After weeks of divisive debate, Bergen County College’s Board of Trustees reached a compromise Wednesday with Kathleen A. Donovan, the New Jersey county executive who threatened to cut local funding for the college if she did not gain the ability to unilaterally remove items from the board’s meeting agendas. Under the compromise, which was approved unanimously by the board, Donovan can shelve agenda items, but they can be put back on the agenda within a month. Pleased with the decision, Donovan told the Bergen Record: “It’s not my job to pick the teachers or interfere with the workings of the college. It’s dollars and cents. It’s about how the money is spent.” E. Carter Corriston, board chairman, released a statement Thursday, stating: "The board looks forward to a partnership with the Bergen county executive that will promote the mutual goal of providing excellent educational opportunities to the students of Bergen Community College at a fair and reasonable cost."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The trustees of New Jersey's Brookdale Community College placed the president of the two-year institution on unpaid leave Thursday amid an investigation into charges that he had run up significant travel and other expenses that "may not be directly connected to Brookdale or are contrary to Brookdale’s adopted policies," the board said in its statement. Brookdale's president, Peter Burnham, came under fire last week after the Asbury Park Press and other publications reported on his significant benefits and perquisites. Further reviews of the college's budget led to Burnham's suspension and the hiring of an interim president, the board said.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, testified Wednesday before a Senate hearing entitled “Preventing Abuse of the Military's Tuition Assistance Program.” In addition to responding to a new Government Accountability Office report that calls on the Defense Department to increase oversight of institutions receiving military aid dollars, Harkin cited his December report on for-profit colleges to express his concern about the growing amount of funds going to service members at career colleges.
Advocates of for-profit institutions, however, continued to question his report’s findings. Harris Miller, president of the Association of Private Sector College and Universities, wrote in a statement after the hearing: “[For-profit institution] enrollments of military personnel and veterans are not skyrocketing, nor are our schools ‘targeting’ service members or veterans. Students with a military background select our schools because [for-profit institutions] offer a ‘no-frills’ approach to a quality higher education. These are individuals who want to get their programs, to gain bankable skills and to get on with life. Demand for private sector colleges and universities by members of the military has grown because of flexible and accelerated schedules, targeted programs, and a focus on educating adults for specific careers.”
Many college students want commencement speakers who are famous and some new student groups and Facebook pages suggest any kind of fame will do. George Washington University already has a commencement speaker for this year (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg). But students at the university have started a campaign to get Charlie Sheen as the 2012 commencement speaker, attracting considerable support on Facebook and Twitter (typical comment: "I don't want some stiff-ass politician boring me to death as I graduate"). The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, has declared the movement "a satirical ploy." But the idea may be spreading. Other Facebook pages want Sheen to speak at commencement at the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri at Columbia and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
While minority institutions remain crucial to educating minority students in science, they appear to be producing smaller proportions of new minority scientists than in the past, according to data released Wednesday by the National Science Foundation. In 2008, historically black colleges awarded 20 percent of the bachelor's degrees earned by black students in science and engineering, down from 26 percent in 2000. In 2008, colleges with high Latino enrollments awarded 32 percent of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering that went to Latino students, down from 35 percent in 2000.
More than 200 students staged a sit-in in the administration building at Dickinson College to protest what they view as insufficient policies to prevent sexual assaults, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Students said that they were frustrated by the slow and non-public response of the college to allegations of sexual assault -- with several of the incidents involving women who said they knew their attackers. College officials said that they in fact have most of the policies that students are demanding and take all such allegations seriously, but that cases of "acquaintance rape" can be difficult to investigate.
Higher education groups stepped up their campaign Wednesday against the latest round of regulatory steps made by the U.S. Education Department. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, 60 college associations urged the department to withdraw its October 2010 rule that would require states to specifically authorize institutions to offer postsecondary education, to have a process whereby an institution can be subject to adverse action by the state, and to have a process to review and act on complaints. According to the groups’ letter, rather than address their earlier concerns that the rule encouraged state "overreach" in regulating independent colleges, the Education Department added in the final rule an "entirely new and problematic provision regulating distance education programs." The state authorization rule is the second that the groups have urged the department to withdraw; the first was on a new federal definition of the credit hour.
President Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that funds the federal government through the middle of March, averting a threatened government shutdown but cutting several programs, including the $64 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, which provides federal matching funds to states that provide need-based financial aid to students. The measure also cuts $129 million in earmarked funds distributed in 2010 through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. But it does no damage to the Pell Grant Program.