Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Parental love and support do not eliminate the dangers of helicopter parenting, according to a new study. The findings are important, researchers say, because they debunk the view of some helicopter parents that they are simply showering their children with love, which must be a good thing. Researchers at Brigham Young University studied undergraduates at four universities (not including Brigham Young). Students were asked about measures of parental love and support (ability to talk and spend time together) and also about helicopter parenting (where parents make important decisions and solve problems for their children). Prior research had found negative impacts on college students' self-esteem and well-being associated with helicopter parenting. The new research found that while love and support lessened the negative impacts of helicopter parenting, they did not eliminate the impact.

“From our past work, we thought there might be something positive about helicopter parenting under certain conditions, but we're just not finding it,” said a statement from one of the study authors, Larry Nelson.

The study appears in the journal Emerging Adulthood.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

A group representing the seven regional accrediting agencies has developed a common framework for assessing and approving competency-based education programs proposed by their member institutions. The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, known as C-RAC, released the framework for the emergent form of higher education program late Monday. A news release about the framework notes that there has been relatively little guidance about the characteristics of high-quality programs and the expectations that accreditors and the federal government have for institutions that seek to establish the programs. The Obama administration is soon expected to release its own guidance for competency-based programs that seek approval to operate under the experimental sites program the Education Department has created to allow deviation from certain federal rules.

“The key is to promote this expansion of CBE while also ensuring the quality and integrity of the academic program,” Barbara Brittingham, president of the higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and chair of C-RAC, said in a news release. “Between our statement and the new guidance from the Department of Education, we believe these goals can be accomplished, thereby supporting increased innovation at our member institutions.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Anthem Inc., a national health care company, announced Tuesday that its 55,000 employees can pursue a no-cost associate or bachelor's degree at College for America, a competency-based subsidiary of Southern New Hampshire University. The new benefit is available to any Anthem employee who works 20 hours or more per week and has been employed there for at least six months. The company's tuition reimbursement plan will cover the full price of the online degrees.

Southern New Hampshire is the first of six institutions to have received approval from the U.S. Department of Education and regional accreditors for direct-assessment academic programs, a form of competency-based education that does not rely on the credit-hour standard. Students can move at their own pace in direct-assessment degree tracks -- taking as much or as little time they need to master the required competencies.

“Anthem is committed to offering its associates a robust benefits package that goes beyond salary and health benefits,” Jose Tomas, chief human resources officer at Anthem, said in a written statement. “Our partnership with College for America has proven successful for our associates who participated in the pilot program in New Hampshire, and we want to build on that success by providing opportunities for education, development and career advancement to all our associates.”

Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire's president, said thousands of Anthem employees will benefit from the partnership.

“As an employer, Anthem is building talent and the skills needed for promotion in its workforce while associates earn an accredited degree that will help them get ahead in their life and career without taking on debt,” LeBlanc said in a written statement.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a narrow ruling in a case concerning threats made on social media, dodging the larger questions about the First Amendment implications of online speech. In a 7-2 vote, the court ruled threats made online can't land someone in prison merely if a "reasonable person" -- a common legal standard -- takes them seriously.

The case, Elonis v. United States, has been closely watched by free speech advocates and victims' rights groups. A broad ruling that detailed how the First Amendment does or doesn't protect online speech also would have had implications for higher education, where administrators and faculty members regularly grapple with how -- or if -- to control student behavior on social media. Instead, the court disagreed with the circuit court's interpretation of federal law that makes it illegal to threaten someone using "interstate communication" -- in other words, the Internet.

"Given the disposition here, it is unnecessary to consider any First Amendment issues," Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote in the opinion.

Anthony D. Elonis, the plaintiff in the case, was sentenced to 44 months in prison after posting threats aimed at his ex-wife, co-workers and others on Facebook. The Supreme Court reversed that conviction, sending the case back to the lower court.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, said the ruling will create more confusion about how to determine whether a post on social media constitutes a threat. "This failure to decide throws everyone from appellate judges to everyday Facebook users into a state of uncertainty," he wrote.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Sydney on Monday announced plans to shift undergraduate degrees from three to four years as part of a major overhaul of instruction, The Sydney Morning News reported. University officials said that more time was needed to promote critical thinking and other key skills. At the same time, the university will discourage students from taking more than one undergraduate program, but will instead encourage master's programs after a single undergraduate degree. The moves are part of a plan to overtake the University of Melbourne in rankings.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Michael Howell, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota, discusses his research on a sleep disorder that is characterized by intense physical motions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 3:00am

Uber, the fast-growing taxi alternative, has lured 40 robotics researchers away from Carnegie Mellon University, The Wall Street Journal reported. Uber -- offering higher salaries -- hired the researchers to work on the company's project to create driverless cars. All of the departures have created numerous problems for Carnegie Mellon, which lost some research grants when faculty members left.

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 3:00am

The Texas Legislature gave final approval Sunday to a bill that would let Texans carry licensed concealed weapons on college campuses, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The legislation is on its way to Governor Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it. The final version of the measure allows private institutions to opt out of the campus carry requirement and public universities to create “gun-free zones” on parts of their campuses.

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 3:00am

J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who was indicted last week, has resigned from the board of a center at Wheaton College in Illinois that has been named for him. The college accepted Hastert's resignation and also announced that the name of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy will change to the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy. Hastert is charged with making bank withdrawals in ways that could not be traced to their purpose, paying off someone. While the indictment did not indicate who that person was, several press reports have said it is a male former student at the high school where Hastert taught and coached wresting.

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 3:00am

Seven cases of meningitis at the University of Oregon have been diagnosed since January, The Oregonian reported. The outbreak is being cited as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider a proposal to recommend that all young people receive a vaccine for meningitis.


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