Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Conventional wisdom holds that -- on standardized tests -- when test-takers aren't certain, they should stick with their first choice of answer and not change it. Research being released today by the Educational Testing Service challenges that assumption. ETS studied 8,000 test-takers worldwide on the GRE, and found that of those who changed answers on the quantitative reasoning section, 72 percent saw scores increase, while of those who changed answers on the verbal reasoning section, 77 percent saw scores increase. At the same time, ETS surveyed test-takers and find that they still tend to believe they shouldn't change their answers, with 59 percent saying that they believed that their first answer was more likely to be correct than a changed answer.


Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Leipzig has started to refer to both male and female professors as "Professorin," ending the use of gender-specific words -- "Professorin" for women and "Professor" for men -- The Local reported. The German language has male and female forms for many words, and the move to use a single word (and the traditional female form at that) has prompted considerable discussion. Der Spiegel quoted Bernd-Rüdiger Kern, a law professor, as saying that that the move reflects "a feminism which does language no good and doesn't achieve anything concrete."

The website Deutsche Welle ran an interview with Luise Pusch, a leader of feminist linguistics, in which she praised the decision. "It is definitely a step forward and not only for the University of Leipzig, but for the whole country. The decision is being talked about and that gets people thinking. Every opportunity to think about our male-dominated language is good for the language as a whole, because the German language is very biased," she said.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

It has become trendy if not clichéd in recent years to declare that higher ed is the next "bubble" in the American economic system will pop. This view has been particularly dominant in business publications. Forbes has run columns about the coming higher ed bubble, or why a higher ed bubble should be coming, numerous times (see here and here and here and here and we could go on). Many of those articles predict that one or more "disruptions" in higher education (online learning for example) will be key to the higher ed bubble popping.

So we were surprised on Sunday to read in Forbes that the bubble might not be traditional higher ed. A column that starts off by bemoaning the high cost of elite private higher education ends up noting that students go to college (and parents pay for them to do so) for a lot of reasons other than just the learning in the classroom. Students get connections and they value "the experience," writes a staffer for the magazine. The piece may not please all professors and college administrators because it suggests that students want a fun experience, not just the personal educational experience. But based on this conclusion, the author writes: "There’s no college-education ‘bubble’ forming simply because teens go to college with an eye on a fun four years, after which they hope the school they attend will open doors for a good job. Online education only offers learning that the markets don’t desire, and because it does, its presumed merits are greatly oversold. There’s your 'bubble.' "

Could this be the start of the bursting of the higher-ed-bubble-story bubble?


Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A gunman killed four people in Santa Monica before heading to the library at Santa Monica College, where authorities shot and killed him, The Los Angeles Times reported. His motive was not clear, but authorities said that they believed he had mental health issues and was upset over the divorce of his parents. Chui L. Tsang, president of the college, stressed in a statement that the incident was "not a school shooting," but an incident off-campus that happened to end on campus. Even so, the impact of the incident on the college extended beyond what took place on the campus. The Times reported that one of those killed off-campus was Carlos Navarro Franco, who for 22 years worked as a groundskeeper at the college. He was killed while driving his daughter -- a student there -- to campus to buy books. She was also shot and is in critical condition.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 4:22am

The Denver public school district is trying a new approach to deal with the problem of high school graduates who aren't ready for college-level work. A new summer program will offer free remedial education in mathematics and science, The Denver Post reported. More than 60 percent of Denver graduates who enroll in college need remediation of some sort, and the school system wants to bring that number down.


Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Phyllis Richman has had a successful career in journalism, and she recently came across a letter she received from a Harvard University professor in 1961, when she was applying to a graduate program there. "[O]ur experience, even with brilliant students, has been that married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers ...  and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education," said the letter. It went on to ask Richman to explain how she could balance career and family goals. She didn't answer at the time. But in The Washington Post, she now has done so -- and women of her generation and many of younger generations are praising the response.



Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Parker Executive Search, currently in the news because of its role in the controversial selection of a new athletic director at Rutgers University, has grown considerably in its influence, and also has been involved in a number of botched searches, The Indianapolis Star reported. The search firm has been involved in 12 executive searches for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so many searches that one consultant is quoted in the article as saying the NCAA relationship "looks a little incestuous." The article cited examples of Parker-led searches for athletics positions in which the eventual selections had short-lived careers due to failure to win games, arrests for driving under the influence, and an arrest for domestic violence. The article also said that critics say the firm "pushes certain candidates regardless of their fit for a position." At the same time, the search firm has many fans and repeat customers.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has penalized Mississippi State University with reductions in football scholarship and recruiting privileges, the Division I Committee on Infractions announced Friday. In the “serious case,” detailed in the public infractions report, a booster called a star prospect more than 100 times and provided him with impermissible benefits, including a car at $2,000 below its actual value and an offer of $6,000 if the recruit turned down a visit to another university. Additionally, a former assistant coach was cited for unethical contact for failing to report the rules violations and then lying to NCAA and Mississippi State officials during the investigation.

“This is a classic case where a booster inserts himself into the recruiting process in an effort to help his school land the prize recruit so they’ll be better positioned to win more games,” Britton Banowsky, chair of the infractions committee and commissioner of Conference USA, said on a call with reporters. “That’s always a problem. When the school, through an employee, has knowledge of it and doesn’t act, it becomes a more serious problem, obviously.”

However, Banowsky praised the cooperation of Mississippi State, which self-imposed nearly all of the penalties it received. Those include two years’ probation, a reduction in official recruiting days and visits, a football scholarship reduction last year and this year,  and a one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, meaning any institution that wants to hire him must persuade the NCAA why the penalties against him (prohibition from recruiting and booster interaction) should not apply to him at the new institution.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

New research released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found possible relationships between sleep habits and academic majors. Among the findings:

  • Management science, information systems and administration of justice majors were most likely to be "evening" people in terms of when they were most engaged.
  • Nutrition majors were the most likely to be morning people.
  • Media majors had the highest self-reported sleep deficits.
  • Speech communication majors had the lowest such deficits, coming close to their desired hours of sleep.
Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A controversial California proposal to expand the state public colleges' use of online education has passed the Senate, though it's been amended again. Early versions of the bill would have required the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including classes offered by for-profit companies. The latest version, which cleared the Senate late last month and is pending in the state Assembly, would create an "incentive grant program" to encourage faculty and campuses to work either with each other across the state's tri-part higher education system or with private companies to offer online classes in high-demand subjects to college and high school students. Faculty representatives, which came out strongly against earlier versions of the bill, reportedly remain opposed. 


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