Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 11, 2015 - 4:23am

A study (abstract available here) released this morning by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds gains in college graduation rates associated with achieving scores on Advanced Placement exams that lead to the granting of college credit. For each exam on which a student earns a credit-granting score, the probability that a student will graduate from college within four years goes up by 1 to 2 percentage points.

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

President Obama on Friday showered attention on community colleges and his plan for free community college. As graduation speaker at Lake Area Technical Institute, in South Dakota, he said he picked the institution to highlight its success in graduation rates and job placement rates, and related those statistics to the care of the faculty, quoting students about the support and guidance they receive. And President Obama plugged his proposal for free community college, arguing that Congress could easily endorse the concept and pay for it.

"If folks in Congress decided to make this a priority, we could do the next best thing and make community college free for an entire generation of young Americans, as long as they’re willing to work, keep their grades up, be responsible, graduate on time," President Obama said. "And we could pay for it by closing just one loophole for millionaires and billionaires. Just one. Just one tax loophole enjoyed almost entirely by very few at the top, we could offer a quality education to millions of middle-class Americans. It’s in everybody’s interest." The full text of the president's remarks may be found here.

Also on Friday, the White House released an email from the actor Tom Hanks, a community college graduate and already a supporter of the president's plan, describing how Chabot College changed his life, crediting specific faculty members and endorsing the free community college plan.

"I produced the HBO miniseries John Adams with an outline format I learned from a pipe-smoking historian, James Coovelis, whose lectures were riveting," wrote Hanks. "Mary Lou Fitzgerald's Studies in Shakespeare taught me how the five-act structures of Richard III, The Tempest and Othello focused their themes. In Herb Kennedy's Drama in Performance, I read plays like The Hot L Baltimore and Desire Under the Elms, then saw their productions. I got to see the plays he taught, through student rush tickets at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Berkeley Repertory Theater. Those plays filled my head with expanded dreams…. Here's my bottom line, and it's simple: More kids (and adults, for that matter) should have this chance."

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Northern Colorado announced Friday that it is resuming admissions into its Mexican-American studies program and a related program to train high school teachers to provide instruction in the field. The university suspended admissions to the programs in March, prompting numerous protests from Latino students and others who said that this area of study was crucial. Administrators questioned whether enough students were enrolling, but Friday's announcement said that the administration and relevant faculty members agreed on a plan to add courses and marketing efforts, and to consider expansion of the programs.

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Two gifts of $15 million each were announced last week to TheDream.US Foundation, which supports financial aid for students who lack the legal documentation to live permanently in the United States, The New York Daily News reported. The $30 million is believed to be the largest infusion of funds ever to help such students. The foundation works closely with the City University of New York, whose students have received half of the scholarships from the foundation. Financial aid is particularly important to undocumented students, as they are ineligible for federal aid. The donors are Donald Graham, former CEO of The Washington Post, and Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager.

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Posters have appeared around the University of Colorado at Boulder with racist quotes, but these posters are an effort to fight racism, CBS News reported. The idea is that people reading statements such as "Your mom must be the janitor 'cause that's the only job for dirty Mexicans" will be prompted to reflect on when they hear and how they respond to such language.

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Among the entries at #AcademicNovel: "I'm Still Grading at Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil," "The Brothers Karamazofficehours," "Bonfire of the Humanities" and "No Country For Old Men; or, The Committee Prefers a Younger Candidate." Some entries just add a subtitle to an existing title, as in "Invisible Man: The Story of an Adjunct." And some entries argue that no change is needed to make a novel into an academic novel, at least with a title such as Les Misérables.

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jeff Sovern, professor of law at St. John’s University, in New York, discusses the contracts we all tend to sign without really reading. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Saturday, May 9, 2015 - 5:47pm


The University of Rochester celebrates Mother's Day by devoting its home page to photographs of students who pose and share their wishes for their mothers. The university added a video this year as well. Happy Mother's Day to our readers who are mothers.



Friday, May 8, 2015 - 3:00am

The days when advanced degrees went hand in hand with childlessness appear to be disappearing. A study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center finds that just 20 percent of women with a Ph.D. or an M.D. are remaining childless, down from 35 percent in 1994. Pew was unable to provide a figure for Ph.D. recipients alone. The study, based on U.S. Census data, confirms that overall the societal trends are toward smaller American families, but finds that the gap between highly educated women and others is closing. About 6 in 10 women with at least a master’s degree had two or more children in 2014, up from 51 percent in 1994.

Friday, May 8, 2015 - 3:00am

Many of the findings of the newest report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce will surprise exactly no one. The study, on the economic value of various college majors, analyzes the wages of 137 disciplinary areas, and finds, among other things, that:

  • The top-paying majors will bring graduates millions more over the course of a lifetime than the lowest-paying majors.
  • All but two of the 25 highest-paying majors are in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields; the two outliers are in business fields.
  • Graduate degrees lead to higher earnings, especially in medical and health fields.

But lest you're distressed by the appearance of yet another round of data that appears to disfavor the humanities and other seemingly nonvocational fields, remember that "a college major isn't destiny," says the report's lead author, Anthony P. Carnevale. "The top 25 percent of humanities and liberal arts majors earn more than the bottom 25 percent of engineering majors.”


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