Higher Education Quick Takes
Education Secretary Arne Duncan took the night off from speeches on college costs for some basketball Friday -- and dominated the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. In the past, Duncan has called for reforms of college sports, but he used his time in the spotlight Friday to focus on the nation's high school dropout rate (and to make this pass):
The Council of the American Sociological Association released a statement this week criticizing the federal government for seeking to force a Boston College library to turn over to British law enforcement officials confidential oral history records. The case remains in the courts and has caused considerable alarm among historians who rely on oral history. (The documents in question relate to a violent period in the history of Northern Ireland, with many key players still alive and not expecting their interviews to be public until after their deaths.) The statement from the sociology group says, in part: "The release of the 'Belfast Project' interview data threatens the academic freedom to study difficult and controversial topics. It undercuts the willingness of potential participants in future research to share valuable information. In the short run, such intrusion in research seeking to understand past tragedies can harm the processes through which Northern Ireland now seeks political stability. And in the long run, we must weigh the potential damage to social science that can provide a firmer knowledge base for avoiding these types of conflicts in the future."
For the first time ever, just over 30 percent of adults in the United States, aged 25 or older, have at least a bachelor's degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. In 1998, not even 25 percent of the comparable population had a bachelor's degree. The data show numerous gaps among members of various groups:
- Fifty percent of Asian Americans 25 years and over reported having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011. This level of education was reported by 34 percent of white people, 20 percent of black people and 14 percent of Hispanic people.
- Of the 61 million people 25 and over with bachelor’s degrees, 30 million were men and 31 million were women. The number of women with bachelor's degrees increased 37 percent in the last decade, while the increase for men was 23 percent.
- The number of men 25 years old and over with doctorate degrees increased 24 percent in the last decade, from 1.5 million to 1.9 million. The increase for women was 90 percent, from 0.6 million to 1.2 million.
The federal government has subpoenaed information from Pennsylvania State University related to the child sex abuse case that forced the resignations of several top administrators and the university's renowned football coach, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A university spokeswoman confirmed the existence of the information request, but declined to provide any information about the nature of the information requested about Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach whose alleged sexual assaults of children have brought state charges against him and two former Penn State administrators. The subpoenas came from the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisburg, whose officials could not be reached by the Inquirer Thursday.
Students attending for-profit colleges received $280 million of the $563 million spent last year by the Department of Defense on tuition assistance for active-duty members of the military, according to a new study by the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Six for-profit college companies collected 41 percent of the total expenditure.
The study also analyzed Department of Defense spending on on education benefits for military spouses. For-profits received $40 million of that $65 million, with $12 million going to for-profits that are not eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs. As the report noted, those institutions operate outside of the government's "regulatory regime set up to ensure minimal levels of program integrity."
Bryn Mawr College announced Thursday that it will host a workshop by the gay performance artist Tim Miller, whose scheduled appearance was called off by Villanova University officials, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Bryn Mawr program will be open to Villanova students. The cancellation of Miller's faculty-invited appearance at Villanova has angered many faculty members there and elsewhere, who see the move as a violation of academic freedom. A statement from Bryn Mawr said: "Bryn Mawr College is a community of scholars with a long history of honoring freedom of expression.... Bryn Mawr's commitment to freedom of expression means that speakers who conduct themselves within the college's general guidelines are entitled to express their ideas without hindrance, no matter how unpopular or controversial their ideas might be."
For-profit colleges will grow as they continue to fill a gap left by public higher education, which cannot keep pace with demand thanks to slumping government support, according to a new study by John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley. That growth will not be due to well-thought-out policy, and will happen despite concerns about the performance of for-profits, Douglass writes. This "policy default" in the United States follows a pattern in Brazil, South Korea and Poland -- dubbed "the Brazilian Effect" -- that will encourage lower-quality institutions and fail to meet national educational goals, the study predicts.
Officials in Ontario are considering a plan -- not yet made public but obtained by The Canadian Press -- under which students would take three of their five courses each semester online. "As the world of online learning expands, Ontario will be at the forefront of this digital, portable and low-cost alternative," the plan says. The plan also calls for more students to graduate in three years, and for colleges to improve their productivity by 3 percent a year. Student groups aren't impressed by the plan. "The fact that they're talking about such a massive overhaul without having reached out to faculty or students is cause for concern," said Sandy Hudson, president of the Canadian Federation of Students. "To think that three in five of all courses — the majority of courses in a year that students would be doing — would be online, that is definitely harming the quality of education."
Susan Aldridge, president of University of Maryland University College, has been placed on leave, The Washington Post reported. No details were released about why she was placed on leave and she did not respond to an e-mail inquiry. Aldridge has been a prominent figure nationally in discussions of distance education and teaching with technology.
Following the second allegation of sexual assault this season by a member of the Boston University men's ice hockey team, the university has announced the creation of a panel that will study the culture surrounding the team. The panel will not focus on the guilt or innocence of the accused athletes, whose cases are being handled by local authorities (and both of whom have been thrown off the team and are no longer enrolled). In a statement, President Robert A. Brown said that the panel would focus on broader questions.
"We will ask the task force to look at our program with fresh, impartial eyes, to determine whether the culture of hockey at BU meets the high standards of our academic community. If it does not, if the task force finds a culture where players are privileged or entitled or held to lesser standards, it will recommend changes to the way we think about and manage our hockey program," Brown said.