Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 17, 2014

China has detained a Uighur scholar who has challenged the government on its treatment of ethnic minorities, The Wall Street Journal reported. Ilham Tohti, an economist at Minzu University of China, was detained after a raid on his Beijing home and has been accused of unspecified crimes. He has been critical of Chinese government policies in the western Xinjiang region, which is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority population. He has been detained before and last year was prevented from leaving China to take up his position as a visiting scholar at Indiana University.

January 17, 2014

Tucked away on page 1,020 of the 1,582-page spending bill winding its way through Congress, Section 527 of the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014’’ would make taxpayer funded research publicly available within 12 months of publication.

According to the bill, federal agencies must develop public access policies that provide a "machine-readable version of the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journal." The policy applies to all federal agencies with research and development expenditures exceeding $100 million a year. The proposal resembles that introduced last year by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, although it is not clear how Congress's involvement would affect the rollout of those policies.

The $1.1 trillion bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday, is expected to be signed into law.

January 17, 2014

The number of international students from outside the European Union at U.K. universities fell by 1 percent in 2012-13, the first decline since record-keeping began in the mid-'90s, Times Higher Education reported. The number of new Indian students has dropped particularly precipitously, falling by half in just two years. Times Higher Education notes that the new data, released Thursday by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, can be expected to heighten concerns among university leaders about the effects of the government’s push to curb immigration

January 16, 2014

The City University of New York on Wednesday named James B. Milliken, president of the University of Nebraska system, as its next chancellor. Milliken heads the four-campus Nebraska system, which, despite counting a Big Ten research university among its members, has a largely open-access mission, as does CUNY. He previously was a senior administrator at the University of North Carolina system.

Milliken replaces the interim chancellor William P. Kelly, who took that role after Matthew Goldstein retired after 14 years in CUNY's top job.

January 16, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Stanton of Syracuse University reveals efforts to represent large data sets using sound. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 16, 2014

A branch of Giant, a grocery store chain in the Washington, D.C., region, produced a circular to promote shopping by Howard University students returning to campus from break. The ad ended up offending many Howard students, Washington Business Journal reported, because it features a white woman and Howard is a historically black college. A spokesman for Giant said that "unfortunately an incorrect stock photo was used in the ad and we apologize for this oversight."

January 16, 2014

The U.S. Education Department plans to provide guidance counselors and state agencies with more information about students who are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, Obama administration officials said Wednesday at the department's so-called "Datapalooza" event.

The goal is to boost the rate at which students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, complete the FAFSA.

The department will “responsibly” share data with high school guidance counselors on which of their students have begun the FAFSA so they can work with those students on actually completing the forms, according to a department fact sheet. Department officials will also share that information with state student aid agencies “early” this year, the White House announced separately on Thursday.  

The department is also eyeing the development of a FAFSA Application Program Interface, a set of web protocols that would allow developers to build third-party services and applications that work with the complicated form, which is currently available only through the government’s website, FAFSA.gov.

Officials will soon issue a formal request for information and feedback on how the department might develop feeds (known as application programming interfaces, or APIs) of “key education data, programs and frequently used forms,” including the FAFSA, the department said.

James H. Shelton, the department’s assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, told attendees that a FAFSA API would be useful in expanding the way students, families and others use the form. For instance, he said, the department has talked with KIPP charter schools about how they might be able to submit all of their students’ FAFSA forms at once.

The announcement came at a symposium Wednesday where Obama administration officials highlighted companies, nonprofit and academic groups that have used government data to build products and services aimed at helping students prepare for, apply to, and select a college. The Datapalooza event on Wednesday attracted more than 500 entrepreneurs, software developers and education technology experts.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told attendees that his goal was to reduce the amount of time it takes to obtain degree and promote competency-based education. The administration is currently soliciting ideas on how it should waive federal student aid rules to certain colleges who want to experiment with innovations that will reduce the cost of higher education. 

January 16, 2014

The compromise appropriations bill that has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate approval does not contain the measure in last year's bill that barred most National Science Foundation support for political science. The ban -- pushed by Republicans who would like to limit NSF support for the social sciences generally -- stunned political scientists. They are hopeful that the current appropriations plan will stay intact.

 

January 16, 2014

About 23 percent of students who receive college credit while still enrolled in high school obtain an associate degree within two years, making them far more likely to do so than peers who do not earn college credit in high school, a new study shows.

Those students attend what are called Early College high schools, which team up with colleges and universities to allow the students to receive up to two years of college credit that can go toward an associate degree. By comparison, only 2 percent of students at high schools without Early College programs went on to receive an associate degree within two years. The study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research, reports that 81 percent of the Early College students enrolled in college, compared to only 72 percent of students who attended other high schools.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Early College High School Initiative in 2002, to help underserved students earn college degrees. The students were in ninth grade during the 2005-6, 2006-7 or 2007-8 academic years. Some were followed for almost nine years. The new study updates an earlier one, providing an additional year of postsecondary data.

“With the most recent data, all students in the study would have had at least two years after high school to earn an associate’s degree if they progressed on a traditional timeline,” said Andrea Berger, a principal researcher at AIR in a press release.

January 15, 2014

The federal government should create a matching grant program to reward states that maintain and increase their funding for public colleges, by linking the maximum Pell Grant awarded to students in states to per-student funding or higher education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities argues in a new report. The paper documents the decline in states' funding per full-time equivalent college student since 2000 and the role that trend has played in driving up tuition prices (and student debt). 

The report asserts that the federal government can influence state behavior, citing the maintenance of effort provisions that were inserted into the federal stimulus legislation (and other measures) that provided funds to states that kept their own spending on higher education above certain thresholds. Those efforts have not gone far enough, though, AASCU argues, by rewarding states that at least maintained their spending no matter whether their levels were high or low. "A new model is needed that acknowledges existing levels of per-student state support for public higher education and that strategically leverages federal dollars to incentivize additional state investment."

The association calls for a matching grant program of up to $15 billion a year, with grants to states based on how much money they provide per student compared to the Pell Grant maximum award. (A state's federal grant award would be cut if it reduced its spending on public university operating support.)

The proposed additional spending of billions a year may seem like an unlikely luxury in an era when members of Congress are bickering over millions, but AASCU suggests that funds for the program could be derived from "better gatekeeping of institutional eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs (particularly for for-profit colleges), and "risk sharing" for federal student loans.

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