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Monday, January 7, 2013 - 3:00am

Proposed rules issued by the Internal Revenue Service note concerns among some colleges about how to calculate when adjunct faculty members should be considered to be working close enough to full-time to be entitled to employee health insurance under the new health-care legislation. Some colleges -- worried about being required to provide health insurance -- have been cutting adjunct hours so the institutions can be sure that the adjuncts wouldn't fall under the new law. Faculty advocates have said that these moves are unfair and represent an over-reaction to the situation. (Most faculty leaders say that colleges should be paying the health insurance for these adjuncts anyway.)

The IRS proposed rules explain that "some commenters noted that educational organizations generally do not track the full hours of service of adjunct faculty, but instead compensate adjunct faculty on the basis of credit hours taught. Some comments suggested that hours of service for adjunct faculty should be determined by crediting three hours of service per week for each course credit taught. Others explained that some educational organizations determine whether an adjunct faculty member will be treated as a full-time employee by comparing the number of course credit hours taught by the adjunct faculty member to the number of credit hours taught by typical non- adjunct faculty members working in the same or a similar discipline who are considered full-time employees."

The proposed rules don't take a stand on how best to determine the hours actually worked by those who are not full-timers, and suggest that more guidance will be coming. However the IRS does state that colleges need to use "reasonable" methods for counting hours. It would "not be a reasonable method of crediting hours to fail to take into ... in the case of an instructor, such as an adjunct faculty member, to take into account only classroom or other instruction time and not other hours that are necessary to perform the employee’s duties, such as class preparation time," the document says.

 

Monday, January 7, 2013 - 4:20am

A new analysis released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) tracks the changes among the five leading economics journals from 1970 to 2012. Among the trends over that time span:

  • Annual submissions to the top-5 journals nearly doubled.
  • The total number of articles published declined from 400 per year to 300 per year.
  • One journal, American Economic Review, now accounts for 40 percent of publications among these five publications, up from 25 percent.
  • Papers are on average three times longer.

 

 

Monday, January 7, 2013 - 3:00am

Scientists in China are calling for reforms of the system of distributing funds for research, China Daily reported. Government officials and university administrators now make some of the decisions about which projects should be funded. Scientists want senior scholars to play more of a role, since they understand the potential of various projects seeking funding.

 

Monday, January 7, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas House of the University at Warwick reveals how mathematical models are increasing our understanding of how epidemics move through a population. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, January 7, 2013 - 3:00am

In Wisconsin, the average faculty member at the state's technical college system earned more in 2011-12 than the average faculty member at the state's university system, according to an analysis by Gannett Wisconsin Media. The reason is "overages," pay that faculty members in the state for teaching more than the required number of courses. Overage pay averaged $12,000 per technical college faculty member, compared to $1,400 for University of Wisconsin professor. And 67 technical college instructors earned more than $50,000 in overage pay.

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 3:00am

Many big-time college football programs use a generic version of the pain-relief drug Toradol to treat players -- despite evidence that its use could lead to possible fatal heart attacks, strokes or organ failure, ABC News reported. Of top programs, only the University of Oklahoma and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln told ABC News that they have limited or stopped the use of the drug.

 

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 3:00am

College football has been "by far the slowest sport to react" to the growing concerns about brain trauma from repeated concussions and other head injuries, as one expert says in the first of a four-part series published Thursday in The Birmingham News. The article quotes numerous experts saying that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has failed to respond to growing evidence of a severe problem in the sport, though it notes progress made by several conferences.

 

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 4:20am

David Coleman, the new president of the College Board, last year gave a speech (related to his prior position as co-leader of the effort to write the Common Core State Standards, and not serving at the College Board) in which he offered strong criticism of the SAT, The Washington Post reported. Coleman focused on an issue that has bothered other educators -- the way the SAT writing test doesn't judge whether students are making arguments that have a basis in facts. (This paragraph has been updated to correct an error about Coleman's position at the time of the remarks.)

Here's a portion of the transcript of the talk that the Post found at the Brookings Institution: "Right now, I think there’s a breakthrough that the SAT added writing, because we do want to make the claim that kids need to write to be ready. Like, duh, right. To be ready for college and career, it obviously includes writing. But I have a problem with the SAT writing. So if you look at the way the SAT assessment is designed, when you write an essay even if it’s an opinion piece, there’s no source information given to you. So in other words, you write like what you’re opinion is on a subject, but there’s no fact on the table. So a friend of mine tutors in Hong Kong, and she was asked by here Hong Kong students, where do you get the examples for the essay? She said, you know, it’s the American way, you make them up. Now I’m all for creativity and innovation, but I don’t think that’s quite the creativity we want to inspire in a generation of youth. That is, if writing is to be ready for the demands of career and college, it must be precise, it must be accurate, it must draw upon evidence. Now I think that is warranted by tons of information we see from surveys of college  professors, from evidence we have from other sources, so I think there is good reason to think about a design of SAT where rather than kids just writing an essay, there’s source material that they’re analyzing."

He also criticized the selection of vocabulary for the SAT: "I think when you think about vocabulary on exams, you know, how SAT words are famous as the words you will never use again? You know, you study them in high school and you’re like, gosh, I’ve never seen this before, and I probably never shall. Why wouldn’t it be the opposite? Why wouldn’t you have a body of language on the SAT that’s the words you most need to know and be ready to use again and again? Words like transform, deliberate, hypothesis, right?"

Asked about those comments recently, Coleman told the Post that "I want to be careful to say in a clear voice that any changes in SAT require the team, the trustees, and our partners in higher education to agree. The real question is can we make a revision of SAT a victory for everyone – more aligned with what colleges need as well as better work for kids. I think we can."

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 4:22am

The Dutch education ministry wants to ban universities from investing in derivatives, Times Higher Education reported. Derivatives have become a popular financial strategy for many Dutch universities, but the government fears that twists in the economy could leave the universities in a highly vulnerable position because of the reliance on these investments.

 

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 3:00am

In the weeks before Congress reached a last-minute agreement on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, a proposed cap on deductions for charitable giving alarmed colleges and universities. That wasn't included in the final compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff," but one provision does slightly dent the tax advantage for donations, including to colleges. The package Congress voted on Tuesday reinstates the Pease Amendment, which reduces the value of tax deductions for wealthy households. The value of deductions is reduced by 3 percent of a taxpayer's income over a certain threshold -- $300,000 for taxpayers married and filing jointly, $150,000 for married taxpayers filing separately and $250,000 for unmarried individuals.

The Pease limitation is a concern, said Brian Flahaven, director of government relations for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. But the group was far more worried about the proposed deduction cap or other limitations. "Anything that increases the cost of giving, and this would, certainly could lead to some decline in giving," Flahaven said. "The effect is much less than a cap."

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