Bush FY 2008 budget includes more financial aid

Increases in federal higher education spending were among the proposals included in President Bush’s $2.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2008, which he presented to the Democratic-controlled Congress Monday.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which issued a report in September, had foreshadowed many of the budget proposals, including increases in Pell Grant funding and reforms of the federal financial aid system.

According to White House budget information, Bush is proposing a five-year increase in the Pell Grant funding. The increase would take the maximum Pell Grant award from $4,050 to $5,400.


Is Leftist Bias on College Campuses a Myth?

Conventional wisdom has long claimed that campuses are hotbeds of leftist thought with professors far more likely to be Marxists than Republicans. Recent research has taken steps to substantiate these claims. Eight separate studies of faculty politics and campus climate have demonstrated that professors with a leftist philosophy vastly outnumber those with a conservative or libertarian philosophy at four-year universities across the nation. The various studies address two major themes: that faculty members are liberal and that their liberal inclinations can affect classroom performance.

Now, a new study conducted by John B. Lee for the American Federation of Teachers concludes that those studies documenting liberal bias on campus might be incorrect, or at least inconclusive. “The ‘Faculty Bias’ Studies: Science or Propaganda,” takes eight of the recent studies on faculty politics and judges them by five general tests of social science research. According to Lee, “basic methodological flaws keep a critical reader from accepting the conclusions suggested by the authors.”

Unfortunately, Lee misses the point. Instead of refuting the results, Lee devotes his time to dissecting the methods employed by the researchers who have found evidence of leftist domination. Quibbling over details shouldn’t detract from the seriousness of the problem. Whether the number of professors who use their classrooms to peddle their own socio-political views is in the millions or in single digits, it shouldn’t be tolerated at all.


Legislative agenda centered on PACE study

RALEIGH – Legislators return to Raleigh today for the start of the 2007 regular session, with Democrats holding stronger majorities in both the state House (68 Democrats to 52 Republicans) and Senate (31 Democrats to 19 Republicans). Within a week, legislators will begin to wade through wish-list items from the University of North Carolina system. The list includes policy changes and a large spending request to give more money for faculty salaries.

The first General Assembly session of the new year will be held at noon. Today’s sessions are primarily ceremonial, with swearing-in ceremonies and the official transfer of the Speaker of the House chair to Orange County Democrat Rep. Joe Hackney. Democrats elected Hackney to replace the embattled Rep. Jim Black. Senate Democrats elected Sen. Marc Basnight to serve an unprecedented eighth term as Senate President Pro Tem.


The Top 10 Nuttiest Campus Events in 2006

Tis the season for traditional fare, and here it’s been tradition to take one last, not-so-fond look back at ten campus events of the expiring year that made us blush, cringe, or otherwise experience unpleasantness.


Blue Ridge CC censured by state board

RALEIGH – The Blue Ridge Community College’s Board of Trustees was censured Friday for its actions after an investigative audit in January found multiple financial violations involving the school’s baseball program. The expression of disapproval comes after talks failed between the school and the state to resolve some of the concerns listed in the audit report.

The censure took the form of a resolution approved during a special meeting called to address Blue Ridge Community College. It specifically deals with the board’s failure to monitor the actions of Blue Ridge Community College President David Sink and his involvement with the athletics department.


Democrats set higher education agenda

WASHINGTON – Days after securing control of U.S. Congress for the first time since 1994, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate began to formulate their agenda for the upcoming 110th Congress. Among the top agenda items for Democrats are higher education initiatives that could increase federal spending.

Chief among the higher education projects for Democrats is an attempt to make college more affordable by slashing interest rates and increasing funds for Pell Grants. College Republicans cut $12 million from the program to reduce budgetary spending. Other plans include increased funding for teacher education, higher education research, and tax deductions geared towards math, science, technology and engineering students.


Bi-Weekly Notebook

RALEIGH – University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles maintained his image of business-like efficiency when he spoke before the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee on Nov. 15. Although his chief purpose was to describe the details of the 6.5 percent tuition cap, he made other points about the university administration’s commitment to efficiency, transparency, and accountability. For one, he said that the university has clarified its priorities. Budget requests for the upcoming year take up 32 pages, compared with 347 or 348 last year. Financial aid and faculty salaries top the priorities list.


BOG OKs 2007-09 Budget Request

CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina will seek more than $270 million in new funds when the General Assembly convenes in January. UNC’s request, approved Friday by the Board of Governors, is $2.57 billion for fiscal 2008 and $2.63 billion for 2009, and for the first time includes enrollment growth funding ($48 million in 2008), in the expansion budget.

The request focuses on increased funding in what the officials call key areas for the university. The areas include financial aid, student retention, research, improving teacher education, and health care. The five areas comprise 90 percent of the requested funding, BOG member Edward Broadwell said.

The largest single request would fund academic salary increases, a wish-list item that has been a top priority for President Erskine Bowles. UNC is requesting $116 million in 2008 for salary hikes, which represents 43 percent of the requested new funds, Broadwell said. UNC officials want an additional $115 million in 2009.

According to the budget request, UNC officials want to spend more than $87 million of those funds during the biennium to increase salaries to a point where they reach the 80th percentile of salaries among peer institutions. UNC-Chapel Hill would receive more than $20 million, the most of the 16 institutions.

The remainder of the funding for salary increases would go toward a 4 percent merit-based salary increase.

UNC’s next highest request would go toward funding research initiatives at the campus at a rate of $61 million in 2008 and $45 million in 2009. Part of the request, $15 million for each fiscal year, would go toward the creation of what is being called a competitiveness fund. The fund would “support strategic investments in emerging areas of importance to the economic competitiveness of the state,” the request says. Some of the areas include nanosciences, marine sciences, natural products, environmental sciences, informational technology, biomanufacturing, port logistics, marine aerodynamics, and other areas.

The budget request also includes $35.6 million in 2008 and $19.2 million for need-based financial aid. UNC leaders said the need-based financial aid program is $12 million short of being fully funded. The system serves 35,000 undergraduate students from North Carolina.


Coppin State President named Chancellor of NC A&T

CHAPEL HILL – Coppin State President Stanley Battle was named Friday as the new chancellor of North Carolina A&T during the November UNC Board of Governors meeting. His appointment is effective July 1.

Battle was unanimously approved to lead the Greensboro school just five months after former North Carolina A&T Chancellor Jim Renick resigned to become senior vice president for programs and research for the American Council on Education. Former Fayetteville State chancellor and North Carolina Community College System president Lloyd Hackney will continue to serve as interim chancellor.


Some Further Questions about Diversity

Will a diverse college campus – where “diverse” means that there is at least a “critical mass” of students and faculty members who are regarded as being members of certain “underrepresented” groups – lead to better results than if the school did not make any effort at being “diverse?” In my previous Clarion Call essay, I looked at the argument that diversity is beneficial because it causes people to better relate to one another. I didn’t find that argument very persuasive. What I want to do here is to examine some other arguments that have been advanced as justifying the hiring and admission preferences that are integral to the diversity movement.

Globalization

The first argument is that diversity helps prepare American students for the diverse and increasingly globalized world they will live and work in. A “diverse” campus is therefore good preparation for the future. A college that failed to give its students that preparation would be remiss, wouldn’t it?