Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 1, 2017

Adjunct instructors at Columbia College in Chicago are expected to return to the bargaining table today after a two-day strike over contract negotiations. The strike was supported by 88 percent of the independent part-time faculty union in a recent vote, according to the Chicago Tribune. Reportedly at issue is an administrative proposal that adjuncts say would contractually strip them of job security, seniority in class assignments, a paid sick day and academic freedom. The college says it wants to consider other factors than seniority in class assignments, such as outside professional expertise.

Adjuncts are also fighting for bigger pay increases than what have been proposed thus far, saying they don’t amount to a living wage. The union’s last contract expired in August. Some 50 classes were canceled due to the strike, the Tribune reported.

December 1, 2017

A new report from the College Board identifies four factors to create strong college credit in high school programs.

The College Board Policy Center brought together 18 experts and educators to evaluate policy, research and practices that can help policy makers develop effective programs that allow high school students to earn college credit. The report addresses the more popular avenues for high school students to earn college credit, including Advanced Placement, dual or concurrent enrollment, career and technical education, Early College High School, and International Baccalaureate programs.

The four factors the group identified are program quality and accountability, value for time and dollars invested, equity and access, and transparency around credit transfer.

December 1, 2017

The number of Indian citizens receiving student visas from the United Kingdom increased this fall for the first time since 2010, Times Higher Education reported.

Government data show that the number of Indian nationals receiving study-related visas increased by 27 percent in the year ending September 2017 compared to the year before, to a total of 14,081 -- though, as Times Higher noted, that figure remains substantially below the approximately 60,000 visas granted to Indian citizens in 2010. The decline in Indian students has frequently been attributed in part to changes to immigration policies announced in 2011 that reduced the rights of international students to work in the U.K. during and after their programs.

Over all, the number of long-term, study-related visas granted by the U.K. to nationals of countries from outside the European Economic Area increased by 8 percent this year.

The U.K.’s loss in Indian students in recent years appears to some degree to have been the United States’ gain, as the numbers of Indian students in the U.S. rose by 79 percent between fall 2010 and fall 2016. However, new data show that new international enrollments decreased at U.S. universities this fall, and some universities have reported substantial declines in their numbers of Indian students in particular. Nationwide data showing trends in enrollments by country of origin for U.S. universities are not yet available for this fall.

December 1, 2017

In today's Academic Minute, Haverford College's Jonathan Wilson examines how plant fossils can help current plants survive for generations. Learn more about the academic Minute here.


November 30, 2017

Students at the University of Michigan walked out of classes Wednesday to protest the institution's willingness to allow Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, speak on campus, MLive reported. University leaders say they agree that Spencer promotes hateful ideas that hurt many, but they also say that as a public institution, Michigan cannot turn him away based on his views. Those students at the protest disagreed and chanted such slogans as "No Spencer, no KKK, no fascist USA," and "No justice, no peace."

November 30, 2017

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against for-profit Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education. 

Becerra alleges that Ashford made false promises and provided faulty information to students to persuade them to enroll. The lawsuit also alleges the institution used illegal debt collection practices while students struggled to pay their bills. 

"No school should ever steal the American Dream from its students but that is exactly what Ashford University did," Becerra said, in a news release. "Ashford University preyed on veterans and people of modest means. This for-profit college illegally misled students about their educational prospects and unfairly saddled them with debt." 

The suit further alleges that Ashford's salespeople made false and misleading statements to potential students about enrollment growth, how much financial aid students would get, how many prior academic credits would transfer into the school and Ashford's ability to prepare students for careers. Becerra also said Ashford misled investors and the public in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by inflating the percentage of working alumni who reported that their Ashford degree prepared them for their current jobs. 

The attorney general's office is seeking restitution for students, civil penalties and a permanent injunction prohibiting similar activities in the future from Ashford. 

The embattled for-profit institution recently suspended new enrollment of veteran students who receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill as part of a long-running dispute between Ashford, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and an Iowa state regulator. 

November 30, 2017

In documents released this week ahead of a negotiated rulemaking session on the gainful employment rule, the Department of Education signaled potential limits to Obama era regulation that went into effect last year.

The gainful employment regulation was written to weed out poor-performing career education programs that produce too many graduates with debt they can't repay. To hold programs accountable, it ties access to federal student aid funds to performance on a debt-to-earnings metric.

For-profit colleges sued twice to block the rule, but it went into effect last year and the first set of full data for career programs subject to the rule was released in January. However, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in June that she would appoint a rulemaking panel to overhaul the rule, taking account of many of the complaints from colleges. 

Materials provided to negotiators ahead of the first rulemaking session next week signal an interest in applying the regulation in whole or in part to all higher ed programs. That fits the priorities of for-profit groups like Career Education Colleges and Universities. It also wouldn't be possible under current law without making gainful employment simply a transparency measure by removing accountability measures -- another question raised by the materials for negotiators.

Virginia Foxx, the Republican chair of the House Education and the Workforce committee, is a longtime critic of the rule. Legislation expected from her committee this week would prohibit future action on the gainful employment rule by the department, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal. The legislation, a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, will instead propose a new tool tracking program-level data on completion, earnings, and average debt, the Journal reported.

November 30, 2017

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University, has been named this year's winner of the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education. Goldrick-Rab is being honored for her 2016 book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid and the Betrayal of the American Dream, and for her research and advocacy on behalf of low-income students. The prize is worth $100,000.

November 30, 2017

Today in the Academic Minute, Reza Akhavian of California State University East Bay examines how technology can help lower the number of construction accidents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 29, 2017

Twelve universities with big-time football programs that have opted to switch head football coaches face $70 million in payments to buy out the outgoing coaches' contracts, an analysis by USA Today has found. The total may understate real costs, as many football programs will also be negotiating exists for assistant coaches as well.


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