Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 6, 2014

A think tank's relatively crude analysis of how colleges might fare under a system that rated them on access, affordability and student success finds few institutions scoring high marks on all three, as it chooses to define them. The report by the American Enterprise Institute's Center on Higher Education Reform -- trying to anticipate how an Obama administration plan to rate colleges might play out -- examines the performance of 1,700 four-year colleges on three metrics: the proportion of their undergraduates who are eligible for Pell Grants for needy students, the six-year graduation rate of their students, and their net price -- all of which it concedes are imperfect, if not seriously flawed, measures.

It then plots the institutions on a scatter chart (see an interactive version here), and notes that just 19 colleges score at what it deems an appropriate level on all three measures: graduation rate above 50 percent, net price under $10,000, and Pell Grant percentage of at least 25 percent. 

With its simple formula and and unimpressive results, the report may affirm the worst fears of some critics of the Obama plan. But they are likely to agree with the authors' points about the warnings about some of the pitfalls facing the designers of the new system and at least some elements of the report's conclusion:

"In thinking through these issues, the president and his advisers must acknowledge that a poorly designed accountability system will likely do more harm than good, providing critics with the ammunition they need to roll back future efforts to hold colleges accountable. Designers would be wise to learn from the past and anticipate some of these potential pitfalls ahead of time. We still don’t know exactly what the ratings will measure and how the policy will work, but the data discussed here show just how much progress we have to make in order to create the high-quality, affordable postsecondary opportunities that Americans need."
February 6, 2014

The percentage of employed teenagers has declined over the last decade, but what working high school seniors spend their earnings on has not changed much, researchers have found. Most of the money earned goes toward temporary wants or needs, meaning shopping trips, lunch and dinner dates, movies, music and more -- not saving for college. The information was gathered through surveys given to high school seniors by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Authors Jerald Bachman, Jeremy Staff, Patrick O'Malley and Peter Freedman-Doan wanted to learn what teenagers did with their earnings and to see if any patterns affect academic achievement. What they discovered is 17 percent took half or more of their income and put it toward their educations. Those who saved for college were less likely to work more than 15 to 20 hours a week because they wanted to focus on school. They weren’t at high risk of smoking cigarettes. The high school students who juggle school and work to help fund their higher education deserve to be recognized, the researchers say.

February 6, 2014

"Key Issues for Business Schools" is a collection of news articles and essays -- in print-on-demand format -- about the opportunities and challenges facing schools of business. The articles aren't breaking news, rather analyses about long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts about this important sector of institutions. The goal is to provide these materials (both news articles and opinion essays) in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here.

This is the latest in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.
 
On Thursday, February 27, at 2 p.m. EST, Inside Higher Ed's editors will discuss these issues in a free webinar. Sign up to participate by clicking here.
February 5, 2014

Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey, one of the top Democrats on the House education committee, announced Tuesday that he was resigning from Congress later this month.

Andrews told supporters that he was leaving Congress to join a Philadelphia-based law firm. He told The New York Times that his decision had nothing to do with an ethics investigation into his alleged misuse of his campaign funds.

Andrews has been a longtime supporter of for-profit colleges in Washington, especially compared with some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate who have been critical of the sector. He most recently joined a letter expressing concern over the Obama administration’s efforts to impose “gainful employment” regulations on the industry.  

Andrews's resignation follows the announcement last month by Representative George Miller, the top Democrat on the House education panel, that he will not seek re-election at the end of this year. 

February 5, 2014

In today's Academic Minutes, Jennifer Neal of Michigan State University reveals the assumptions that many children have about friendship and gender. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 5, 2014

For the first time in 35 years in which researchers have tracked the reading habits of American scientists, they report that the number of scientific papers they read each year has declined, Nature reported. In 2012, scientists estimated that they read, on average, 22 scholarly articles a month. That's a decline from 27 that they reported when the survey was last conducted, in 2005. The survey is a project of professors at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A majority of articles read in 2012 were read online, up from about 20 percent of articles read in 2005. However, the study found that 58 percent of articles read by scientists older than 60 were read on paper, although that includes printed versions of articles downloaded online.

February 5, 2014

Educational Testing Service this week announced that it is offering digital badges that students can earn by taking two assessments the group released last year. Those tests -- the Proficiency Profile and iSkills assessments -- seek to measure what students learn in college. They are not designed to be used by employers, for now at least. But they might have job market potential at some point.

Now students can earn digital badges based on their performance on the two assessments. For example, badges are linked to all four skill areas the Proficiency Profile measures: mathematics, writing, reading and critical thinking. The badges can be added to a Mozilla "backpack" and shared with an "unlimited number of recipients in academia and beyond," ETS said in a news release.

February 5, 2014

Radford University announced Tuesday that it is adding women's lacrosse, but cutting three other teams, The Roanoke Times reported. The teams being cut are women's field hockey, women's swimming and diving, and men's track and field. The university said that the changes were part of a "realignment" to improve athletic offerings, but those associated with teams being cut said they were dismayed.

February 5, 2014

A group of 50 organizations has written to officials at the White House and U.S. Department of Education to "urge the administration to issue promptly a stronger, more effective" set of gainful employment regulations. The group includes higher-education associations, faculty unions, consumer advocates and veterans organizations.

In December a panel of department-appointed negotiators failed to reach consensus on the proposed rules, which would affect vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The department is expected to issue its final draft standards in coming months. A period of public comment will follow their release.

February 5, 2014

Jeff Wilson, associate professor of biological sciences at Huston-Tillotson University, moved into a dumpster Tuesday, planning to live there for a year. Working with students, he plans to show how one could live in a dumpster, using much less space and energy than Americans typically consume. “The overarching goal ... is to test whether one can have a pretty good life while treading lightly on the planet — all from a dumpster that is 1 percent the size of the average new American home,” he said.

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