Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 18, 2013

Grambling State University football players boycotted practice for the second straight day on Thursday, prompting campus administrators to reassign the team's interim football coach to other duties within the athletics department and put an assistant coach in charge, the Monroe News-Star reported. Grambling players have been unhappy at the early season firing of the team's head coach, Doug Williams, a former Washington Redskins quarterback, and complained about 1,000-mile bus trips required for away games in recent weeks, and their frustrations boiled over Wednesday when they walked out of a meeting with university administrators and boycotted practice, USA Today reported.

October 18, 2013

Engineering programs at Kansas State and Oklahoma State Universities and the University of Oklahoma will benefit from a stock gift valued at more than $200 million, the institutions announced Thursday. The three universities' foundations have received privately held stock from Dolese Bros. Co., a construction materials company, and that the company will buy back $500,000 worth of the stock each year, with the goal of improving the engineering programs and increasing the number of graduates they produce. (Note: This article has been updated to correct the names of the institutions receiving the gift.)

October 18, 2013

Two weeks after Howard University's president announced he would step down this year after five years in office, the university's Faculty Senate voted no confidence in the board, The Washington Post reported. "The no-confidence vote again focused a spotlight on a board that has had recent internal disputes," the newspaper said. 

October 18, 2013

Hours after the Westfield State University board placed President Evan Dobelle on paid leave and ordered another investigation of his questionable spending, the Massachusetts public university named its academic affairs vice president, Elizabeth Preston, as interim leader, MassLive reported.

October 18, 2013

Middlebury College has suspended for one year a student who was involved in removing and throwing into the garbage flags placed on the campus last month to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks. In a statement on the college's website, officials said that the individual was believed to be the only student among five people who carried out the vandalism of what has become an annual commemoration at Middlebury (as on many campuses). The protesters said they were objecting to American imperialism.

The college's statement said that Middlebury's "community judicial board" had found the student responsible for violating standards relating to general conduct and respect for people and property. The one-year suspension was upheld on appeal, the statement said.

October 18, 2013

Students who completed an undergraduate program in 2007-8 were more likely to borrow money to pay for college but less likely to be repaying those loans within a year of graduation compared with their counterparts who graduated in 1992-93 and 1999-2000, a new federal report shows.

The report, released Thursday, analyzes the borrowing and repayment trends of bachelor’s degree recipients within a year of graduation for three cohorts of students. The data were collected through the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, which, like the rest of the federal government, returned to work on Thursday.

The study found that the percentage of college graduates who borrowed for their undergraduate education rose in each successive cohort from 49 percent (1993) to 64 percent (2000) to 66 percent (2008). The average cumulative debt of graduates also increased in each successive cohort. The number of borrowers repaying their loans within a year of graduation dipped in 2009 to 60 percent, compared with 66 and 65 percent in the previous cohorts. At the same time, the percentage of graduates not in repayment but who still owed money on their student loans (due to either deferments, forbearances or default) rose.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • One in four students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2008 had enrolled in graduate school a year later, which represents a slight increase from previous cohorts. However, across all three cohorts, students’ decision to attend graduate school within a year of graduation was not correlated with how much debt they had already incurred.
  • Student debt levels were also not correlated with a graduate’s decision to move back with parents or other family within a year of graduation (only in cases in which the student left home for college in the first place). That scenario played out at a higher rate (27 percent) for the 2008 graduates than for their 2000 counterparts (18 percent) but at the same rate as 1993 graduates.
October 17, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Congress passed legislation Wednesday night to re-open the federal government and increase the nation’s borrowing authority to avoid a default on its obligations.

Lawmakers voted to fund the government at the same level as this year through mid-January, ending a 16-day shutdown that, among other things, halted military tuition assistance and stalled a wide range of academic research.

But the measure keeps intact the automatic government spending cuts for the current fiscal year, known as sequestration, at least through January 15. Higher education advocates have blasted those cuts as detrimental to scientific research. The cuts, which took effect in March, have already reduced federal research funding by billions of dollars and prompted universities to lay off researchers and close laboratories.

Funding levels for federal research and federal student aid programs will be at stake in the budget negotiations between the House and Senate this fall, which will occur because of the deal reached Wednesday night. Those negotiations, which are also aimed at producing a long-term agreement to reduce the budget deficit, will be led by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. 

October 17, 2013

The women's basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross went on administrative leave Wednesday, a day after a former player filed a lawsuit accused him and the college of a pattern of physical and verbal abuse that was not stopped, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported. Bill Gibbons voluntarily stepped aside, the newspaper reported, after Ashley Cooper, who played on his team for two years, filed a lawsuit accusing him of hitting her on the back and bullying and humiliating her. The lawsuit also alleges that college officials put up with the behavior and failed to stop it. Gibbons declined comment to the newspaper, and college officials said in a statement that they had just received the lawsuit and were investigating its charges. "The physical, mental and emotional well-being of our students is our highest priority at Holy Cross," the college said in a statement explaining the coach's leave.

October 17, 2013

A faculty grievance committee at the University of North Dakota has found that an assistant professor of French was unfairly denied tenure based on her alleged lack of collegiality, the Forum of Fargo/Moorhead reported. Sarah Mosher, who has been at the university since 2008, was denied tenure last year and received a terminal contract for this academic year. The University Senate’s Standing Committee on Faculty Rights reviewed Mosher’s case during 32 hours of hearings – which were open to the public, at her request – last month. The committee delivered its report to North Dakota President Robert Kelley this week, recommending that he take a “proactive stance to resolve the underlying departmental issues surrounding this grievance.” The committee also found that the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department, which recommended against Mosher’s tenure, suffered from “discord, dysfunction, chaos and interpersonal conflict.”

During hearings, witnesses said that she lacked collegiality by rolling her eyes at faculty meetings, slamming doors, being argumentative and competing for students, but performed well in the three areas required for tenure: teaching, scholarship and service. The committee found that collegiality was not an “implied” criterion, according to departmental and college policies, and that Mosher had not been intentionally disruptive to the department. Kelley has until Nov. 4 to decide whether to give Mosher another chance at applying for tenure, this time in accordance with college guidelines.

A university spokesman declined to comment on the matter, pending review by the president. Birgit Hans, the department chair, also declined to comment. Mosher could not immediately be reached for comment. Greg Scholtz, director of tenure, academic freedom and governance at the American Association of University Professors, said the organization historically opposes collegiality as a fourth tenure criterion, mainly due to the potential constraints it puts on academic freedom. It can encourage homogeneity and chill debate and discussion, AAUP says.

October 17, 2013

More than three-fourths of recent graduates in professional science master’s degree programs reported finding a job and, of those employed, 91 percent were working in a job closely or somewhat related to their field of study, according to the third annual Council of Graduate Schools’ survey.

The survey looked at the early career outcomes and job satisfaction of 490 professional master's degree holders who graduated between 2010 and 2013. Employment rates were highest among students who completed their degrees in the 2010-2011 academic year. The employment rate for 2010-2011 graduates was 91 percent; for 2011-2012 graduates, the rate was 88 percent; and, for the class of 2012-2013, the rate was 78 percent.

Of the respondents who were employed, 95 percent were working in a full-time position and a majority of the graduates from 2012-2013 reported they were working in a job that is closely or somewhat related to their field of study. The survey found that 68 percent of recent graduates who were working full-time reported earning more than $50,000 a year and that 72 percent of respondents were "very satisfied" or "generally satisfied" with the postgraduation employment prospects provided by their degree.

The professional science master’s degree programs provide students advanced training in the sciences without a Ph.D. and business skills without an M.B.A. The degree program was created in 1997 and, as of August 2013, was offered at 137 institutions. More than 5,000 professional science master's degrees have been awarded.


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