Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 2, 2013

An article in The Miami Herald explores links between a for-profit college whose founder spent big on political contributions and a legislator who helped the college. Rep. Carlos Trujillo did legal work for the Dade Medical College and the Herald reported that his sister-in-law attends the college free. The Republican lawmaker also successfully sponsored legislation that loosened requirements in the state for physical therapy assistant programs -- a change in the law that allowed for a rapid expansion of the college's programs in the field. The measure became law as a last-minute amendment to a bill on another topic, and the newspaper reported that it could "ultimately boost Dade Medical’s revenues by millions of dollars." The newspaper also said that critics believe the state went too far, and may leave students at risk of enrolling in programs with "watered down standards." Trujillo said he did not know his sister-in-law's financial aid status, and denied any conflict of interest.


December 2, 2013

Many at San Jose State University are reacting with shock and outrage to the alleged racial harassment -- for a period of months -- of a black student by the white students with whom he shared a suite. But just two years ago, the administration commissioned a report on diversity on campus, and that study found black students reported a hostile atmosphere that needed changes to be more inclusive, The San Jose Mercury News reported. A sociology professor who wrote the report, Susan Bell Murray, said that after she submitted the report, the administration essentially thanked her but did nothing to publicize or act on the findings. A spokeswoman for the university said that the issues outlined in the report were in fact important to the administration, which was always committed to working on them.


December 2, 2013

At least a quarter of the gap in college participation rates between lower and middle class students and upper class students in Australia, Britain and the United States cannot be explained by academic achievement, according to new research released by the Sutton Trust, a British think tank. The study looked at the academic preparation and enrollment patterns in different countries, with an emphasis on trying to be sure that the better success levels of wealthier students in enrolling in higher education can't be attributed only to their better preparation. And the study said that it can't be. The study was conducted by John Jerrim of the Institute of Education at the University of London.

He found that in the United States, children of professionals are 3.3 times more likely to go to leading public universities than are working class children, and that about 40 percent of the difference cannot be explained by differences in academic achievement. At top private universities, he said, the gap is even larger, and 52 percent of the difference cannot be explained by academic achievement.

December 2, 2013

IT security problems in the Maricopa County Community College District may have put the personal information of almost 2.5 million students, employees and suppliers at risk, the institutions warned on Wednesday. 

Federal law enforcement alerted the district to the problems in April, setting off a review that would eventually unearth vulnerabilities that exposed "sensitive information including individual names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and bank account information, but not credit card information or health records." The district is not aware of any actual security breaches, however.

MCCCD, which consists of 10 colleges in the greater Phoenix region, has partnered with Kroll Advisory Solutions, a cybersecurity company, to address the vulnerabilities. The district may also replace employees that "did not meet the district’s standards and expectations," according to a press release.

December 2, 2013

Research and development spending by colleges and universities in 2012 fell for the first time since 1974 when adjusted for inflation, the National Science Foundation said last week.

Expenditures on R&D rose slightly in current dollars, to $65.8 billion from $65.3 billion in 2011; federal, state and local spending actually declined, but institutions' own research spending rose slightly, as seen in the table below.

When adjusted for inflation, though, in 2005 dollars, all research expenditures declined, driven down by a steady drop in funds from the federal stimulus legislation of 2009. The figures are in millions.

Fiscal year All R&D Spending Federal Govt. State and Local Govt. Institution Funds Business Other
2010 $61,257 $37,477 $3,853 $11,941 $3,198 $4,088
2011 65,274 40,771 3,831 12,601 3,181 4,890
2012 65,775 40,130 3,704 13,674 3,282 4,984


December 2, 2013

“On the Guarding of the Heart,” a piece for chamber orchestra by Serbian-born composer Djuro Zivkovic was named Sunday night as receipient of the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Born in Belgrade in 1975, Zivkovic has lived in Stockholm since 2000, and teaches at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

December 2, 2013

Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie flip-flopping on a bill that would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition? The New York Times reported that Governor Christie pledged support for the idea during his recent, successful re-election campaign in which he portrayed himself as a Republican who could do well with groups (such as Latino voters) that have not been supporting the GOP lately. But with a bill to offer these students in-state rates about to reach him, Governor Christie has talked about it being "unsignable" because it would cover immigrant students at New Jersey boarding schools. It is not clear that there are many such students, but some advocates for immigrant students are accusing the governor of quickly abandoning the stance he took when running for re-election.


December 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Simone Riehl of the University of Tuebingen discusses where and when agriculture arose. Learn more about the Academic Minute -- and catch up on the podcasts you might have missed because of the Thanksgiving holiday -- here.

December 2, 2013

André Schiffrin, whose work at Pantheon Books of Random House and at the New Press was influential in promoting the work of many intellectuals, died Sunday at the age of 78, The New York Times reported. The cause was pancreatic cancer. Among the writers whose work Schiffin championed, the Times cited Jean-Paul Sartre, Günter Grass, Studs Terkel, Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky, Julio Cortázar, Marguerite Duras, Roy Medvedev, Gunnar Myrdal, George Kennan, Anita Brookner, and R. D. Laing.

November 27, 2013

Former State University of New York at Stony Brook athletics director Jim Fiore, who was fired Nov. 19, had faced complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation, misappropriation of university resources, and interrogation of athletes and staff about their sexuality, ESPN reported. The university’s Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action knew for years of Fiore’s misconduct but did not act, according to documents. Fiore had 31 months left on his contract, and Stony Brook will pay the remaining $800,000 he would have earned.


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