Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 20, 2014

Facebook is the most used social media platform by school, college and university advancement officials, according to the latest version of an annual survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, mStoner and Huron Education. Of respondents, 95 percent reported using Facebook, followed by Twitter (82 percent), LinkedIn (76 percent) and YouTube (68 percent). Those social media tools were popular last year as well. Instagram saw a major increase in use, from 27 to 43 percent of those responding to the survey.

 

March 20, 2014

California's community colleges and campuses in the California State University System both have made progress in encouraging the use of a two-year degree aimed at transfer, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. About half the state's community colleges now offer 10 or more versions of the transfer degree, the report found. And Cal State campuses have made "significant progress" in increasing the number of transfer degrees they accept in similar majors.

Challenges remain, however. The report said capacity constraints at Cal State may limit the degrees' promise. It also found that the lack of participation by the University of California means that the transfer degrees are not as much of a "statewide" pathway as intended by the ambitious legislation that led to their creation.

More work also needs to be done at two-year colleges, according to the report. Awareness among community colleges students about the degrees remains limited.

Last year California passed a bill to nudge community colleges and Cal State campuses to comply with the legislation's timeframe, which required all of the new transfer degree tracks to be completed this year.

March 20, 2014

Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, is among the institutions that called off spring break due to all the snow days that interfered with course sessions. So students this week, which would have been spring break, organized a staycation, and came to the college dressed for the beach, even if they were still going to class.

March 20, 2014

California's Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has "consistently failed to meet its responsibility to protect the public's interests," a state audit released Wednesday said. The report from the California State Auditor cited a list of agency's shortcomings, including long backlogs of applications for licenses and delays in processing applications, failing to "identify proactively and sanction effectively unlicensed institutions," and conducting far too few inspections of institutions. The bureau, which the legislature created in 2009 after the state's previous regulatory body was killed, challenged the audit's negative conclusion but agreed with its recommendations for improving the agency's performance going forward.

 

 

March 20, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Trumble, assistant professor of biology at Baylor University, explains how a whale’s ear wax can help us find definitive answers to a wide array of questions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 20, 2014

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center today released state-by-state data on the various pathways students take on their way to earning degrees and certificates. The data builds on a national report from 2012 that showed a more optimistic picture of college completion than other studies had found previously.

According to the report, 13 percent of students nationwide who first enrolled at a four-year public institution completed their credential at a different college. And 3.6 percent of students who began at a four-year public institution earned their first degree or certificate at a community college. Among other findings, the report also gives state-specific breakdowns of the proportion of students who began at community colleges and eventually completed at four-year institutions.

March 20, 2014

The University of California on Wednesday released a "climate" report in which it analyzed survey results from students and employees across the university system. The results suggested that most people at the university feel comfortable, but that a significant minority do not. Twenty-four percent of respondents (breakdowns were not provided for different groups) reported that they "had personally experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct" at a university campus. And 9 percent said "that this conduct interfered with their ability to work or learn." Three percent reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual conduct at the university.

Among students, 69 percent of undergraduates and 78 percent of graduate students were satisfied with their academic experience. And 75 percent of undergraduates, 85 percent of graduate students, and 67 percent of postdocs said that they "felt valued by faculty in the classroom."

 

March 19, 2014

The drowning deaths of six students, apparently from hazing, have set off a debate at Portugal's universities, The New York Times reported. Hazing in Portugal is not associated with fraternities, but is a rite of passage for new students. Critics say that the recent deaths show that the traditions have gotten out of control, but many students support hazing and are rallying to preserve it.

 

March 19, 2014

Sallie Mae, under scrutiny from consumer advocates and several lawmakers for how it manages payments for federal student loan borrowers, released new data Tuesday touting the performance of those loans.

The company said that 9.3 percent of the federal direct loans it services were enrolled in an income-based repayment plan at the end of 2013, compared with the previously-released 7.7 percent national rate for all such loans. In addition, Sallie Mae said that the federal loans it serviced were less likely to be in forbearance, comparing the company’s 9.4 percent rate of forbearance with the 11.1 percent rate for all federal direct loan borrowers.

The Education Department has not released such detailed data on how federal direct loan borrowers fare under each of the different loan servicers it hires. Some consumer advocates have charged that loan servicers aren’t doing enough to help struggling borrowers enroll in income-based repayment plans, which allow borrowers to cap their payments as a percentage of their income. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, has specifically called out Sallie Mae’s practices.

Sallie Mae’s release of its data comes as the department is negotiating the renewal of the loan servicing contracts it has with Sallie Mae and the three other main servicers of federal loans.

Under the current contract, the department assigns each of those companies a performance score based on how well, relative to the others, they are keeping borrowers out of default and satisfying different stakeholders. The scores determine how many new loans the department assigns to the companies. Last year, Sallie Mae received the lowest overall score and is therefore receiving the smallest share of new federal loans to manage on behalf of the department. The company performed the second best on the default metrics, but it received the lowest customer satisfaction scores from surveys of students, college financial aid officers, and Education Department employees.

The company’s chief executive officer, John F. Remondi, told investors last year that he is pushing for the department’s allocation methodology to more heavily weight the default metrics.

March 19, 2014

Pearson, the education company and publisher, on Tuesday confirmed it laid off 68 employees in its higher education division on March 12. The company, which is in the middle of a transition from print to digital products, has in its past two annual earnings reports warned about stagnant or falling profits as it completes its restructuring process.

A person with knowledge of the layoffs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many of those laid off were editors, designers and publishers.

"The demand for learning tools that take advantage of data and analytics to improve outcomes is accelerating," a Pearson spokesman said in a statement. "In light of this, we are re-imagining how to take our trusted brands beyond print."

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