Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 11, 2014

DeVry Inc. shut all 13 of its Chicago-area DeVry University and Chamberlain College of Nursing campuses Monday, citing an emailed threat that was deemed a "potential security issue," The Chicago Tribune reported. Little information was provided about the nature of the threat, but DeVry officials said in a statement that local authorities had declared it safe to reopen the campuses today.

February 11, 2014

Officials at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California are identifying racist and sexist fliers sent to Asian-American organizations on the two campuses, The Los Angeles Times reported. UCLA students held a rally Monday to protest the flier.

 

February 11, 2014

Wayne State University is standing by Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering, whom faculty members have accused of lacking integrity and, last week, sparked the resignation of a longtime professor. "I really want to emphasize that Dean Fotouhi is doing a good job," Margaret Winters, provost, said Monday. "A great deal of what we see going on here is that some older, more established faculty frankly don't want to see change." Winters said Fotouhi had been hired several years ago to make key changes in the college, such as raising research productivity and boosting enrollment in engineering, and that he was meeting those goals -- to some professors' chagrin.

James Woodyard, an associate professor in the computer and electrical engineering department who has been at Wayne State for more than three decades, announced Friday at the university's Board of Governors meeting that he was resigning due to Fotouhi's "lack of integrity," The Detroit News reported. In an email, Woodyard said Fotouhi had, on numerous occasions, been dishonest about the nature of personnel and budgeting decisions. Woodyard accused Winters of being biased against members of the computer and electrical engineering department and accused the administration generally of not exercising due diligence in its investigation of Fotouhi. Winters said the university had thoroughly looked into claims against Fotouhi on two separate occasions and that the dean had come up clean. Now in his third year, Fotouhi will be formally evaluated in his fifth year, according to Wayne State. Fotouhi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


 
February 11, 2014

An electronic textbook pilot has, once again, reported lukewarm interest among college students -- this time at the University of Iowa. Sponsored by Educause and Internet2, the fall 2012 pilot involved about 600 students across 17 different courses, comparing results of students using e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill Education and Courseload to students in similar courses who used print books. Most students preferred the print books, calling them "easier to access and more useful for learning," and few students used the e-textbooks' bookmarking and note taking features.

Additionally, there was "no significant difference" between the grades earned by students using e-textbooks and those using print books. Sam Van Horne, an assessment coordinator in the Information Technology Services offices, said he and the other researchers were surprised by the lack of interest in the interactive features of e-textbooks.  "One conclusion of the assessment researchers was that instructional designers can scaffold the adoption of e-textbooks and their interactive tools by helping students and instructors both use the technology but also understand how the use of tools can benefit learning," Van Horne said in an email. "The assessment researchers are hoping to design and test such interventions with other users of e-textbooks."

In 2013, Iowa expanded the pilot to include products from Bioportal, Mindtap and CourseSmart. The researchers said they are in the process of analyzing preliminary data.

February 11, 2014

The University of Texas System's board expects to spend four to six months finding a new chancellor to replace Francisco Cigarroa, who announced Monday he would step down after his successor is named. 

Cigarroa plans to focus now on practicing medicine, which he has done even as chancellor, and also advise the system as it prepares to establish a medical school in the state's Rio Grande Valley. In recent years he has resisted intense pressure from some members of the Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to fire Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin. Powers has been defended by many students, faculty members and alumni. At a press conference, Cigarroa said he continues to support Powers.

“I evaluate all presidents, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance," he said. "You know [...], I support President Powers, and I’ll continue to evaluate presidents every day, not only President Powers but all 15.” The system has nine universities and six current medical centers.

Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said, not unexpectedly, that Perry, who appoints the board, would have some say in who replaces Cigarroa. 

“His input will be sought and will be certainly considered, but he doesn’t have a direct role in the process," Foster said.

February 10, 2014

Loyola University New Orleans on Friday laid off 18 non-faculty employees as part of a plan to deal with a deficit caused by much lower than expected freshman enrollment in the fall, The Times-Picayune reported. In addition, the university announced that the contracts of 12 non-tenured faculty members would not be renewed.

 

February 10, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, James Gibbs of the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains the plight of the snow leopard. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

February 10, 2014

Newspapers in Texas are reporting that Francisco Cigarroa will today announce that he is stepping down as chancellor of the University of Texas System. A surgeon and a medical professor before rising through administration, Cigarroa reportedly will become the head of the pediatric surgery unit at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cigarroa has been chancellor since 2009. In recent years he has been under (and resisted) intense pressure from some members of the Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to fire Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin. Powers has been defended by many students, faculty members and alumni.

 

February 10, 2014

The rector of the University of Pristina, Kosovo's state university, has resigned amid student protests over reports of academic fraud by professors, Reuters reported. Students started protesting after local press reports that professors had been publishing work in fake academic journals to advance their careers.

February 10, 2014

A new study (abstract available here) from the National Bureau of Economic Research tracks 10 year student loan default rates for those who earned bachelor's degrees in 1993. The study warns against common assumptions about who may default. "Given the importance of post-school earnings for repayment, it is natural to expect that differences in average earnings levels across demographic groups or college majors would translate into corresponding differences in repayment/nonpayment rates, but this is not always the case," the report says.

"Despite substantial differences in post-school earnings by race, gender, and academic aptitude, differences in student loan repayment/nonpayment across these demographic characteristics are, at best, modest for all except race." And while default rates for black students are higher than those of other groups, the study finds, this could be linked to lower levels of family income, since higher levels of family income have been found to minimize default rates.

Lower debt levels and higher income do predict loan repayment status, the report finds. "As a ballpark figure for all repayment/nonpayment measures, an additional $1,000 in debt can be roughly offset by an additional $10,000 in income," the study says. "For example, an additional $1,000 in student debt increases the share of debt in nonpayment by 0.3 percentage points, while an extra $10,000 in earnings nine years after graduation reduces this share by 0.4 percentage points."

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