Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 31, 2013

For months now signs have suggested that law schools are losing their appeal to applicants. All year long, far fewer people have been taking the Law School Admission Test than were doing so the year before. Now data examined by The New York Times indicate a 20 percent decline in the number of applications to law school, compared to this time last year. The long-term trend is even more dramatic. Currently, there are projected to be 54,000 applicants this admissions cycle, down from 100,000 in 2004.

 

January 31, 2013

The Anti-Defamation League says it is “troubled” by an upcoming event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by the college’s political science department, that the ADL says is "anti-Israel." The event, which the political science department is sponsoring along with the college’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, will feature two speakers who are part of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement, which encourages organizations to cut off all ties to Israel. Ron Meier, the ADL New York regional director, said in a press release that the political science department’s co-sponsorship of the event constitutes institutional endorsement of the sentiments of the BDS movement, and in a letter to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould, Meier urged Gould to tell the political science department to revoke its sponsorship.

But the college is backing the right of the political science department to sponsor any event it wants. In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, Gould wrote that principles of academic freedom grant students and faculty the right to “engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree.” Gould emphasized that while the college endorses free speech, it does not endorse the views of speakers it brings to campus.

A spokesman for the college also noted that another student group, the Israel Club, will host its own event in February.  

January 31, 2013

Federal financial aid programs should be quicker to punish colleges with high loan default rates and more vigilant in ensuring that all students are making satisfactory academic progress, a white paper released Wednesday by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities argued. The white paper, "Federal Student Aid: Access and Completion," is the latest in a series funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for using both loan default rates and repayment rates to judge colleges' eligibility to participate in financial aid programs. The association argued that standards should be tightened, saying colleges can game the current system by forcing students into forbearance and deferment.

The group also called for rewarding colleges with high completion rates for at-risk students with additional financial aid, cracking down on fraud and improving advising. The paper is somewhat an outlier among the Gates-funded efforts in proposing provisions that appear aimed at for-profit colleges, including the loan default provisions and a recommendation that the government count veteran's benefits as federal aid under the 90/10 rule, which governs how much of a college's revenue can come from the federal government.

January 30, 2013

Harvard University officials have urged all faculty members to be clear in their syllabuses on policies about student collaboration, The Boston Globe reported. Some students complained last year, when the university experienced a major cheating scandal, that instructors were vague about the kind of collaboration that was permitted (and even encouraged) versus the kind of collaboration that would constitute cheating. The Globe quoted from the syllabus for an applied mathematics course to illustrate the kind of specificity now being encouraged. "For problem sets, students are strongly encouraged to collaborate in planning and thinking through solutions, but must write up their own solutions without checking over their written solution with another student," the syllabus said. "Do not pass solutions to problem sets nor accept them from another student. If you are ever in doubt, ask the course staff to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate."

 

January 30, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jose Antonio Mazzotti of Tufts University reveals how the indigenous population of Peru responded to the Spanish conquest of the Andes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 30, 2013

With a vote by the House of Delegates Tuesday, both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have now confirmed Helen Dragas for another term on the University of Virginia board, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Dragas was the leader of an effort last year to oust Teresa Sullivan as president (an effort that briefly appeared to succeed). Many critics of the board's handling of the situation last year hoped legislators would block the re-appointment of Dragas. While some lawmakers opposed the move, the final vote to confirm -- 63 to 33 -- wasn't close.

 

January 30, 2013

Boston College has asked a federal appeals court to reverse a court order that the college turn over some oral history records to British authorities, the Associated Press reported. Many historians have opposed release of the records, saying that violating the terms under which people gave oral history interviews would discourage others from talking to researchers. (Many oral history interviews are given on the condition that they remain sealed for specified periods of time.) The British have said that they needed to records to pursue possible criminal charges against those involved with violence in Northern Ireland. Last week, however, Dolours Price -- the apparent target of the criminal investigation and one of those who were interviewed for the Boston College collection -- died. Boston College now says that since there can be no legal charge brought against her, there is no reason to force release of the papers.

 

January 30, 2013

Could the National Football League offer a model for reforming college admissions? A paper being released today by the Center for American Progress argues that it could. The NFL "establishes rules that temper competitive practices that could harm the game of football," says the paper, by Jerome A. Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California. Lucido argues that just as the NFL bans steroids, college admissions (with institutions acting collectively) could ban "hyped facts and figures." Every college could be required to report information such as the extent to which the college considers family ability to pay in admissions decisions, how close to full need colleges' aid packages are, policies that govern the renewal of aid awards, and the admission rates for students with various credentials. And just as the NFL engages in revenue-sharing, colleges could (possibly with some relief from antitrust monitors) work together to increase need-based aid, and agree on common terms so families could better understand the true "price" of a college education.

 

January 30, 2013

WASHINGTON —  A panel discussion at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's annual conference here Tuesday highlighted differences between Senate Democrats and House Republicans as the deadline for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act looms at the end of the year. While many don't expect the reauthorization will be done on time, and perhaps will not be finished during this Congress, the panel highlighted a key divide between the parties: House Republicans, represented on the panel by Amy Jones, education policy counsel to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, favor some consumer disclosures from colleges but fewer mandates and regulations. Senate Democrats, represented by Spiros Protopsaltis, senior education policy adviser to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, are seeking metrics to judge college's value. They emphasized to accreditors that many on Capitol Hill don't understand accreditation or understand its value — a key concern since reauthorization is expected to touch on accreditation and related issues.

January 30, 2013

A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit charging that Kaplan Higher Education discriminated against black job applicants by rejecting some people seeking employment because of their credit histories, The New York Times reported. The suit, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said that relying on credit histories has a disproportionate impact on black applicants. The suit was dismissed after the judge agreed to block testimony from an expert witness for the EEOC, finding that the way that witness identified which job applicants were black was not reliable.

 

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