Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 29, 2017

Many students struggle to find someplace to catch up on sleep. Rochester Institute of Technology is helping its students out with the Nap Spot Map, which identifies officially designated napping zones on campus. Students rated napping spots on such factors as comfort levels, surrounding noise, foot traffic and accessibility. RIT officials say many students benefit from naps and may find themselves more productive and creative after some downtime. At right, Kyle Suero, a third-year computer security student from Los Angeles, catches a quick nap between classes.

March 29, 2017

The American Bar Association is mulling whether to eliminate a requirement that full-time faculty members teach at least half of every law school's upper-level courses.

A committee of the ABA, which accredits law schools, earlier this month recommended eliminating the requirement. The group is accepting public comments and has scheduled a July hearing on the proposal.

Kyle McEntee, executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit group, was cautiously supportive of the ABA's possible move, with some caveats.

"Faculty expenditures are among the highest line items on a school's budget. I have no problem with the ABA providing schools more flexibility in hiring, as long as schools study and indicate how they measure the effectiveness of their teachers, including full-time faculty already on staff," McEntee said via email. "Part-time teaching resources are a real opportunity to bring down the costs of legal education, while satisfying the demands of the practicing bar. But it also has the potential to create an army of aimless, well-intentioned adjuncts."

March 29, 2017

An elite Chinese university has introduced a controversial new requirement -- a swim test. The BBC reported that the requirement -- that new Tsinghua University students prove they can swim at least 50 meters using any kind of stroke -- has prompted debate on social media, with some suggesting it is unreasonable to require students who grew up in inland cities to learn to swim as adults. Tsinghua says swimming is a key survival skill.

Many U.S. colleges have dropped their swim tests in recent years, though some still require them.

March 29, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, examines whether eating red meat is bad for you. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 28, 2017

David Wilder, 61, was killed by a shooting in Cleveland when he was caught in the crossfire as three other men engaged in what authorities called "a running vehicular gun battle," Cleveland.com reported. Wilder was a long-term adjunct at Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University -- and he was a leader in efforts in Ohio and nationally to gain more rights for those who teach off the tenure track. His fellow adjuncts are noting his contributions to their cause -- and raising money to help cover his funeral expenses.

March 28, 2017

Ithaca College’s new non-tenure-track faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution this week, averting a threatened strike. Terms of the contract are generous compared to many other contingent faculty agreements. They include an established path to pay parity for part-time faculty members, with immediate raises, followed by annual raises totaling $1,025 per three-credit course for the life of the contract.

Other gains are more stability for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members included in the new bargaining unit; they’ll be eligible for two-year appointments after three years of teaching at the college and three-year appointments after five years of service. Part-timers, too, will be eligible for two-year appointments after three on campus, and they’re guaranteed a $1,300 “kill fee” for any course canceled at the last minute. All unit members get earlier notice of appointments and the right to interview and be considered for full-time positions.

The unit affiliated with Service Employees International Union said in a news release that it “won on everything.” Nancy Pringle, college senior vice president; Linda Petrosino, provost; and Gwen Seaquist, professor of legal studies, said in a joint statement they are “confident that this new contract is fair, that it addresses the concerns of our valued faculty members and that it enables the college to maintain excellence in a fiscally responsive manner.”

March 28, 2017

Trevecca Nazarene University, in Nashville, Tenn., may merge with Eastern Nazarene University, outside Boston, The Tennessean reported. Under a deal reached last week, Trevecca's president, Dan Boone, will lead both institutions for three years while officials consider a possible merger that would maintain the campuses. The hope for a merger is that it would save money by combining some administrative functions. Trevecca enrolls about 3,000 students. Eastern Nazarene enrolls about 1,000 students.

March 28, 2017

Webster University has won its fifth consecutive President’s Cup Collegiate Chess tournament, an event in which the Final Four takes place around the same time many Americans are agonizing over their brackets and favorite teams in a tournament involving shooting a basketball. Webster was followed in the final rankings by Texas Tech University, Saint Louis University and the University of Texas at Dallas. International talent tends to play a key role in collegiate chess. One of the six team members who represented Webster in the final matches is American. The others are from Azerbaijan, India, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam.

March 28, 2017

A new study links the drop in home prices during the Great Recession to the increase in student loan defaults over the same period. The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, also finds student loan defaults concentrated among individuals with low-income jobs, which were shed as housing prices dropped. Significantly for student loan policy, the study finds that the income-based repayment program introduced after the recession led to fewer student loan defaults and protected borrowers against adverse income shocks.

Eligible student loan borrowers who did not enroll in income-based repayment, however, continued to have high rates of default after 2009, the authors found.

The study's authors were Holger Mueller and Constantine Yannelis, both of New York University's Stern School of Business.

March 28, 2017

In a letter released Monday, the Senate and House education committees called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to assist students affected by the continued outage of the IRS data retrieval tool.

The recommendations in the letter overlapped with requests made by college access groups earlier this month as the complications from the tool's shutdown became apparent. Lawmakers asked DeVos to provide more prominent notice to students and parents that the tool was unavailable, to consider accepting signed copies of tax returns for verification of income instead of tax transcripts, and to make sure the Federal Student Aid call center was able to handle increased call volume created by the outage. They also indicated that the department should encourage more states with upcoming aid deadlines to follow the lead of Texas and Indiana, which announced they would move back their priority aid deadlines.

The data retrieval tool was introduced to speed the financial aid process and avoid errors by allowing students to automatically import tax data on file with the government into their application for federal student aid. The tool was shut down by the IRS and the Department of Education this month with no warning to applicants or student advocates. Later, the agencies said the tool was taken down because of concerns over security.

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