Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 22, 2013

The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.

But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.

May 22, 2013

Coursera and edX, the two major providers of massive open online courses, continue to partner with more institutions. On Tuesday, edX, a nonprofit started with money from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced it has 15 new partners, including a half dozen in Asia. Both edX and Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based company, have recently touted the global nature of their efforts. Coursera last week gained a prestigious domestic partner: Yale University, which had been taking its time to reflect.

 

 

May 22, 2013

An amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the mark-up of the comprehensive immigration reform bill would allow undocumented students who entered the U.S. under age 16 and who are granted registered provisional immigrant status under the DREAM Act to qualify for federal loans and federal work-study. Immigrant farm workers with blue card status would also qualify. 

The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was proposed by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. The committee approved the immigration bill in its entirety in a 13-5 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor.

May 22, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Sarah Feakins of the University of Southern California explores the role environmental factors played in the origin of bipedalism. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 22, 2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday revived a bias lawsuit against Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge that had been dismissed by a lower court. In the case, a woman passed over as police chief said she was denied the position of police chief based on illegal gender bias, and was retaliated against for raising complaints about her treatment. The appeals court said that there was sufficient evidence for a full trial on the case. For example, the court noted that her application received no response and that a man got the job, even though a college degree was a requirement for the position, she had bachelor's and master's degrees, and the man lacked a college degree. While LSU offered non-discriminatory reasons for her dismissal, the appeals court said that the evidence in its entirety was sufficient for the case to go forward.

 

May 21, 2013

Three New York University scientists were charged Monday in connection with a conspiracy to accept payments from competing research entities in China in exchange for providing proprietary information about research funded by a National Institutes of Health grant. The three researchers, who were studying MRI technology, allegedly maintained undisclosed financial affiliations with United Imaging Healthcare, a Chinese medical imaging company, and the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology, a Chinese government-sponsored research institute.

 “As alleged, this is a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse,” Preet Bharara, a U.S.  Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release. “These defendants allegedly colluded with representatives from a Chinese governmental entity and a direct competitor of the university for which they worked to illegally acquire NIH-funded research for the benefit of those entities, as described in the complaint. The defendants also allegedly deceived the university and others about their professional allegiances to competing Chinese interests. The acquisition of federally funded research for the benefit of these Chinese entities is a serious crime and will not be tolerated by this office.”

Yudong Zhu, Xing Yang, and Ye Li are each charged with one count of criminal bribery conspiracy. Zhu is also charged with one count of falsification of records in regards to the NIH grant. Zhu and Yang have been released on bail, as Reuters reported, but Li is believed to have returned to China before charges were brought. As Reuters noted in its report, the case against the three researchers comes at a time when there is increased concern about Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets.

May 21, 2013

"I don't apologize for any of my writing," says Jason Richwine, whose 2009 Harvard University Ph.D. dissertation has received much scrutiny over the last 10 days. The dissertation argues that there will be a long-term gap in the IQs of Latino immigrants and their offspring, and critics at Harvard and elsewhere said that he lacked evidence to back his theory, and was providing intellectual support for racist ideas. Richwine was the author of a Heritage Foundation report on immigration, and critics of the report pointed to the dissertation to raise questions about why anyone was listening to Richwine and whether he deserved a Harvard Ph.D. On Monday, National Review published an essay by Richwine reflecting on the controversy. He said he regretted that the controversy over the dissertation took attention away from the Heritage report.

As for the dissertation, he defends it. "I realize that IQ selection rubs some people the wrong way, but it can hardly be called 'extremist.' Canada and Australia intentionally favor highly educated immigrants. My proposal is based on the same principle they use (pick skilled immigrants), but it offers a much better chance for disadvantaged people to be selected. If the dissertation were taken seriously, its real contribution would be to open a forthright debate about the assimilation challenge posed by the post-1965 immigration wave. Because regardless of what one believes IQ scores really measure, or what determines them, they are undeniably predictive of a wide variety of socioeconomic outcomes that people care about."

Numerous letters and petition are circulating that are critical of Richwine. One -- called Scholars Against Scientific Racism -- says: "We are a group of 1000 scholars (and counting) opposed to scientific racism -- the use of science or social science to argue that a racialized group is inferior. Jason Richwine’s dissertation is an example of scientific racism and this work has no place in twenty-first century academia."

 

May 21, 2013

The California Assembly on Monday passed a bill that would authorize community colleges to charge out-of-state tuition to in-state residents for some courses during the summer and winter terms, The Sacramento Bee reported. The idea is that some students are able and willing to pay much more for courses at a time that the community college system can't create enough sections to meet student demand. But the concept -- tried and then abandoned last year by Santa Monica College -- angers many who see it as inconsistent with the mission of community colleges to offer quality education for all. The new chancellor of the state's community college system has questioned both the philosophy and legality of two tiered tuition.

Das Williams, author of the bill passed Monday, said that he realized that the legislation wasn't perfect, but he said something needs to be done to create more class sections. "Stakeholders ... want the perfect solution, and I understand why they do. But, holding out for the perfect solution when people are suffering is wrong. The conclusion I came to is it would be a failing on my part ethically to take the easy path," he said.

But Shirley Weber, another Assembly member, spoke against the bill even though she said it would help her son, a community college student. "I would never want him to believe that because mom has a little more money and this is a state-funded institution that I can afford to pay for him to have experiences faster than anyone else at the institution," she said. "For me, it's a fundamental issue of access and what the community college has stood for all these years in California."

May 21, 2013

The University of California at Irvine on Monday named Howard Gillman as its next provost and executive vice chancellor -- despite opposition from some faculty members. Gillman was formerly dean of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California, and Irvine's announcement praised his role in helping to enhance departments at USC. But the Irvine Faculty Association, citing discussions with some professors at USC, last week issued a public letter -- upon learning that Gillman was a finalist for the provost job -- urging that he not be appointed.

The letter questioned the way he has interacted with faculty members, and specifically said that faculty members in American studies and ethnic studies did not feel he had treated them fairly in tenure reviews. On Monday, a student-faculty group also issued a letter questioning the appointment. Irvine released a Q&A with Gillman in which the university characterized the criticism as coming from "a small group of faculty members," and asked him about the concerns. He said that the criticism "is not based on facts."

May 21, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Phil Fisher of the University of Oregon reveals infants' ability to pick up on the tone of conversations around them. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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