Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 20, 2014

Eight students at Fordham University have contracted mumps, CBS New York reported. All of the students had prior vaccinations, but those vaccinations do not provide full protection.

 

February 19, 2014

Clark University, in Massachusetts, has dropped need-blind admissions, in which applicants are admitted regardless of their ability to pay, MassLive.com reported. Going ahead, the university will become "need-aware" at the end of its admissions process, meaning that once the financial aid budget has been spent, applicants who can afford to pay will be admitted. Officials said that they remained committed to admitting low-income students, but that the need-blind policy had forced Clark to make cuts in other parts of its budget, and was no longer sustainable.

February 19, 2014

America's community colleges and their students generated $809 billion of income in 2012, which was 5.4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, according to a report by the American Association of Community Colleges released this week. That figure includes the higher wages students earned that year, the increased output of business that employed the students and related multiplier effects. The report also found that students earn $4.80 in higher future wages for every $1 they invest in their community college education.

February 19, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Charles Venuto of American Public University discusses the connection between the space program and preservation of bird habitat in Florida. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

February 19, 2014

Chatham University, in Pennsylvania, may soon admit men to the undergraduate program for the first time, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Like many women's colleges, Chatham has coeducational graduate programs, but has kept its original undergraduate program for women. University officials said that they are studying the coed option out of concerns about having enough undergraduates in an era in which most female college applicants don't want a women's college. Chatham currently enrolls 588 undergraduates, down from 675 in 2008.

 

February 19, 2014

Congressional investigators said in a report Tuesday that they could not determine whether students' increased access to federal loans in recent years has caused college prices to rise.

The Government Accountability Office was tasked with analyzing what, if any, impact higher federal loan limits that took effect in 2008 and 2009 have had on the rising price of college. In its report, the GAO concludes that "it  is difficult to determine if a direct relationship exists between increases in college prices and the [federal] loan limit increases because of the confluence of many other factors that occurred around the time the loan limit increases took effect," such as the economic recession and increases in other types of federal, state and institutional aid available to students.

The report also notes that the increased federal loan limits were correlated with a drastic drop, by more than 50 percent, in private student lending. A variety of factors explain that drop, the report says, including more stringent lending criteria, new consumer protections on private loans, and colleges' efforts to steer students away from private loans.

February 19, 2014

The board of Occidental College has agreed to bar future investments in companies that manufacture assault weapons, The Los Angeles Times reported. While the college has no such investments now, officials said that it was important to take a stand on the issue. Faculty members had pushed for the policy, citing mass shootings involving assault weapons. Jennifer Fiore, executive director of the Campaign to Unload, which is seeking such investment bans, said that she believed Occidental was the first college to adopt one and that others would follow.

 

February 19, 2014

After 18 months of trying to negotiate their first union contract, faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago moved forward on Tuesday with a planned, two-day strike. Hundreds of classes were not held Tuesday as a result of the strike, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Joe Persky, professor of economics and president of the United Faculty, an American Federation of Teachers- and American Association of University Professors-affiliated union representing both tenure-line and, full-time, non-tenure-track faculty, said the strike was a last resort to which the union had been “pushed” by the university. Major unresolved issues for the union include a proposed $45,000 baseline salary for full-time, non-tenure track lecturers, many of whom teach large, first-year courses, Persky said. “We’ve got lecturers here making $30,000 a year, and they’re filling up classes with $300,000 worth of students. There’s something wrong there.” The union also wants various “blanks” in the contract, such as those for future merit raise pools, filled in with real dollar amounts, and a 4.5 percent pay increase starting next year.

In an email, a university spokesman said the union also wants payment for out-of-pocket insurance costs and special allocations to address salary compression -- when longer-serving professors are paid similarly to newer peers because raises haven’t kept up with the outside market. He said the estimated cost of those proposals, including the $45,000 base salary for lecturers, would equal a hefty, approximately 25 percent personnel cost jump to the university, over four years. A side-by-side university chart comparing the its and the union’s bargaining positions, including their costs, is available here.

“The university believes that a work stoppage or strike is not in the best interest of the faculty, the university, or our students; however, we acknowledge the faculty’s right to strike under Illinois labor law,” reads a university statement on the strike. Despite offering a “fair” contract already, the university said it will continue to bargain with the union until an agreement is reached. Additional negotiating sessions have been scheduled through March; the next is on Friday. Persky said he was confident that the strike, which shut down classes and was accompanied by on-campus rallies and picketing by professors and students, would help the union’s cause.

“Everything has changed,” he said. “We’ve shown them what we can do.”

February 19, 2014

The University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., claims to be the first U.S. institution to receive a donation in the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Nicolas Cary, a 2007 graduate of the university who now serves as the CEO of the bitcoin wallet service Blockchain, on Tuesday donated 14.5 bitcoins, or about $10,000, to the university's alumni fund. 

The university couldn't just cash a check to receive the gift, however. According to a press release, Puget Sound had to create an account with the electronic payment processing service BitPay and bill Cary for $10,000. Cary, who was traveling abroad at the time, scanned a QR code to authorize the payment, which released the funds. The donation was then transferred to the university's BitPay wallet, which could then be withdrawn.

February 19, 2014

In National Labor Relations Board hearings on an unprecedented bid to form a union for college athletes Tuesday, the Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter testified that football is "a job,"  and said athletes' year-round athletic obligations come at the expense of academics. Colter, who majored in psychology, said his hopes of entering a pre-med program were quashed because of football time demands. "You fulfill the football requirement and, if you can, you fit in academics," Colter said, according to the Associated Press. "We are brought to the university to play football."

The NLRB's decision will hinge on whether athletes can be considered employees for their institutions, rather than just students. Colter co-founded the College Athletes Players Association, which seeks lobbying power on safety and financial issues. Testimony continues through this week, but the ruling is open to appeal and a final outcome is likely far off.

Also on Tuesday, Northwestern's lawyers suggested that football helped Colter -- a 3.2-grade point average student and Goldman Sachs intern -- educationally. "Northwestern is not a football factory," said Alex Barbour, a lawyer for the university.

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