Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 16, 2011 - 3:00am

A majority of Americans (57 percent) believe that the higher education system in the country fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, according to a survey released Sunday by the Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of those polled said that college is too expensive for most Americans. But among Americans who are college graduates, 86 percent said that college had been a good investment for them personally. Pew also released a survey, in conjunction with The Chronicle of Higher Education, of college presidents. (Inside Higher Ed released a survey of college presidents in March.)

The Pew survey is the latest to find public ambivalence about higher education -- with majorities seeing the importance of a college education, but much skepticism about college pricing and access. A survey by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education last year found that a majority of Americans believe that colleges mainly care about their own bottom lines instead of making sure that students have a good educational experience. But the survey also found that a majority of Americans believe a college education is essential for success.

Monday, May 16, 2011 - 3:00am

A new idea has emerged in the debate over whether the University of Wisconsin at Madison should be given independence from the university system and many state regulations. A key state legislator is drafting legislation that would keep the system together, but create a board for Madison that would be within the larger university system, The Capital Times reported. It is unclear whether the new idea could gain broad support.

Monday, May 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Saudi Arabia on Sunday opened the campus of Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, which, with an enrollment of up to 50,000, is expected to be the nation's largest women's institution, AFP reported.

Monday, May 16, 2011 - 3:00am

St. Andrews Presbyterian College, in North Carolina, may merge with Webber International University, in Florida. Both institutions are nonprofit, private and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS has moved to end accreditation of St. Andrews, but the college announced last week that SACS has agreed to extend accreditation until the end of July to permit time for the institutions to merge and seek appropriate recognition from SACS for the combined institution.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The economic downturn of fall 2008 left many colleges -- even wealthy institutions -- with cash flow problems, as their suddenly sagging investments were anything but flexible in providing money in the short term. A new report from Moody's finds that most colleges have recovered and are in much healthier condition with regard to liquidity. "Liquidity risks have stabilized for most universities nearly two years after unexpected cash shortages caused fifteen highly rated private universities to borrow more than $7 billion in taxable debt to bolster their liquidity," says the report's summary. "The healthy liquidity position of most U.S. colleges and universities has also aided bank liquidity facility renewals for the sector thus far in 2011. Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains for some universities that face potential liquidity risks from variable rate debt structures, weak tuition pricing power, investment volatility and cuts in government funding."

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Carl Wieman, the Nobel laureate at the University of British Columbia, has released new findings to show that the right approaches to teaching can have a big impact on student understanding of science. The findings, published in Science, show that exercises in which students work through problems together are far more effective than lectures.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In the latest of a slew of higher-ed publishers to join forces with lecture capture companies, the e-learning giant Pearson this week announced a partnership with Panopto, a leading player in the growing market for technology aimed at recording and storing classroom lectures. Last October, the publisher McGraw-Hill bought the lecture-capture company Tegrity; Macmillan, another major publisher, formed a partnership with Panopto a week later. Lecture capture has emerged rather quickly as widely sought technology: The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan last year reported that lecture companies did $50 million in business last year, a figure that could triple in the next five years.

Publishers seem to regard lecture capture as both a sound investment and a natural fit. "The big publishers, (McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Reed Elsevier), all realize that unless they change, they will suffer a similar fate as the music publishers," wrote Joshua Kim, an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College and tech blogger for Inside Higher Ed, last fall. "...Lecture capture platforms will be one source in which faculty (and later student!) created content can be seamlessly folded into professionally produced (publisher) content."

Pearson not only sells course materials and learning-management platforms but also co-manages online curriculums for some big-ticket institutions. "With this partnership, Pearson will work directly with administrators and faculty to integrate Panopto into their program offerings and curriculum," the company said in a press release.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Matthew Randall of York College of Pennsylvania explains the new set of challenges information technology is posing to college graduates as they enter the workplace. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in March sought applications for its "comprehensive" grant program, with the goal of making more than $20 million in awards. But FIPSE has now announced that there will be no grants awarded. "Congressional action on the FY 2011 budget substantially reduced funds available for grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, including new grants under the comprehensive program," said a notice on the agency's website.

Friday, May 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, on Thursday defended the importance of research at the state system’s universities -- and received a unanimous vote of support from the system’s regents, according to the Texas Tribune.

“Teaching and scholarly research go hand-in-hand in a university of the first class,” Cigarroa said, in what the Tribune described as highly anticipated remarks at the regents’ meeting. Cigarroa’s speech, which is in keeping with his previous statements on the subject, comes on the heels of a forceful defense of the research mission of the flagship, UT-Austin, made by its president, William Powers Jr., on Monday.

Questions about the appropriate balance of research and education at Texas universities -- and the regents’ position on the matter (and whether they fully supported Cigarroa) -- have recently gained urgency due to a set of seven “breakthrough solutions” that have been advanced by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank whose policies are aligned with those of Governor Rick Perry. Among these ideas is a call to separate universities’ research and teaching budgets in order to get more faculty members in the classroom. Many faculty members have seen the push for separation as an attempt to micromanage and reduce support for scholarship.

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