Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 27, 2020

The annual wages of American workers who hold only a high school credential and are in the top half of earners within that group overlap with wages of the bottom half of earners among college graduates, according to a new report from the Manhattan Institute.

In addition, the report found that the 75th percentile of earners among high school-only workers have higher wages than the 25th percentile of earners among college graduates -- meaning that every worker among the top 25 percent of high school graduates in annual wages outperforms every worker in the bottom 25 percent of college graduates.

"This is not because older workers earn more than younger ones, or because workers in prosperous cities earn more than those in struggling towns," said the report, which was authored by Connor Harris, a policy analyst for the institute. "No matter how the data are cut, the reality remains that the labor market is complex: for many people, a high school diploma can be adequate preparation; for many people, a college degree accomplishes little."

The research brief was based on 2017 U.S. Census data on full-time workers between the ages of 25 and 64. It controlled for age and geography and analyzed occupations for workers with overlapping earnings.

"Although college remains a good choice for those who will succeed there and put their degrees to use, many who pursue college today might be better served by alternative pathways toward occupations that require less formal education and offer a chance for advancement," the report concluded. "This is true despite a monomaniacal focus on college preparation and attendance in the American education system."

February 27, 2020

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has offered faculty members at its 14 state institutions an early retirement plan, with the goal that 200 choose to sign up. If that threshold isn’t met, The Patriot-News reported, the system will consider retrenchment and cutting positions. So far, 165 faculty members have signed up for the early retirement plan, which allows them to get more unused sick days paid out than is normally available through regular retirement.

Even if the goal is met, retrenchment may still be a possibility, a spokesperson for the system told The Patriot-News. The system’s student enrollment has fallen 20 percent since 2010.

February 27, 2020

The University of Alaska at Anchorage’s leaders are weighing cutting, suspending or revising dozens of academic programs in the face of deep cuts to state funding.

University leaders reviewed over 100 programs as the University of Alaska system reacts to $70 million in expected state funding cuts over three years. Anchorage leaders recommended nine for deletion, 10 for suspension and 11 for revision, according to a list published online. Another 32 were recommended for continued review, meaning they will be reassessed within two years. More than 45 were suggested for continuation.

Program cuts are expected to save about $4 million.

Undergraduate programs recommended for deletion include theater, environment and society, and sociology. Master’s degree programs recommended for deletion include early childhood special education, creative writing, anthropology and English. Deletion means students currently enrolled in the majors would be allowed to complete their degrees within a certain time period, then the majors would be discontinued.

The program-review process still has several steps to go, including gathering community feedback. The University of Alaska system’s regents are expected to make decisions in June.

Factors considered in the recommendations include enrollment and workforce demand, Cathy Sandeen, Anchorage’s chancellor, told Alaska Public Media.

“Many, many of our programs will be preserved and will continue and will get strong, so UAA will still be here,” Sandeen told Alaska Public Media. “It’s just we will be a different UAA going forward.”

February 27, 2020

John Arrillaga, a Bay Area real estate developer and Stanford University alumnus, has committed $55 million to the university’s School of Medicine, which, along with other resources, will eliminate a substantial amount of medical school debt for eligible incoming students. The donation was given as a challenge gift, which the university says it plans to match.

Stanford said the gift effectively doubles the amount of aid the School of Medicine can offer to students with demonstrated need over the next decade.

The university says it has long been a leader in alleviating debt. The med school's Class of 2019 graduated with a median student debt of $89,000. The median national medical student debt that year was $200,000, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported.

February 27, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Ari Kirshenbaum, professor of psychology at St. Michael’s College, devised a game to explore how people become dependent on e-cigarettes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 26, 2020

Amid the ongoing grade and teaching assistant strike on campus over cost of living concerns, the University of California, Santa Cruz, said this week that a $2,500 housing supplement is available to all doctoral students in their first five years of study and to master of fine arts students in their first two years. Previously, the university said the supplement was “needs-based.” That concerned graduate students who worried that the criteria for need were vague, that they wouldn’t qualify for help and that international students would automatically be ruled out. The university also said that it would remove previously administered letters of warning related to the strike from student files after this academic year -- if students resume their duties. Last week’s deadline for turning in undergraduates’ fall grades would be verified on Thursday, Santa Cruz also said. Those who don’t turn in grades from the fall quarter stand to lose spring teaching appointments, but graduate students have threatened a boycott of appointments in return.

Regarding the new aid, there remains a big gap between the $1,412-per-month cost of living adjustment Santa Cruz graduate student employees seek and the $2,500 the university has promised. Striking students say that it is not only difficult to find rental apartments, homes and rooms in Santa Cruz, but that it is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country. Many graduates report spending 60 percent of their pay on rent and believe that the COLA they want would help them spend closer to 30 percent on rent, bringing them out of what’s known as rent or cost burden. Graduate employees at Santa Cruz are unionized in affiliation with the university system’s statewide union under the United Auto Workers. While the statewide union has not authorized the strike, it has urged university administrators to negotiate with graduate workers on several campuses who seek a COLA.

February 26, 2020

Michelle Janavs, heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for paying $300,000 to fix her daughters’ ACT exams and agreeing to have one of her daughters get into the University of Southern California as a fake beach volleyball player, the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition, she must pay $250,000 and perform 200 hours of community service.

February 26, 2020

Three senior staffers who were mysteriously fired earlier this month by Wayne State University Press have been reinstated.

Newly appointed interim director Kathryn Wildfong made the call to rehire the staff, Crain’s Detroit Business reports. Former interim director Tara Reeser stepped down from her role last week.

The rationale behind the decision to fire the three staff, including the press’s editor in chief, has still not been explained. The editorial board of the press published a letter last week calling for the decision to be reversed. A petition was also signed by 60 writers, editors and affiliates of the press.

February 26, 2020

Medical students are being mistreated by fellow students, faculty members and supervising residents based on their race, gender and sexual orientation, according to a new study by researchers at Yale University.

The research, which was published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, was based on surveys of 27,000 students at all 140 accredited medical schools in the U.S. It found that women, underrepresented minority groups, Asian, multiracial and lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported more frequent incidents of mistreatment and discrimination than their peers.

"There is a lot of data showing that although medical schools are slowly becoming more diverse, they are still not yet inclusive," Dowin Boatright, the study's co-author and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale, said in a statement.

February 26, 2020

The aging U.S. population poses long-term social risks to the fiscal stability of states, according to a new report from S&P Global Ratings, a ratings firm.

For the first time in U.S. history, the number of Americans who are age 65 and over will outnumber those under 18 by 2035, the U.S. Census projects. And this shift will exacerbate generational dependency, the report said, which will create economic, fiscal and social challenges for state governments. (This, in turn, could impact public colleges' state support.)

"As the baby boomer generation retires, the older generation's dependency on younger ones is projected to significantly increase over the next 30 years," according to S&P.

The impacts of an aging population will vary across different regions. For example, state budgets in the Northeast likely will be strained by increased Medicaid costs, the report found, while outmigration and aging in place is projected to limit the Midwest's economic growth and state spending. The South has benefited from an influx of working-age adults, according to the report, but continued economic diversification will be crucial. And housing affordability challenges will persist in the West and could be exacerbated by continued aging.

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