Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 4, 2013

A national poll of four-year college students has found that they are more likely to blame colleges than other institutions for the rising levels of student debt. The poll, by the Harvard University Institute of Politics, found that 68 percent of those polled viewed student debt for young people as a major problem, while 21 percent viewed it as a minor problem. Asked who was "most responsible" for rising levels of student debt, students cited the following:

  • Colleges: 42 percent
  • Federal government: 30 percent
  • State governments: 9 percent
  • Students: 8 percent
  • Other: 4 percent
  • Refused to answer: 7 percent
December 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Susan Fiske of Princeton University reveals what baseball rivalries can teach us about why we sometime take delight in the misfortune of others. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 4, 2013

Some for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean that are ineligible for federal student aid programs have been encouraging their students to access those funds by simultaneously enrolling in U.S.-based online programs, Bloomberg reported.

The medical students take out federal loans by virtue of their enrollment in the U.S. online programs and then use the money to support themselves in the Caribbean, the article says. The institutions defended the practice to Bloomberg, saying that the online programs are valuable to students and give them a better shot at landing a residency in the U.S. But critics of the arrangement argued it’s a loophole that Congress should close.  A previous Bloomberg investigation of for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean that revealed the relatively higher loan debt that their students carry prompted scrutiny from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat. 

December 4, 2013

The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled a new web portal aimed at the people who help students and families prepare for college.

The site aggregates a range of Education Department resources and promotional material meant to encourage students to attend college and take advantage of federal student aid programs. Guidance counselors and other mentors are able to search a database containing infographics, fact sheets, videos, and other presentation materials relating to the financial aid process. 

The new effort comes as the administration is increasingly using its bully pulpit to promote college access. First Lady Michelle Obama has recently begun speaking out on higher education. And, after hosting a series of meetings with college presidents over the past several months about boosting low-income students’ access to higher education, the White House plans to hold a symposium on the topic December 11. It’s not yet clear if administration officials will announce any new policy proposals at that event, which is set to feature business leaders, philanthropists and college presidents.  

December 4, 2013

The most frequently awarded grade for undergraduates at Harvard University is an A, and the median grade is A-. University officials released those facts Tuesday at a meeting of arts and sciences faculty members, and a Harvard spokesman confirmed the information Tuesday night. The spokesman cautioned in an email against too much emphasis on the grade data. "We believe that learning is the most important thing that happens in our classrooms and throughout our system of residential education. The faculty are focused on creating positive and lasting learning outcomes for our undergraduates," he said. "We watch and review trends in grading across Harvard College, but we are most interested in helping our students learn and learn well."

Some Harvard faculty members are concerned, however, about grade inflation. Harvey Mansfield, who has repeatedly raised the issue, was the one who brought it up with questions at Tuesday's meeting. He told The Boston Globe that he thought grading patterns were "really indefensible."

 

 

December 4, 2013

Instructors at Princeton University discussed developing a homegrown massive open online course platform during a faculty meeting on Monday, The Daily Princetonian reported.

The university joined Coursera's consortium in April 2012. By building their own platform, some faculty members argued they would eliminate the question of intellectual property rights. Other faculty members were reportedly less interested in the endeavor, however, with President Christopher Eisgruber saying, ​“I must say that developing our own proprietary platform gives me nightmares.” Faculty members also discussed creating a new Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, which would evaluate online courses.

December 4, 2013

Students who complete algebra II while they are in high school are more likely to succeed in college, according to a new study. But those benefits are less pronounced once students enter the job market. The new study, which was written by researchers at Pearson's Center for College and Career Success and from the University of Michigan, used two national datasets in its exploration of differences between college readiness and career readiness.

December 3, 2013

The University of California at Santa Barbara and local health authorities on Monday confirmed that a fourth student at the university has contracted meningitis. The outbreak at UCSB -- combined with a larger outbreak at Princeton University -- has many campus health officials concerned. Health officials in California are stepping up efforts to provide antibiotics to students who may have been exposed to meningitis and to discourage activities such as large parties that may increase the chances of the disease's spread.

 

December 3, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Justin Denney of Rice University reveals the connection between social status and the likelihood of death in a preventable accident. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 3, 2013

Chile’s National Accreditation Commission has rejected the appeal of a university affiliated with the Baltimore-based for-profit education company, Laureate, after it was denied reaccreditation in October. The Universidad de Las Américas (UDLA) next plans to appeal the decision to the country’s Higher Education Council. As in the U.S., universities in Chile must be accredited in order for their students to access government-backed loans and grants.

In its report on its decision not to reaccredit UDLA, the accreditation commission cites the university’s rapid growth and unsatisfactory graduation rates. The commission’s report notes that the number of students grew by more than 36 percent in three years, from 25,272 to 34,436, while the growth in instructors has failed to keep pace: the number of full-time instructors increased only slightly, from 231 in 2010 to 235 in 2012, and the number of part-time instructors actually fell, from 177 to 164.

The accreditation report also raises concerns about the financial resources of the university, and finds that while spending on academic salaries was low, the amount spent on leases and educational and administrative services provided by companies related to Laureate was substantial. Under Chilean law, universities must be not-for-profit, but they can ally with for-profit entities like Laureate, which provide educational, administrative and real estate services at a price.

UDLA has posted various documents related to its appeal of the accreditor’s decision on its website. The university argues that the growth rate is somewhat misleading in that enrollments were temporarily depressed in 2010 (the base year used in the accreditor’s calculations) and it says that average class size has actually stayed relatively constant from 2009 (22.8 students per section) to 2013 (22.1 students per section). It also says that the amount spent on academic salaries is similar to that of peer universities in Chile.

“We remain confident that a clear and objective analysis of the facts will reveal that UDLA deserves to be reaccredited," a Laureate spokesman, Matthew Yale, said in a statement. 

 

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