Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 6, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Benjamin Black of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses the connection between volcanism and one of the largest extinctions in Earth’s history. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

February 6, 2014

Cultural Anthropology, the flagship journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, became the latest scholarly journal to go open access with the publication of its February issue this week. Launched in 1986, the journal is the first published by the American Anthropological Association to go open access, the society noted in a press release.

February 6, 2014

The University of California at Los Angeles has revised its travel guidelines in the wake of an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The California-based news organization uncovered top officials bending travel rules to fly in business or first class and staying in luxury hotels. The revised rules, announced in an internal email from UCLA’s provost late last month, are designed to ensure employees make “prudent” arrangements. The internal email was first reported on and posted online by the UCLA student newspaper.

February 6, 2014

Brandeis University is offering buyouts to about 150 staffers amid an estimated $6.5 million deficit, The Boston Globe ​reports. Last month, the university paid nearly $5 million to its former president in deferred compensation and for unused sabbatical. A spokeswoman for the university told the paper the large payout to the president did not factor into the decision to offer the voluntary buyouts, which do not affect faculty members.

February 6, 2014

High school students with interest in science and technology fields aren't planning careers in STEM,  according to new ACT report.

Of the 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT, 48 percent had either expressed interest in the fields or their answers to the work task questionnaire portion of the test suggested STEM as a good job match. From that 48 percent, 23 percent plan to pursue STEM as a major or a career, even if the field isn’t the best match for them, based on their preferences. The report expresses concern about  the 9 percent who show some interest in working in a STEM field, but say they won’t pursue it as a career. Another issue: about half of the 2013 ACT test takers who planned to go into STEM weren’t ready to successfully succeed in first year college math or science, based on their educational backgrounds, according to the report. “Early assessment and intervention” are needed to help students, said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions.

February 6, 2014

A think tank's relatively crude analysis of how colleges might fare under a system that rated them on access, affordability and student success finds few institutions scoring high marks on all three, as it chooses to define them. The report by the American Enterprise Institute's Center on Higher Education Reform -- trying to anticipate how an Obama administration plan to rate colleges might play out -- examines the performance of 1,700 four-year colleges on three metrics: the proportion of their undergraduates who are eligible for Pell Grants for needy students, the six-year graduation rate of their students, and their net price -- all of which it concedes are imperfect, if not seriously flawed, measures.

It then plots the institutions on a scatter chart (see an interactive version here), and notes that just 19 colleges score at what it deems an appropriate level on all three measures: graduation rate above 50 percent, net price under $10,000, and Pell Grant percentage of at least 25 percent. 

With its simple formula and and unimpressive results, the report may affirm the worst fears of some critics of the Obama plan. But they are likely to agree with the authors' points about the warnings about some of the pitfalls facing the designers of the new system and at least some elements of the report's conclusion:

"In thinking through these issues, the president and his advisers must acknowledge that a poorly designed accountability system will likely do more harm than good, providing critics with the ammunition they need to roll back future efforts to hold colleges accountable. Designers would be wise to learn from the past and anticipate some of these potential pitfalls ahead of time. We still don’t know exactly what the ratings will measure and how the policy will work, but the data discussed here show just how much progress we have to make in order to create the high-quality, affordable postsecondary opportunities that Americans need."
February 5, 2014

Business and academic leaders and philanthropists on Tuesday unveiled TheDream.US, a program to provide scholarships to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Obama administration's deferred action initiative. The new program awarded an initial 39 scholarships to recipients, who must have financial need and meet academic requirements both prior to and after receiving the grants and have financial need. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive federal financial aid and are barred from many state programs as well.

A dozen colleges and universities have signed on to the program at its start. They are Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College and Kingsborough Community College in New York, part of the City University of New York; California State University at Long Beach, El Paso Community College, Long Beach City College, Miami Dade College, Mount Washington College, South Texas College, Trinity Washington University, and the University of Texas-Pan American and University of Texas at El Paso.

February 5, 2014

Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey, one of the top Democrats on the House education committee, announced Tuesday that he was resigning from Congress later this month.

Andrews told supporters that he was leaving Congress to join a Philadelphia-based law firm. He told The New York Times that his decision had nothing to do with an ethics investigation into his alleged misuse of his campaign funds.

Andrews has been a longtime supporter of for-profit colleges in Washington, especially compared with some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate who have been critical of the sector. He most recently joined a letter expressing concern over the Obama administration’s efforts to impose “gainful employment” regulations on the industry.  

Andrews's resignation follows the announcement last month by Representative George Miller, the top Democrat on the House education panel, that he will not seek re-election at the end of this year. 

February 5, 2014

In today's Academic Minutes, Jennifer Neal of Michigan State University reveals the assumptions that many children have about friendship and gender. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 5, 2014

For the first time in 35 years in which researchers have tracked the reading habits of American scientists, they report that the number of scientific papers they read each year has declined, Nature reported. In 2012, scientists estimated that they read, on average, 22 scholarly articles a month. That's a decline from 27 that they reported when the survey was last conducted, in 2005. The survey is a project of professors at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A majority of articles read in 2012 were read online, up from about 20 percent of articles read in 2005. However, the study found that 58 percent of articles read by scientists older than 60 were read on paper, although that includes printed versions of articles downloaded online.

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