Government programs aimed at encouraging more students to complete degrees in science, mathematics, education or technology should be better coordinated across agencies, a report issued Friday by the Government Accountability Office recommended. The report, undertaken after a request from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, found that the 209 STEM programs across 13 agencies frequently overlap but that fewer than half of those programs coordinate with similar efforts. Just because programs overlap doesn't mean they are redundant, the GAO wrote in its report. Still, the office recommended that the Office of Science and Technology Policy create a strategy and plan for STEM programs, including how the programs should share information across agencies, and evaluate the programs based on their outcomes.
Higher Education Quick Takes
About one-third of South Korean universities have announced tuition cuts, The Korea Herald reported. The government has been urging the cuts, in a year in which student aid is being increased, to make higher education more affordable for Korean families.
Pepperdine University has, for the fourth time, rejected a request from a gay-straight student alliance to be recognized. A petition, signed by nearly 4,000 people as of Tuesday morning, said that the university needed to accept the organization. "Pepperdine students often struggle to be honest about their sexual orientation because they fear rejection from their peers as well as the risk of losing their scholarships and leadership opportunities," the petition says. "Moreover, professors do not feel comfortable speaking on the issue, worrying that they will be denied tenure or research grants. Until now, the university’s policies have created an atmosphere of silence and anxiety that alienates not only the LGBT student population but also anyone concerned for their well-being." The petition states that the group, Reach OUT, does not endorse sexual activity, but that organizers were unwilling to abide by an administrator's request that it "explicitly condemn sexual activity." A university spokesman told the Associated Press that the group was not aligned with Pepperdine's religious views on sexual morality. Pepperdine is a Churches of Christ institution.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is proposing a centralization of community colleges in Massachusetts. His plan would give the state's Board of Higher Education authority over all funds for all community colleges, consolidating the 15 line items for the colleges in the budget today. Further, Patrick said that the board would focus on job preparation. “A central piece of our economic recovery strategy is ensuring that the skills of our workforce meet the evolving needs of our employers,” said Governor Patrick in a statement. “That’s why we are advancing a new and innovative mission for our community colleges, to train highly-qualified candidates for jobs in every corner of the commonwealth."
While Moody’s Investors Service sees a stable outlook over the next 12 to 18 months for a small number of highly rated colleges and universities, a new report by the ratings agency about the outlook for higher education says that the majority of colleges and universities will continue to face various financial pressures, including state and federal funding cuts, concerns about cost by students and families, falling demand, and balance sheet illiquidity.
The report notes a bifurcation of demand, with some students favoring the highest quality options and others preferring the most affordable. In a line that the ratings agency has used more frequently as of late, the report’s authors state that colleges and universities with good leadership teams will perform the best over the next few years. “Colleges and universities led by experienced management teams with diverse backgrounds and overseen by strong boards will be best placed to navigate through ongoing future challenges,” the authors note. The report is available online to Moody’s subscribers.
The presidents of Ireland's existing universities are objecting to a plan to create a new, technologically oriented university, but they are also denying that they are elitists, The Irish Times reported. The proposed new university would combine smaller technology institutes, and proponents say that the plan would improve the education provided to students. But the current university presidents say that the new institution would lack important characteristics of universities, such as major doctoral programs.
The American Philosophical Association has announced that, starting in 2015-16, the annual meeting of its Eastern Division will no longer take place in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, but will instead take place at the end of the first full week of January. Meetings during the post-Christmas week were in the past a tradition for many humanities scholars, as the Modern Language Association, like the philosophers, met that week. The theory was that one could get good deals at conference hotels, and nobody would have classes scheduled.
But the MLA has switched its meeting to the first week in January for the last two years, and no longer has scholars complaining about having to cut short their family vacations. The philosophers surveyed members, and found strong support for such a shift. (The philosophy association has regional meetings rather than a single national conclave, but the Eastern meeting is the closest to a national meeting, and features job interviews for colleges from across the country.)
Trudie Kibbe Reed is stepping down as president of Bethune-Cookman University, amid apparent board disagreements over whether her resignation should be accepted. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported her departure, confirmed by the board chair. The Orlando Sentinel, while also confirming her resignation, quoted a trustee as saying Reed had not resigned, and that the board had taken no action on her departure. (Reed did not respond to an e-mail message from Inside Higher Ed seeking clarification.) Reed has been praised for promoting growth at the historically black college. But the institution has seen controversies as well. An investigation by the American Association of University Professors found that the university violated the due process of faculty members who were fired after they were accused of sexual harassment. University officials disputed the AAUP's findings. Last year, the News-Journal reported that Bethune-Cookman was facing 12 lawsuits from ex-employees who say that they were fired inappropriately.
More than two dozen college associations, accrediting agencies and other organizations have endorsed a set of guidelines that they say show that they are committed to gathering evidence that their students are learning, the New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability will announce today. The group, which for three years has been striving to get higher education leaders to agree on a set of goals and methods for using and reporting student learning outcomes, trumpets the new guidelines as a common "checklist" that institutions can and will use to "test whether they are actually doing what needs to be done about gathering, reporting, and using evidence of student learning," said David C. Paris, the group's executive director.