A group of public and for-profit institutions has agreed to collaborate on a project aimed at finding a common way to use the data they collect about students' academic progress to better understand how and why students succeed or fail. The project will be led by WCET, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, and funded by a new $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is designed to bring student-level data (drawn from learning management and student information systems) from six institutions -- American Public University System, Colorado Community College System, Rio Salado College, University of Hawaii System, University of Illinois Springfield, and the University of Phoenix -- into a common format so they can be stripped of identifying information about students and merged into one dataset. The researchers say this will allow them to study the variables that affect student progress, and test the ability to merge student-level data from numerous and varied colleges in one place -- a goal that some policy makers have laid out as the holy grail of education research.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Thai authorities last week charged Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a prominent historian at Thammasat University in Bangkok, with lèse majesté, a serious crime in the country, punishable by up to 15 years in jail, AFP reported. Jeamteerasakul has openly called for reforms of the Thai monarchy, but he maintains that by calling for reform (as opposed to elimination), he is not violating the law.
A majority of Americans (57 percent) believe that the higher education system in the country fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, according to a survey released Sunday by the Pew Research Center. Three-quarters of those polled said that college is too expensive for most Americans. But among Americans who are college graduates, 86 percent said that college had been a good investment for them personally. Pew also released a survey, in conjunction with The Chronicle of Higher Education, of college presidents. (Inside Higher Ed released a survey of college presidents in March.)
The Pew survey is the latest to find public ambivalence about higher education -- with majorities seeing the importance of a college education, but much skepticism about college pricing and access. A survey by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education last year found that a majority of Americans believe that colleges mainly care about their own bottom lines instead of making sure that students have a good educational experience. But the survey also found that a majority of Americans believe a college education is essential for success.
A new idea has emerged in the debate over whether the University of Wisconsin at Madison should be given independence from the university system and many state regulations. A key state legislator is drafting legislation that would keep the system together, but create a board for Madison that would be within the larger university system, The Capital Times reported. It is unclear whether the new idea could gain broad support.
St. Andrews Presbyterian College, in North Carolina, may merge with Webber International University, in Florida. Both institutions are nonprofit, private and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS has moved to end accreditation of St. Andrews, but the college announced last week that SACS has agreed to extend accreditation until the end of July to permit time for the institutions to merge and seek appropriate recognition from SACS for the combined institution.
A cheating scandal at the Upstate Medical University of the State University of New York may prevent some fourth-year students from graduating as scheduled this month, The Post-Standard reported. The cheating involved collaboration on online quizzes. Some students violated the honor code not by cheating, but by failing to report the cheating of which they were aware. University officials declined to say how many of the 154 students in the class might not graduate, but said that the figure was "more than just a handful" but less than half of the class.
The National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 72 new members this month -- of whom 9 are women. Advocates for women in science have long complained about the relatively small number of women elected, while others have said that this reflects the overall pool of scientists, especially at the senior level. The Association for Women in Science has responded with a series of charts showing the percentages of women at senior levels of science and who win election to the National Academies. The figures suggest differing levels of progress in different science subfields, with women in engineering and applied sciences most likely to be recognized.
Arizona State University has suspended two of its wrestling team members after video on YouTube showed them fighting with a participant in the annual "undie run" at the university, The Arizona Republic reported. While the event in which students run around the campus in their underwear is a tradition, the fighting is not, and the video has distressed many people.
A $40 million gift being announced today by the Claremont School of Theology, a Methodist institution, will allow it to add programs to train rabbis and imams, The Los Angeles Times reported. Claremont School of Theology will now be affiliated with a new Claremont Lincoln University, which will also include the new institutions offering training in other faiths. The name of the university honors the donors of the gift, David and Joan Lincoln.
As Internet connectivity has spread in Asia, so has distance education, which is increasingly seen as a viable alternative even in some remote areas, The New York Times reported. Experts, however, warn of lingering challenges, including the lack of Internet access in many areas, and the difficulty faced by would-be students in distinguishing between legitimate and questionable providers of distance education.