Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 3:00am

An engineering professor at Lehigh University and his wife were convicted of defrauding NASA by letting graduate students and researchers do all the work on a $700,000 project, the Associated Press reported. Yujie Ding and his wife, Yulia Zotova, reportedly obtained federal grants to develop a climate change sensor. But Zotova, who was supposed to oversee the project in her husband’s Lehigh laboratory, reportedly never came to work. Prosecutors said the sensor start-up was merely a front through which to seek grants, and that Ding didn’t disclose his role in the company to Lehigh.

Zotova, who is a physicist, argued in court that social anxiety prevented her from visiting the lab, and that she worked on the project from home. The couple’s attorneys also said that NASA ultimately got the prototype single-photon detector it had paid them to develop, The Morning Call reported. But a jury convicted Ding and Zotova on six of 10 fraud counts, based on the belief that they missed opportunities to inform NASA of Zotova’s changing role in the project, according to the Call. They each face up to 20 years in prison.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 3:00am

The College Board has notified some students who took the SAT outside the United States this month that their scores are being delayed due to an investigation into a possible security breach. The review could take up to five weeks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 3:00am

A large rock at Youngstown State University on Monday was painted with pro-ISIS messages proclaiming that "France deserves destruction" and warning that the terrorist group was "coming." In a statement, the university said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and university police were investigating the messages, but that there was "no credible threat to the campus."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 5:00am

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual “Education at a Glance” report, an encyclopedic collection of education-related statistics across 46 countries, is being published today. The report includes statistics for the 34 countries that belong to the OECD -- whose membership is heavily tilted toward Western Europe and North America -- as well as for Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Among the findings, the U.S. ranked fifth among the 34 OECD countries in terms of higher education attainment rates.

Unemployment rates for Americans varied according to level of education -- ranging from 3.7 percent for those who have completed higher education to 10.6 percent for those without a high school diploma. All rates were below the OECD averages -- a contrast to 2010, when the U.S. had above-average unemployment rates in all categories.

Adults in the U.S. with a higher education degree earn 76 percent more than their counterparts with just a high school diploma, a statistic that exceeds the average wage premium across OECD countries (60 percent) by a considerable amount. American students with master’s and doctoral degrees earn 143 percent more than their counterparts with just a high school diploma.

In terms of higher education characteristics, the report notes that American higher education has comparatively high rates of part-time study. The number of graduates from U.S. science and engineering programs lags OECD averages: for example, 17 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients in the U.S. have studied science or engineering, compared to a 22 percent average across OECD countries.

The U.S. remains the leading destination for international students, hosting 19 percent of all international students in 2013.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Jonathan Pieslak, associate professor of music at City College of the City University of New York, explores how terrorists can use music. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Hundreds of colleges on Friday urged congressional leaders to grant a one-year reprieve to the federal Perkins Loan Program, which expired earlier this fall.

A group of 53 higher education organizations and 535 colleges and universities called on Congress to advance a stand-alone extension of the Perkins Loan Program or attach it to a government funding bill. Lawmakers are currently negotiating over how to fund the federal government beyond Dec. 11.

"The recent expiration of the program has caused significant concern for the hundreds of thousands of students who rely on Perkins loans to finance their education," the college leaders wrote in a letter. "And it is critical that an extension is passed as soon as possible to prevent further harm to students."

The U.S. House passed legislation in September to avert an expiration of the Perkins Loan Program. But the Senate failed to act on the measure after Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee objected. Alexander, the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, has said he wants to simplify and streamline the various federal loan programs that are available to students.

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Senator John McCain and Senator Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, last week wrote to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to seek information about what they called the "unfair targeting" of the University of Phoenix and other for-profits by a Obama administration-created interagency task force. The task force includes eight federal agencies, the two senators said. In the letter they expressed concern about a lack of information about the task force's authority, mission, duties and activities.

"It is our hope that these publicly funded resources will be directed toward a fair and transparent review of issues facing for-profit and nonprofit institutions, and not for a preconceived, political agenda to stir the pot of public perception," the senators wrote. "To do so otherwise would neither be productive nor benefit the public trust."

The letter follows a similar correspondence from Republican senators to Duncan on the task force, which McCain also signed, that focused on a U.S. Department of Defense inquiry of Phoenix.

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 3:00am

American University of Beirut announced Friday that it is restoring a tenure system for faculty members. The university suspended the use of tenure in 1985, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, when Malcolm Kerr, president of AUB, was assassinated and many feared for the university's future. Tenure is being restored based on a vote of the Faculty Senate and of the university board. Faculty committees will now develop systems for tenure reviews -- both for new faculty members and those who have been working as faculty members at the university without tenure.

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 3:00am

FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is among the companies that in the last year announced significant plans to help employees earn college degrees. In FCA's case, it announced an arrangement with Strayer University to provide free degree programs to all dealership employees. Today FCA is announcing an expansion of the program to the employees' spouses and children, who will also be able to earn Strayer degrees (associate, bachelor's and master's) at no cost.

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Thirty-two Americans were on Saturday named winners of Rhodes Scholarships, which provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford. Students at Harvard University, one of the elite universities that typically dominate the Rhodes competition, won five of the scholarships, more than those of any other college this year. But this year's winners also included one student each from two institutions that have never previously had a Rhodes Scholar: Northeastern University and Youngstown State University. Brief profiles of the winners may be found here.


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