Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 11, 2017

The University of Southern California has rejected a $5 million pledge from Harvey Weinstein to fund an endowment to support women filmmakers, The Hollywood Reporter reported. The move comes as Weinstein, who had a career as a powerful film executive, has been revealed to have sexually harassed numerous women, paying off some of them to keep quiet about his actions. Weinstein also has a history of donating to causes that benefit women, apparently in an attempt to have a reputation other than that of a person who has abused women for years.

A petition has been circulating online calling on the university to reject the funds. The petition states that Weinstein, in his pledge to the university, is "doing what guilty men throughout history have done to avoid taking ownership of their actions: blaming a pervasive culture, deflecting focus and buying moral absolution."

October 11, 2017

International students make up the large majority of full-time students in many graduate science- and engineering-related programs, and their numbers have been rising much faster than the number of domestic students, according to a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a research organization focused on immigration and the economy.

The report found 81 percent of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79 percent in computer science are. The report, which updates a previous version published in 2013, argues that at many U.S. universities “both majors and graduate programs could not be maintained without international students.” It further argues that “the increase in both the size and number of graduate programs in science and engineering at U.S. universities indicates U.S. student enrollment has not been held down by the lack of available slots at U.S. graduate schools.”

Field of Study Percent International Number of Full-Time International Graduate Students in 2015 Number of Full-Time U.S. Graduate Students in 2015
Electrical Engineering 81% 32,736 7,783
Petroleum Engineering 81% 1,258 302
Computer Science 79% 45,790 12,539
Industrial Engineering 75% 7,676 2,539
Statistics 69% 4,321 1,966
Economics 63% 7,770 4,492
Mechanical Engineering 62% 12,676 7,644
Civil Engineering 59% 9,159 6,284
Chemical Engineering 57% 5,001 3,834
Pharmaceutical Sciences 56% 1,931 1,502
Metallurgical/Materials Engineering 55% 3,723 3,103
Agricultural Engineering 53% 726 654
Agricultural Economics 53% 881 796

The report found that between 1995 and 2015, the number of full-time domestic students enrolled in graduate computer science programs increased by 45 percent, from 8,627 to 12,539 students, while the number of full-time international graduate students increased by about 480 percent, from 7,883 in 1995 to 45,790 in 2015.

Over that same time frame in electrical engineering, the number of full-time domestic graduate students decreased by 17 percent, from 9,399 students in 1995 to 7,783 in 2015, while the number of full-time international graduate students increased by 270 percent, from 8,855 to 32,736.

The report, which includes enrollment breakdowns for selected individual universities, is based on data from the National Science Foundation's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates and NFAP's own calculations.

NFAP also issued a second report Tuesday making a case for the value of the STEM optional practical training program, which gives international students in STEM programs the opportunity to stay in the U.S. and work for up to three years after graduating. Many believe the program is vulnerable to being ended or changed by the Trump administration.

October 11, 2017

Small increases in course loads can increase the odds that students will stick with college and eventually graduate, particularly part-time students. That's the central finding of a new report from Civitas Learning, a student success company with a focus on predictive analytics.

The company analyzed data from roughly 1.4 million students who were attending 60 institutions, with an even split between community colleges and four-year institutions. Not surprisingly, full-time students were more likely than their part-time peers to persist in college, the report found, with an average gap of 12 percentage points between the two groups.

However, part-time students who take even one more course per term also are more likely to persist. Civitas found, for example, that community college students who took two courses per term had a median persistence rate that was roughly 15 percentage points higher than their peers who took one course. Likewise, across all institutions, the report found that students who took three courses were six percentage points more likely to persist than students who took two.

“At community colleges, an estimated 62 percent of students are pursuing their studies on a part-time basis, for financial or personal reasons,” Karen Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, said in a foreword to the report. “For those 6.5 million students, too many of whom never graduate, colleges must be prepared to have more expansive and nuanced conversations about completion. If our collective goal is to improve outcomes across higher education, we cannot and must not take our attention away from those students.”

October 11, 2017

In today's "Inside Digital Learning":

October 11, 2017

Faculty members at Westminster Choir College are balking after they say they learned a proposed buyer of the college is in fact a for-profit company that runs K-12 schools in Asia but has no higher education experience.

Rider University is seeking to sell Westminster as it faces budget difficulties, announcing in August that it had found a possible international buyer that would keep the choir college on its beloved campus in Princeton, N.J. But the university has not shared the name of that buyer.

Westminster faculty are now demanding to know its identity. They also want to participate in decisions about the college's future. They worry that the choir college is accredited through Rider and would have to earn its own accreditation on a short timeline if sold. They plan a teach-in Monday as a demonstration of solidarity.

Rider faces a lawsuit from alumni, students, parents and former trustees arguing that Rider violated a merger agreement that brought Westminster into the university in the early 1990s.

“We were asked to trust that [Rider] President [Gregory] Dell’Omo has Westminster’s best interest in mind,” said Joel Phillips, a Westminster professor, in a statement. “But how can we trust someone who's already violated his legal and moral obligation of stewardship by selling Westminster in the first place?”

Rider cannot disclose specific details about the buyer "for reasons of confidentiality" and to allow the process to proceed with integrity, said a university spokeswoman, Kristine Brown.

"It is dispiriting that certain individuals and parties are working to undermine the goal of successfully transitioning the college to a new partner committed to keeping the institution in Princeton as a world-class choir college and investing in its future," she said in a statement. "Actions contrary to this goal are harmful and could potentially prevent achieving the objective of a strong and secure future for Westminster."

October 11, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Stacie Bosley, assistant professor of economics at Hamline University, discusses risk factors for victimization and how to keep your own and loved ones’ finances safe. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 11, 2017

Leaders of the University of Wisconsin are expected to propose a major restructuring of the system later this week, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Few confirmed details are available, but the plan is expected to create clusters of two-year and four-year institutions, with the idea of easing transfer from the former to the latter. If more students start at two-year campuses, system officials also expect students and families to save money.

October 11, 2017

Boston University is investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the chair of its earth and environment department, according to Science. Two female former graduate students say that David Marchant harassed them during geological research expeditions to Antarctica when he was still an assistant professor. Other women reportedly accused him of similar behavior and male witnesses confirmed some of the complainants’ accounts; one man said he regretted not speaking out sooner.

Jane Willenbring, now an associate professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, said that Marchant called her a “slut” and a “whore” and encouraged her to have sex with his brother, who was also on the trip in 1999, Science reported. She also alleges that Marchant repeatedly pushed her down a steep slope, threw rocks at her while she was urinating outside and purposely blew volcanic ash into her eyes while she was experiencing painful ice blindness. A second, unnamed complainant who has since left academe says that Marchant verbally harassed her and threatened to block her access to research funding.

Willenbring reportedly waited to file a complaint with Boston about Marchant until after she obtained tenure, for fear of professional retaliation. Marchant, who declined comment, was scheduled to be honored as a fellow of the Geological Society of America this month, but last week his name was removed from the GSA website listing of new fellows, according to Science.

October 10, 2017

A freshman at Texas Tech has been charged with fatally shooting a police officer at the university.

A statement from Texas Tech said that police officers brought the student, Hollis Daniels, to the police station for questioning after they found "evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia" in his dormitory room. The discovery came during a "student welfare check." At the police station, authorities said, Daniels pulled out a gun and fatally shot an officer. Daniels then fled the scene but was later captured by campus police.

After Daniels fled, the campus was placed on a lockdown, which was lifted after he was found.

"The family of the officer is in the thoughts and prayers of the Texas Tech community," said a statement from Texas Tech's president, Lawrence Schovanec.

October 10, 2017

Texas Southern University on Monday called off a lecture by a conservative state legislator amid protests of the event, The Dallas Morning News reported. The university said that the event was not properly registered. Organizers of the event disputed this. The state legislator, Briscoe Cain, was there to give the lecture, and he said the event was called off because the university wasn't willing to do anything about the students who were shouting as he was to have started speaking.

Video posted by a report for KHOU News shows students shouting, "When a racist comes to town, shut it down" and "No hate anywhere. You don't get a platform here."

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