Federal Budget Deal Largely Spares Education, Pell Grant

President Barack Obama said in a speech Friday that the plan to finance the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year largely spares his top priorities including education, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. With only an hour to spare before a government shutdown, lawmakers reached an agreement late Friday. Details of the spending bill, which would cut $38.5 billion from the previous year's budget, are still being negotiated but according to the White House blog, the bill would maintain the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550, the same level as this year, and make "strong investments" in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Energy Department's Office of Science.

Teagle Foundation Awards PA Institutions $300K for Diversity Ed

The Teagle Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to Pennsylvania institutions Lafayette College, Bucknell University and Dickinson College for a cooperative project that aims to advance diversity and diversity education. The funds will be used to incorporate diversity throughout the curriculum and to improve students' academic and co-curricular experiences on campus. The institutions will focus on their own topics but meet periodically as a group to share resources, expertise and outcomes.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed: 6 Views on the Future of Pell Grants

"The Pell Grant program recognizes that to remain competitive, America must educate the rapidly growing population of low-income students struggling to ready themselves for the work force," says Jorge Klor de Alva, president of Nexus Research and Policy Center and former president of the University of Phoenix, in a recent commentary piece by The Chronicle of Higher Education that asked figures in higher education and public policy to share their thoughts of what the Pell Grant should look like in the future. "However, the program must become something better than what it is today if it is to meaningfully improve its record of successful support of financially strapped students." Other views include Sandy Baum, an independent higher education policy analyst and professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College and Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

The Pell Grant Debate: A Summary of Recent Events

San Francisco State University (CA) is just one of the higher education institutions pleading with lawmakers to shield the Pell Grant, the primary college financial aid program for low-income students, from budget cuts. Support for Historically Black Universities and Colleges would drop by $85 million under the U.S. House of Representatives' 2011 fiscal year spending bill, which proposes student-aid reductions that would trim the maximum Pell Grant by 15 percent and make 1.7 million students ineligible for the grant. In related news, Inside Higher Ed reports that Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, recently expressed frustration about the administration's 2012 budget plan proposal to stop letting students who want to study year-round qualify for two Pell Grants in a single year. She wanted to know how this policy made sense in light of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's recent statements that there are two million jobs waiting for American workers to fill. In response, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter cited Department of Education research that found only a 1 percent increase in summer school enrollment during the 2010 summer in which the "two Pell" program was in place, compared with the previous year. The Pell has become more popular and expensive over the last few years, reports Inside Higher Ed, with an increase of 6.2 million student recipients in the 2008-2009 school year to an estimated 9.4 million in 2011-2012, a 52 percent increase.

Chronicle of Higher Ed Editorial: Diversity in Science

The only way we will "out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world," as President Barack Obama called for in his January State of the Union address, is if professors engage more women and ethnically diverse science students, writes American Association for the Advancement of Science Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner in a recent editorial for The Chronicle of Higher Education. While traditional reward systems at many universities emphasize publication and grant-getting, Leshner points to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an institution that also rewards its professors for engaging diverse populations. Support in the form of institutions paying tribute to faculty members who are successful at nurturing diverse ideas and student involvement is essential for innovation, says Leshner, because increasing the diversity of the scientific human-resource pool will inevitably enhance the diversity of scientific ideas.

Gender Neutral Housing Begins at Rutgers U

Working in conjunction with the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, Rutgers University (NJ) has announced that it will pilot a program that allows for gender neutral housing. The policy is being tested at the university to provide more suitable accommodations for transgender students. There are more than 50 institutions that offer similar housing options for sophomores, juniors and seniors at college.

Harvard U Reinstates ROTC on Campus

After Congress' recent repeal of a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, Harvard University (MA) has agreed to reinstate the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program on its campus. The agreement marks the end of a Vietnam era policy, in which the university refused to participate in the recruitment and training program until the military permitted greater inclusiveness to all members of society.

Inside Higher Ed Editorial: Diversity in Higher Ed

There are three reasons why diversity is truly important in higher education institutions, notes a recent Inside Higher Ed editorial by Oklahoma State University Provost and Senior Vice President Robert J. Sternberg. Sternberg writes that students learn more from others if the others are different from themselves in significant ways; that diversity helps promote understanding that can be lacking when different groups fail, or refuse, to act; and that diversity helps attract the best students, faculty and staff. While some faculty and administrators may see diversity and academic excellence as competing goals, Sternberg says that to have excellence, you must have diversity.

Western Washington U to Encourage More Female Science Students

The National Science Foundation has awarded two Western Washington University professors with a five-year grant worth $590,000 to help encourage more female students to major in computer science and mathematics. Most of the grant money will be used to provide need-based scholarships of as much as $10,000 per student, per year. Only about 10 percent of computer science majors and 35 percent of math majors at the university are women.

San Diego State U Students Save $2.5 Mil in Textbook Costs

As a result of a $1.1 million grant from the Department of Education Fund for Innovation in Post Secondary Education (FIPSE), the campus bookstore at San Diego State University (CA) is enjoying the benefits of an expanded textbook rental program. Nearly all titles priced at $10 or more are now available for rent, encouraging the reuse of textbooks in an effort to decrease the demand for new books. Sixty percent of students chose to rent instead of buy this spring and students have saved about $2.5 million in textbook costs during the 2010-2011 school year.

Michigan College Students Face Food Aid Halt

Perhaps another push toward the increasing trend of campus food pantries, as many as 20,000 college students in Michigan who now receive food stamps could lose their eligibility in April. According to a new state policy that will go into effect this spring, college students won't qualify for the federally funded Food Assistance Program without particular circumstances like caring for young children or working at least 20 hours a week. Spurred by state Republican lawmakers who have raised concerns about food stamp fraud, the policy changes the way the state has administered its food program for about two decades. Poverty experts say they have yet to see evidence of rampant card abuse among students and worry that the policy change will cut off families who financially depend on the help.

Obama's Budget Proposes Cuts to Career and Technical Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that President Barack Obama's recent proposed budget would make millions of dollars in cuts to student aid to preserve the Pell Grant program, the primary college financial aid program for low-income students. Under the president the maximum award was increased to $5,550. To maintain a maximum Pell award of $5,550, the president's fiscal 2012 budget would eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on loans to graduate students and end a policy that allows students to receive two Pell Grants in a single year. Some 9.6 million students are expected to receive the awards next year, up from six million in 2008. The budget also calls for a 20 percent cut in funding for career and technical education, threatening to undermine the president's goals of reducing unemployment and graduating five million more Americans with certificates and degrees by 2020.

Inside Higher Ed Covers Growing Trend of Campus Food Pantries

A shaky economy with an uncertain job market is contributing to a surge in popularity of campus food pantries, reports Inside Higher Ed. Three pantries at Iowa State University, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of California, Davis have opened in the past month. Last year's National College Health Assessment revealed that finances for the past 12 months were "traumatic or very difficult to handle" for 35.2 percent of students. The two biggest financial issues facing college students are joblessness and education cuts.

Second Nature to Provide Sustainability Planning Aid to Campuses

Second Nature has received a $554,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to develop a program that will help financially strained and minority-serving institutions build capacity toward climate action and sustainability planning. The program will provide fellowships for sustainability champions on campuses, establish sustainability-focused career mentors and offer workshops, learning institutes and skills trainings. It will also help prepare under-resourced institutions for topics like climate disruption impacts, campus green revolving loan funds and evaluating carbon risk in the institution's supply chain.

Diversity Remains Scarce on College Governing Boards

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the majority of college trustees are white, male and over 50 years old, according to the results of two surveys released in November by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Whites account for 74.3 percent of the trustee spots at public institutions and 87.5 percent at private institutions, compared with 77.7 percent and 88.1 percent, respectively, in 2004. Women and minorities have gained little ground in the six years since the association's last survey. At 28.4 percent, the share of women serving on governing boards today is almost 2 percent less than it was in 1997. The two surveys yielded responses from 195 public institutions and 507 private institutions.

Enviro Defense Fund Promotes Diversity in Enviro Leadership

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced an expansion of its efforts to develop campus sustainability projects and promote greater diversity in environmental leadership within minority-serving institutions. EDF has been working with minority-serving colleges in North Carolina since 2009 with programs that focus on energy efficiency, curriculum development and student engagement including Climate Corps and Alpha Goes Green. EDF will expand its partnerships with minority-serving institutions to those in Texas and New York in 2011, with plans for further expansion to other states in 2012.

Chronicle of Higher Ed Releases '2010 Diversity in Academe'

Admissions officers are devoting more attention to increasing the numbers of low-income students, says The Chronicle of Higher Education's new report, "2010 Diversity in Academe." According to the report, there is also heightened interest in making the professoriate more socioeconomically diverse and interest in diversity abroad is on the rise.

Montgomery County CC Receives Kresge Fellowship

Montgomery County Community College (PA) has received a 2010 Kresge Foundation Fellowship Award. The fellowship program provides college and university executives with the information and networks necessary to become successful green building leaders for their institutions. The foundation focuses on assessing some of the critical challenges faced by under-resourced colleges and universities to implement green building on their campuses.

Western New Mexico U Offers Free Solar Energy Courses

Western New Mexico University will offer two new courses on solar energy this fall to laid-off workers and those already employed in the solar, construction or electrical fields at no cost. The courses will be offered in partnership with the Southwestern Area Workforce Development Board under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Applicants who are selected to participate will have the opportunity to take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners PV Entry Level exam upon completion of both courses.

Rochester Inst of Technology Expands Options for Native Americans

The Rochester Institute of Technology (NY) has partnered with the Ganondagan State Historic Site to enhance opportunities for Native American students and to promote the benefits of indigenous technologies. Students and faculty will have greater access to research opportunities in native science and technology and will be able to explore indigenous solutions to creating sustainable environments. The collaboration will also promote RIT's Native American Future Stewards Program, which offers academic and social support to Native Americans looking to attend college. In addition to these activities, RIT has formed a Native American Advisory Council including leaders from the Iroquois Tribes and government officials from the state and local levels.  The Council will assist RIT in increasing opportunities for Native American students and expanding partnership opportunities between the University and New York's Native American Communities.

College Fraternity Partners with Env'l Defense Fund for Diversity

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the nation's oldest black fraternity, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are launching a transformational partnership to increase the number of diverse environmental leaders on university and college campuses and in communities of color. The Alpha and EDF partnership will educate the fraternity's student and alumni chapters about climate change, environmental justice, energy efficiency, clean energy, and green jobs. Sustainability projects designed by students and alumni will help African American and other populations become more involved in public health and environmental issues caused by air and water pollution and social inequity. The fraternity has 5,000 student members on more than 350 US campuses and 95,000 alumni members.

Washington & Jefferson College to Educate Needy Students

Washington & Jefferson College (PA) has signed on to the Youth Engaged Service (YES) Prep School IMPACT Partnership program, which aims to guide economically disadvantaged children to college and beyond. The student population at Yes Prep schools which are based in Houston, Texas, is approximately 90 percent first-generation college bound, 80 percent economically disadvantaged, and 95 percent Hispanic or African American. Campuses in the IMPACT Partnership program commit to helping with college expenses through scholarships, work study programs, and small student loans. W&J will host six students from YES Prep schools this fall.

U California Berkeley Awarded $16M for Campus Diversity

The University of California, Berkeley has received a $16 million donation to support diversity initiatives, including five endowed chairs, one of which will be devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equity, and a new $1.6 million scholarship fund for students who transfer from community colleges and who are more racially and economically diverse than those who enroll as freshman. The gift is intended to support both research and teaching on diversity and to cultivate a campus built on fairness and acceptance.

Weber State U Launches Free Tuition Program

Weber State University (UT) has launched a program to provide free tuition to Utah residents whose annual household income is equal to or less than $25,000 and who are Pell Grant eligible. The goal of "Dream Weber" is to make higher education accessible to students from socioeconomic backgrounds that wouldn’t typically pursue higher education because of a lack of financial resources. The program is made possible through private donations designated for scholarships for under-served populations with acute financial need. These private donations, combined with federal and state financial aid funds, will finance the program, which will begin in the fall of 2010.

U Toledo Expands Free Tuition Program

The University of Toledo has expanded its UT Guarantee scholarship program to include 15 additional areas of Ohio. The program was originally created to offer high-achieving, financially-challenged students a no-out-of-pocket-tuition-and-fees option to students in the state's 6 largest cities.

Kent State U Trumball Announces Scholarships for Laid Off Workers

Kent State University’s (OH) Trumbull campus has announced plans to provide a one-time scholarship to new students who have recently been laid off from a full-time position, effective for the spring 2009 semester. The offer is available on a pilot basis and can be applied to the tuition cost of up to 12 credit hours.

Rice U Expands No-Loan Policy

Rice University (TX) has expanded its no-loan policy for the 2009-2010 freshman class from a $60,000 income limit to an $80,000 limit. Under the new policy, incoming freshmen who qualify for need-based aid with family incomes below $80,000 will not be required to take out loans to pay for college. Almost 18 percent of this year's freshmen were from families with incomes under $80,000. For a family whose income is above $80,000 and who demonstrates need eligibility, Rice will meet 100 percent of the student's need, and the student's loans will not exceed a total of $10,000 over four years at Rice.