Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 3, 2013

Local work force development organizations face numerous challenges as they seek to help employers fill some jobs that require skilled labor, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Job seekers often do not have the money, transportation or child care options to be able to pursue suggested training, the report found. And many lack the basic skills needed to participate in training programs. 

The report found that in 80 percent of local areas, employers had difficulty filling "middle skilled" jobs (such as welders, truck drivers or machinists) because the positions require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Workers often lack the support to get that training, according to the GAO. To help deal with this problem the U.S. Department of Labor recommends the use of a "career pathways" approach, which combines job training with basic skills education and support services. But little is known about how broadly that approach is being used, the report said.

December 3, 2013

Julius Nyang'oro, the former chair and former professor of African studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was indicted Monday on a felony charge of accepting $12,000 for a course he did not teach, The News & Observer reported. The charge is a lower level felony, authorities said, and unlikely even upon a conviction to lead to jail time. But the indictment is another milestone in a scandal about no-show courses -- many of them taken by athletes. Nyang'oro -- who has not commented on the allegations -- left his faculty position as the university stepped up its investigation in the classes.

 

 

December 3, 2013

A federal judge on Monday approved a plea agreement under which Anna Catalan, formerly an administrator at Santiago Canyon College, was sentenced to 21 months in jail for stealing student aid, The Orange County Register reported. Some of the money she took was for her family members or on behalf of students who didn't qualify for the federal support. But in other cases, she took money that was supposed to go to students who qualified for the aid, and she told the students that there was no money for them. Without a plea agreement, she faced up to 20 years in jail.

December 3, 2013

The University of California at Santa Barbara and local health authorities on Monday confirmed that a fourth student at the university has contracted meningitis. The outbreak at UCSB -- combined with a larger outbreak at Princeton University -- has many campus health officials concerned. Health officials in California are stepping up efforts to provide antibiotics to students who may have been exposed to meningitis and to discourage activities such as large parties that may increase the chances of the disease's spread.

 

December 3, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Justin Denney of Rice University reveals the connection between social status and the likelihood of death in a preventable accident. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 2, 2013

Norway's new conservative government appears to have been defeated in its attempt to impose tuition on those from outside the European Union who enroll at universities in the country. Norway's EU obligations prevent it from charging Europeans tuition, but it could charge those from outside Europe, as Denmark and Sweden have recently done and as the new government proposed. News in English Norway reported that advocates for tuition say that those outside the country and region are not contributing to Norway's tax base, and their tuition payments could improve the quality of education. Many deans, however, fear that tuition would scare off many foreign students, as happened when Sweden started charging non-Europeans. The two small coalition partners in the new government killed the proposal last week when they voted against it.

 

December 2, 2013

An article in The Miami Herald explores links between a for-profit college whose founder spent big on political contributions and a legislator who helped the college. Rep. Carlos Trujillo did legal work for the Dade Medical College and the Herald reported that his sister-in-law attends the college free. The Republican lawmaker also successfully sponsored legislation that loosened requirements in the state for physical therapy assistant programs -- a change in the law that allowed for a rapid expansion of the college's programs in the field. The measure became law as a last-minute amendment to a bill on another topic, and the newspaper reported that it could "ultimately boost Dade Medical’s revenues by millions of dollars." The newspaper also said that critics believe the state went too far, and may leave students at risk of enrolling in programs with "watered down standards." Trujillo said he did not know his sister-in-law's financial aid status, and denied any conflict of interest.

 

December 2, 2013

Many at San Jose State University are reacting with shock and outrage to the alleged racial harassment -- for a period of months -- of a black student by the white students with whom he shared a suite. But just two years ago, the administration commissioned a report on diversity on campus, and that study found black students reported a hostile atmosphere that needed changes to be more inclusive, The San Jose Mercury News reported. A sociology professor who wrote the report, Susan Bell Murray, said that after she submitted the report, the administration essentially thanked her but did nothing to publicize or act on the findings. A spokeswoman for the university said that the issues outlined in the report were in fact important to the administration, which was always committed to working on them.

 

December 2, 2013

At least a quarter of the gap in college participation rates between lower and middle class students and upper class students in Australia, Britain and the United States cannot be explained by academic achievement, according to new research released by the Sutton Trust, a British think tank. The study looked at the academic preparation and enrollment patterns in different countries, with an emphasis on trying to be sure that the better success levels of wealthier students in enrolling in higher education can't be attributed only to their better preparation. And the study said that it can't be. The study was conducted by John Jerrim of the Institute of Education at the University of London.

He found that in the United States, children of professionals are 3.3 times more likely to go to leading public universities than are working class children, and that about 40 percent of the difference cannot be explained by differences in academic achievement. At top private universities, he said, the gap is even larger, and 52 percent of the difference cannot be explained by academic achievement.

December 2, 2013

IT security problems in the Maricopa County Community College District may have put the personal information of almost 2.5 million students, employees and suppliers at risk, the institutions warned on Wednesday. 

Federal law enforcement alerted the district to the problems in April, setting off a review that would eventually unearth vulnerabilities that exposed "sensitive information including individual names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and bank account information, but not credit card information or health records." The district is not aware of any actual security breaches, however.

MCCCD, which consists of 10 colleges in the greater Phoenix region, has partnered with Kroll Advisory Solutions, a cybersecurity company, to address the vulnerabilities. The district may also replace employees that "did not meet the district’s standards and expectations," according to a press release.

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