Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 2, 2013

An analysis by USA Today has found 265 colleges at which the odds of students defaulting on their loans are greater than the odds of freshmen graduating. Nearly half of the colleges are for-profit institutions, and about one-third are community colleges. However, smaller shares of the students at community colleges borrow, and their loans are smaller, than at for-profit institutions.

 

July 2, 2013

A Stanford University alumnus with a history of major donations has given the university its largest gift ever, Stanford announced Monday. John Arrillaga's $151 million donation will support "a variety of university projects," Stanford said. Arrillaga is a real estate developer in Silicon Valley.

 

 

July 2, 2013

Johnson University, in Tennessee, and Florida Christian College merged Monday, creating the Johnson University System. Florida Christian will now be called Johnson University Florida, and the system will also offer courses online. Current enrollment in Florida is 371, while enrollment in Tennessee is 954.

July 2, 2013

The tendency of black students to enroll in urban and less-selective public universities and the fact that they attend high schools of lesser quality contribute to their lower graduation rates in college -- but the "primary driver" of the black-white graduation gap is a difference in "pre-entry" traits such as ACT scores and high school class rank, according to a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Though the study (abstract available here) is based on data from Missouri, the researchers suggest that the findings could apply nationally, although they cite several limitations, including that the data are derived only from public four-year universities in the state.

July 2, 2013

The American Association of University Professors on Monday issued a statement expressing concern about the recent decision of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to conduct a survey of the political climate at the Boulder campus. Regents said that they were concerned about liberal bias. The AAUP statement questioned whether the regents should be voicing views on the overall climate before having conducted a survey. And the AAUP statement noted that faculties are hardly as uniform as some critics suggest.

"To be sure, in some disciplines in the humanities, for instance, most faculty may consider themselves moderate to liberal," said the statement. "But in other disciplines, for instance, business, economics, or engineering, faculty views tend to be much more conservative. Political litmus tests, whether utilized in individual hiring decisions or in assessments of entire faculties or campus climates, are clear violations of the principles of academic freedom." The statement stressed that the results of the survey should not be used to influence faculty hiring or to impose political litmus tests.

 

July 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Anders Hakansson of the State University of New York at Buffalo reveals how a substance found in breast milk could turn the tide on drug-resistant superbugs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

July 2, 2013

These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar, to which campus and other officials can submit their own events. Our site also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education; please submit your news to both listings.

July 1, 2013

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law last week to encourage the state's K-12 and higher education systems to use massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

The law has narrower scope than early versions of the bill but its critics remain deeply concerned. An earlier proposal could have allowed anyone to create and seek “Florida-accredited” status for courses that Florida's public colleges and universities would have to granted credit for.

The bill Scott signed allows MOOCs, under certain conditions, to be used to help teach K-12 students in four subjects and also orders Florida education officials to study and set rules that would allow students who have yet to enroll in college to earn transfer credits by taking MOOCs.

Tom Auxter, the president of the 7,000-member United Faculty of Florida, said "intense and feverish" opposition from faculty helped scale back the plan. Still, he warned of a generation of "cheap and dirty" online courses offered to students before they enroll in college. “No matter how many times they use ‘quality,’ this is a cheapening of what higher education is all about,” Auxter warned, referring to supporters of MOOCs for credit.

Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes, who sponsored early versions of the bill, did not give the unions or faculty credit for the changes.

Much remains up in the air now, though. Brandes said he expected the scope of the law to eventually be expanded. Much will also be decided in coming months as state education officials study the issue and set rules about how to use MOOCs for college credit. “We’re giving them two years to set up all the rules and procedures they need to allow us to work with Udacity, or edX or Coursera to offer their wealth of knowledge in Florida,” Brandes said, referring to three MOOC providers.

Dean Florez, a former California state senator who leads the Twenty Million Minds Foundation and generally supports efforts to expand online education, said the Florida law encourages "practices that consider the future of the classroom from the early years into college.”

“Florida has recognized the opportunities inherent in MOOCs and in admirable fashion reached consensus on a bill incorporating all public education systems, from K-12 to higher ed,” he said in a statement. 

July 1, 2013

Last week's Supreme Court decision raises questions about whether colleges have explored race-neutral alternatives to the consideration of race in admissions decisions. An article in The Los Angles Times notes that the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles have had to explore race-neutral alternatives ever since the state in 1996 barred them from considering race. Both campuses have created and expanded various outreach efforts.

But black and Latino enrollments have still not recovered. At UCLA, black students made up 7.1 percent of the class admitted the year before consideration of race was banned. Last fall, they made up 3.6 percent of freshmen. At Berkeley, the fall was from 6.3 percent to 3.4 percent. Latino enrollments are also down, and although the drops are smaller, the state saw large increases during this time period in the share of Latinos in state high schools. Still, at UCLA, the percentage of Latinos dropped from 21.5 percent while consideration of race and ethnicity was allowed to 18.1 percent. At Berkeley, the drop was 15.5 percent to 13 percent.

July 1, 2013

City Colleges of Chicago has announced a strategic plan that aims to boost its graduation rate from 12 percent to more than 20 percent by 2018. The two-year system has also set a goal of increasing the number of degrees it issues each year by almost 40 percent. And it seeks for more than half of graduating students to transfer to four-year institutions. Cheryl L. Hyman, the system's chancellor, has promised to make improving student completion a priority. Graduation rates stood at 7 percent before her arrival in 2010.

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