Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:00am

The College Humor website has announced the winners of its $5,000 Average Student Scholarships. The biographies of winners won't be confused for those who receive Rhodes Scholarships. One winner was lauded this way: "His G.P.A. of 2.083 barely hovers over the disgraceful 1.9, and one more misstep would send him tumbling down a cliff that'd be hard to climb out of." Another was praised for her culinary habits. "In her sad and slightly disturbing video entry, Jordan munches on a brick of uncooked Ramen like that's something normal people actually do." More information on the award winners may be found here.

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 4:11am

Some of the students most often targeted in the push to use online learning to increase college access are less likely than their peers to benefit from -- and may in fact be hurt by -- digital as opposed to face-to-face instruction, new data from a long-term study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College suggest.

"Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas," by Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars, researchers at the center, examines the performance of nearly 40,000 Washington State community college students who took both online and on-ground courses, and finds significant differences in how various subgroups performed. Students of all types completed fewer courses and achieved lower grades online than they did in face-to-face classes, men, African-Americans, and academically underprepared students had the biggest gaps between the two mediums.

The performance of adult students was mixed: they completed slightly more courses online, but achieved slightly lower grades in them than they did in on-ground courses.

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:00am

A white paper from HCM Strategists released today -- the latest in a series of reports on redesigning the federal financial aid system sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- calls for simplifying the federal student aid programs into one grant, one loan and one tax credit aimed at nontraditional students, as well as investing in research and pilot programs to further improve student aid. The report, written by several financial aid experts, would also redefine full-time status as 15 credits per semester rather than 12, in an effort to provide incentives to students to complete college, and base repayment for all student loans on borrowers' incomes.

The report accompanies an earlier white paper from the public policy consulting group stating broad principles for redesigning federal financial aid.

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:00am

James Beckwith, formerly interim president and chief financial officer of Southern Vermont College, killed himself Wednesday, with federal authorities charging that he embezzled $440,000 while serving as interim president, The Bennington Banner reported. Beckwith resigned suddenly as CFO this month, apparently when the college learned of the allegations. Authorities said that he took college money while serving as interim president.  A statement on the college's website expressed condolences to Beckwith's family and said: "This is a difficult and sad time for all who knew Jim. His many contributions to our community will be remembered."


Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Suzanne Wagner of Michigan State University explores the connection between the use of non-standard English and choices about higher education. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:00am

Northwestern University has appointed a panel of professors to review the history of John Evans, one of the university's founders, and his links to a massacre of Native Americans. Several professorships are named for Evans, as is the city of Evanston, where Northwestern is located. Evans was governor of the Colorado Territory (after the university's founding) at the time of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans, and many Indian students and others question the appropriateness of honoring him at the university.  The committee -- a mix of professors from Northwestern and elsewhere -- will study the role Evans played in the massacre, and "whether any financial support for Northwestern from Evans could be attributed to wealth he obtained as a result of policies and practices he pursued while territorial governor regarding the Native American populations there."

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:00am

New data from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that while there has been diversification of the medical school student body, not all groups are showing the same kinds of gains. The percentage of medical school applicants who are white continues to fall (down 26 percent in the last three decades) such that 55 percent of 2011 applicants were white. Another 20 percent are Asian. Just over 7 percent of applicants were black. AAMC noted as an area of concern the gender split among black applicants, where 65 percent of first-time applicants are women. Other racial groups have much more gender balance.


Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday over a new Pennsylvania law that would interfere with its sanctions against Pennsylvania State University stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. Among other penalties, the NCAA fined Penn State $60 million, to be donated to programs that benefit victims of child abuse nationwide. Months after Penn State agreed to the sanctions, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA in January, arguing that the money should stay in-state. The NCAA’s lawsuit against Corbett and other state officials seeks to invalidate a law, signed by Corbett on Wednesday, that would require that the money be paid into a state endowment and then distributed to child sex-abuse prevention programs in Pennsylvania.

The NCAA says in its lawsuit that the Pennsylvania law violates an article in the Constitution declaring that states may not make laws “impairing the obligation of contracts”; a Fifth Amendment clause that says “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”; and an article providing that “The Congress shall have power … [t]o regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with Indian tribes.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a news release that members must abide by the rules to which they have agreed. “If individual members or state lawmakers take it upon themselves to decide what sanctions are appropriate, simply to protect their home team,” he said, “then collegiate sports would be dramatically altered.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members in Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences voted Wednesday to censure President James Wagner for his remarks seeming to endorse the Constitution's three-fifths compromise as a model for dealing with disagreements. While Wagner has since apologized for the "clumsiness" of his statement, many faculty members and students remain furious about his remarks and unimpressed by the apology. Faculty members said that the censure resolution passed on a voice vote, with strong support. The professors considered a vote of no confidence, but postponed consideration of that measure pending an appearance by Wagner. His spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the censure vote.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:00am

David Bergeron, the acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Education Department, is resigning in March to take a position with another organization, sources said Wednesday. Bergeron, who has worked at the department for more than 30 years, has served as acting assistant secretary since Eduardo Ochoa left the post in May to become interim president of California State University at Monterey Bay.

The search for a political appointee to replace Ochoa permanently is said to be under way. Since last fall, observers have pointed to a lack of a coherent vision to drive policy making at the Education Department, in large part due to departures of key political appointees and policy staffers during the president's first term. Those departures have continued as the second term begins, including Zakiya Smith, formerly of the White House Domestic Policy Council. With the departure of Bergeron slightly more than a year after that of Daniel Madzelan, another long-time senior staff member, the department has lost close to 60 years of higher education experience and knowledge.


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