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.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
An Ohio appeals court ruled last week that the University of Toledo violated its contract with the faculty union by not consulting with it on a planned reorganization, The Toledo Blade reported. The ruling upheld a similar finding by an arbitrator. But it is unclear what impact the decision will have as the reorganization took place in 2010.
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.
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.
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.
A New Jersey judge has refused to dismiss a suit by residents of Princeton, N.J., challenging the tax-exempt status of much property at Princeton University, The Times of Trenton reported. Like challenges to the tax-exempt status of college and university facilities elsewhere, the suit argues that some facilities are used for purposes removed from Princeton's educational missions. But the novel argument (disputed by the university) in the suit is that because of Princeton's extensive activities with patent royalty income -- and the sharing of that income with faculty members -- Princeton has become a commercial enterprise, and thus should pay taxes.
St. Augustine's University announced Friday that it has reassigned two employees, both convicted murderers who have been working on a summer camp run by the university, the Associated Press reported. One of the employees was convicted of murder in 1981 and the other in 2003. The university said that there have been no complaints about their performance. ABC News, however, quoted local parents as saying that they would want to know if employees of a program involving children had been convicted in murders.
A proposed expansion of the Erasmus program, which funds student mobility across Europe, is in the works. The Irish Presidency of the European Union announced last week that it had brokered a €16 billion (approximately $20.8 billion) deal for Erasmus +, which for the first time would support international initiatives in education, training, youth and sport under a single umbrella. Under the agreement, more than 4 million people would receive EU grants for education and training opportunities from 2014 to 2020, nearly doubling current numbers.
The agreement is pending approval by the European Parliament.