Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Sixty-two percent of Californians believe that public higher education in the state is headed in the wrong direction, according to a survey being released today by the Public Policy Institute of California. Only 28 percent believe that public higher education is headed in the right direction.

The poll results suggest that while Californians are concerned about public higher education, and see the severe funding problems facing the state's colleges and universities, there is no consensus on what to do. Nearly three-quarters of Californians (including 58 percent of Republicans) said that higher education isn't receiving enough state funds. But 52 percent of Californians said that they were unwilling to pay higher taxes to support existing programs, while 45 percent said that they would support higher taxes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Thirty-seven percent of community college students this fall were blocked from enrolling in at least one course they desired, according to a survey being released today by the Pearson Foundation. That is up from 32 percent who reported being unable to enroll in at least one course a year ago. The figures this fall were even higher for black students (42 percent) and Latino students (54 percent). Students enrolled part time and those enrolled in remedial courses were more likely to report difficulty in getting into sections of courses.

The foundation also surveyed community college students on distance education, and found that community college students appear to be embracing it. Fifty-seven percent of community college students reported having taken college courses online, 46 percent reported doing so this fall, and 74 percent of those who have taken online courses said that they were satisfied with the experience.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Modern Language Association's Executive Council has issued a statement expressing concern about the impact of rising student debt, and calling on colleges and governments to take steps to minimize debt. "To reduce debt burdens in the future, we call on Congress, state legislatures, and institutions of higher education to calibrate educational costs and student aid in ways that will keep student debt within strict limits. We also call on them to hold in check tuition increases, which often far outpace inflation, and to ensure that degree programs allow for timely completion," says the statement.

An accompanying letter from Russell Berman, the MLA president and a professor of comparative literature and German studies at Stanford University, discussed the importance for advocates of the humanities speaking out on issues of college affordability and student debt. "College education has aspired to achieve more than the imparting of instrumental job training by instead building students’ creativity, argumentative rigor, and cognitive flexibility — capacities of the mind that might of course contribute to career success but that do not involve the mastery of specific job-related techniques or the attainment of preprofessional accreditation. This goal remains valid," Berman's letter says. "It is important to recognize, however, that the liberal arts celebration of an education not linked to professional preparation has existed alongside the promise that higher education would open the door to a fulfilling career. This gap between the appeal of the liberal arts, on the one hand, and the dismal job market, on the other, persists and puts pressure on the MLA’s mission: promoting the study of language and literature. As we rightly defend student opportunities to study the liberal arts, we face a moral obligation to address the career prospects of our students and the economic pressures they will face."

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking comments on private student loans from students, families, colleges and loan providers to prepare a report for Congress on private student lending. In a notice published in today's Federal Register, the bureau said it was seeking information on how students use private loans, what types of comparison shopping tools are available, what best practices are for financial aid offices who counsel private borrowers, and other topics related to the private lending industry. The report must be submitted to Congress by July 21, 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of Miami's Daniel Messinger decodes the common features of interactions between an infant and parent. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday announced plans to create a "meta university." This new university would be a structure that would allow students to simultaneously enroll in programs at multiple institutions. "This would enable a student of astrophysics in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for example, to take up a course in comparative literature at the Jadavpur University. Such creative reconfigurations are expected to create 'new minds' conducive to the growth of innovation," said Singh, in a speech at India's National Innovation Council.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The career services office at Pennsylvania State University is offering students advice on what to do if they are asked by prospective employers about the sex-abuse scandal. In a letter, the office says that it has not experienced cancellations of recruiting sessions, but has received questions from students about what to do if the topic comes up.

The advice is as follows: "Students may acknowledge that they are primarily concerned for the victims and also concerned for Penn State in these unsettling times. However, students should keep the focus on the job or internship for which they are applying and how they will excel in the opportunity. Students should note that they can only take personal responsibility for their individual actions. Talk about the good work accomplished at Penn State in building the skills and professional qualities in preparation for the position, and about the excitement to put those skills to work for the employer. Inform the employer or internship site that, if hired, you will reflect favorably on the employer through your good work, core values and skill obtained through our university."


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University says it wants to be fair to those who want to supply food to its students and employees. But a plan at the New Brunswick campus to do so may result in kicking out "grease trucks" that have for years been situated in parking lots serving sandwiches with names such as "Fat Darrell" and "Fat Cat," The Star-Ledger reported. Many students are outraged. Anthony Sandelli told the newspaper that his favorite sandwich is the "Fat Beach" (cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and french fries). He said it would be a "disgrace" to force the trucks to move. "This is their spot and nobody should be able to take that away from them," said Sandelli.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 4:23am

Cabrini College has announced that it is cutting tuition by 12.5 percent, to $29,000, for 2012-13. Some colleges that have in the past cut or frozen tuition rates have fairly quickly seen increases in subsequent years, but Cabrini has imposed a limit on future increases. It has pledged that tuition will remain below $30,000 through May of 2015. The college also said that current merit scholarship awards will not be reduced.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Thirty-one scientists from 21 colleges and universities in Iowa have issued a letter to the Republican presidential candidates, urging them to admit that the science of climate change is real. Many of the candidates have asserted that there is not a scientific consensus on the issue, even though scientists say that such a consensus exists. Gov. Rick Perry, for example, has called himself a "skeptic" on climate change. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, has in the past acknowledged climate change but of late has backtracked from that position. The Iowa letter was drafted by four professors at Iowa State University. "We urge all candidates for public office at national, state, and local levels to acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underpinning causes of climate change, to develop appropriate policy responses, and to develop local and statewide strategies to adapt to near-term changes in climate," says the letter.


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