Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 18, 2018

The Thomas Jefferson School of Law, widely criticized for the low employment and bar passage rates of its graduates, will not admit students to enroll this spring, as it has traditionally done. Officials did not respond to an email request for comment, and the phone of its press office appears to be disconnected. But Linda Keller, interim dean, told the blog Above the Law, "The law school is committed to providing the best environment for our students. We’ve decided to forego the revenue that a spring entering class would provide because a proportionally smaller spring entering class might not provide the vibrant, collaborative atmosphere for our new students that is an essential part of the first-year law student experience."

October 18, 2018

Google announced its latest higher education foray Wednesday: technology courses developed in-house and delivered to students at 10 four-year institutions.

Students at eight institutions can enroll this semester in two introductory courses on computer science and data science. The company developed the curriculum and provides the content and materials; institutions supply faculty members to lead in-class projects.

Those eight institutions are:

  • Adrian College
  • Agnes Scott College
  • Bay Path University
  • Heidelberg University
  • Holy Names University
  • Lasell College
  • SUNY Buffalo State
  • Sweet Briar College

Next year, the five institutions below (including three in the above list) will also begin offering a no-cost, intensive Google-developed machine learning course. Students nationwide will be eligible to enroll, provided they've taken two semesters of introductory computer science or data science courses, and an applied statistics course.

  • Agnes Scott College (spring 2019)
  • Bay Path University (spring 2019)
  • Heidelberg University (spring 2019)
  • Mills College (spring 2019)
  • Scripps College (summer 2019)

Google is also accepting applications for additional institutions that want to offer the introductory computer science and data science courses. Priority consideration will go to institutions with no existing computer science program or one that's at capacity.

October 18, 2018

A new report from the Urban Institute used federal data to analyze the "mix-match" between the share of residents with four-year degrees (or some college) and the share of jobs requiring college educations in 387 metropolitan areas. The institute found that mix-matches are common, and that this challenge is unlikely to change soon.

For example, 87 percent of the metro areas included in the analysis have more people with at least a four-year degree than the share of jobs that require this level of education -- with that gap ranging from one to 32 percentage points.

"The next 10 to 20 years will bring many challenges for the U.S. economy and the American work force. In many ways, with greater access to education, workers are better positioned than ever to contribute to their communities," the report concludes. "We just need to ensure that our policies, businesses and institutions at the national, state and metropolitan levels provide the opportunities needed for people to succeed."

October 18, 2018

Recreational marijuana use became legal in Canada Wednesday, and the country’s universities have adopted different policies in response.

A number of institutions -- including Carleton and McGill Universities and the University of Calgary -- have issued policies or guidelines prohibiting the smoking or consumption of cannabis on their campuses. Some of the policies specify that accommodations will be made for individuals who have medial reasons for needing marijuana. Thompson Rivers University is prohibiting all nonmedicinal marijuana usage on its campuses.

Some institutions are adopting or building upon existing smoke-free campus policies that bar smoking or vaping of any kind in indoor and outdoor campus spaces. The University of Regina became a smoke-free campus Aug. 1 and says in an FAQ on its website that the policy extends to all kinds of smoking and vaping, including of marijuana. Among other institutions that have newly announced smoke-free campus policies prohibiting both tobacco and cannabis smoking are Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, which share a campus, and Fanshawe College, where the new smoke-free policy will go into effect Nov. 1.

The University of Windsor said it will move toward becoming a smoke-free campus by 2020. In the meantime, individuals 19 years of age or older will be permitted to smoke cannabis in clearly marked designated smoking areas on the Windsor campus. Students in residence halls will not be permitted to smoke or cook cannabis in their rooms, kitchen or any common area.

Other campuses allowing cannabis smoking in designated smoking areas include MacEwan and Royal Roads Universities and the University of Alberta.

October 18, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Amherst College Week, Catherine Sanderson, a professor of psychology, explains that the bystander effect's influence starts deep within the brain. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 17, 2018

The American Economic Association’s Executive Committee addressed allegations of harassment against a recently elected candidate for internal office. “It has come to our attention that one of the recently elected candidates [is] the subject of allegations, being accused of creating a hostile work environment,” the committee said in a statement, denying that either it or the association's nominating committee knew of the allegations ahead of the nomination. 

“We take such allegations seriously, but they are, at this point, just allegations,” the Executive Committee wrote. “While the home institution will neither deny nor confirm the existence of an investigation, we understand that one is underway, and may come to some conclusions in the not too distant future.” Thus, the committee said, “We have decided that, before proceeding further, we should wait for those conclusions, if they are made public and they come within a reasonable amount of time.  If not, we shall reexamine our position.” In the future, the committee added, “we shall ask potential nominees if they are the subject of an investigation,” to help avoid “such situations.”

The committee did not name the academic in question, but it was apparently referring to Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and faculty director of Education Innovation Laboratory there. Fryer, who was recently elected to the committee, reportedly is the subject of harassment complaints related to the . He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. A spokesperson for Harvard referred questions to an earlier comment on the matter saying that "Harvard is deeply committed to providing a civil and inclusive work environment for all members of our community. We are aware of and take seriously concerns raised about the treatment of staff in the Education Innovation Laboratory," including "whether staff members have been treated with the dignity and respect they deserve." 

October 17, 2018

Hungary has removed gender studies from a list of approved master's programs following publication of a government decree signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Friday, the Hungarian news site 444.hu reported. Students who are already enrolled in gender studies programs will be permitted to continue their studies.

Hungary's right-wing government originally proposed banning gender programs in August. At the time, Gergely Gulyas, Orbán’s chief of staff, cited as the rationale low enrollment numbers as well as the government’s ideological opposition to gender studies programs. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women. They lead their lives the way they think best, but beyond this, the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area,” Gulyas said, according to Reuters.

Central European University, which is one of two Hungarian universities to offer programs in gender studies, issued a statement on Tuesday expressing "its strong opposition to the removal of gender studies from the list of accredited M.A. programs in Hungary.” A spokeswoman told Inside Higher Ed that the move means that the private university will not be able to continue its Hungarian-accredited programs in gender studies.

“This is a major infringement on academic freedom and university autonomy,” CEU, which has both Hungarian and American accreditation, said in its statement. “Gender studies is an internationally recognized academic field, which produces socially relevant knowledge, and which has been taught at CEU for well over two decades. Eliminating this program will be a significant loss to the Hungarian scholarly community and for democratically-minded public policy makers. CEU will continue teaching and research in this field via its U.S. accredited M.A. and Ph.D. programs.”

The European Parliament cited attacks on academic freedom in voting in September to authorize the first step in a process that could ultimately lead to sanctions against Hungary. The Parliament passed a measure asking European Union member states to determine if Hungary was at risk of violating the founding values of the union, including values related to academic freedom. The text of the measure passed by the European Parliament discussed concerns about the plans to ban gender studies programs as well as about the passage of a 2017 law on foreign branch campuses that was widely seen as intended to force CEU out of Hungary.

October 17, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos typically takes a fairly anodyne approach to social media. But she went on the attack Tuesday after Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, blasted the details of leaked Title IX draft regulations.

The campus sexual misconduct rule, which is expected to be released this fall, would allow colleges to claim religious exemptions to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, even when under investigation, without giving prior notification to the department, according to leaked language. The Obama administration had required that those exemptions be made public.

“In practice, the draft regulation envisions a system of unaccountable and secret institutions where civil rights protections can be disregarded -- where an unmarried mother may be denied admission, where a young woman could be thrown out for using birth control, and where a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender student could be subjected to cruel punishment at the school,” Murray said in a letter to DeVos Friday signed by five fellow Senate Democrats. “Without question, this scheme will lead to unnecessary discrimination against students based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and marital status.”

Murray repeated that claim on Twitter Monday, and on Tuesday DeVos responded -- without addressing the details of the letter -- by calling the statement “completely false.”

The social media spat put the senator and secretary in the position of debating regulations that have yet to officially be made public. DeVos has signaled elsewhere an interest in revisiting federal requirements for religious institutions. The Education Department will look to overhaul religious colleges' access to federal aid programs in an upcoming rule-making process.

October 17, 2018

Valparaiso University declined repeatedly to comment on the future of its law school after the Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted 8 to 5 on Monday to reject a proposal to move the school to Middle Tennessee State University. Nicole Niemi, a spokeswoman for the university, issued the following statement to Inside Higher Ed.

"We are disappointed the Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted against the cooperative education agreement between Valparaiso University and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), which was designed to serve prospective students in the Nashville area seeking a legal degree from an accredited, public law school in the Middle Tennessee region. We are grateful for the dedicated work by teams from both institutions throughout this process," the statement read. "We are truly grateful for the good work and dedication of our law students, faculty, and staff. We will continue to provide the opportunity for all currently enrolled students at Valparaiso University Law School to complete their legal education through Valparaiso University Law School in a timely manner."

Both Niemi and Mark Heckler, president of Valparaiso University, declined to say whether the school would close after current students completed their education.

October 17, 2018

The bachelor's degree remains by far the best ticket to a well-paying job, according to new research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, which defines "good jobs" as ones that pay at least $35,000 -- and an average of $56,000 for workers with less than a bachelor's degree.

But the report found that all of the growth of new good jobs in the non-bachelor's-degree economy has been in so-called middle-skills jobs, especially those that require an associate degree. And workers are earning a growing array of credentials to help meet that demand.

The middle-skills pathway, which now accounts for 24 percent of good jobs in the U.S., is undergoing a major transformation from traditional blue-collar jobs to more skilled technical jobs across skilled services and blue-collar industries, according to the report. The middle-skills category includes jobs in traditional industries, such as manufacturing, transportation, utilities, wholesale and retail trade, natural resources, and construction. Skilled-services industries include government, education services, consulting and business services, financial services, health-care services, hospitality and others.

Education and training programs in the middle-skills category have been particularly innovative to respond to changes in labor-market demand, according to the center. "A growing array of approaches has evolved to prepare students for middle-skills jobs, including apprenticeships, on-the-job training, college career and technical education, customized training, non-credit education, certificates, certifications and associate degrees."

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