Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 7, 2018

Lindenwood University laid off 17 employees in May, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. University officials said that the layoffs were part of a plan to "reallocate resources" to carry out a new strategic plan.

June 6, 2018

The number of career colleges and the number of credentials they award have dropped by roughly 20 percent in the last four years, new data from the U.S. Education Department show.

An annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that there were 2,791 for-profit colleges eligible to award federal financial aid in 2017-18, compared to 2,899 the year before and 3,436 in 2014-15, as previous versions of the reports showed. All told that represents a drop of 18.8 percent in the number of such colleges, which have seen their enrollments drop significantly amid an economic recovery (which typically hurts the enrollment of career-focused colleges), intensive regulatory scrutiny from the Obama administration and declining public confidence.

During the same time period, the number of public and private nonprofit colleges remained largely static, varying by fewer than 20 each. There were 1,973 public colleges and 1,878 private nonprofit colleges in 2017-18, according to the federal data.

An even larger proportional decline occurred in the number of credentials offered by colleges in the sector, the federal report shows. From 2012-13 to 2016-17, while the overall number of higher education credentials climbed by 1.2 percent, the number conferred by for-profit institutions fell by 29.2 percent, from 518,956 to 367,529.

June 6, 2018

Attention, graduates: Bill Gates has a gift for you. He’s offering a free download of Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World -- and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

Any student who was awarded an associate’s, bachelor’s or postgraduate degree from a U.S. college or university this spring is eligible for the free download on Gates’s blog, Gates Notes, after creating a Gates Notes account and providing the name of their college or university.

Gates hopes that Factfulness will help recent graduates see the world more clearly.

“The bulk of the book is devoted to 10 instincts that keep us from seeing the world factfully,” Gates wrote in an April blog post about the book. “These range from the fear instinct (we pay more attention to scary things), to the size instinct (standalone numbers often look more impressive than they really are), to the gap instinct (most people fall between two extremes). With each one, he offers practical advice about how to overcome our innate biases.”

June 6, 2018

Adjunct faculty members at Nazareth College voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Tuesday. Some 370 adjuncts were eligible to vote, with 184 casting ballots in support of unionization and 61 opposed. The college said in a statement that it respects the decision. "Nazareth values the contributions of our part-time faculty. These talented academics and practitioners are part of the fabric of our institution and integral to fulfilling Nazareth’s educational mission," it said. "Nazareth remains committed to preserving our positive and collaborative culture in service to our students and community."

June 6, 2018

In our "Inside Digital Learning" newsletter this week:

  • Is "digital learning" the best term to describe the panoply of pedagogical approaches and digital tools instructors are adopting to educate their students these days? In this article, we explore the phrase and its likelihood of sticking around for the long term.
  • A professor argues that while students may be choosing used textbooks for financial reasons, it's hurting them academically.
    June 6, 2018

    A South Dakota businessman has agreed to donate $100 million to the National University System to expand a program he helped start there to build social emotional intelligence in children.

    T. Denny Sanford has made a series of gifts over the last five years to create Sanford Harmony, which focuses on building empathy, communication and inclusion in pre-K through sixth grade. The new gift aims to make the program available to every American child and to create a research institute that will fund the work of fellows from top universities. 

    Sanford has given a total of $170 million to National, a nonprofit system based in California.

    June 6, 2018

    Today on the Academic Minute, Robert Edgell, associate professor of technology management at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, explores how the humanities disciplines rely on the same core principles. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

    June 5, 2018

    In a report today, New America and uAspire call for a new effort to standardize financial aid award letters to make them more transparent to college students and their families.

    Researchers from the organization examined more than 500 award letters from colleges and universities and found they were inconsistent and often didn't offer financial aid sufficient to cover the cost of attendance.

    Among the key findings from the analysis: award letters often use confusing jargon and terminology; more than a third did not include the complete cost of attendance; most letters fail to distinguish between different types of aid such as grants and loans; Parent PLUS loans are sometimes packaged misleadingly, making aid appear more generous; and about half of letters did not include clear information about what action to take on the award offers.

    June 5, 2018

    Complaints under the federal law barring gender discrimination in education increased at least fivefold from 1994 to 2014, and shifted in nature during that time from focusing predominantly on academics to encompassing athletics and sexual harassment in almost equal measure, too, a new study finds.

    The study, by a Yale University graduate student, Celene Reynolds, in the journal Social Problems, found that the number of annual complaints hovered between 150 and 300 in the early part of that span. The number increased to 526 in 1999 and shot up to 1,379 in 2013, then to 1,446 in 2014. (The federal records Reynolds had access to stopped that year.) Reynolds attributes the increase to a broadening understanding of sex discrimination and asserts that more people are turning to tools like Title IX to address it.

    Academic complaints -- such as equal access to college admission or classes -- remain the most frequently filed type, but athletic and sexual harassment complaints have become almost equally common.

    Reynolds found that the type of institution matters when considering patterns of complaints.

    “Perhaps most interesting is that the most selective schools and schools in states with higher levels of women’s representation in the Legislature face higher numbers of sexual harassment complaints,” she wrote. While the study doesn't specifically examine why this difference exists, Reynolds speculates that access to Title IX information and demographics of potential reporters could play a role.

    June 5, 2018

    The University of Michigan has begun using a driverless shuttle on part of campus, as part of a research project to measure consumer reactions to riding in vehicles without drivers. The project features two 11-passenger vehicles. A conductor will be on board at all times and can intervene to deal with any problems and take control of the shuttle.



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