Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 6, 2014

Brandeis University is offering buyouts to about 150 staffers amid an estimated $6.5 million deficit, The Boston Globe ​reports. Last month, the university paid nearly $5 million to its former president in deferred compensation and for unused sabbatical. A spokeswoman for the university told the paper the large payout to the president did not factor into the decision to offer the voluntary buyouts, which do not affect faculty members.

February 6, 2014

High school students with interest in science and technology fields aren't planning careers in STEM,  according to new ACT report.

Of the 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT, 48 percent had either expressed interest in the fields or their answers to the work task questionnaire portion of the test suggested STEM as a good job match. From that 48 percent, 23 percent plan to pursue STEM as a major or a career, even if the field isn’t the best match for them, based on their preferences. The report expresses concern about  the 9 percent who show some interest in working in a STEM field, but say they won’t pursue it as a career. Another issue: about half of the 2013 ACT test takers who planned to go into STEM weren’t ready to successfully succeed in first year college math or science, based on their educational backgrounds, according to the report. “Early assessment and intervention” are needed to help students, said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions.

February 6, 2014

A think tank's relatively crude analysis of how colleges might fare under a system that rated them on access, affordability and student success finds few institutions scoring high marks on all three, as it chooses to define them. The report by the American Enterprise Institute's Center on Higher Education Reform -- trying to anticipate how an Obama administration plan to rate colleges might play out -- examines the performance of 1,700 four-year colleges on three metrics: the proportion of their undergraduates who are eligible for Pell Grants for needy students, the six-year graduation rate of their students, and their net price -- all of which it concedes are imperfect, if not seriously flawed, measures.

It then plots the institutions on a scatter chart (see an interactive version here), and notes that just 19 colleges score at what it deems an appropriate level on all three measures: graduation rate above 50 percent, net price under $10,000, and Pell Grant percentage of at least 25 percent. 

With its simple formula and and unimpressive results, the report may affirm the worst fears of some critics of the Obama plan. But they are likely to agree with the authors' points about the warnings about some of the pitfalls facing the designers of the new system and at least some elements of the report's conclusion:

"In thinking through these issues, the president and his advisers must acknowledge that a poorly designed accountability system will likely do more harm than good, providing critics with the ammunition they need to roll back future efforts to hold colleges accountable. Designers would be wise to learn from the past and anticipate some of these potential pitfalls ahead of time. We still don’t know exactly what the ratings will measure and how the policy will work, but the data discussed here show just how much progress we have to make in order to create the high-quality, affordable postsecondary opportunities that Americans need."
February 6, 2014

The percentage of employed teenagers has declined over the last decade, but what working high school seniors spend their earnings on has not changed much, researchers have found. Most of the money earned goes toward temporary wants or needs, meaning shopping trips, lunch and dinner dates, movies, music and more -- not saving for college. The information was gathered through surveys given to high school seniors by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Authors Jerald Bachman, Jeremy Staff, Patrick O'Malley and Peter Freedman-Doan wanted to learn what teenagers did with their earnings and to see if any patterns affect academic achievement. What they discovered is 17 percent took half or more of their income and put it toward their educations. Those who saved for college were less likely to work more than 15 to 20 hours a week because they wanted to focus on school. They weren’t at high risk of smoking cigarettes. The high school students who juggle school and work to help fund their higher education deserve to be recognized, the researchers say.

February 6, 2014

"Key Issues for Business Schools" is a collection of news articles and essays -- in print-on-demand format -- about the opportunities and challenges facing schools of business. The articles aren't breaking news, rather analyses about long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts about this important sector of institutions. The goal is to provide these materials (both news articles and opinion essays) in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here.

This is the latest in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.
On Thursday, February 27, at 2 p.m. EST, Inside Higher Ed's editors will discuss these issues in a free webinar. Sign up to participate by clicking here.
February 6, 2014

University of Akron officials are denying allegations of plagiarism from a graduate who filed a federal Clery Act complaint against the institution Tuesday. Julia Dixon told Newsweek that in researching her complaint, she discovered significant portions of Akron's sexual misconduct policies appeared to be lifted, sometimes verbatim, from Miami University of Ohio.

Officials at both campuses said Wednesday that Akron's policy did not copy Miami's, but bore resemblance because it's common for professionals to share models or best practices for writing such documents. The particularly odd overlaps -- for example, both policies reference an Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity and an "Appendix B" of the policy, but only Miami actually has those things -- were just outdated "errors" that have since been fixed, Akron Dean of Students Denine Rocco said.

Dixon alleges in her complaint, filed Tuesday, that administrators mishandled sexual assault cases and did not accurately report assaults or accommodate victims with required services. Dixon said she was also given information from campus officials that conflicted with information in the policy.

February 6, 2014

Some Wellesley College students are concerned about a lifelike statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear, The Boston Globe reported. The statue is part of an exhibit at the college museum, but the outdoor placement of the statue has attracted considerable attention and criticism.


February 6, 2014

The American Council on Education, the umbrella group of higher education associations in Washington, announced Wednesday that it will add a longtime Education Department official to its lobbying team.

Daniel T. Madzelan, who for several decades was a senior career staffer at the department and served a short stint as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the beginning of the Obama administration, will become the group’s new associate vice president for government relations. He left the department in March 2012, having served for 33 years under six presidents and nine education secretaries. 

Madzelan will take the position at the American Council of Education that was held by Becky Timmons, who retired last week after 40 years at the organization.

February 6, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Benjamin Black of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses the connection between volcanism and one of the largest extinctions in Earth’s history. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 6, 2014

Cultural Anthropology, the flagship journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, became the latest scholarly journal to go open access with the publication of its February issue this week. Launched in 1986, the journal is the first published by the American Anthropological Association to go open access, the society noted in a press release.


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