Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 18, 2018

The Trump administration this month will begin proactively reaching out to disabled veterans eligible for federal student loan discharge.

Disabled veterans are eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven through the total and permanent disability (TPD) application.

The Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs will reach out to veterans who may be eligible for the benefit to provide them with an application for loan forgiveness. Veterans will still have to fill out the application and return it themselves.

“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed much for our country. It is important that, in return, we do all we can to give them the support and care they deserve,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a statement. “Simplifying the loan forgiveness process and proactively identifying veterans with federal student loans who may be eligible for a discharge is a small but critical way we can show our gratitude for veterans’ service.”

Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate education committee, praised the new step by the department and said she hoped the government would eventually further streamline the process by making student loan discharge automatic for eligible borrowers.

“The men and women serving in the military sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and those injured in the line of duty should not be saddled with the burden of paying back student loans if they are unable to work,” she said in a statement.

April 18, 2018

Pasco-Hernando State College's faculty has unionized, 64 in favor and 62 against, according tbo.com. The new union is a chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, which is affiliated with National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. In campaigning for a union, professors on campus have cited concerns about shared governance, including an administrative decision to forego promised faculty raises for earning Ph.D.s for one-time bonuses. Timothy Beard, college president, reportedly said his institution's budget is tight but that the union “will give us great documentation and accountability.”

April 18, 2018

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels weighed in the PROSPER Act -- House Republicans' plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act -- Tuesday, offering praise for several of the bill's reforms.

In a letter to Representative Virginia Foxx, the chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce committee and the author of the bill, Daniels said PROSPER puts forward a "comprehensive framework" for dealing with many of the intractable challenges facing higher education in the U.S.

"PROSPER’s focus on making postsecondary education more affordable warrants higher education’s support. Students and taxpayers will benefit from an HEA reauthorization that confronts the issue of cost," he wrote. "PROSPER is a fine step in that direction."

Daniels in particular praised a proposal to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program as a "step toward addressing unfunded mandates." But much of his letter described ongoing attempts at innovation taking place at his university, such as offering income-share agreements in place of traditional student loans. He wrote that he hoped PROSPER would spur "similar institutional action" at other universities across the country.

The letter is the first instance in months of a higher education leader voicing even modest support for the bill, as a number of college lobby groups, veterans' organizations and student advocates have spoken out in opposition.

April 18, 2018

The National Association of Scholars on Tuesday published a report on the "The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform." Much already has been said about the reproducibility crisis in science, including that it’s exaggerated. The association’s take is that is “improper use of statistics, arbitrary research techniques, lack of accountability, political groupthink and a scientific culture biased toward producing positive results together have produced a critical state of affairs.” 

The report offers 40 recommendations to promote more reliable data, including pre-registration of research protocols, the creation of a journal in each field dedicated to publishing negative results and more transparency regarding the peer review process. The association also recommends “rigorous programs of education” in statistics-heavy fields to emphasize “the ways researchers can misunderstand and misuse statistical concepts and techniques.” Colleges and universities should integrate survey-level statistics courses into their core curricula and distribution requirements, according to the association, and private philanthropy should fund university chairs in “reproducibility studies.”

April 18, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Purdue University Week, Pamala Morris, a professor of youth development and agriculture education, examines how teaching students strong intercultural skills can help them bridge gaps in their future careers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 17, 2018

Icons representing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedInMore than two-thirds of college admissions officials believe it is "fair game" to check on applicants' social media accounts as part of the process of deciding whom to admit, according to a survey Kaplan Test Prep is releasing today. Only a small share of admissions officers routinely look at social media, the survey found. Among reasons given by those who support the practice of checking out social media:

  • “Employers do it all the time. Colleges can do it as well.”
  • “I think if things are publicly accessible without undue intrusion, it’s OK. If it's searchable, it’s fair game.”
  • “We don't do this, but we could. I think high school seniors make poor choices sometimes when they put stuff online.”
April 17, 2018

Concerns are growing over how Cambridge police treated a black Harvard University student who was arrested Friday night. Local press accounts state that police responded to reports of a naked man walking next to a busy street. Most of the concern is not about police intervening with the student but how they did so -- video shows the student being punched after he was detained.

Harvard president Drew Faust sent a message to students and faculty members calling the reports about the incident "disturbing," and said that the student appeared to need help at the time he was arrested. While many details are not known, she said, the incident raised questions. "What we do know raises important issues about the relationship between police and the communities they serve, student health resources, and the manner in which University units operate with each other and with our partners in the community," Faust wrote.

April 17, 2018

Several academics were among the winners of the arts and letters Pulitzer Prizes announced Monday.

  • Frank Bidart, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and a professor of English at Wellesley College, was awarded the Pulitzer in poetry for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which the Pulitzer committee described as a "volume of unyielding ambition and remarkable scope that mixes long dramatic poems with short elliptical lyrics, building on classical mythology and reinventing forms of desires that defy societal norms."
  • Jack E. Davis, a professor of history at the University of Florida, won the Pulitzer in history for The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (Liveright/W. W. Norton), an "important environmental history" of Earth’s 10th-largest body of water.
  • James Forman Jr., a professor of law at Yale University, received the Pulitzer in general nonfiction for Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), an examination of the U.S. criminal justice system.

The winner of the drama Pulitzer, Martyna Majok, has taught playwriting at Williams College, Wesleyan University and the State University of New York at Purchase, and is a 2018-19 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

April 17, 2018

The Society for Political Methodology’s annual meeting will be held at Brigham Young University, the group announced Monday, despite ongoing concerns about the campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scholars. The society’s leaders said they’d given “insufficient forethought to matters of diversity” in allowing Brigham Young to host the meeting, chilling the participation of LGBTQ scholars and alarming the American Political Science Association’s Status Committee for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender Individuals in the Profession (a group not affiliated with the society).

Yet recent weeks have seen a series of “constructive, good-faith conversations” among the political science association’s LGBT Status Committee, Brigham Young and the society, the political methodology group said, yielding “what all parties believe is a positive outcome for 2018 and beyond.” The university has reaffirmed its commitment to welcoming visiting scholars in a spirit of inclusion and moved all events to an off-site location, for example, while the society is adopting a new diversity statement and formal code of conduct endorsed by the political science association's status committee. Host institutions of future conferences will be required to affirm these statements and conference participants will be required to sign the code of conduct. A plenary roundtable at the upcoming meeting also will discuss how to make the society more diverse and inclusive.

The society “apologizes for the way its host selection negatively affected professional opportunities for LGBTQ scholars,” its leaders said in a statement. “This was never intended and [the society] promises to be more attuned to diversity and inclusion in the future.”

April 17, 2018

Non-tenure-track faculty members at the University of Chicago voted nearly unanimously to ratify their first union contract, they announced Monday. Gains include up to a 49 percent pay increase for some instructors, paid parental leave, increased job stability measures, capped language course sizes and professional development funds. No additional details were immediately available. The union, formed in 2015, is affiliated with Service Employees International Union.

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