Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Matthew Cain of the University of Notre Dame reveals how a thrill-seeking personality translates into the business world. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University welcomed the Navy's Reserve Officers Training Corps program back to its campus after 40 years on Tuesday, as the Obama administration formally ended the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay service members in the military, The Boston Globe reported.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Cornell University and New York University were the top education employers in this year's analysis of the best places to work for people who adopt. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption examines policies of large workplaces for the annual ratings. Both Cornell and NYU provide their employees with up to $6,000 per adoption and six weeks of paid leave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The law school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has posted correct data about the class of 2014, replacing inflated data that were online previously. The university continues to investigate how the incorrect data were placed there. While the data had not yet been reported to the American Bar Association when the errors were discovered, they were visible to prospective applicants. And had the data not been corrected, they likely would have boosted the law school's rankings in various systems that use ABA data. The accurate data, which the university had independently verified, said that the class had a median score of 163 on the Law School Admission Test and a grade-point average of 3.7. The earlier data had the LSAT median at 168, and the G.P.A. as 3.8.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Donors who believe in social media have pledged $1 for each person (up to $50,000) who either friends the University of Wisconsin at Madison or its alumni association on Facebook, or who becomes a Twitter follower. Will Hsu, who graduated from UW-Madison in 2000 and is one of the donors, said that he views social media as "a powerful way for younger alums and current students to get connected and stay connected with the university.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The blogosophere was abuzz Monday with a post at a blog at the University of Pennsylvania about how some political science students were sitting in class for 15 minutes before receiving an e-mail telling them that the course had been canceled over the summer because the professor, Henry Teune, had died. The incident may be a good illustration of the value of updating Web pages. The political science department's home page prominently features a notice about a memorial service for Teune. But he remains on the faculty list, and the course list for the fall lists him for two courses. He died in April.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Since 2005, Moody's Investors Service has affirmed the vast majority of existing ratings of postsecondary institutions, but the upgrades and downgrades the agency has made have occurred for consistent reasons, according to a new report released by Moody’s.

The top factors driving credit upgrades include (1) consistently strong operating performance, including balanced budgets or surpluses, (2) improvement in market position and brand identity, (3) growth of wealth in balance sheets, particularly due to fund raising, (4) improvements in liquidity and reduction of debt risks, and (5) diversity of revenue and strength across business lines.

In the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, the liquidity of institutional assets became a major concern for colleges and universities. As a result, many institutions started keeping larger pools of unrestricted assets on their balance sheets. That concern is reflected in the report, with high debt and insufficient liquidity being the top factor for downgrades. The other factors were poor operating performance and cash flow; a weak market position and poorly defined market niche; a weakening of the balance sheet, often marked by a significant increase in debt; and major events such as litigation, excessive management change, or revoked accreditation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Two White House officials told a group of leaders of historically black colleges and universities gathered here for a conference that the sector has "friends in the White House," but that the institutions need to do more work to meet President Obama's goal for the country to have the world's highest proportion of degree-holders by 2020. The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which organized the conference, has pushed the colleges to do more to retain and graduate students, including by creating a new website that specifies how many additional students colleges will have to graduate each year to meet the president's goal.

In two speeches at the conference's opening session, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and John Silvanus Wilson Jr., director of the initiative, each recognized some colleges for attracting grants, better retaining students or incorporating technology in the classroom. But the sector needs to make a "collective and individual commitment to step up and work even harder, just as we ask our students to do every single day," Jarrett said.

Wilson highlighted the department's work to increase the endowments and facilities at historically black colleges, as well as their profile. But improving alumni giving is crucial, he said. "We don't want to criticize," he said. "We want to help."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Academics were among the fortunate few to receive calls Monday from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation naming them as new MacArthur Fellows. The program (commonly called the "genius awards" even if the foundation doesn't use that term) provides $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. The academics are:

  • Roland Fryer, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
  • Elodie Ghedin, assistant professor of computational and systems biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
  • Markus Greiner, associate professor of physics at Harvard University.
  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Tiya Miles, professor of history at the University of Michigan.
  • Matthew Nock, professor of psychology at Harvard University.
  • Sarah Otto, professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia.
  • Shwetak Patel, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington,
  • Kay Ryan, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
  • Melanie Sanford, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan.
  • William Seeley, associate professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.
  • Jacob Soll, professor of history at Rutgers University at Camden.
  • Yukiko Yamashito, assistant professor of cell & developmental biology, University of Michigan Medical School.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jill VanTongeren of Yale University explains how super volcanoes continue to forge one of the Earth’s most valuable metals. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


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