Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Duke University students on Friday afternoon ended a weeklong occupation of the president's office. The students made many demands -- including the firing of several senior administrators -- that were not met. But the university did make a number of concessions that relate to its treatment of its workers -- the main subject of the protest. A statement the students protested on their Facebook page said that they were continuing to fight for all of their demands but were taking their campaign beyond the president's office. "There are many different types of labor that undergird and sustain our university -- the labor of housekeepers, dining staff, bus drivers and so many more. We are here in order to name and recognize that important and foundational work," said the statement.

Richard Brodhead, Duke's president, released this statement: "This afternoon the group of students who had occupied the Allen Building since last Friday voluntarily left the building. Though we have disagreed about the specifics of their demands and their choice of means, I respect their underlying passion for making Duke and the world a better place. The university renews its commitments toward advancing the causes of fairness and inclusion across this community, including for workers."

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Several major associations issued a new report Monday designed to help universities ensure that their research labs and other academic environments operate safely. The report, "A Guide to Implementing a Safety Culture in Our Universities," was produced by a special panel created by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, in response to a series of accidents in laboratories and other research sites. The report, to which the Association of American Universities and other groups also contributed, offers recommendations for campus administrators and faculty members.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Twelve state attorneys general on Friday called on the U.S. Department of Education to deny federal recognition of one of the largest accreditors of for-profit colleges, including the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.

The accrediting organization, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, is up for review by the Education Department this June.

The attorneys general said in a letter Friday that the department should not continue to recognize ACICS as an accreditor whose stamp of approval carries weight for the purposes of receiving federal student aid money. Such a move would jeopardize the federal funding of the hundreds of for-profit colleges that are accredited by ACICS.

The letter cites “system and extreme” failures in the accreditor’s evaluation of for-profit colleges, including Corinthian Colleges, Westwood College, the Education Management Company’s Art Institutes and Brown Mackie College, ITT Tech, and Career Education Corporation’s Sanford Brown campuses.

"Even in the crowded field of accrediting failures, ACICS deserves special opprobrium," says the letter, which was signed by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington. The executive director of Hawaii’s office of consumer protection also signed it.

The Education Department's National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity will take up ACICS's federal recognition at its twice-annual meeting this June.

Some Senate Democrats and the Obama administration have previously criticized ACICS's approval of Corinthian Colleges up until it collapsed last year.

ACICS said in a statement Friday that it had not yet received the comments made by the attorneys general.

"The council looks forward to reviewing all public comments and defending its merits before NACIQI in June," the statement said.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Two students at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., were shot and killed early Sunday morning, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. They were shot at an apartment complex near Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Both of the Southern students were 19-year-old women. A man was also injured in the shooting. Circumstances around the shooting are not clear, and authorities have not identified a suspect or a motive.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

In 2014, 45.3 percent of working-age Americans held a high-quality postsecondary credential, according to the Lumina Foundation's seventh annual report on college completion. The foundation's completion number for the first time includes an estimate of how many working adults hold a certificate the foundation determines to be of value in the workforce. Their first-ever nationally representative survey on the topic found that 4.9 percent of Americans hold a high-value certificate. Another 40.4 percent hold an associate degree or higher, up slightly from 40 percent in 2013.

Lumina has set an ambitious goal of 60 percent of Americans holding a high-quality postsecondary credential by 2025. The foundation has long argued that certificates and other subdegree credentials will play an important role in meeting that goal, as has the Obama administration, but it has wrestled with how best to quantify and measure quality in that market. To ensure its new estimates only included certificates of high value, the foundation counted certificate holders who reported that they were employed in the field for which they earned their credential.

Pie chart showing levels of education for U.S. residents age 25 to 64.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Faculty members in the California State University System will be get a 10.5 percent raise over the next two years, according to a tentative agreement announced Friday that staved off a strike planned for next week. Salary negotiations had stalled as the California Faculty Association, the faculty union for tenure-line and non-tenure-track instructors, pushed for a 5 percent raise while the university system offered 2 percent. But this week’s deal includes a 5 percent raise in June, another 2 percent raise in July, and an additional 3.5 percent raise in 2017. Some instructors will be given 2.65 percent bumps next year, as well, to address salary compression.

System Chancellor Timothy White told The Sacramento Bee, “Salary problems take many years and will likewise take many years to solve …. [The agreement] gives us the breathing room we need to achieve this with the help of lawmakers.” According to the Bee, nearly 10,000 tenured or tenure-track professors in the system make an average of about $84,000 per year, while non-tenure-track lecturers and part-time instructors on average earn a per-class equivalent of a $50,645 salary. California Faculty Association, affiliated with the American Association of University Professors, the National Education Association and Service Employees International Union, represents 26,000 tenure-line and non-tenure-track faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches across CSU's 23 campuses.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

An ongoing study conducted by Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit research organization, looked at the effect of performance-based funding policies in higher education across three states: Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. The group released early results from the work over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association.

The project takes into account key differences in the type of policies as well as variations in state funding that were tied to them. Initial findings showed consistent positive effects on the numbers of bachelor's degrees awarded under the policies. But the study did not find evidence of a positive effect on graduation rates.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

The Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin System on Friday unanimously approved a set of amendments to a layoff policy for the Madison campus that many faculty members opposed. The changes -- such as the elimination of guaranteed severance and the stipulation that the university will “consider” alternative appointments faculty members pegged for layoffs for budgetary or educational reasons rather than “pursue” them -- were previously approved by the board’s Education Committee.

Ray Cross, system president, said the final Madison policy protects “the principles of academic freedom and sustain[s] the university’s standing in a competitive, global marketplace for faculty expertise.”

Campus Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who previously supported the faculty-backed layoff policy drafted in response to major changes to the legal definition of tenure in Wisconsin last year, said in a statement that what the regents approved “is consistent with our peers. This is important in our ability to recruit and retain our top faculty. … After a difficult nine months of debate, I hope everyone will give this new policy a chance.”

Faculty members on Twitter and elsewhere disagreed with those assessments, arguing that the changes made a significant dent in shared governance.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

The median base salary increase for professional-level administrative positions in higher education in 2015-16 was 2 percent, according to new data from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The largest gains were at private doctoral institutions and specialized institutions, where the increases were 2.4 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Their public counterparts saw gains of 2 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. The study found that minority administrators generally earn the same (or in some cases more than) comparable white colleagues. But the study also found that in the highest paid positions, there are relatively few minority people working. The full report from CUPA-HR is available for purchase here.

Monday, April 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Tyler Summitt resigned last week as women's basketball coach at Louisiana Tech University, admitting to an "inappropriate relationship that has negatively affected the people I love, respect and care about the most," The Shreveport Times reported. SB Nation's "Swish Appeal" blog, citing "multiple sources close to the situation," reported that the relationship was with a player and that she is pregnant. Summitt is the son of Pat Summitt, the legendary coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Tennessee.

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