Higher Education Quick Takes
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 60 percent of Americans think colleges have a generally positive effect on American life, but noted sharp partisan divides in Americans' views of institutions of higher education. Twenty-six percent of Americans said that colleges have a negative effect on "the way things are going in the country," with the rest of respondents not answering. Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats said that colleges have a positive effect on the country. Among conservative Republicans, 46 percent agreed; among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party, only 38 percent said colleges have a positive effect.
Still, among the population as a whole, the 60 percent approval rating for colleges was relatively high: more saw positive effects from colleges than from churches (57 percent), the news media (26 percent) or Congress (a dismal 15 percent). The Pew Research Center also noted that a 2011 survey found that across party lines, Americans who attended college overwhelmingly believed it was a good investment.
U.S. News & World Report plans to collect and publish new data on colleges in next year's rankings, but will not use the additional data in the methodology for total scores. The new data will cover differential graduation rates based on income and race; the affordability of colleges; and colleges' Internet connectivity. Details are available on the blog of Robert Morse, who leads the rankings effort.
Private admissions counselors -- who work directly for applicants and their families -- are commonly associated with students finishing high school. But The New York Times reported that many counselors are seeing increased use (and are reaching out to) adults thinking about continuing their educations. Adults who worry about getting into the best program and may not have access to a high school counselor are interested in the one-on-one help available.
The University of Pennsylvania announced this week that its employee health plans would include an option that would cover sexual reassignment surgery for transgender employees. Covering such surgery is rare for higher education employers (and for many employers outside academe). The change was sought by student and employee groups at Penn.
- 2012 Annual Meeting, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, April 1-4, Philadelphia
- Education in a Changing World: What's Next? SCUP 2012 North Atlantic Regional Conference, Society for College and University Planning, April 11-13, New York
- NITLE Symposium: Inventing the Future, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, April 16-17, Arlington, Va.
- CIC Department and Division Chair Workshop, Council of Independent Colleges, May 22-24, Charleston, S.C.
- NEH Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers: Jane Austen and her Contemporaries, National Endowment for the Humanities, June 18-July 20, Columbia, Mo.
- 119th Annual Conference, American Society for Engineering Education, June 17-20, Vancouver, British Columbia
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar, to which campus and other officials can submit their own events. Our site also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education; please submit your news to both listings.
Tens of thousands of students held protests in Spain on Thursday to express anger over budget cuts to education, the Associated Press reported. In Barcelona, riot police charged the crowd, and some students fled to the University of Barcelona campus.
The state auditor's office in Texas has found numerous instances of public colleges and universities failing to follow federal rules for managing student aid, The Dallas Morning News reported. Ten institutions were found to be making incorrect calculations of the cost of attendance. Several institutions were found to award too much aid, or to fail to adequately monitor students' academic progress.
Students and faculty members are pressing Harvard University to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled in the 1920s for being gay or being perceived as gay, the Associated Press reported. The students were kicked out after secret trials that only came to light in 2002. At that time, university officials apologized for what had happened. But the organizers of the movement to award posthumous degrees say that the apologies don't go far enough. A rally on the issue is planned for today, when Lady Gaga will be on campus to launch a new anti-bullying foundation. Harvard's policy for years has been to award posthumous degrees only in the rare circumstance where someone has completed degree requirements and died prior to receiving a degree.