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News in higher educationwith a focus on sister institutions

University of Memphis says no to smoking in dorms
Beginning next fall, smoking no longer will be allowed in any residence hall at the University of Memphis. In addition to the nine residence halls being smoke-free, smoking also will be banned in common areas, elevators and offices.

The decision, made by the schools administration, comes after both the Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association voted to approve the ban.

Although the measure requires final approval by the TBR, that is expected to be a formality. University of Memphis says no to smoking in dorms
Beginning next fall, smoking no longer will be allowed in any residence hall at the University of Memphis. In addition to the nine residence halls being smoke-free, smoking also will be banned in common areas, elevators and offices.

The decision, made by the school's administration, comes after both the Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association voted to approve the ban.

Although the measure requires final approval by the TBR, that is expected to be a formality.
(The Commercial Appeal, Nov. 3, 2005)

Five state universities get NSF grants to help science, industry
Five state universities, including MTSU and Vanderbilt, have received $4.7 million in grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of an ongoing program to bolster Tennessee's economic competitiveness and scientific infrastructure.

The NSF funds will be funneled through Tennessee Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a federal program created in the 1990s to increase federal research and development funding for states that, historically, had not received an equitable amount of grant money.

Also participating in the grants are Tennessee Tech, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. (The City Paper, Nov. 1, 2005)

Tenn. community colleges seeing 10-year decline in students
State higher education officials are working to explain and turn around a 10-year decline in the number of students attending Tennessee's community colleges.

The drop has been the most pronounced among nontraditional students older than 25.

The 13 community colleges under TBR's purview have lost 3 percent in enrollment since 1995. Enrollment at the four-year universities has grown 12 percent over the same period.

Much of the drop in older students is explained by the difficulties of earning state lottery-funded HOPE scholarships when compared to students coming straight out of high school.

Dr. Houston Davis, TBR associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the state may consider allowing older students to enroll in colleges on a provisional basis to see how they perform. (KnoxNews, Nov. 2, 2005)

TSU ramps up safety initiatives in wake of on-campus murder
Last week's murder of Li Hong Peng, 37, a food delivery worker in Nashville, has prompted campus officials at TSU to put in place new campus-safety measures.

Peng was killed by two unknown assailants as he was walking back to his car after delivering food to a TSU dormitory. An immigrant who was a lawyer in China, Peng was working to support a child and wife, who is a medical school student at Vanderbilt University.

Recently, Vanderbilt was the scene of a violent act when non-student visitors, asked to leave a dorm party, pulled a gun and fired, wounding several. (The Tennessean, Nov. 3, 2005)

Jackson State gets $1.9 million nursing grant
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it will award Jackson State Community College a $1.94 million grant to focus on the health-care industry and a projected nurse shortage in rural West Tennessee.

Four community colleges in Tennessee will receive a total of $6.57 million in grants. The other schools are Cleveland State, Walters State and Southwest Tennessee Community College.

U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander applauded JSCC for securing funds in a competitive application process, which included 400 applicants. (Jackson Sun, Oct. 21, 2005)

Cleveland State gets $861,840 grant from U.S. Dept. of Labor
An $861,840 grant has been awarded to Cleveland State Community College by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of President Bush's Community-Based Job Training Initiative.

“Job training for American students helps develop a highly skilled workforce that is vital to our nation's economic growth and competitiveness worldwide,” Tenn. Sen. Bill Frist said. “This grant for Cleveland State Community College will provide students with the necessary knowledge and experience to enter the job market well prepared.”

Tennessee will receive $6.57 million in grants to four community colleges under the Community-Based Job Training Initiative. The other colleges are Jackson State, Walters State and Southwest Tennessee Community College. (The Chattanoogan.com, Oct. 19, 2005)

Nashville State enrollment rises
Nashville State Community College experienced a nearly 5 percent jump in full-time equivalent enrollment this year over last year, outpacing peer institutions in the state.

While nearly 7,200 students are enrolled at NSCC, the college's FTE is 4,074 students.

Nashville State's growth comes as other state institutions are seeing a decline in enrollment, and enrollment at TBR institutions overall fell slightly. (The City Paper, Oct. 25, 2005)

University brain drain: Who'll take boomers' place?
More than a quarter of the University System of Georgia's 7,900 faculty members will reach the retirement age of 65 or older within the next decade.

While not all will retire at 65, the number of aging faculty has raised concerns that some campuses might be headed toward a brain drain, losing valuable teachers not easily replaced.

The aging of faculty is a national concern, as the baby-boomer generationborn between 1946 and 1964approaches retirement age. Census Bureau data shows the number of U.S. jobs that will require doctoral degrees will increase 36 percent700,000 new jobsbetween 2002 and 2012. Most of these will be in academia.

The sheer number of new hires, as well as the increasing cost to hire new faculty, is a challenge for state institutions, which have felt the pinch of reduced state revenues in recent years. In Georgia, many vacant teaching positions were frozen in the previous two years, even as enrollments in public colleges and universities continued to increase.

Bill Scheuerman, chair of the federation's higher education program and policy council, said many schools likely will hire part-time instructors or contract workers to fill posts. Often non-tenured faculty members have other jobs and are unavailable to work with students after hours and are less committed to teaching.

“How can you have a first-quality university when faculty never have the chance to retain tenure,” he said. “It's going to impact the quality of a university.”

Consensus grows on basic skills colleges should teach, but gauges of those abilities are poor
The report, “Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College,” issued by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), indicates there is an “emerging consensus” among educators, business leaders and accreditating agencies on what skills all students should pick up as undergraduatesgood written and oral communication, a capacity for critical thinking and the ability to work in teams. But the skimpy data available suggest that many students graduate with serious weaknesses in those areas.

The report cautions that standardized tests are not good measures of learning outcomes in higher education, but the current test results are a troubling indication. And that worry is reinforced by the almost unanimous views of business leaders who report “a weakness in certain skills, particularly in communication and mathematics.”

A major problem is that some skills, like ethical reasoning and critical and creative thinking, are hard to measure, the report says.

“There are lots of calls out there that higher education should be accountable,” said Debra Humphreys, AACU vice president, “But accountable for what?”

Assessments developed on the basis of an institution's mission, she said, are better than easily quantifiable measures sometimes held up by legislators and others, such as graduation rates and standardized text scores. (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 7, 2005)

Higher education vs. stock market
Putting money into a four-year U.S. college education turns out to be a better financial investment than putting money into the stock market.
According to an Arizona State University study, “The Value of Higher Education: Individual and Societal Benefits,” the rate of return on the money spent to earn a bachelor's degree is 12 percent per year, compared with the long run average annual return on stocks of seven percent. Over the course of a lifetime, those with a college education make $1 million more than people with a high school education.

Despite the high return on investment, 25 percent of the U.S. adult population has a bachelor's degree, while more than 50 percent of Americans invest in the stock market, according to the American Shareholders Association. (United Press International, Oct. 30, 2005)

Duck the media, says Tri-State
Tri-State University, Fort Wayne, Ind., has a new policy that bars students and employees from talking with professional journalists without permission of the school's marketing department, although the policy doesn't affect such activities as sporting events.

Crafted by Patrick Johnson, director of the marketing department, the policy was created, he says, to protect student privacy and isn't intended to silence their voices.

“This is not a gag order,” he said. “The policy is a not in any way trying to…stifle communication. We're just trying to help everyone understand that this is a serious business and should be treated accordingly.”

However, the policy is raising eyebrows among free-speech advocates. “That might be a good policy if you're in Stalinist Russia, but I'm not sure it applies to northeast Indiana,” said Steve Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association. (The Journal Gazette, Oct. 31, 2005)