Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 3:00am

University tuition fees rose by 2.58 percent in 40 developed countries in 2011 (1.76 percent when accounting for inflation), but student aid increased as well, leading to an overall increase in higher education affordability worldwide, according to a study published today by Higher Education Strategy Associates, a research group. While tuition rose significantly in the United States and South Africa, it fell by more than 5 percent in Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Russia and Turkey; and while student aid declined in the U.S., due to cutbacks in Pell Grants, it increased significantly in Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore and South Africa, the group found.

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 4:29am

Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives are threatening to cut the budget of the University of Michigan if it does not provide more details on its research with stem cells, The Detroit Free Press reported. The Republicans are specifically demanding information about the exact number of stem cell lines at Michigan, something university officials say is more complicated than it may sound. The university has turned over a report on its work with stem cells, but that hasn't satisfied the legislators.


Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 3:00am

Some student loan borrowers with the biggest debt loads didn't fully understand what they were getting into when they borrowed the money, a survey of those borrowers has found. The survey, by the advocacy group Young Invincibles and NERA Economic Consulting, asked borrowers who signed a petition about student loan forgiveness what they were told when they took out the loans. About two-thirds of the respondents, who had an average debt load of $76,000, said they didn't understand the difference between private loans and federal loans. Federal loans have more protections and typically lower interest rates than privately offered loans. Two-thirds also said they misunderstood or were surprised by something in the borrowing and repayment process.

Twenty percent said they found the amount of their monthly payments surprising. An additional 20 percent were surprised by repayment terms, and 15 percent were surprised by the amount of interest they would have to pay. Many of those borrowers appear to look back ruefully: "I wish I asked a million more questions than what I did, but at the same time, I don’t think I knew what to ask," one said, according to the report, "High Debt, Low Information."

Borrowers with more than $50,000 in debt are a small fraction -- about 11 percent -- of student debtors over all. The average outstanding student loan debt is $23,300.

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 3:00am

College professors are perceived by the public as more unfriendly to religion now than they were seen in 2003, according to the results of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Thirty-two percent of respondents said college professors are "unfriendly" toward religion, 37 percent said they view professors as neutral on religion and 14 percent said college professors were friendly to religion. In 2003, 26 percent described professors as unfriendly and 18 percent as friendly.

Republicans and white evangelical Protestants were more likely to say college professors were anti-religion: 56 percent of both groups said professors were unfriendly to religion. Other religious groups, as well as Democrats, generally view professors as neutral. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 3:00am

Research universities should incorporate more "arts making" -- the process of creating works of art -- into their curriculums to help develop "new generations of leaders who are adept in the use of all of their creative cognitive faculties," says a new report from a group of campus leaders convened last year by the University of Michigan. The report, developed by administrators and faculty members from about two dozen of the leading research institutions in the United States, examines what the institutions do now (and what they might do) to integrate such work into their curriculums (and extracurricular activities), and how to advocate for a greater role for such a focus.


Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 3:00am

A Boston College football player is facing charges of violating the wiretap statute in Massachusetts by secretly recording another football player having sex with a female student, the Associated Press reported. The female student says that she found out about the recording after the football player distributed it and people started making fun of her. A lawyer for the football player facing charges denied wrongdoing and questioned whether the videotape exists.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 3:00am

Five University of Southern Mississippi students have been stripped of their pep band scholarships, kicked out of the band and ordered into a cultural sensitivity class for chanting "Where's your green card?" at an opposing basketball player from Puerto Rico. Caught on camera during the second round of the National College Athletic Association men's basketball tournament last week, the band members implied that Kansas State University freshman Angel Rodriguez was in the United States illegally. Rodriguez was born in San Juan, making him an American citizen.

University officials announced the punishment in a news release Tuesday. “The students have been forthcoming, cooperative, contrite and sincerely remorseful," said Joe Paul, Southern Mississippi's vice president for student affairs. "They acted rashly and inappropriately, and now see the gravity of their words and actions. This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them.”

The university issued a swift apology last week, and its athletic director met with Rodriguez in K-State's team hotel. Rodriguez, 19, accepted the apology.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, John Williams-Searle of the College of Saint Rose explains the origin of our understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the 19th-century diagnosis, Railway Spine. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 3:00am

Science leaders in Japan are warning that the country's universities are facing a shortage of young research talent, Nature reported. In the last 30 years, the number of science faculty members at state universities has grown from 50,000 to 63,000, but the number under the age of 35 has dropped from 10,000 to 6,800. Tight budgets have forced universities to limit hiring, leading to concerns about the future of science programs that aren't recruiting enough new professors.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 3:00am

Health-care costs associated with college students' blackouts reach hundreds of thousands of dollars at large universities, according to new research in the journal Health Affairs. The study analyzed the patterns of student drinking at five universities and found that blackout-related medical problems included broken bones, head and brain injuries, and other serious problems. Based on the research, the study estimates that large universities (with more than 40,000 students) could send enough students to hospitals for blackout-related medical care to incur costs of $469,000 to $546,000 each per year. The study's authors are Marlon P. Mundt and Larissa I. Zakletskaia, both of the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.


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