WENR, March/April 2003: Americas
Private Universities Remain Most Popular
Brazilian students continue to choose private alternatives over public universities, according to the latest higher education survey. Only three public universities are in the top 10. The list is topped by the private Universidade Paulista, which has 81,000 students.
Entry to public universities is still very competitive in Brazil, meaning that the limited number of places on offer are available only to the best qualified — children from private secondary school backgrounds — who receive disproportionate numbers of places in public tertiary institutions.
— The Times Higher Education Supplement
Feb. 7, 2003
Atlantic Schools Capitalize on Ontario Double Cohort
Atlantic Canadian universities are moving aggressively to lure bright high school students from Ontario, where the university admissions system has been bogged down by the glut of students graduating this spring. The double cohort was caused by a revision in the Ontario educational system that has two years of students graduating at the same time.
Maritime schools are looking to scoop up the cream of the Ontario crop by making offers weeks, or even months, before students might expect an offer from Ontario schools. While Ontario universities have to wait to mail out offers until they receive student marks in April, schools in the East have been moving quickly over the past few years to attract the best students. Many are even asking for decisions from students around the same time that the Ontario university system will be putting its admission letters in the mail.
Almost 102,000 Ontario students have applied for university places this fall, an increase of 47 percent from 2002 and 70 percent from January 2001, according to Ontario’s central application body.
— The Globe and Mail
March 4, 2003
Canadians Ranked as Best Educated
Canadians hold the highest percentage of university degrees and college diplomas among major industrialized countries, according to a recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
According to new census numbers released in March, Canada has the highest proportion of educated people among the 30 OECD countries, with 41 percent of the working-age population holding a degree or diploma. The United States follows in second with 37 percent, and Ireland comes in third with 36 percent.
The Canadian ranks of the educated has grown 2.7 million, or 39 percent, since 1991 — more than 2.5 times as fast as the adult population over 25 has grown over the same period. The largest increase was at the master’s level, which was up 60 percent in 2001. Those who earned doctorates rose 48 percent since 1991.
Canada, the United States and Ireland are followed in the rankings by: Japan, 34 percent; Finland, 32 percent; Sweden, 32 percent; Australia, 29 percent; New Zealand, 29 percent; Norway, 29 percent; and Belgium, 27 percent.
— The Globe and Mail
March 12, 2003
Violence, Terror Hit Home With Students
Some 12,000 children in northern Colombia were unable to begin school in January because of the destruction of schools and armed groups’ threats and murders of teachers.
A recent statement by Colombia’s teachers union, FECODE, said 125 schools in Bolivar state were forced to close in late December as a result of ongoing battles between leftist guerillas and right-wing paramilitary groups.
In Bolivar, where fighting is intense, “schools have come to be seen as physical spaces where guerillas, paramilitaries and the army carry out political proselytism, based on a foundation of terror,” said the technical secretary of FECODE’s human rights commission, Fabio Zapata.
Last year, approximately 290,000 children had to leave school permanently or temporarily due to the forced displacement of 2,900 teachers, he added. Zapata stated that more than 100 schools were destroyed in attacks and 82 public school employees were killed in 2002.
FECODE’s slogan this year is “Our schools: Neutral Territory in the Armed Conflict.”
— Inter Press Service
Jan. 20, 2003
Students Protest Further Budget Cuts
Nicaragua’s academic community is protesting against the second cut in funding for state universities since December. The decision has provoked confrontations between police and university students during street demonstrations.
Rector of the Agrarian National University and President of the National Council of Universities Telemaco Talavera said the number of applicants for university places grows every year, but the amount of money universities receive continues to diminish.
The budget for universities in 2003 was set at US$54 million, but financial difficulties led the government to cut US$6.2 million in December, and now a presidential veto has reduced this by a further US$3.4 million, representing a total reduction of about 18 percent.
— SciDev Net
Feb. 17, 2003
The United States
Bugs, Glitches, Errors: SEVIS Fails Test
A March report conducted by the Justice Department has revealed that the electronic database used to track international students in the United States is riddled with computer malfunctions, data-integrity issues and technical bugs.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) attempted to roll out the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by the congressionally imposed Jan. 1 deadline. However, the deadline was quickly extended to Jan. 30, with a Feb. 15 deadline to complete certification reviews of all schools that submitted applications to use SEVIS. The INS washed its hands of the system March 1, when the agency was dissolved and replaced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The report says the INS failed to certify 893 schools and universities by its Feb. 15 deadline because of a shortage and inadequate training of contractors hired to determine a school’s authenticity as an educational institution. The report also faults the INS because the database currently only contains information on new students; information on all foreign students will not be added until Aug. 1.
The INS came under further criticism for not developing procedures to use SEVIS to detect fraud – despite visa fraud being the No. 1 reason for the introduction of the system. The report also says the INS did not review colleges’ record keeping and other internal controls to make sure that fraud had not occurred.
SEVIS users are reporting a number of problems, from data-integrity issues to technical bugs, to support and training problems. University officials complain that SEVIS loses correctly entered data; data fields filled in by school officials are reset or changed for no reason; and users are not permitted to correct certain errors in the system – instead, they are told to create new records and, therefore, create multiple files for individual students. These data-integrity issues cast doubt on the data in the system and more importantly, directly affect the legal status of thousands of international students in the United States.
Nagging technical bugs persist, which affect the ability schools have to correctly report on their students. Users are reporting extensive delays in getting responses or useful assistance from the SEVIS help desk. The system was intended to be a fully integrated electronic database, shared by the Homeland Security and State departments. However, there have been numerous instances of students applying for visas only to find that consular officers turn them away because their records cannot be found in the database. Such communication failures are already resulting in serious delays for prospective international students and scholars.
The full report can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/inspection/I-2003-003/index.htm.
— Community College Times
April 4, 2003
Competency-Based University Gains Accreditation
Western Governors University, an online institution, won key accreditation in January from a group of four accrediting agencies. This is a landmark decision that officials believe will legitimize distance education and competency-based education in the eyes of other institutions.
The university has received accreditation at the associate-, bachelor-, and master-degree levels. Accreditation for the Salt Lake City-based institution comes five years after it opened to much hype over the anticipation of revolutionizing higher education degrees based on student competence in subjects instead of course credits.
The university was accredited by four agencies: the Commission on Colleges and Universities of the Northwest Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The four together are called the Inter-Regional Accrediting Committee due to the special circumstances of crossing traditional regional accreditation boundaries.
The university has no campus or courses. Instead it administers competency examinations to test whether students have obtained the knowledge necessary to earn a degree. Students can prepare for the exams by relying on their life experiences or by taking online courses offered by colleges and universities around the country that have formed partnerships with the university.
Now that the university has earned accreditation, the North-West Association will be in charge of re-evaluations.
— The Chronicle of Higher education
Feb. 26, 2003
North Dakota Targeting Use of Fake Degrees
The North Dakota House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would punish anyone trying to use a degree from a diploma mill as a legitimate credential.
The bill is currently making its way through the Senate. If enacted, it would be a Class A misdemeanor to use a fake degree for employment, education or other personal gain. The bill defines as a diploma mill any institution that is not accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or by a foreign equivalent.
A handful of other states, including Oregon and New Jersey, have similar laws on the books.
The number of diploma mills is growing, and lawmakers such as state Rep. RaeAnn G. Kelsch, R-N.D., believe this type of bill will help protect consumers and raise public awareness about the issue.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Jan. 15, 2003
Concerns Raised Over .edu Eligibility Expansion
Educause has announced that hundreds of institutions and distance-education providers with specialized accreditation will soon have access to “.edu” Internet addresses for the first time.
As it stands, use of the domain is restricted to colleges accredited by the six regional agencies and not to institutions accredited by national agencies. The new policy will open the .edu domain up to any college that is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. A list of the qualifying accrediting agencies can be found at Educause’s Web site.
There has been some concern that the .edu suffix will somehow confer legitimacy on all that bear its name. Organizations that are not accredited institutions and already use the .edu suffix, including Educause, are not affected by the change, and there have been no efforts made to purge unaccredited users of the .edu suffix.
A warning has been posted on the Oregon Government Office of Degree Recognition Web page stating that “Some diploma mills and unaccredited schools have been able to obtain .edu extensions, and there is currently no action under way to make them cease using such extensions. An .edu extension means nothing regarding a school’s quality or legitimacy.”Educause, an education-technology consortium that took over assigning .edu addresses in October 2001, plans to begin accepting applications from interested colleges on April 15. When Educause took over the domain, one of its first actions was to allow community colleges to use .edu Internet addresses.
— Community College Times
Feb. 18, 2003
Mergers in Kentucky
The Kentucky Community and Technical College System has announced that it will merge three of its community colleges with nearby technical colleges. This latest move is part of a larger process of merging what once were 13 community colleges in the state with 25 technical colleges to form 16 new colleges.
- Ashland Community College and Ashland Technical Colleges will become Ashland Community and Technical College.
- Paducah Community and West Kentucky Technical Colleges will merge – no name decided yet.
- Prestonsburg Community and Mayo Technical Colleges will merge – no name decided yet.
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
Feb. 26, 2003
3 Colleges on Probation; 2 Appeals Rejected
Erie Community College, Cankdeska Cikana Community College and Western Seminary have been put on probation by their accreditors. In addition, Morris Brown College and Mary Holmes College have both failed to persuade appeals panels of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to restore their status as accredited institutions.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education placed Erie College, part of the State University of New York system, on probation in March due to finance problems. The Buffalo institution has 11,500 students and a $65 million budget.
Cankdeska Cikana (formerly Little Hoop Community College) in North Dakota, was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in February. The commission cited finances, governance, personnel, academics and strategic planning as reasons for placing the small tribal college on probation.
Western Seminary in Oregon was placed on probation by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges in February. The school has a student body of about 750 and will need to improve its finances to get off probation.
Morris Brown College and Mary Holmes College, both historically black colleges, lost their appeals and have had their accreditations revoked as of April 2 and April 1, respectively.
April 9, 2003
Tennessee Welcomes 2 New Colleges
The Tennessee Higher Education Committee has granted final approval to Strayer Education, Inc. to operate campuses in Memphis and Nashville.
Classes at both colleges began on March 31. Arlington, Va-based Strayer University is a proprietary institution of higher education that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business administration, accounting and information technology.
The university operates 20 campuses in four states and a virtual campus through Strayer University Online. It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
—Memphis Business Journal
Jan. 6, 2003
Scientific Research Faces Major Cuts
The economic crisis in Uruguay has led the government to cut by more than half the budget for scientific research this year.
One organization already feeling the pinch is the National Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation, linked to the Ministry of Education and Culture, with funding for projects cut by up to two-thirds.
The University of the Republic in Montevideo, the country’s leading state university, has also been heavily affected by the cuts. University support for scientists wishing to attend international meetings, for example, has been significantly cut back.
Support for university research from external private and public sources has also been seriously reduced by the financial crisis.
Feb. 27, 2003