Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

Amid an ongoing furor over the Obama administration's decision to require Roman Catholic colleges, hospitals and other religious employers to offer health insurance plans covering birth control at no cost, a senior adviser to the president's re-election campaign suggested Tuesday that compromise might be possible. On the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," David Axelrod, a top campaign adviser, said the White House would look for "a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions,"  The New York Times reported.

Religious institutions' objections were well-known before the final rule was issued in January. But the contraception coverage requirement has become a feature of the Republican presidential campaign, with Mitt Romney, considered most likely to face Obama in the general election, accusing the president of attacking religious liberty.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 4:28am

Many statehouses are seeing student protests this month, as lawmakers deliberate over proposed budget cuts, and symbolism is a common part of the scene -- with students regularly producing coffins for public higher education and so forth. In Kentucky Tuesday, students decided to use a stereotype to make their point. They took off their shoes, WDRB 41 News reported. "If they're going to keep cutting higher education, we're going to fulfill our own stereotypes and we're going to end up being the barefoot state everyone makes fun of," said Olivia McMillen, a student at the University of Louisville.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

The increased public focus on community colleges makes this a time for policy makers and others to gain a better understanding of the demographics of the institutions, according to a brief released Tuesday by the American Association of Community Colleges. Many assumptions that people have about college enrollment generally, or about community colleges, are out of date, the brief argues. For instance, many people assume fall enrollment figures are a good indication of total enrollment. But at community colleges, unduplicated year-round enrollments are on average 56 percent higher than fall enrollments. Including non-credit students would further add to the total.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Michael Mills of the University of Northern Colorado explains the study of semiotics in today’s multicultural environment. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

Stanford University announced Monday that it raised $6.2 billion between October 2006 and Dec. 31, 2011, shattering the record for the largest university fund-raising campaign in history and exceeding the university's original goal of $4.3 billion. Before Stanford's announcement, Yale held the record for the largest fund-raising campaign on record, raising $3.881 billion between 2004 and July 2011. Stanford's announcement even exceeds the largest announced goal, $6 billion, which the University of Southern California announced in August.

The $6.2 billion will go to fund cross-disciplinary initiatives in every area of the university, including more than 130 new endowed faculty appointments and 360 new fellowships for graduate students. Many large campaigns include gifts that are paid out over time, so it's particularly noteworthy that more than 80 percent of campaign commitments have already been fulfilled. The university has set up a website detailing what the money will be used for.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

During 2011, a record 800,000 people took the GRE, an increase of 13 percent, the Educational Testing Service announced today. ETS officials noted that this increase came in the year that the test featured numerous redesigned features. While not all GRE test-takers end up applying to graduate programs, increases in volume on the test are usually reflected in subsequent applications to graduate schools. If these figures do predict subsequent trends, look for major increases from outside the United States. The increase in the United States was 10 percent, while test-taking in other countries was up by nearly 25 percent. The two largest providers of foreign students to the United States both saw substantial gains, with the numbers from China up 28 percent, and the figures from India up 43 percent.

 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 3:00am

A majority of more than 800 bankruptcy lawyers in a survey say they have seen an increase in clients with student loans over the past few years and that most of those debtors are unlikely to be able to discharge their loans due to "undue hardship." The survey, published by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, found that 62 percent of the lawyers have seen bankruptcy cases involving student loans increase at least 25 percent since 2008. A paper published with the survey warns of a "Student Loan ‘Debt Bomb,' " and calls for restoring the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 3:00am

Protests against Sallie Mae's $50 "forbearance fees," which the lender charges to borrowers who cannot pay their loans and opt to let the funds accumulate interest, unpaid, rather than defaulting, have spread to Facebook. Thursday, Sallie Mae changed its policy after a petition to end the fees gained more than 75,000 signatures: after the borrowers have begun repaying the loan, the $50 fee will be applied against the loan's balance rather than pocketed by the company.

But that wasn't enough for many who wanted to see the fees vanish entirely, and many commented on the Facebook page for Sallie Mae's Upromise accounts asking that the policy be changed. The company later removed the Facebook posts, according to before and after screenshots. The "before" screenshot was provided by Change.org, the website where the petition started. (By Monday evening, more comments had appeared. Sallie Mae representatives did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 3:00am

Monday was the 101st anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth -- and Young America's Foundation marked the occasion with release of a national poll suggesting that professors have yet to give the Gipper his rightful place in history. "Americans rate Ronald Reagan as the greatest president, but try telling that to professors on our nation’s campuses. In a recent survey, 60 percent of college professors did not even rank President Reagan among the top ten presidents," said a press release on the poll results. Further, not one of the 284 faculty members surveyed named Reagan as the top president. (President Lincoln had the most support for that spot.) At the same time, the foundation noted that 61 percent of professors said Reagan had been successful, a level of praise that the foundation said was significant give that "the leftist tilt of college professors is well known."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 3:00am

A student at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside has confessed to writing the racial threats (including a hit list of students) that terrified the campus last week, TMJ4 News reported. The student had discovered a grouping of rubber bands that she took to be a noose and reported that discovery. The student told authorities that she was not satisfied with the investigation of the reported noose, so she made the threatening notes. Those notes prompted heightened security and several meetings on the campus.

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