Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 12, 2014

One way to make federal financial aid go further in a time of rising tuition prices is to link Pell Grant awards to students' academic readiness and performance in college, Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Brookings Institution's Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project, argues in an essay published today by EducationNext. Another scholar, Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, offers a counterpoint, arguing that conditioning Pell Grants on academic performance would decrease, not increase, their cost effectiveness.

February 12, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Marie-Claire Beaulieu of Tufts University discusses how the Internet has increased access to ancient texts. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 12, 2014

GRE volume was up about 5 percent in the United States in 2013, and by larger percentages in some other countries. Among all countries outside the United States, GRE test-taking was up 30 percent, and the figure was up 70 percent in India, the Educational Testing Service announced.



February 12, 2014

The career center at New York University, responding to student pressure, is asking more of entities wanting to list internships in a database, ProPublica reported. Going forward, internship providers must indiate that unpaid internships meet Labor Department standards. In the past, many such internships didn't meet those standards.

February 12, 2014

Young adults with college degrees enjoy a significant economic edge over their peers who lack one, according to a study published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. The study, "The Rising Cost of Not Going to College," mines Census and survey data to compare today's 25- to 32-year-olds with their peers in previous generations. It finds that full-time workers in that cohort with a bachelor's degree earned an average of $17,500 more than their peers with only a high school diploma, and that that difference is bigger than it was comparably situated adults in Generation X and Baby Boomers. That's true even though a larger share of today's 25-to-32-year-olds (34 percent) has bachelor's degrees than was true in the previous generations.

February 12, 2014

The Common Application announced Tuesday that it is keeping the current essay prompts (and word limit of 650 words). When the prompts were introduced last year, they received mix reviews, but the Common Application announcement said that a survey found that 70 percent of member colleges and 90 percent of school counselors approved of the prompts. They are:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
February 12, 2014

The Indian arm of Penguin Random House has agreed to pull from the market all copies of a University of Chicago scholar's 2009 book on Hinduism that came under attack from some conservatives in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported. The book, "The Hindus: An Alternative History," by Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at Chicago, was withdrawn as part of a settlement (obtained by the Journal) with a nationalist group that had complained about the book. In a statement, Doniger said she was "deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate."

February 11, 2014

The University of Texas System's board expects to spend four to six months finding a new chancellor to replace Francisco Cigarroa, who announced Monday he would step down after his successor is named. 

Cigarroa plans to focus now on practicing medicine, which he has done even as chancellor, and also advise the system as it prepares to establish a medical school in the state's Rio Grande Valley. In recent years he has resisted intense pressure from some members of the Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to fire Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin. Powers has been defended by many students, faculty members and alumni. At a press conference, Cigarroa said he continues to support Powers.

“I evaluate all presidents, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance," he said. "You know [...], I support President Powers, and I’ll continue to evaluate presidents every day, not only President Powers but all 15.” The system has nine universities and six current medical centers.

Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said, not unexpectedly, that Perry, who appoints the board, would have some say in who replaces Cigarroa. 

“His input will be sought and will be certainly considered, but he doesn’t have a direct role in the process," Foster said.

February 11, 2014

Britain's home office has suspended the administration of English language tests run by the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service after the BBC news program, "Panorama," uncovered “systematic fraud” at British test centers. As summarized in this BBC articlePanorama recorded instances of Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) examinees being replaced by “fake-sitters” who completed the test for them, and of a proctor reading the correct answers aloud to test takers.  The news program followed a network of agents who help bogus students from outside the European Union pass the TOEIC, a government-approved English test for immigration purposes, and otherwise obtain student visa extensions fraudulently. 

Thomas A. Ewing, an ETS spokesman, told Inside Higher Ed via email that the issues seem to involve two TOEIC testing centers and that the government’s suspension of TOEIC and Test of English as a Foreign Language exams within the U.K. will not affect test-takers elsewhere in the world. “When testing on a global basis, no test provider can claim 100 percent prevention or detection of fraudulent activity, but ETS does everything it can to detect and prevent rare instances of dishonest test administrators or test takers,” an ETS statement read, in part. 

February 11, 2014

Two prominent Republican Senators on Monday continued to push for an overhaul of U.S. accreditation of colleges, seeking to open up federal student aid to non-traditional forms of higher education as a way to lower costs and broaden access. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in a speech at a National Journal event in Miami, called on Congress to establish a new independent accrediting board that would accredit free online courses -- a proposal also floated by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. “Action on this issue can and should be swift,” Rubio said, adding that “members of both parties are beginning to realize that for every day we delay bold accreditation reform, our education system leaves more Americans behind to languish in a dwindling market of low-skill jobs.”

Rubio praised a proposal by Senator Mike Lee of Utahyou mean Utah, right? or is the senator wrong? -sj ** oops, I meant Utah /ms that would allow states and companies to accredit courses. At a separate event in Washington, Lee said that such a plan would help lower the cost of higher education.

In his remarks in Miami, Rubio also laid out several other higher education proposals. He suggested that income-based repayment should be the default payment plan for federal student loans. He said that the various federal income-based repayment programs are underutilized and too confusing for borrowers.

In addition, he proposed a mechanism called “Student Investment Plans” as an alternative option to loan-financing for college tuition. Under the plan, students would have the option of applying for an investment plan from an “approved and certified private investment group” whose investors would pay the students’ tuition in return for a percentage of their income for a set period of time after graduation. 


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