Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

A new paper from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment examines the role of measuring student learning outcomes at community colleges. Findings from surveys of community colleges show that they make extensive use of measures of student learning, but tend to do so at the program level rather than the institutional level (a finding that is probably not surprising, given the range of programs offered). For instance, 80 percent of community colleges reported using performance assessments other than grades (simulations, portfolios, capstone projects, etc.) to evaluate learning in individual units, but only 19 percent used those approaches across their institutions. And 83 percent reported using specialized tests (such as licensure exams and other standardized tests) for programs, but only 8 percent reported their use across institutions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Purchase College's Karen Baird discusses the modifications that have made health care more inclusive of needs unique to women. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The New Faculty Majority, a national group for those faculty members who work off the tenure track, has started offering health insurance plans for members who live in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Lack of health insurance (or lack of access to more affordable group rates on health insurance) is a major issue for adjuncts who work at many colleges that limit access to their coverage.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges could and should do much more to inform their students about the availability of federal loans and the risks of higher-cost private loans, the Project on Student Debt asserts in a new report, which describes promising practices that some institutions use and some troubling practices embraced by others. The report, "Critical Choices: How Colleges Can Help Students and Families Make Better Decisions about Private Loans," describes the extent to which significant numbers of students take out higher-priced alternative loans even though they have not exhausted the limits on the federal student loans they can take.

The report praises practices in which institutions (such as Barnard, Mount Holyoke and Grinnell Colleges and San Diego State University) are rigorous about counseling students who wish to take out private loans and critiques other institutions (which it does not name) that certify students' use of private loans willy nilly or treat private loans in their institutional financial aid awards to students as if the loans without making the nature of the loans clear.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The California State University Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a salary of $400,000 for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State, over the objections of Governor Jerry Brown, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The salary is $100,000 more than the previous president earned -- an increase that system officials said was justified to attract top talent. Faculty and student groups have criticized the pay plan, saying it is insensitive at a time that the university system is facing both budget cuts and tuition increases.

In a letter released before the board vote, Governor Brown rejected the idea that the large increase in salary was needed. "The assumption is that you cannot find a qualified man or woman to lead the university unless paid twice that of the chief justice of the United States. I reject this notion," Governor Brown write. "At a time when the state is closing its courts, laying off public school teachers and shutting senior centers, it is not right to be raising the salaries of leaders who -- of necessity -- must demand sacrifice from everyone else."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

An American Bar Association panel reviewing standards used to evaluate law schools is leaning toward requiring more job protection for clinical law instructors and others who work full time, but off the tenure track, The National Law Journal reported. Many such instructors currently work on year-to-year or semester-to-semester contracts, providing little job security. The plan gaining support would require law schools to have a system of "presumptively renewable long-term contracts" for such instructors. While that would fall short of tenure, it would represent improvements for many instructors, committee members believe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the University of Minnesota to discipline a student in a mortuary sciences program who posted jokes about a cadaver on a Facebook page, Minnesota Public Radio reported. The student argued that the First Amendment protects the posts, but the appeals court found that the university could take action if it could "reasonably conclude" that the Facebook postings would "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Vanderbilt University's Daniel Sharfstein examines the long history of racial assimilation in the United States and why racial categories prove ambiguous at best. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- A federal court today invalidated a recently implemented U.S. Education Department regulation that requires colleges and universities that operate online programs to seek approval from every state in which they enroll students in those programs. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities on behalf of its for-profit-college members, found that the Education Department had not given sufficient notice that it planned to include online programs in the requirement, which represented a major shift in its approach. The court upheld the other two regulations that the career college group challenged in its lawsuit: those that changed the rules governing incentive compensation for recruiters and misrepresentation of colleges' programs and results.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A big name in student finance is entering a market that has been populated mostly by under-the-radar players: the practice of providing insurance for students' payments for tuition and other college-related costs and risks. Sallie Mae, long the dominant player in a student loan player that was upended by the one-two punch of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's scrutiny and the Obama administration's policy changes, announced Monday that it would join with Next Generation Insurance Group to offer products such as the "Student Protection Plan," "a package of tuition insurance, ID theft protection, emergency medical evacuation, and other services to meet the needs of a typical college student." Several other companies have dabbled in providing insurance to refund tuition to students who drop out for documented medical or other reasons, but Sallie Mae is by far the biggest and most visible entity to do so.

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