Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 13, 2023

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, a women’s college and men’s college, respectively, in Minnesota, will phase out eight majors and nine minors over the next few years, The Star Tribune reported.

The colleges have about 2,900 undergraduates enrolled this year, a number that’s fallen between 20 and 25 percent over the past 13 years.

Majors being phased out are ancient Mediterranean studies, gender studies and theater, although minors will remain in those programs. Specific concentrations within nutrition (dietetics) and music (composition, performance and liturgical music) will also be eliminated, though the core of those majors will remain. Language majors and minors being phased out are French studies, German studies, Latin and Japanese, though some courses in those languages will still be offered. Asian studies, Chinese, Greek and peace studies programs will also be phased out.

March 13, 2023

Vermont State University has abandoned plans to go all virtual in its libraries, VTDigger reported. Earlier versions of the plan eliminated the books and all librarians from five campuses and drew widespread criticism.

The new plan is to keep about 30,000 books, or about 10 percent of what the university currently has.

The university “will maintain volumes that have been accessed or checked out between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2022 and have been deemed academically valuable by the academic department chairs and the provost,” according to the new plan. The university will also keep a small collection of “popular, casual, reading books” and children’s books in the libraries, administrators wrote.

March 13, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Week: Christopher Jeansonne, lecturer of communication and media, explains why games can be a useful component of classroom learning. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 10, 2023

Another undergraduate institution has dropped out of the undergraduate rankings of U.S. News & World Report.

Bard College president Leon Botstein announced the change. “The educational character and comparative merits of colleges cannot be distilled into a uniform numerical ranking,” said Botstein. “Particularly one that does not take into account the curriculum and faculty and is based on flawed and irrelevant metrics, many of which concern only institutional wealth.”

Bard’s move follows similar announcements from Colorado College, the Rhode Island School of Design and numerous law and medical schools.

March 10, 2023

A new report from Law Students for Climate Accountability finds that the top 20 law schools in the U.S. News & World Report rankings have produced fossil fuel lawyers at over three times the rate of the average U.S. law school.

Nearly half of U.S. fossil fuel lawyers attended a top-20 law school. The report finds that, among the top 20 law schools, the top producers of fossil fuel lawyers are (1) the University of Texas Law School, (2) the University of Virginia School of Law, (3) Yale Law School, (4) Harvard Law School and (5) Vanderbilt University Law School. The Texas law school produces 12.9 percent more fossil fuel lawyers than the average law school.

“It’s frustrating to see in real time the ways in which schools like mine create a pipeline into work driving climate injustice. We’re encouraged to be curious about ‘the law’ but not about the legal profession,” said Melissa Kay, a second-year law student at Yale Law School and one of the lead authors of the report. “Why does the legal education system make it so much easier for students to get a job destroying the climate than helping it?”

March 10, 2023

A new version of the Graduate Management Admission Test will debut this year.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which runs the test, announced the change Thursday without providing much detail. It said the GMAT Focus “is more efficient, flexible, and insightful by honing in [sic] on the higher-order critical reasoning skills and data literacy especially relevant and applicable in the business environment of tomorrow.”

But Business Because, which is owned by the GMAC, said the new test “comprises three 45-minute sections, reducing the test time by one hour.” The writing of an essay will no longer be part of the test.

Stacey Koprince, director of content and curriculum at Manhattan Prep, which prepares students for the test, said, “This is easily the biggest change to the GMAT since it moved from a paper and pencil format to a computer-adaptive format in 1997. While there is not yet a lot of information on the GMAT Focus Edition, from what we can see, these are very student-friendly changes. It’s hard to say that an exam that’s one hour shorter will frustrate test takers, particularly when GMAC has also indicated that there will be fewer topics to study. Not including break time, the new GMAT will be more than an hour shorter than the GRE. Test takers will be able to review problems after the fact and change a small number of answers. And there will be no essay. In our opinion, these changes sound great.”

In recent years, the GMAT has faced increased competition from the Graduate Record Examination.

March 10, 2023

Latinas are enrolling in and graduating from Hispanic-serving institutions at higher rates than Latinos, according to a new analysis from Excelencia in Education, an organization focused on Latina and Latino student success.

The analysis, released Thursday, found that almost half, 48 percent, of the women attending Hispanic-serving institutions in fall 2020 were Latinas. Latinas also made up almost two-thirds of the Hispanic student population at these colleges and universities.

Latina women attending Hispanic-serving institutions also earned more than 300,000 degrees in 2020, almost 120,000 more than their Latino peers, according to the analysis. Degree attainment among Latina students at these institutions rose 52 percent from 2015 to 2020, compared to an increase of 44 percent among Latino men over the same time period. However, most Latinas age 25 and older still lack a college degree. Of Latina adults in 2021, 53 percent have a high school education or less, while 29 percent held an associate degree or higher.

March 10, 2023

The University of Iowa will pay the full amount of a legal settlement that ended a racial bias suit filed by former members of the university’s football team.

The university’s president announced Thursday that the payment would be made after an uproar among state lawmakers over an earlier plan to use taxpayer funds to cover $2 million of the $4.2 million settlement, The Des Moines Register reported.

“After listening to the concerns of Iowans and in consultation with the Board of Regents leadership, I have determined the University of Iowa Department of Athletics will reimburse the state general fund for the $2 million due to the recent settlement,” President Barbara Wilson said in a statement.

Lawmakers and the state’s auditor have been critical of the university’s athletic director, Gary Barta, among others. A legislative subcommittee meeting held Thursday morning included discussion of a bill requiring athletic departments at universities overseen by the state’s regents to repay the state for unbudgeted legal settlement costs. A lobbyist read Wilson’s statement during the meeting.

“I am delighted that she listened to the outcry from taxpayers who wanted real accountability,” Rob Sand, the state’s auditor, told the Register.

University officials admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The former football players, who are Black, filed their lawsuit in 2020. They alleged the use of racial slurs as well as being required to abandon hairstyles and other aspects of their culture to fit in with what the lawsuit called the “Iowa Way” under Coach Kirk Ferentz, and that they were retaliated against after speaking out.

March 10, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute, part of SUNY Distinguished Professor Week: Lou Roper, SUNY Distinguished Professor of History at the State University of New York at New Paltz, explains why we should keep talking about the history of slavery. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 9, 2023

Temple University announced Tuesday that it has restored the health insurance benefit it cut for striking members of the graduate student workers’ union.

But the university didn’t say anything about restoring tuition remission for the strikers, who have been asked to pay up by today. Temple’s cutting of their health and tuition benefits drew national media attention.

Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) members have been on strike for better pay and benefits since Jan. 31. Negotiations between it and the university resumed Tuesday and continued Wednesday.

“Because of the good faith effort shown by TUGSA, we are pleased to report that immediately, we will reinstate health-care subsidies for striking TUGSA members,” Ken Kaiser, Temple’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

TUGSA didn’t provide an interview Wednesday, though members online contested the notion that it hadn’t been acting in good faith before.


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