Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 25, 2013

Application and enrollments rates at medical colleges are steadily increasing, but the Association of American Medical Colleges said the number of graduates could surpass the number of spots available in residency training programs in the next two years.

AAMC released data Thursday about application and enrollment rates and called for Congress to increase federal support for residency training programs to avoid a projected physician shortage.

In 2006, the association called for a 30 percent increase in enrollment at medical colleges to avoid projected physician shortages. Medical colleges are on track to meet that goal by 2017, said Darrell Kirch, AAMC's president and CEO. This year, 14 medical colleges increased class sizes by more than 10 percent. Now, the number of medical students has exceeded 20,000 for the first time. About half of the growth is attributed to the opening of medical colleges at the University of California at Riverside, University of Arizona at Phoenix, Central Michigan University and Quinnipiac University.

“Medical schools are doing their job, but this will not alleviate the doctor shortage unless we have a corresponding increase in residency training positions,” Kirch said.

Currently, there are about 25,500 first-year residency positions, he said. But, it’s likely that the number of medical college graduates will surpass the number of residency positions available in the next two years as enrollment rates are increasing at both allopathic and osteopathic medical colleges.

The total number of applicants for medical colleges grew by 6.1 percent and the first-time enrollment rate increased by 2.8 percent in 2013, according to the report. The rate of increase in both applicants and first-time enrollees doubled in the past year. In 2012, the total number of applicants increased by 3.1 percent and the first-year enrollment rate increased 1.5 percent.

October 25, 2013

More than 330 consumers have received financial compensation as a result of complaints they have made on a new federal database about the lenders for their student loans, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report examined the results of complaints filed with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public Consumer Complaints Database. The 330 represent about 8 percent of all complaints filed. Another 500 borrowers (about 12 percent of complaints filed) had complaints closed with non-monetary agreements, such as changes in collection proceedings. "The CFPB levels the playing field for private student loan borrowers who may feel at the mercy of their student lender," said Laura Murray, consumer associate for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. "Filing a complaint to the complaints database can get real results for consumers."

 

October 25, 2013

The board of the Foothill-De Anza Foundation, which supports the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, has voted to sell off holdings in fossil fuel companies. 350.org, a group pushing for colleges to adopt such policies, reports that Foothill-De Anza is the first community college to do so. Students who believe that divestment can help the environment by putting pressure on fossil fuel companies started their campaign for this action in a political science course, where they were urged to use citizen activism skills. About 1 percent of the foundation's $33 million endowment is currently invested in fossil fuel companies.

 

October 25, 2013

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee is questioning how the National Endowment for the Humanities awards its education grants. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.

Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”

“In the current fiscal environment, I question the appropriateness of such grants,” which ranged from about $23,000 to $25,000, Sessions wrote. He also expressed concerns about an NEH-funded program called “Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys Bookshelves” that distributed books, films, and other resources to more than 900 libraries around the country and provided money to hold discussion forums.

The program, according to an NEH press release, “is intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.” Sessions said that the program raised questions about the use of federal funds “on behalf of just one religion,” and demanded that NEH provide an itemized list of similar programs related to sects of Christianity and Judaism.

Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation that would have cut the budget for the NEH nearly in half for the current fiscal year that began on October 1. The House Republican budget plan this year said that the NEH “can no longer be justified.” In March, Congress approved legislation in March that prohibits the National Science Foundation from funding political science research unless a project promotes national security or U.S. economic interests. 

October 25, 2013

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, provost of the University of Chicago, was on Thursday named as the next president of the California Institute of Technology. Rosenbaum is a physicist and the Caltech announcement said that his involvement in both undergraduate and graduate education was crucial to his appointment.

 

October 25, 2013

Lesley University adjuncts announced their intent to unionize Thursday under the auspices of the Service Employees International Union, which is driving a larger unionization movement across the Boston metropolitan area. The SEIU is mobilizing adjuncts across other metro regions, including Washington. Tufts University adjuncts voted in favor of a union last month, but Bentley University adjuncts voted against a union, they announced this week.

"By strengthening the support for part-time faculty we will improve the educational experience, and as a result advance enrollment and retention," Stella Johnson, adjunct professor of photography at Lesley, said in a news release. "We look forward to working together with the administration to solving the issues that confront our campus and profession and give higher education a brighter future."

Jack Dempsey, a longtime adjunct professor of English and public speaking at Bentley and part of the organizing committee there, said he was surprised and disappointed by the outcome -- 100 votes against and 98 for -- but said that Bentley adjuncts and SEIU were planning to appeal the decision. Because the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, preceded the voting deadline of Oct. 3, it's possible that more "yes" votes arrived at the National Labor Relations Board Office by the deadline but could not be certified as timely and counted by the time the shutdown ended, he said. Adjuncts at Bentley want equal pay for equal work compared with tenure-track professors; health care insurance coverage; and "contract rights," including hiring preferences for veteran adjuncts and compensation for courses canceled at the last minute.

October 25, 2013

A new survey of how domestic Canadian students experience the internationalization of the campus by a Toronto-based consultancy finds mixed results. 

Of the 1,398 students surveyed by Higher Education Strategy Associates, 43 percent counted at least one international student among the five closest friends they made at university. Overall, the study found that students generally have positive attitudes toward the diversity that international students bring to their social lives and the classroom. 

However, the study also identified a number of tensions. Roughly half of respondents agreed with the statement that the presence of international students has considerably enriched their classroom learning experience. However, roughly a third said there have been occasions in which having international students in class hindered their learning experience.

Students in business and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields – which attract large numbers of students from overseas – were least likely to agree that international students had enriched their learning experience. Across all fields of study, students who had a close international friend were more likely to say that international students enriched the classroom experience.

As for the issue of international instructors and teaching assistants, 70 percent of students said they took a course with an international instructor or T.A. who was difficult to comprehend because of his or her English or French ability (the survey is of domestic Canadian students, recall). And 32 percent said an instructor's language level had negatively impacted their ability to succeed in a course.

“None of this should be taken as an argument against internationalization,” the report concludes. “Rather, it suggests two things: first, that the values of internationalization are still in many ways adopted only superficially by Canadian students, and require strengthening. And second, that not enough attention is being paid to the dislocations caused by internationalization, particularly with respect to instructors’ official language abilities. Mitigating those problems is likely key to sustaining students’ support for internationalization over the long run; without it, the large minorities who have had less than positive experiences with campus internationalization could turn into majorities, and the resulting discontent could imperil the entire process."

October 25, 2013

The teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who mistakenly sent nude photographs of herself to her class is no longer leading the section, the Associated Press reported. The photos were sent as an attachment that was apparently meant to be a file with the answers to homework problems. The university said that the TA is still employed, but is performing non-teaching duties.

October 25, 2013
Faculty members housed in several main academic buildings at the University of Dayton were surprised Thursday to receive an e-mail from the institution telling them to take down "homemade" and "personal" signs on their office doors and in hallways, lest they be removed by maintenance personnel. Some faculty members said it was a violation of academic freedom, fearing they were being censored. "This includes information about campus events (e.g. a talk) and photos of historic figures (Nelson Mandela or Adrienne Rich), articles from newspapers, as well as anything that would note advocacy (and safe place) for any group/individual who needs it," one professor wrote in an e-mail to an academic listserv. "Is this happening at other universities you work at? How do I fight back?"
 
But Cilla Shindell, university spokeswoman, said the e-mail, sent at the request of campus maintenance, was merely a reminder of existing guidance that faculty members should install small bulletin boards instead of hanging things directly on doors or walls in those buildings, which were refurbished several years ago. Greg Scholtz, director of tenure, academic and governance for the American Association of University Professors, said the organization has no policy related to wall or door hangings, and a university policy against them would violate academic freedom only if it was a form of censorship. Still, said Carolyn Roecker Phelps, associate professor of psychology and president of Dayton's Academic Senate, "Personally, I do think it detracts from what we consider the life of the university. ...You can see it when you walk down the hallways. Where there are things posted on doors there are exchanges happening. Even without the person being [in his or her office], it adds a richness I think will be lost."
October 25, 2013

Career Education Corporation, a major for-profit higher education chain, on Thursday announced the sale of its European education properties to a private equity firm. The company said it expects to receive $277 million in cash for the deal, which includes all of the for-profit's international schools division. Career Education's share price shot up 51 percent after it announced the news.

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