Last month, Florida joined the small group of states that are experimenting with systemwide testing of college students as a way to boost academic standards.
Under a mandate from the Florida legislature, the state department of education administered a four-hour "College-Level Academic Skills Test" (clast) to more than 16,000 sophomores at 28 community colleges and 7 state universities in its public-college system. According to Ernest R. Ross, director of the testing program, the examination's subtests in reading, writing, and computation skills were developed from the recommendations of faculty task forces in the state system. Their job was to identify the skills all students should have to qualify for an associate degree or to complete their sophomore year at a four-year institution.
Until August 1984, the results of the tests--which will be placed in each student's academic file--will be advisory only. But after that date they will be scored and used to qualify students for degrees and upper-division programs.
California, New Jersey, and Georgia have also begun to use "diagnostic" tests in reading and mathematics to assess the academic needs of first- and second-year students in community and state colleges. Thus far, no state administers such tests as the higher-education equivalent of "promotional gates."
About 16,000 fewer freshmen have enrolled at private colleges and universities this fall, says the National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities.
In a survey of more than 1,200 of the nation's 1,500 private institutions, the organization found that, overall, freshman enrollments in the private sector had dropped 3.8 percent from last year's totals. But total enrollments at the private schools, niicu reported, dropped less than 1 percent from last year's figures.
According to figures collected annually by the National Center for Education Statistics, that overall drop in enrollment marks the first such decline in the private sector since 1971. Last year, nces reported a 3.2-percent rise in private-college enrollments.
Sixty-four percent of the private schools surveyed by niicu reported drops in freshman enrollments; 50 percent noted a loss of 5 percent or more students, and 33 percent said they had lost 10 percent or more. The largest losses were reported by less selective liberal-arts colleges and comprehensive colleges--those offering both liberal-arts and career-related programs.
On the other hand, 17 percent of the colleges and universities said their freshman classes had grown by 10 percent or more this fall.
For those schools whose enrollment dropped, however, the change could mean a loss of about $250 million in tuition revenue over the next four years, according to the institute.
Last February, Wesleyan University announced it would end its policy of admitting students without regard to their need for financial aid.
Many educators feared that the move was a signal that admission to the nation's top private colleges would become limited to those who could pay the schools' climbing tuition charges.
But Wesleyan officials said recently that, in part because federal budget cuts were smaller than expected, the able 1982-83 freshman class would be chosen under the same "need-blind" admissions policy it has used over the past 15 years.
Hundred of colleges and universities are planning to hold "teach-ins" Nov. 11 on the subject of nuclear war, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The organization is sponsoring the event along with the Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and United Campuses to Prevent Nuclear War.
Cornell University has announced what other financial-aid officials say is an innovative plan to pare the substantial debt load that many college graduates carry away with them. The institution will devote about $7 million over the next five years to work-study fellowships designed to replace loans for some able students.
Financed by alumni contributions, the program will award fellowships to academically promising financial-aid students who are willing to work more than the 12 hours a week that is ordinarily required of students receiving aid. The fellowship students will not only earn wages for the hours they put in on campus jobs, but they will also be awarded a $2,000 grant for the year.
The "Cornell Tradition" program, as it is called, will also help create 500 summer jobs for the fellowship students by offering to pay half their wages in positions in either the public or the private sector.
"We think students who graduate with less indebtedness will not limit their careers to high-paying jobs, said James J. Scannell, dean of admissions and financial aid, "but will be encouraged to go on to graduate school or public-service jobs."
Thanks to a communications device that University of Illinois officials say is the only one of the kind anywhere, professional engineers in businesses 50 miles from the Urbana-Champaign campus are able to sit in their own "classrooms" and see on their own blackboard what a professor on the campus is simultaneously writing on his blackboard. The off-campus students can also see their teacher on three video monitors while their electronic blackboard reproduces the notations he makes on his board.
Developed by Bell Laboratories, the experimental device has been in use on the university campus since 1974, but it wasn't used for long-distance teaching until last year. The pressure-sensitive mylar board is written on with ordinary chalk. The writing is converted into electronic impulses transmitted through telephone wires and reconverted into handwriting on the receiving board. The students can respond in writing on their boards and talk to the professor through microphones.