Behind the News

Booksellers Respond to Textbook Slump

In this digital age, at a time when everybody is tightening their belts, it should come as no surprise that students are buying fewer textbooks. How many fewer? Two recent surveys show that 70 percent of students polled at the University of California, Riverside say the rising costs of higher ed have caused them to skip buying textbooks altogether. And findings from a 2011 Pew survey, “The Digital Revolution and Higher Education,” indicate that 62 percent of college presidents anticipate more than half of textbooks used by their undergraduates will be digital within 10 years.

Assessment Results: Transparent or Not?

Institutional transparency is much talked about and touted, but it apparently has a long way to go. According to an analysis of the degree to which colleges and universities make available what they’re doing to assess student learning, institutions could be sharing a lot more and doing so more clearly. For example, often, assessment results are found only on internal institutional research web pages that aren’t routinely searched by prospective students, parents, and other interested parties.

People Watch

New leadership appointments

Soumitra Dutta will be the first dean of a major U.S. business school hired from a b-school outside the country when he starts his position as 11th dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University on July 1. He is a professor of business and technology and founder and faculty director of a new media and technology innovation lab at INSEAD, one of the top-ranked business schools worldwide, with campuses in Fontainebleau, France; Singapore; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. Joseph Thomas is stepping down from the post after a five-year term.

Developing Latino Leaders

With the growing U.S. Latino population, it is no surprise this is also the fastest growing student population. According to a recent report from the College Board on Latino college completion (covered in University Business in the November/December issue), outreach efforts should be specific to this population. An example of this aim in action is Georgia State University. Because of a focus on the Latino population, graduation rates for Latino students have improved from 38 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2010, outpacing the national average of 19 percent in 2009.

Law School Litigation

What to expect in 2012

Jobs aren’t easy to come by these days. Instead of blaming the economy—or themselves—some students are blaming their alma maters.

After graduates from New York Law School and Thomas M. Cooley School of Law (Mich.) accused the schools of misinterpreting graduates’ employment and salary statistics and filed class action suits against them last summer, two firms have warned they are planning to go after other law schools this year.

People Watch

  • A. Clayton Spencer, vice president for policy at Harvard, has been named the eighth president of Bates College (Maine), effective July 1. Before spending the past 15 years at Harvard, Spencer served as chief education counsel in the U.S. Senate, working under Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She will succeed Nancy J. Cable, interim president since July 1, 2011.

    "Tell Me Now" : Acting on Early Action

    After dropping early admissions programs four years ago, Harvard and Princeton reinstated them this year. They received a large number of applicants, which comes as no surprise, but institutions that never ended their early action programs are experiencing increased numbers, as well. “We’re seeing more and more students applying by early action simply to get answers earlier,” notes Tom Weede, chair of NACAC’s Admission Practices Committee and vice president for enrollment at Butler University (Ind.).

    The Policy Police

    People can be very sensitive about their social media accounts, as witnessed any time Facebook makes changes to the news feed presentation. So it makes sense that the Sam Houston State University (Texas) campus reacted badly when administrators tried to implement a new social media policy requiring any school group with SHSU in its name to grant administrative access to the Marketing and Communications department. Cries of “free speech” quickly followed. Since then, reports in the campus newspaper indicate a social media committee was created and tasked with developing a new policy.

    Update: Qatar Campuses

    The trend of opening branch campuses overseas is cyclical. When things are good, institutions look outside their borders. When things get bad, institutions tend to retract those tentacles. However, Education City in Qatar, which opened in 2001 after six years of planning from the Qatar Foundation and now has seven higher ed institutions, is going strong.

    In November, Northwestern University in Qatar broke ground on a new 32,520-square meter building to house its media, communication, and journalism school. Northwestern University (Ill.) founded its Qatar branch in 2008.

    Occupy Higher Ed

    Movement spreads from Wall Street to the campus green

    The Occupy movement that has swept the nation—and the world—also has a home at many colleges and universities. Long associated with protests, and historically touted as the home of open discourse, American colleges and universities have had a difficult balancing act on their hands: how to promote free speech while maintaining safety on campus.

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