News Update :: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

News

U.S. Colleges Face Big Phone Tax Hike Under FCC Plan

Thousands of colleges and universities would be hit with a net annual jump in telephone taxes as a result of a plan by telecommunications regulators to switch to a flat fee for connection to the telephone network, according to the Keep USF Fair Coalition, a consumer group. A plan by the Federal Communications Commission to switch the Universal Service Fund – which subsidizes phone service for low-income subscribers – to a flat-fee of $1 to $1.50 per phone number would increase telecom charges for campuses by as much as 1,000 percent, according to the group.

The group issued a report, titled “Flunking Numbers,” which estimated that the average U.S. campus would see the USF charges in its phone bill soar from $8,971 per year to $82,999. That would be an average increase of 892 percent. The coalition said campus would likely respond by passing the charges on to students in the form of tuition increases or telephone service cuts in dormitories.

Martin Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College, said: “At a time when colleges and universities – both public and private – are under intense financial pressures brought on by spiraling costs, rising enrollments, and declining government support, the exponential increase in the USF fee structure is stunning. For many institutions, including Reed College, the proposed change represents an increase of more than 1,000 percent." For more information, click here.

Female Names Draw 25 Times More Chat-Room Harassment

A study by the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering found that chat-room participants with female usernames received 25 times more threatening and/or sexually explicit private messages than those with male or ambiguous usernames.

Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day in the study, which was conducted by Michel Cukier, assistant professor in the Center for Risk and Reliability in the Clark School's Department of Mechanical Engineering and an affiliate of the university's Institute for Systems Research, and by sophomore computer engineering student Robert Meyer.

The study focused on Internet relay chat or IRC chat-rooms. These are among the most popular chat services, but offer widely varying levels of user security. The researchers logged into various chat-rooms under female, male, and ambiguous usernames, counted the number of times they were contacted and tracked the contents of those messages. The results will be published in the proceedings of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers International (IEEE) Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN '06) in June. For more information, click here.

University of Michigan to Host Virtual Reality Shoot-Out

Next month the University of Michigan will host a side-by-side comparison of several virtual reality technologies, allowing users to experience different high-end approaches to “immersive” virtual reality displays. The week-long event will take place at the 3-D lab within the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, starting June 12th, 2006.

Technology that will be on display include piSight, a panoramic head-mount display (HMD) by Sensics, Inc., an immersive CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) , which is a surround-screen-type environment, and other projects underway at the lab. The event is being co-sponsored by Sensics. Content that is relevant for auto design, training and simulation, architecture, and education applications will be available for side-by-side comparison.

Klaus-Peter Beier, the director of the labs, said he thought the Sensics piSight “redefine[d] expectations from high-end HMDs, and I am sure patrons and friends of the labs will be very interested to compare it with room-based virtual reality displays and other VR alternatives." For more information click here.

Franklin & Marshall Breaks Ground on Luxury Dormitories

Franklin & Marshall College broke ground on a $30 million “upscale housing complex” for students that will tie together housing, shopping, and socializing space in one “mixed use” environment that its developer says is “essential to the growth of higher ed institutions.”

The high-end complex, called College Row, will be built in a five-acre plot adjacent to the school’s Alumni Sports and Fitness Center. It will include 150,000 square-feet of residential space on the upper floors, which will have 117 units and house approximately 400 students from the junior and senior classes. The units will have “luxury amenities,” including the latest communication technologies for voice, data, and safety. College Row will also have 50,000 square-feet of retail space on the ground level, including a specialty grocery market, restaurants, bistros, and local and national retailers. The development is being done by Campus Apartments, Inc., which bills itself as the oldest student housing company in the country.

F&M president John Fry stressed the benefits of the development to the surrounding city of Lancaster, Pa. College Row, he said, would be “a wonderful and imaginative mixed-use project that will benefit both Franklin & Marshall and the community. The retail space will provide a vital center of commerce to northwest Lancaster, which has recently been undergoing rapid and significant revitalization, and College Row will offer an attractive streetscape along a major thoroughfare that serves as a gateway to our city.” For more information, click here.

Monster Moves into Online Student-College Referral Market

Monster Worldwide, Inc., which runs the job classified advertising portal, has acquired a publisher of directory Web sites in the educational field. This is a prelude to a deeper push into the college recruiting market. Monster said it would leverage its existing Internet advising and sales business to grow the directory business of the company, PWP, LLC, which connects prospective students with schools and colleges.

Monster said PWP owns thousands of education-related domain names and generates more than 100,000 student-to-school/college referrals per month. PWP generated $5 million in revenue in 2005 and was profitable – largely on the strength of its leading directory brands such as ArtSchools.com, BusinessSchools.com, and CookingSchools.com. For more information, click here.
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