Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 3:00am

Government-provided tuition subsidies "crowd out" parental contributions to their children's college educations, although the effect is much more pronounced for students from wealthier families than for those from lower-income backgrounds, a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research asserts. The paper, written by two economists at the University of British Columbia and scholars from Yale and New York University (abstract available here), applies economic modeling to test how various changes in federal financial aid policy would play out if they were put in place. Among other things, the researchers estimate that "every additional dollar of government grants crowds out 20-30 cents of parental [intergenerational transfers of wealth] on average," but that "while for wealthy parents with high ability children public subsidies crowd out private transfers, poorer parents tend to reinforce government subsidies since the expected return to their transfers increases when college becomes more attainable, particularly for those with high ability children."

The researchers also say their data show that the federal financial aid programs contribute meaningfully to the public welfare. "Indeed, we estimate that the combined system of federal aid to college students (grants and loans) is worth 2.5 percent of GDP," they write.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 3:00am

Union University, in Tennessee, shut its campus Monday and will remain closed until Wednesday morning because of an outbreak of sickness. All classes have been suspended, and major facilities such as the library have been closed. The Associated Press reported that about 300 of the university's 1,100 residential students are suffering from a stomach illness.


Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

The family of the late Joe Paterno on Sunday issued a report denouncing the Freeh report, the outside investigation commissioned by Pennsylvania State University into the institution's responsibility for the sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky of numerous young boys. The Paterno family's report says that the Freeh report was based on "raw speculation and unsupported opinion – not facts and evidence," and the family statement says that there is in fact no evidence that Joe Paterno did anything wrong. Penn State and the National Collegiate Athletic Association shouldn't have relied on this report to draw conclusions on the scandal, the Paterno family says.

Penn State on Sunday issued a statement that did not directly attack the Paterno family's study, but that defended the value of its outside investigation. "As a result of the investigation, 119 recommendations were made to Penn State in areas such as safety and governance. To date, the university has implemented a majority of those recommendations, which are helping to make the university stronger and more accountable. The university intends to implement substantially all of the Freeh recommendations by the end of 2013. It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," said the university statement.


Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Five U.S. senators and 41 members of the House of Representatives have student loan debt -- and the total owed is more than $1.8 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. The center used financial disclosure reports for its study. A similar study from disclosure reports filed in 2008 found that only 3 senators and 27 House members at that time reported student loan debt. Most of the current debt is for the lawmakers' own educations, but some of the debt is in the form of loans for the parents of students, or co-signing the loans of children.



Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Annette Schavan resigned as Germany's education minister on Saturday, days after Heinrich Heine University revoked her doctorate, the Associated Press reported. The university found that portions of her dissertation had been plagiarized, a charge that Schavan has denied.


Monday, February 11, 2013 - 4:19am

A tornado hit several buildings at the University of Southern Mississippi Sunday, causing significant damage but no injuries. The Sun Herald ran photographs of some of the buildings, and other parts of the campus hit by the tornado.

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Utah Valley University sent an e-mail offer of full scholarships to 344 applicants in January, but it turns out that only 40 of them were eligible for -- and can receive --  the awards, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The scholarships are for students with least 27 on the ACT and who have grade-point averages of at least 3.7. But the university accidentally sent the e-mail to all of those who met the ACT requirement, most of whom didn't meet the G.P.A. requirement. The university has apologized for making the offer (and not providing the funds) to those not eligible.

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Paul Macey of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Nursing explains why the symptoms of sleep apnea can be worse for women than for men. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 4:21am

A committee of the American Bar Association held a hearing in Dallas over the weekend to hear ideas on the reform of law schools. The New York Times reported that while there was no consensus on how law schools should change, most speakers said that significant shifts are needed in light of the tight legal job market and falling law school applications. Among the ideas discussed: Shrinking most parts of the law school curriculum from three to two years, changing bar exams, encouraging college juniors to go straight to law schools and creating new positions (modeled on the idea of nurse practitioner) to perform some legal duties.


Monday, February 11, 2013 - 3:00am

McMaster University, in Ontario, will close its Confucius Institute this summer due to concerns about its Chinese partner’s hiring practices, The Globe and Mail reported. A former instructor at McMaster’s Confucius Institute recently issued a complaint with the province's Human Rights Tribunal alleging that the university was “giving legitimization to discrimination” because her contract with Hanban – the Chinese government entity that sponsors the institutes – prohibits her participation in Falun Gong. 

The number of Confucius Institutes -- centers of Chinese language and culture education based on university campuses -- has increased rapidly worldwide, but critics raise concerns about the degree to which the Chinese government exercises control over curricular matters (including through the hiring of instructors).


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