Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 3:00am

Part-time professors at Point Park University in Pittsburgh have voted 172-79 to form a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers, the Associated Press reported. Point Park's Adjunct Faculty Association got the go-ahead from the National Labor Relations Board in April to hold a mail-in election. Adjuncts at nearby Duquesne University in Pittsburgh are still waiting to have their UAW union recognized, since that institution has challenged its adjuncts’ organizing bid on religious grounds. Point Park, a lay institution, said Wednesday it would not challenge the union. Lou Corsaro, university spokesman, said in an emailed statement: “We are pleased that so many adjunct faculty members took the time to make their voices heard on this important issue. We respect the decision made by those eligible to vote and look forward to working with all faculty members to fulfill Point Park’s mission of educating the next generation.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 3:00am

Senator Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs the Senate education committee, on Wednesday released his plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Harkin unveiled the full text of his proposal, an outline of which he released Tuesday evening. He said that the proposal was a “discussion draft” and that he would accept public comments on the plan through August 29.

House Republicans, led by Representative John Kline, on Tuesday published an outline of their priorities for rewriting the Higher Education Act. Kline said that instead of releasing a comprehensive bill, he would be introducing smaller pieces of legislation in an attempt to build broader support. He said he would release the first of those bills this week. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 4:18am

Hofstra University has announced that, starting with the class admitted to enroll in the fall of 2015, applicants will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores. "[W]e have concluded that standardized tests are not the most important predictors of academic success at Hofstra," said a statement from the university. "Rather, our studies show that the best predictor of success in college is a student’s high school academic record and the performance of day-to-day work in the classroom. For these reasons the high school transcript will continue to be the primary focus of our application review, with or without standardized test scores."

 

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 3:00am

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation that will overhaul federal job training programs and funding for vocational education.

Lawmakers passed the measure, which reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act, on a 95-3 vote. Democrats and Republicans struck a bipartisan deal on the legislation earlier this year.

The bill would streamline job training programs an emphasize partnerships between higher education and employers. Community colleges and other higher education have praised the bill.

The Obama administration on Wednesday formally backed the Senate-passed bill, which now heads to the House of Representatives. It’s unclear what path the legislation will take in that chamber since House lawmakers previously passed a vastly different rewrite of the Workforce Investment Act that drew opposition from Democrats and mixed reviews from community colleges. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jonathan Kotula, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Medical School, discusses the engineering of bacteria. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 3:00am

University of California employees will from now on have to hail regular cabs and book standard hotel rooms when traveling on official business, as the system’s Office of Risk Services has decided to ban the use of peer-to-peer services such as Airbnb, Lyft and Uber.

Those and other service startups “should not be used because of concerns that these services are not fully regulated and do not protect users to the same extent as a commercially regulated business,” according to an email sent out to the University of California at Los Angeles campus. “As the market matures and these businesses evolve, the University may reconsider whether reimbursement of travel costs provided by peer-to-peer or sharing businesses will be allowed.”

The decision was made due to “insurance concerns,” a spokeswoman for the university system said in an email.

The ban is perhaps particularly ironic as many of the companies were established in California. In fact, some of the founders behind the startups even graduated from campuses in the university system. Logan Green, the CEO and co-founder of Lyft, attended UC-Santa Barbara, while Travis Kalanick, the CEO and co-founder of Uber, went to UCLA.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 3:00am

Nearly 70 institutions are collaborating to better assess learning outcomes as part of a new initiative called the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment. The colleges and universities are a mix of two- and four-year institutions.

The initiative, funded in its initial planning year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was announced Monday by the Association of Colleges and Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.

”The calls are mounting daily for higher education to be able to show what students can successfully do with their learning,” said Carol Geary Schneider, AAC&U president, in an announcement. “The Multi-State Collaborative is a very important step toward focusing assessment on the best evidence of all: the work students produce in the course of their college studies."

The 68 colleges and universities participating in the collaborative are from Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah. Faculty at those institutions will sample and assess student work as part of a cross-state effort to document how students are achieving learning outcomes such as quantitative reasoning, written communication, and critical thinking.

All of the assessments will be based on a set of common rubrics. The project will also develop an online data platform for uploading student work samples and assessment data.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 4:29am

For many years, some colleges have used "demonstrated interest" -- measures of how committed an applicant is to a college -- to make some admissions and financial aid decisions. Now some top M.B.A. programs are doing the same thing, using software to track how many admissions information sessions applicants attend or how many times they have emailed the admissions office, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. With this trend, the article noted, "antsy MBA candidates who flood admissions offices with e-mails may have unwittingly given themselves a better shot at acceptance."

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Keith Johnson, a sociologist at Oakton Community College, discusses his research on microaggression. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Education is again delaying the deadline for when colleges must comply with a requirement that they obtain authorization from regulators in each state in which they are physically located.

The rule was set to take effect next month, but the department announced Monday that it is pushing the deadline back to July 1, 2015. This is the second time the department has provided such an extension for a rule that many colleges have said is confusing. Some have also said the rule is being enforced unfairly.  

The regulation is aimed at setting some minimum standards for how a state approves colleges operating within its borders. States, for example, must have a process for accepting student complaints about a college. The rule also sets out the conditions under which state regulators can use an institution’s accreditation or business licenses as a substitute for a more intensive approval process.

Those state authorization requirements that are now being delayed affect only those colleges that have physical locations, not distance education providers.

The department’s separate state authorization requirement for distance education programs was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2012. Department officials are currently rewriting those rules after a negotiated rule making panel failed to reach consensus on the issue earlier this year. 

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