Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, August 21, 2015 - 3:00am

Hillary Clinton on Thursday said she wanted to boost the number of AmeriCorps members and significantly expand the educational benefits associated with the program.

Clinton’s plan calls for increasing the number of AmeriCorps service members to 250,000 from the current 75,000. She also would increase the amount of money AmeriCorps members can receive to attend college, and make those educational benefits exempt from taxes.

Under the proposal, an AmeriCorps member who completes two years in the program and spends an additional year in public service would receive more than $23,000. The current maximum benefit, called the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, is $11,550.

The service proposal would cost $20 billion over the next 10 years and is part of Clinton’s $350 billion higher education plan announced last week.

Friday, August 21, 2015 - 3:00am

The number of federal student loan borrowers enrolling in income-based repayment options grew by more than half over the past year, the Education Department said on Thursday.

As of June, nearly 3.9 million federal direct loan borrowers were enrolled in the plans, which the Obama administration has expanded and heavily promoted. That’s a 56 percent jump from last June.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan touted the increase as a success on Thursday.

“There’s more work to do, we won’t stop fighting to help people who are struggling to pay back their student loan debt,” he said in a statement. “But the fact that more and more borrowers are taking advantage of the opportunity to cap their monthly payments is a good sign.”

Friday, August 21, 2015 - 3:00am

A new report from the Education Commission of the States looks at the various ways states are implementing reverse transfer policies to retroactively award associate degrees to students pursuing four-year diplomas.

Reverse transfer programs help students understand the importance of a two-year degree and award students for previously earned credit. So far, 10 states have statewide policies to award associate degrees to eligible students, though other states offer similar reverse transfer pathways through institutional agreements. The report examines the reverse transfer policies in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Texas in particular.

States that have implemented reverse transfer are increasingly using technology that allows them to track student data and transcripts, the report notes. Some states are also using grant dollars from foundations such as Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Helios Education Foundation to reach their reverse transfer targets.

Friday, August 21, 2015 - 3:00am

Following a spate of recent clashes between student newspapers and administrations, a group of national journalism organizations on Thursday announced a boot camp-style training project for student journalists facing censorship or other kinds of adversity. The Student Press Law Center, the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors will deploy what they’re calling the J-Team to work with student journalists on investigative reporting and other skills. The team’s first mentoring session is next week at the University of Iowa, where members will meet with student journalists from Iowa’s Muscatine Community College. Editors from Muscatine’s student newspaper, The Calumet, are currently suing the college for allegedly removing a journalism adviser and otherwise retaliating against them for writing about a faculty committee member who reportedly voted to give a scholarship to a family member.

“The most effective response to colleges that try to intimidate journalists is to do even more aggressive, impactful journalism,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center and a team member, said in a news release. “The J-Team will send a clear message to colleges across the country that, when you attack student journalists, you are awakening the entire journalism community and your efforts to silence inquisitive journalism will only backfire.”

Muscatine College officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Friday, August 21, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Elizabeth Skippington, a postdoc in Indiana University’s biology department, explores the darker side of the iconic holiday decoration. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Mike Rosenberg, a former sports reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, took to Twitter to share the results of his research on the arrests of college football players in the last five years. Washington State University earned the top spot (31 arrests), followed by the University of Florida (24), a tie for third with both the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University (22), and the University of Oklahoma (21) rounding out the top five. Washington State also had another distinction: because its football team has not been winning many games in recent seasons, it was one of three universities with more arrests (13 more arrests, in fact) than victories in the last five years. I have sent email to Wash State seeking comment. -sj

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 3:00am

In Iowa on Monday, Senator Marco Rubio (at left, with Aristotle at right), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, spoke about his vision for reforming higher education, and encouraged more people to enter vocationally oriented programs. Rubio said it was important for students to know their chances at good jobs after finishing various programs.

"So you can decide if it's worth borrowing $50,000 to major in Greek philosophy," The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported Rubio as saying. "Because after all, the market for Greek philosophers has been very tight for 2,000 years." Greek philosophy seems to be Rubio's go-to example -- see this article from June. Or this one from March. Or this one from February.

Inside Higher Ed wondered what philosophers might make of all of these comments. Amy E. Ferrer, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, responded via email. "Rubio's refrain about the value of philosophy is unfortunate -- and misinformed," she said. "Philosophy teaches many of the skills most valued in today's economy: critical thinking, analysis, effective written and verbal communication, problem solving, and more. And philosophy majors' success is borne out in both data -- which show that philosophy majors consistently outperform nearly all other majors on graduate entrance exams such as the GRE and LSAT, and that philosophy ties with mathematics for the highest percentage increase from starting to midcareer salary -- and anecdotal evidence indicating that philosophy and other humanities majors are increasingly successful and sought after in the business and technology sectors.

"Examples of philosophy majors' success in the business world include Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield and Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and one of Rubio's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination."

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 4:19am

The faculty union for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has gone to state court to seek an injunction to block the system from starting background checks on all employees, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Union leaders say that state law requires only that those who teach or work with minors be subject to background checks, and that most professors do not teach or work with minors. Union leaders also note that the law doesn't count as a minor those who are enrolled at a college or visiting a college as a prospective student. But university leaders say that all campus employees should have background checks because many minors visit campuses for summer programs or other events.

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 4:27am

Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds and considered one of the world's leading sociologists, has been accused of serial "self-plagiarism" or reusing old material in new books, Times Higher Education reported. A new paper states that 12 of his books contain “substantial quantities of material that appear to have been copied near-verbatim and without acknowledgment from at least one of the other books sampled. Several books contain very substantial quantities of text -- running into several thousands of words, and in the worst case almost 20,000 -- that have been reused from earlier Bauman books without acknowledgment.” Bauman and Polity, the publisher of many of the books, declined to comment.

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a paleobiologist at the University of Cape Town, explores her research into dinosaur fossils. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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