Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 3:00am

Data from 13 massive open online courses offered by Duke University in fall 2014 shows the MOOCs primarily played a supplementary role, a new report shows. Researchers at Duke surveyed three groups of "underserved" learners: those below the age of 18 and above the age of 65, as well as those with limited access to higher education.

For younger learners, the opportunity to take a MOOC alongside a course on the same topic proved a popular strategy; 30 percent of respondents picked that answer when surveyed about their motivations for enrolling in the MOOC. Meanwhile, 45 percent of learners over the age of 65 said they signed up for a MOOC for fun and enjoyment. Finally, learners with limited access to higher education gave more scattered responses, many of which boiled down to the learners feeling inadequately trained and using MOOCs to "fill gaps" in their knowledge. The report appeared in the most recent issue of Educational Media International.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 3:00am

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of Laureate Education, a for-profit chain with a large global footprint. The credit ratings agency also downgraded Laureate last year. In both cases it cited the company's expansion, which has contributed to debt levels. Laureate now enrolls more than one million students at 80 campus-based and online institutions.

"Laureate's aggressive growth has created persistently high leverage and has strained the company's liquidity," said David Berge, a Moody's analyst, in a written statement.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 3:00am

Point Park University is laying off 32 employees, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Officials did not provide details on what they called a “strategic reorganization” that “better invests and aligns resources to support the evolving needs of students.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Kentaro Toyama, professor of community information at the University of Michigan, discusses the equality of benefits technology offers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, July 6, 2015 - 4:18am

The University of California at San Diego is suing the University of Southern California over the way a prominent scientist from UCSD was recruited to USC, The Los Angeles Times reported. The suit focuses on Paul Aisen, who with eight colleagues moved from UCSD to USC. Aisen won very large grants on researching Alzheimer's -- grants that UCSD say were awarded to that university and not to Aisen. The National Institute on Aging has confirmed that the grants are for UCSD, which has since named new researchers to lead the projects. But the suit accuses Aisen and USC of blocking access to some of the research data, and providing false information to some employees who were being recruited to USC. Litigation over a faculty move is highly unusual, but UCSD's suit says that USC's actions go beyond what is acceptable in recruiting faculty members with grants.

Aisen did not comment for the article. A statement from USC said: "We are surprised and disappointed that the University of California San Diego elected to sue its departing faculty member and his team, as well as USC, rather than manage this transition collaboratively, as is the well-accepted custom and practice in academia."

Monday, July 6, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of California admitted about 1,000 fewer California applicants for the academic year starting this fall, while the number of out-of-state applicants admitted -- both from the rest of the United States and from abroad -- was up by a bit more than 1,000 each. University of California officials said that because they expect the yield (the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll) to go up, they project no decline in the number of Californians who will enroll as new students in the fall. The figures reflect a 0.3 percent decrease for in-state admissions, an 8 percent increase for out-of-state American applicants, and an 18 percent increase for international applicants. The numbers follow.

Admissions to U of California System

  2014 2015
California 62,873 61,834
Out-of-State, U.S. 13,462 15,173
International 13,575 15,317
Monday, July 6, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday issued a ruling that rejects a U.S. Labor Department list of six factors to consider in determining whether internships can be unpaid. The ruling threw out a lower court's ruling that two unpaid interns who worked on the film Black Swan were entitled to be classified as employees, and that they could pursue a class action.

The appeals court backed a single factor: "The proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship," and ordered the district court to reconsider the case with that standard. That single test may make it easier for many employers to justify unpaid internships. Many colleges have struggled with the unpaid internship issue, wanting to help students gain experience while wary of the ethical and legal issues involved when interns perform work that should result in their being classified as employees.

Monday, July 6, 2015 - 3:00am

On Thursday morning, someone used red paint to write "violent racist" on a painting at Winthrop University of Benjamin Tillman, who in the 19th century was a powerful South Carolina politician and a participant and supporter in violent attacks on black people. Tillman also helped secure state funds for Winthrop and is honored in the name of the main administration building, Tillman Hall (below right), where his portrait appears. Police are investigating the vandalism and the university has already been considering whether it should keep the Tillman name.

"Ben Tillman was inarguably a racist, however, that fact does not justify vandalism," said an email sent to the campus by Daniel F. Mahony, the president. "I am disturbed by this incident because someone acted in a manner that is contrary to the spirit of community at Winthrop. I believe the best way to move forward will come from the campus community working together in a way that is respectful and peaceful."

Debra Boyd, provost and former acting president of Winthrop University, is leading a review of the name Tillman Hall. In a recent statement prior to the vandalism, she said: “Regarding Tillman Hall, we will move forward thoughtfully and with respect for all voices -- Winthrop’s great strength is its tradition of appreciating the array of opinions speaking on important matters facing the university …. We are committed to Winthrop University’s being known for taking command of a dark chapter in our past and denying it the power to divide us.”

Monday, July 6, 2015 - 3:00am

Faculty leaders at Clemson University have renewed a push to rename a campus building that honors Benjamin Tillman (right), a notoriously racist politician in South Carolina who was known for promoting and joining in violence against black people. Faculty members and students have been pushing for a change for some time, but the board has rejected the idea. Now, in the wake of the Charleston murders, nine past presidents of the Faculty Senate have issued an open letter calling for the board to reconsider.

"While renaming Tillman Hall will, in isolation, fail to secure a sustainable and more inclusive future for the university, it is far more than symbolic. It is an affirmation that honoring those whose station and legacy were achieved in significant measure via the vilest actions of intolerance has no place at Clemson University now or in the future -- even as the history, university-related role and scholarly study of those same individuals must have an indelible role in our educational mission. It is an affirmation that community matters; that ignorance can be replaced with enlightenment; that the administration and our board have a special responsibility as stewards of our institutional culture; and that we can hold, recognize, adapt to and share changing values."

David Wilkins, chair of the Clemson board, told The Greenville News last week that the board has no plans to rename the building.

Monday, July 6, 2015 - 3:00am

An article in The Los Angeles Times explores how the California State University System won an additional $97 million from the state this year. Much of the attention in the legislative session focused on the very public debate over funding for the University of California System. But Cal State took a more low-key approach, without threats of tuition increases. Instead, Cal State relied on lobbying by administrators, alumni, faculty members and students, creative use of social media, and also red "I Stand With CSU" socks (at right), which were popular with legislators.

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