Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 3:00am

Adults in the U.S. who have graduated with more than a bachelor’s degree are the most likely than others to feel that they learn something new or do something interesting every day, according to a new poll released by Gallup Tuesday. While 74 percent of those with postgraduate courses or degrees under their belt felt this way, only 66 percent with only bachelor’s degrees agreed, and the number dipped to 65 percent for those with some college or associate degrees. Adults with a high school education or less were the least likely to agree, clocking in at 63 percent. The question was posed during a larger six-month survey that ended at the beginning of June and surveyed more than 250,000 adults in the U.S.

Participants were asked to place their level of agreement on learning or doing something interesting every day on a five-point scale. “Higher education institutions across the U.S. share similar mission and purpose statements. These statements often include a core goal of ‘fostering lifelong learning’ among students and graduates,” the authors wrote in the report. The authors also noted that communities with “a strong academic presence” are more likely to have events and opportunities for residents to participate in and learn from.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 4:22am

An article in The New York Times explores how alumni of Haverford College, a small, academically rigorous Division III institution, have come to play an outsize role in professional baseball. While a Haverford pitcher was recently an eighth-round draft pick, the college's power base is off the field. And at least 15 alumni hold significant jobs in baseball, as executives, agents and evaluators of talent. And they all have degrees in the liberal arts and sciences.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jeffrey Hall, professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, discusses his research on the nature of flirtation. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education is moving closer to an official announcement of an experiment to allow some prisoners to receive Pell Grants. On Monday Arne Duncan, the education secretary, came close to dropping the details for an experimental sites project, which would grant a limited waiver to the federal rules that prevent prisoners in state and federal prisons from receiving Pell Grants. As Inside Higher Ed reported in May, prison education programs at a handful of colleges might be eligible to participate in the experiment.

Duncan said the feds are working on an experimental sites program that would open up Pell eligibility to "incarcerated adults seeking an independent, productive life after they get out of jail," according to a transcript of the major policy speech Duncan gave at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. When asked during a phone call with reporters for more details, Duncan said, "Stay tuned." He is scheduled to appear at a Maryland prison on Friday with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general. The event will include a visit to Goucher College's prison education program, and a "major announcement" is planned.

The U.S. Congress banned the use of Pell Grants by prisoners in 1994. Congressional Democrats have called for the ban to be dropped. If the experimental access is successful, it could bolster the case for a full restoration. But opposition appears likely among Republicans.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 3:00am

Many elite college open their campuses for various summer programs for high school students who want a taste of college life. WGBH News reported that the programs are popular and expensive ($5,500 for a three-week noncredit course at Brown University, for example). While the programs make no promises about a student being admitted as a freshman later, the program notes that many participants hope that will be the case. But admissions officers say that they don't give extra favor to those who enroll in the summer programs.

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.

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