Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 27, 2014

A new law has made Washington State the fifth state where students who lack the legal documentation to live permanently in the United States are eligible for state student aid, Reuters reported. Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said that the law would help "thousands of bright, talented and very hard working students across the state of Washington."

February 26, 2014

A state judge has backed the City University of New York on a challenge by its faculty union to the controversial "Pathways" program to align the curriculum to ease transfer from CUNY's two-year to four-year colleges. The Professional Staff Congress, the union, challenged the system's legal authority to institute a major academic change, arguing that faculty members needed to play more of a role. A state judge found this argument "devoid of merit."  The faculty union is vowing to appeal the judge's decision, and is also urging the New York City Council to intervene in the dispute.

 

February 26, 2014

Modesto Junior College has settled a lawsuit with a student who was forbidden from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day in September. Army veteran Robert Van Tuinen had argued that administrators violated his First Amendment rights. Video captured campus officials telling Van Tuinen to book a “free speech area,” which would take at least three days. As part of the settlement, the college will revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and will pay Van Tuinen $50,000.

February 26, 2014

Some students and faculty members at St. Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, are concerned about plans to deal with a deficit by increasing enrollment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The university is facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall. Administrators have already imposed budget cuts throughout the campus, and argue that they can deal with some of the remaining financial challenges by increasing this fall's freshman class from 1,275 to 1,500. Critics say such an increase will lead to larger class sizes and/or lower admissions standards.

 

February 26, 2014

The University of Cambridge's Regent House (the governing board, made up largely of academics) has approved a controversial endowed chair to honor Stephen Hawking, Times Higher Education reported. The controversy is not over honoring Hawking, but because the size of the endowment will support a salary nearly double that paid to other professors. Further, the terms of the gift specify that the salary must be "equal to or greater than the average salary and benefits" for other professors "of similar years of service, or rank" in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics. Critics objected to the salary provisions, and the chair was approved by a margin of 746 to 606.

 

February 26, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut concludes his three-day examination of the chemistry of the show "Breaking Bad." Leadbeater concludes the series with an examination of one of Walter White’s greatest escapes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 26, 2014

Santa Clara University has announced that it is standing by a decision announced last year to end employee health coverage for elective abortions, Bay Area News Group reported. University officials have said that they are trying to uphold Roman Catholic teachings. But many faculty members have objected, saying that they were hired with the university knowing that they didn't necessarily embrace Catholic teachings, and that the university was sending a message that it does not value the diversity on its faculty.

 

February 26, 2014

Bob Jones University has faced considerable criticism for its announcement this month that it had ended a contract with an outside group to investigate how the university has responded when students have reported sex abuse. The university was vague about why it ended the study, and many noted that abuse victims who shared their stories with the investigators would feel betrayed. But the university has now announced that based on additional discussions with the investigators, they have been rehired to finish their work.

 

February 26, 2014

Men of color attending community colleges are less likely to obtain an associate degree than are white males, despite being the most engaged in and out of the classroom, a new report finds. In "Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges," the Center for Community College Student Engagement reveals that even though black and Latino students at two-year institutions show more interest than their white peers in obtaining an associate degree or certificate, only 5 percent actually accomplish that goal within three years, compared to 32 percent for white students.

One of the reasons the gap might exist, the authors of the report say, is because of what they call stereotype threat. That’s the “fear of fulfilling a negative stereotype,” and it can be triggered unintentionally. That fear can affect a student’s performance in the classroom. Recommendations to help close the gap, they say, start with institutions first acknowledging the issue, because not enough of them are looking at how systemic disparities can affect a student of color’s educational experience. The report offers tools for leaders at these colleges to conduct focus groups, and questions to help guide campus-based and community-based discussions on issues such as aspiration, achievement and equity.

“Grappling with these disparities is a task for virtually every community college,” said Kay McClenney, the director of Center for Community College Student Engagement, in a press release. “Campus conversations and actions must address at least three factors: substantially different levels of college readiness across racial and ethnic groups, the demonstrated effects of stereotype threat on performance in higher education, and continuing impacts of structural racism evident in systems throughout American society,” she said.

February 26, 2014

A total of 370 colleges and universities met the federal definition of "Hispanic-serving institution" in 2012-13, up from 356 the previous year, Excelencia in Education said in its annual analysis of the fast-growing sector of higher education. The group reported that about 60 percent of all Latino students were enrolled in such institutions, and that the colleges and universities were heavily concentrated geographically, with more than 80 percent of them located in five states.

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