Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Many occupation-focused associate degrees and certificates are not designed to lead to bachelor's-degree pathways, according to a new policy report from New America, a think tank.

Those weak links are one reason the going has been slow in the national college completion push, according to Mary Alice McCarthy, the report's author. McCarthy is a senior policy analyst for New America's education policy program, and a former official at the U.S. Labor and Education Departments. She said it is often hard for students who begin college in career and technical education programs at community colleges and for-profits to transfer seamlessly to a four-year degree program.

"A higher education system in which students can start their journey to a four-year degree and beyond with high-quality training in a specific occupation would be a great help to many students, particularly those who cannot afford to delay earning a decent living for four years. But our federal higher education policies, sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently, limit the ways in which students can get onto bachelor-degree paths," McCarthy wrote in the paper.

"The policies are strongly biased in favor of students who can delay career training until they graduate with a four-year degree and make it difficult to connect academic and career pathways below the bachelor’s degree. The barriers are generated by a combination of outdated conceptions of what a four-year degree must include, the manner (and sequence) in which students must learn those things, and a host of unintended consequences from policy changes made to the Higher Education Act almost 40 years ago."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 3:00am

The Obama administration this week announced several new efforts it said would help veterans of the U.S. military get more out of their college educations. The White House said it was unveiling a redesigned version of a federal GI Bill Comparison Tool, drawing new data from the broader College Scorecard to give veteran-specific data on graduation and retention rates. (Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill's creation in 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has spent more than $57 billion on education benefits that 1.5 million students received, the White House said.)

In addition, the administration said the VA and the Federal Trade Commission have signed a new agreement to "provide enhanced oversight and strengthen enforcement against schools that engage in deceptive or misleading advertising, sales or enrollment practices towards veterans." The FTC is part of a new federal interagency task force that has helped coordinate federal efforts to crack down on for-profit colleges.

The president also called on the U.S. Congress to pass three legislative proposals, with a heavy focus on for-profit colleges. One proposed bill would allow the Secretary of Education to reinstate GI Bill benefits for students whose colleges close midterm. The White House pointed to Corinthian Colleges in citing its support for the legislation.

Another proposal the administration said it supports would change a federal requirement that for-profits get less than 90 percent of their revenue from federal sources. That legislation, which was introduced by Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, would change the so-called 90/10 rule back to its previous limit of 85 percent. The proposal also would count educational benefits for veterans and members of the military toward that federal limit -- a change from current policy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 4:19am

A student group is demanding that Harvard University's law school change its seal, which they say honors a family that participated in the slave trade, The Boston Globe reported. The seal (visible at right in a logo used by the student group) shows three bundles of wheat. Students say the seal is inappropriate because it was the family seal of Isaac Royall Jr., who was honored as a major early donor to the law school but was also involved with the slave trade in the 18th century. Harvard Law has not commented on the dispute.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 4:24am

Reforming the system by which students and families apply for student aid is a hot issue in Washington, with numerous plans. The Urban Institute on Tuesday published a guide outlining the provisions of eight different proposals to change the application process for determining eligibility for Pell Grants, as well as three alternatives for determining how much families should be required to contribute.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Gregory Cunningham, associate professor of biology at St. John Fisher College, tells us that his research with penguins may turn the tide in the debate on whether birds have a sense of smell. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 4:18am

The University of Illinois has reached a tentative settlement with Steven Salaita, whose job offer to the Urbana-Champaign campus was revoked last year before the board could approve it, The News-Gazette reported. Salaita, whose controversial remarks criticizing Israel on social media concerned university leaders, sued the university, demanding not only compensation but the tenured faculty job he thought was to be his. Details of the proposed settlement are not available, and may not be until the board considers the deal Thursday. In the past, university leaders have indicated willingness to make a financial settlement with Salaita.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 4:28am

About 1,000 students and others rallied at Yale University Monday to call on the institution to be more supportive of minority students, and of all students, The New Haven Register reported. At Yale, last week saw widespread condemnation of an alleged racial incident at a fraternity, but also debate over whether an associate master of a residential college showed insensitivity to minority students when she sent out an email encouraging less of a focus on offensive Halloween costumes. In addition, some are saying that Yale students protesting the email are effectively shutting down alternative perspectives.

The Register reported that the email over costumes captured more attention and criticism during the rally than other incidents. But the rally also featured songs, dancing and efforts to be uplifting for students.

Peter Salovey, Yale's president, attended but did not speak at the rally. In an interview with the Register, he said, “I think we want to work hard to make sure Yale is a campus which welcomes all of our students. This kind of gathering reflects those ideals and I want all of our students to know this is a place that respects them, that appreciates the lives that they have lived before arriving at Yale.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 4:31am

The University of California is planning to increase by 10,000 the number of Californians enrolled in system campuses by 2018, The Los Angeles Times reported. System officials said more Californians will be enrolled at all UC campuses. The plan follows criticism of the university for in recent years increasing out-of-state enrollments, a move the university has defended as necessary for revenue gained from the higher out-of-state tuition rates. University officials said they plan to pay for the increased California enrollment by phasing out the use of state and university financial aid funds for low-income students from outside California.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 3:00am

The Starbucks Corporation this week announced that it will offer a tuition-free education to a spouse or child of its employees who are veterans or active-duty members of the U.S. military. The benefit will be offered as part of the coffee chain's partnership with Arizona State University, which gives Starbucks employees access to a tuition-free bachelor's degree. More than 4,000 employees have enrolled in the program. The company said it has hired 5,500 veterans or military spouses, with a goal to hire 10,000 by 2018.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 3:00am

The leaders of the top college athletic programs and conferences this year are more white and more male than in 2014, according to a new study released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

As of this fall, 78.9 percent of presidents at the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision colleges were white men, as were 79.7 percent of athletics directors. About 7 percent of athletic directors were women, and all of them were white. Nearly 90 percent of faculty athletics representatives were white, and about 88 percent of head football coaches were white.

In 2014, all members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association received a C grade in the institute's annual College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card. That is the worst grade ever issued by the institute, which began creating the reports in 2001.

In a statement, Richard Lapchick, director of the institute, called the findings discouraging. "College sport remains behind professional sports regarding opportunities for women and people of color for the top jobs," he said. "Whose America do these statistics reflect?"


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