Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 8, 2014

What do tenured professors have in common with audiologists, hair stylists and jewelers? They’ve all got the lowest-stress jobs, according to a new report from CareerCast.com. The job portal’s annual ranking, which last year named university professor as the No. 1 least stressful job, has attracted much criticism from professors who say their work entails more than its fair share of stress. The 2013 ranking backlash escalated after Forbes picked up on the study and published an article saying that "professors have a lot less stress than most of us," thanks to lots of vacation time and few deadlines. In response to that article, professors took their complaints to Twitter under hashtags such as #RealForbesProfessors. Gawker even weighed in on the debate, with a post called "The Forbes-College Professor War Is So On."

This year’s report ranks university professor the No. 4 least-stressful job, behind audiologist, hair stylist and jeweler. Seamstress/tailor, dietician, medical records technician, librarian, multimedia artist and drill press operator round out the top 10 least stressful jobs. The No. 1 most stressful job is enlisted member of the military, followed by military general. Unlike last year – when adjunct professors pointed out that uncertain employment and low per-course pay were particularly stressful aspects of their jobs – the ranking notes that it refers specifically to tenured professors. (Last year’s ranking referred only to full-time professors, not adjuncts, but that was not made clear in the ranking itself.)

Via email, a CareerCast spokeswoman said that the organization had not changed its methodology – which takes into account 11 factors, including travel required, potential for growth and deadlines – in light of the criticism. Tony Lee, publisher, CareerCast, added via email: "We received a lot of feedback about our ranking of university professor as a low-stress job. But we found that while adjunct and part-time teachers are right that their jobs can be stressful, the stress levels for tenured university professors – which is what we rank – are lower than the majority of other jobs we measure in our report."

January 8, 2014

A broad range of Tennessee institutions -- two-year and four-year, public and private -- are collaborating on a new "reverse transfer" program designed to allow students to receive associate degrees from their two-year college after they transfer to a four-year institution. A $400,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation will fund the program.

Each year, officials from the coalition of institutions said, about 2,300 of the students who transfer from Tennessee’s community colleges to four-year institutions are within 15 credit hours of the required 60 for an associate degree. The new online system will centralize transfer students’ academic histories, while mapping out an optional completion path toward obtaining the associate degree.

“We’re on the forefront of this technology, said Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee System. “We know that students who are awarded their associate’s degree while attending a four-year institution are more likely to receive their bachelor’s degree.”

The system, which doesn’t have a formal name yet, will let transfer students know when they have finished the associate degree requirements. As of now, nine public universities, 13 community colleges and eight private institutions are participating in this partnership. DiPietro said he expects the system to fully launch by spring of 2015. 

 

January 8, 2014

The American Studies Program at Middlebury College has issued a different kind of letter in response to the American Studies Association’s recent vote to boycott Israeli universities. In addition to stating its opposition to the resolution, the letter goes further to encourage the association to revisit its constitution and mission statement to consider the appropriate role of political action and to develop a mechanism whereby institutional members of the association (as opposed to just individual members) can vote. 

“As an institutional member, our program never dreamed that we would be spending so much of our time and energy being asked by our administration, alumni, colleagues, students, and the media to support, explain, defend, or denounce an ASA resolution on which we had no right to vote. In this way, the boycott resolution has worked very much against ‘the encouragement of research, teaching [and] publication’ given emphasis in the organization’s constitution,” the letter reads.

The letter is signed by Middlebury's American studies program director and seven other faculty members. “Our longer-term membership in the ASA is by no means a foregone conclusion, because we do not have a full understanding of the association’s purpose," they write. "If we find no constructive engagement on the effort to define more clearly the ASA’s mission, we will, with regret, leave this long-valued institution.”

More than 100 college presidents have gone on record opposing the ASA boycott, as well as several major higher education associations; at least five universities have withdrawn or plan to withdraw as institutional members of the association.

January 8, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Brody Sandel, of Aarhus University in Denmark, discusses why forests are becoming increasingly restricted to sloped terrain. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 8, 2014

Boston University is investigating how someone managed the steal paychecks of 10 employees. The thefts were apparently the result of "phishing," in which someone uses a scheme to obtain access to email accounts or digital records. In this case, the person changed direct deposit information so that checks would not go into the accounts of employees, but instead elsewhere.

 

January 8, 2014

A CNN investigation has found many football and basketball players at big time athletics universities may not be literate above a fifth grade level. The network approached public universities with open records requests for SAT and ACT scores of athletes on those teams. Some universities refused to comply. But of those that did, between 7 and 18 percent of football and basketball players were "reading at an elementary school level." The investigation also compared overall football and basketball player SAT and ACT scores to those of other students, finding large gaps at many institutions. Universities offered a variety of reasons for admitting athletes whose test scores would raise questions about their literacy. Some said, for example, that athletes don't take the tests that seriously, aiming only to do well enough to meet National Collegiate Athletic Association minimum requirements.

 

 

January 8, 2014

A state judge on Tuesday issued a ruling that will block about half of a controversial expansion plan by New York University, The New York Times reported. The judge ruled that New York City lacked the legal authority to turn over three parks to NYU for the projects, and that such a deal required the approval of the New York Legislature. NYU has not said if it will appeal, but said that the ruling did not affect the largest part of the building project, a tower that could be as high as 26 stories. But critics of the plan said that the ruling essentially meant that the university has to restart the entire project approval process, since earlier approval was for a full plan, not just that tower.

 

January 8, 2014

After struggling with financial problems largely attributable to declines in state funding, officials at Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College said Tuesday that they're cutting the number of regional chancellors from 14 to 11 as part of a larger consolidation effort. The combinations of Ivy Tech's East Central and Richmond regions and Columbus and Southeast regions will save Ivy Tech between $2.5 to $3 million total, said a college representative. While the number of chancellors will drop to 11, the number of regional boards of trustees will remain at 14.

Ivy Tech has wanted to bring on more advisers and full-time faculty since early last year, when officials said they might eliminate as many as 20 of the 76 campus locations, and system leaders hope these changes will help them achieve that goal.

Ivy Tech is Indiana's primary community college system and serves almost 200,000 students each year, through 31 campuses and 75 educational sites.

 

January 8, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the distribution of a new vaccine -- approved in Europe but not yet generally approved for use in the U.S. -- at the University of California at Santa Barbara, NBC News reported. That university has had an outbreak of meningitis that is not prevented by vaccines used in the U.S. The meningitis reported at Santa Barbara is similar to that at Princeton University, which in December with CDC approval vaccinated thousands of students with the new vaccine.

 

January 7, 2014

Finding a good job after graduation has indeed become more difficult since the recession – the recession of 2001, that is. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Current Issues found that the trend of recent graduates working in jobs that do not require a degree began with the 2001 recession, and recent graduates are increasingly working in low-wage or part-time jobs.

Unemployment has peaked three times in the last 24 years, the report says: Following the 1990-91 recession (about 4.5 percent unemployment in 1992), the 2001 recession (about 5 percent in 2002), and the 2008 recession (7 percent in 2011). Recent graduates fared worse during those times than college graduates as a whole.

Underemployment, or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree, among recent graduates on average also peaked at around 45 percent in 1992, 2004 and 2012.

The report also notes that from 2009-11, students in some fields fared far worse than others. Unemployment in most fields hovered around 6 or 7 percent, but there was much more variation in underemployment. While 8 percent of recent liberal arts graduates were unemployed, another 52 percent didn’t need a degree for the job they held. Although their unemployment rates were lower, at 4 percent, leisure and hospitality graduates were most likely to be underemployed (63 percent). At the other end of the scale was engineering, where 5 percent were unemployed and 20 percent were underemployed.

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