Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 22, 2023

Colleges and universities with higher tuition and bigger endowments per student tended to have higher COVID-19 infection rates on campus during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers at Union College found in what they believe is the first analysis of COVID infection determinants at U.S. institutions. These findings contradict broader data indicating that poorer areas were disproportionately affected by the virus.

The study’s authors speculated that the surprising results might stem from the disparate COVID-19 policies between high-cost elite colleges and other institutions (thought they did not actually study those policies). Because elite institutions wanted to offer their students in-person education and could afford to pay for mitigation strategies like campuswide testing and quarantine facilities, they may have been willing to welcome students back to campus faster than less wealthy institutions, the authors suggested.

“Institutions that can afford to spend money to pursue educational and financial objectives through the pandemic accept somewhat higher infection rates in order to protect their students’ ability to learn, residential experience, their sunk investment in facilities, and their reputations,” the report states.

Several other factors were also correlated with higher rates of infection, according to the study, which looked at data collected by The New York Times from 1,069 institutions during the 2020–21 academic year. COVID infection rates were higher among institutions with larger shares of white students and male students. In states with Democratic governors, infection rates were equally high at public and private colleges, but in states with Republican governors, rates were higher at the public institutions.

March 22, 2023

A new survey of college students and the parents of college students found big disparities in their perceptions of student mental health struggles.

The study, conducted by YouGov on behalf of UnitedHealthcare, showed that while 41 percent of students said they’d experienced depression, only 22 percent of parents thought their children had ever been depressed.

Similarly, 11 percent of students reported having dealt with an eating disorder, while only 5 percent of parents said they believed their children had. And students reported suicidal ideation at more than three times the rate (13 percent) their parents imagined (4 percent).

Parents were much more likely to believe their children hadn’t accessed mental health care simply because they didn’t need any. In fact, 60 percent of students who hadn’t accessed care reported that they actually did need that support; the main reasons they didn’t seek counseling were cost barriers, the challenge of getting appointments and difficulty finding resources.

“It may not be surprising that some students and parents have different perceptions of the college experience, but this report demonstrates the need to create environments for ongoing meaningful conversations with these emerging adults,” said Donald Tavakoli, national medical director for behavioral health at UnitedHealthcare, in a press release. “We need to work with students to educate them on their options for mental and behavioral support. Colleges, parents, health care providers and health plans all can play a role in supporting navigation to appropriate care.”

March 22, 2023

Bryn Mawr College will remove the inscribed name of former president M. Carey Thomas from the campus building known as Old Library, the Board of Trustees announced Tuesday in an email to the community.

Thomas, who served as president from 1894 to 1922, was a staunch supporter of women’s education but also promulgated racist and antisemitic views.

“Even as M. Carey Thomas was steadfast in her drive to build a first-rate academic institution for the education of women, the limitation of her vision to the education of wealthy white women, her embrace of eugenics, and her outspoken racist and antisemitic beliefs have caused pain for generations of students, staff and faculty,” read the letter from the board. “We believe that Thomas’ social beliefs are irreconcilably in conflict with Bryn Mawr’s mission, values and aspirations today.”

Thomas’s name was initially inscribed over the library entrance in 1935 to honor her role as Bryn Mawr’s first dean and second president. In 2017, the college suspended the use of her name on campus buildings while a panel conducted a historical study of the institution’s leaders and policies.

According to a letter from President Kim Cassidy to students, faculty and staff, the inscription of Thomas’s name “will be physically removed” from the library building later this year.

She noted that the inscription, as well as an oil painting and a bust of Thomas currently in storage, will be displayed as part of a future exhibit “that allows for purposeful engagement with these objects and a reckoning with the full stories behind them.”

March 22, 2023

Parchment, a leading digital transcript and credential sharing company, has acquired Quottly, a company that offers colleges and universities a platform for course and program sharing and managing transfer articulations and dual enrollment, according to a press release from Parchment Tuesday.

Matthew Pittinsky, CEO at Parchment, said the move will ease student mobility between institutions.

“By overlaying Quottly’s course and credit solutions on Parchment’s transcript exchange network, we are able to innovate and address a critical challenge for institutions and learners alike,” Pittinsky said in the release. “Now we can not only provide the seamless exchange of credentials, but ensure those credentials translate into credit that drives student success by reducing barriers to entry and cost and accelerate time to completion.”

Quottly currently serves more than 220 colleges and universities, including the Montana University System and the University System of Maryland. The platform is also used by California Virtual Campus, the United Negro College Fund and the Idaho State Board of Education, among others.

“Quottly was founded to overcome roadblocks to student progress and completion,” Alicia Policinski, CEO and co-founder at Quottly, said in the release. Joining Parchment allows Quottly to “continue to provide greater equity and access for all students, and ensure long-term success for colleges and universities facing monumental challenges.”

March 22, 2023

Students at California State University, Long Beach, are protesting the lack of a graduation ceremony in which they will walk across the stage and hear their names, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Such a ceremony didn’t take place the last two years because of COVID-19, but this year university is bringing back large graduation ceremonies—but without student names.

“I’ve been in and out of school for seven years,” said Joshua Biragbara. “I kind of thought that once I graduate, it’d be like a crowning moment.”

A university spokesperson said it is “not practical at this scale” to read all the names.

A petition signed by more than 16,000 people said, “This is not the college graduation ceremony that most of us have been envisioning during our years as students. After the immense amount of hard work it requires to earn our degrees, we deserve to be properly recognized. Many students have loved ones who will be traveling great distances to attend this commencement ceremony, only to sit in the stadium and listen to speeches instead of getting to witness their graduate accept their diploma.”

March 22, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: David Bakhurst, Charlton Professor of Philosophy at Queen’s University, in Ontario, explains one way the field of philosophy is changing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 21, 2023

Bay State College has lost its appeal to maintain accreditation.

The New England Commission of Higher Education stripped the for-profit Massachusetts college of its accreditation in January, but administrators had hoped to retain it upon appeal. That appeal, heard earlier this month, was denied, according to an announcement from NECHE leaders. As of late Monday, Bay State College had not updated its accreditation status on its website.

Bay State lost its accreditation due to ongoing financial and organizational issues. The for-profit college, owned by Ambow Education, has been accused of misleading students and has attracted the attention of elected officials, including Democratic Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.

Bay State is also facing eviction over $720,000 in unpaid rent—a figure college officials dispute.

Ambow Education, which has headquarters in China and the Cayman Islands, also owns the NewSchool of Architecture & Design in San Diego, which is likewise under scrutiny from accreditors. Last week the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission formally warned NewSchool for failing to meet accreditation standards.

March 21, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by Rodney Keister, a preacher who visits many campuses, of his challenge to the University of Alabama’s rules about where he can preach there, and under what circumstances, Reuters reported.

The university requires that preachers obtain a permit before handing out religious pamphlets and preaching from a sidewalk adjacent to its campus.

Keister has been involved in prior litigation against Alabama as well. But he lost that as well.

March 21, 2023

St. Francis College in New York announced Monday it is dropping its entire Division I athletics program at the conclusion of the spring semester, noting recent enrollment and demographic challenges.

“There are challenges facing higher education institutions, particularly smaller liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, from which SFC is not immune. Among these challenges are increased operating expenses, flattening revenue streams, and plateauing enrollment due in part to a shrinking pool of high school graduates in the aftermath of the [coronavirus] pandemic,” Dennis J. Salamone, chair of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

St. Francis College will continue to honor current athletic scholarships. The 164-year-old college, which offers 21 varsity programs across 10 different NCAA sports, has an especially long history in college basketball, dating back to 1901.

Despite the cuts to athletics, the statement said the college is focused on investing in new academic programs, expanding enrollment and relocating its campus to a new facility. St. Francis College also announced that President Miguel Martinez-Saenz is on personal leave, per his own request, and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cecere has been appointed acting president.

March 21, 2023

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board has ordered Marsha Danielson, the president of Minnesota State College Southeast, to pay more than $5,000 for breaking rules about expenses, The Star Tribune reported.

An investigation by the system’s internal auditors found that Danielson had used college-owned cars for trips between campuses and her home. The system said she shouldn’t have used the cars because she received an $833 per month transportation and communication allowance as part of her contract. She was fined the cost of those trips. The system also required her to pay $225 to cover the value of a Minnesota Wild hockey ticket package. Danielson had told investigators the event was a work function that would allow her to meet with community leaders, which internal auditors disputed.

She has repaid all the money owed.

The system also asked a company to investigate allegations that Danielson used profanity, racist and sexist language, and invoked stereotypes while working. In some instances, Danielson denied making the remarks, but an investigator wrote that witnesses who described the behavior were “found to be more credible.” The report said she called people “hon,” “girlie” and “babe.” She will be required to improve her leadership and communication skills.

Danielson declined to comment.


Back to Top