Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 8, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Larry Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University, discusses his research on the brain-boosting powers of cocoa. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 7, 2015

Someone spray-painted "KKK," "Black Lives Matter" and "Murderer" on the base of a statue of a Confederate soldier at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The statue -- known as "Silent Sam" because the soldier is carrying a gun but no ammunition -- was commissioned in 1913 in honor of UNC alumni who died in Confederate forces. Many have called for the statue to be removed.

Rick White, associate vice chancellor of communications and public affairs, issued this statement: "We understand that the issue of race and place is both emotional and, for many, painful. Carolina is working hard to ensure we have a thoughtful, respectful and inclusive dialogue on the issue. The extensive discussions with the Carolina community this past year by the Board of Trustees and university leadership, and the work we will be doing to contextualize the history of our campus, is a big part of advancing those conversations. We welcome all points of view, but damaging or defacing statues is not the way to go about it.”

Meanwhile at Clemson University, someone wrote "Tillman Was a Violent Racist" on a wall at Tillman Hall, named for Benjamin Tillman, who was by all accounts a violent racist politician in the 19th century in South Carolina. Images of the vandalism are circulating on social media (right). Many on the campus have been pushing for the university to rename the building, but the board has rejected their requests.

In April, a statue of Jefferson Davis was vandalized at the University of Texas at Austin. Last week, someone vandalized a painting of a Tillman at Winthrop University.

July 7, 2015

Three higher education groups that have been strong supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are this morning releasing a joint statement that calls for states to stick to efforts to promote standards. "The need for higher standards is clear. Each year, about 50 percent of first-year students at two-year colleges and 20 percent of those entering four-year universities require basic developmental courses before they can begin credit-bearing course work," says the statement, from Higher Ed for Higher Standards, the National Association of System Heads and State Higher Education Executive Officers. "This lack of preparedness costs students and taxpayers billions of dollars each year. It stagnates our educational system and exacerbates the business community’s problem of filling jobs."

The letter urges states to move ahead with assessments that advocates believe will allow states and school districts to identify and remedy problems in state preparation.

Amid a growing backlash against the Common Core, the words "common" and "core" do not appear in the new statement.

July 7, 2015

Data from 13 massive open online courses offered by Duke University in fall 2014 shows the MOOCs primarily played a supplementary role, a new report shows. Researchers at Duke surveyed three groups of "underserved" learners: those below the age of 18 and above the age of 65, as well as those with limited access to higher education.

For younger learners, the opportunity to take a MOOC alongside a course on the same topic proved a popular strategy; 30 percent of respondents picked that answer when surveyed about their motivations for enrolling in the MOOC. Meanwhile, 45 percent of learners over the age of 65 said they signed up for a MOOC for fun and enjoyment. Finally, learners with limited access to higher education gave more scattered responses, many of which boiled down to the learners feeling inadequately trained and using MOOCs to "fill gaps" in their knowledge. The report appeared in the most recent issue of Educational Media International.

July 7, 2015

Point Park University is laying off 32 employees, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Officials did not provide details on what they called a “strategic reorganization” that “better invests and aligns resources to support the evolving needs of students.”

July 7, 2015

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of Laureate Education, a for-profit chain with a large global footprint. The credit ratings agency also downgraded Laureate last year. In both cases it cited the company's expansion, which has contributed to debt levels. Laureate now enrolls more than one million students at 80 campus-based and online institutions.

"Laureate's aggressive growth has created persistently high leverage and has strained the company's liquidity," said David Berge, a Moody's analyst, in a written statement.

July 7, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Kentaro Toyama, professor of community information at the University of Michigan, discusses the equality of benefits technology offers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 6, 2015

The University of California at San Diego is suing the University of Southern California over the way a prominent scientist from UCSD was recruited to USC, The Los Angeles Times reported. The suit focuses on Paul Aisen, who with eight colleagues moved from UCSD to USC. Aisen won very large grants on researching Alzheimer's -- grants that UCSD say were awarded to that university and not to Aisen. The National Institute on Aging has confirmed that the grants are for UCSD, which has since named new researchers to lead the projects. But the suit accuses Aisen and USC of blocking access to some of the research data, and providing false information to some employees who were being recruited to USC. Litigation over a faculty move is highly unusual, but UCSD's suit says that USC's actions go beyond what is acceptable in recruiting faculty members with grants.

Aisen did not comment for the article. A statement from USC said: "We are surprised and disappointed that the University of California San Diego elected to sue its departing faculty member and his team, as well as USC, rather than manage this transition collaboratively, as is the well-accepted custom and practice in academia."

July 6, 2015

The University of California admitted about 1,000 fewer California applicants for the academic year starting this fall, while the number of out-of-state applicants admitted -- both from the rest of the United States and from abroad -- was up by a bit more than 1,000 each. University of California officials said that because they expect the yield (the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll) to go up, they project no decline in the number of Californians who will enroll as new students in the fall. The figures reflect a 0.3 percent decrease for in-state admissions, an 8 percent increase for out-of-state American applicants, and an 18 percent increase for international applicants. The numbers follow.

Admissions to U of California System

  2014 2015
California 62,873 61,834
Out-of-State, U.S. 13,462 15,173
International 13,575 15,317
July 6, 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday issued a ruling that rejects a U.S. Labor Department list of six factors to consider in determining whether internships can be unpaid. The ruling threw out a lower court's ruling that two unpaid interns who worked on the film Black Swan were entitled to be classified as employees, and that they could pursue a class action.

The appeals court backed a single factor: "The proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship," and ordered the district court to reconsider the case with that standard. That single test may make it easier for many employers to justify unpaid internships. Many colleges have struggled with the unpaid internship issue, wanting to help students gain experience while wary of the ethical and legal issues involved when interns perform work that should result in their being classified as employees.


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