Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 14, 2017

About 170 full-time faculty members at the University of Phoenix are losing their jobs, Phoenix Business Journal reported. Some of those faculty members, however, may be hired back as part-timers. The layoffs follow enrollment declines. A university statement said that in 2013, the university converted many part-time positions to full-time slots, hoping to improve retention rates, but that studies have not found a difference in retention rates in courses taught by full-time or part-time faculty members.

February 14, 2017

The number of postdoctoral researchers at American universities held steady in 2015, with a majority of the positions still in the biomedical sciences and clinical medicine. But the proportion of all postdocs who were in those fields continued to decline, while those in neuroscience, engineering and the social sciences increased, according to new data from the National Science Foundation. The statistics come from the 2015 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, produced by the NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and National Institutes of Health.

The number of postdocs working at U.S. universities was 63,861 in 2015, up 0.4 percent from 63,593 in 2014. Roughly 55 percent of the 2015 postdocs were in the biological sciences (30.2 percent) and clinical medicine (24.8 percent), down from more than 60 percent in 2010.

February 14, 2017

Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is cutting the size of its incoming class. “In the process of developing the fall 2017 admissions targets in conjunction with the graduate financial aid budget, it became clear that a modest year-over-year reduction in class size would be necessary in order to ensure no disruption of support for current students,” the university said in a statement Monday, declining to share an exact percentage decrease in slots.

The decision was driven in part by lower-than-expected endowment results. Harvard announced earlier this academic year that its endowment had suffered a 2 percent, or $1.9 billion, loss, and that performance could be “muted” for some time to come. Harvard’s graduate school has relatively generous aid packages, with most Ph.D. students guaranteed funding and benefits for at least five years. At the same time, Harvard remains the world’s wealthiest university, with an endowment of $35.7 billion.

February 14, 2017

Michigan State University on Monday announced the suspension of Kathie Klages, who is in her 27th year as women's gymnastics coach, MLive reported. The university did not indicate the reason for the suspension, but it follows allegations that a woman on her team reported concerns about treatments by the then head of sports medicine at the university and that the coach dismissed the concerns as a likely misunderstanding. Dozens of woman have sued or filed criminal complaints against the former head of sports medicine, Larry Nassar, who has been fired by the university. The suits and complaints say that he digitally penetrated their vaginas or anuses, without gloves or permission to do so. Nassar has declined to comment on the charges. Klages did not respond to requests for comment.

February 14, 2017

Faculty members and alumni at Kentucky State University are unhappy that a search to find a new president resulted in what they see as a disappointing set of finalists that does not include well-liked interim President Aaron Thompson.

The list of finalists for Kentucky State, a historically black university in Frankfort, includes M. Christopher Brown, Said Sewell and Thomas Colbert, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Brown is currently provost at Southern University in Louisiana but previously resigned as president of Alcorn State University in Mississippi after controversial upgrades to that university’s presidential residence, reportedly without legally required bids. Sewell is the provost of Lincoln University in Missouri but was the target of a no-confidence vote from faculty members there last year. Colbert is the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s first black justice but only has two years of experience in higher education -- from 1982 to 1984, when he was assistant dean at Marquette University Law School.

Thompson became Kentucky State’s interim president last year following the sudden resignation of President Raymond Burse. He is executive vice president and chief academic officer at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Many Kentucky State alumni and faculty members had hoped to see him become president permanently, as did local community members.

The university performed its search for a new president under a $120,000 contract with a search firm. Some faculty members have described the search as failed.

February 14, 2017

The eight universities in the Ivy League have joined nine other major research universities, including the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, in filing an amicus brief in a court challenge levied by the New York state attorney general and others opposing President Trump’s executive order temporarily barring entry by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries and of refugees. A temporary restraining order upheld by an appellate court in a separate legal challenge on Thursday prohibits the Trump administration from enforcing the entry ban.

“While the executive order is currently limited to seven countries, its damaging effects have already been widely felt by American universities,” the brief states. “When the executive order went into effect, the 90-day suspension of entry left some of amici’s students, faculty and scholars stranded abroad, while others were unable to leave the United States to travel to their home countries or elsewhere for field research, academic meetings and family and personal obligations. Prospectively, the order threatens amici’s ability to attract the best students, faculty and scholars from throughout the globe, who depend on the ability to leave and return to this country. The uncertainty generated by the order and its implementation is already having negative impacts well beyond persons from the seven affected countries. People from all over the world are understandably anxious about having their visas prematurely canceled through no fault of their own. Individuals scheduled to attend academic conferences are uncertain whether they can attend, and many may have to cancel. Comments by high-ranking executive branch officials have suggested that the order could be extended to other countries, heightening institutional anxiety.”

February 14, 2017

Academic cardiology remains a medical field in which women are a distinct minority, and a new study suggests this is a particular problem at the senior levels. Only 15.9 percent of women in the field are full professors, compared to 30.6 percent for men. Notably, the gender gap remains significant when data are adjusted for age, years of experience and research productivity. The study was conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and was published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.

February 14, 2017

A new report from the Association of Community College Trustees, the California Community Colleges' Chancellors Office and the Institute for College Access & Success finds that student success increases among two-year, low-income students if they receive more financial aid.

Nearly half of students with a zero expected family contribution who received more than $7,500 in financial aid graduated or transferred, compared to 17 percent of those who received between $1,001 and $2,500 in aid. Those students who received a combination of federal, state and institutional aid had the highest rates of success.

“Our research shows that state and federal grant aid is vital to the academic persistence and success of many community college students,” said Noah Brown, president and chief executive officer of ACCT. “When even students in the lowest-tuition state struggle to cover all the costs of being in college, it’s clear that community college students across the country are facing very real financial barriers.”

February 14, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Ryan Kelly, assistant professor in the school of marine and environmental sciences at the University of Washington, discusses why scientists need to get better at storytelling if they want to get their point across. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 13, 2017

The owner of a chain of four Los Angeles-area colleges accused of running a “pay-to-stay” scheme through which foreign nationals fraudulently obtained immigration documents allowing them to stay in the U.S. on student visas though they were not bona fide students pleaded guilty Thursday to federal immigration fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced in a press release.

Hee Sun Shim, 53, of Beverly Hills, owned and managed three colleges in Los Angeles’s Koreatown -- Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center; and the American College of Forensic Studies -- and a fourth institution, Likie Fashion and Technology College, in Alhambra, Calif. Prosecutors say that the four schools collected tuition from and issued immigration documents to individuals who were not genuine students and had no intention of attending classes -- and who, in some cases, lived outside California. Prosecutors also say that Shim created fake student records, including transcripts, to deceive federal immigration authorities.

As part of his plea agreement, Shim agreed to forfeit $465,000 seized by investigators in 2015. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Shim’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 5. Two other defendants in the case have also pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing.

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