Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

College sports had another first Wednesday, with Derrick Gordon of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst becoming the first openly gay man on a Division I men's basketball team. Gordon, a sophomore, told his story to ESPN and Outsports.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

The Los Angeles area has California's most pressing unmet need for community college slots, according to a new analysis released by California Competes, a nonprofit group. Much of the lagging capacity at two-year institutions around the state has been hard to track. But the report, which the group said was the first statewide analysis of student enrollment across district lines, found that greater Los Angeles should receive 24,000 of the 40,000 additional seats that the recovering state budget may fund.

The analysis builds on an interactive data tool the group released last year. That online tool charts community college enrollment and degree production rates across California's 1,700 ZIP codes. Robert Shireman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is California Competes' director.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 4:33am

Dartmouth College today announced a $100 million gift, the largest in the college's history. Half of the gift will match other gifts. The donor is anonymous. A major use for the funds will be Dartmouth's cluster hiring initiative, in which groups of faculty members will be hired with various interdisciplinary research agendas.


Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

The academic preparation of incoming colleges students has a strong impact on dropout rates, according to a newly released report from the ACT, which is a nonprofit testing organization. The findings show that students have the greatest risk of dropping out if they earn lower scores on college readiness assessments, particularly students with less-educated parents.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

The state may get to keep the money from a $60 million fine the National Collegiate Athletic Association levied against Pennsylvania State University after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but it’s still not a sure thing, PennLive.com reported. The NCAA had ordered that the money go to child protection funds across the country, but two state legislators later sued the NCAA and passed an “Endowment Act” that required fines against any state-supported college to stay in Pennsylvania if they surpassed $10 million. The NCAA objected to the law in court (its motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied), saying it was created specifically to foil the association. The Commonwealth Court has now said the law is allowable, but declined to end the lawsuit outright, instead asking for more argument on the case.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

Iowa State President Steven Leath on Wednesday announced that he was calling off the rest of Veishea, an annual, multiday student celebration, after incidents this week. Students clashed with security officers and damaged property. At least one student has been injured.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Phillip Ko, a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University, discusses his work on the sharpness of memory in order to better understand the aging of the brain, memory loss and diseases like Alzheimer's. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 4:33am

Brandeis University announced Tuesday that it will not award an honorary doctorate it had planned to issue to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has been hailed by some for defending women's rights in Muslim societies but who has been criticized by many for statements that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Muslim students at Brandeis have objected to the planned honor, and thousands have signed an online petition objecting to the degree.

The university issued this statement on Tuesday: "Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year's commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier. Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community's focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues."

Ali has not responded publicly to the decision by Brandeis.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am

Bruce Leslie, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges, has called off plans to replace a humanities core curriculum course with a new course based on the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Many faculty members have objected to the chancellor's plan to add the course. The San Antonio Express-News reported that Leslie notified faculty members in the community college system of his decision Tuesday. "The controversy and divisiveness surrounding this issue have simply outweighed the necessity to push ahead at this time," he said.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system to several Republican lawmakers, who criticized the plan. Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department’s budget, Duncan said that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department’s 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system.

 “I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars and whether higher education resources could be better-focused on federal student aid or other established programs,” said Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, a Republican.

Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, cited a December poll that found a majority of college presidents doubted the administration’s proposal would be effective in making college more affordable.

Duncan reiterated that the administration’s goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. “Taxpayers spend 150 billion each year in grants and loans,” he said. “Virtually all of that is based on inputs. Almost none of that is based on outcomes.” Department officials have previously said they plan to produce a draft outline of the ratings system by the end of this spring.

Separately, Duncan also sidestepped a question about whether college athletes should have the right to unionize. Echoing the remarks he made in an interview last month prior to a preliminary ruling in favor of Northwestern football players, Duncan said Tuesday he was concerned that athletic coaches’ salaries do not provide the proper incentives for academic performance. 


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