Higher Education Quick Takes
Inside Higher Ed received a call Tuesday from someone claiming to be the site’s owner. The caller, Kevin, who declined to give his last name, said the site was not all that lucrative and with the added attention garnered last week, he decided to take it down. He added that he does not think sites like We Take Your Class are a problem; the problem, he believes, is that education is structured in a way that makes it easy to cheat.
The National Science Board added its voice Tuesday to the chorus of groups and agencies expressing concern about the future of public research universities. Its report, Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities, argues that declines in state funding, which it documents, "threaten the ability of major public research universities to educate new scientists and engineers, recruit and retain the best faculty and students, and continue performing top-quality research."
The University of Notre Dame has invited President Obama and also Mitt Romney to speak on campus during the presidential election campaign. The university's announcement of the invitation noted that Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting presidential candidates to appear, and that many have done so. The university also has a tradition of inviting presidents to deliver commencement addresses, and when Obama did so in 2009, there was a huge uproar from some Roman Catholic and anti-abortion organizations that objected to such an honor going to someone who supports abortion rights. An official of the Pro-Life Action League told The Indianapolis Star that the organization didn't object this time, since Romney also received an invitation. The Cardinal Newman Society is criticizing the new Obama invitation -- and also expressing concerns about a possible Romney appearance, noting that Romney has expressed support for embryonic stem cell research.
The 10-person commission charged with plotting the future of the University of North Texas at Dallas released its recommendations Monday, largely backing a consultant's advice that the university focus on hybrid learning, minimizing the time to degree, and aligning courses of study with regional needs.
In 2011 the university commissioned 10 leaders from higher education, business, and local government, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, to develop a strategy to expand the university from 2,000 students to 16,000 students while decreasing the cost of education and improving graduation rates. The Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century reviewed reports from the consulting firm Bain & Company, brought in on a pro bono basis in 2011 to suggest long-term plans for the 11-year-old institution, and from a group of faculty and staff who, critical of Bain’s analysis, drew up their own recommendations. While Bain advised increasing teaching loads and freshmen enrollment while decreasing the array of majors and integrating online courses, the faculty plan proposed focusing on transfer and underprepared students, developing a liberal arts core, and emphasizing research.
The commission’s recommendations, which its members will vote on a vote of who? dl Tuesday, largely fall in line with Bain’s suggestions. The 10 strategies the commission lists include developing hybrid courses that blend in-person and online instruction, increasing freshman enrollment, providing students with the option for year-round instruction, and working with local business leaders to develop degree programs that mesh with local workforce needs. The report states that the university will have a student focus and will value teaching over research, but acknowledges as one of its guiding principles, “Faculty play a key role in the success of students and UNT Dallas,” and suggests a comprehensive development program to engage faculty and staff in this “new model.”
Bridgepoint Education Inc. announced Monday that its Ashford University has eliminated 450 positions in admissions and reassigned 400 other admissions employees, half to student services and half to a new department of "student inquiry." The moves are aimed at improving student success, the company said. Ashford is facing a two-pronged accreditation challenge. It is attempting to comply with compliance requests from its current regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, following a rejected bid for accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges senior college commission.
Ashford says the department of student inquiry will "work with prospective students to ensure they are sufficiently prepared for the demands of a university education."
An associate dean at the University of San Francisco’s School of Management resigned from her post due to concerns about the recruitment of large numbers of Chinese students with low levels of English language proficiency and the effect of this on the overall educational experience, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The former associate dean for undergraduate studies, Dayle Smith, remains on USF’s management faculty; she did not return messages seeking comment on Monday. The university’s provost, Jennifer E. Turpin, told Inside Higher Ed there was disagreement as to whether advising support for international students should be located within the business school (reporting to Smith) or be centrally administered (reporting to the vice provost of student life). USF has opted for the latter strategy. A new universitywide advising center is up and running.
There are 781 Chinese students at USF this fall, up from 589 one year ago. A total of 143 freshmen were admitted conditionally due to their English language levels. Turpin said that the university has actually strengthened its requirements for regular (as opposed to conditional) international admissions. In addition to requiring a Test of English as a Foreign Language Score of 79, USF has added a new requirement that students must have a score of at least 17 on each of the subsections. Students with TOEFL scores below that cutoff are admitted conditionally, and must enroll in intensive English coursework, she said.
Colleges in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association are increasingly attracting athletics director candidates from Division I universities, USA Today reported. Officials say that they are leaving programs with much larger budgets to apply for Division III jobs out of frustration with the scandals and pressures of big-time programs.
"While I may not be dealing with multi-million dollar budgets, household-name coaches [and] me-first donors ... I am seeing the last bastion of true college athletics every day: student-athletes playing truly for the love of the game," said Scott Koskoski, athletics director of Division III Chatham University, who formerly held positions in Division I programs at the University of Denver and Temple University.
The psychometric test used by Israeli universities to admit students has for the first time asked students to write a short composition, Haaretz reported. Educators said that they wanted a writing sample to reflect the role of writing in the university curriculum, and many students who took the test said that they were pleased to have the chance to demonstrate their composition skills.