Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The Council of the American Sociological Association released a statement this week criticizing the federal government for seeking to force a Boston College library to turn over to British law enforcement officials confidential oral history records. The case remains in the courts and has caused considerable alarm among historians who rely on oral history. (The documents in question relate to a violent period in the history of Northern Ireland, with many key players still alive and not expecting their interviews to be public until after their deaths.) The statement from the sociology group says, in part: "The release of the 'Belfast Project' interview data threatens the academic freedom to study difficult and controversial topics. It undercuts the willingness of potential participants in future research to share valuable information. In the short run, such intrusion in research seeking to understand past tragedies can harm the processes through which Northern Ireland now seeks political stability. And in the long run, we must weigh the potential damage to social science that can provide a firmer knowledge base for avoiding these types of conflicts in the future."

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

For the first time ever, just over 30 percent of adults in the United States, aged 25 or older, have at least a bachelor's degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. In 1998, not even 25 percent of the comparable population had a bachelor's degree. The data show numerous gaps among members of various groups:

  • Fifty percent of Asian Americans 25 years and over reported having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011. This level of education was reported by 34 percent of white people, 20 percent of black people and 14 percent of Hispanic people.
  • Of the 61 million people 25 and over with bachelor’s degrees, 30 million were men and 31 million were women. The number of women with bachelor's degrees increased 37 percent in the last decade, while the increase for men was 23 percent.
  • The number of men 25 years old and over with doctorate degrees increased 24 percent in the last decade, from 1.5 million to 1.9 million. The increase for women was 90 percent, from 0.6 million to 1.2 million.
Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The federal government has subpoenaed information from Pennsylvania State University related to the child sex abuse case that forced the resignations of several top administrators and the university's renowned football coach, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A university spokeswoman confirmed the existence of the information request, but declined to provide any information about the nature of the information requested about Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach whose alleged sexual assaults of children have brought state charges against him and two former Penn State administrators. The subpoenas came from the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg, whose officials could not be reached by the Inquirer Thursday.

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Students attending for-profit colleges received $280 million of the $563 million spent last year by the Department of Defense on tuition assistance for active-duty members of the military, according to a new study by the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Six for-profit college companies collected 41 percent of the total expenditure.

The study also analyzed Department of Defense spending on on education benefits for military spouses. For-profits received $40 million of that $65 million, with $12 million going to for-profits that are not eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs. As the report noted, those institutions operate outside of the government's "regulatory regime set up to ensure minimal levels of program integrity."

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 4:22am

Bryn Mawr College announced Thursday that it will host a workshop by the gay performance artist Tim Miller, whose scheduled appearance was called off by Villanova University officials, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Bryn Mawr program will be open to Villanova students. The cancellation of Miller's faculty-invited appearance at Villanova has angered many faculty members there and elsewhere, who see the move as a violation of academic freedom. A statement from Bryn Mawr said: "Bryn Mawr College is a community of scholars with a long history of honoring freedom of expression.... Bryn Mawr's commitment to freedom of expression means that speakers who conduct themselves within the college's general guidelines are entitled to express their ideas without hindrance, no matter how unpopular or controversial their ideas might be."

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

For-profit colleges will grow as they continue to fill a gap left by public higher education, which cannot keep pace with demand thanks to slumping government support, according to a new study by John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley. That growth will not be due to well-thought-out policy, and will happen despite concerns about the performance of for-profits, Douglass writes. This "policy default" in the United States follows a pattern in Brazil, South Korea and Poland -- dubbed "the Brazilian Effect" -- that will encourage lower-quality institutions and fail to meet national educational goals, the study predicts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- The Georgetown University law student who one week ago wasn't permitted to speak at a Congressional hearing on whether President Obama's birth control mandate violates religious liberties spoke here Wednesday night at a gathering of the American Association of University Women. In an interview before the pro-choice panel event, Sandra Fluke lamented that the student voice has been largely absent from a national debate that has tempers flaring over whether Roman Catholic and other religious institutions should be required to cover contraception in their insurance policies, including student health plans. "I think that unfortunately, some folks assume that young people's reproductive health is less important or less of a priority than other adults'," said Fluke, who chose Georgetown despite its policy, she said, because she didn't want to forgo a quality education and the other values she shares with the university. "Students have been invisible in this." About 2,000 colleges offer student health plans, and estimates of how many students are enrolled in them range from 1.1 million to 4.5 million. (The health care overhaul's effect on such plans has been controversial for other reasons as well.)

Students are also marginalized, Fluke said, because of their often precarious personal financial situations and a campus political structure that allows administrators to brush them off easily. "They know that each one of us is there for three years and they can outlast us," said Fluke, who has been lobbying her administration on this and other women's health coverage issues for as many years. "[Students] need to know that this kind of treatment on college campuses is not acceptable and they should come out fighting." Even though students are active on the issue on campuses across the country and are paying great attention to the dialogue at the federal level, she said, they're not yet organized enough to connect and advocate nationally. Panelists said students should write letters to editors and continue using social media to put pressure on legislators, particularly by posting their local representatives' contact information.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University reveals the positive and negative side of exposure to video games. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 4:37am

A Virginia jury on Wednesday convicted George Huguely V of second-degree murder in the death of Yeardly Love in 2010, The Washington Post reported. The case, involving lacrosse players at the University of Virginia, attracted national attention to the issue of domestic violence among college students. Huguely did not deny that he played a role in Love's death, but his lawyers had urged a conviction of manslaughter, while prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction.

 

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 4:38am

The Michigan Legislators is trying to block graduate research assistants at the University of Michigan from unionizing. AnnArbor.com reported that the Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to define the graduate assistants as students, ineligible for collective bargaining. Michigan's Board of Regents has backed unionization rates for the students, but many administrators have criticized the union drive.

 

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