Two struggling New Orleans universities may merge together to form one institution in order to increase graduation rates, enlarge enrollments and strengthen student services at both institutions, Governor Bobby Lindal, R-La., announced on Tuesday, Inside Higher Ed reported. The plan is complicated by the different racial compositions of the two schools the University of New Orleans is largely white, while Southern University at New Orleans is predominantly black, according to Inside Higher Ed. The proposal would incorporate UNO, currently a member of the Louisiana State University System, and SUNO, part of the historically black Southern University System, into a new institution under the regional University of Louisiana System, according to the governor's statement. Ronald Mason Jr., president of the Southern University System, said he was "shocked" by the proposal in a Tuesday statement, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld the legality of the University of Texas at Austin's race-conscious admissions policy on Tuesday, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Plaintiffs Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, two white students, filed a lawsuit against the university in 2008, asking the university to utilize a race-neutral approach to its admissions policy, The Huffington Post reported. In defending the university's policy, the judges were "deeply divided" in their reasoning, according to The Chronicle. The race-neutral Top 10 Percent law, which requires public Texas universities to accept students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, makes race-conscious admissions decisions permissible, the court decided. The Project on Fair Representation, which aided in defense of the plaintiffs, plans to either appeal the decision or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, The Chronicle reported.
The Voluntary Framework of Accountability, a new project that seeks to establish national standards for evaluating two-year institutions, revealed the first stage of its pilot testing last week, Inside Higher Ed reported. Forty pilot schools will test the proposed metrics which examine how efficiently students progress through the educational structure, what advantages their educational resources provide in the job market and whether students reach national standards of "student learning." The VFA, which was initiated two years ago by the American Association of Community Colleges, aims to influence federal reporting standards in the future, according to Inside Higher Ed. While some educators applauded the opportunity to abandon current methods of evaluating community colleges, others expressed concern regarding the logistical complications of data collection and the VFA's failure to specify certain of criteria. The pilot sites will submit data in March, and the VFA said it hopes to update its criteria the following month, according to AACC's website.