Higher Education Quick Takes
Two U.S. senators -- Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, and Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat -- have asked the U.S. Department of Education to gather information about the accuracy of key law school data, such as figures on job placement, student loans and other topics. The letter from the senators comes amid lawsuits and considerable public debate over whether some law schools are being less than honest about the odds of students landing good jobs. A statement from Senator Boxer notes that the request to the Education Department follows "repeated calls" from her "to the American Bar Association to provide stronger oversight of reporting by law schools and better access to information for students."
Seymour Schulich, a Canadian philanthropist, is setting up a $100 million fund to provide scholarships for undergraduates in Canada and Israel who are pursuing degrees in STEM fields, The Globe and Mail reported. Five Israeli universities and 20 Canadian universities have been invited to nominate potential recipients from 1,600 high schools.
Tripoli University has started, under new leaders, to try to transform itself for the post-Qaddafi era, The New York Times reported. Many students and academics are excited about the possibilities, but Feisel Krekshi, the new dean, told the Times that the challenges are great. He called the faculty "90 percent contaminated" and noted that the old curriculum forced students to spend much of their time in college studying years studying Muammar Qaddafi’s philosophy. “This was not a university,” Krekshi said. “It was a place of intelligence and torture, a weapon to support all oppression.”
The instructor at the County College of Morris whose treatment of a student with a stutter was the subject of a front page article in The New York Times says that her treatment of the student has been portrayed unfairly. The original article -- which became the subject of much discussion -- said that the instructor told the student not to speak in class, and refused to call on him when his hand was up throughout a class session. In a new article, the instructor, Elizabeth Snyder, said she asked the student to limit his in-class questions because he was trying to respond throughout class. "He seemed to want to answer every question," she said, and "you’d have to take into consideration the amount of time he takes to get the answer out." Snyder said that "there was never any intent to stop him from speaking." On the day of the class session discussed in the original article, she said, she was trying to cover a lot of material in a limited amount of time, and that she did not call on any other students. Philip Garber, the student who stutters, said that she did call on other students.
Since the article has appeared, Snyder said that she has received many nasty and threatening e-mail messages, and that she feels her reputation has been destroyed. In May, Snyder was named "educator of the year" by the college’s Educational Opportunity Fund for her work with financially and academically disadvantaged students. She did not comment for the original article, but in an interview for the second article, told the Times that "I’ve been an advocate for kids my entire life. But people’s rush to judgment on this, it feels like it’s pretty much destroyed my life."
In July, University of Baltimore officials denied allegations made by Phillip Closius, who in an e-mail about his resignation as dean of the law school that the university was using tuition from law students to subsidize the rest of the institution, to the detriment of the law school. Now, however, the university has embarked on a campaign to add $1 million a year to the law school's base budget for the next five years, The Baltimore Sun reported. The increase will be funded by giving the law school a larger share of the revenue it generates.
African-American scholars who earned their Ph.D.s at highly research intensive universities are significantly less likely than white, Latino and Asian peers to be employed at similar universities, a new National Science Foundation study finds. The NSF study examines numerous characteristics of minority Ph.D. recipients in science, engineering and health fields -- from where they earned their doctorates, where they work now, and their rank, status and fields of study at those institutions, among other things -- and the finding on black Ph.D.s is among the most interesting.
While 41.5 percent of all professors who earned doctorates in science, engineering and health fields at American universities with "very high" research activity are were employed by such institutions in 2008, the figure was much lower (30.8 percent) for African-Americans. (No other racial group was below 39.1 percent, the figure for Latino scholars.) The study finds that the black scholars were likelier than others to work instead at master's granting universities, and attributes the finding, in part, to the fact that meaningful numbers of them work at historically black universities, which by and large are master's institutions. That probably accounts for about a third of the gap, estimates Ansley Abraham, director of the Southern Regional Education Board's SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program, and while some of those professors are at HBCUs by choice, because they believe in the institutions' mission, "we don't know how many ended up there because they didn't have other good choices."
Among the study's other findings:
- Black scholars were significantly less likely than science and health Ph.D. recipients of other races to have earned their doctorates from U.S. universities with very high research activity (63 percent vs. 80 percent for white Ph.D. recipients, 77.1 percent for Hispanics, and 79.3 percent for Asians).
- About one third of black, 37 percent of Latino, 91 percent of Asian and 11 percent of white recipients of science, engineering or health Ph.D.s from American universities were not born in the United States.
French officials have pledged to loosen rules on work permits to be granted to foreign students from outside the European Union, The New York Times reported. Higher education officials complained that the tough rules were unfair to foreign students or would-be foreign students.
A new study tracking 1,300 mostly Hispanic college students who participated in intensive "summer bridge" programs found that the students were less likely to need remediation and more likely to take and pass college-level math and writing courses during their first year of college. The students, who were enrolled at seven community colleges and one four-year university in Texas, still had relatively low passage rates, but made progress compared to the control group. The National Center for Postsecondary Research and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board conducted the research.