Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 22, 2017

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a former Delaware State University professor had produced sufficient evidence to require the university to defend itself on charges that it retaliated against her for bringing a discrimination claim.

A lower federal court had dismissed Millicent Carvalho-Grevious's lawsuit alleging that Delaware State terminated her term as chair of the social work department and then failed to renew her contract in retaliation for her complaints that her dean was sexist. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in reviewing the lower court's ruling, took issue with the judge's decision to require Carvalho-Grevious to prove that her discrimination complaints were the "but for" reason for the retaliation, rather than a "likely" reason for it.

The Third Circuit panel notes that the other federal appeals courts "are split on" the question of what the standard of proof should be in these sorts of cases, perhaps increasing the chances that the Supreme Court will review the issue down the road.

The panel's ruling sends the case back to the lower court to adjudicate based on the Third Circuit's interpretation of the evidence standard.

March 22, 2017

A new study from the Rockefeller Foundation and Edelman Intelligence questions whether the college degree is the best way to screen candidates for entry-level jobs.

The survey of 1,200 recent college graduates, human-resources officials, company executives and young people who face economic barriers found that the top metric for evaluating a new employee is how well he or she fits with company culture, according to 49 percent of employer respondents, criteria the study said can be subjective and unscientific.

As a result, 69 percent of employers require college degrees in the new-hire screening process, which the foundation calls a “blunt proxy for general skills, because employers lack alternate tools or methods to predict candidates’ career success.”

That also means young people who have faced economic challenges are at a disadvantage in the hiring process, the foundation said.

“The results of this survey underscore the real opportunity that employers have to strengthen their talent pipelines and improve employment outcomes by broadening and diversifying their applicant pool,” Abigail Carlton, managing director at the foundation, in a written statement. “We hope this research will encourage employers to take a closer look at some of their existing HR practices and explore how impact hiring may help expand entry-level employment opportunities for underserved populations and deliver tangible business value.”

March 22, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Uriel Cohen Priva, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University, determines if fast and slow talkers get the same amount of information across. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 21, 2017

When college admissions officers have more information about the high schools attended by low-income applicants, those applicants are more likely to be admitted, according to a study published in the new issue of Educational Researcher (abstract available here). In the study, 311 admissions officers from competitive-admissions colleges reviewed fictional applications from students with different socioeconomic backgrounds, and with different levels of information about the high schools. The officers who had more information about the high schools (frequently showing the limited opportunities for taking advanced courses at the high schools attended by low-income applicants) were 13 to 14 percentage points more likely to recommend admitting low-income applicants. The study was done by Michael N. Bastedo of the University of Michigan and Nicholas Bowman of the University of Iowa.

March 21, 2017

Increasing numbers of Indian students are looking to study at Canadian business schools rather than in the U.S. and the U.K., The Financial Times reported. The article discusses the impact of the Trump presidency and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on student choices and preferences. As Inside Higher Ed has reported, many Canadian universities are seeing surges in international applications at a time when some American universities are reporting declines.

March 21, 2017

Just a week after California legislators unveiled a plan to provide debt-free public higher education, a legislator has proposed a new way to do so. Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced legislation to add a 1 percent tax on household incomes of $1 million or more, The Sacramento Bee reported. Such a tax, she says, would generate $2.2 billion annually, enough to pay for free tuition for public higher education in the state (if combined with existing aid programs). Her proposal may face long odds with tax-skeptical lawmakers, but her plan would give voters the final say, requiring a referendum in the state to put the idea in place.

March 21, 2017

Taylor Hansen last week ended a brief stint advising Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education. Hansen, who formerly worked for a for-profit higher education trade group, is the son of Bill Hansen, the president and CEO of United Student Aid Funds, a former student loan guarantee agency that recently changed its name to Strada Education Network and has expanded its work on college completion and career readiness.

The Education Department last week rescinded a 2015 guidance document from Obama administration that prevented guarantee agencies from charging collection fees for defaulted borrowers who begin repaying their loans quickly. In January, USA Funds paid $23 million to settle a lawsuit from borrowers, in which a federal appeals court sided with the Obama administration's take on collection fees.

Bloomberg News on Monday reported on USA Funds' ties to the younger Hansen. The article quoted critics of the department's decision last week, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, who said the Hansens' family connection was a conflict of interest.

In a written statement, Strada said it separated from the guarantee agency side of USA Funds in January.

"No one representing Strada Education asked Taylor Hansen to intervene on our behalf with the U.S. Department of Education to change its interpretation of the July 10, 2015, Dear Colleague letter regarding student loan collection fee policies," the group said. "The Department of Education violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act when it originally issued the Dear Colleague letter. The department’s March 16 decision to withdraw this Dear Colleague letter corrects that violation."

March 21, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Lifelong Learning Through Alternative Credentials." You may download the booklet, free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet on Tuesday, April 11, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

March 21, 2017

More than 560 college and university presidents have signed a letter urging President Trump to keep in place protections for “Dreamers,” a term for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children -- many of whom are now college students. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by President Obama, more than 700,000 Dreamers have been able to obtain work permits and temporary protection from the risk of deportation. During the campaign, Trump called for an end to DACA, but he has since softened his tone, saying he would like to “work something out” for Dreamers, without offering specifics.

“Unfortunately, many of these young people now live in fear that the program [DACA] will be rolled back or revoked,” states the letter, which was organized by the American Council on Education. “In order to lift this cloud of fear, we ask that you commit to allowing these productive and high-achieving individuals to continue to work and study while your administration and Congress arrive at a permanent solution. The higher education community is eager to work with you to find a path forward.”

March 21, 2017

A new report on students' college searches and social media notes the importance of search-and-review sites, where colleges are included (sometimes based on fees they pay) with information that may or may not reflect what colleges would put in front of prospective students. The report, by Chegg, NRCCUA and Target X, found that 93 percent of students use one of these sites at least once while searching for a college. The ever-growing list of such sites makes it challenging for colleges to keep up and to focus attention, the report says. Students report using these sites to search for information about scholarships and financial aid and for general admissions data. The report notes that, regardless of what college officials think of the sites, nearly 70 percent of students find them useful. The full report is available here.

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