Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 2, 2013

A study released Monday suggests that being honored with a major scholarly prize may not improve the winner's productivity. George J. Borjas of Harvard University and Kirk B. Doran of the University of Notre Dame analyzed the impact of winning the Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years to the most talented mathematician under 40. Borjas and Doran compared the productivity (in research output) of mathematicians who won the medal and contenders who did not. (They found other prizes that are good predictors of winning a Fields, and so identified likely winners.) The research found that the winners and the contenders had nearly identical productivity before the winners won the Fields. But after winning the Fields, mathematicians see a decline in productivity. They also show more "cognitive mobility," working in new areas, which the authors note likely forces them to take longer to make findings and write papers. The paper was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here).

 

October 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Anthony Kontos of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reveals when athletes playing youth sports are most likely to receive a concussion. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 2, 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights have approved the University of Montana's new sexual assault policy, cementing a resolution agreement that the federal government said would make Montana's procedures a "blueprint" for colleges nationwide. While some student activists and victims' rights advocates have lauded the terms of the settlement, which is more extensive than previous federal mandates, free speech organizations have expressed concern that Montana's policy is overbroad and violates the First Amendment. Whereas Montana's previous policy required an action to be "objectively offensive" to be considered harassment, OCR said "sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as 'any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,' " including "verbal conduct."

The new policy also requires all faculty to participate in a tutorial on sexual assault and campus regulations, and states that those who refuse will be reported to the Justice Department. Some faculty members have questioned Montana President Royce Engstrom about the provision, The Missoulian reported.

October 2, 2013

Arguably one of the most challenging openings among college presidencies today is the chancellor's job at City College of San Francisco, which faces a potential loss of accreditation, severe financial difficulties and tensions between the administration and faculty and student groups. Robert Agrella, a state-appointed special trustee, has named four finalists, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The finalists are Terry Calaway, former president of Johnson County Community College, in Kansas; Stephen M. Curtis, former president of the Community College of Philadelphia; Cathy Perry-Jones, vice president for administration at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities; and Arthur Q. Tyler, former president of Sacramento City College.

 

October 2, 2013

A student employment program placing students at jobs linked to their field of study, a pharmacy program targeting students from underserved communities and a campuswide math remediation program aimed to reduce completion time for students earning associate degrees are among the initiatives proven to increase Latino students’ success.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit that works to accelerate Latino student success in higher education, released the 2013 edition of “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” which highlights 22 evidence-based initiatives at the associate, bachelor and graduate levels that increase achievement for Latino students.

Excelencia in Education identified bilingual education programs, access to opportunity programs, and partnerships as three areas that can improve Latino student success.

 

October 1, 2013

We will update this throughout the day.

Update (1:30 p.m. EDT):

The Department of Defense has suspended all intercollegiate competitions at the service academies because of the government shutdown, the Naval Academy said in a statement posted on its athletics site Tuesday.

The suspension leaves the status of Saturday’s Air Force-Navy football game unclear. A decision on that game will be made by noon on Thursday, the statement said. 

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Update (12:15 p.m. EDT):

The closure of Smithsonian museums and research centers is impacting scholars’ access to data and records at those institutions.

Lisa D. Cook, an associate professor of economic and international relations at Michigan State University, is in Washington, D.C. this fall where she is a visiting fellow at the Smithsonian Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation.

She said the shutdown was forcing her to reorganize her research that had been planned for six to seven months and lamented the lack of access to Smithsonian facilities.

“This is a real loss, since the reason for being in residence is because of the access to experts in this area and to people who have created or maintained these records,” Cook said in an e-mail. “These will be hours, days, and missed encounters I will never be able to reclaim.  It also seems to be demoralizing for the researchers on staff whose deadlines and workload will not change, but their ability to meet them will.”

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Update (11:30 a.m. EDT): 

The Education Department has shuttered the website of its research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences. Visitors to the site are unable to access to the department's trove of data on colleges and universities available in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System known as IPEDS. Would-be college students or parents hoping to use the department's CollegeNavigator website -- which allows consumers and others to compare information about individual colleges -- will also be frustrated. The Education Department's main Web site will not be updated, but sites relating to federal student aid programs, including the popular site for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, will mostly continue operating as normal. 

On Capitol Hill, the House subcommittee on higher education has postponed a hearing scheduled for Tuesday about simplifying student financial aid.

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WASHINGTON -- The federal government grinds to a halt today, given Congress's inability to reach a deal on the federal budget before today's October 1 start of the 2014 fiscal year. The implications for higher education are likely to be mild at the start, but could ratchet up quickly if the disagreement drags on.

Below are the contingency plans for various agencies important to colleges, their students, and their employees:

October 1, 2013

Economic shifts over the past 30 years have delayed career launches for young adults, according to a report released Monday by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

Young workers now reach financial independence at age 30 on average, an increase from age 26, and young African Americans gain traction in their careers at age 33, according to the report, Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation.

The declining access to full-time jobs has created a “lost decade” for young people, the report said. Finding employment has been especially different for young men, young adults without higher education and young African Americans. “As a result of increasing human capital requirements for both young and old, the education and labor market institutions that were the foundation of the 20th century industrial system are out of sync with the 21st century economy,” the report said.

Older workers who are college-educated are staying in the labor market longer. In 1987, 42 percent of women 55 and older were employed, compared with 62 percent in 2010. But the growing number of employed older adults has not caused the declining employment of young adults, the report said.

October 1, 2013

Proposals to alter federal financial aid programs to try to promote college completion could end up damaging postsecondary access, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance argues in a new report. The report, "Do No Harm," warns that several of the policies being discussed in think tank circles and among some members of Congress could diminish the representation in higher education of students from low-income families.

October 1, 2013

Bellingham Technical College faculty resumed classes Monday following their weeklong strike over union contract negotiations. A three-year contract deal reached over the weekend includes a 3 percent raise for faculty per pay step, bigger stipends, longevity bonuses, and pay raises for adjunct faculty at the Washington institution.

Leaders of the Bellingham Education Association, affiliated with the National Education Association, said they looked forward to improved relations with the administration in a union news release. “We’re serious about wanting to improve our college,” said Don Anderson, a welding technology professor who served on the union bargaining team.

In a statement, Bellingham President Patricia McKeown said the college was pleased to have a contract in place. “We will all need to help each other through a healing process and get back to doing what we do best -- changing our students’ lives for the better and contributing to a healthy economy.”

October 1, 2013

The University of California at Berkeley evacuated the campus Monday night after an explosion caused by a power system failure. One student with minor injuries was taken to the hospital, and four others with minor injuries declined to be hospitalized. Late Monday night, Berkeley officials told students they could return to housing units on campus. The power outage hit the campus at 4:40 p.m., and shortly after that evening classes were called off, and laboratories were told to shut down operations. About 20 people were stuck in various elevators on campus but they were all rescued by 8:30 p.m. The explosion took place about 6:40 p.m.

 

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