Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

George Washington University on Monday announced that it is dropping a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment management at GW, said in a statement: “We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hardworking and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here.” The test-optional movement first took off at small liberal arts colleges, and George Washington (with 10,000 undergraduates) is among the larger institutions to adopt the policy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Georgia is launching a $4.4 million initiative to reduce class size, it announced Monday. The university will create more than 300 new course sections in 81 majors by fall 2016, mainly through hiring dozens of new faculty members in the coming year. Georgia’s current student-faculty ratio is relatively low for a research university, at 18 to 1, but the initiative ensures that a majority of the new course sections will have fewer than 20 students each. The move builds on other recent attempts by the university to increase student-faculty interaction, including a new graduation requirement that all 27,000 undergraduates engage in experiential learning such as internships, research or study abroad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

The Major League Soccer regular season still has another three months left, but professional soccer players may already want to consider if their off-season plans include studies at Southern New Hampshire University. The institution on Monday announced an exclusive partnership with the league to offer scholarships for players, internships for students and support for community initiatives to boost youth interest in soccer. On Twitter, SNHU president Paul LeBlanc called the partnership "an emerging dynamic in the higher ed landscape." SNHU previously announced a partnership with health care provider Anthem, one example of a larger trend of colleges partnering with corporations to grow their enrollment and tuition revenue.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

Biology educators occupy nearly half (44 percent) of all high school science teaching assignments -- more than double the percentage of chemistry educators, according to a new study published in BioScience. The biology education workforce increased some 50 percent between 1987 and 2007 due to biology’s “gateway” status among the high school sciences, the study says. The female proportion of the biology workforce also grew over the same period, from 39 to 61 percent. That’s more than in all other science, technology and math fields, according to the study.

At the same time, biology educators were more likely than their colleagues in other fields to teach outside the discipline. The number of biology educators with more than 20 years of teaching experience also dropped by some 20 percent between 1990 and 2007. Lead author Gregory T. Rushton, an associate professor of chemistry at Kennesaw State University, and his co-authors note that this is due in part to increasing numbers of teachers entering the workforce after careers outside education, for whom “the biologist identity may be stronger than that of teacher.”

Rushton and his colleagues propose stricter certification requirements for biology teachers and more targeted professional development. They also propose matching curricula to teachers’ expertise, as opposed to offering “a static, predetermined slate of science courses at each school.” The longitudinal study is based on the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing surveys from 1987 through 2007.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina last week issued a subpoena to Universal Technical Institute Inc., the for-profit chain disclosed in a corporate filing. The inquiry covers a "broad range of matters" at the institute's campus in Mooresville, N.C., including its compliance with a federal rule that requires for-profits to receive less than 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Aron Stubbins, associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, discusses his travel to Siberia to conduct his experiments. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Nine in 10 students in California's unaccredited law schools drop out, The Los Angeles Times reported. California is among the few states with many unaccredited law schools, in large part because the state is unusual in allowing graduates of unaccredited institutions to sit for the bar. Most but not all of the unaccredited colleges are forprofit.

 

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Spelman College announced Friday that it is discontinuing an endowed professorship named for Bill Cosby and his wife. "The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship at Spelman College has been discontinued and related funds have been returned to the Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation," said a statement from the college. A spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Bill and Camille Cosby are major donors to Spelman, and an academic building is named for Camille Cosby. The Clara Elizabeth Jackson Carter Foundation was created by Bill Cosby to provide grants to historically black colleges. Spelman has faced criticism from some of its own students and alumnae for not moving quickly to sever Cosby ties amid the scandal as more and more women accused him of drugging them and having sex with them without their consent. Recently released depositions have indicated that Cosby admitted to such conduct.

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of California is about to start accepting letters of recommendation from undergraduate applicants. Most highly competitive private institutions do so (and many require such letters), as do many public flagships. Berkeley will accept one letter from a teacher and one from someone else for each applicant. In an essay in The Los Angeles Times, Ben Wildavsky notes some of the discussion about this new policy. Some see it as an end-run around California's ban on considering race in admissions, since letter writers may play up the disadvantages faced by black and Latino applicants. Others, however, think the letters may favor those who are wealthy and well connected, and who may be more likely to attend high schools where teachers have lots of experience in writing such letters, and time to do so.

 

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks first removed the state flag of Mississippi and then restored it to a display of state flags. The flag (at right) was removed because it contains the Confederate battle flag in one corner. In a statement on Facebook, Chancellor Brian Rogers explained both the decision to remove and restore the flag.

"I decided to remove the Mississippi flag from the display of state flags in Cornerstone Plaza. I made the decision because I thought it was inappropriate for a campus that values diversity to display a flag that many see as a symbol of racism. This is not an issue of individual freedom of speech; any individual can express their opinions on this campus. The flags in Cornerstone Plaza are displayed by the institution, not an individual," he wrote. "People have strong opinions on both sides of this issue. The tone and content of some of the responses I received this week have convinced me that it is in the best interest of UAF to return the Mississippi flag to the Circle of Flags, but I do so reluctantly. I encourage members of the campus community to continue a reasoned dialogue on symbols and other manifestations of racism in our community and throughout the United States. I hope that similar discussions nationwide will help the Mississippi speaker be successful in his efforts to change their state flag."

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