball tournament last week, the band members implied that Kansas State University freshman Angel Rodriguez was in the United States illegally. Rodriguez was born in San Juan, making him an American citizen.
University officials announced the punishment in a news release Tuesday. “The students have been forthcoming, cooperative, contrite and sincerely remorseful," said Joe Paul, Southern Mississippi's vice president for student affairs. "They acted rashly and inappropriately, and now see the gravity of their words and actions. This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them.”
The university issued a swift apology last week, and its athletic director met with Rodriguez in K-State's team hotel. Rodriguez, 19, accepted the apology.
Science leaders in Japan are warning that the country's universities are facing a shortage of young research talent, Nature reported. In the last 30 years, the number of science faculty members at state universities has grown from 50,000 to 63,000, but the number under the age of 35 has dropped from 10,000 to 6,800. Tight budgets have forced universities to limit hiring, leading to concerns about the future of science programs that aren't recruiting enough new professors.
Health-care costs associated with college students' blackouts reach hundreds of thousands of dollars at large universities, according to new research in the journal Health Affairs. The study analyzed the patterns of student drinking at five universities and found that blackout-related medical problems included broken bones, head and brain injuries, and other serious problems. Based on the research, the study estimates that large universities (with more than 40,000 students) could send enough students to hospitals for blackout-related medical care to incur costs of $469,000 to $546,000 each per year. The study's authors are Marlon P. Mundt and Larissa I. Zakletskaia, both of the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The faculty union of Lansing Community College presented the board Monday night with a vote of no confidence against President Brent Knight, and the board responded by passing a resolution expressing confidence in Knight, The Lansing State Journal reported. Board members said that the faculty vote was a tactic in contract negotiations. Faculty members have been working without a contract since the summer of 2010. But faculty members said that was but one of their grievances, and that they were frustrated by the administration's lack of consultation with them on academic matters, a new enrollment management system they did not like, and spending decisions they consider questionable.