A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests that while states are no longer experiencing steep declines in revenues, recovery is going to be a slow process. Nearly every state is now projecting fiscal 2011 revenue to be more than 2010 revenue, but the figures for 2010 are so much lower than past years that the increases are likely to be far short of a full recovery.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Fixing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may not be enough to ease low-income students' access to federal financial assistance, a new report suggests. The study, by the Institute for College Access & Success, lays out the significant barriers that face students after they've filled out the FAFSA, which the Education Department is working to simplify. The major impediment, the group argues, is a process in which the department seeks to verify the financial information submitted by applicants -- a process that disproportionately affects Pell Grant recipients and disqualifies significant numbers of them. The report includes a series of recommendations aimed at lowering the barriers while still ensuring the integrity of the federal financial aid awards process.
Faculty members at the Art Institute of Seattle have voted down a proposed union, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Faculty members behind the union drive at the institute had sought to organize with the American Federation of Teachers, and the effort was a rare one in for-profit higher education, where adjunct positions dominate. Some faculty members behind the union said that the art institute had used "union busting" tactics to scare faculty members. Others said that the art institute had improved working conditions after the union drive went public. For example, they said class sizes were reduced substantially.
Nike announced Monday that together with its subsidiaries, it would provide $1.5 million and vocational training for workers who lost jobs at company suppliers in Honduras. The University of Wisconsin at Madison and Cornell University have moved to end lucrative relationships with Nike over the issue of the company's treatment of these workers. Nike has until now largely argued that it couldn't be held responsible for the actions of some of its subcontractors. A statement from Madison said that its "decision to end its licensing agreement with Nike over the treatment of Honduran factory workers has had a major, positive impact." A spokesman said that it was now possible the university could again negotiate contracts with Nike.
The U.S. Copyright Office on Monday promulgated a number of new exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including one allowing university staffers and students to hack DVD content and display it for educational purposes. If a university or student lawfully obtains copy of a DVD, the agency says, they can bypass the encryption so long as "circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for... Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students." The exemption applies when professors or students want to use excerpts of the hacked DVD in documentary films or "non-commercial videos." Tracy Mitrano, director of I.T. policy at Cornell University and a technology law blogger for Inside Higher Ed, called the decision "very big news," and "good news," for higher education, noting that advocates in academe have been lobbying for an expansion of fair use exemptions for some time. One campus that might take heart is the University of California at Los Angeles, which an educational media group threatened to sue last spring for copying and streaming DVD content on course websites. The university had refused to stop the practice, and a UCLA spokesman said the group, the Association for Information and Media Equipment, has not followed through. He said UCLA is reviewing the new rules.
Trustees of the Connecticut State University System on Monday backed down on the size of raises for top administrators, bowing to pressure from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who not only criticized the raises of 8-10 percent, but called for a change in system governance, The Hartford Courant reported. Until Monday, trustees said that the large raises -- now largely cut in half -- were needed to be competitive for top talent.
India's Bangalore University has decided to reserve one slot in each of 52 academic departments for transgendered students, The Hindu reported. Indian universities operate under quota systems for admitting students from various groups that have suffered discrimination.
The University of Provence Aix-Marseille has called off a conference on Mediterranean literature after some participants said that they wouldn't interact with an Israeli author scheduled to appear, Haaretz and the Associated Press reported. The university's president, Jean-Paul Caverni, said that the institution would not "hold a conference with those who excluded dialogue."
British officials have decided to let BPP, a for-profit institution affiliated with the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, call itself a "university college," a closely controlled and significant term in Britain, Financial Times reported. The new status will also see the British branch, which has focused on business programs, move into many other academic areas. David Willetts, universities and science minister, said that "what matters is the quality of the teaching experience, not the exact legal status of the institution."
Rutgers University has declined a request from Gov. Chris Christie that the institution start growing medical marijuana under the provisions of a new state law, NewJersey.com reported. The law allows for the designation of several nonprofit groups to grow the pot, but the governor had hoped to centralize the operation at Rutgers. University officials said that they feared the impact of growing marijuana -- even at the request of the state -- on the institution's ability to obtain federal research grants.