Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 5, 2013

Professors at Davidson College, working through the MOOC provider edX and the College Board, are going to start to prepare online tutorials in select topics in the Advanced Placement program, The New York Times reported. The goal is to create units covering specific topics within AP courses that may be tripping up students. The effort will start with AP courses in calculus, physics and macroeconomics.

 

December 5, 2013

Towson University is trying to sell a presidential home that has caused lots of problems, The Baltimore Sun reported. A controversy shortly after the home was purchased a decade ago led to the departure of a president. Critics questioned why the university needed to spend $2 million on the home, and particularly focused on expenses such as the installation of an elevator. The university is likely to lose money on a sale, but could save money in the end because the home is estimated to need $700,000 in maintenance and repairs over the next five years. The current president, Maravene Loeschke, wants to live close to campus, and is proposing to buy a private home, in part with a $35,000 housing allowance.

 

December 5, 2013

Next month the GED Testing Service will launch a revamped version of the GED, which will be fully computerized and more expensive and include the assessment of college readiness. This week the testing service, which is owned jointly by Pearson and the American Council on Education, rolled out the test's new website. It includes a registration portal, study guides and information about applying for college, as well as other resources.

December 5, 2013

Robert Morris University this week announced plans to eliminate 7 of its 23 athletic teams. The Pennsylvania-based university said that savings will be used to finance improvements in the remaining athletic programs. The men's teams being eliminated are track (indoor and outdoor), cross country, and tennis. The women’s sports are field hockey, golf and tennis.

 

December 5, 2013

The Lumina Foundation on Wednesday announced the first 20 cities that it will team with on localized college completion strategies. In January Lumina announced a shift in its approach, with a plan to spend $300 million over the next four years on rethinking financial aid, new delivery models of higher education and mobilizing key constituencies to boost completion rates. The foundation also said it would team up with cities, with this group being the first batch. Each local area will receive up to $200,000 from Lumina, and foundation officials said more cities would be selected to participate in the next year.

December 5, 2013

It's a new month, and therefore time for a new edition of Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest -- the last of 2013.

Suggest a caption for this month's cartoon -- get those creative juices flowing.

Vote for your favorite among the three captions culled by our panel of experts from among the dozens suggested by readers for last month's cartoon -- the top vote getter will be next month's winner.

And read more about the winner of October's contest, Brian Halloran. He doesn't work in higher education, but the recent college graduate reads Inside Higher Ed, he says, because "the site is a great tool for information to better educate myself about my career and the challenging issues young adults similar to me are facing."

December 5, 2013

An assistant professor of English at Indiana University Northwest has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights accusing the institution of denying her tenure because she is a woman and because she is a lesbian. Anne Balay, who learned she was denied tenure in April, filed her complaint this week, the Windy City Times reported, alleging that students criticized her in evaluations not because she was a poor teacher but because she was openly gay. Those ratings contributed to her losing her bid for tenure, she says. "If you've never had an out professor before, and a professor says that they're a lesbian, you hear nothing else all semester," she told the Times, noting that some students had accused her of talking about sexuality too frequently -- something she denies. "Those are the only words that you retain."

Balay's fellow professors recommended her for tenure, but were overruled by the department chair, she says. At the next level of evaluation, she says a committee of College of Arts and Sciences professors recommended her for tenure but the dean vetoed that recommendation. Balay's faculty appeals board hearing was held Wednesday. In an email, she said the results were still unknown. A university spokeswoman declined to comment on Balay's case for the Times. Balay also has filed a similar complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 

December 4, 2013

The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled a new web portal aimed at the people who help students and families prepare for college.

The site aggregates a range of Education Department resources and promotional material meant to encourage students to attend college and take advantage of federal student aid programs. Guidance counselors and other mentors are able to search a database containing infographics, fact sheets, videos, and other presentation materials relating to the financial aid process. 

The new effort comes as the administration is increasingly using its bully pulpit to promote college access. First Lady Michelle Obama has recently begun speaking out on higher education. And, after hosting a series of meetings with college presidents over the past several months about boosting low-income students’ access to higher education, the White House plans to hold a symposium on the topic December 11. It’s not yet clear if administration officials will announce any new policy proposals at that event, which is set to feature business leaders, philanthropists and college presidents.  

December 4, 2013

The most frequently awarded grade for undergraduates at Harvard University is an A, and the median grade is A-. University officials released those facts Tuesday at a meeting of arts and sciences faculty members, and a Harvard spokesman confirmed the information Tuesday night. The spokesman cautioned in an email against too much emphasis on the grade data. "We believe that learning is the most important thing that happens in our classrooms and throughout our system of residential education. The faculty are focused on creating positive and lasting learning outcomes for our undergraduates," he said. "We watch and review trends in grading across Harvard College, but we are most interested in helping our students learn and learn well."

Some Harvard faculty members are concerned, however, about grade inflation. Harvey Mansfield, who has repeatedly raised the issue, was the one who brought it up with questions at Tuesday's meeting. He told The Boston Globe that he thought grading patterns were "really indefensible."

 

 

December 4, 2013

Instructors at Princeton University discussed developing a homegrown massive open online course platform during a faculty meeting on Monday, The Daily Princetonian reported.

The university joined Coursera's consortium in April 2012. By building their own platform, some faculty members argued they would eliminate the question of intellectual property rights. Other faculty members were reportedly less interested in the endeavor, however, with President Christopher Eisgruber saying, ​“I must say that developing our own proprietary platform gives me nightmares.” Faculty members also discussed creating a new Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, which would evaluate online courses.

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