Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 2, 2014

The labor market returns for associate degrees remained strong throughout the recession, according to newly released research from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE). Students who earned a two-year degree, or who transferred and completed a bachelor's degree, earned more and were less likely to be unemployed than were their peers who failed to graduate or transfer, according to the research.

The study was based on students who enrolled in North Carolina community colleges in 2002. It drew data from the National Student Clearinghouse as well as unemployment insurance wage data. Students in some disciplines fared better than others, particularly ones who earned credentials in health care.

April 2, 2014

We thought we dropped enough hints about Bryn Mawr College's plan to drop vowels from its name (and perhaps literature). But we did hear from some readers who were concerned. So to be clear, the college is not eliminating vowels; it was just having fun on April Fools' Day.

While student newspapers have long featured joke issues, many others in academe are getting into the act on April 1. We enjoyed this (obviously false) report about a magazine abandoning M.F.A. rankings after admitting that its rankings didn't help applicants.

The anthropology blog Savage Minds pretended to be BuzzFeed with (of course) a list: "11 Cutting-Edge Thinkers That Anthropologists Should Be Paying Attention to Right Now!"

The University of Idaho announced that each new freshman in the fall would receive a kitten. The effort was called the Feline-Undergraduate Relationship for Retention Initiative, or FURRI. And Lawrence University decided to offer a different kind of special benefit to newly admitted students and their parents:

 

 

 

April 2, 2014

The Faculty Senate at the College of Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday that it has no confidence in the college's board. The vote was prompted by the recent pick of a career politician known for his love of Confederate history as the next president of the college. Board members -- elected by legislators -- have said that Glenn McConnell's political connections will help the college. But students and professors disagree.

The resolution of no confidence says that the search was conducted with "clear disregard" for best practices, by adding candidates (including McConnell) to a list of finalists prepared by the search committee. Further, the resolution notes board members who have been raising questions about the teaching of books that offend them, and an apparent disregard in the college's mission as a liberal arts institution. "[T]hese recent actions and positions have hurt the image and brand of the college and appear likely to negatively impact our ability to recruit students, expand our outreach to minorities, recruit and retain faculty, and successfully engage in fund-raising," the resolution says.

April 2, 2014

Some students who attended the office hours of Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon on Tuesday refused to leave and staged a sit-in that was still going on as of 9:30 p.m. The students are demanding that Hanlon endorse the "Freedom Budget" that they have created. That document includes numerous demands, including increased enrollment (to 10 percent each) of black, Latino and Native American students; the enhancement of many ethnic studies programs; a pledge to make 47 percent of postocs be people of color; and a requirement departments "that do not have womyn or people of color will be considered in crisis and must take urgent and immediate action to right the injustice." Hanlon expressed his commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. A statement from Dartmouth Tuesday night said that students who remain in the president's office "understand, based on discussions with campus safety and security that they are in violation of college policy."

April 2, 2014

Most North Carolina employers haven't heard of massive open online courses, but about three-quarters of them view MOOCs as having a positive effect on hiring decisions, a survey conducted by Duke University and RTI International shows. The study, founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also suggests 71 percent of employers could see themselves using MOOCs for professional development.

April 2, 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a New York Democrat, has backed away from a plan to use state funds for college programs in prisons. Cuomo and New York State's legislative leaders wrapped up work on a budget plan this week without funds for the effort, Gannett reported. At a press conference Tuesday, Governor Cuomo said that the plan would start up, but with private funds paying for it. "There was a feeling, primarily in the Senate, that we should not be using public funds to provide college courses in prison, that many families are struggling to pay for college and we shouldn't be using public funds to provide college courses in prison. I understand the sentiment. I don't agree with it, but I understand it and I understand the appearance of it," Cuomo said. The governor had argued that his original plan would save the state money, by reducing recidivism rates. But Senate Republicans and others opposed the idea from the start.

 

April 2, 2014

Last fall, Cornerstone Government Affairs registered to represent the National College Players Association in its efforts to lobby Congress on issues such as concussions, antitrust law and the like. But when officials of the association -- fresh off the National Labor Relations Board ruling last week that football players at Northwestern University have the right to bargain collectively -- make the rounds on Capitol Hill today and tomorrow to explain why athletes in big-time college sports should unionize, they will be doing so without Cornerstone in their corner.

The lobbying firm said in a statement Tuesday that it had just ended its pro bono relationship with the NCPA, which represents the Northwestern players and wants college athletes to have many more rights as well as more financial support from their institutions. That's because Cornerstone also represents (as paying clients) several universities that could be directly or indirectly affected if college players win the right to unionize. Among them: Rice University, whose football team -- like Northwestern's -- plays in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Football Bowl Subdivision and would clearly be affected if the National Labor Relations Board were to uphold backing the players' union bid.

Also on Cornerstone's client list is DePaul University, which does not play big-time football but does play Division I basketball, a sport that would almost certainly be included in any major attempts to unionize college athletes.

The firm also represents public universities such as the University of Minnesota and the University of Northern Colorado. While only private institutions would be directly affected by an eventual NLRB ruling regarding athletes' unions -- collective bargaining at public colleges and universities is governed by state laws -- the sorts of systemic changes that the Northwestern players and the National College Players Association ultimately seek with their litigation and advocacy would affect the Minnesotas and Northern Colorados of the world, too.

"The recent Northwestern union decision would cause a conflict of interest with our current higher education clients," Geoff Gonella, Cornerstone's president, said in an emailed statement. "That is why out of an abundance of caution, we have recently ended our services for the NCPA going forward."

Even without a hired gun in D.C., the newly empowered players' group appears to be having no problem lining up meetings with members of Congress, according to various news accounts. After all, it is aligned with the United Steelworkers of America.

April 1, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Thalia Wheatley, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, scientifically deconstructs the way humans use figurative language to convey abstract ideas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 1, 2014

The hiring of "star" professors -- defined by their research output -- results in improvement in the research productivity of the departments they join, according a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, The study (available to subscribers; abstract available here), by scholars at the University of Toronto, Georgia Institute of Technology, and National University of Ireland, Galway, finds that the recruitment of research stars does nothing to lift the productivity of those already in the department (and actually leads to reduced productivity of some of them). But the productivity of researchers who join the department after a star joins increases significantly -- for scholars who work in related and unrelated fields alike. The study finds that the effects are most pronounced at mid-ranked institutions.

 

April 1, 2014

Institutional research offices at public colleges and universities that are part of state systems focused more heavily on data collection and report writing than on analysis and communication, and spend far more of their time examining student retention and graduation than issues related to campuses' use of money, people and facilities, the National Association of System Heads says in a new report. The study, based on surveys of campus and system IR officials and interviews with campus leaders, says that IR officials themselves are more confident than their bosses are about whether the institutional research offices can adapt to the increased demands on their institutions to use data to improve their performance.

"IR offices are running hard and yet many are still falling behind, deluged by demands for data collection and report writing that blot out time and attention for deeper research, analysis and communication," the report states. Institutional leaders "often expressed the need for some ‘outside’ help in this area, drawing from expertise from other complex organizations such as hospitals, where there is a sense that more is being done to use data to drive both accountability and change."

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