Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has penalized Mississippi State University with reductions in football scholarship and recruiting privileges, the Division I Committee on Infractions announced Friday. In the “serious case,” detailed in the public infractions report, a booster called a star prospect more than 100 times and provided him with impermissible benefits, including a car at $2,000 below its actual value and an offer of $6,000 if the recruit turned down a visit to another university. Additionally, a former assistant coach was cited for unethical contact for failing to report the rules violations and then lying to NCAA and Mississippi State officials during the investigation.

“This is a classic case where a booster inserts himself into the recruiting process in an effort to help his school land the prize recruit so they’ll be better positioned to win more games,” Britton Banowsky, chair of the infractions committee and commissioner of Conference USA, said on a call with reporters. “That’s always a problem. When the school, through an employee, has knowledge of it and doesn’t act, it becomes a more serious problem, obviously.”

However, Banowsky praised the cooperation of Mississippi State, which self-imposed nearly all of the penalties it received. Those include two years’ probation, a reduction in official recruiting days and visits, a football scholarship reduction last year and this year,  and a one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, meaning any institution that wants to hire him must persuade the NCAA why the penalties against him (prohibition from recruiting and booster interaction) should not apply to him at the new institution.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

New research released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found possible relationships between sleep habits and academic majors. Among the findings:

  • Management science, information systems and administration of justice majors were most likely to be "evening" people in terms of when they were most engaged.
  • Nutrition majors were the most likely to be morning people.
  • Media majors had the highest self-reported sleep deficits.
  • Speech communication majors had the lowest such deficits, coming close to their desired hours of sleep.
Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A controversial California proposal to expand the state public colleges' use of online education has passed the Senate, though it's been amended again. Early versions of the bill would have required the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including classes offered by for-profit companies. The latest version, which cleared the Senate late last month and is pending in the state Assembly, would create an "incentive grant program" to encourage faculty and campuses to work either with each other across the state's tri-part higher education system or with private companies to offer online classes in high-demand subjects to college and high school students. Faculty representatives, which came out strongly against earlier versions of the bill, reportedly remain opposed. 

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Maryland University College recently closed its Center for Intellectual Property, citing a universitywide budget gap of $35 million that caused dozens of other layoffs. The closure of the noted center cost four people their jobs, said university spokesman Bob Ludwig.  "The decision to close the Center for Intellectual Property was basically based on a process we went through to refocus our priorities and meet our budget gap we were facing for the next fiscal year," he said. "So, through that process, it was determined that the Center for Intellectual Property was not central to UMUC's core mission." The center -- whose work was followed by experts elsewhere -- worked on "education, research and resource development on the impact of intellectual property issues in higher education," according to its website.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

An increasing number of Chinese students intending to study abroad are forgoing the national college entrance exam, the gaokao, entirely, according to Chinese and international media. In Beijing, 72,736 students registered for this past weekend’s administration of the gaokao, a decline from 126,000 in 2006, China Daily reported. The Guardian also reported that an increasing number of Chinese students are taking the British A-levels in lieu of the gaokao. 

At the same time, a number of universities in Australia have begun accepting gaokao scores in undergraduate admissions.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The Accrediting Commission for Community & Junior Colleges, which accredits community colleges in California, on Friday barred dozens of people -- including reporters and supporters of City College of San Francisco -- from attending what was theoretically an open meeting, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The day before, the commission had voted (behind closed doors) on whether to remove accreditation from City College of San Francisco. But even though that decision had been made, many supporters of the college wanted to talk about the issue. The commission did not respond to requests for information about why it wasn't letting people into the meeting. The commission did send a statement to reporters Friday indicating that a decision had been made about the college, but that no announcement would be mean until early July "to ensure orderly notifications to various stakeholders."

 

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Trent of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how bacteria could be used to create better vaccines. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Conventional wisdom holds that -- on standardized tests -- when test-takers aren't certain, they should stick with their first choice of answer and not change it. Research being released today by the Educational Testing Service challenges that assumption. ETS studied 8,000 test-takers worldwide on the GRE, and found that of those who changed answers on the quantitative reasoning section, 72 percent saw scores increase, while of those who changed answers on the verbal reasoning section, 77 percent saw scores increase. At the same time, ETS surveyed test-takers and find that they still tend to believe they shouldn't change their answers, with 59 percent saying that they believed that their first answer was more likely to be correct than a changed answer.

 

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Leipzig has started to refer to both male and female professors as "Professorin," ending the use of gender-specific words -- "Professorin" for women and "Professor" for men -- The Local reported. The German language has male and female forms for many words, and the move to use a single word (and the traditional female form at that) has prompted considerable discussion. Der Spiegel quoted Bernd-Rüdiger Kern, a law professor, as saying that that the move reflects "a feminism which does language no good and doesn't achieve anything concrete."

The website Deutsche Welle ran an interview with Luise Pusch, a leader of feminist linguistics, in which she praised the decision. "It is definitely a step forward and not only for the University of Leipzig, but for the whole country. The decision is being talked about and that gets people thinking. Every opportunity to think about our male-dominated language is good for the language as a whole, because the German language is very biased," she said.

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 3:00am

It has become trendy if not clichéd in recent years to declare that higher ed is the next "bubble" in the American economic system will pop. This view has been particularly dominant in business publications. Forbes has run columns about the coming higher ed bubble, or why a higher ed bubble should be coming, numerous times (see here and here and here and here and we could go on). Many of those articles predict that one or more "disruptions" in higher education (online learning for example) will be key to the higher ed bubble popping.

So we were surprised on Sunday to read in Forbes that the bubble might not be traditional higher ed. A column that starts off by bemoaning the high cost of elite private higher education ends up noting that students go to college (and parents pay for them to do so) for a lot of reasons other than just the learning in the classroom. Students get connections and they value "the experience," writes a staffer for the magazine. The piece may not please all professors and college administrators because it suggests that students want a fun experience, not just the personal educational experience. But based on this conclusion, the author writes: "There’s no college-education ‘bubble’ forming simply because teens go to college with an eye on a fun four years, after which they hope the school they attend will open doors for a good job. Online education only offers learning that the markets don’t desire, and because it does, its presumed merits are greatly oversold. There’s your 'bubble.' "

Could this be the start of the bursting of the higher-ed-bubble-story bubble?

 

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