The Educational Testing Service announced last week that it is suspending registrations in Iran for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. ETS cited the new sanctions against Iran adopted by the United Nations and the United States, which make it impossible for ETS to handle payments from Iran. The New York Times reported that many experts on international education are outraged by this news, given that the TOEFL is taken by Iranians who want to come study in the United States -- precisely those Iranians who may someday promote democracy in their home country. An official with the International English Language Testing System, a British-based system known by the acronym IELTS, which is a competitor to TOEFL, told Inside Higher Ed that IELTS continues to be offered in Iran.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a 2011 spending bill Thursday that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by $1 billion and provide $5.7 billion to keep the maximum Pell Grant at its current level, closing an existing shortfall. Most other student aid programs would be held at their 2010 levels under the legislation, but Rep. David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who heads the panel, noted that the measure would provide the first significant increase in a decade in job training grants through the Workforce Investment Act.
The University of Texas Investment Management Company is worried enough about the state of the markets that it spent $500 million (about 3 percent of its value) on buying gold, The Houston Chronicle reported. Bruce Zimmerman, CEO of the fund, told the University of Texas Board of Regents this week that the move reflected "a lack of confidence in financial markets," adding that " I wish I could tell you the future looked rosy. Unfortunately, that's not our view. At best, we believe the future is uncertain."
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has put Ball State University on three years' probation for rules violations in its women’s tennis program. The NCAA report, released Wednesday, notes that Kathy Bull, former coach, required her players “to participate in playing and practice hours that exceeded time limitations," “failed to provide two calendar days off per week” and “required student-athletes to participate in mandatory athletic activities during the summer vacation period.” In addition to the probation, the women’s tennis team at Ball State will have its allowable playing and practice time limited further this coming season. Bull received a three-year show-cause order, which “outlines how athletic duties must be limited” if she takes another coaching job.
Birmingham-Southern College has announced deep cuts and layoffs, following the discovery of errors in the way the college was awarding financial aid that have resulted in the need to cut spending by about $10 million a year, The Birmingham News reported. The cuts include 51 layoffs, pay cuts that average 10 percent for all employees (but that are larger for those who are more highly compensated), two one-week furloughs for non-faculty employees, and suspension of contributions to retirement funds.
Betty White is becoming a community college professor -- of the fictional variety. The Los Angeles Times reported that she will guest star on the NBC show "Community," playing June Bauer, " an esteemed but slightly unhinged anthropology professor." The show was originally the cause of much concern among community college educators, but many have come around.
The University of Michigan's medical school recently toughened its conflict of interest rules by barring pharmaceutical industry funding to support continuing medical education. That leaves some wondering why the university's president, Mary Sue Coleman, sits on the board of Johnson & Johnson, The Detroit Free Press reported. Coleman sees the situations as different, noting that she is not involved with the kinds of decisions at the medical school that could directly involve Johnson & Johnson's products. "It's essential that U-M have a voice and interact with the business world," a university spokesman told the Free Press. "She thinks it's her duty to understand what the commercial world is doing."
Across the University of California system, freshmen from outside of California (including those from outside the United States) will increase to 8 percent this year, up from 6 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported. The increases are intended to bring in revenue, but some worry about the impact on the admission of Californians to the highly competitive university system. Among those from California, Asian Americans are the largest ethnic group, with 40.7 percent of the class. White students will make up 26.2 percent, Latinos 23.1 percent and African Americans 3.9 percent of the class.
Sallie Mae and Student Loan XPress gave illegal inducements to private student loan borrowers at institutions run by Corinthian Colleges Inc., the Education Department's inspector general said in an audit this week. According to the audit, Sallie Mae provided for parents of students at Corinthian institutions to get a "one-time $500 credit towards their closing costs of a new home loan" from the lender if the parent took out a parental student loan (known as PLUS) from Sallie Mae. The audit also uncovered inappropriate inducements made by Student Loan XPress, although the department concedes that a 2009 settlement with the lender may mean that it will not face further penalties. The inspector general urges the department's Federal Student Aid office to consider penalties against Sallie Mae, which disputes the IG's conclusions that the inducements were illegal.
American University is expanding its test-optional admissions program. Last year, the university allowed early decision applicants to skip the normal requirement of either an SAT or ACT score. This year, the university wants students to apply early, but they need to not be early decision (binding) applicants. Anyone who applies by Nov. 1 can skip the standardized test scores.