Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 20, 2017

While higher education participation rates are growing worldwide, and while women are closing the participation gap, students from low-income families and from ethnic minority and indigenous groups continue to lag behind, according to a new policy paper from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

An analysis across 76 countries found that 20 percent of the richest 25- to 29-year-olds -- and less than 1 percent of the poorest -- have completed at least four years of higher education. In the Philippines, 52 percent of the richest individuals, and 1 percent of the poorest, had completed four years of higher education. In Mongolia, 72 percent of the richest individuals, and 3 percent of the poorest, had completed four years of higher education. There are also big disparities by household wealth in certain Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Macedonia and Moldova.

“Looking at the average hides a lot of important information about who that average is made up of,” said Taya Owens, a research officer with UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. “Even if you look at Ukraine or the United Kingdom, which are two countries that have high average attainment rates, there’s a pretty substantial disparity between the richest and the poorest.”

The policy paper makes a series of recommendations for increasing equity and access, including through a combination of low tuition fees, need-based scholarships and income-based loans with repayments capped at less than 15 percent of monthly income, and through the development of affirmative action policies “that put equity front and center in the admissions process.”

April 20, 2017

Members of Rider University's American Association of University Professors chapter have voted no confidence in President Gregory Dell'Omo.

Faculty members are unhappy with what they called “a series of rash actions” by Dell'Omo shortly after he started at the university in 2015, as well as a decade of financial management that predates his tenure. They also criticized his leadership style as autocratic and ignoring faculty input.

Dell'Omo has been under fire for a controversial decision to have the university try to sell Westminster Choir College and rocky contract negotiations with the faculty union. He has been a controversial figure at Rider nearly since the moment he was hired, as he attempted to cut majors and jobs shortly after taking over -- although the faculty union agreed to a deal to stave off layoffs in exchange for a wage freeze and other concessions.

The vote asks Dell'Omo to act to regain faculty members' confidence. It is the first time the AAUP at Rider, which represents 500 full- and part-time faculty members and other university employees, has voted no confidence. The vote passed with 75 percent in favor.

April 20, 2017

The National Science Board, the policy arm of the National Science Foundation, Wednesday released an interactive infographic designed to help educators, students, policy makers and business leaders understand career opportunities for those with doctorates in science, engineering and health fields. The graphic allows users to see the number of Ph.D.s working in 26 fields within academe, government and industry, and how career paths change over time. Demographic breakdowns include those by gender and ethnicity. Data on job duties and satisfaction also are available.

Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair of Science and professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon and chair of the board’s National Science and Engineering Policy Committee, said during a news conference that she and her colleagues believe the nation benefits from having trained scientists working in all sectors of the economy, and that the graphic will hopefully shed light on the “wide variety of career paths” scientists may pursue. Data are taken from the National Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1993 to 2013. Key findings include that more than half of science, engineering and health doctorates are employed outside academe within 10-14 years of graduating -- and that’s been true for more than 20 years. Some 90 percent of respondents report job satisfaction 15 years or more after getting their Ph.D.s. The majority of recent doctoral graduates engage in research and development, regardless of employment sector, while their more senior counterparts engage in other activities, such as management.

April 20, 2017

This month's edition of Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest has a theme designed to calm common campus anxieties. Click here to submit a caption idea or read what your peers have already come up with.

On this page you can vote for your favorite of the three captions chosen by our panel of judges from among the submissions about last month's cartoon.

And congratulations to the winner of February's contest, Beth Gazley, a professor at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs and director of master's programs in public affairs there. Her caption for the cartoon at right -- "Like him or not, you have to admire his success in getting a visa." -- won our readers' hearts. She will receive an Amazon gift card and a signed copy of the cartoon.

Thanks to all for playing.

April 20, 2017

Today, as part of the Academic Minute's Current Affairs Week, Ronald Pies, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University, explores how we can tell whether someone is lying or just stating a falsehood. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 19, 2017

As the number of Latinos who attend college grows, growing as well is the number of colleges that meet the federal definition of being Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), which is generally 25 percent or more Latino enrollment. There were 472 HSIs last year, which is up 37 from the previous academic year, according to Excelencia in Education and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

The two groups also said the growth remains concentrated, with 14 percent of all institutions enrolling 64 percent of all Latino undergraduates.

“The continuing growth in the number of HSIs is a positive sign of progress in educational opportunity and achievement for Hispanics, who account for almost three quarters of the growth in the U.S. work force in this decade. Hispanic educational success is vital to America’s future prosperity and security,” John Moder, senior vice president and chief operating officer at HACU, said in a written statement.

April 19, 2017

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that directs federal agencies to recommend changes to the H-1B skilled-worker visa program “to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

The H-1B visa program is important to colleges both because many international students look to it as a route to permanent residency in the U.S. and because universities use H-1Bs to hire postdoctoral researchers and others from abroad. Universities and other nonprofit or governmental research organizations are exempt from the cap on new H-1B visas, which are otherwise limited to 85,000 per year.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery -- and that's wrong,” the president said during a speech in Wisconsin. “Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.” In a background briefing, a senior Trump administration official suggested that one possible change to the program would be to adjust the lottery to give an advantage to master’s graduates. Currently, 20,000 of the 85,000 total visas are earmarked for holders of graduate degrees from American colleges.

April 19, 2017

Mary Beckerle, CEO and director of the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, was removed from both roles this week, effective immediately, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. "It was totally surprising," Beckerle told the newspaper. "I didn't expect it at all." David Pershing, university president, and Vivian Lee, senior vice president of health sciences, announced the move internally Monday but did not provide a reason.

Professors criticized the change at a meeting Tuesday, with one calling it a "coup," and launched a petition to reinstate Beckerle. Members of the Huntsman family, after which the institute is named, also spoke out against the move, with Jon Huntsman Sr. calling it a "power grab" by Lee. He said that he’ll make sure Beckerle is back in charge "one way or another," according to the Tribune. His wife, Karen Huntsman, called the move "a hostile takeover. … This is just the beginning, the war."

Kathy Wilets, university spokeswoman, declined comment, saying the change was a personnel matter. Beckerle, who has led the institute since 2006, will remain a distinguished professor in biology, according to administrators. Kathleen Cooney, a clinical oncologist and prostate cancer researcher, was appointed interim center CEO and director.

April 19, 2017

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said this week that university endowments would be part of a planned review of the tax code.

The tax-exempt status of mega endowments at elite colleges has come under repeated congressional scrutiny since 2015, and Republicans have proposed legislation to force institutions with large endowments to provide more tuition relief to students. In apparent preparation for a renewed push on endowments, several colleges and universities have added endowment issues to their federal agendas in lobbying disclosure forms.

April 19, 2017

Controversy is brewing in Louisiana after a state legislator took exception to public universities designating “official” beers.

Now, Democratic Representative Cedric Glover has introduced legislation that would prevent public universities in the state from licensing official alcoholic beverages. His bill would also ban the two universities that prompted his action, Louisiana State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, from renewing current contracts they have with local breweries when those contracts expire.

LSU has a deal for Bayou Bengal Lager, made by Tin Roof Brewing Co., located about a mile away from its campus in Baton Rouge. UL Lafayette has one for Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale, produced by Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, which is located about 20 miles to the north of its campus.

The practice of colleges and universities officially licensing alcoholic beverages is controversial, given that binge drinking and underage drinking are major issues on college campuses, where many students are below the legal drinking age of 21. But supporters of licensing adult beverages contend that it allows colleges and universities to tap a valuable revenue source at a time when state governments are pulling back from public funding -- Louisiana officials are considering cutting LSU’s state appropriation for the 17th time in nine years. Some have also argued that the beers licensed to Louisiana’s universities have flavor profiles that appeal to older drinkers instead of college students.

Glover is stout in his stance against the licensing practice.

“Deep in my heart, I just know it’s wrong for us as a state to allow a public university to put our official stamp of approval on an alcoholic beverage,” Glover told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

But LSU President King Alexander said the university licenses many products. He said they should be able to include a beer from a local business that started in the university’s business incubator and now pays the university 15 percent of the proceeds from a licensed product it sells.

“It’s nonsense. Glover likes to throw stones,” Alexander said, according to The Advocate. “He’s never been a fan of LSU.”

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