Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 10, 2013

Conventional wisdom holds that -- on standardized tests -- when test-takers aren't certain, they should stick with their first choice of answer and not change it. Research being released today by the Educational Testing Service challenges that assumption. ETS studied 8,000 test-takers worldwide on the GRE, and found that of those who changed answers on the quantitative reasoning section, 72 percent saw scores increase, while of those who changed answers on the verbal reasoning section, 77 percent saw scores increase. At the same time, ETS surveyed test-takers and find that they still tend to believe they shouldn't change their answers, with 59 percent saying that they believed that their first answer was more likely to be correct than a changed answer.

 

June 10, 2013

The University of Leipzig has started to refer to both male and female professors as "Professorin," ending the use of gender-specific words -- "Professorin" for women and "Professor" for men -- The Local reported. The German language has male and female forms for many words, and the move to use a single word (and the traditional female form at that) has prompted considerable discussion. Der Spiegel quoted Bernd-Rüdiger Kern, a law professor, as saying that that the move reflects "a feminism which does language no good and doesn't achieve anything concrete."

The website Deutsche Welle ran an interview with Luise Pusch, a leader of feminist linguistics, in which she praised the decision. "It is definitely a step forward and not only for the University of Leipzig, but for the whole country. The decision is being talked about and that gets people thinking. Every opportunity to think about our male-dominated language is good for the language as a whole, because the German language is very biased," she said.

June 10, 2013

It has become trendy if not clichéd in recent years to declare that higher ed is the next "bubble" in the American economic system will pop. This view has been particularly dominant in business publications. Forbes has run columns about the coming higher ed bubble, or why a higher ed bubble should be coming, numerous times (see here and here and here and here and we could go on). Many of those articles predict that one or more "disruptions" in higher education (online learning for example) will be key to the higher ed bubble popping.

So we were surprised on Sunday to read in Forbes that the bubble might not be traditional higher ed. A column that starts off by bemoaning the high cost of elite private higher education ends up noting that students go to college (and parents pay for them to do so) for a lot of reasons other than just the learning in the classroom. Students get connections and they value "the experience," writes a staffer for the magazine. The piece may not please all professors and college administrators because it suggests that students want a fun experience, not just the personal educational experience. But based on this conclusion, the author writes: "There’s no college-education ‘bubble’ forming simply because teens go to college with an eye on a fun four years, after which they hope the school they attend will open doors for a good job. Online education only offers learning that the markets don’t desire, and because it does, its presumed merits are greatly oversold. There’s your 'bubble.' "

Could this be the start of the bursting of the higher-ed-bubble-story bubble?

 

June 10, 2013

A gunman killed four people in Santa Monica before heading to the library at Santa Monica College, where authorities shot and killed him, The Los Angeles Times reported. His motive was not clear, but authorities said that they believed he had mental health issues and was upset over the divorce of his parents. Chui L. Tsang, president of the college, stressed in a statement that the incident was "not a school shooting," but an incident off-campus that happened to end on campus. Even so, the impact of the incident on the college extended beyond what took place on the campus. The Times reported that one of those killed off-campus was Carlos Navarro Franco, who for 22 years worked as a groundskeeper at the college. He was killed while driving his daughter -- a student there -- to campus to buy books. She was also shot and is in critical condition.

June 10, 2013

The Denver public school district is trying a new approach to deal with the problem of high school graduates who aren't ready for college-level work. A new summer program will offer free remedial education in mathematics and science, The Denver Post reported. More than 60 percent of Denver graduates who enroll in college need remediation of some sort, and the school system wants to bring that number down.

 

June 10, 2013

Phyllis Richman has had a successful career in journalism, and she recently came across a letter she received from a Harvard University professor in 1961, when she was applying to a graduate program there. "[O]ur experience, even with brilliant students, has been that married women find it difficult to carry out worthwhile careers ...  and hence tend to have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education," said the letter. It went on to ask Richman to explain how she could balance career and family goals. She didn't answer at the time. But in The Washington Post, she now has done so -- and women of her generation and many of younger generations are praising the response.

 

 

June 7, 2013

A new study finds that use of Facebook may be helping first generation college students apply to college and gain confidence that they will succeed there. The study -- published in the journal Computers and Education -- is by researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. They surveyed students in a low-income area of Michigan. They found that first generation students who used Facebook to find information about the college application process felt more confident as they were going through it. Further, while many first generation students are less confident than other students entering college, those who had a friend on Facebook with whom to discuss college matters did not suffer that same lack of confidence.

 

June 7, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Two dueling bills to avert an increase in the interest rate for new, subsidized federal student loans July 1 both failed to advance in the Senate on Thursday, illustrating the divide between the parties on how best to avoid the rate hike. A Republican bill to set the interest rate based on market rates failed, 40-57, although it was similar in many ways to President Obama's original solution in his 2014 budget request. A Democratic bill to freeze the rate for subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for two years won a slim majority, 51-46, but didn't get the 60 votes needed for procedural reasons.

While the Obama administration has long favored a long-term solution based on market rates, Obama endorsed the Democratic bill for a short-term fix, saying averting the rate hike is the most important factor.

June 7, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives voted 224-201 on Thursday to end the Department of Homeland Security's "deferred action" program, which allows young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally should this be "whose parents came to the United States illegally"? otherwise it makes it sound like it was the bringing of the children that was illegal ... to avoid deportation and get work authorization. The provision, an amendment to the department's budget for the 2014shouldn't this be 2014? fiscal year, is unlikely to become law -- the White House vowed it would not in a statement Thursday night -- but illustrates the conflict over immigration as Congress prepares a comprehensive reform.

June 7, 2013

An article in The New York Times’s China edition explores the vast scope of Chinese commercial espionage following the arrest of three New York University researchers who are accused of accepting bribes to share secret research findings with Chinese government and industry entities. (The researchers were studying magnetic-resonance imaging technology on a National Institutes of Health-funded grant.) The article quotes a May report from The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, which states, “National industrial policy goals in China encourage IP theft, and an extraordinary number of Chinese in business and government entities are engaged in this practice.” The article also quotes China’s Commerce Ministry, which denies being weak on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. 

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