Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

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.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

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."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discusses an ongoing archaeological dig in Israel that recently unearthed an ancient mosaic floor. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 4:23am

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 4:25am

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.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain on Friday announced that they would give a 217-acre former high school campus in western Massachusetts to the foundation for Grand Canyon University, a for-profit Christian institution. Grand Canyon will open a second on-ground campus at the site, adding to its growing campus in Phoenix and a relatively large online presence. The company hopes to enroll 5,000 students at the new campus by 2018, investing an estimated $150 million in it over five years.

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 4:26am

OCAD University, an arts institution in Toronto, is reporting progress on dealing with the student uproar over a $180 customized art textbook that contains (due to inability to secure affordable reprint rights) no art. The university announced that Pearson Canada, which produced the custom text for OCAD, has agreed to buy the books back (at a price not yet determined) at the end of the semester. Further, Pearson has agreed to provide the students with free print copies of a text that includes the art referenced in the custom textbook.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is calling for public colleges and universities to offer students a four-year freeze on tuition, such that each entering class would be assured of paying the same tuition rate for the next four years, The Austin American-Statesman reported. He said this would encourage students to graduate in four years, and would help students avoid high debt levels. "If you get out of the University of Texas with a $50,000 debt, I don’t know if we’ve served you well," he said. In fact, student debt load at UT is not close to that level. Only about half of bachelor's recipients at the University of Texas at Austin borrow, and the average total debt for those who do borrow is just over $25,000.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

A survey commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that despite rules changes and legislation, the frequency of concussions among football players in all three divisions has remained steady in the past seven years. The survey, which relied on accurate reporting from athletics programs (concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose, and there has been concern athletes might be reluctant to report one and risk sitting out), found that such head injuries occurred 2.5 times per 1,000 "game-related exposures." Each game or practice counts as one exposure, regardless of the length. That figure is down from 3.4 per 1,000 in 2004-5, but the NCAA said the year-to-year difference is not statistically significant.

The NCAA has put in place a number of safety regulations designed to deter concussions since then, stiffening penalties for blows to the head and requiring players who are injured or show signs of a concussion to sit out a play and be cleared by medical staff before returning to the field. It has also stepped up its emphasis on concussion awareness; in 2010, it began requiring all programs to have a concussion management plan.

When factoring other fall sports of soccer, field hockey and volleyball, concussion frequency also stayed stable, at 1.9 for every 1,000 exposures. David Klossner, director of health and safety for the NCAA, said in a press release that the information is helpful in monitoring trends, “we do not yet have enough information to draw final conclusions.”

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