Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2012

Harvard University’s faculty has taken a public stand against commercial journals that sell subscription “bundles” as a way to get libraries to spend more on journal subscriptions than they otherwise might. In a memo, addressed to the campus and posted on the Harvard Library website, the library’s Faculty Advisory Council said the amount the university spends on subscription “bundles” is approaching $3.75 million. “The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable.”

The memo did not single out any publishers by name, but said that it was "untenable" for the library to renew its current agreements with "at least two major providers." The faculty council advised researchers to raise the issue of exploitative journal pricing with their professional organizations and with each other and consider submitting to open-access journals instead of those “historically key providers.”

April 24, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, William Connell of Seton Hall University shares a recent discovery that is shedding light on the ups and downs of Niccolo Machiavelli’s political life. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 24, 2012

More than 20 years ago, the Posse Foundation established a model in which it brought groups of historically underrepresented students (the "posses" of its name) to selective colleges, where their strength in numbers and the attention of their institutions have helped them succeed where others like them might not have. Now the foundation is turning its attention to military veterans, launching a new program with its first branch at Vassar College.

April 24, 2012

Occupy Student Debt, an offshoot of the Occupy movement focusing on student debt and urging students to pledge not to repay their loans if other borrowers join them, is planning several events Wednesday to commemorate the total amount of student debt passing $1 trillion. "Demonstrations and creative actions" are planned for Union Square, in New York; the headquarters and regional offices of the student lender Sallie Mae; and at colleges across the country, including the University of Chicago, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union, Hampshire College, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

April 24, 2012

Years of legal battles over Fisk University's famous collection of modern art may be about to come to an end with the university permitted to sell a share in the collection, The Tennessean reported. The Tennessee Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear an appeal in the case, clearing the way for the sale to take place. The dispute concerns works donated by Georgia O’Keeffe, who stipulated that Fisk not sell or break up the collection. Tennessee's attorney general has challenged the sale, saying it would violate the terms of the donation and not serve the public. Fisk, a historically black college, has argued that it needs money from the sale to support its educational mission. Under the current plan, Fisk would sell a share in the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Arkansas, and the collection would appear for periods both there and at the university.

 

April 24, 2012

President Obama has taken his call for Congress to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized student loans to Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado -- all battleground states in this fall's election. But the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said during a press event Monday that he agrees with Obama, saying he supports an extension of the low interest rate, which would otherwise double for subsidized loans made after July 1. 

"Particularly with the number of college graduates that can't find work and can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," Romney said, according to the Huffington Post, which reported that Romney volunteered his position on the interest rate after no reporters asked about it during the news conference, his first since his path to the nomination became all but certain. "There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates on students as a result of student loans obviously, in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market."

Romney has said little about federal financial aid and other higher education issues so far, although he told college students in March to "shop around" on tuition prices and not expect the government to forgive their debt. He also endorsed Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would have let the interest rate rise.

April 24, 2012

A proposal released by a research center at the University of California at Berkeley and endorsed by Berkeley leaders on Monday would give individual University of California campuses control over setting their own tuition rates for graduate and out-of-state students, deciding what share of students should come from outside of the state and the ability to decide on construction projects, The Los Angeles Times reported. "The present monolithic structure of governance inadvertently results in lost opportunities for the campuses. The situation calls for many elements of governance to be closer to the local level," says the proposal. While the system's Board of Regents would maintain control over other key issues, the proposal would represent a major shift toward campus autonomy. Campus such as Berkeley, UCLA and the University of California at San Diego -- all major players in research and private fund-raising -- would likely see immediate benefits from such a system, but smaller campuses are expected to raise concerns. Mark G. Yudof, president of the system, said Monday that he could not back the proposal in its current form, but was willing to talk about issues raised by the plan.

 

April 24, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday that a consortium led by New York University is the second winner in the city’s Applied Sciences NYC Initiative, in which the city sought competitive bids from universities to develop applied-sciences campuses in the city. The larger prize was awarded in December to a partnership of Cornell University and Technion–the Israel Institute of Technology after a highly publicized competition between the pair and Stanford University.

Together with a consortium of academic and corporate partners, NYU and NYU-Poly plan to develop a Center for Urban Science and Progress at a city-owned building in downtown Brooklyn. The center will focus on studying and developing solutions to urban challenges in an interdisciplinary manner. NYU will be responsible for the cost of relocating the city equipment housed at the site, estimated to be about $50 million, though the city is granting the university about $15 million in benefits.

The consortium is composed of NYU and NYU-Poly, Carnegie Mellon University, the City University of New York, the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, the University of Toronto, and the University of Warwick, as well as corporate partners including IBM, Cisco, Siemens, and Xerox.

On a related note, a profile of Stanford University published Monday in The New Yorker spelled out some of the tensions that emerged between the city and the university, which was favored by many to win the competition until it pulled out days before Cornell was selected as the winner.

April 24, 2012

Westminster College, in Missouri, announced plans Monday to open a campus in the fall of 2013 in Mesa, Arizona. The college plans to offer majors in international business, environmental studies and transnational studies. Mesa has been encouraging colleges from elsewhere to set up programs in the area.

 

April 24, 2012

The Aspen Institute on Monday released a list of 120 community colleges that made the cut to be considered for the second annual Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which comes with a $1 million payout. The institute changed its criteria for evaluating community college performance, and this year's list includes 40 different institutions, meaning one-third of last year's eligible colleges were bumped. The process is based on graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and "equity in student outcomes." Josh Wyner, executive director of the institute's College Excellence program, said the formula was tweaked to better reflect steady performance rather than short-term spikes in numbers. The institute plans to name 10 finalists in September.

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