Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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 6, 2013

Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest sprouts a new cartoon, new finalists and a new winner in June.

To submit your captions for June's cartoon, please click here. The three entries deemed most clever and creative by our experts' panel will be put to a vote by our readers, and the winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of the cartoon signed by Matthew Henry Hall, the artist.

Click here to vote on the three captions nominated as finalists for our May cartoon.

And congratulations to the winner of the Cartoon Caption Contest for April, Therese Kattner. Find out more about her and her submission here.

 

June 6, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Sara Konrath of the University of Michigan explores the relationship between age and the ability to feel empathy for others. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

June 6, 2013

Instructure, the maker of the Canvas learning management system, raised $30 million in venture capital to help fuel its competition against Blackboard, Desire2Learn and other more established players, the company said this week. Bessemer Venture Partners put up $26 million and existing investors put in another $4 million.

“We plan to use it for growth. We still think there is a great opportunity in this market to take market share,” said Brian Whitmer, an Instructure co-founder. Right now, he said the five-year-old company has about 5 percent of the LMS market.

Whitmer said the company would hire sales, development and support staff. It may also buy other startups. “We may use some of it for acquisitions," he said.

Another goal, of course, is to eventually take the company public. Bessemer's Silicon Valley partner Byron Deeter will join the Instructure board.

June 6, 2013

Rutgers University officials knew its new athletic director Julie Hermann was involved in two lawsuits that -- coupled with recently unearthed verbal abuse allegations by Hermann’s former athletes – called the university’s vetting process into question. In 1997, a jury awarded damages to a former University of Tennessee assistant coach who claimed in a lawsuit against the university that Herman fired her because she was pregnant, and in 2008, a University of Louisville assistant coach targeted Hermann in a sexual discrimination lawsuit. Search committee co-chair Richard Edwards said in an email to the group’s 27 other members that Rutgers officials knew about the lawsuits, and also clarified other details to search committee members who said they were left in the dark during the process. Once Hermann reached the finalist stage for the Rutgers position, the search firm conducted a background check, which failed to discover the 16-year-old allegations by athletes who played volleyball for Hermann at Tennessee.

Also on Wednesday, Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi – who has also been criticized over the hire and its preceding abuse scandal, which led to the previous athletic director's ouster – reiterated his support for Hermann. “I am confident that Julie and her team will set the stage for a great transition,” Barchi said.
 

June 6, 2013

The UNCF, known since its days as the United Negro College Fund, is adding on to its famous slogan that "a mind is a terrible thing to waste." The New York Times reported that the UNCF wants more of an emphasis on the positive impact of supporting the education of students at historically black colleges. So the longstanding tag line (in use since 1972) has been altered to "a mind is a terrible thing to waste but a wonderful thing to invest in."

 

June 6, 2013

A former associate professor of law at the National University of Singapore was sentenced to five months of prison for having sex with a student and accepting gifts from her, Bloomberg reported. The judge imposed a longer jail sentence than that which was sought by prosecutors, stating that “corruption must be stamped out effectively and swiftly.” The professor, Tey Tsun Hang, is accused of seeking expensive gifts and abusing his position of authority over the student. Tey maintains that the relationship was consensual. His lawyer has indicated plans to appeal.

June 6, 2013

Using a coaching-style of college counseling -- in which the advisors work intensely with high school students to help them navigate the application process -- can result in more students opting for four-year colleges rather than two-year colleges, a new study in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis has found. The study was based on students in the Chicago Public Schools. While these students generally enrolled at non-competitive four-year institutions, they were institutions where the students had greater odds than at community colleges of finishing a four-year degree. Further, the study found that the impact of this style of counseling was greatest on students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

June 6, 2013

The University of Salford, in England, has announced plans to eliminate its School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences, Times Higher Education reported. The university plans to cease recruiting students for all courses in modern languages and linguistics and politics and contemporary history – with the exception of postgraduate programs in security studies – after this year, leading to the eventual closure of the school. The university has pledged that all students currently enrolled and those who are entering this fall will be able to complete their programs.

A Salford spokesman told Times Higher Education that the “changes are as a result of changing demand within higher education and from employers. We are continuing to recruit strongly in our key areas of strength such as media, technology, science, engineering and health, but other areas are showing low levels of interest from applicants."

“The university remains strong and financially healthy with a projected surplus for this year, and these changes are about ensuring that we can use our resources to benefit students in areas that are in demand with employers," the spokesman said.

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