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Wake Forest U’s 2014 commencement speaker, Jill Abramson, was no longer New York Times editor-in-chief when she gave her speech, but the talk was still well received.

Choices for commencement speakers are making headlines this season, and higher ed officials are aiming to make sure those headlines are positive. For one thing, many colleges now prioritize student input and diversity when choosing commencement speakers. 

Bryon L. Grigsby is president of Moravian College, a private liberal arts college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Vocation: It’s a word with deep and important significance. Liberal Arts: This is an ideal of education with an equally deep set of meanings. Liberal arts colleges already do a great job developing a diverse group of socially responsible, critical thinkers, but they must start guiding students to their true vocations. 

Jon McGee, vice president for planning and public affairs at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, says many colleges and universities are too focused on the present to prepare for the changes ahead.

In his book, Breakpoint: The Changing Marketplace for Higher Education, Jon McGee says higher education is in the midst of an extraordinary transitional period that has significant implications for how colleges understand their mission, their market and their management.

Here are some reasons to switch to a passive optical network. (Click to enlarge graphic)

Unlike wine or cheese, networks don’t tend to improve with age. That’s why some higher ed institutions are looking toward passive optical LAN—unlike copper cabling that’s been in place for decades, a fiber-based passive optical network offers faster, cheaper and more secure networks.

Michael Crow is president of Arizona State University and Laurie Leshin is president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Mass.).

With unsafe lead levels in city water systems, injured military veterans in need of smart prosthetics, and a demand for sustainable sources of clean energy, our need for engineers has never been greater. The good news is that despite concerns to the contrary, the ranks of engineers in the United States are growing.

It’s certainly not black or white for investors.

“The discussion around the table in investment committees is: How do you allocate risk across various investment options available to optimize returns for five to seven years? There isn’t a neat, pat answer,” says Bill Jarvis of the Commonfund Institute.

Being able to draw from the endowment is important for an institution like Berea College because of its no-tuition promise. Students are required to work as they attend school, with assignments such as greeting guests at the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel.

On average, academic institutions spend between 4.5 and 5 percent of their endowments annually. But when endowment returns are way down, it’s not exactly prudent to spend the same percentage of the endowment with the assumption that target investment payoff percentages will return.

Jennifer Wick is vice president of Scannell & Kurz higher education enrollment consultants, a Ruffalo Cody company.

The shift to the use of families’ Prior-Prior Year (PPY) financial data on the FAFSA has come to pass. This shift has far-reaching implications not only for timing of financial aid awards, but also in other aspects of enrollment, such as marketing, recruitment and institutional budgeting.

Creating new academic initiatives with other institutions relies on three key ingredients: interest in the program from faculty and students; commitment from each campus administration; and a reasonable opportunity for success.

This advice comes from Neal Abraham, a physics professor and executive director of the Five Colleges, Incorporated in Massachusetts. It’s the second largest consortia in the country behind the Claremont University Consortium in California.

Here are some other tips from consortia leaders:

At Juniata College in Pennsylvania, students took Arabic for the first time last fall by enrolling in a course at Gettysburg College via video conference.

Amherst College students, meanwhile, can major in architectural studies by taking classes at four neighboring colleges. And at Cabrini College near Philadelphia, students from five institutions researched viruses last summer in a new undergraduate science program.

Carol Patton specializes in human resources issues.

Employee benefits at higher education institutions are generally robust and truly hard to beat. More than ever, job candidates are attracted to employers that offer choice or the ability to customize benefits that cater to their individual lifestyle.

As a new study shows one group of students falling farther behind in the struggle to land jobs with salaries that will allow them to pay off debts and achieve financial stability, some experts say it’s the country’s education system that needs to adjust.

Some campus officials worry energy drinks contribute to students' risky behaviors.

Citing that energy drinks have been linked to health problems, Middlebury College has stopped selling them to students. School officials also suggested the popular beverages, which are often mixed with alcohol, have been involved in incidents of binge drinking, “high-risk sexual activity” and other unsafe behaviors.

Two- and four-year colleges across the nation have plugged the black hole of remediation with a range of programs designed to keep students enrolled while steering them toward greater levels of success.

Simon Newman created controversty and headlines when the campus newspaper reported that he had compared struggling students to bunnies that needed to be drowned.

Simon Newman stepped down as president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland on February 29, after less than a year of service. His resignation came in the wake of a series of well-publicized events that called into question his student retention policies.

The Catholic institution’s board credited Newman with “strengthening the university’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future and bringing many new ideas to campus.”

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