Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

When the time comes for a freshman to move on to sophomore year, the odds that the college retains him might hinge on whether it retained his friends. Relationships are more important than a student’s academic ability, financial aid, ethnicity or socioeconomic status in determining whether he will complete the transition to a second year, according to a new study published in Social Psychology of Education. Researchers at Rhodes College, a small liberal arts institution in Tennessee, and Welch Consulting in Washington analyzed the social networks of the institution’s entire class of 2012, examining the social and academic connections between things such as course registrations, team and club rosters, and residence hall records. Unsurprisingly, James Eckles and Eric Stradley found that students “on the outside of the social network” are more at risk for attrition. But they also found that whether a student’s friends stick around makes a difference -- every friend who left made a student five times more likely to leave, and every friend who stayed made a student 2.25 times more likely to stay.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Barbara Landau of Johns Hopkins University reveals what she has learned about how the brain creates art from her research with a talented artist working to recover from a brain injury. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 6:02am

Hobsons, one of the major companies that helps colleges recruit, communicate with and retain students, this morning announced that it has purchased Intelliworks. Craig Heldman, CEO of Hobsons, said in an interview that he saw the combination expanding the reach of the company. Hobsons has many more college clients than Intelliworks -- about 2,300 vs. 300. But the focus of Hobsons in higher education has been undergraduate institutions. About two-thirds of Intelliworks' college clients are in graduate, continuing or executive education -- and area of potential growth now for Hobsons. Todd Gibby, the Intelliworks CEO, will join Hobsons as managing director for higher education. Financial details of the transaction were not released.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Congressional negotiators are close to reaching agreement on a $1 trillion budget for the federal government in 2012, with a vote expected by the end of the week. The measure would draw from competing House and Senate budget plans to pay for the Pell Grant Program, enacting changes to both the grant program itself and to subsidized undergraduate student loans.

The six-month grace period on subsidized student loans, in which the government currently pays the interest after a borrower leaves college, would be eliminated, saving about $400 million for the fiscal year. The length of time over which a student can be eligible for a Pell Grant would reportedly also be cut to 12 semesters from the current 18, which would affect about 62,000 students, according to a lobbyist with a higher education association. Students without a high school diploma or equivalent credential will also reportedly be barred from receiving Pell Grants, and the family income at which the government would expect a recipient of federal financial aid to contribute nothing to the cost of his or her education would drop from $30,000 to $20,000 per year.

Senate Democrats had proposed the change to the interest rate subsidy; the other cuts were drawn from a House Republican budget plan. But other proposed cuts in the House plan would not be enacted, including a proposed change to the income protection allowance that the American Council on Education estimated could affect up to 400,000 students.

Full details on the final bill are expected today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 4:25am

Three members of the marching band at Florida A&M University were arrested Monday and charged in the beating of a woman as part of a hazing ritual for the band, the Associated Press reported. The beating -- with fists and a metal ruler -- broke the woman's thigh. The alleged incident took place three weeks before a member of the band died in what authorities believe was a hazing-related death. As of Monday night, the three students who were arrested were in jail.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The top Democrat on the House of Representatives oversight committee announced an inquiry Monday into the pay of chief executive officers at for-profit colleges, saying it was part of a larger questioning by his panel of "excessive" compensation for corporate executives. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a speech to a consumer group today (see video below) that he had sent letters to the CEOs of 13 for-profit education companies, asking for the compensation agreements to help "determine whether salaries, bonuses, and other compensation are appropriately tied to the performance of students they educate, the vast majority of whom pay for their education with federal tax dollars."

Officials of several of the companies targeted by Cummings issued statements defending the compensation they pay as appropriate; a statement by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities declared the lawmaker's inquiry to be "more politics."



Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 3:00am

While many business schools are struggling with decreased interest in M.B.A. programs, those business schools that are at the top of the prestige lists are spending much more to attract top students, Fortune reported. Among "top 20" programs, at least four business schools -- those of Harvard, Northwestern and Yale Universities and the University of California at Los Angeles -- have increased average scholarship values by more than 100 percent since 2004-5, the magazine reported. "It is an arms race," said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "The race has gotten so hot, so fast that schools are using operating money to pay for a lot of these scholarships. No one had ever, ever done that in M.B.A. land. Almost everybody is doing it now."

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, on Saturday kicked off a new effort to help women in Muslim nations study science at women's colleges in the United States. Through the program, the New York Academy of Sciences will provide the women with mentors, and participating women's colleges will provide financial assistance. "Today’s next Madame Curie could be sitting in a high school classroom in Cairo, Jakarta, or Mogadishu, yearning for opportunities to explore her potential. The United States is determined to help give her that chance," said Clinton, in announcing the new effort.


Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Paul Greenfield is resigning in January as vice chancellor (the presidential equivalent) at the University of Queensland amid an admissions scandal at the Australian university, The Australian reported. Details remain vague, but someone described as a "close relative" of Greenfield was admitted to a medical program under an admissions procedure that should not have applied to the student.


Monday, December 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University each suspended multiple men's basketball players Sunday in the wake of a wild brawl Saturday that left some participants -- and their sport -- with a black eye. The annual game between the two Cincinnati-based rivals (known as the Crosstown Shootout) ended prematurely because of the fight, in which players threw and landed brutal punches. Players and coaches also drew criticism for post-game comments in which some of them appeared to justify their actions. "We're grown men over here," a Xavier player, Tu Holloway, said in a post-game interview with reporters. "We got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room. Not thugs, but tough guys on the court."



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