Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 1, 2018

Medical experts are investigating two clusters of an extremely rare eye cancer -- and one cluster involves graduates of Auburn University, CBS News reported. Ocular melanoma is typically found in six of every one million people. But one cluster includes 36 people who attended Auburn.

May 1, 2018

The total number of international students in the U.S. on F and M visas declined by 0.5 percent between March 2017 and March 2018, according to a new biannual report on student visa data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

The data include students who have already completed their degree programs and are now participating in a program called optional practical training, which allows them to work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduating while staying on their student visas. The inclusion of OPT participants may mask some of the declines in new international student enrollments that many universities have reported. A recent analysis of student visa data done by the National Science Foundation found that when OPT participants were excluded, the number of total undergraduate international students in the U.S. declined by 2.2 percent from fall 2016 to fall 2017, while the number of graduate students fell by 5.5 percent.

The student visa data also include students enrolled in K-12 or language training programs. Eighty-five percent of student visa holders in the U.S. are enrolled in higher education programs.

All that said, the new SEVIS by the Numbers report shows 1 percent and 2 percent gains, respectively, in the number of students from China and India -- two countries that together account for nearly half of the total international student population -- from March 2017 to March 2018. Notable changes include a 7.5 percent decline in the number of students from South Korea, and a 17 percent drop in the number of students from Saudi Arabia, which has scaled back a major government-sponsored scholarship program.

The number of students from Europe fell by 1.1 percent, while the numbers grew from Africa (up 1.4 percent), Australia and the Pacific Islands (up 3.3 percent), and South America (up 4.3 percent, including a 13.1 percent increase in the number of students from Brazil). The number of students from elsewhere in North America decreased by 1.7 percent due to declines in students from Canada and Mexico.

The number of international students on J visas -- which tend to be for shorter-term exchange programs -- increased by 4 percent from March 2017 to March 2018.

An interactive mapping tool that provides additional data on state-level trends and on the education levels of students from various countries is available here.

May 1, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Arie Kapteyn, research professor of economics at the University of Southern California, examines why Americans are not very good at determining how active they are. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 30, 2018

The College of St. Joseph, in Vermont, is considering closing, The Rutland Herald reported. The board will hold a series of meetings in the next two weeks to discuss options. Low enrollment has led to financial problems. The college started the last academic year with 199 full-time undergraduates and hoped to have 250 this coming fall. So far, enrollment is falling short of projections.

 

April 30, 2018

Inder Verma, a geneticist and cancer researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, allegedly sexually harassed women throughout his career, according to Science. Verma denied the claims in a statement, saying he’d never had relationship with or touched colleagues, or “used my position at the Salk Institute to take advantage of others.” But eight women working inside the institute and outside, including a potential faculty recruit, told Science that Verma pinched, groped, forcibly kissed, hit on or made inappropriate comments to them between 1976 and 2016.

Salk put Verma on administrative leave earlier this month. Several of the women have accused Salk of mishandling their complaints against Verma. Salk told Science that when “officials have been made aware of allegations of inappropriate conduct by an employee, the Institute has investigated and responded, as appropriate.”

April 30, 2018

Iowa's Supreme Court has tossed out a lower court's decision in the long-running legal battle over Ashford University's eligibility to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The state's approval agency in 2016 attempted to strike the for-profit university's eligibility, citing a previous decision by Ashford to close its physical location in the state. The university and its holding company, Bridgepoint Education, sued to block that decision, which could have meant that it would no longer be able to enroll veterans nationwide, as it had registered for GI Bill eligibility in Iowa. Arizona, however, later granted Ashford that status. But the legal battle in Iowa continued.

Last July an Iowa district court issued a setback to Ashford, dismissing its petition to block the loss of eligibility. The university later halted enrolling veterans as new students. Meanwhile, California's attorney general sued Ashford for allegedly making false promises to students, among other allegations, and Democrats in the U.S. Senate called on the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to take additional steps to protect veterans and current members of the U.S. military who are enrolled at the university.

The for-profit appealed the district court's decision. And the state's Supreme Court last week backed its move to have the lower court's decision vacated.

The decision last week found that Eliza Ovrom, the district court judge, failed to disclose in a timely manner family ties to the state office of attorney general, which had been involved in the Ashford dispute. (Ovrom's son is an assistant attorney general who works in a child-support unit, and her husband is a consumer advocate for the state's utility board, according to the Supreme Court's ruling.)

"The issue is not whether Judge Ovrom’s ruling was correct or incorrect, but rather whether she should have been in a position to rule at all," the court said. "As in many ethical issues, it is the appearance of a lack of impartiality that is at the heart of Judge Ovrom’s failure to disclose a potential conflict. Had she done so, and assuming she would have recused herself at an earlier stage of the proceedings in response to a similar request, she would logically have not been the author of any such rulings."

Ashford can resume its legal challenge to the state's move to yank GI Bill eligibility, according to the ruling, and it will retain that eligibility for now. The university is again enrolling new students who receive GI Bill benefits.

In March the university announced that it plans to convert to a nonprofit, with Bridgepoint serving as an online program management (OPM) for Ashford and potentially other universities. Ashford's regional accreditor is expected to make the call on that attempt as soon as June.

April 30, 2018

Longtime NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw withdrew from a May commencement speech at Sacred Heart University, according to Reuters, after a woman reported to two news outlets that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her.

Sacred Heart president John Petillo said in a statement that Brokaw told the university of his decision to withdraw on Friday. “Given events in the news, Mr. Brokaw did not want to distract from the intended and most important focus of the day -- our graduating students and their families."

Linda Vester, a former correspondent for NBC News, told The Washington Post and Variety that Brokaw had acted inappropriately toward her on two occasions in the mid-1990s, including touching and trying to kiss her without consent.

Brokaw has denied the allegations, saying in a statement released to Reuters that he met with Vester twice to offer career advice. “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, but at her request, 23 years ago because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC. The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other,” Brokaw said.

Many of Brokaw’s colleagues have come out in support of the veteran anchor. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Maria Shriver are among more than 60 of Brokaw's current and former colleagues who signed a letter backing the anchor, calling him “a man of tremendous decency and integrity," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Vester’s attorney Ari Wilkenfield told Reuters, “My client stands by the allegations, which speak for themselves.”

Andy Lack, NBC News chairman, told staff in a letter Friday that the network is undertaking a review with legal and human resource leaders. The review is nearly finished, Lack said, adding that NBC might be ready to release findings next week. NBC has also conducted an assessment of the its culture with hundreds of employees, and is currently running mandatory training sessions for staff. "We take allegations such as these very seriously, and act on them quickly and decisively when the facts dictate."

April 30, 2018

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning has named Marie Cini, former provost of the University of Maryland University College, to succeed the group's longtime president and chief executive officer, Pamela Tate. Cini, who served most recently as the higher education lead for a project to modernize the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, will lead CAEL, which focuses on employer-education partnerships and helping institutions support adult students.

Tate will become chief national partnerships officer for the Strada Education Network, which added CAEL to its network of affiliates in January.

April 30, 2018

A British-Iranian professor has been arrested and detained in Iran, the BBC reported. A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary confirmed Sunday that Abbas Edalat, a computer science and mathematics professor at Imperial College London, had been arrested on unspecified “security charges.” On Thursday an Iranian news agency had alleged that Edalat was part of a “network” of British spies.

Edalat is the founder of a group that opposes sanctions and foreign military intervention in Iran. He was reportedly arrested April 15 while attending an academic workshop in Tehran.

April 30, 2018

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is a young university in Saudi Arabia that has quickly attracted top scientific talent from around the world. KAUST, as the university is widely known, has named as its next president Tony Chan (right), president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. HKUST, as that institution is known, is a young institution in Hong Kong that has similarly built itself up as a leading research university in a relatively short time period.

 

 

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