Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

The Warrior-Scholar Program hosts academic boot camps for veterans of the U.S. military to help them make the transition to college. Teams of student veterans run the two-week sessions, which are taught by university professors and graduate students.

The program started at Yale University four years ago. It now has expanded to 12 universities, having added the University of Arizona for this year's summer sessions. More than 200 veterans are slated to participate this year. The host institutions are: the Universities of Arizona, Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oklahoma and Southern California; and Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, Syracuse and Yale Universities; and Vassar College.

"Post-9/11 veterans have an immense degree of untapped potential to succeed in higher education institutions and to progress on to successful careers. Yet college can be a significant challenge, even when the GI Bill and other sources of funding are helping pay tuition," said Sidney Ellington, the program's executive director, in a written statement. "To tap that potential and reduce obstacles to success, our boot camps address veterans’ misperceptions about college and build their confidence through an intense academic reorientation."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities teaching introductory, 100-level courses must complete criminal background and child abuse clearance checks, according to a state court. The decision reverses -- in part -- a suspension of such checks imposed in September, after the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties challenged the State System of Higher Education’s new policy requiring all faculty members to complete them. That policy resulted from a change in state law, which was later amended to apply to only educators teaching minors. But the university system sought to keep the broader background check policy applying to all faculty members it already had adopted. The faculty union was successful in part, Penn Live reported, in that the recent decision says faculty members teaching upper-level courses, in which legal minors are less likely to be enrolled, do not have to submit to such checks. The policy can’t be applied universally until an arbiter or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (or both) decide whether the university system has the managerial right to impose the requirement, according to Penn Live. The faculty union responded by asking the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reconsider the lower court's decision. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced Tuesday that Ken Burns (right), the documentary filmmaker, will deliver the 2016 Jefferson Lecture. Burns has directed and produced a series of highly acclaimed documentaries, including The Civil War, Baseball and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Being asked by the NEH to give the Jefferson Lecture is considered the nation's top honor for intellectual achievement in the humanities. Burns will deliver the talk May 9 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

A new report by the Council of Graduate Schools finds that admissions leaders in graduate programs view "holistic" review -- in which applicants are evaluated individually, without a simple grid to determine decisions -- as effective generally and as a tool to increase diversity of student bodies. But the report notes that time constraints limit the use of holistic review. Further, the report notes that many admissions leaders want more information on how to link admissions criteria and student success.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

An anonymous donor has given Yale University $50 million to create a central physical home for the humanities on the campus. It appears from Yale's announcement that most of the funds would go to renovating the Hall of Graduate Studies to bring the various humanities-focused departments and centers at Yale together in one place, to "sustain an environment in which each department can retain its own identity and do its best work." The gift will also endow a fund to spur programming in the humanities, including lectures, courses, workshops and conferences.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Peter Polos, clinical associate professor of neuroscience at Seton Hall University, explores how using a smartphone in bed can lead to harmful effects during the daytime. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to a $5.3 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was shot and killed by a university police officer in July. The officer who shot DuBose has been charged with murder in a police shooting widely seen as unwarranted. The university will pay the family $4.85 million and will also provide an education free of tuition and fees for each of DuBose's 12 children. The university's president, Santa Ono, issued an apology, saying, “I want to again express on behalf of the University of Cincinnati community our deepest sadness and regrets at the heartbreaking loss of the life of Samuel DuBose. This agreement is also part of the healing process not only for the family but also for our university and Cincinnati communities."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 3:00am

Nationwide, just 14 percent of students who first enroll at a community college transfer and eventually earn a four-year degree within a six-year period, according to a new report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Fund and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The three groups recently announced a partnership to push for smoother transfer pathways. They used data from the clearinghouse to break down transfer and graduation numbers in more detail than had previously been available. The groups found that even states with the best record on transfer see one in five community college students earning a four-year degree within six years. States at the back of the pack have transfer and graduation rates that are in the single digits.

"This report enables us, for the first time, to see in which states colleges are supporting students in this journey so we can figure out what works and enable students everywhere to be successful," Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at CCRC and co-author of the report, said in a written statement. "Greater success for more students will cut down on the waste in taxpayer money when students drop out or lose credits as they transfer."

The transfer and graduation data show that lower-income students tend to fare worse than their wealthier peers. The gap is particularly wide in California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, among others, the report found.

The researchers also found a wide range of rates among colleges with similar characteristics and that enroll similar student populations.

"Importantly, this implies that how institutions serve transfer students matters: institutional practices that serve transfer students well can lead to better-than-expected outcomes for institutions with relatively few resources or more educationally disadvantaged students," the report said. "It also indicates that institutions could improve their transfer performance if they changed the way they serve transfer students and worked more closely with their transfer partners."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 3:00am

A student who in 2014 sued Miami University in Ohio over inaccessible educational materials last week reached a settlement with the institution, according to court documents. Aleeha Dudley, who is blind, alleged in the lawsuit that the university violated Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 by not offering her equal access to course materials such as digitized textbooks and software compatible with screen readers. The U.S. Department of Justice in 2015 joined Dudley's lawsuit against the university.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 4:16am

The University of Victoria, in Canada, has announced the establishment of what it says is the world's first endowed chair in transgender studies. The chair is being created by the Tawani Foundation with a $1 million (U.S.) grant. The foundation has pledged another $1 million to match gifts for the chair. Aaron Devor, the first to hold the chair, is a professor of sociology and former dean at Victoria.

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