Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 3:00am

A Canadian study concludes that immigrant students and what it calls "visible minorities" are less likely than are other students to drop out in their first or second year of college -- a finding that the researchers attribute to the fact that many white students in Canada are in college because of parental pressure. The study, by the Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Aid (MESA) Project, finds that among low-income students at Canada's colleges, 17.1 percent of "visible minority immigrants" drop out in the first or second year, compared to 25.5 percent for other students. At the country's universities, the dropout rates are 3.8 percent for immigrant minority students, and 9.6 percent for others. "Parental expectations for completing PSE are much greater for these students, and this could be driving the low dropout rates we observe," says the lead author, Ross Finnie of the University of Ottawa.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 3:00am

The average size of gifts from wealthy individuals to education at all levels was $12,759 in 2009, down from $28,329 in 2007 (with the 2007 figures adjusted for inflation), a drop of 55 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The center conducts biennial surveys of giving by "high net worth individuals," those from households with an income greater than $200,000 and/or a net worth of at least $1,000,000, excluding the value of their primary residence. The size of all gifts from those studied fell by 34.9 percent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 3:00am

A poll by The Atlantic of a select group of college presidents has found a roughly even split between those who favor continuing tenure and those who question it. Further, a majority said that "little would actually change" at their institutions if tenure disappeared entirely in higher education. However, most predicted that this would only happen in a circumstance where all institutions could act at the same time, and that academic criticism would be greater if just one institution abolished tenure. The 30 participants in the survey cannot be said to be representative of higher education. The group includes the leaders of 20 research universities (including three Ivies) and 10 liberal arts colleges.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Tea Party candidates such as Rand Paul were emphatic in their campaigns about the evils of earmarks and the need to eliminate them. But Paul, the senator-elect from Kentucky, has developed some flexibility on the subject. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said that while earmarks are a bad "symbol," he will push for earmarks for Kentucky, as long as the earmarks are sought and voted on in public. "I will advocate for Kentucky's interests," he said. That change of heart may comfort Kentucky colleges and universities that -- in an Inside Higher Ed analysis of earmarks this year -- did quite well with earmarks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Many times it falls to faculty members to question to relative support universities provide to athletics as opposed to academics. And faculty members at the University of Oregon have raised such questions. But over the weekend, the athletics director of the University of Washington raised those questions -- about Oregon. On a pregame radio show, Scott Woodward, the Washington athletics director, said that Oregon has become "an embarrassment" as an academic institution as its athletic success has come at the expense of academics, the Associated Press reported. On Monday, he apologized, saying that he respects Oregon and that it is "a great example of the struggles which can accompany a university when state funding decreases."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Hundreds of students may be implicated in a cheating scandal over an answer key obtained by some in advance of a senior-level course in business, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The professor in the course told his class that he was left "physically ill" and "absolutely disgusted" by the incident. Because of the widespread cheating, close to 600 students will have to retake a midterm. If students admit that they cheated the first time around, they will not face further disciplinary action. Students found not to have cheated will be allowed to take the higher of the two exam scores.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:00am

New Hampshire's community colleges are reviewing adjunct workloads to try to make sure they are not too high, The Nashua Telegraph reported. For example, Nashua Community College has imposed a limit of 15 credit hours -- arguing that more hours are inappropriate. Of 134 adjuncts currently working at the college, 14 will have their hours (and pay) reduced.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:00am

A faculty committee at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has recommended a series of ideas -- some radical -- for rethinking the College of Liberal Arts, the largest division at the institution, The Star Tribune reported. Some of the recommendations are typical of those being made at many institutions, with a call to eliminate some small majors and programs to bolster stronger departments. But other recommendations are bolder, such as a call to consider year-round instruction and replacing faculty lectures with lectures given by graduate students, while allowing faculty members to meet students in small groups.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Officially, California has always denied that its public universities charge tuition -- admitting only to requiring "fees." Even though the fees are required, involve thousands of dollars, and support the operations of the universities -- much as is the case elsewhere -- Californians have refused to call them "tuition." But the California State University System announced this week that it would admit reality. An announcement from the system office said: "At this week's California State University Board of Trustees meeting, the trustees will review an agenda item that will inform them of the CSU's intention to change the terminology used to refer to certain charges assessed to students from 'fees' to 'tuition.' " The statement quoted Benjamin J. Quillian, the system's executive vice chancellor for business and finance, as saying that "the change in terminology from 'fees' to 'tuition' will allow us to more accurately define the expenses charged to students, while eliminating confusion and improving our efficiencies in regards to financial aid."

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, on Sunday at the group's annual meeting called for a series of reforms of the institutions and the services they provide. While praising the health care reform law Congress passed, Kirch said that it should be viewed as "a crucial first step," and not a resolution of the problems facing American health care. He called on medical schools -- among other things -- to launch new ways to prepare people to lead their institutions, to be more open about medical education's finances and alternative approaches to them, and to redesign health care for the faculty and staff members, and their families, who work in academic medicine. "Data indicate that, despite our knowledge and experience, our faculty and staff members are not always wise consumers of heath care," Kirch said. "We often do not receive basic preventive services or good continuity of care, and too often we overuse tests and procedures despite the best medical evidence. Because many medical schools and teaching hospitals self-insure, they carry all the financial risk for their employees’ health status and health care. That presents an incredible opportunity. Rather than just being one more detached employer lamenting rising health care costs, academic medical centers in many cases are in the best position to improve the health of their faculty and staff."

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