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A Summary of Education in the News

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    Supporters of affirmative action in college admissions saw their worst fears come true on Election Day as voters in Washington State decisively approved Initiative 200, which prohibits public institutions from using racial preferences to admit students, hire employees, or award contracts.

    I-200 received the support of 58 percent of voters, a much higher proportion than pre-election polls had forecast. Officials at the University of Washington predicted that I-200 would cause a 15 percent drop in the number of black and Hispanic freshmen. Meanwhile, opponents of the measure suggested that they would ask the courts to prevent its execution.

    Washington is the second state in the nation to approve a ballot measure banning racial preferences, and backers of I-200 predict that more states will follow suit. Ward Connerly, who led the effort to pass the first such measure -- California's Proposition 209 -- told The Seattle Times that there are plans to introduce anti-affirmative action legislation in Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Florida.

    In Michigan, a poll taken before the election found that only 27 percent of the population support the University of Michigan's use of affirmative action in admissions, 47 percent oppose racial preferences, and 26 percent are undecided.

    (Sources: Detroit Free Press, 10/30/98; Academe Today, 11/4/98; The Seattle Times, 11/4/98.)

    The Chronicle of Philanthropy released its annual Philanthropy 400 survey this month, showing that 136 of the top 400 fund raisers are colleges and universities. Harvard University is the highest-ranked university at No. 6 on the list, having raised $427.6 million last year. Stanford University is No. 10 on the list with $312.3 million.

    The survey found that donations to the nation's most popular charities rose nearly 13 percent last year, the largest percentage increase since the survey began in 1981. Contributions to the largest colleges and universities increased 11 percent last year.

    Meanwhile, the 1990s have been good for college and university fund raisers, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Since 1990, colleges and universities have received 48 gifts or pledges of at least $35 million, compared to only 17 gifts or pledges of that size range in the 1980s. The reasons have to do with more than just inflation: The stock market has risen sharply in this decade, as has the intergenerational transfer of wealth.

    Today's donors view giving to institutions in a new way, the Chronicle reports. CASE President Eustace Theodore told the Chronicle that giving to education, long viewed as an act of charity, is now regarded as an act of philanthropy and investment.

    (Sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/30/98; The Washington Post, 11/2/98; The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 11/5/98.)

    A coalition of higher education associations released a set of guidelines last month suggesting how campuses can reduce binge drinking among students. The release coincided with the start of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, which began Oct. 19. Recommended moves include changing the drinking culture on campus, providing health education to students, and limiting alcohol-sponsored advertising at university-sponsored events.

    Some institutions, including Duke University and the University of North Carolina, refused to participate in the awareness week because it was sponsored by the alcoholic beverage industry. Both Duke and UNC have their own alcohol awareness and education programs, according to The Herald-Sun.

    In conjunction with alcohol awareness week, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges announced that it has adopted a resolution recognizing the negative impacts of alcohol abuse by students and supporting the efforts of fraternities and sororities to develop alcohol-free policies.

    Meanwhile, alcohol education efforts continue in other parts of academe. A program at the University of Iowa, for example, takes a new approach to the problem of binge drinking. Unlike substance abuse prevention programs that emphasize students' personal responsibility for their drinking, Iowa's Stepping Up Project seeks to create an environment in which drinking excessively is difficult, risky, and frowned upon by peers.

    Funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program asks the university and the community to create an atmosphere that discourages binge drinking. Critics of the program, which is also in place at nine other institutions, say it creates a Big Brother atmosphere and infringes on individual rights.

    Note: For a copy of CASE's issue paper on student alcohol and drug abuse, released in May 1991, please call the CASE Fastfax service at 800-341-2594. Ask for item number 755. The cost is $5.

    (Sources: NASULGC Newsline, Oct. 98; Los Angeles Times, 10/19/98; Academe Today, 10/20/98; The Herald-Sun, 10/20/98; Philanthropy News Digest, 11/4/98.)

    Depending on which study you look at, statistics on the involvement of minorities in higher education can paint a rosy or a bleak picture, according to an essay recently printed in The Washington Post. On the negative side, U.S. Census figures show that people of color between the ages of 18 and 24 lag behind whites in attending college. In addition, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's statistics reveal that African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians take longer than whites to graduate from college.

    On the other hand, U.S. Department of Education figures show unparalleled growth in the number of minority students earning associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and even master's, doctoral, and professional degrees. The number of African Americans earning a higher education degree grew by 6.1 percent per year between 1991 and 1996. The number of Hispanic Americans earning a degree grew 8.3 percent annually during that time, and the number of American Indians earning a degree rose 7.4 percent per year.

    The essay, written by Black Issues in Higher Education contributing editor Karin Chenoweth and printed in the Post's fall 1998 education supplement, says the reasons for the disparity are that traditional statistics do not adequately reflect the educational experience of minority students, many of whom enter college several years after high school graduation or are forced to drop out of college for financial, health, or emotional reasons.

    (Source: The Washington Post Education Review section, 10/25/98.)

    Three international education associations recently released the first national guidelines for promoting health and safety among American students studying abroad. The guidelines ask program sponsors, students, and parents to share responsibility for reducing the risk of overseas study programs. Several high-profile incidents over the last two years involving harm to American students in other countries have called attention to the need for safety measures.

    The associations that developed the guidelines are NAFSA: Association of International Educators, The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA). More than 20 other sponsors of study-abroad programs endorsed the guidelines.

    For more information on the guidelines, visit NAFSA's Web site.

    (Source: Academe Today, 10/27/98.)

    The New York State Department of Education is in the process of assessing the state's public and private colleges and universities. A report evaluating the performance of the institutions is expected as early as 2001. It could be similar to the rankings issued by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review. The department also announced in September that it plans to name a higher education advisory council to use as a sounding board on higher education policy and on the evaluation process. The council will include about 20 college presidents, the chancellors of the state's two public university systems, and other education leaders.

    (Source: The New York Times, 9/27/98.)

    The number of applications to the nation's law schools has dropped 27 percent since 1991, while the number of available slots has remained the same, meaning that getting in to law school is easier. The Association of American Law Schools says students are deciding that law school isn't worth the time and money. The healthy economy is allowing students to find good jobs right out of college, and students are graduating with more loan debt than ever before, making them reluctant to take out additional loans for law school.

    (Source: Detroit Free Press, 11/3/98.)

    Students at public undergraduate institutions across Israel staged a class boycott late last month to protest high tuition and demand more financial aid. The National Student Association, which organized the boycott, called on the government to reduce tuition, which is currently around $2,200 a year, by 20 percent.

    (Source: Academe Today, 10/26/98.)

    According to Maclean's, Canada's national news magazine, the flow of Canadian professionals heading to the United States is moving faster than ever. According to a study released by the C.D. Howe Institute, 35,000 Canadian professionals migrated to the United States between 1989 and 1996. While this represents only 11 percent of Canadian university graduates, the rate has increased by 50 percent in the 1990s over the previous decade.

    Educating students who wound up migrating south cost Canada more than $400 million in 1993-94 alone. As a result, some professions are seriously depleted: 40 percent of nurses and 19 percent of managers who graduated from Canadian institutions between 1989 and 1996 left for the United States. The main factors contributing to the brain drain are thought to be Canada's unemployment rate (twice that of the United States), higher taxes, the currency disparity (the Canadian dollar is valued at 65 cents U.S.), and free trade that has increased cross-border opportunities.

    (Source: Maclean's editorial, 10/26/98.)

    A new book published by Lancaster University dispels the myth that students who graduate with first-class degrees get straight A's in grade school, spend all their time studying, attend every lecture, and basically have no fun. On the contrary, some of the 19 graduates profiled in "How I Got My First Class Degree" did poorly in school, while others juggled multiple time commitments outside of their studies including caring for their children. Several of them were mature students, having worked for a few years before college. All of them agreed that to get a top-level degree, you have to work hard, be interested in the subject matter, and do the work.

    (Source: The Independent, 10/22/98.)

    The student loan default rate fell for the sixth straight year in 1996 to 9.4 percent, the Education Department recently reported. The statistics showed a decreasing default rate for all types of institutions, unlike in 1995 when defaults rose for private four-year institutions but fell for other types of colleges and universities.

    The default rate reached a peak of 22.4 percent in 1990, but an improved economy, better collection methods, and better management of the student loan program helped cause the rate to drop. An Education Department official told The Washington Post that the default rate improvement can be attributed to Congress, which passed legislation making it easier for the department to garnish the wages and tax the refunds of delinquent borrowers, setting up a national database of students who have defaulted on their loans, and allowing the department to drop high-risk schools from the student loan program.

    Education Secretary Richard Riley said the default rate should fall even lower in coming years, thanks to an increase in the maximum Pell Grant, an expansion of work-study opportunities for students, Hope Scholarships, tax deductions for interest paid on student loans, and a recent lowering of the interest rate for students who refinance their loans.

    (Source: The Washington Post, 10/27/98.)

    Low-income students who transferred from public elementary schools to private schools with the help of vouchers performed slightly better in math and reading tests than their peers who remained in public schools, according to a well-publicized study released late last month. The results of the study, conducted by Harvard University and Mathematica Policy Research, appeared in both The New York Times and The Washington Post.

    Researchers tracked the performance of about 700 students attending private schools with financial assistance from the School Choice Scholarships Foundation. These students' test scores increased by an average of two percent in comparison with their peers who remained in public schools. Opponents of vouchers say the same gains could be achieved by reducing class sizes in public schools.

    (Sources: The New York Times, 10/28/98; The Washington Post, 10/28/98; Philanthropy News Digest, 11/4/98.)

    Universities with first-rate athletic programs are engaged in a frenzy of building and upgrading their sports facilities, reports The Washington Post. Their aim is to attract top-level recruits and potential major donors to campus.

    A Post survey of 25 major collegiate athletic programs found that they had spent or committed a total of $1.2 billion to build or renovate sports facilities since 1996. Four universities in Texas account for nearly $300 million. Ohio State University, which recently opened a new indoor arena and is renovating its football stadium, is spending $260 million.

    Many university officials say that new and upgraded facilities are necessary to recruit star athletes in football and men's basketball, which can be major revenue-producers that help pay for other sports, including the growing number of women's athletic programs.

    (Source: The Washington Post, 11/3/98.)

    About two-thirds of the nation's college students carry at least one credit card, up from almost none 20 years ago, reports The Charlotte Observer. About 40 percent of students with credit cards carry a balance, although estimates of the average balance vary. One study put the average college student's credit balance at $514. A survey by student loan provider Nellie Mae reported an average undergraduate credit card debt of $1,879.

    Some institutions, citing the growing concern over students' use of credit cards, prohibit credit card solicitations on campus. They argue that credit card debt can damage a student's financial and academic standing, especially if a student who has overused his or her card must work long hours to pay off the balance. In response, credit card companies are making efforts to educate students about credit.

    (Source: The Charlotte Observer, 10/20/98.)

    Students who attend college before graduating from high school are not always precocious kids with supernatural intelligence, reports the Los Angeles Times. In fact, most of them are simply intelligent students who are looking to jump-start their college education. California students who want to begin taking college classes early frequently have to receive permission from their high school.

    (Source: Los Angeles Times, 10/19/98.)

    More professors than ever are using e-mail and the World Wide Web in their courses, according to an annual study of technology in higher education. The 1998 Campus Computing Project survey polled technology officials at two- and four-year institutions across the country. Respondents estimated that 44 percent of the courses on their campuses use e-mail. That figure was 32.8 percent last year and just 8 percent four years ago.

    The survey also found that 23 percent of college courses post class materials on the Web, compared to less than 5 percent four years ago. About 16 percent of courses use computers for in-class simulations or exercises, and 15 percent use CD-ROMs.

    Institutions themselves are increasingly relying on technology, the survey found. About 55 percent of the institutions surveyed post at least some of their application materials on the Web, compared to 47 percent in 1997. Approximately 18 percent of the campuses allow students to read their transcripts online, almost double the number from last year.

    (Source: The New York Times, 11/4/98.)

    Incumbents are far less likely to post campaign Web sites than their major challengers, according to a study of Internet use in elections by the Democracy Online Project at The George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. The study, which surveyed major party Congressional and gubernatorial campaigns a few weeks before Election Day, found that candidates in tight races are more likely to post Web sites than those in lopsided contests.

    Other findings: 28 percent of incumbents had sites, compared to 64 percent of challengers; 69 of 73 gubernatorial candidates (94 percent) had sites, and of the four who didn't, three were running unopposed or had a safe lead in the race; 56 of 68 Senate candidates had sites, with 10 of the remaining 12 running for safe seats. In addition, 39 percent of all House candidates had sites, while 60 percent of those in tight races used the Web. In 81 percent of the closest races, both candidates had sites.

    For more information, call The George Washington University Office of University Relations at 202/994-6000.

    (Source: The George Washington University press release, 10/29/98.)

  • UNIVERSITY RESEARCH -- A recent report highlights the scientific advances produced by university-based research. Released by The Science Coalition (http://www.sciencecoalition.org), an organization dedicated to sustaining the government's commitment to research, the report features advances spanning 18 scientific fields from more than 50 universities. The advances include a military T-shirt equipped to monitor wounded soldiers' vital signs on the battlefield, a cancer-fighting drug, and technology to help farmers maximize the productivity of their crops. (Source: The Science Coalition press release, 9/24/98.)

CASE is proud to be in its third year producing Flash Points, the education issues bulletin. Flash Points is normally published twice a month and is available FREE to CASE members, associates, and affiliates, and journalists.

CASE values your comments, suggestions, and questions. Please direct your queries to Steven Weiss, telephone 202- 478-5680, or Sarah Hardesty Bray, vice president, communications, telephone 202-478-5683.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Nov. 10, 1998
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