U.S. Higher Education News for September 17, 2015


Addo, Koran. “Degrees Earned by UMSL’s Minority Students Jump 18 Percent in a Year.” St Louis Post-Dispatch 17 Sep. 2015: A, 13.

Of all the things University of Missouri-St. Louis Chancellor Thomas George said during his annual State of the University address on Wednesday, the most eye-popping was his revelation that the number of degrees earned by minority students jumped a startling 18 percent, or 89 students, from one school year to the next.

Getting that kind of a bump means a lot considering that, nationwide, black students are catching up to white students as far as enrolling in college. But when it comes to actually graduating, there’s still a significant gap.

So it follows that a lot of schools are talking about doing more to serve minority students.

“Money matters,” said Nick Hillman, a higher education policy expert at the University of Wisconsin.

Schools can generally boost their enrollment and graduation numbers by targeting scholarships and other aid to the students who will benefit the most.

Instead, a common tactic schools use is cherry pick the best and brightest minority students–often the ones who come from well-off families and who are more likely to graduate no matter where they go to school, Hillman said.

But UMSL doesn’t have that luxury. It’s a regional school whose students come from families earning an average of $50,000 a year or less. . . .


“Don’t Make It Harder to Earn College Credits.” Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN] 17 Sep. 2015: A, 10.

New policy adjustments from a regional college accreditation group could unnecessarily limit the opportunity for Minnesota high school students to take college courses. Earlier this year, the Higher Learning Commission, an agency that accredits colleges and universities in 19 states, approved rules that require high school educators to have master’s degrees or graduate-level credits in the college-level subjects they teach.

Many high school teachers don’t have those credentials. That prevents them from teaching College in the Schools courses, meaning students will be denied opportunities to earn college credit at their high schools.

The commission should rethink its decision, or at the very least allow some exceptions for concurrent-enrollment programs.

Minnesota’s program has proved its effectiveness since it began 30 years ago even though many of its high school educators don’t have master’s degrees. During the last school year, 24,000 Minnesota students enrolled in dual-credit courses, up 30 percent since 2009.

Studies show that dual-credit students do better in school and have higher high school graduation and college attendance rates. A Minnesota Department of Education report, for example, said that 94.7 percent of all students who took one or more concurrent-enrollment courses graduated from high school during the 2012-13 school year. That’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than the graduation rate for all Minnesota teens. In addition, dual-enrollment students tend to have higher academic achievement across the spectrum of student groups, including students of all races and incomes.


Galloway, Jim. “Georgia Lawmakers Debate the ‘How’ of Casinos, Putting off the ‘Should.’” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 17 Sep. 2015: B, 1.

. . . A marketing specialist explained why gaming firms were drooling–metro Atlanta is one of the last casino-free big markets in the country, he said.

Lawmakers also heard from Jim Murren, the CEO and president of the world’s largest gaming company, MGM Resorts International of Las Vegas. Murren casually mentioned that he could see his company making a billion-dollar investment in Atlanta.

Senators and House members even listened to one fellow wax eloquent about chaplains at horse-racing tracks. . . .

What lawmakers didn’t hear was a single voice of dissent. Not that one didn’t exist. . . .

But that is what made this two-day session so unusual. For the first time, Republican and Democratic lawmakers explored the idea of how casino gaming might be introduced into Georgia before they addressed the question of whether it should. . . .

But casino executives and lobbyists don’t create cultural shifts. They take advantage of them. If Georgia lawmakers are willing to entertain the idea of casinos, it is because they fear something far worse than gambling–and that is the disappearance of a middle-class necessity. The affordable college education.

One giveaway was the name of the gaming committee: The House-Senate Study Committee on the Preservation of the HOPE Scholarship. . . .

By some national estimates, even after controlling for inflation, the cost of a public university degree has increased fourfold since 1974. In the last five years alone, tuition at Georgia Tech has increased 41.5 percent. At the University of Georgia, it’s jumped 36.5 percent. At all of the state’s colleges and universities, the average is 21 percent. . . .


Leonhardt, David. “California’s Universities, Still a Source of Opportunity.” New York Times 17 Sep. 2015: A, 3.

The University of California is struggling with budget woes that have deeply affected campus life. Yet the system’s nine colleges still lead the nation in providing top-flight college education to the masses.

At many other colleges, poor and truly middle-class students remain a distinct minority. Affluent students predominate at liberal-arts colleges like Oberlin and Bates, private universities like Cornell and Texas Christian and even many public universities, including Wisconsin, Penn State and Georgia Tech. The University of California, by contrast, enrolls large number of high-performing students of all economic backgrounds.

That contrast is the most striking result of this year’s College Access Index, a New York Times measure of economic diversity at top colleges. Six of the top seven spots in this year’s index belong to University of California campuses, with Irvine at No. 1, and the flagship Berkeley campus at No. 7.

The index is based on three factors: the share of students receiving Pell grants (which typically go to families making less than $70,000); the graduation rate of those students; and the net cost, after financial aid, that a college charges low- and middle-income students. The index covers 179 of the nation’s top colleges, defined as having an overall five-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent.

Economic diversity has become a much-debated topic lately. Academic research has shown that many high-achieving low-income students do not attend a selective college, even when they’re qualified. They instead enroll at a college closer to their home, with fewer resources–and many don’t end up getting a four-year degree. This educational divide is a major reason that climbing the income ladder remains so hard. . . .


Manjoo, Farhad. “Teaching Tech Skills to Millions, and Fast.” New York Times 17 Sep. 2015: B, 1.

. . . Economists and technologists agree that in the future, just about everyone’s job will involve more technology. During the last few years, many local and online schools have popped up to teach people how to code. They offer a vast range of prices and techniques. Some, like Codecademy, are free, while others can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Some offer more personalized coaching, while others leave students to figure things out on their own.

Now Udacity, a four-year-old online teaching start-up, believes that after years of trial and error, it has hit on a model of vocational training that can be scaled up to teach millions of people technical skills. Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, a specialist in artificial intelligence at Stanford University who once ran Google X, the search company’s advanced projects division, said that the ”nanodegree” program that the firm created last year will result in vastly lower education costs and wider accessibility. Early data suggests the program is efficient and reliably results in new jobs . . .

The nanodegree works like this: Last year, Udacity partnered with technology companies to create online courses geared toward teaching a set of discrete, highly prized technical skills–including mobile programming, data analysis and web development. Students who complete these courses are awarded the nanodegree, a credential that Udacity has worked with Google, AT&T and other companies to turn into a new form of workplace certification. . . .


Stuhldreher, Tim. “Ruling Suspends Checks On Faculty; State System of Higher Education Must Halt Its Background Inquiries.” Lancaster News-Press [PA] 17 Sep. 2015: A, 3.

The State System of Higher Education must suspend faculty background checks other than those mandated by state law, a Commonwealth Court judge has ruled.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said following a hearing Tuesday that he would grant a preliminary injunction stopping the checks, as requested by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, or APSCUF.

That will give the state Labor Relations Board time to rule on whether the state system was entitled to implement the checks or if, as APSCUF contends, the ground rules must be negotiated through collective bargaining.

The state system had sought to subject all faculty to background checks as part of a comprehensive vetting of all its employees. . . .

The state system said the checks are needed because its institutions host hundreds of thousands of minors each year–young people who are taking classes, participating in summer camps, attending cultural events and so on. . . .

Pending the Labor Relations Board’s ruling, Pellegrini said the two parties must determine which faculty have ongoing direct contact with minors and ensure they have background checks.

That’s the standard under current state child protection laws, which were modified this summer in response to criticisms that reforms enacted over the previous two years had created an unworkable system.

If there are disagreements, they should be submitted to the court, Pellegrini said.

APSCUF has no objection to that, Mash said. . . .


Wagner, Richard and Paul Lingenfelter. “Without Better Planning, Higher Ed Will Suffer.” State Journal-Register [Springfield, IL] 17 Sep. 2015: 9.

It was ironic to see a news article titled “Are Illinois Public Universities Doomed?” and another titled “The U of I Chief Eyes Enrollment Goal of 100,000.”

Growing enrollment from 79,000 to 100,000 at the three campuses of the University of Illinois is the wrong solution to Illinois’ problems in higher education. Without addressing more fundamental problems, this strategy will only make things worse. If the University of Illinois campuses increase enrollment by 25 percent without comparable increases throughout Illinois higher education we predict:

–still higher tuition at all public institutions;

–expensive and eventually unproductive interstate competition to enroll out-of state and international students;

–continued under-enrollment of Illinois citizens in higher education due to tuition costs and inadequate student assistance;

–deterioration of instructional quality and national stature at the University of Illinois;

–larger classes, less contact with professors and weaker student support services;

–increased demand for capital facilities at U of I campuses, while classrooms stand empty at regional university campuses; and

–deterioration among regional four-year universities and the communities in which they are located as both become progressively weaker and less desirable. . . .


And here are several items of interest from newspapers outside of the U.S. The first item is listed out of alphabetical order because it is alarming.


Pitel, Laura, and Sam Coates. “Universities Ordered to Fight Extremism.” London Times 17 Sep. 2015: 6.

Universities will be legally required to draw up plans to combat campus radicalisation, David Cameron will announce today as part of his battle against Islamist extremism.

New guidance will require all colleges and universities to draw up policies to prevent “hate preachers” from being allowed to speak unchallenged.

They must also have plans for tackling gender separation at student events, and for supporting students at risk of radicalisation.

The plans stop well short of a controversial proposal earlier in the year that universities would have to vet the contents of speeches in advance.

The government is also taking on the National Union of Students over its opposition to counter-terrorism legislation. Jo Johnson, the universities minister, has written to Megan Dunn, the NUS president, warning that the student body was sending out “mixed messages” over the government’s antiterrorism drive.

Downing Street claimed that according to its new extremism analysis unit, at least 70 events featuring hate speakers were held on campuses last www.year.No 10 said the latest police statistics show that young people continue to make up a disproportionately high number of those arrested for terrorist-related offences and of those travelling to join terror groups in Syria and Iraq.

The new guidance is being released ahead of the start of the university year and comes into force next week.


“Grayling’s Graduates Given ‘Brainwave Art.’” Times Higher Educational Supplement [UK] 17 Sep. 2015.

The first cohort of graduates from the New College of the Humanities are to each receive an original artwork based on their brainwaves or CV.

The NCH, whose professors include Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sir Christopher Ricks as well as the founding master A. C. Grayling, has been in the spotlight ever since it was founded in 2011 in London’s Bloomsbury.

The £18,000-a-year private institution has attracted criticism as “parasitic”, “exploitative” and “an institution for the very rich”, and one of its visiting lecturers–the late Ronald Dworkin–once told a debate organised by Times Higher Education and The New York Review of Books that colleagues had criticised him for joining what they characterised as a “fascist, capitalist institution.”

Now, however, its first 36 students have completed their degrees and NCH has found a highly unusual way to mark their achievement: a free one-day public event which it describes as a combination of exhibition and careers fair. On show to graduates, potential employers and the general public will be striking works by three internationally renowned artists designed to celebrate each individual’s personality, talents and achievements.

All three artists have made more or less direct use of student CVs to produce works in different styles. . . .

Los Angeles-based artist Marcos Lutyens has interviewed some of the new NCH graduates about their CVs and educational experiences, using specially designed software to track brainwave activity and detect changes in tone of voice and emotion. These recordings form the basis for colourful abstract ink-on-canvas prints that reveal what was literally going on inside the students’ heads. . . .


Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days.” Times Higher Education Supplement [UK] 17 Sep. 2015.

HIGHLIGHT: The academy’s long summer holiday sounds luxurious to outsiders but what is the reality? From Arctic adventures and holiday reading, to wi-fi cravings and writing retreats, we asked scholars to share how they spent their ‘free’ time

Summertime, And the living is easy

To the general public, those famous lyrics perfectly capture the academic life. A break from July until September or October is a luxury beyond their wildest dreams, and proof, in the popular imagination, that university teachers are a uniquely pampered class.

One of our contributors notes that it may indeed have once been possible for “dons”–as they would have been referred to then–to spend the entire summer touring the vineyards of France, even if their research had nothing to do with viticulture. But readers of Times Higher Education will be well aware that those days passed long before it became possible to buy a decent bottle of claret in Sainsbury’s.

As a new academic year starts, we asked a range of scholars from across the country to tell us what they did over the summer. The short answer is “a lot.” Between research, writing and administration there was little room for conventional holidays. And even when they did occur, they were typically brief and rarely involved complete severance from the academic grindstone.

Then again, some of those scholars who did get to lie on the beach in Marbella may find themselves envying some of the exotic field trips and intriguing extracurricular activities described in this article. The academic life may no longer be leisurely, but it is evidently still fascinating. . . .


“Researchers ‘Not Doing Enough’ to Explore Options outside Academia.” Times Higher Educational Supplement [UK] 17 Sep. 2015.

Many university researchers have unrealistic expectations of a long-term career in academia and are doing little to explore other job options, a survey has found.

Some 77 per cent of respondents to the Careers in Research Online Survey 2015 said they aspired to a career in higher education and 60 per cent expected to achieve it.

But it is “unrealistic” to expect them all to secure a permanent job in higher education as “insufficient opportunities, at least in the UK, exist”, says the report by Vitae, the careers organisation for researchers.

“There are some concerns over whether research staff have realistic aspirations,” said Robin Mellors-Bourne, the report’s co-author and Vitae’s deputy chief executive and director of research and intelligence.

The report was unveiled at the Vitae Research Development International Conference 2015, held in Manchester on 8 and 9 September.

It is likely to focus attention on whether more can be done to help postdoctoral researchers find good jobs outside academia, rather than existing on a succession of precarious short-term research contracts.

Only 9 per cent of the survey’s 8,964 respondents at 72 institutions–around a quarter of all research staff in the UK–said they had undertaken an internship outside higher education, which would offer experience of other career paths. But 44 per cent said they would like to do so, the CROS survey found. . . .


“World in Brief.” Times Higher Education Supplement [UK] 17 Sep. 2015.

United States: Hotel California

The number of overseas students enrolled in the US has increased by 8 per cent in the past year, according to statistics from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The government agency revealed that there were 1,054,505 international students in July 2015, according to its Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, with more than three-quarters (76 per cent) coming from Asia. The highest population of overseas students are hosted in California, with the University of Southern California taking the most (11,891), while more than one-third (38 per cent) of the total number of international students are studying in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.


Posts in This Daily Series from the Last Five Days:

September 12, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/13/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-12-2015/

September 13, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/14/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-13-2015/

September 14, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/15/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-14-2015/

September 15, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/17/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-15-2015/

September 16, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/18/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-16-2015/



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