A study presented at this week's meeting of the Association for Institutional Research raises questions about what the Collegiate Learning Assessment is really measuring -- at least at one campus. The CLA has been adopted by many colleges to measure gains in students' critical thinking and other skills over the course of their undergraduate education -- with the test given to freshmen and seniors, to examine gains in various cohorts. Braden J. Hosch, director of institutional research at Central Connecticut State University, examined his institution's scores and found a correlation between the time students take on the test and their scores. He found that in a cohort in which students performed better, the average time spent on the test was 63 minutes, compared to 45 minutes in a year in which scores were lower. The finding could reinforce one criticism of the CLA: that because it is given to a small sample of students, who take it voluntarily, results may be skewed by how motivated students are to give their best effort.
Higher Education Quick Takes
New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a former dean at Mercer County Community College, who is now 79, was the victim of illegal age discrimination when the college declined in 2005 to renew her appointment, The Star-Ledger reported. The college had cited her status as an "at will employee" and the fact that the former dean worked on a series of contracts, and that the last contract was simply not renewed. Rose Nini, the former dean, said that the then-president in 2004 made it clear he thought she was too old to be working. The court ruled that she was covered by the law. Nini and the college had earlier reached a settlement in the case, but the Supreme Court went ahead with its ruling.
Illinois lawmakers continue to debate the state's system of allowing legislators to award scholarships to college students in their districts -- with little oversight over whether the awards benefit political allies or donors. The Chicago Tribune reported on how one lawmaker used his funds -- not even following the minimal rule that recipients live in his district. One lawmaker gave out $94,000 to the four children of a political supporter, with the students saying they lived in the legislator's district even though they lived elsewhere and neither of their parents lived in the district.
Canada's government is boasting of great success in attracting top researchers from around the world to Canadian universities through a new program to promote research excellence. But many social scientists in the country are concerned about the lack of anyone from their disciplines being named to one of the special chairs, Maclean's reported.
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.
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On Friday, just a week after announcing it would be sold to private investors, Lambuth University announced it would not be sold and would retain its nonprofit status. Bill Seymour, the president, said in an interview that negotiations with the investors led both sides to think that the university would be best served by keeping its nonprofit status, but working with the investors, whom he declined to name. Lambuth had been rushing to send its accreditor -- the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which has placed the university on probabation -- a proposal to approve an ownership change. Seymour said that, at the last minute, the university decided not to file, and that it will instead seek approval to add new online courses that will be offered in a yet-to-be-determined partnership with the investors. Lambuth is so low on cash that it didn't make payroll in May, but Seymour said that the investors would do so, and would provide money to keep the university running until the new online programs start. He said existing programs would also continue. Asked if the funds being provided by the investors were a donation, he declined to characterize them in any way.
Belle S. Wheelan, president of the SACS Commission on Colleges, said that the organization would review whatever proposal Lambuth makes. Asked about whether issues were raised by investors keeping the institution running without a change in ownership, she said that nonprofit colleges can receive gifts or loans from outside groups. But she added that "if you are paying the bills, you may own the place."
A national survey of college and university career centers has found near-unanimous agreement among officials that students who have had internships are at a significant advantage when they look for jobs. The survey, by Internships.com -- a Web site that lists internships -- also found some encouraging news for those seeking internships, in that two-thirds of career centers reported that they received more internship postings this year than last year. Many of those in the survey viewed as unrealistic new federal limits on unpaid internships. Many career center leaders view those positions as providing key opportunities -- even without cash -- for their students.
College students today are not as empathetic as college students were in the 1980s and 1990s, according to an analysis by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The study -- based on an analysis of student surveys over a 30-year period -- was presented last week at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science. Students were categorized based on how the responded to statements such as "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" or "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."
Shaw University's national alumni association is calling on the historically black college's trustees to resign, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. The alumni say that the board has not done enough -- through leadership and donations -- to help the financially struggling university. The chairman of the board -- who said that he did not expect trustees to quit -- has failed to make scheduled payments on his $10 million pledge to Shaw.
Sarah Palin will earn $75,000 (and travel expenses) for a speech at California State University at Stanislaus, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing sources who have seen the contract. The appearance at a fund-raising event has been controversial, and there has been much speculation about the fees involved, which the university has declined to reveal. Many have questioned why a large sum would be paid amid deep budget cuts -- especially to a figure about whom views are sharply divided. While Palin's visit continues to be controversial, the Associated Press reported that a local district attorney has found no criminal acts in an investigation of documents about the appearance that were destroyed.