In today’s Academic Minute, Paul Steinberg of Harvey Mudd College explains the unique position of the United States as a potential global leader on environmental issues. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Duquesne University has sued Highmark Inc., its insurer, saying that it has been reimbursing employees for some forms of birth control, despite a contract with the Roman Catholic college not to do so, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The company did not return calls seeking comment.
Phyllis M. Wise was on Wednesday named as the next chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Wise is currently provost at the University of Washington, where she also served as interim president. She is among a very small number of Asian-American academics named to the top position on an American campus.
The Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, on Tuesday announced that it was purchasing Carnegie Learning, which has created adaptive learning tools that have been particularly successful in teaching remedial mathematics. The company is a spinoff of research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Apollo will pay $75 million to buy the company and another $21 million to Carnegie Mellon for related technology rights that it still owns.
Anya Kamenetz, whose 2010 book DIY U heralded the "edupunks" who were seeking alternatives to higher education and the entrepreneurs who aimed to provide those alternatives, has published a new book (downloadable free) designed as a practical guidebook to navigate the nontraditional pathways to higher learning. The book -- which Kamenetz calls "the first ever sponsored" by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- lays out the many sources of content and (to the extent practicable) credentials that can be found online to help create a "personalized path to an affordable credential using the latest innovative tools and organizations."
China is seeing a growth in Jewish studies, with 10 universities now having Jewish studies centers, The Jewish Chronicle reported. The centers are organizing conferences, offering courses and publishing Nanjing University's Institute of Jewish Studies produced an 800-page Chinese translation of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, which is considered the standard reference work on Judaism in the country
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported Monday that confidential records about student judicial cases had been stolen, The Durham Herald-Sun reported. The records were kept by the student honors committee, which has been in the news of late because of allegations before it that a tutor provided inappropriate assistance to a football player.
Ohio University has moved from number two to number one in The Princeton Review's most talked-about annual ranking -- it was named the top party school in the publisher's annual college guide, The Best 376 Colleges, which was released Monday.
The guide includes individual profiles of each college, along with rankings based on an online survey of more than 122,000 students nationwide. Ohio University, last year's number-two party school, displaced the University of Georgia for the top spot. Students at OU reported high rates of beer-drinking (it was number one in this category), liquor consumption (number two), and participation in fraternities and sororities (number 11). It also earned a number-12 ranking in the "students study the least," category, although it did not make the top 20 in the marijuana-use category, (topped by Colorado College), one of the criteria used in the party school rankings.
The top five was rounded out by other familiar institutions -- the University of Mississippi, the University of Iowa, and the University of California - Santa Barbara.
OU officials released a statement saying they were "disappointed" in the ranking and felt it did not reflect the experience of most students. To back up this claim, the statement cited the university's biennial alcohol and drug use survey, which was released in June and showed a two-percent decrease in "high-risk" or "binge" drinking since 2009, and an eight-percent decrease since 2007.
Of the 1,101 respondents, all undergraduate students, about 70 percent reported consuming five or more drinks on one occasion within the past two weeks in this year's survey, compared to about 73 percent in 2009 and 78 percent in 2011. Vice president of student affairs Kent Smith attributed the decline to the university efforts to curb drinking, including a mandatory online alcohol education course and a public relations campaign called "Stop at the Buzz." Drinking at OU is still a problem, he said, but the university is "moving in the right direction."
The Princeton Review's annual survey features more than 80 questions about academics, financial aid, facilities, and extracurricular activities, most of which include five possible responses, (for instance, responses to some questions include a range from "Awful" to "Excellent"). The Princeton Review uses the data to assign each college a score in each category. Other categories include "Professors Get High Marks" (Wellesley College topped the list this year), "Great Financial Aid," (Swarthmore came in at number one), and the new "Best Health Services" category (which was topped by the University of California - Los Angeles).
But its party school list typically generates the most buzz, and this year's edition of The Best 376 Colleges came with a disclaimer about the list, saying it does not necessarily reflect the overall quality of the institutions.
"We recommend all 376 schools in this book as outstanding institutions at which to earn one's college degree," wrote co-authors Robert Franek, Laura Braswell, and Seamus Mullarkey.
"But just as the schools on our 'LGBT-Unfriendly' list may not be ideal campuses for gay students, the schools on our 'Party Schools' list may not be ideal for students seeking a campus at which the use of alcohol and drugs and the frrat/sorority scene is, well, less exuberant."
Four in 10 public school teachers hired since 2005 entering teaching through alternatives to traditional teacher education programs, up from 22 percent of new teachers hired between 2000-2004, according to a new study from the National Center for Education Information. Those figures are also up from 8 percent in the 1990s and 4 percent in the 1980s. With the new cohorts' impact on the teaching population as a whole, the proportion of teachers who entered the field through traditional teacher ed has dropped from 95 percent 15 years ago to 67 percent.