Higher Education Quick Takes
The Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday suspended the Faculty Senate at Idaho State University, which voted no confidence last week in the university's president, Arthur Vailas, The Spokesman-Review reported. Officials of the board, which governs all public education in the state, said the decision was “the most reasonable action to take at this time" given what it characterized as the disconnect between the faculty and Vailas, for whom the board had recently expressed support. “The impasse between the leadership of the senate group and the administration has reached a point where the prospect of any kind of progress was simply non-existent. It’s time to start over.” The board directed Vailas to develop an interim faculty body, the newspaper reported.
After a brief break in months of protests, they resumed Thursday at the University of Puerto Rico, The New York Times reported. Students have been protesting a new fee that effectively doubles costs for them. Last week, the president of the university quit and there were a few days of relative calm on the main campus. But on Thursday, the Times reported, students were able to close down the humanities departments and most access to the social sciences building.
A new report by Excelencia in Education asserts that institutions across the country can learn how to improve Latino student persistence and degree completion, especially during these challenging economic times, by mimicking the strategies of eight colleges and universities along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The highlighted institutions are El Paso Community College District, Laredo Community College, South Texas College, Texas Southmost College, Texas A&M International University, and the Universities of Texas at Brownsville, El Paso and Pan American. All of these are designated Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) by the federal government, meaning more than a quarter of their student population is Hispanic, and they rank among the top institutions in enrolling and graduating Latino students, both statewide and nationally. Some of their effective strategies include campus-based work-study programs, guaranteed need-based scholarships, and emergency loans and installment/payment plans for them. Excelencia officials note that, amid federal budget talks (including the possible trimming of the Pell Grant maximum and HSI grants), this report is meant to influence “federal policy makers addressing the broader growth of Hispanic students throughout higher education.”
Proposals in Wisconsin and Ohio that would bar public colleges and university faculty members (and many other state employees) from engaging in collective bargaining are drawing numerous angry responses from faculty members and students. In Wisconsin on Thursday, students held walkouts and protests on most University of Wisconsin campuses. Here are local accounts of activities at Eau Claire, Milwaukee and River Falls. Also on Thursday, Cary Nelson of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement about the Ohio legislation, which he said should "be of grave concern to all faculty members--whether they are in a collective bargaining unit or not, whether they would choose personally to be involved in a union. The issue is self-determination: whether faculty members and other public sector employees should have the democratic right to choose their own collective destiny."
Eight for-profit colleges failed in 2008-9 to meet federal requirements for student aid eligibility that at least 10 percent of their revenue come from sources other than federal student aid, according to data released by the U.S. Education Department on Wednesday. No colleges failed the test the prior year. The data also show increasing numbers of for-profit colleges that, although in compliance with the law, are extremely dependent on federal student aid. From 2007-8 to 2008-9, the number of for profit colleges with 85 to 90 percent of revenue coming from federal student aid increased to 257, from 209. Further, the number with 80 to 85 percent of revenue coming from federal student aid increased to 285 from 248.
The University of Notre Dame is facing -- for the second time this academic year -- charges that it was slow to investigate an alleged sexual assault by one of its students on a female student at nearby St. Mary's College, the Chicago Tribune reported. In the first case, the student who brought the complaint subsequently committed suicide. In the new case, the man who was accused of the sexual assault (and who says the sex was consensual) was not interviewed by authorities for 11 days after the accusation was made. Notre Dame, while not discussing details of the cases, issued a statement defending its handling of such allegations.
Leaders of the University of Wisconsin System are urging Governor Scott Walker to reconsider a plan to spin off the system's flagship Madison campus into an independent university -- while the chancellor at Madison has quietly been encouraging the governor to set the campus loose, The Journal-Sentinel of Milwaukee reported. In a letter to Walker on Tuesday, Kevin Reilly, the system's president, and the leaders of its board write that "it has come to our attention that elements of your proposed 2011-13 biennial budget might remove UW-Madison from the UW System." Doing so would return the state to a two-tiered university system that it abandoned 40 years ago, the letter states, which would be bad for students and taxpayers. The UW system officials said that they are committed to giving the Madison campus more flexibility and autonomy, and noted that Madison's chancellor, Biddy Martin -- while pushing hard for more autonomy -- "is not advocating for UW-Madison to be removed from the system."
But late Wednesday, The Journal-Sentinel reported that it had uncovered evidence to the contrary. It cited a brief memo that Martin wrote in January to a member of the governor's cabinet acknowledging Walker's proposal and expressing support for it, if obliquely. "As I indicated when we met, we will need to continue working with the leadership of our key internal constituencies, among them our key alumni, to ensure support for a proposal," Martin wrote. And Wednesday night, the newspaper reported, Martin -- wrote a letter to the regents explaining why she had "ventured as far as I have" in pushing for Madison to split off from the system. "In my view, it is dangerous not only for UW-Madison, but for the entire System and the state to have the System administration and the regents oppose the possibility that its flagship campus, or any other campus, be given the tools it needs to preserve quality and contribute to economic recovery," she wrote.. There is nothing to be gained, in this economic and political environment, from opposing an innovative and helpful step that could move the entire system and state forward."
Depression and a loss of financial aid significantly influence college students to consider dropping out -- while events such as a death in the family and students' failure to get into their intended major have little apparent effect on continued enrollment, according to a study by Michigan State University scholars. The study, which was funded by the College Board and is forthcoming in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, used a mathematical model to analyze the "shocks" that promoted 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities to withdraw (or not). “Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college,” said Tim Pleskac, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State. “We now have a method to measure what events are ‘shocking’ students and prompting them to think about quitting.”