Higher Education Quick Takes
A federal report released Tuesday highlights significant gaps that exist in access to and persistence in American higher education by race and gender -- but has little to say about the sizable inequities that divide Americans from low-income backgrounds from those higher up the income ladder. The statistics in the report track the progress of students by race and gender from early education through their performance in college.
More than two dozen past chairs of Pennsylvania State University's Faculty Senate have drafted a statement that blasts the National Collegiate Athletic Association of misusing the university-commissioned investigative report into its child abuse scandal to "justify its collective punishment of the entire University community." At its first meeting of the new academic year, the university's current Faculty Senate discussed the scandal that ripped the university apart throughout much of last year, and debated a set of questions about the implications of the controversy, the NCAA penalties, and other matters.
About 470,000 students are on waiting lists for courses at community colleges in California, according to a survey due to be released today, The Los Angeles Times reported. The survey by the state's community college system noted numerous impacts, such as the waiting lists, of a series of deep budget cuts in recent years:
- Enrollment has dropped 17 percent, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-9 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12. More declines are expected this year.
- The number of class sections decreased 24 percent from 522,727 in 2008-9 to 399,540 in 2011-12.
- Two-thirds of community colleges in the state report that students are facing longer wait times to see counselors on academic or financial issues, with an average wait time of 12 days.
The American Political Science Association announced Tuesday that it is canceling this year's annual meeting, which had been scheduled for this week in New Orleans. The APSA originally postponed the start from Wednesday to Thursday, given the hurricane that hit the region Tuesday night. On Monday, the association expressed confidence that people could arrive in time for Thursday sessions, but social media sites have been full of reports of people announcing that they were not going, and that sessions were going to be canceled.
A statement posted on the association website said: "A primary function of the association is to provide the highest quality meeting experience possible. In light of revised information we have from local officials about the trajectory of Isaac, we now anticipate the potential for sustained rain, flooding, power outages and severely restricted transportation into the city on Thursday. Under these circumstances, it is not prudent to convene the meeting.... For all attendees, we will provide additional refund information as soon as we are able. Please bear with us while we work with our vendors and local partners to provide you with detailed information."
Michael Brintnall, executive director of the APSA, said via e-mail that the association was "trying to assess all the implications." He said that the association does "carry meeting insurance to cover both meeting cancellations of this sort, and attenuated attendance had we carried on."
For years, one recruitment tool for colleges has been to buy names of students who take standardized tests, score at certain levels and meet various other criteria. At a time that many colleges are pushing to recruit more foreign students, the Educational Testing Service and Hobsons have announced a new product applying the idea to those taking the TOEFL, one of the exams that foreign applicants may take to demonstrate competence in English. Under the new program, those taking the TOEFL will indicate their willingness to be included in a database from which colleges may purchase names of potential applicants meeting criteria selected by the colleges.
Students who earn associate degrees from for-profit colleges see substantial earnings returns and, in some cases, outperform their peers who hold two-year degrees from community colleges, according to a new research paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. However, students who drop out of two-year degree tracks at for-profits fare worse in the labor market than do their counterparts at community colleges, found the study, which was authored by Stephanie Riegg Cellini, an assistant professor of public policy at George Washington University, and Latika Chaudhary, an assistant professor of economics at Scripps College.
A U.S. district court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit over the mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception from Wheaton College, the evangelical college in Illinois, saying the suit was premature. In its original lawsuit, Wheaton said it was exempt from the administration's one-year "safe harbor" before insurance would have to begin covering all forms of contraception at no cost for female employees, because it had covered some forms of birth control -- including emergency contraception -- on Feb. 10, the cutoff date for the safe harbor.
Since that filing, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance that would make Wheaton eligible for the safe harbor, because the college was attempting to end contraception coverage when the safe harbor deadline expired. The Washington, D.C., district court found that Wheaton did not have standing to sue the administration and that the suit was premature because enforcement does not begin until Aug. 1, 2013.
The suit is the third to be dismissed in recent weeks. Belmont Abbey College, a Roman Catholic college in North Carolina, lost a similar court challenge in D.C. in July, as did a suit from several states and Catholic employers (but no colleges) in Nebraska.
In Quebec on Monday, many classes resumed at universities that had effectively been shut down by student strikes, CBC News reported. Most student unions have voted to end their strikes, and a controversial provincial law ordered the resumption of classes. But at the University of Montreal and at the University of Quebec at Montreal, some students remained on strike and attempted to block courses from taking place. Authorities arrested 19 protesters at the University of Montreal.