Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 6, 2018

Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, will offer half-price tuition for undergraduates whose families are in nonprofit and public-service work, it announced Wednesday.

The private university is calling the pricing program a “Good Guarantee,” casting it as a way to attract students whose families pursued “mission-centered careers.” It is also an attempt to get a second look from families to who might have thought a college education at a private university was too expensive to afford.

New full-time undergraduates enrolling in 2019 will be eligible for the program if they, their spouses or their parents or legal guardians are paid employees of nonprofit or public service organizations, The Columbus Dispatch reported. That would cover teachers, police officers, employees at churches and members of the military. About a fifth of households in Ohio that have students near college age have a parent or guardian in the targeted sectors.

In the 2018-19 academic year, Capital's annual full-time undergraduate tuition comes in at approximately $35,000. Current students will be able to apply for the new program if they meet certain requirements and receive financial aid packages equivalent to less than 50 percent of tuition.

Capital's effort comes as many small private colleges and universities are turning to pithy pricing programs in an attempt to grab attention from families that college leaders fear have been turned off by high sticker prices. Several institutions recently put in place so-called tuition resets, deeply cutting posted prices and often trimming unfunded financial aid to match. Because few if any students at such institutions pay full price, the hope is that a lower sticker price will attract new students without costing average net tuition revenue per student.

On Wednesday, another small private college sharply lowered its posted price when Stephens College, a women's college in Columbia, Mo., reduced tuition by $8,250 for the fall of 2019. Stephens branded that a college affordability plan and promised that no student would pay more than $22,500 after the change, down from a maximum of $30,750 today.

On Tuesday, the University of the Cumberlands in southeastern Kentucky announced plans to lower tuition by 57 percent to just under $10,000. Last month, Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta unveiled programs with a different twist on price competition, linking tuition for some students to the amount various public flagship universities cost.

September 6, 2018

Many top full-time M.B.A. programs saw significant drops in applications for the 2017-18 admissions cycle, Poets & Quants reported. The numbers come at a time when many M.B.A. programs have struggled, but typically most of the drops have been at institutions less competitive than those seeing declines this year. Among the programs cited: Rice University (down 27.7 percent), the University of Texas at Austin (down 19.6 percent), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (down 18.3 percent) and Georgetown University (down 16.2 percent).

September 6, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Nicholas Port, associate professor at the School of Optometry at Indiana University, looks into aspects of sports that could contribute to brain injuries that don't qualify as concussions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 5, 2018

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced Tuesday that Rita Charon (right), a pioneer in the field of narrative medicine, will deliver the 2018 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. Being selected to give the lecture -- which this year will be Oct. 15 -- is considered the highest honor the federal government bestows in the humanities. Charon, a Harvard University-trained physician with a Ph.D. in English literature, is the founding chair and professor of medical humanities and ethics and professor of medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

September 5, 2018

The Yale Rumpus, a student-run magazine, has retracted its first issue of the academic year after staffers included a joke about sexual assault.

The student journalists at the magazine, which generally offers a humorous take on the news, collected copies of the first issue earlier this month after editors were alerted to a quip about sexual assault, said Kristina Cuello, a Rumpus editor, in an interview.

The joke was included in an editor's note as follows, directed at the first-year students: “We here at Rumpus are happy for you and would also like to congratulate you on losing your virginity. Now, before you think, ‘Shit, does Rumpus know I blacked and let a senior on the baseball team raw me on that foul mattress in the Sig Nu basement?’ the answer is yes, but we’ll unpack that later.”

The editors published a note apologizing on the Rumpus Facebook page.

"As editors-in-chief, we are deeply sorry that we allowed this content to be published. None of the content was intended to reference sexual assault; its presence in the issue was a major editorial oversight entirely on the part of the editors-in-chief, who were the only ones to have access to the final version of the issue. Moving forward, we will be reviewing our editorial process and making an effort to be more sensitive to the possible implications of our content," the statement reads.

September 5, 2018

Amy Olberding, the Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma and expert in Chinese ethics and civility who blogs under the pseudonym Prof. Manners, resigned from the popular Feminist Philosophers blog over the summer and shared her reasons for doing so this week on her personal blog, Department of Deviance. Olberding didn’t cite a specific issue or controversy that drove her from blogging, but said that reading “both social media and blog conversations among philosophers, I often feel demoralized. The people who speak most and most insistently seem not only to be absolutely clear about what they think, but think there is no other legitimate, respectable, or even moral way to think.” 

Until she began blogging, she said, "I avoided online conversations, not eager to enter the fray when conversations could so often be heated, inhumane and unpleasant. So too, online discussions often favor the quick and agile, the aggressive and insistent, people who like (or at least can ably engage) the rough and tumble of agonistic back and forth -- and most of all those who are confidently certain. Honestly, the rough and tumble mostly makes me sad and I often have a shortage of certainty." Most of the time, she said, not knowing what to think "is itself sometimes cast as shameful. In too many contexts, to confess confusion or uncertainty is to confess deficiency -- sometimes in philosophical acumen, sometimes in ‘smarts,’ sometimes in moral clarity, sometimes even in basic humanity.” 
 
Reached via email, Olberding again declined to share any details about what prompted her departure from blogging, but said that the responses she’s seen thus far “have been positive.”  Yet, “I have to say that I’ve been avoiding looking anywhere other than my email and my Facebook messages,” she said. Jennifer Mather Saul, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield in Britain and other contributor at Feminist Philosophers, said she thought Olberding’s post “beautifully describes some of the deep problems of online discussions. I now think that online discussions of difficult issues tend to do more harm than good."
September 5, 2018

The University of the Cumberlands in southeastern Kentucky plans to cut tuition by 57 percent for all on-campus undergraduates next year, it announced Tuesday.

As a result, the tuition sticker price for the small Baptist university will fall from $23,000 this year to $9,875 in 2019-20, before counting room and board. The move drops the university’s posted tuition to be on par with public four-year institutions in the state, its leaders said.

While undergraduate tuition will be covered by the pricing change, graduate tuition will not, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. That’s a key point, because the University of the Cumberlands’ enrollment skews heavily toward graduate students, with 1,366 undergraduates and 9,000 graduate students.

Nonetheless, the undergraduate tuition reset makes the University of the Cumberlands the latest and one of the most extreme examples of an institution following a tuition reset strategy. Tuition resets attempt to rein in private universities’ high-tuition, high-discount model, in which many enrolled students receive large amounts of financial aid and never actually pay the full posted tuition sticker price.

The idea is that resetting tuition can attract new students by grabbing the attention of families who were previously scared off by high sticker prices. In theory, it can be done without giving up much net tuition revenue per student, if tuition discounts are slashed in lockstep with sticker prices. But the strategy carries some risks, as private universities resetting tuition will lose revenue from any students who previously would have paid full price or near full price. The strategy could also cut into a university’s ability to attract top students with financial aid.

A significant number of institutions reset tuition this fall after announcing the moves last year. Many of them cut tuition by between 30 percent and 40 percent -- a much smaller reset than the University of the Cumberlands is planning. And even one that announced a 51 percent reset, Birmingham-Southern College, kept its tuition and fees much higher at $17,650, before room and board.

Including room and board, attending the University of the Cumberlands will cost $19,175 for undergraduates after the reset is in place. This year it costs $32,000. Current students are in line to save $1,298 on average, according to the university. Academic, athletic and extracurricular scholarships will still be available.

The university cast the move as part of its mission to serve students from the Appalachian region, from which it draws 82 percent of its students. Out-of-pocket costs will not increase for any students, the university’s president, Larry L. Cockrum, said in a statement.

“We want all students to know that with Cumberlands there is a clear and affordable path to a college degree,” he said.

September 5, 2018

Marijuana use among college students remains at an all-time high, according to a new study out of the University of Michigan.

The Monitoring the Future study has looked at the attitudes and behaviors of teenagers, college students and young adults since 1975.

The 2017 report found that 38 percent of full-time college students ages 19 to 22 reported using marijuana at least once in the past year -- 21 percent reported using it at least once in the past 30 days. That represents a gradual increase over the past decade.

Young adults in the same age bracket who only graduated high school and are not full-time college students use marijuana at a higher rate -- 41 percent of them reported using in the past year.

More than 4 percent of college students reported using marijuana daily or near daily, meaning they used it on 20 occasions in the past 30 days.

But about 13 percent of noncollege youth reported using marijuana daily. Researchers reported that both college and noncollege students felt the risk of using marijuana was lower than in past years.

"The continued increase of daily marijuana use among non-college youth is especially worrisome," John Schulenberg, principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future Panel Study, said in a statement. "The brain is still growing in the early 20s, and the scientific evidence indicates that heavy marijuana use can be detrimental to cognitive functioning and mental health."

September 5, 2018

An article in The New Republic examines the issue of self-censorship among scholars who study China and U.S. universities that want to stay in good standing with Beijing. The article includes allegations that in 2015 Columbia University canceled several talks at its global center in Beijing that were deemed politically sensitive. A Columbia spokesman denied that the university canceled events in Beijing because of their political content.

The article also says that some graduate students reported censoring themselves. One student, quoted anonymously, said she would not do anything to jeopardize her ability to get a visa to China in the future.

The New Republic article was published the same day Inside Higher Ed reported on the results of a first-ever survey of more than 500 China studies scholars on the subject of Chinese state repression of their research and perceptions of self-censorship. The results of that survey are summarized here.

September 5, 2018

A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Salamanca recently published an article on her blog alleging that the Spanish university canceled events celebrating “Taiwan Cultural Days” last fall after receiving an email from the Chinese embassy objecting to the events. Under the “one-China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan to be a rightful part of China.

Shiany Pérez-Cheng, who was an organizer of last fall’s “Taiwan Days” events and at the time was lecturing in the Taiwan studies program, said on her blog that Salamanca administrators received an email on Oct. 23 from Chinese embassy officials in which they demanded that the university “adhere to the one-China principle.”

“University of Salamanca is one of the most historic public in Spain, and enjoys a great international reputation,” the email said (in translation from Spanish). “Due to the great importance given by the Chinese government to the relationship with this university, we have included it in the recommended directory of the Ministry of Education of China, many visiting Chinese researchers carry out exchanges at the University of Salamanca and many Chinese students study there. We do not want your institution to be used by the Taiwanese authorities in order to make it the stage for political propaganda, and therefore to affect the good cooperative relations with China.”

Pérez-Cheng said the dean’s office forwarded the email to the Taiwan studies area within the East Asian studies department -- which is how she got a copy of it -- and called a meeting that same day. "When we got to the College of Social Science the mood was rather somber, they were really scared (the 'Oh my God, we have angered China, Beijing´s going to retaliate' kind of scared)," she said via email.

An Oct. 24 email from the social science dean canceling the event, also quoted in Pérez-Cheng’s blog, cites as the reason “circumstances not related to the School of Social Sciences.”

Salamanca officials and the Chinese embassy in Spain did not respond to requests for comment. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs weighed in on the incident here.

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