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The stories making headlines in higher education.

University Business, Dec 2005

Congress cancels vote on budget cut package

A controversial GOP plan to cut funding to student aid programs was stalled in November by a combination of public outrage and lack of congressional support.

Twenty-two Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with unanimous Democrats against the cuts. Although GOP leaders vowed to try again in coming weeks, their sinking public approval numbers (just 29 percent according to an October USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll), public outrage over the cuts, and growing concern about 2006 congressional elections may mean the votes will remain hard to find.

The proposed cuts were part of a larger budget reconciliation package before Congress, but higher education leaders and the public weren't buying it. Although President Bush had asked for a $50 billion across-the-board budget cut, critics argued that simply canceling tax cuts and trimming pork barrel spending--such as Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' infamous $450 million "bridge to nowhere"--would go far toward easing the problem.

The entire education allocation, they argue, represents just one-half of 1 percent of the total entitlement budget.

Yet, student aid programs are caught up in a "perfect fiscal storm" of deficit reduction, tax cuts, and hurricane relief efforts, says David Warren, co-chair of the Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of some 60 organizations representing 16 million college students. "The house education committee has been asked to make the largest single contribution to deficit reduction among all of the appropriation programs in the country--larger than defense, larger than homeland security, larger than interior," he says. "These fiscal and budgetary efforts are being introduced on the backs of students."

Warren calls the effort a "raid on student aid." "Those dollars in the program are for the purposes of student loans in one form or another, as a subsidy to the students or a subsidy to the banks and lenders," he says. "Those monies are being raided out of the student loan program and put to tax cuts and to deficit reduction and otherwise. I think there is no other way to characterize that."

Although the aid programs escaped the chopping block--for now--they weren't all that healthy to begin with. College enrollment is projected to increase by 14 percent over the next 10 years, yet federal and state aid is declining, with schools being forced to pass on the cost directly to students. The Pell Grant, which in 1986 could be counted on to pay for as much as 98 percent of an average college tuition, now covers less than 25 percent of tuition, and hasn't been increased since 2001. And although the Perkins Loan Program was not cut this year, as previously threatened, universities received far less federal funding to put into financial aid awards. --Tim Goral

Prior to an American Council on Education diversity conference this fall, two dozen people received invitations to talk about forming an association of senior diversity officers. When the discussion actually began at the conference, 70 people had walked in the room.

Clearly, interest in a formalized association for diversity officers exists. Now the process of creating an association has begun. According to Kent State University Vice Provost Steve Michael, the initial conversation at the ACE conference arose after Michael and staffers in his office built a database of diversity officers nationwide. The database has 500 names, and it's still growing. "I don't think there is any doubt in our minds that if universities continue to expand the responsibilities and leadership of diversity officers, there is a need to have a way to professionalize it," says Michael.

The new and (as yet) un-named association already includes a character committee, a group drafting a constitution, and a committee overseeing six regional divisions. A listserv is connecting potential members and a formalized name and rules are expected this month.

While the number of high-level diversity officers who report to college presidents or provosts appears to be growing, those involved in the new association may not want to exclude decision-makers at other levels, says Michael. "Universities are all over the map when it comes to how to define their [diversity] roles," he says.

With minority enrollment figures beginning to rise again following the U.S. Supreme Court's University of Michigan affirmative action decisions, the new association--whatever its name or scope--undoubtedly faces interesting times ahead. --Caryn Meyers Fliegler

Seattle's 605-FOOT-HIGH Space Needle is the city's signature landmark. Last month, it was the flag atop the building that had residents and visitors alike gazing up.

Washington State University and University of Washington--whose fans fight for bragging rights after their annual Apple Cup football game--partnered with the Space Needle for a higher cause. Between November 2 and 15, the institutions competed daily in donations for Habitat for Humanity's U.S. Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts. Tackling Hurricane Relief raised a total of $164,293.62.

A little incentive never hurts. Each day, the previous day's winner had its flag waving atop the Space Needle. The schools' athletic websites prodded: "Color the Needle Crimson!" and "Paint the Needle Purple!" In the end, WSU's crimson and gray colors and logo were painted on the building for all to see, through the Apple Cup, November 19-20.

Perhaps Space Needle owner Jeff Wright, a UW alum, was most down about that sight.

Two other alums, former NFL running backs Greg Lewis (UW, Denver Broncos) and Rueben Mayes (WSU, New Orleans Saints), served as honorary contest chairmen. "Greg and I have competed on the football field and on the golf course--and I beat him every time," Mayes taunts. In all seriousness, he notes that the schools do pull together for the community.

A former Saint and member of their Hall of Fame, Mayes feels strong ties to the New Orleans area, too. "We have a lot of friends there still," says Mayes, who is now senior director of Development for WSU's College of Business and Economics. --Melissa Ezarik

When President George W. Bush nominated Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court in October, journalists went digging for information. A photo of Alito from his Princeton University (N.J.) yearbook appeared online along with the original text saying he intended to eventually "warm a seat on the Supreme Court."

If Alito were in college today, such an entry might never have appeared. Declining yearbook sales have been a fact for decades, and some schools are now putting the final nails in the yearbook coffin. The University of Arizona has officially eliminated yearbooks this year after reviving the concept through a special program from Texas-based Taylor Publishing. Arizona State University has also decided to hit the brakes on yearbooks.

"I've been here 12 years, and the yearbook was never especially successful financially," says Mark Woodhams, director of Student Media at the University of Arizona. To Woodhams, a combination of factors--including online community tools, larger class sizes, and changes in the way students experience community--has led to declining yearbook sales. Many schools sell books to less than 2 percent of their senior classes.

Arvli Ward, director of Student Media for the University of California, Los Angeles, cautions against generalizing low yearbook sales. At UCLA, the books are struggling--but still alive. "If you look at different kinds of colleges, you'll find all kinds of stories," Ward says. --C.M.F.

From a parking lot in the wrong place to a booth for military recruiting, the targets of campus protests range from small-scale to broad. How do administrators balance social demands with fiscal interests? The answer, of course, varies--but ongoing protests against the Coca-Cola Company show that loud voices can have leverage.

McMaster University in Toronto may choose to end an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola after students there participated in an October referendum showing disapproval of the deal. The school is not alone: Complaints about Coke have popped up at Rutgers University (N.J.), New York University, Hofstra University (N.Y.), Macalester College (Minn.), and Santa Clara University (Calif.), among other schools.

The protesting groups have criticized Coke for alleged poor environmental practices in India and ties to violent union-busting forces in Colombia (which Coke denies). Some protestors have also simply called for a choice of beverages on campus.

Ray Rogers, an organizer who is not a student but is the director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, which has fueled the campus protests, says 19 IHEs have acted to end their Coke contracts (a number have done so for reasons other than the ethical allegations). The University of Michigan and NYU have urged Coke to bring in a neutral third party to investigate its practices if it wants to continue pouring soda on campus.

Understanding the potential power of protests, Coke has met with people on 50 campuses where students, faculty, or staff have raised concerns, according to spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus. The company also created a website ( to respond to the accusations. "It is a very emotional issue for people," says Bjorhus. She says anti-corporate sentiment and incorrect information circulating on the Internet fuel misconceptions.

For many schools, the balance seems to lie in listening to all sides. McMaster still has two years and the possibility of an extension on its Coke contract. But once talks come along, various voices will be considered, says Roger Trull, vice president for University Advancement. "Last time we negotiated this contract we had a committee that had broad representation," Trull says. "We would likely undertake a similar process to determine whether there's anything we could do to help McMaster realize some financial gain but at the same time recognize the wishes of the community." --C.M.F.

The fledgling Washington Nationals may have finished the baseball season at the bottom of the National League Eastern Division standings, but their performance on the field still paid off for local college students. Back in August we told you about a promotion in which The Sallie Mae Fund (, a charitable organization sponsored by Sallie Mae, would donate $750 for each home run, and $5,000 for each grand slam, hit by the Nationals to The Sallie Mae Fund Home Runs for College Scholarships Fund.

By season's end, the team had racked up $92,000 worth of home runs for the fund, with Sallie Mae adding $8,000 to bring the total to an even $100,000.

The program will award $2,000 scholarships to financially needy D.C.-area high school seniors or college students with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher. --T.G.

Essential principles for fundraising success:

An Answer Manual for the Everyday Challenges of Raising Money

G. Douglass Alexander and Kristina J. Carlson; Jossey-Bass, 2005; 190 pp; $27.95

More than one million professionals at institutions of higher ed and other nonprofits struggle with fundraising challenges every day--and many of them deal with similar issues. This book aims to provide a fundamental approach to fundraising and practical answers and advice for common situations, such as needing to develop a compelling case for support and motivating others to stick to a fundraising strategy built on effective principles. The authors regard fundraising as both an art and a science, with basic principles that lead to success.

Each chapter tackles a different aspect of fundraising--from essential fundraising tools to annual campaigns, direct mail, and planned giving--through a Q&A format. The questions are actual ones that fundraisers have asked through the authors' Internet-based consulting firm, Sample plans and policies are also included.

For example, a chapter on capital campaigns contains questions such as "What are the reasons to hire a consultant to help with a capital campaign?" and "What do you do with a stalled capital campaign?" The chapter also offers model reporting guidelines and a sample capital campaign chair job description. --M.E.

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