Liberty University announced this week that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, would be this year's commencement speaker. The university's announcement noted that Ronald Reagan spoke at Liberty's commencement in 1980, shortly before his election as president. Many students and some other supporters of the university are upset, arguing that they believe Romney -- as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- is not a Christian. Numerous comments have been posted on the Liberty Facebook page, and are attracting support. CNN reported. One student's comment: "Liberty University should have gotten a Christian to speak not someone who practices a cult. Shame on you Liberty University."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Albert Lord, the CEO of Sallie Mae, told industry analysts Thursday that he does not believe reports suggesting a bubble ahead for student loans, Bloomberg reported. "We don’t see anything of any evidence close to a bubble," Lord said. "This country underwent a significant financial crisis in our very recent past. It’s not really a surprise that many see bubbles around every corner." Sallie Mae expects to originate $3.2 billion in education loans this year.
Gonzaga University is rejecting calls from some alumni that it rescind its invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be commencement speaker this year, The Spokesman-Review reported. Critics of the invitation say that the Roman Catholic institution shouldn't honor the Anglican cleric who was a leader in the fight against apartheid because he disagrees with Roman Catholic teachings on various issues related to gender and sexuality. But the university released a statement defending the invitation. "In the 1980s and early 90s, Gonzaga faculty, staff and trustees, together with a generation of students, worked to bring awareness of the evils of apartheid in South Africa to the forefront of the Spokane community,” the statement said. "At the University’s 2012 undergraduate commencement, we are privileged to welcome a world-renowned Christian leader and social rights activist whose faith-based lifelong dedication to the cause of justice so clearly resonates with our work as a university."
Rev. Bradley M. Schaeffer on Thursday quit his position as a Boston College trustee. His resignation followed a report in The Boston Globe that he had failed to stop a priest he was supervising from abusing boys. "As all in our community know, Boston College is a wonderful, caring institution of higher education,” said his resignation letter. "I do not want to harm it or be a distraction. Therefore, I am ending my service as a trustee today.”
The California State University System has decided to preserve grants for graduate students, easing the fears of about 20,000 grad students whose funds were in danger, The Los Angeles Times reported. The system is facing deep budget cuts from the state, and considered asking the low-income graduate students to use federal loans -- rather than the grants -- to cover their expenses. The plan was abandoned amid a lobbying campaign by students to preserve the funds.
Students and others are protesting plans at the University of Florida to move research functions from the computer science department, allowing it to focus on teaching, The Gainesville Sun reported. Critics say that the plan will diminish the quality of the department, while university officials stress that they must save money to deal with erosion in budget support.
A Colorado judge on Thursday denied a request by six individuals who sought to block the University of Colorado at Boulder from keeping everyone who is not a student or employee off the campus today, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The university imposed the rules to try to prevent an annual gathering on April 20 of people who smoke pot together in an unofficial party. Civil libertarians have said that the university is effectively squelching political debate because the event is also a forum for opposing current drug laws. But Judge Andrew Macdonald said that the university had legitimate reasons to block the event. "Why doesn't CU have the right to say, 'We don't want to pay $60,000 a year for this?'" he said. "Why don't they have the right to say, 'We're tired of this?'"
A report by Education Sector shows how rapidly the federal government has increased its spending on tax credits and deductions for college tuition -- tax breaks that disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers. Financial aid experts have noted that amid many complaints about the exploding costs of the Pell Grant Program, which mostly assists low-income students, relatively little attention has been paid to tuition tax breaks. In addition to documenting the growth of the tax breaks, the Education Sector report urges their elimination.
"At a time when Congress is struggling to fund the Pell Grant program and financially needy students who pursue a higher education are facing mountains and mountains of debt, policymakers need to refocus the government’s resources on its core mission of eliminating the financial barriers that prevent low-income and working-class students from enrolling in and completing college," the report states.
With state funds in short supply, public and private higher education leaders in Iowa are sparring. The Des Moines Register reported that private college leaders were upset when Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, drew attention to the funds going to private college students in the state through a program not open to those at public institutions. He said that the money didn't go to "our public universities, which the people of Iowa own.” Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, responded by saying: "If that was a shot across the bow, and it certainly seemed to be to me, I think that's selfish."