Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 17, 2014

A revamped performance funding plan approved Thursday by Florida's higher education governing board could result in some universities having money taken away from them, The Miami Herald reported. State policy makers have increasingly adopted performance funding systems for colleges in recent years, but most such approaches use them to allocate new funds -- taking existing funds away is unusual. Under the new Florida system, which changes an earlier approach, an institution that doesn't score a minimum number of points under the scoring system would lose 1 percent of its funding in 2014-15, in addition to being ineligible for performance funds, the Herald reported.

January 16, 2014

The compromise appropriations bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate approval does not contain the measure in last year's bill that barred most National Science Foundation support for political science. The ban -- pushed by Republicans who would like to limit NSF support for the social sciences generally -- stunned political scientists. They are hopeful that the current appropriations plan will stay intact.

 

January 16, 2014

About 23 percent of students who receive college credit while still enrolled in high school obtain an associate degree within two years, making them far more likely to do so than peers who do not earn college credit in high school, a new study shows.

Those students attend what are called Early College high schools, which team up with colleges and universities to allow the students to receive up to two years of college credit that can go toward an associate degree. By comparison, only 2 percent of students at high schools without Early College programs went on to receive an associate degree within two years. The study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research, reports that 81 percent of the Early College students enrolled in college, compared to only 72 percent of students who attended other high schools.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Early College High School Initiative in 2002, to help underserved students earn college degrees. The students were in ninth grade during the 2005-6, 2006-7 or 2007-8 academic years. Some were followed for almost nine years. The new study updates an earlier one, providing an additional year of postsecondary data.

“With the most recent data, all students in the study would have had at least two years after high school to earn an associate’s degree if they progressed on a traditional timeline,” said Andrea Berger, a principal researcher at AIR in a press release.

January 16, 2014

The City University of New York on Wednesday named James B. Milliken, president of the University of Nebraska system, as its next chancellor. Milliken heads the four-campus Nebraska system, which, despite counting a Big Ten research university among its members, has a largely open-access mission, as does CUNY. He previously was a senior administrator at the University of North Carolina system.

Milliken replaces the interim chancellor William P. Kelly, who took that role after Matthew Goldstein retired after 14 years in CUNY's top job.

January 16, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Stanton of Syracuse University reveals efforts to represent large data sets using sound. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 16, 2014

A branch of Giant, a grocery store chain in the Washington, D.C., region, produced a circular to promote shopping by Howard University students returning to campus from break. The ad ended up offending many Howard students, Washington Business Journal reported, because it features a white woman and Howard is a historically black college. A spokesman for Giant said that "unfortunately an incorrect stock photo was used in the ad and we apologize for this oversight."

January 16, 2014

The U.S. Education Department plans to provide guidance counselors and state agencies with more information about students who are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, Obama administration officials said Wednesday at the department's so-called "Datapalooza" event.

The goal is to boost the rate at which students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, complete the FAFSA.

The department will “responsibly” share data with high school guidance counselors on which of their students have begun the FAFSA so they can work with those students on actually completing the forms, according to a department fact sheet. Department officials will also share that information with state student aid agencies “early” this year, the White House announced separately on Thursday.  

The department is also eyeing the development of a FAFSA Application Program Interface, a set of web protocols that would allow developers to build third-party services and applications that work with the complicated form, which is currently available only through the government’s website, FAFSA.gov.

Officials will soon issue a formal request for information and feedback on how the department might develop feeds (known as application programming interfaces, or APIs) of “key education data, programs and frequently used forms,” including the FAFSA, the department said.

James H. Shelton, the department’s assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, told attendees that a FAFSA API would be useful in expanding the way students, families and others use the form. For instance, he said, the department has talked with KIPP charter schools about how they might be able to submit all of their students’ FAFSA forms at once.

The announcement came at a symposium Wednesday where Obama administration officials highlighted companies, nonprofit and academic groups that have used government data to build products and services aimed at helping students prepare for, apply to, and select a college. The Datapalooza event on Wednesday attracted more than 500 entrepreneurs, software developers and education technology experts.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told attendees that his goal was to reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain degree and promote competency-based education. The administration is currently soliciting ideas on how it should waive federal student aid rules to certain colleges who want to experiment with innovations that will reduce the cost of higher education. 

January 15, 2014

The Yale University Faculty of Arts and Sciences has voted to form a faculty senate. The faculty was one of the last of its kind in the Ivy League not to have a senate or similarly formal representative body. Tensions between the faculty and administrators highlighted that fact in 2012, as some professors questioned the university’s partnership with the National University of Singapore to create a new college.

The vote was initiated by the Faculty Input Committee, an ad-hoc group of professors that investigated shared governance on campus, starting last year. Steve Wilkinson, a professor of political science who chaired the committee, said via email: “Our committee looked at a number of peer institutions and we realized that we’re an outlier. Most other universities, as their faculties have grown significantly in size, have moved from the traditional town meeting model to an elected representative body which reflects the broader faculty’s interests and concerns.”

Wilkinson said his own opinion was that a faculty senate was a good idea, regardless of the Singapore debate. “Universities are grappling with lots of big issues where faculty input is needed -- budget issues, MOOCs, internationalization, to name just a few – and faculty also have a role to play in providing advice on a whole host of other more routine issues that affect the [Faculty of Arts and Sciences],” he said.

A Yale spokesman said the President Peter Salovey will appoint a faculty committee early this semester to design the structure, staffing and rules of the new senate. The committee will report back to the full Faculty of Arts and Sciences by December for a vote on the plan.

January 15, 2014

Ties between libraries and their institutions' university presses are growing, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Association of American University Presses. A report issued with the survey results praises this collaboration, but urges both parties to work to avoid duplication of services and to coordinate their activities.

 

January 15, 2014

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to remove the name of Rahinah Ibrahim, a professor and dean of the architecture and engineering school at the University of Malaysia, from the no-fly list, the Associated Press reported. Ibrahim maintains that she is on the list by mistake, while federal officials have said that national security would be endangered if they were forced to reveal why people are on the list. Ibrahim has been barred from the United States since 2005, when she tried to attend an academic conference in Hawaii.

 

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