Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

Rising costs and lower government aid have made it more difficult for lower-income students to earn a college degree, according to a new report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) at the University of Pennsylvania. The study tracked data over 45 years. It found that students and families paid for one-third of the cost of the higher-education system in 1980. But that proportion grew to a little more than half in 2012.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

The budget proposal from Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, would eliminate the regulatory board that oversees the state's 244 for-profit institutions, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The Education Approval Board sought tighter regulation of the sector two years ago, but that plan died quickly. Walker wants to cut the board to "decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden" on for-profits, according to the newspaper.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 4:23am

Two for-profit institutions in Minnesota, Globe University and the Minnesota College of Business, have halted enrollment in a criminal justice program that is facing scrutiny and lawsuit by the state, The Star Tribune reported. Officials of the institution did not respond to requests for comment but have defended their programs in the past. State officials have said that students were recruited and led to borrow without knowing that the criminal justice program was not recognized as valid preparation for law enforcement jobs in the state.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today The STEM Pipeline, our latest compilation of articles. As with other such print-on-demand booklets, the compilation groups together pieces that explore different strategies used by faculty members and institutions -- and efforts to track their success. The booklet is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 4:30am

A highway in Atlanta was shut down for two hours Monday, as officials first investigated and then blew up a device that had been attached to a bridge. Authorities feared it could be a bomb. But as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, it was an art project of a student at Georgia State University. Students in an art class had been told to place cameras in places that would yield interesting photographs. The university has since removed other cameras from public places. Police officials said that the student in the case would be charged with reckless conduct. The photo below, from the Atlanta police department, shows the normally crowded highway closed off during the investigation.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has named Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington, as the next president of the Texas A&M flagship at College Station. Previously Young was president of the University of Utah and law dean at George Washington University.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

The National Labor Relations Board released a decision Tuesday affirming an earlier 2013 ruling saying that Grand Canyon University wrongly fired an employee for talking about her working conditions. The ruling pertains to a case involving three former employees working in for-profit Grand Canyon’s “grad team,” which pursued “leads” on potential students to enroll in the university’s graduate programs in Christian studies and criminal justice. All three frequently discussed with each other, coworkers and their managers concerns about the quality of leads referred to them, the limited degree programs in which they were permitted to enroll students and the difficulty of meeting enrollment quotas, according to the decision.

 

They were fired in part for those conversations, which violated a clause in the university’s Employee Counseling Statement prohibiting employees from discussing with each other the terms and conditions of their employment. But the NLRB found in 2013 that the three employees had engaged in “protected concerted activity,” and that the university violated labor law by threatening to fire them for and interrogating them about their speech. (Grand Canyon is not unionized.) The labor board said that the university had only wrongly fired one employee, Gloria Johnson, however, because there seemed to be other, legitimate reasons for firing the other two employees.

 

Questions about that decision’s legitimacy arose as Grand Canyon filed an appeal when political opponents of President Obama challenged the constitutionality of two of his appointments to the NLRB during a three-day Congressional recess. After the appointment question was settled, the board considered the decision de novo and affirmed it. The NLRB has ordered Grand Canyon to stop threatening to fire employees who discuss their terms and conditions of employment, and to reinstate and “make whole” Johnson, among other things. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment. Bob Romantic, a university spokesman, said via email that the NLRB "looked at four complaints from 2010, of which three were dismissed. Concerning the fourth complaint [Johnson], we are confident from our internal investigation that we did the right thing for the university and our students regarding a compliance violation by one of our employees. We are reviewing the NLRB’s decision and will consider all appropriate actions, including an appeal.” William A. Herbert, executive director of National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said the case was significant in that it explored the “scope” of what can be raised in interrogations of employees by reinforcing the rule that employers cannot interrogate employees about protected, concerted activities.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jean Harris, a political scientist at the University of Scranton, discusses what is expected of first ladies. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 4:26am

The board of Boston University announced Monday that it has rejected a proposal from a campus group that the university sell investments in companies that produce guns for civilians. The board also released policies on when the university should sell investments for non-financial reasons. Those policies place a particular emphasis on the dangers of the appearance of the university as a whole taking a political position.

"A fundamental goal of Boston University is to create an environment in which an academic community can productively consider, discuss, and debate a variety of viewpoints on social and political issues and that encourages freedom of inquiry. Such conditions allow scholars to pursue knowledge according to standards of evidence and logic without the encumbrance of an institutional position that may dampen discussion of alternative views," the statement said. "When the university, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal. Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions based on social or political principles should be very rare and occur in only the clearest of circumstances.... Such circumstances exist only when (i) the degree of social harm caused by the actions of the firms in the asset class is clearly unacceptable; and (ii) any potential negative consequences of the decision (including the risk of censorship of competing views within the university or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time) are clearly outweighed by the importance of taking the divestment action in order to lessen or mitigate the social harm."

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 3:00am

A new study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a research organization that focuses on income inequality, argues that efforts to close education inequality would have a huge impact on the economy. The study runs through a series of scenarios involving moving children from the bottom three-quarters socioeconomically to the levels of education achievement of those in the top quarter. In each scenario, there would be dramatic gains in income, tax payments and other measures of economic well-being.

 

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