Illinois higher education funding will go to pensions, not students

Illinois is increasing higher education spending by 12 percent this year, but that money won’t benefit in-state students. Illinois State University reports that the additional funding will be funneled directly into a pension program for state university employees, the Huffington Post reports. The State Universities Retirement System (SURS) owes $17.2 billion in benefits beyond the assets it has on hand, according to the Illinois Statehouse News. Addressing this deficit will bring Illinois’ higher education spending from $3.2 billion in 2011 to $3.6 billion this fiscal year; at the same time, the amount of money reaching college classrooms decreased by 0.76 percent from last year to this year, from $1.62 billion to $1.6 billion…

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Obama unveils plan to stem rising college tuition costs

Some question whether it's the federal government's place to interfere with college tuition practices.

President Barack Obama is announcing a plan to shift some federal dollars away from colleges and universities that don’t control tuition costs and new competitions in higher education to encourage efficiency as part of an effort to contain soaring college costs.

Obama will spell out his plans Jan. 27 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The speech will cap a three-day post-State of the Union trip by the president to promote different components of his economic agenda in politically important states.

On Jan. 24 during his State of the Union address, Obama put colleges and universities on notice to control tuition costs or face losing federal dollars. That’s had the higher-education community nervous that he could set a new precedent in the federal government’s role in controlling the rising costs of college.

Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, said Jan. 27 that schools should get federal dollars based in part on their performance.

“Historically, we’ve funded universities whether or not they’ve done a good job of graduating people, whether or not they’ve done a good job of keeping down tuition,” Duncan said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The money Obama is targeting is what’s known as “campus-based” aid given to colleges to distribute in areas such as Perkins loans or in work-study programs. Of the $142 billion in federal grants and loans distributed in the last school year, about $3 billion went to these programs. His plan calls for increasing that type of aid to $10 billion annually but changing the formula for how it is distributed.

This reform will reward colleges that are succeeding in meeting the following principles, according to a White House press release:

(1) Setting responsible tuition policy by offering relatively lower net tuition prices and/or restraining tuition growth.
(2) Providing good value to students and families by offering high-quality education and training that prepares graduates to obtain employment and repay their loans.
(3) Serving low-income students by enrolling and graduating relatively higher numbers of Pell Grant-eligible students.


Commentary: College grad rates are ‘bad data’

Dropouts.  Lost. Vanished. According to the federal formula for calculating the graduation rates of colleges and universities, close to a majority of all college students are dropouts or lost to the system entirely, even if they have earned degrees, says Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for the Washington Post.  For Trinity and many similar universities–those that enroll large numbers of students who transfer in, or who are part-time students, or who are “non-traditional” by many other factors–a majority of the degrees awarded go to students who don’t count in the federal data system. The collegiate graduation rate may well be the most poorly constructed and misunderstood statistic in all of higher education. The metric became fashionable in the 1990’s in an effort to track the academic condition of NCAA athletes who seemed to be leaving college in large numbers without graduating. (No wonder the statistic doesn’t work well for most institutions today!)…

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The most, least literate big U.S. cities

Washington, D.C., is the most literate big city in the United States, and Bakersfield, Calif., the least, in the newest annual rankings that consider factors including the population’s education level and the number of bookstores, the Washington Post reports. The rankings have been done annually for six years by Central Connecticut State University, which also factors in a city’s newspaper, magazine and journal circulation, and library and Internet resources. The study looked at data in cities with populations of 250,000 and larger. The nation’s capital topped the list for the second straight year, with these right behind it in the top five: Seattle (2), Minneapolis (3), Atlanta (4) and Boston (5). Rounding out the top 10: Pittsburgh (6), Cincinnati (7), St. Louis (8), San Francisco (9) and Denver (10)…

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Texas A&M University-Kingsville Installs Dorm Wireless in a Snap


Click to read how Texas A&M University-Kingsville Installs Wireless in a Snap

Today’s students expect fast, always-on wireless service in their dorm rooms and throughout campus. Learn how Texas A&M completed a fast-track installation of a low-cost wireless network that provides reliable connections for students with smart phones, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices—while leveraging its investment in existing cabling.


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Youth unlikely to pursue science, technology, engineering jobs, survey finds

Though President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address stressed the need for a competitive workforce, especially in more technical fields such as energy, young Americans see massive barriers to entering such professions, according to survey results released Wednesday, the Huffington Post reports. Sixty percent of respondents ages 16 to 25 to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which seeks to gauge innovation aptitude among young adults, named at least one factor that prevented them from pursuing further education or work in science, technology, engineering and math fields (known as STEM). Thirty-four percent said they “don’t know much about these fields,” while a third said “these fields are too challenging.” Twenty-eight percent said they weren’t “well-prepared in school to seek out a career or further … [their] education in these fields.”

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Moody’s: Pressure remains for higher education

The financial conditions of many U.S. colleges and universities will likely not improve much this year, as states continue cutting funding for public schools, students become more price sensitive, and areas for other revenue remain stretched, a lead rating agency said on Monday, Reuters reports.

“During the past year, public and political scrutiny of colleges and universities, both not-for-profit and for-profit, has escalated and we expect that the sector will remain under the microscope in 2012 and beyond,” said Moody’s Investors Services in a report outlining why it is maintaining a “mixed outlook for U.S. not-for-profit private and public colleges and universities, mirroring our 2011 outlook.”

While undergraduates continue to enroll, “demand for some graduate programs and professional schools … is softening,” Moody’s said, noting that “evolving demand trends for undergraduate and graduate programs highlight flight to quality and affordability.”

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Nintendo says the Wii U will be out in 2012, but can it boost the company’s falling profits?

Proving that Apple is the exception at the moment, Nintendo has published its financial results for the final quarter of 2011, which unfortunately saw a 61% drop in profits and a 40% fall in sales revenue too, Digital Trends reports. The company also re-evaluated its projected sales for the Wii and 3DS, cutting them from 12 million to 10 million, and 16 million to 14 million respectively. Bad news all round, especially when you consider the 3DS had an early price drop last year. It wasn’t all negative however, as the president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, has confirmed that the Wii U console will be going on sale in the USA, Europe and Japan in time for the 2012 holiday sales period. With Black Friday often symbolizing the beginning of the Christmas rush in the US, a November date is possible…

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Colleges laud Google+ age restriction change, safety features

An ed-tech expert says Google is erring on the side of caution.

Campus technology officials said they are more likely to create an official Google+ presence after the nascent social network announced Jan. 26 that the former Google+ age requirement of 18 has been lowered to 13.

Google’s age restriction had prevented at least one university from expanding its social media reach into Google+, because some of its students come to campus while they’re still 17, and until Jan. 26, were not eligible for a Google+ account.

Along with the lowering of its age requirement–which could help Google+ compete with Facebook–Google detailed a series of safety measures that would be included for its youngest social network members.

In Google+ Hangouts, for example, a teenager video chatting with people in their “circle” will be temporarily removed from the Hangout screen when someone from outside their circle joins the session. Only approved Google+ account holders in a teenager’s circle can start an instant message chat.

Read more about Google+ in higher education…

Google+ allows colleges to create official pages

“Over time, the nuance and richness of selective sharing even promotes authenticity and accountability,” Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post. “Sadly, today’s most popular online tools are rigid and brittle by comparison, so teens end up over-sharing with all of their so-called friends. … With Google+, we want to help teens build meaningful connections online. We also want to provide features that foster safety alongside self-expression.”

Hundreds of colleges and universities have created official pages on Google+ since the technology giant announced in early November that schools, businesses, and organizations can create their own profiles on the site, which was introduced last summer to much fanfare in higher education.

Patrick Dierschke, an IT official at Angelo State University (ASU) in Texas, said campus technologists have considered adding Google+ accounts for the university’s 7,200 full-time students, but decided against it after learning that no one less than 18 years old could have a Google+ profile. That all changed when Google lowered its age requirement.

“This will obviously really help us move forward with that we’d like to do [with Google+] as a campus communication tool,” Dierschke said. “This seems like a step in the right direction. We’ve been waiting for a chance to use this to its full potential.”

ASU has 23 students who aren’t yet 18, according to the university. It’s a sliver of the campus’s student population, Dierschke conceded, but until every student could have a Google+ page, ASU wouldn’t adopt the social network like it has Google’s other educational offerings, such as Gmail.

“We’ve been interested in [Google+] since it was in beta … but we saw the age requirement and saw that we just couldn’t go through with it,” Dierschke said, adding that he thought Google+’s age restriction would be 13, like it is for Gmail.

ASU has given official Google-powered campus eMail accounts to students as soon as they are accepted to the school. Dierschke said the campus wanted to include Google+ accounts for those brand new students, but couldn’t because many high school seniors and recent graduates are not quite 18.


Obama to colleges: Keep costs down, or risk losing funding

“I intend to fight obstruction with action,” the president said.

In a State of the Union address that was as much a campaign speech as a call to action, President Obama challenged lawmakers to invest more money in education and research to “prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.” He also called on higher-education leaders to make college more affordable for Americans—or risk losing federal support.

Facing a deeply divided Congress, Obama appealed for lawmakers to send him legislation on a host of issues, including education, clean energy, housing, and immigration reform—knowing full well the election-year prospects are bleak but aware that polls show the independent voters who lifted him to the presidency crave bipartisanship.

The president contrasted the selflessness and teamwork of the American troops who took out Osama Bin Laden with the gridlock that exists in Congress.

“Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example,” he told a packed chamber and tens of millions of Americans watching in prime time on Jan. 24. “Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. … An economy built to last, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”

Later, he said: “I intend to fight obstruction with action.” House Republicans greeted his words with stony silence.

Read the portions of Obama’s speech that deal with education here.

Obama talked about the value of good teachers and called on policy makers to stop “bashing them.” He offered lawmakers a deal: More resources to help teachers succeed, in exchange for more flexibility to help schools “replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

The president also suggested that states pass laws requiring students to stay in school until age 18 or when they graduate, and he called on colleges to end “skyrocketing” tuition costs. If they don’t, he suggested that federal funding to colleges may go down—though he didn’t offer specifics.

Obama said his administration has “put more boots on the border than ever before,” resulting in “fewer illegal crossings.” But he asked Congress to create a path to citizenship for children who come to the United States with their undocumented parents if they complete college.