Higher Education Quick Takes
A new ad by the pro-Romney American Crossroads Super PAC tells young voters that President Obama hasn't been good for their interests. The ad uses a statistic that would scare many college students (not to mention parents): 85 percent of college graduates are moving back in with their parents.
But PolitiFact -- a fact-checking operation of The Tampa Bay Times -- tried to track down that statistic, and couldn't find any proof for it. The best data PolitiFact could find are from the Pew Research Center, which found that among adults ages 18 to 29, 42 percent who have graduated college live with their parents. At the same time, the figure of those 25 to 29 with or without a college degree who never moved out or moved back in with their parents is 41 percent. Figures in the 40s may not comfort students or parents either, but they fall short of 85 percent.
"Degrees of Debt," a series of articles in The New York Times this week, explores the impact of rising student debt with compelling stories of individual borrowers and their families. The series has generated considerable discussion among higher education leaders, many of whom don't dispute the central premise that some students are borrowing more than is appropriate. But some are objecting to a key statistic and the choice of examples in the series. The series opens with an example of a woman who borrowed $120,000 for an undergraduate degree, and goes on to say that "nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing." Then it says that 94 percent of students borrow for an undergraduate education.
Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, has written to the Times, pointing out that the 94 percent figure is incorrect, and questioning just how typical some of the borrowers in the series are. "While an alarmist tone and extreme examples might make for good stories, they don’t make for an accurate or meaningful portrayal of the experience of millions of students who borrow to finance their college education. To the contrary, the Times presents a seriously distorted and misleading picture," Broad writes. "The Times is wrong when it says that 94 percent of students who earn a bachelor’s degree borrow to pay for higher education. In fact, about 60 percent of students borrow and their average indebtedness is about $25,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the Project on Student Debt and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While the Times highlighted at length students graduating with six-figure debts, very few borrowers actually owe that much."
Legislation in Illinois would bar public universities from using state funds, tuition revenue or student fees for search firms, The News-Gazette reported. The University of Illinois has spent almost $6 million on search firms over the last nine years, including funds on some searches that did not work out well. Critics question whether the spending is necessary, while board members say that search firms have recruited top talent.
April 1 is typically the date many student newspapers run joke issues, and some of the jokes offend various groups. At the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the tradition of The UMass Lowell Connector is to run a joke issue called The Disconnector on the last day of classes. The Lowell Sun reported that many students are outraged by an issue that was "rife with profanity" and "features a grotesque string of ribald tweets supposedly ripped from the actual Twitterverse, jokey items about gays, immigrants and race, a guide to the best brands of college booze, as well as an entire article filled with the excessive repetition of a derogatory term for a woman's anatomy." Megan Headley, the editor-in-chief, said she is sorry that some are offended, "but it's just a joke paper, and it's not meant to be taken seriously."
Nakba, the Arabic word for "catastrophe," is the name given by Palestinians to the day Israelis mark their anniversary as a nation. Tel Aviv University, resisting pressure from government officials and others, is permitting a student group to have a "Nakba Day" event today, The Jerusalem Post reported. Critics say that universities, as they are supported by the Israeli government, should not associate with activities many see as questioning the right of the Israeli state to exist, and Israeli law bars the use of public funds for such activities. The education minister called university officials to lobby them to cancel the event. University officials said that they were complying with the law by requiring the student organizers to pay for the event and associated security costs.
Students who set up the event said that free speech should include important discussions of the Palestinian perspective. Dan Walfisch, a history and philosophy major and an organizer of the ceremony, said of the event: "It will not include rejection of Israel’s right to exist. Our goal is only to recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people because we see mutual recognition as a condition of having a shared existence in Israel.”
A crash in New Zealand killed three Boston University students early Saturday and injured five others. The students were on a weekend trip to the countryside when the van in which they were traveling swerved off the road and crashed. Boston University has a study abroad program in Auckland, in which the students were participating (except for one of the injured students, who was participating in a BU program in Australia). Boston University has added extra counseling services for students on its main campus. Two New Zealand universities with which the BU program there is affiliated -- University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology -- have extended their counseling services to BU students who are studying abroad in the country.
Romania's prime minister, Victor Ponta, has ordered an investigation into whether Ioan Mang, the new education minister, has plagiarized, AFP reported. The inquiry will be conducted by the Romanian Academy, and follows complaints from researchers in Israel, Japan and Taiwan that Mang's work included their own work on information technology.
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, a lawyer, activist and the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, will speak at a commencement ceremony of a Roman Catholic college this graduation season after all. Anna Maria College rescinded an investigation to Kennedy when a local bishop objected to her appearance because she favors legal access to abortion and birth control. But Boston College's law school has announced that it has invited Kennedy to speak at its commencement, the Associated Press reported. Vincent Rougeau, dean of the law school, said Kennedy has been a "powerful advocate for the powerless" on issues such as education and gun control.
Legislation enacted in California in 2010 was supposed to assure smooth transfer from community colleges to California State University campuses, both by requiring the community colleges to create more transfer programs and the university system to make students who complete certain requirements automatically eligible for junior status. A new report by the Legislative Analyst's Office has found progress -- but only partial progress -- in meeting the goals. The community colleges are urged to create more transfer programs, and the Cal State system is urged to maximize the number of degree programs to which these transfer credits can provide junior-level status.