Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 30, 2016

The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that the Ohio State University student who drove his car into a group of pedestrians and then attacked several people with a butcher knife was inspired by the terror organization.

Calling the student "a soldier" of ISIS, the group said that he "carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries." The organization, which released the statement through its news service, did not claim to have advance knowledge of the student's actions, though it has repeatedly called on its followers to conduct independent "lone wolf" attacks similar to what took place at Ohio State. The student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, had posted a message on Facebook prior to the attack, urging the United States "to make peace with 'dawla in al sham,'" referring to the territories controlled by ISIS.

U.S. officials have not confirmed Artan's motive, but Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the student “may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.”

Artan injured 11 people on Monday before being shot and killed by an Ohio State police officer. The injuries suffered by the victims -- who included undergraduate and graduate students and at least one university staff member -- are believed to not be life threatening, university officials said.

November 30, 2016

A new report documents unequal patterns involving gender in law school enrollments -- patterns that relate to employment prospects after law school. Among the findings:

  • While women earn more than 57 percent of undergraduate degrees, they make up only 51 percent of law school applicants.
  • About 3.4 percent of male college graduates apply to law school, while only 2.6 percent of women do so.
  • Male applicants to law school are more likely to be admitted than are female applicants, with admit rates of 79.5 percent for men and 75.8 percent for women. (While men, on average, have higher scores on the Law School Admission Test, women have better college grades.)
  • Law schools with the highest job placement rates tend to enroll smaller percentages of women than do law schools with poor job placement rates.

The report was prepared by Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor of law at Ohio State University, and Kyle McEntee, executive director of the group Law School Transparency, which has pushed law schools to reveal more information about job placement to prospective applicants. The full report may be found here.

November 30, 2016

Private colleges and universities are expected to post higher net tuition revenue growth than their public counterparts in the 2017 fiscal year, according to a new report released Tuesday by Moody’s Investors Service.

Private institutions’ median net tuition revenue is projected to grow by 2.5 percent, Moody’s found in an annual survey of higher education institutions it rates. That’s up from 2 percent in the 2016 fiscal year. Going forward, Moody’s expects private institutions to post annual net tuition revenue growth in the 2 percent to 3 percent range as institutions focus on affordability and face a competitive environment.

Public universities, meanwhile, are expected to experience slower growth in net tuition revenue -- median growth is projected at 2 percent for the 2017 fiscal year, down from 3 percent. The drop comes as many policy makers are limiting tuition and tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students. Median annual net tuition revenue growth among public institutions has fallen sharply from 8 percent in the 2012 fiscal year.

Overall, three-quarters of public and private universities anticipate year-over-year net tuition revenue rising in the 2017 fiscal year.

Large comprehensive universities are outpacing their moderately sized and small competitors in tuition revenue growth, Moody’s said. Large institutions are able to rely on their strong brands and diverse courses while often posting lower discount rates. Meanwhile, almost 40 percent of small private colleges anticipate net tuition revenue declines in fiscal year 2017.

Revenue growth will be affected by freshman tuition discount rates, which are expected to rise slightly year over year. The median first-year tuition discount rate at private universities has risen to a projected 47 percent for the 2017 fiscal year, up three percentage points from 2013. Roughly half of small and moderately sized private universities are forecasting first-year discount rates higher than 50 percent, while only 8 percent of comprehensive private universities are doing the same.

More than 60 percent of universities expected increased enrollment year over year in the fall of 2016, Moody’s said. Rising postbaccalaureate and graduate enrollment contribute to growth in the Northeast, while high school demographics are leading to enrollment growth in the South. Many universities in the Midwest project enrollment declines as the regional 18- to 24-year-old population lags, however.

November 30, 2016

Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor of the City University of New York, will be leaving the system offices at the end of the year to return to Queens College, a CUNY division that is his alma mater. There he will become vice president for communications and marketing and senior adviser to the president. He is leaving at a time when Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for major changes in the CUNY system.

Hershenson has been a vice chancellor of the CUNY system for the last 32 years, serving under eight different CUNY chancellors. During that time, he has won numerous awards, many of them for his efforts on behalf of minority and disadvantaged students. Many of his counterparts nationally have said that it is unheard-of for someone to remain so long in such a highly visible senior position at a university system that faces its share of controversies and political challenges. In 2009, he received a joint award for his service to CUNY and state government relations from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the American Association for State Colleges and Universities, and the American Association of Community Colleges. A tribute video released by CUNY at the time is below.

November 30, 2016

Richard B. Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist group the National Policy Institute, is headed to Texas A&M University to start what he promises will be a series of speaking events on campuses. Many at Texas A&M are unhappy about the visit, and some are planning protests.

On Tuesday, the university's president, Michael K. Young, announced plans for an event that will compete with Spencer's Dec. 6 appearance. In a statement, Young didn't name Spencer but said that his views "are abhorrent and profoundly antithetical to everything I believe." Young also reiterated that, as a public university, Texas A&M could not turn Spencer away. "Freedom of speech is a First Amendment right and a core value of this university, no matter how odious the views may be," he said.

While Young applauded those planning to protest, he said he would be attending an event now planned for the football stadium the night Spencer is in town. The event, to be called Aggies United, will feature speakers and entertainment. Young closed his statement by saying, "Take heart in our university. Along with all of you, our commitment to core values is unwavering and we are strong!"

November 30, 2016

DeRionne Pollard, president of Maryland's Montgomery College, since 2013 spent roughly $130,000 in college funds on travel, meals and entertainment, according to a report by a local NBC affiliate. The two-year college, which is located in suburban Washington, also spent $70,000 on private security for Pollard, including an armed driver.

The news report quoted several students at the college who were critical of the spending by Pollard, who receives $281,000 in annual salary. But the college's governing board defending her in a written statement, saying Pollard's travel improved the college's visibility and helped "foster strategic opportunities and partnerships that yield grants, scholarships, employee training agreements and more."

Earlier this month the board's chair, Marsha Suggs Smith, published an opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed where she discussed the decision to hire a security detail for Pollard, saying she had been the subject of explicit threats.

November 30, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Russell Zwanka, professor of marketing at SUNY New Paltz, discusses how social media can cause problems when one practice is accepted in one place but not in another. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 29, 2016

Several university presses are offering postelection reading lists for those trying to make sense of the election results and the divisiveness present in much of the country. Here are the lists offered by the University of California Press, as well as by Oxford, Princeton and Yale University Presses.

November 29, 2016

The executive committee of Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to viewpoint diversity, is taking a stand against Professor Watchlist. The watch list, which seeks to “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” could chill free speech, the committee said in a statement. The list poses problems similar to those posed by campus bias response teams, which investigate various report of bias, and which have been heavily criticized by those on the political right and free speech purists.

“Whether the reporting is done to a campus authority, setting in motion weeks of time-draining bureaucratic procedure that is often far removed from common sense, or whether the reporting is done to the internet at large, triggering public shaming campaigns and a cascade of threatening tweets and emails, such reporting systems encourage everyone to walk on eggshells,” the committee said. “This kind of fearful climate deprives everyone of the vigorous debate and disagreement that is essential for learning and scholarship.”

Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, it said, “we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices -- heterodox voices -- so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides.” This is the committee’s first public statement. Heterodox Academy is a group of scholars who advocate for a more intellectually diverse professoriate and who reject various orthodoxies that “forestall scholarly inquiry.”

PEN America, which works to advance literature and free expression, on Monday also criticized Professor Watchlist.

"While no credible university administrator will take seriously a website so clearly intended to bait and sow divisions on college campuses," Suzanne Nossel, the group's executive director, said in a statement, "PEN America condemns the so-called Professor Watchlist. While claiming to stand up against bias, this list is a noxious purveyor of precisely what it claims to deride: the intimidation and ostracization of those who express controversial views on campus."

November 29, 2016

Earlier this month, the University of California, San Diego, laid off its entire theater production staff: 21 employees employed by the Department of Theatre and Dance.

The move comes as UCSD implements a new staffing plan for January 2017, meant to more efficiently divide the workload as the number of performances at the La Jolla Playhouse grows. Theater production employees are currently employed by UCSD but are paid by both the university and the Playhouse. Come January, the two organizations will hire separate staffs -- the two organizations are hiring for 21 new positions in total. Laid-off employees have been encouraged to apply for the new jobs.

The new staff will be employed on a nine-month calendar rather than the twelve-month calendar followed now. Staff will have the option for summertime work. Salaries will also be cut between 25 and 45 percent, and pensions and retirement benefits will be reduced, according to a letter written by laid-off employees, although this hasn't been confirmed by the university. The letter also said that some of these employees have worked for the department for 10 to 20 years.

The employees were given 60 days' notice before the layoffs were effective, and employees will receive one week of severance pay for each year of employment as well as preferential rehire status. Nearly 1,440 people have joined a Facebook group in protest of the university's decision.

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