Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 9, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Elizabeth Borer, associate professor in the ecology, evolution and behavior department at the University of Minnesota, discusses global experiments to better understand how plants grow. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 9, 2014

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has adopted a policy to make civics a part of every undergraduate degree at the state's community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities, The Boston Globe reported. Each institution will develop its own plan to do so.

May 9, 2014

Ball State University has promoted a professor accused last year of proselytizing during a course called "Boundaries of Science," The Star Press of Muncie, Ind., reported. Last year, the university investigated and said it would be working with Eric Hedin, now an associate professor of physics and astronomy, to make sure that his courses were science-based. The news came after First Amendment watchdog groups informed the university that students had reported Hedin was using "Boundaries," an honors science class, to teach Christan values.

The story, along with the university's recent hiring of another science professor known for his support of intelligent design, prompted a statement from President Jo Ann Gora affirming the university's commitment to "academic integrity" in relation to science. She said intelligent design had no place in a science course.

The Star Press noted that Hedin's promotion followed a letter to the university from conservative state legislators, expressing concern over the “establishment of a speech code restricting faculty speech on intelligent design[.]" Legislators in the letter said Gora's statement and the university's actions toward Hedin raised "troubling" questions, such as whether a professor would be able to answer a question from a student about intelligent design. Ball State administrators met with lawmakers last month. State Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Education Committee, told the newspaper that “Ball State officials were very attentive to our requests and concerns during the April 4 meeting. A majority of issues have been resolved, and I look forward to working more on these matters concerning academic freedom with the university.”

Joan Todd, a university spokeswoman, said: “It was productive meeting, a great opportunity to discuss important issues and at this time we have nothing more to add." Via email, Todd said that Ball State does not automatically award tenure to associate professors, unlike most institutions, and that Hedin, who is four years into his probationary period, is not yet tenured. Hedin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

May 8, 2014

Davidson College announced Wednesday that it is ending free laundry service -- in which students could drop off dirty laundry and have it returned, clean and folded. The college has offered the service for decades but officials said that it makes more sense to spend the college's resources on academics. The Charlotte Observer reported that Davidson will save about $400,000 annually.

 

May 8, 2014

The cost of borrowing money from the federal government to pay for college will increase in the coming academic year.

Interest rates on most federal student loans are now set to rise following Wednesday’s sale of 10-year Treasury notes, the government debt to which rates are tied.

The interest rate on new loans for undergraduate students will increase to 4.66 percent, up from the current 3.86 percent. The cost of new direct loans for graduate students will jump to 6.21 percent from the current 5.41 percent.

A bipartisan accord struck in Congress last year pegged the interest rates on federal student loans to the government’s borrowing cost. The government now sets student loan interest rates each year based on the last auction of Treasury 10-year notes prior to June 1.

Loans disbursed starting July 1 will reflect the new rates, which are fixed for the term of the loans. The interest rates on existing federal direct loans are not affected by the changes, though some Democrats in Congress this week said they were pushing legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance their existing loans at current rates.

The following are current and future rates for student loans issued by the U.S. government:

 

Current-Year Rate

(2013-2014 AY)

New Rate

(2014-2015 AY)

Undergraduate Direct Loans

(Subsidized & Unsubsidized)

3.86%

4.66%

Graduate Direct Loans

5.41%

6.21%

Direct PLUS Loans

(Grad PLUS & Parent PLUS)

6.41%

7.21%

 

May 8, 2014

Longwood University put on a graduation ceremony for one senior this week, ahead of this month's commencement, so her dying father could see his daughter graduate, WRIC News reported. President W. Taylor Reveley IV and other university officials put on their academic robes and regalia. Brittany Inge, a senior majoring in elementary and middle school education, put on her cap and gown for the ceremony. Her father has stage four lung cancer and has been told he has very limited time. “I could not ask for anything more," Inge said. "I’m forever grateful to all the Longwood staff who made today so special.”

May 8, 2014

Low-income community college students who transfer to highly selective four-year institutions can succeed academically if they receive adequate financial aid, according to an analysis by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Community College Transfer Initiative. The foundation has funded transfer support efforts at 14 selective institutions during the past eight years. The analysis found that community college transfer students collectively maintained a 3.0 GPA while enrolled at four-year institutions, became campus leaders and made it to graduation.

May 8, 2014

The online publishing platform Inkling has cut its digital textbook division to focus on enterprise products. Speaking to TechCrunch, CEO Matt MacInnis confirmed the company would lay off about 25 percent of its staff. The company announced it had signed agreements with the publishers McGraw-Hill Education and Wolters Kluwer, which will use the Inkling Habitat platform for digital content.

May 8, 2014

The New York Public Library announced Wednesday that it has abandoned plans to move its stacks out of the iconic library building in midtown Manhattan. A statement from the library said that a review of the proposal identified better ways for the library to grow and expand lending libraries in the area. The plan to move the stacks infuriated scholars who view the main research collection of the library as crucial to research in many fields. Here are two columns outlining those concerns, and a response on Inside Higher Ed by the head of the New York Public Library.

 

May 8, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Fee, professor of English at Gettysburg College, asks: What constitutes a living wage? Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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