Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 20, 2013

The proportions of American undergraduates who received federal financial aid (57 percent) or at least some form of financial aid (71 percent) in 2011-12 both rose considerably from 2007-8, when the proportions were 47 percent and 66 percent, respectively, a new federal report shows.

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics releases every four years, provides a wealth of data about how students are financing their higher education, based on a survey of about 100,000 students.

Among other findings:

  • About 40 percent of students borrowed federal loan funds in 2011-12, up from 35 percent in 2007-8. The average amount they borrowed rose to about $6,400 from about $5,000.
  • The proportion of students on federal grants rose sharply, to 42 percent from 28 percent, due to a significant expansion (now partially undone) in funding and eligibility criteria for Pell Grants.
  • The proportion of students on state grants remained largely flat, at 15 percent, but the percentage of full-time dependent students on state grants dipped to 26 percent from 29 percent, as some states contracted their aid funds.
August 20, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Gerald Koudelka of the State University of New York at Buffalo explains why some of the most dangerous strains of bacteria can outlive their benign cousins in the wild. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

August 20, 2013

The University of Sioux Falls on Monday denied that it is looking for a corporate sponsor to brand everything from its sports complex to its letterhead, saying the surprising news was a result of vague language taken out of context.

President Mark Benedetto said he was contacted by a reporter for the Sioux Falls Business Journal who asked to interview him about the ongoing development of the university’s sports complex. Since the university had recently severed ties with Sanford Health, which previously owned the naming rights, Benedetto said he saw an opportunity to plug the university’s hunt for a new sponsor. He was therefore surprised when an article in the weekly's parent publication, The Argus Leader, titled “USF's search for corporate partner is a delicate quest,” suggested the university “would integrate its business partner into many facets of the organization.”

On Monday, Benedetto acknowledged that the language he used in the interview is partly to blame for the mixup. “It was my mistake to use the term ‘corporate sponsor,’ ” he said. In conversations with potential investors, Benedetto said he uses the term because he feels it is more sellable than “naming rights sponsor.”

When the university does find an appropriate sponsor to put its name on the sports complex, Benedetto said its logo could appear only on fliers and tickets for athletic events. “It never was my intention to put a corporate logo on a business card,” he said.

The previous naming rights contract, signed when the sports complex was “basically a cornfield,” fetched the university $3.2 million eight years ago, Benedetto said. He estimated the university has invested more than $20 million into the complex since, and said he hoped the new contract would attract a multimillion-dollar deal. As part of the negotiations, Benedetto said the Baptist-affiliated university would seek a sponsor that fits its mission. He added that the the university has already turned down sponsors deemed inappropriate.

The liberal arts university, which enrolls about 1,500 students, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Students are not required to sign a statement of faith, but campus pastor Dennis Thum said the university always places its faith first when considering how the institution should be governed.

“As a Christian college, we identify that as the most important part of our identity,” Thum said. “We do not want to compromise our Christian integrity.” 

August 20, 2013

Two Canadian professors have been detained in Egypt for reasons that remain unclear, the CBC reported. John Greyson, an associate professor of film at York University, and Tarek Loubani, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Western Ontario, were arrested Friday in Cairo and taken to Tora Prison. They were planning to travel to Gaza, where Greyson was to explore the possibility of making a documentary and Loubani was involved in a program to train local doctors.

“Canada has been working at the highest levels to request confirmation of the nature of the charges and call for all evidence against the two Canadians [to] be released," the junior foreign affairs minister, Lynne Yelich, said in a statement on Monday. “I cannot say much about this case due to the privacy and security concerns of the two men involved. However, we strongly believe that this is a case of two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

About 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between the police and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi since violence erupted in Egypt last Wednesday. 

August 20, 2013

Americans may be embracing social media and online publications faster than research can determine its effect on science communication, and science understanding can be skewed by the increasingly personalized Web, asserts an article in the Aug. 13 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As early as 2006, 70 percent of Americans searched online for answers to science-related questions, noted Dominique Brossard, a professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, but search engine algorithms could mean public opinion about controversial topics -- like climate change or stem cell research -- is impacted by how those search engines list the results to a query.

Researchers themselves are increasingly turning to social media to keep up with the most recent scientific developments, according to a report from the National Science Foundation. In 2010, one-fifth of neuroscientists and a quarter of physicians surveyed said they read blogs or used social media one or more times a day. "Science as an institution is, more than ever, in need of public support as federal funding is shrinking and scientific issues become more and more entangled with social and ethical considerations," the article reads. "A theoretical understanding of the processes at play in online environments will have to be achieved at a faster rate if science wants to leverage the online revolution for successful public engagement."

August 20, 2013

Career Education Corp. has agreed to a $10.25 million settlement with New York's attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. The for-profit chain, which owns Colorado Technical University and Sanford Brown, had been the subject of an inquiry by Schneiderman over allegedly inflating its graduates' job placement rates. The settlement includes $9.25 in restitution to former students and a $1 million penalty to the state, according to a news release from the attorney general's office. The company has also agreed to "substantial changes" in how it calculates job placement rates.

August 19, 2013

A tenured art professor at the University of Georgia has been terminated for allegedly having sex in a public place with a student on a study abroad program he was leading in Costa Rica, the Augusta Chronicle reported. A faculty panel had split on the appropriate sanctions for James Barsness, with two recommending revocation of tenure and three arguing for less serious sanctions, citing Barsness's strong record of teaching and research, undisclosed medical issues, and his evident remorse. But former UGA President Michael Adams overrode the panel's recommendation, writing in a May 13 letter to Barsness that “Upon review I have determined that public sex with a student under one’s direction and control in a UGA program merits termination. It is my judgment that the charges were sustained and that your employment relationship with UGA, including tenure, should be terminated as of this date.” The Board of Regents upheld Adams’s judgment at its meeting on Wednesday. Barsness could not immediately be reached for comment.

August 19, 2013

Kasetsart University has abandoned the use of hats -- in which pieces of paper attached to the head prevent students' eyes from wandering -- designed to prevent cheating, The Bangkok Post reported. Students designed the hats, but officials said that they abandoned the idea after widespread discussion of them on social media.

 

August 19, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Giorgio Riello of the University of Warwick reveals how European manufacturers were once seen as producers of cheap imitations of Asian goods. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 19, 2013

An Associated Press inquiry into e-mail messages by Mitch Daniels when he was governor of Indiana have revealed he was not a fan of the late historian Howard Zinn, and talked of trying to block his book from being used in schools or in teacher preparation programs. A new AP article on Sunday, based on additional e-mail messages obtained under open records laws, reveals that Daniels (now president of Purdue University) had another history book that he wanted in Indiana's schools. That book is America: The Last Best Hope, by William J. Bennett, a historian who was education secretary in the Reagan administration. E-mail messages show Daniels pushing to get the book distributed and praising it.

Courtesy of Amazon, here's the Publishers Weekly review: "Bennett, a secretary of education under President Reagan and author of The Book of Virtues, offers a new, improved history of America, one, he says, that will respark hope and a 'conviction about American greatness and purpose' in readers. He believes current offerings do not 'give Americans an opportunity to enjoy the story of their country, to take pleasure and pride in what we have done and become.' To this end, Bennett methodically hits the expected patriotic high points (Lewis & Clark, the Gettysburg Address) and even, to its credit, a few low ones (Woodrow Wilson's racism, Teddy Roosevelt's unjust dismissal of black soldiers in the Brownsville judgment). America is best suited for a high school or home-schooled audience searching for a general, conservative-minded textbook. More discerning adult readers will find that the lack of originality and the over-reliance on a restricted number of dated sources (Samuel Eliot Morison, Daniel Boorstin, Henry Steele Commager) make the book a retread of previous popular histories (such as Boorstin's The Americans). This is history put to use as inspiration rather than serving to enlighten or explain, but Bennett does succeed in shaping the material into a coherent, readable narrative."

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