Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:00am

Shirley V. Hoogstra, vice president for student life at Calvin College, was on Wednesday named as the new president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, whose members come from a number of denominations. Hoogstra worked as a lawyer before joining Calvin. She takes over at a challenging time for the organization. The last permanent president, Edward O. Blews Jr., was fired in October, after nine months on the job. In February he sued the organization. All CCCU institutions have statements of faith, but those statements vary, and a number of CCCU institutions are having internal debates or are facing external scrutiny abut their policies on issues related to sexuality, the teaching of evolution and other subjects.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:00am

Want to up your citation stats? Try changing your name – but make sure it starts with an “A,” “B,” or “C.” That’s what a new paper in Economic Inquiry suggests (an abstract is available here). The study, by Wei Huang, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, says that researchers whose last names begin with A, B, or C who are listed first as authors in articles in a variety of science journals receive, on average, one to two more citations than their peers whose names start with X, Y, or Z.

The effect is most evident when reference lists are long. The effect is not evident in self-citations. Researchers whose names begin with the letters D-W fall somewhere in the middle in numbers of citations. Huang calls the effect modest but “salient” and attributes it in part to the fact that authors are listed alphabetically in many reference lists. Huang says the findings raise questions about the validity of citation indexes, in that quantity may not be as reliable an indicator of quality as many believe it is.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:00am

Tohoku University in Japan recently evicted 105 students from a dormitory, citing drunken behavior, The Japan Times reported. The university has been trying to crack down on excessive drinking, but dormitory eviction is an unusual punishment. Yasunori Kumakura, who is in charge of student affairs at the university said that, by evicting students, “we hope to reset the atmosphere in the dorm.... We’re doing it for the sake of their health.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:00am

Are you tired of all the reports about whether college is worth attending? The humor site The Onion apparently is tired of them, and so has responded with the satire for which the site is known. The headline: "Study Finds College Still More Worthwhile Than Spending 4 Years Chained To Radiator." The faux report is quoted as saying, “Compared to the intellectual stimulation and personal growth achieved in a university setting, there is less to be gained from 48 months in which one is tightly shackled about the ankle and connected by a short length of chain to a leaking, immovable cast-iron radiator."

 

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Peter Jaskiewicz, an associate professor at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, suggests that companies controlled by a small group of family members might benefit from outside hires. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 4:25am

New law graduates in many states experienced a technology snafu at the worst possible time Tuesday night: as they were attempting to upload bar examinations just before deadlines in their states. Many reported spending hours trying and failing to upload their answers. ExamSoft, a company that manages the bar test submission process in many states, acknowledged "slowness or difficulty" being experienced by many test-takers, and said that it was sorry for the difficulties many were having. The company, working with various state bar associations, announced 17 deadline extensions by states, so that people who couldn't submit their exams would not be penalized.

The legal blog Above the Law posted some of the emails and social media messages being posted by angry law graduates. the blog said that the situation "appears to be the biggest bar exam debacle in history."

Many bar exams continue today, so the frustrated test-takers who were up late, some fearing that they may have failed by not submitting their day's results, have another stressful day ahead of them, for many of them without as much sleep as they might have had otherwise. One comment on the ExamSoft page on Facebook said: "This is unbelievably disrespectful. I don't think you quite understand the pressure we are all under. We understand technical issues happen (although you are supposed to be a tech company), but your 'support staff' is a joke and you should at the VERY least had updates for each of the states BEFORE their respective deadlines. Now we are wondering, HOURS before a second day of grueling testing if any of it will matter. Please answer the states with past or remaining deadlines. Or get someone to answer the phone, chat or email--> have been trying all three methods for 4 hours. Thanks."

One law blogger, Josh Blackman, wondered what would happen if failure rates are higher this year. He explained: "And for crying out loud, this is serious business. Failing the bar in this economy is a 6-month sentence of unemployment. Somewhere, a plaintiff’s lawyer is putting together a class-action suit for those who used ExamSoft and failed."

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 3:00am

For-profit institutions have increased their share of the overall enrollment of student veterans, as well as an increasing portion of revenue from Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Those are the findings of a new report from the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's majority staff. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and critic of the for-profit sector, chairs the committee.

The report tracked Post-9/11 GI Bill spending since the program's creation, in 2008. Enrollment of veterans at for-profits increased to 30 percent of the total last year from 23 percent in 2009, the report found, despite the fact that the sector's overall enrollments tumbled. The percentage of veterans attending a public institution declined, from 62 percent to 50 percent.

Total spending on the Post-9/11 GI Bill increased to $4.17 billion from $1.75 billion during that period. The for-profit industry's share increased to $1.7 billion from $640 million. In addition, the report said eight of the top 10 institutional recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits last year were publicly traded for-profit chains.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 3:00am

Temple University and Montclair State University announced Tuesday that they will no longer require undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Both institutions cited evidence that they can make admissions decisions based on grades in college preparatory courses, and both cited studies indicating that there are students who can succeed at their institutions but who may be hesitant to apply because they don't "test well." The announcements are notable because they come from large public universities. Many of the leaders of the test-optional movement have been small, private colleges.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 3:00am

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Tuesday evening named Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, as the sole finalist to become chancellor of the system. A Navy SEAL and an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, Admiral McRaven is best known as the official who designed and oversaw the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa is leaving the system to return to academic medicine. Cigarroa was among the shrinking number of higher education system heads in Texas who had academic careers prior to their system positions. The UT system has seen considerable conflict in recent months between regents close to Governor Rick Perry and Bill Powers, the president of UT Austin.

McRaven's appointment won quick approval from the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group that has backed Powers and been harshly critical of some recent moves by some regents. "We applaud the selection of Admiral William McRaven as the next chancellor of the UT System, and commend the Board of Regents on their diligent search. McRaven is a proven leader with a strong backbone and the courage of his convictions who will stand up for what is right and in the best interests of the people of Texas. His inspirational 2014 UT Austin commencement speech gave insight into the type of leader he will be – one who respects diverse viewpoints, values collaboration and has unmatched tenacity."

 

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 3:00am

A new report by the Institute of Medicine, issued Tuesday, called for an overhaul of federal financing of physician training and residency programs. The report questioned the idea that the United States needs to increase the number of physicians it trains, but said that there is a need for much more accountability. "Current financing -- provided largely through Medicare -- requires little accountability, allocates funds independent of workforce needs or educational outcomes, and offers insufficient opportunities to train physicians in the health care settings used by most Americans," said a summary of the report.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, which has been leading a campaign to expand the training of physicians, was quick to object to the report. "[T}he IOM’s proposal to radically overhaul graduate medical education (GME) and make major cuts to patient care would threaten the world’s best training programs for health professionals and jeopardize patients, particularly those who are the most medically vulnerable," a statement from the association said. "The committee’s proposals assume that in the coming decades, our health care workforce would require no expansion of the highly specialized services or physicians equipped to meet the needs of a growing and aging population, with ever greater need for both primary and specialty health care. By proposing as much as a 35 percent reduction in payments to teaching hospitals, the IOM’s recommendations will slash funding for vital care and services available almost exclusively at teaching hospitals."

 

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