Higher Education Quick Takes
Record shares of young adults are enrolling in college and completing degrees there, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center. The report, based on newly available U.S. Census data, says that in 2012, one-third of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. This is the first time for such a level of educational attainment. Notably, the gains came at a time that the racial and ethnic make-up of the U.S. population was diversifying, a trend that some experts predicted would lead to a decline in educational attainment.
The House Education and the Workforce committee has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate servicing issues in the Direct Loan program, including the performance of loans under both direct lending and federally guaranteed lending and servicing problems that some borrowers are reportedly experiencing. The Education Department's system has had gaps and errors since it began issuing all student loans in 2010, including servicing problems that left some students unable to rehabilitate defaulted loans. House Republicans, who opposed the switch to direct lending, said the recent complaints were "troubling."
Tiffany Edwards, a spokeswoman for the committee's Democrats, said the program "should be held to a high standard and be working in the best interest of students," comparing direct lending favorably to the former bank-based lending program.
California's community colleges have been ordered to focus on students who can earn degrees or certificates or who can transfer to four-year institutions, and to de-emphasize other programs. An article in The Los Angeles Times explores the impact of this directive on rural community colleges. At those institutions, the Times reported, the identity of the colleges is much more centered on long-term ties to community members and the colleges have played a much broader cultural and social role than those in urban areas. As a result, many are questioning the appropriateness of the new approach for such colleges.
Judson University, facing a deficit of $165,000, has laid off 21 staff members and announced that it will not renew the contracts of 11 faculty members, The Daily Herald reported. Officials of the Elgin, Ill., university said that there were not causes for serious concern, but that the employee total had perhaps grown too rapidly in recent years.
Many professors worry about students who use various devices in class not to take notes, but to keep up with Facebook and Twitter. Henry Kim, a business professor at Canada's York University, has gone beyond just banning students from using their laptops for non-class activities. As The Toronto Star reported, he requires students to pledge to -- if asked -- reveal if fellow students' web browsers are open to social media or other non-class-related material. He then can have eyes throughout the class.
The Association of American Medical Colleges plans to launch new leadership training programs to train a new generation of administrators to lead medical education. Darrell G. Kirch, president of the association, announced the effort Sunday during his address at the group's annual meeting. He cited new research on leadership, and said that academic medicine needs to move away from the idea of seeking “one leader with special knowledge to be the 'sage at the top.'" Rather, he said, medical schools need to seek out people who can work to develop a wide base of talent at their institutions.
The American Studies Crossroads Project, an early web pioneer that enabled instructors to share online teaching materials and stories of how they had used them, has been archived and closed -- made irrelevant, its founder says, by the "swiftly moving stream that is the Internet." Randy Bass, a professor of English and associate provost at Georgetown University, said that its core idea -- being "a single knowledge-building, field-forming virtual community" for scholars and teachers in American studies -- "no longer has a role in the distributed and ubiquitous environment of the Web."
The National Student Clearinghouse is taking over management of the University of Texas at Austin's SPEEDE server, which more than 300 colleges use at no charge to process electronic transcripts and share student academic records, the two entities announced Wednesday. The clearinghouse quickly followed Thursday with another announcement making clear that it would continue to provide SPEEDE's services free, presumably in response to questions from many registrars and admissions officials about whether the much larger organization would seek to privatize, or at least monetize, its new operation. Also on Thursday, a corporate player in the e-transcript space, Parchment, announced its own collaboration to create a gateway for electronic academic records.