Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 3, 2013

Northwestern University is today announcing a new effort to help prepare more students in the Chicago public schools to enroll at Northwestern or other competitive colleges, The Chicago Tribune reported. Fifty high school freshmen a year -- from the city's regular high schools -- will be selected for a special academy in which they will receive year-round tutoring, college counseling and test prep. All costs will be paid by Northwestern. Currently about 75 of Northwestern's 2,000 freshmen come from the Chicago schools. That's up from 28 five years ago, but university officials want to see significant growth in that figure.

 

December 3, 2013

Administrators at the University of Michigan are delaying a controversial attempt at cost savings amid faculty uproar. University officials had planned to move 275 staffers from across campus into a single building on the edge of Ann Arbor to save money. But on Monday, university administrators said the move, scheduled to begin in April, would be delayed "beyond April." It is unclear if the university still intends to finish the move by next fall, its initial deadline to consolidate scores of staffers under one roof. The "shared services" plan has met with opposition from faculty concerned about losing trusted staffers. There are also questions about how much Michigan will actually save as a result. Administrators have gradually bowed to this concern since faculty began going public in recent weeks. The statement Monday from top Michigan administrators, including Provost Martha Pollack, is the clearest sign yet that faculty have been heard.

"We will bring faculty into the process immediately to evaluate the timeline and to ensure the establishment of a shared services program that is structured to meet the needs of our faculty and our students while achieving necessary cost savings," the statement said. "Each school and college will work directly with its faculty so the ultimate outcome is one that provides adequate support for teaching and research."

University officials initially hoped to save $17 million using shared services but now that figure is down to as little as $2 million in the first year and $5 to $6 million per year in the near term after that. Some of that savings is offset by new costs, including $4 million to fix up the building staff are supposed to be moving to, $1 million a year to lease the building and nearly $12 million for consultant Accenture to work on shared services and other cost-saving efforts. 

December 2, 2013

Many at San Jose State University are reacting with shock and outrage to the alleged racial harassment -- for a period of months -- of a black student by the white students with whom he shared a suite. But just two years ago, the administration commissioned a report on diversity on campus, and that study found black students reported a hostile atmosphere that needed changes to be more inclusive, The San Jose Mercury News reported. A sociology professor who wrote the report, Susan Bell Murray, said that after she submitted the report, the administration essentially thanked her but did nothing to publicize or act on the findings. A spokeswoman for the university said that the issues outlined in the report were in fact important to the administration, which was always committed to working on them.

 

December 2, 2013

Research and development spending by colleges and universities in 2012 fell for the first time since 1974 when adjusted for inflation, the National Science Foundation said last week.

Expenditures on R&D rose slightly in current dollars, to $65.8 billion from $65.3 billion in 2011; federal, state and local spending actually declined, but institutions' own research spending rose slightly, as seen in the table below.

When adjusted for inflation, though, in 2005 dollars, all research expenditures declined, driven down by a steady drop in funds from the federal stimulus legislation of 2009. The figures are in millions.

Fiscal year All R&D Spending Federal Govt. State and Local Govt. Institution Funds Business Other
2010 $61,257 $37,477 $3,853 $11,941 $3,198 $4,088
2011 65,274 40,771 3,831 12,601 3,181 4,890
2012 65,775 40,130 3,704 13,674 3,282 4,984

 

December 2, 2013

At least a quarter of the gap in college participation rates between lower and middle class students and upper class students in Australia, Britain and the United States cannot be explained by academic achievement, according to new research released by the Sutton Trust, a British think tank. The study looked at the academic preparation and enrollment patterns in different countries, with an emphasis on trying to be sure that the better success levels of wealthier students in enrolling in higher education can't be attributed only to their better preparation. And the study said that it can't be. The study was conducted by John Jerrim of the Institute of Education at the University of London.

He found that in the United States, children of professionals are 3.3 times more likely to go to leading public universities than are working class children, and that about 40 percent of the difference cannot be explained by differences in academic achievement. At top private universities, he said, the gap is even larger, and 52 percent of the difference cannot be explained by academic achievement.

December 2, 2013

IT security problems in the Maricopa County Community College District may have put the personal information of almost 2.5 million students, employees and suppliers at risk, the institutions warned on Wednesday. 

Federal law enforcement alerted the district to the problems in April, setting off a review that would eventually unearth vulnerabilities that exposed "sensitive information including individual names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and bank account information, but not credit card information or health records." The district is not aware of any actual security breaches, however.

MCCCD, which consists of 10 colleges in the greater Phoenix region, has partnered with Kroll Advisory Solutions, a cybersecurity company, to address the vulnerabilities. The district may also replace employees that "did not meet the district’s standards and expectations," according to a press release.

December 2, 2013

Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie flip-flopping on a bill that would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition? The New York Times reported that Governor Christie pledged support for the idea during his recent, successful re-election campaign in which he portrayed himself as a Republican who could do well with groups (such as Latino voters) that have not been supporting the GOP lately. But with a bill to offer these students in-state rates about to reach him, Governor Christie has talked about it being "unsignable" because it would cover immigrant students at New Jersey boarding schools. It is not clear that there are many such students, but some advocates for immigrant students are accusing the governor of quickly abandoning the stance he took when running for re-election.

 

December 2, 2013

“On the Guarding of the Heart,” a piece for chamber orchestra by Serbian-born composer Djuro Zivkovic was named Sunday night as receipient of the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Born in Belgrade in 1975, Zivkovic has lived in Stockholm since 2000, and teaches at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

December 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Simone Riehl of the University of Tuebingen discusses where and when agriculture arose. Learn more about the Academic Minute -- and catch up on the podcasts you might have missed because of the Thanksgiving holiday -- here.

December 2, 2013

André Schiffrin, whose work at Pantheon Books of Random House and at the New Press was influential in promoting the work of many intellectuals, died Sunday at the age of 78, The New York Times reported. The cause was pancreatic cancer. Among the writers whose work Schiffin championed, the Times cited Jean-Paul Sartre, Günter Grass, Studs Terkel, Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky, Julio Cortázar, Marguerite Duras, Roy Medvedev, Gunnar Myrdal, George Kennan, Anita Brookner, and R. D. Laing.

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