Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 17, 2015 - 4:12am

A new report questions the conventional wisdom that the jobs that have returned to the economy since the economic downturn started are low-wage jobs, and the views of some pundits that having a college degree doesn't help anymore. A report being released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finds that the economy has added 6.6 million jobs since 2010, and that 2.9 million of these were "good" jobs, which the center defines as jobs that paid more than $53,000, tended to be full-time, and provided health insurance and retirement plans. Of those 2.9 million jobs, 2.8 million have gone to college graduates.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 4:21am

A new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis raises questions about equity in American society and the role of higher education. Typically, educators argue that more education helps individuals and their families economically. The study found that, for white and Asian families, those headed by four-year college degree holders were better protected and gained wealth during the recent economic downturn and over the long term than were similar families without college degree holders. However, black and Latino families headed by someone with a four-year college degree fared worse than did black and Latino families without a degree holder. The report offers various theories for this inconsistency and suggests further research is needed.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Gregory Gray announced Friday that he will resign, effective at the end of the year, as president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, a system of regional public four-year universities and community colleges. In a statement, Gray said that the move was personal. “This decision was purely a personal one, arrived at after a number of months of consideration and discussion with my family,” he said. Gray has clashed with faculty groups throughout the system and has been the subject of a series of no-confidence votes over his plans to centralize the curriculum and make more use of online education than many professors believe is appropriate for their at-risk students.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Eric W. Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, on Friday issued a statement apologizing for a remark he made after Norwood Teague -- facing accusations of sexual harassment -- resigned as athletics director. At a news conference announcing Teague's resignation, Kaler said, “I view this as the action of one man who was overserved and a series of bad events happened.” Many criticized Kaler for this remark, saying that he was suggesting that drinking too much alcohol was an excuse for Teague's behavior.

In Friday's statement, Kaler said, “I regret that very poor choice of words because I cannot state strongly enough that Teague is entirely responsible for his behavior, and alcohol use is no excuse. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated at the University of Minnesota, and his resignation was the appropriate result of his actions.”

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

More than a week has gone by since the sudden resignation of Arvind Gupta after one year in office as president of the University of British Columbia, a globally well-regarded research university in Canada. From the start, as summarized in this post on Inside Higher Ed's GlobalHigherEd blog, little has been said (and much has been speculated) about Gupta's sudden departure. Since the announcement, faculty leaders have been demanding an explanation, saying that the lack of clarity leaves many of them uncertain about what happened and the direction of the university. On Friday, the board chair responded with a letter to faculty leaders that said he couldn't say much more. So far, social media posts suggest that the letter isn't leading professors to back off their demands for more information. The letters says that there are "numerous inaccuracies" in the reports circulating about Gupta's departure, but that people should "be respectful" of "confidentiality agreements" that were made.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin on Friday announced that it was canceling Saturday's scheduled move of a statue of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, from a central campus location to a history museum. The university still plans to make the move, but with the Sons of Confederate Veterans seeking a restraining order to block the move, the university voluntarily put off the move until a court can rule. UT officials said that they believed they are within their legal rights in making the move.

Also on Friday, the College of William & Mary announced that it will replace a plaque in the historic Wren Building, which lists alumni who fought for the Confederacy, with one that notes the role of alumni on both sides of the Civil War. The college also announced that it would remove the Confederate seal on the university mace.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

A federal judge's ruling last week invalidated the 17-month extension for postgraduation work training for international students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but stayed the decision until February to give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) time to submit the rules for the program for public comment.

In her ruling for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle determined that the original 2008 rule to extend the duration of the optional practical training (OPT) program for STEM students from 12 to 29 months was issued without appropriate public notice and comment.

In opting to invalidate the rule while imposing a six-month stay to give the agency time to address the problem, Judge Huvelle noted that vacating the 2008 rule would cause “substantial hardship” for thousands of international students who would have to leave the United States in short order, in addition to causing “major labor disruption” for technology-related industries.

The suit against the OPT program was brought by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, which argues that the OPT program generates unfair competition by creating a cheaper category of workers.

A DHS spokeswoman declined to answer specific questions about the agency’s plans for submitting a rule for public comment and the potential impact on international students who are taking advantage of the OPT STEM extension. “[U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is currently reviewing the ruling and cannot comment on the details of the decision,” said Sarah Rodriguez, a DHS spokeswoman.

Last week’s decision invalidating the 17-month OPT extension for STEM students comes at a time when the Obama administration has signaled intentions to further “expand and extend” the use of the OPT program.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Virginia announced Friday that it had been hit by a cyberattack originating in China that gained access to portions of the university's networks. The university does not believe that personal identification information was compromised but is moving to upgrade computer security. The attack on UVa follows others from China on the University of Connecticut and Pennsylvania State University. After the Penn State attack, experts warned that other universities would likely see such hacking incidents.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners and TPG Capital have agreed to buy higher education software provider Ellucian. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but a Reuters report pegged the deal at $3.5 billion, including debt. The firms acquired the majority stake from Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity. The acquisition is the latest move in a suddenly red-hot educational-technology market, and follows rumors that learning management system providers Blackboard and Instructure are exploring a sale and filing for an initial public offering, respectively.

Monday, August 17, 2015 - 3:00am

A former University of California at Berkeley football player is suing the university, alleging that it "failed to take reasonable measures to prevent head injures." The former player, Bernard Hicks, says he suffered several concussions while playing for the team between 2004 and 2008 and that the injuries have led to permanent neurological injuries. Hicks was a starting safety during most of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but sat out much of his final year due to his injuries.

"We base our care on the best and most up-to-date clinical guidelines and believe that the medical care we provide our student athletes meets or exceeds the standard in collegiate and national sports medicine," the university's athletic department said in a statement Friday. "While we cannot comment on any student’s specific medical history, we were saddened to read the lawsuit's statements about Mr. Hicks's health."

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