Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 3:00am

A new commission promises to assess the future of undergraduate education based on research and data, rather than the anecdotes and hyperbole that undergird many analyses of higher education these days. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences plans to create a Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, funded with $2.2 million from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. A news release said the panel will examine "how well today's students are served by the existing system" and identify how higher education can "build on [its] historic strengths and respond effectively to the demographic, technological, financial and other developments that lie ahead." The panel is led by Michael S. McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, and Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF. Its other members are:

  • Joseph E. Aoun, president, Northeastern University
  • Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean, University of Michigan School of Education
  • Sandy Baum, senior fellow, the Urban Institute
  • Rebecca M. Blank, chancellor, University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • John Seely Brown, former director, Xerox PARC research
  • Carl A. Cohn, clinical professor of education, Claremont Graduate University
  • Mitch E. Daniels Jr., president, Purdue University
  • John J. DeGioia, president, Georgetown University
  • Jonathan F. Fanton, president, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Robert Hormats, vice chairman, Kissinger Associates
  • Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Jennifer L. Jennings, professor of sociology, New York University
  • Jeremy Johnson, co-founder and CEO, Andela
  • Daphne Koller, president and co-founder, Coursera Inc.
  • Sherry Lansing, founder and CEO, Sherry Lansing Foundation
  • Nicholas Lemann, professor and former dean, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
  • J. Michael Locke, former CEO, Rasmussen Inc.
  • Gail O. Mellow, president, LaGuardia Community College
  • Diana Natalicio, president, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Hilary Pennington, vice president, Ford Foundation
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum, former president, Spelman College
  • Shirley M. Tilghman, former president, Princeton University
  • P. Roy Vagelos, former president, CEO, and chairman, Merck
  • Michelle Weise, executive director, Sandbox ColLABorative, Southern New Hampshire University
Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 3:00am

Four people were stabbed at the University of California at Merced Wednesday morning. The victims were two students, one staff member and a contractor. None of their injuries are life threatening. Police shot the suspect, a male student, who died from his injuries. (This item has been updated.)


Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 3:00am

College athletes are graduating at record rates, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's metric known as the Graduation Success Rate. Eighty-six percent of Division I athletes who entered college in 2008 graduated within six years, according to new data released Wednesday by the NCAA. That's two percentage points higher than last year.

Men's basketball players earned a 77 percent GSR, up three points from last year, and women's basketball players earned a GSR of 89 percent, up two points. Football Bowl Subdivision football players graduated at a 75 percent rate, and 76 percent of Football Championship Subdivision players graduated within six years. The rate for white athletes increased one point this year to 90 percent, and African-American athletes graduated at a rate of 73 percent, up three points from last year.

The record rates come after a year of high-profile academic scandals involving big-time college athletics, including cases of academic fraud that may stem from the increasing pressure on colleges to improve the academic performance and graduation rates of their athletes. While NCAA critics question the accuracy of the association's academic measurements, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, said in a statement that there's no question that athletes are graduating at higher rates than ever.

“Student athletes continue to make important gains in the classroom, and the NCAA and its member schools are thrilled with their success,” Emmert stated. “We also are proud of the role academic reforms have played in helping students earn their degrees. We will continue to support rules and policies that encourage students to progress toward graduation.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 4:13am

Voters in Colorado's Pueblo County on Tuesday approved the creation of a college scholarship that will be supported through a tax on marijuana sales, The Denver Post reported. The tax is expected to raise about $3.5 million a year to endow a grant for high school students from the area who attend one of the two public colleges nearby, Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 4:20am

The union representing professors at the California State University System have voted to authorize a strike if faculty and administrative leaders cannot reach agreement on a pay raise. The tactic is intended to increase pressure on Cal State administrators to take seriously the union's demands for a 5 percent across-the-board raise and a further boost for those on the lower end of the pay scale; the system is offering 2 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Cal State union has voted to authorize strikes four times since 2007, but has actually gone to the picket lines only once, in 2011, according to the Times.

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Paul Elvers, research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, explores how social origins don't always predict musical taste. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 3:00am

Harris-Stowe State University must pay a former full-time education instructor $4.85 million in damages related to her racial bias claims, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. A St. Louis circuit court ruled that the historically black university discriminated against Beverly Wilkins, who is white, when it fired her in 2010.

Wilkins said one administrator in particular, Latisha Smith, a former dean and department head, failed to follow a reduction in force policy in pegging her for termination over several other black faculty members. The lawsuit alleges that Smith purged the department of all white faculty members, except one protected by tenure, and that she covered up her bias by deleting incriminating emails. Smith blamed budget cuts for Wilkins’s termination, but continued to hire additional faculty members -- including two to cover Wilkins’s classes, who together were paid more than her salary -- Michael Meyers, her lawyer, told the Dispatch.

Ronald Norwood, chairman of the Harris-Stowe State University Board of Regents, called the ruling “regrettable” in a statement, and said the university was dedicated to moving forward after key leadership changes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 4:11am

Yale University will spend $50 million over five years to enhance the diversity of its faculty, its leaders announced Tuesday. About half of the money will be used to match individual departments' funds to help hire "targets of opportunity who would enrich diversity or contribute on another dimension of strategic importance to the university," and to hire up to 10 visiting professors a year. Funds will also support improved faculty development offerings and expand some fellowship and other programs aimed at building the pool of prospective faculty members.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 4:18am

A student's alleged social media threat to shoot up California State University's Fresno campus on Monday was blowing off steam and he did not intend to carry out the plan -- but authorities plan to prosecute him nonetheless, The Fresno Bee reported. The student was barred from campus and kicked off the Fresno State football team after the incident, according to the university's main Twitter account. Police arrested Christian Pryor after he allegedly vowed on Yik Yak that he would “release his frustrations” over “dirty looks” and getting “rejected” by using a weapon at a specified time.

University officials said they did not believe the threat was real, but that they would pursue criminal charges nonetheless. “There’s no joke that’s funny about killing people,” David Huerta, the university's police chief, said at a news conference. “There’s no mistake about it when you write it down. It was an intentional and designed act. It caused terror on this campus.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 3:00am

A coalition of 12 organizations, including New America, the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Law and Social Policy, on Wednesday released a set of shared principles for policy makers to consider in the run-up to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal aid programs. While the groups have different takes on many issues in higher education, they said the current formulation of the law does not meet the needs of students for high-quality, affordable and relevant educational opportunities.

The groups described seven principles: outcomes are what matter, federal financial aid policies need to be more flexible, higher education needs to do more to connect learning and work, accreditation processes need to be more transparent and rigorous, quality assurance processes should focus more on programs and credentials, policy should encourage innovation and experimentation, and that the Higher Education Act should be better coordinated with other federally funded education and training programs.

"Reauthorization offers the chance to renew our country’s commitment to higher education for all who seek it," they wrote, "while also helping institutions adapt to the fast-paced, technology-driven global economy that their students will face at graduation."


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