Higher Education Quick Takes
The Pew Research Center today released a survey of academics, entrepreneurs, I.T. workers and various other "experts and stakeholders" that was designed to glean whether colleges and universities are likely to undergo significant changes by the year 2020.
The survey's 1,021 respondents were asked to choose which of the following scenarios is more likely to come true in the next seven and a half years: a) Not much will have changed, aside from the proliferation of certain mobile and classroom technologies, and "most universities will mostly require in-person, on-campus attendance of students most of the time at courses featuring a lot of traditional lectures" and assessment methods; or b) Self-paced learning, online "hybrid" courses will have become par for the course at most universities, and assessment will have shifted to "more individually oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery."
Sixty percent of respondents predicted that the latter is more likely to be true, and 39 percent endorsed the former, more conservative prospectus. (The remaining 1 percent did not respond to the question.) The survey, administered by Pew's Internet & American Life Project in concert with Elon University, framed the questions as a stark dichotomy in order to provoke strong responses. But it noted that respondents revealed many shades of gray in their qualified responses, and that "a significant number of survey participants said the true outcome will encompass portions of both scenarios."
The sample was admittedly nonrandom, and purposefully sought out self-identifying "futurists," "entrepreneurs" and "advocates," among other experts.
A faculty study of athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has called for an outside review of the relationship between athletics and academics at the university, The News and Observer reported. The panel concluded that recent scandals were not isolated incidents, but reflected broader problems, such as poor oversight, improper roles for athletes' academic counselors and a culture in which faculty members feel shut out of decisions about athletics programs.
Louisburg College, a private two-year institution in North Carolina, wants to move the grave of its first president (who died in 1809) to a site on campus, but the relatives of the first president don't like the idea, WRAL News reported. Louisburg officials feel that the current grave site is in a cemetery that has been neglected. But family members say that moving the first president's grave will disrupt the resting spots of other relatives as well.
The College of William & Mary and the Eastern Virginia Medical School announced Wednesday that they are discussing the possibility of the medical school becoming a part of the college. Statements from the two institutions stressed that no final decision had been made, and that any merger would require state approval.
New York City Council on Wednesday approved a series of zoning changes that will allow for a major expansion of New York University, The New York Times reported. The project involves new academic building, dormitories and other spaces and "will change the look and feel of Greenwich Village more than almost any other project in decades," the Times reported. Many in the neighborhood oppose the expansion plan, but the final vote by the City Council was 44-to-1.
A professor at the University of Texas at Austin is facing questions about his credibility after a nonprofit watchdog group said that he did not reveal ties to a drilling company as he led a study on hydraulic fracturing that found that the process produced no groundwater contamination. “UT promoted the study as an independent inquiry into fracking’s environmental risks, but PAI found that the study was actually led by a gas industry insider and UT faculty member, Charles ‘Chip’ Groat, who sits on the board of fracker Plains Exploration & Production (PXP),” according to the introduction to the report by the Public Accountability Initiative, the watchdog group.
After the watchdog group published its report, the Austin American-Statesman reviewed SEC filings and found that Groat had been paid $413,900 in cash and stock by the company last year and holds $1.6 million of the company’s stock. Groat called the report a mix of truth, half-truths and unfounded conclusions, according to StateImpact, an NPR project with local public radio stations that examines public policy issues. The university said Tuesday that it would ask outside experts to review the fracking study, according to StateImpact.
The Public Accountability Initiative recently raised questions about a study on fracking at the State University of New York at Buffalo, as more and more universities become battlegrounds for debates over the issue.
While Pell Grants would be safe even if deep, mandatory cuts to domestic spending go into effect early next year, many other education programs would be at risk, according to a report released Wednesday by Senator Tom Harkin. The Iowa Democrat's report singled out TRIO and GEAR UP, two programs that prepare low-income students for college, saying that the programs could lose $90 million if sequestration goes into effect, eliminating services to more than 100,000 students. During a Senate hearing Wednesday on the effects of the spending cuts, which will take hold in January if Congress does not act on a long-term debt reduction plan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said student loan processing would also be affected.
President Obama announced Wednesday night that he is planning to create a new office to focus on the needs of African-American students at all levels of education, NBC News reported. The office will work with all federal agencies so that "so every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born to the time, all through the time they get a career," Obama said in an address to the Urban League.