Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

A new law in Washington State, requiring that all statutes be converted to gender-neutral language, has led to the elimination of all "freshmen," (at least as an official term), Reuters reported. From now on, they will legally be "first-year students."


Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

California's Senate education committee is expected to vote next week on a newly amended plan to allow online courses from unaccredited providers to count for credit at the state's three college and university systems.

The committee on Wednesday heard an hour of discussion about the bill, SB 520. The bill's sponsor, Democratic State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- who is the leader of the Senate -- showed up to defend the bill against a parade of opposition by faculty representatives from unions and the state's academic senates. Student support for the idea, which is meant to expand access to over-enrolled lower division classes and lower costs for students, also appeared mixed.

Steinberg offered three new amendments to his bill, which he also amended last week. He said the new amendments will prevent public money from going to private companies and make it possible that colleges can develop their own classes without being forced to turn to outside providers, although seeking aid from private sector technology companies remains a key impetus for the legislation. 

“What are you afraid of?" Steinberg said to faculty who attended the hearing to oppose the bill. "What are you afraid of?”

Faculty representatives expressed concern that unproven private sector companies would be put in charge of students' education. They argued that the solution to access problems in California is more funding for the public higher education systems.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., which has attracted attention for its major purchases of gold, is shifting strategy a bit, Bloomberg reported. With gold prices falling, the Texas fund sold $375 million in gold bars (from a total of what had been $1.4 billion in such holdings) and used the proceeds to buy gold futures and equities.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Hans Larsson of McGill University discusses the evolutionary pressures that influenced the development of flight in birds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 4:28am

While many educators and politicians say that colleges need to increase science and technology enrollments to meet workforce demands, a study being released today suggests that there is no shortage of STEM workers. The study -- by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan but liberal leaning think tank -- finds that:

  • Students have already responded to the interest in STEM by majoring in science and technology fields in sufficient numbers to meet workforce demands.
  • Only one of every two STEM graduates finds a job in a related field.
  • In computer and information science and in engineering, colleges in the United States are graduating 50 percent more students each year than there are jobs in those fields.
  • Of computer science graduates who do not enter the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because they could not find an IT job, and 53 percent say they found better jobs outside of IT.


Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

Montana State University will decertify its faculty union after the affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association conceded defeat in a referendum brought by faculty members who wanted to end collective bargaining. The union had challenged four ballots after a preliminary results showed the faculty members favoring decertification held a five-vote lead. The Montana Board of Personnel Appeals has yet to release an official notice of decertification.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 4:31am

The University of Indianapolis is shutting down its campus in Greece. "[E]conomic conditions in Greece have made it very difficult to continue [operations] according to the high standards of the university and the expectations of our accrediting agency," said a statement from the university. The university will continue an M.B.A. program it operates in Greece for students from Saudi Arabia, and plans to "use that financially viable program as a model for developing new programs on a contract basis," the statement added.


Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- When choosing a college, most prospective students are more in need of help navigating already-available data than they are of more disclosures from colleges and universities, witnesses told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training during a hearing Wednesday. The hearing, on college transparency, focused less on what colleges should be telling prospective students and more on what can be done to make that information accessible and understandable. Witnesses, including Donald Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, said they doubted information on students' salaries after graduation was enlightening, although requiring colleges to provide those data has received bipartisan support in Congress in recent months. Students need "better information, not just data," Heller said.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 4:34am

Robert Shearer, formerly the director of environmental health and occupational safety at San Francisco State University, has been charged with 128 felonies related to allegedly taking bribes to award a waste-disposal contract that cost the institution millions of dollars, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The bribes allegedly included $183,000, plane tickets for international travel and a Volvo. Shearer has appeared in court, but has not entered a plea in the case.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 3:00am

Only 28 percent of students at Taiwan's universities say that they interact with faculty members, and only 36 percent participate in class discussions, according to a new study, Taipei Times reported. The study comes at a time that some educators in the country want to encourage students to move beyond memorization to a more active concept of learning. Professors are being urged to ask more open-ended questions in class, so students would be less fearful of having an incorrect answer.



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