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A Summary of Education in the News

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    State and university officials in Washington are busy trying to figure out how to end gender and racial preferences in accordance with Initiative 200, the anti-affirmative action measure that voters approved earlier this month. Although the measure passed easily with 58 percent of the vote, enacting it could prove difficult in a state where the governor, a Chinese American, and many business and education leaders are staunch defenders of affirmative action.

    Almost immediately after the passage of Initiative 200, the University of Washington announced that it would end racial preferences in admissions. Other public institutions, however, hinted that they might attempt to circumvent the ban. Higher education officials in Washington agree they are in a tougher position than California institutions were after Proposition 209 became law. California colleges and universities used the passage of Prop. 209 to intensify their recruiting efforts among the state's large black and Latino populations. But in Washington, which has a homogenous population that is more than 80 percent white, there are relatively few minority students to target.

    (Sources: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/5/98; U.S. News & World Report, 11/9/98; The Washington Post, 11/13/98.)

    Alcohol abuse on the nation's college and university campuses continues to receive substantial coverage by the major print news media. Following a spate of alcohol-related deaths among college students last fall, the media jumped on the issue of excessive drinking on campus. A year later, the media are now focusing on college and university efforts to curb students' alcohol consumption.

    A recent USA Today story titled "Lifting an Alcoholic Fog" examines campus efforts such as task forces on binge drinking, institutionally-sponsored non-alcoholic events, tighter alcohol policies, and tougher sanctions. The report also notes a concern among many college and university officials that such efforts may have minimal effect, given the nationwide acceptance of drinking.

    A recent U.S. News & World Report story titled "Cooling it on Campus" also looks at campus policies to reduce alcohol consumption. Taking a different tack is a series of reports in The Chronicle of Higher Education that examine who will be assigned the blame in upcoming trials about alcohol-related deaths among fraternity members: the institutions, bars, or the fraternities themselves.

    (Sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/6/98; U.S. News & World Report, 11/9/98; USA Today, 11/16/98.)

    Recent news reports warn of fraud by organizations that claim to award scholarships to college students in need, and by groups that portray themselves as worthy charities. The New York Times reports that increasing college costs have given rise to fraudulent scholarship brokers that, for a fee, guarantee scholarships that never arrive. The Federal Trade Commission recently filed eight lawsuits against companies that had bilked some 19,000 students. A common scheme is for companies to charge several hundred dollars for personalized seminars at airport hotels.

    The Associated Press reports that the U.S. government is encouraging people to scrutinize the charities to which they donate during the holiday season. Scam artists posing as legitimate organizations use direct mail and phone solicitation to make the ask. In a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons, 80 percent of respondents made a charitable donation in the last year in response to a phone or mail solicitation. About 57 percent said they didn't ask how their donations would be spent.

    (Sources: Associated Press, 11/12/98; The New York Times, 11/15/98.)

    Newsday recently examined the benefits offered by alumni associations to both the institutions with which they are affiliated and the alumni themselves. Alumni associations traditionally benefit institutions by encouraging members to donate money to their alma mater. The associations benefit alumni by helping them maintain personal and emotional ties to their institution. "If you care about a place, you want to be connected," CASE President Eustace Theodore told Newsday.

    The story goes on to say that alumni are looking to their associations as a resource for more than just meeting and maintaining contacts. Many institutions now promote continuing education among alumni. St. Johns University in Queens offers alumni a 20 percent discount on many continuing education programs. Princeton University offers distance education courses to alumni at no charge.

    (Source: Newsday, 11/14/98.)

    An increasing number of academic administrators believe that the accreditation system for colleges and universities is out of control, reports The New York Times. The administrators argue that visiting accreditation teams take up valuable staff time and ask questions that are not central to how students learn.

    The two types of accreditors -- regional accrediting agencies and specialized or occupational agencies -- each receive a healthy share of criticism. The regional agencies, which focus on broad criteria such as fiscal stability and administration effectiveness, reportedly avoid closing down substandard institutions, despite having the power to do so. The complaint against the specialized or occupational groups is that there are too many of them. With about 75 such groups in existence, a single medical school may be examined by 40 or 50 separate accrediting agencies.

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

    The U.S. Supreme Court this month decided not to hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of using taxpayer money to send children to private religious schools. The court's rejection of the case is a victory for school choice advocates who favor allowing students to use taxpayer-funded vouchers in private schools.

    The case, Jackson v. Benson, involves a Wisconsin initiative that allows up to 15,000 Milwaukee children to leave the public school system for private schools. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision lets stand a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that vouchers for religious schools do not violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.

    A few days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the National Council of Churches, a national Protestant group, announced that it believes public money should go only to public schools, reports the Chicago Tribune. Most conservative religious groups favor vouchers, but a growing number of liberal Christian and Jewish groups, as well as African American churches, oppose them.

    (Sources: The Washington Post, 11/10/98; Chicago Tribune, 11/11/98.)

    It was mostly more of the same in the latest ranking of 48 Canadian universities by the weekly news magazine Maclean's. The 8th annual rankings issue, a source of anxiety for university administrators, appeared on newsstands Nov. 16. The top spot in all three institutional categories went to the same universities as last year. The first-ranked medical-doctoral university is the University of Toronto, followed by Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, with McGill University in Montreal, Quebec ranking third.

    The top-ranking comprehensive university is Simon Fraser in Burnaby, British Columbia, with Guelph and Waterloo, both in Ontario, placing second and third. The top ranking small, primarily undergraduate universities -- all in the Maritime provinces -- are Mount Allison in New Brunswick, with Acadia and St. Francis Xavier, both of Nova Scotia, ranking second and third.

    The university rankings issue is Maclean's top seller annually, although institutions have long grumbled about the weighting measures Maclean's uses to determine its rankings.

    (Sources: Maclean's, 11/23/98; Ottawa Sun, 11/16/98; Sudbury Star, 11/16/98; The National Post, 11/17/98.)

    The number of Canadian women aged 18 to 24 in full-time undergraduate study increased by 6.4 percent to 236,000 between 1992-93 and 1997-98, while the number of university-enrolled Canadian men in that age group declined by 2.3 percent to 182,200, according to Statistics Canada. Full-time undergraduate enrollment in 1997-98 stood at 497,100, virtually the same as five years earlier. Despite an overall rise in youth participation at universities, the total number of undergraduate students in Canada, including full- and part-time, has dropped for the fifth straight year. This is largely because of a 24.1 percent decrease in the number of part-time undergraduate students between 1992 and 1998, education experts say.

    (Sources: Brockville Recorder and Times, 10/14/98; Kingston Whig-Standard, 10/15/98.)

    Demand is soaring for information technology teachers in Britain. But like their counterparts in the United States, recent IT graduates from British institutions are finding that they can make significantly more money in industry. However, universities with technology-oriented teaching programs are reporting high numbers of applicants, many of whom have already worked in computing or a related industry. Education experts theorize that former industry workers enter teaching because they want to "give something back" to the institutions that trained them.

    (Source: The Independent, 11/12/98.)

    Large class sizes at the university level can have a negative impact on students, according to Hugh Fletcher, a scientist at Queen's University, Belfast. Fletcher studied student performance over an eight-year period in his first-year genetics class. The class more than doubled in size from 68 students in 1988 to 151 students in 1995. During that time, students' scores fell by an average of 16.6 percent. One explanation for the downward trend involves the fact that increasing class size reduces opportunities for lecturers to offer individual help to students. Also, the classes had a higher proportion of weak students as their size grew. Students from the largest classes reported a lack of motivation and discipline in their work.

    (Source: The Independent, 11/12/98.)

    Parents who intend to pay for their children's college education save dramatically less than they will need, according to a recent study. A report by the U.S.A. Group Foundation and the Institute for Higher Education Policy shows that parents save an average of $9,956, just 25 percent of the total expense for four years at a public institution. The results indicate that parents are not realistic in considering how much they will have to pay for their children's education. Half of the survey respondents said they planned to pay all or most of their children's college expenses, and 42 percent planned to pay some of the costs.

    (Source: Education Week, 11/4/98.)

    Most wealthy Americans increased their charitable contributions during the 1990s, according to a recent study by U.S. Trust. The survey, which polled a sampling of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, found that nearly 70 percent of respondents increased their charitable giving in the 1990s, probably as a result of the bull market. On average, the top 1 percent wealthiest Americans donate 8 percent of their after-tax income to charity, compared with 3 percent for the general population, the survey found.

    While almost half the respondents said they would curtail their charitable giving if the stock market declined, nearly all said they usually increase their donations in times of need, and two-thirds said they do so when the government reduces spending.

    The two most often-cited reasons for giving to charity were "a desire to support worthwhile causes" (79 percent of respondents), and a belief that the wealthy "have a responsibility to share their good fortune" (69 percent). Respondents said they decide which charity to support according to the reputation and integrity of the charity (81 percent), the need served by the charity (79 percent), and the charity's efficient use of the donor's time and money (75 percent).

    More than a third of respondents said they prefer being approached for a contribution by a personal friend, while only 1 percent said they prefer telephone solicitation.

    (Source: U.S. Trust press release, 11/17/98.)

    The number of colleges and universities offering online courses is growing fast, as is the number of institutions offering whole programs or degrees through the Internet, reports The New York Times. But the trend is so new and developing so fast that significant questions have yet to be answered, such as how good the education is, who owns the courses, and how faculty members should be paid.

    With the proliferation of institutions and companies that offer online courses, students should beware of diploma mills that offer phoney degrees. But despite the warnings, online courses are gaining acceptance as well as popularity. A committee of the American Association of University Professors concluded last year that Internet courses could be a valuable tool that increase access to higher education. But the committee also warned that the trend could compromise academic quality, academic freedom, and other cornerstones of academia.

    (Source: The New York Times, 11/2/98.)

    Forget college catalogues. They're being pushed aside by a bevy of online college-search sites that ask for some simple information from students and produce a customized list of recommended institutions. At least a dozen such sites exist, including GoCollege, CollegeView, CollegeNet, CollegeQuest, and the most popular of all -- College Board Online.

    To help determine which colleges and universities are best for a particular student, these sites ask students to enter their SAT score, major, type of institution preferred, and even how much tuition they can pay. High school guidance counselors, worried about automation of the college selection process, warn students against making important decisions from raw data. Experts also caution families to verify the data offered by college-search sites.

    (Source: The Christian Science Monitor, 11/17/98.)

    Parents of students at Gettysburg College near Harrisburg, PA can use the Internet to gain a wealth of information about their children, including their grades, long-distance phone bills, bookstore purchases, and even campus activities. An experimental campus computer link offers everything from course descriptions to information about campus events to financial data. Students must authorize the college to give their parents access to the system, and can decide what information to make available.

    About 140 of Gettysburg's 2,100 students have taken advantage of the College Navigation Project, or CNAV. Campus officials admit they do not know if parents and students will deem the idea a success or failure.

    (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/10/98.)

    Community colleges will be "critical" in helping to train high tech workers and improve access to technology, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates told a conference of the League for Innovation in the Community College this month. Gates said his company and others are suffering from a lack of skilled workers, and that community colleges can help to solve the problem. Microsoft is working with community colleges and high schools to train students to use Microsoft products. Gates said his company's involvement in this area will grow in the coming years.

    (Source: Academe Today, 11/4/98.)

    Following in the steps of academic movements focusing on African Americans, the family, and women, the study of children and childhood is quickly growing in popularity on the nation's campuses, reports The Washington Post. Childhood history courses are growing in number at colleges and universities across the country, as are scholarships for childhood studies. An Internet discussion group for childhood historians was launched in July and has more than 400 subscribers. The scholars are mostly Baby Boomers who are fascinated with their own childhood and want to examine childhood in other places and times.

    (Source: The Washington Post, 11/13/98.)

    A growing number of campuses are opening university-affiliated retirement homes that house educated, affluent seniors who want to continue their personal growth and intellectual stimulation, reports The Washington Post. Residents are attracted by the small-town atmosphere of many college campuses. In return, the residents often serve as subjects for gerontology students, consumers in campus stores, patients for university medical centers, and possible donors to the institution. Retirement complexes exist on an estimated 100 university campuses, including Stanford University, the University of Virginia, Ithaca College, Iowa State University, and Pennsylvania State University.

    (Source: The Washington Post, 11/9/98.)

  • LIBRARY SPENDING -- College and university libraries will spend $1.9 billion on books and non-book materials this year, a 5.6 percent increase over 1997. They are expected to spend $1.31 billion on periodicals, $460.7 million on books, $60.3 million on bindings, $46.8 million on microfiche and film, and $14.4 million on audiovisuals such as videos, movies, filmstrips, books and music on tape, and CD-ROMs. (Source: USA Today, 11/18/98.)

    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. 24, 1998
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