Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 11, 2013

College students from middle-income families are more likely to end up with student loan debt than their peers from both lower and higher socioeconomic backgrounds, a new study has found.

The research by Jason Houle, an assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, will be published in January in Sociology of Education. “Children from middle-income families make too much money to qualify for student aid packages, but they do not have the financial means to cover the costs of college,” Houle writes in the article. The study found that students from families earning between $40,000 to $59,000 per year racked up 60 percent more debt than lower-income students and 280 percent more than their peers whose families earned between $100,000 and $149,000 per year. A similar trend held for more affluent middle-income families earning up to $99,000 annually. 

December 11, 2013

Zhang Xuezhong, a law professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, said Tuesday he had been fired after refusing to apologize for publications championing constitutional law in China, The New York Times reported.

Officials at the Shanghai-based university did not respond to the Times’s requests for comment. However, Zhang obtained and circulated an internal university memo that accuses him of breaking university rules by “forcibly disseminating his political views among the faculty and using his status as a teacher to spread his political views among students.”

The memo cites an e-book he authored, New Common Sense: The Nature and Consequences of One-Party Dictatorship

The dismissal of Zhang, who had been banned from the classroom earlier this year, comes amid concerns regarding increasing restrictions on political speech in China and in the aftermath of the controversial dismissal of Xia Yeliang, an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, from the economics faculty at Peking University. Peking maintains that Xia was fired for his poor teaching and research record, but many believe his criticism of one-party rule was the real reason.

 

December 11, 2013

Details emerged Tuesday about allegations that tests prepared for use at Florida International University were being stolen and sold. The university announced Monday that three people -- two of them students -- had been arrested in such a scheme, but released few details. Officials said Tuesday that the case involved hacking into a professor's email account, stealing four tests, and then selling them to students for $150 each, The Sun Sentinel reported.

December 11, 2013

Students in courses hosted by Coursera, the massive open online course provider, can now access lessons on the go -- as long as they have an iPhone. The MOOC provider launched an official mobile app on Tuesday, allowing iPhone users to browse courses, receive notifications from the courses they are enrolled in, and stream and download lectures.

Additional features such as in-video quizzes and private courses are not yet available. The official app is in development for other platforms, according to Coursera's website, but for now, Android users have to make do with several unofficial options. Coursera is the first of the larger MOOC providers to create an app, but competitors such as edX may soon follow. "We are working on a mobile solution for a global audience -- we think of mobile from the [inexpensive Android tablet] Akash to the iPhone," an edX spokesman said in an email.

December 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Martin Hasselmann of the University of Cologne discusses the genetic process that determines the sex of honey bees. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 11, 2013

Activists are questioning proposed new rules on protests at Cooper Union and the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. In both cases, the institutions have in the past faced long-term protests. University officials say that the proposed rules allow for the orderly functioning of campuses, without diminishing the ability of students and others to express critical views. Critics say that the rules go too far.

 

December 10, 2013

Arkansas Baptist College faculty members have not been paid since Nov. 1, KTHV News reported. The Faculty Senate also released a letter calling for the removal of President Fitz Hill, questioning his financial decisions and saying that he was not supporting the principles of shared governance. The college responded with a statement saying that the faculty accusations were inaccurate.

December 10, 2013

Florida International University announced Monday night that university police "have arrested three individuals, including two current students," on charges that "range from dealing in stolen property to theft and burglary." The charges relate to an effort "to gain unauthorized access to exams and sell them to students." An investigation "has revealed that one class in the current semester is impacted with a limited number of students involved," the university said. Florida International's statement said that because the investigation is ongoing, few details can be released at this time. The statement said that "FIU will pursue all avenues to ensure that everyone who is involved is held accountable."

 

December 10, 2013

The University of Texas Board of Regents has scheduled a closed-door discussion Thursday of the employment status of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. What the discussion means is unclear. Regents with close ties to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, have been pushing for the ouster of Powers, but he has strong support among many students, alumni and faculty members.

 

December 10, 2013

The National Institutes of Health has hired its first permanent associate director of data science -- a formal signal by the biomedical agency that the age of "big data" has arrived in scientific research. The NIH's director, Frances S. Collins, said that Philip E. Bourne, associate vice chancellor for innovation and industry alliances at the University of California at San Diego, would help ensure that the NIH plays a "major role in coordinating access to and analysis of many different data types that make up this revolution in biological information.” Bourne, who is also a professor of pharmacology, will take over from Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who Collins appointed in an acting role earlier this year to drive the agency's big data work.

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