Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 1, 2018

A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned a judge's 2014 ruling that administrators at the University of California, Berkeley, should be held responsible for police officers' use of force to disperse protesters in a 2011 Occupy rally.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that Berkeley's former chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, other administrators and the officers themselves who used batons against students all were entitled to qualified immunity against the civil rights claims brought by a group of protesters. The judges ruled that the force used was not excessive, and that there was no clear law in force at the time of the incident that the officers' use of batons could be constitutional violations.

The lawsuit was brought in 2011 by By Any Means Necessary, a group that advocates for affirmative action. The lawsuit followed protests at Berkeley on a "day of action" sponsored by the Occupy movement.

June 1, 2018

In most states a 2 percent budget increase wouldn't exactly be cause for celebration. But Thursday's passage of a state budget in Illinois -- on time, no less -- brought praise from leaders in public higher education, given the decade-long tumult wrought by pension woes and political corruption, among other factors. Most public colleges will receive a 2 percent increase in operating budgets, plus some other new funds.

The three University of Illinois campuses will receive an increase of $11.6 million for day-to-day operations, to $594.6 million for the 2019 fiscal year that begins July 1. The system's leaders also noted that legislators had approved the first capital budget for the universities since 2010-11.

"The state’s second straight, full-year budget reflects a much-needed return of stability and reinvestment in higher education after a two-year impasse that cut sharply into funding and hampered our ability to plan our future," they wrote.

Randy Dunn, president of Southern Illinois University, told a local radio station that legislators "saw with their own eyes and heard the testimony about the real needs that exist on campus. They see the numbers of students from Illinois we’re losing to other states, and really helped spark not just their own separate package of bills that they want to see move forward, but also a general appreciation for the investment that public higher education provides.”

June 1, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of New York Institute of Technology Week, Melanie Austin, an assistant professor of occupational therapy, explains why some use of social media can have a positive benefit. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 31, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- International student enrollments in intensive English programs in the U.S. declined by 20 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to new data from the Institute of International Education released Wednesday at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference. The 20 percent decline follows an 18.7 percent decline the year before.

The average number of weeks students study in intensive English programs remained flat at 14.1.

Year Number of Intensive
English Students
Average Number of
Weeks Per Student
2008 57,666 12.8
2009 51,282 14.3
2010 50,676 14.2
2011 72,711 15
2012 110,870 14.1
2013 125,973 14.8
2014 126,016 14.7
2015 133,335 15
2016 108,433 14.1
2017 86,786 14.1

Intensive English programs are the pathway through which many international students enter U.S. higher education, so declines in this sector can herald declines at other academic levels further down the road. IIE found that the proportion of intensive English students who intend to continue their studies in the U.S. after completing their English programs declined from 57.9 percent in 2016 to 50.6 percent in 2017.

The biggest drop in intensive English enrollments has been in the number of students from Saudi Arabia, which fell by 45.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 and by another 46.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. The drops are largely the result of changes the Saudi government has made to its large-scale foreign scholarship program.

China remains the biggest country of origin for students in intensive English programs, but the number of Chinese students has also declined, by 16 percent from 2015 to 2016 and by 7.7 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Other notable changes include a 58.6 percent drop in the number of participants in intensive English programs from Mexico, a shift IIE attributes to changes in a government scholarship program known as Proyecta 100,000 as well as factors relating to "a shifting political climate, growing global competition for IEP students, and increasing language training in country."

Of the top 10 sending countries, only one, Brazil, sent more students to intensive English programs in 2017 compared to 2016.

Top Countries of Origin for Intensive English Students in the U.S.

Country of Origin Number of Intensive
English Students in 2017
Percent Change
From 2016
China 19,756 -7.7%
Japan 12,607 -2.9%
Saudi Arabia 11,059 -46.5%
Brazil 5,650 +11.1%
Taiwan 3,093 -19.2%
Kuwait 2,497 -15.9%
Vietnam 2,187 -13.7%
Colombia 1,917 -1.7%
Mexico  1,780 -58.6%
Turkey 1,630 -30.4%
May 31, 2018

Walmart employees will soon be able to earn degrees in business or supply-chain management for as little as $1 a day.

In partnership with education platform Guild Education, Walmart will offer its 1.4 million employees access to subsidized associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Employees will also be able to convert completed job training into college credit.

The degrees will be offered online through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University -- nonprofit institutions that already work with Guild Education and employers such as Chipotle, Lowe’s and Lyft.

“Walmart is making a significant investment in its workforce that will not just help the company, but help shift how our society moves towards more affordable and accessible pathways for individuals to be recognized and rewarded for their work-based skills and knowledge,” Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, said in a press release.

Lumina will be evaluating the initiative to research and measure its impact and effectiveness.

This is not the first time that Walmart has partnered with universities to offer education opportunities to its employees. The company teamed up with the American Public University System in 2010.

May 31, 2018

Major higher education groups issued statements Wednesday expressing concern about the Trump administration's reported plans to limit the length of visas for certain Chinese citizens starting June 11. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the administration intends to limit Chinese graduate students studying certain high-tech fields to one-year visas -- instead of the usual five -- due to concerns about intellectual property theft.

In 2014, the Obama administration extended the terms for visas for Chinese citizens from one year to five years for students and from one to 10 years for tourists.

"While apparently aimed at Chinese students in certain STEM fields, this would have a chilling effect on our ability to attract international students from all countries," Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, said in a statement. "These students have been critical to research that supports U.S. economic growth and fuels innovation. We are anxious to do our part to ensure that America’s national and economic security is protected, while at the same time preserving the U.S. as a destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students and scholars.”

A statement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities likewise walked a line in weighing national and economic security considerations against the desire to attract top students to the U.S.

“As important partners with the federal government, public research universities recognize that protecting intellectual property is essential to the security and competitiveness of the United States," the association said. “At the same time, to protect against security concerns we believe that student-visa policies for Chinese citizens should be narrowly tailored to ensure they don’t needlessly deter the brightest minds from studying in our country. Our nation’s policies should aim to attract and retain top foreign students who will come here to make discoveries, pioneer innovations, and go on to start businesses in the U.S. that create new jobs."

Asked by Inside Higher Ed to confirm or otherwise comment on reports that the administration plans to implement a policy change on June 11 that would limit the length of visas for some Chinese citizens, a State Department official, Noel Clay, said in a written statement that the maximum validity for a tourist visa for Chinese nationals is 10 years and remains unchanged.

"Although the large majority of visa applicants receive full validity, consular officers can always limit visas on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances of each case. All visa cases are adjudicated on a case by case basis according to U.S. law and applicable regulations. As always, although the large majority of visa applicants receive full validity visas, consular officers reserve the right to limit visas on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the specific case. The visa application process has not changed. We will continue to keep the public informed of any changes they need to be aware of to apply for visas."

Clay did not respond to a follow-up question seeking confirmation of whether there is new guidance to consulates that would limit visas for all or some Chinese graduate students studying certain high-tech fields at U.S. universities to one-year terms, as was reported by the Associated Press.

May 31, 2018

A column in the sports section of The New York Times asserts that a former Michigan State University football player was twice cleared of sexually assaulting a female student and then found responsible a third time during a proceeding he was not informed about.

The essay, headlined "Triple Jeopardy in College Sexual Assault Case Ends an N.F.L. Career," lays out the case of Keith Mumphery, who played football at Michigan State and, according to the account, was accused by a female student of sexually assaulting her in her dorm. Police and prosecutors reportedly investigated and declined to bring charges. Then, according to the Times account, the university's Title IX office investigated and cleared him.

Upon an appeal from the accuser, Michigan State reopened the case and, the Times asserts, informed Mumphery by sending an email to an account he no longer used. It then held him responsible and expelled him -- and when it did, the National Football League team that drafted him dropped him, arguably ending his football career. "This is a story of a rape accusation that would not die and a misshapen version of college justice meted out in three chapters," the column begins.

Michigan State officials were quoted in the column but did not respond to email messages Wednesday seeking comment or response to the Times column.

May 31, 2018

Two think tanks, one leaning conservative and the other liberal, have partnered to release five reports detailing the importance of college completion.

The American Enterprise Institute and Third Way have teamed up to offer a series of bipartisan solutions to help policy makers address issues preventing students from graduation.

Each of the reports examines how to improve student outcomes, the importance of being academically prepared, why college completion matters, the best reforms to increase attainment and policy tools that should incentivize getting a degree.

May 31, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of New York Institute of Technology Week, Kiran Balagani, assistant professor of computer science at NYIT, describes these challenges. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 30, 2018

The Trump administration plans to limit the duration of some visas issued to Chinese citizens in response to concerns about intellectual property theft, the Associated Press reported. The State Department did not provide specifics about the changes, but a U.S. official told the Associated Press that instructions to U.S. embassies and consulates say that Chinese graduate students will be limited to one-year visas if they are studying certain high-tech areas like aviation and robotics. The reported changes will go into effect June 11.

Other national news outlets reported earlier this month that the Trump administration was considering various restrictions barring Chinese citizens from engaging in sensitive research at U.S. universities and research institutions due to concerns about them sharing technologies or trade secrets with China.

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