Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 7, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama announced last week that he would nominate Subra Suresh, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to be director of the National Science Foundation. Suresh joined MIT in 1993 as the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and since then has held joint faculty appointments in the departments of mechanical engineering and biological engineering, as well as the division of health sciences and technology. From 1983 to 1993, Dr. Suresh was a faculty member in engineering at Brown University. He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore, the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, and the German National Academy of Sciences.

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The Commission on English Language Program Accreditation has restored the accreditation of the English Language Institute at the University of South Florida. The accreditation had been revoked because the accreditor said that the institution's relationship with INTO University Partnerships, a British company that helps colleges recruit international students and manage language programs for them, constituted a change in institutional control that required a full review and approval by the accreditor. The university appealed the revocation of accreditation, saying that its relationship with INTO did not involve any change in control, noting that the university continued to control admissions and instruction. Theresa O’Donnell, the commission’s executive director, said in an interview that the association still believed it had been correct to yank recognition. But she said that when the university appealed, the association decided "to compromise," and to restore recognition, conditioned on the university now showing that there was no meaningful change in control of the program, and that it still met all standards (which the university says is the case). O'Donnell acknowledged that the accreditor acted after receiving a letter from the university's lawyer. She said that the letter did not threaten to sue, but was "not a collegial letter." A lawyer for the university said that the institution and the accreditor were "in constructive dialogue."

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The parents of Anastasia Megan, 13, have filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department charging that Lake-Sumter Community College, in Florida, is engaged in illegal age discrimination by denying Megan admission, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Megan has been home-schooled and her parents say that she is done with high school work and ready for more advanced instruction than they can provide. The college, while declining to discuss the case specifically, has raised the issue of safety, noting that its campus is open to anyone, and that students are generally adults.

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and American Public University said Thursday that the for-profit online institution would become the retailer's "education provider," offering discounted courses to the company's 1.4 million employees and awarding them academic credit for "job learning and experience" gained at work. American Public University System officials said Wal-Mart employees would get a 15 percent discount on the university's courses, and Wal-Mart officials told The New York Times that workers who receive company training in areas such as "pricing, inventory management and ethics" could earn as many as 24 credits toward a 61-credit associate degree or a 120-credit bachelor’s degree.

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

A year ago, Sonia Sotomayor had to call off a commencement address she was to have given at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York when she was nominated to join the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, The New York Times reported, she will deliver this year's speech, and she will bring along her mother, a graduate of the college's nursing program.

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Nevada Board of Regents has approved a series of controversial cuts at the University of Nevada at Reno, in many cases over faculty objections, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported. Citing state budget cuts, the board voted to eliminate academic programs in animal biotechnology, agricultural economics, environmental economics, German studies and interior design, among others.

Friday, June 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has barred students from displaying a statue to honor the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. A statement from the university characterizes the decision as upholding "the principle of political neutrality." but student leaders and others are calling the ban an infringement on free speech at the institution.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 3:00am

With a statement of support from a broad coalition of higher education groups, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers on Wednesday formally unveiled a set of "common core" academic standards that, the groups hope, could become a baseline for state expectations for what students must learn to be prepared for college and the work force. The standards in English and mathematics, which panels of college faculty members helped to vet, could, if adopted widely, become linked to college admission or placement standards in ways that could smooth the path from high school to college for some students.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 3:00am

Supporters of student health insurance plans who saw provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act threatening the plans were reassured Wednesday in a meeting with President Obama’s chief health care deputy. Representatives of the American College Health Association, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and the six presidential higher education associations met Wednesday with Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, to share their concerns. They worry that student plans -- currently defined as "limited duration," a category that exempts the plans from being part of the individual market -- would under the new law become too expensive for colleges and universities to offer.

One person in the room for the meeting, Steven Bloom, assistant director of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said that DeParle assured the group that the absence of language making clear that the plans could continue to operate just as they do today was "not intentional." The Obama administration has emphasized that "if you like the insurance you have, you get to keep it," Bloom said, "and they view student insurance as part of that.... It's just fallen through the cracks."

College health advocates first met with Congressional aides last fall to discuss this same concern, but language supporting student health insurance plans never made it into the final bill. Now that the bill has been passed and legislation is all but frozen on Capitol Hill, Bloom and his peers expect that a fix will come through regulations.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday appointed 15 people to a new panel charged with helping two-year colleges comply with a new federal requirement that degree-granting institutions report on their completion or graduation rates. The reporting requirement was one of many included in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, and the law called for creating the Committee on Measures of Student Success to recognize the fact that traditional measures of completion and graduation do not work for many community colleges (and other institutions, for that matter), given the flow of students into and out of the institutions for financial and other reasons. The panel will be headed by Thomas Bailey, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University's Teachers College and head of its Community College Research Center. The panel's other members, and their affiliations, are:

  • Margarita Benitez, senior associate, Excelencia in Education
  • Wayne Burton, president, North Shore Community College
  • Kevin Carey, policy director, Education Sector
  • Alisa Federico Cunningham, vice president, Institute for Higher Education Policy
  • Jacob Fraire, assistant vice president for educational alliances, Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation
  • Isabel Friedman, student, University of Pennsylvania
  • Millie Garcia, president, California State University at Dominguez Hills
  • Sharon Kristovich, higher education consultant
  • Harold Levy, managing director, Palm Ventures; former chancellor of New York City Public Schools
  • Geri Palast, executive director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity
  • Patrick Perry, vice chancellor, California Community College System
  • Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, deputy director, MDRC
  • Linda Thor, chancellor, De Anza College
  • Belle Wheelan, president, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges

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