Higher Education News

Are numbers of doctorates awarded finally starting to reflect the poor academic job market?

Inside Higher Ed - News - December 10, 2018 - 7:00pm

The number of U.S. doctorates awarded in 2017 fell slightly year over year, to 54,664 from 54,862, according to a new report based on data from the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates.

As in years past, science and engineering doctorates made up the vast majority of degrees awarded -- and actually increased in number by 249, to 41,438. But the number of non-science and engineering degrees awarded in 2017 fell by 356, to 13,226, the lowest figure since 2012. It is the latter category of disciplines in which job market has been tightest for years.

Taking a longer-term view, science (including social science and psychology) and engineering doctorates climbed from 58 percent of all doctorates awarded in 1977 to 76 percent in 2017. The number of non-science and engineering doctorates awarded in 2017, meanwhile, was slightly lower than the number awarded in 1977.

Every broad science and engineering field except for psychology and social sciences increased in number and share of doctorates granted over the past two decades, the report notes. Psychology and social sciences grew in terms of degrees granted, but declined in overall share of new Ph.D.s, from about 17 percent in 1998 to 16 percent in 2017. Engineering saw the biggest growth of all fields within the last 20 years.

Between 2016 and 2017, the life sciences held steady at about 30 percent of all doctorates granted, as did the physical and Earth sciences, at about 11 percent. Math and computer science represented about 7 percent of all degrees in each year. Engineering increased from 17 percent to 18 percent.

In nonscience fields, education doctorates fell steeply between 1998 and 2017, from about 15 percent of all doctorates granted to 9 percent. Arts and humanities degrees dropped from about 13 percent to 10 percent. Other fields, such as business management and communication, continued to represent about 5 percent of all doctorates awarded over that time period.

Foreign languages and literature Ph.D.s conferred increased slightly year over year, from 599 in 2016 to 624 in 2017. History fell from 1,148 to 1,066.

Story by Numbers

The survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Education Department, the National Endowment for the Humanities and other agencies, is an annual census of research degrees awarded in the U.S. Both annual and longer-term trends tell the story of who is getting advanced degrees and in what.

As the report says, “Annual counts of doctorate recipients from U.S. universities are measures of the incremental investment in human resources devoted to science, engineering, research, and scholarship, and they can serve as leading indicators of the capacity for knowledge creation and innovation in various domains.”

The survey began in 1957. Since then, the gap between science and nonscience fields has continued to widen. The overall number of degrees awarded has ebbed and flowed, but the average annual growth is about 3 percent.

The changing characteristics of the new Ph.D. population over time reflect “political, economic, social, technological and demographic trends and events,” the report says. And, it warns, “continued preeminence of U.S. doctoral education is not assured. Other nations, recognizing the contributions doctorate recipients make to economies and cultures, are investing heavily in doctoral education. The world’s brightest students, including U.S. citizens, may go elsewhere for the doctoral degree, and they may begin careers elsewhere as well.”

That may already be happening: first-time international graduate enrollments in U.S. institutions fell 3.7 percent from fall 2016 to fall 2017, according to a recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools.

The new federal report says that the number of doctorates in science and engineering awarded to temporary visa holders was 14,166 in 2017, down 159 from 2016. Overall growth in this area was still up 77 percent since 1998 and 9 percent since 2008, however. The proportion of science and engineering doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders peaked at 41 percent in 2007, the report says, but has held steady at around 36 percent since 2011.

Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the number of science and engineering degrees awarded grew by 2 percent year over year, but experienced slower growth over all.

Asian Americans earned more doctorates than any other racial and ethnic minority groups in life sciences, physical sciences and earth sciences, mathematics and computer sciences, and engineering. Blacks or African Americans were the largest U.S. minority population in education. Latinos earned a larger share of doctorates in psychology and social sciences and in humanities and arts than did any other minority group.

Women’s share of doctorates awarded has grown in the past 20 years in all broad fields. Women earned the majority of doctorates awarded in life sciences, psychology and social sciences education, and humanities and arts in 2017. They earned about one-fourth of engineering and mathematics and computer science doctorates. Still, their ranks in those latter fields have been growing, from about 13 percent in engineering in 1998 and 22 percent in computer science and engineering.

Interestingly, the parents of recent doctoral recipients are better educated than parents of earlier Ph.D. cohorts. The share of new Ph.D.s with a parent who didn’t graduate college, meanwhile, has declined in the past 20 years. Research assistantships are the most frequent primary source of financial support for all doctorate recipients, followed by fellowships or grants and teaching assistantships. Sixteen percent of doctoral students rely primarily on their own resources, such as loans, personal savings, personal earnings or spouse or family, and 5 percent relied on such other sources as employer reimbursement and foreign support.

Most students (71 percent) in the physical and earth sciences, math and computer science, engineering and life sciences reported having no education-related debt. In psychology and social sciences and the humanities and arts, along with other non-science and engineering fields, only half of students said that. The shares of doctoral students with debt burdens of more than $30,000 were education (37 percent), psychology and social sciences (30 percent), and humanities and arts (26 percent).

Time to degree in 2017 ranged from about six years in the physical and Earth sciences to double that in education. In the humanities and arts, it was more than nine years.

The share of 2017 doctorates with definite commitments for employment increased slightly from 2016 across fields.

Salaries for those with definite job commitments varied widely in 2017, however, from about $50,000 for postdocs in most fields to $125,000 for mathematicians and computer scientists employed in business. In every broad field, reported postdoc salaries were lower than salaries for doctorate recipients entering non-postdoc employment in industry or academe. The biggest starting salaries in academe in non-postdoc positions were seen in engineering and “other” fields, such as business.

Nearly half (46 percent) of doctoral recipients with definite employment commitments, excluding postdocs, reported plans to work in academe. Academic employment plans were most prominent among those in the humanities and arts (77 percent), and “other” fields (80 percent). The lowest rates were in engineering (14 percent) and the physical and Earth sciences (24 percent).

The overall rates of scientists and engineers taking postdocs has remained at about 47 percent over the last decade. Rates have increased in engineering and psychology and the social sciences but decreased in other sciences over that time. Rates of non-science and engineering Ph.D.s taking postdocs continue to increase over time, to about 12 percent in 2017.

Robert B. Townsend, director of the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, studies Ph.D. outcomes. He said that whenever he gives talks around the country on the topic, "quite a few people” ask why the number of humanities Ph.D.s remains high, despite the sharp drop in academic jobs after the 2008 recession. The 3.5 percent year-over-year decline in arts and humanities Ph.D.s conferred indicated in the report is therefore interesting, he said.

Still, he cautioned, there are “notable splits between the disciplines, which makes it hard to discern a trend.” Foreign language Ph.D.s increased 4.2 percent, for example, after falling in recent years, and some even smaller fields saw double-digit increases. Conversely, Townsend said, there were "substantial" declines in history, along with American literature and philosophy.

Given that it takes an average of seven years to earn a Ph.D., and that tracking studies have only recently reported declines in program enrollment, he said, “I suspect a broad and sustained decline is still a few years off.”

Hironao Okahana, associate vice president for research and policy analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, said the annual survey is an “invaluable national data resource” for institutions and others interested in higher education.

Pointing to the findings about definite employment commitments, Okahana said said that after several years of “slow decline,” the council is “cautiously optimistic at the slight improvement.”  The uptick in employment in industry and nonprofits also seems to signal a "recognition of the value of doctoral of education across employment sectors,” he added.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Dream Center colleges closing at year's end

Inside Higher Ed - News - December 10, 2018 - 7:00pm

About 30 colleges are shutting their doors at the end of this month, nearly a year after becoming the latest group of for-profit institutions to convert to nonprofit status.

The colleges, most of which are part of the once renowned Art Institutes brand, are owned by the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit Dream Center Education Holdings, or DCEH. They were formerly owned by Education Management Corporation. Despite having a recognizable brand, EDMC struggled with decreases in enrollment and revenue and increased scrutiny by state and federal investigations before selling the properties last year to the Dream Center Foundation, a Christian missionary organization.

The Dream Center purchased Argosy University, the Art Institutes, South University and Western State College of Law, which together had more than 100 campuses, from EDMC and converted the large for-profit institutions into nonprofit entities. It was reported in July that DCEH would stop enrolling students at 30 campuses and shut down those locations. The campuses have about 50,000 students enrolled in total.

Officials at DCEH did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking more information about the closures of the colleges.

Trace Urdan, a managing director at the consulting firm Tyton Partners who follows and analyzes the for-profit sector, said several factors led to the closures.

“The challenge of turning the business around has proven to be more difficult than anticipated and that simply declaring it nonprofit has been insufficient to shake the negative associations with the brand,” he said in an email.

Urdan said the dwindling appeal and high costs of programs at the Art Institutes -- the programs include culinary arts, media production, fashion, animation and interior design -- also worked against the universities. These programs require students to buy expensive course materials and equipment, which are essentially investments with low returns since most graduates end up in jobs with low starting salaries.

“In the context of a full-employment economy, attracting students to what are effectively vocational programs remains very challenging,” Urdan said. “They have to be persuaded that spending or borrowing money will boost their earning power enough to justify the expense. And because [the Art Institutes] is primarily a four-year degree institution, the cost and hurdle involved are that much greater.”

Tuition at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, for example, ranged from about $48,000 for an associate degree in graphic design to about $93,000 for a bachelor's degree in graphic design. The Philadelphia campus is among the locations that are closing. Tuition at Argosy University's San Francisco and Nashville, Tenn., campuses, which are also closing, ranged from $445 per credit hour to more than $1,000 per credit hour, according to its website. The Argosy campuses offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

But it isn't just the cost of the programs that may be turning off potential students. The wages for the careers that the degrees lead to aren't high enough for these programs to be a good value, said Spiros Protopsaltis, an associate professor of education policy at George Mason University and former deputy assistant secretary for higher education and student financial aid at the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration.

Employers don't seem to value these degrees, especially from a former for-profit, as much as they do when students are coming from a traditional public university or a nonprofit institution that hasn't undergone a conversion, he said.

"People see through some of these things for what they are, and at the end of the day, consumers realize that just because a school converted to a nonprofit, it doesn't mean that it necessarily changed its education model," he said. "If outcomes don't improve and quality doesn't go up and the value proposition isn't there, changing tax status doesn't change the underlying problems with the business model."

Prior to the Education Department's decision in August to drop the gainful-employment rule, which required for-profit institutions to prove they are preparing graduates for remunerative employment, and before the nonprofit conversion, career education programs like some of those offered at the Art Institutes failed to meet the guidelines. For example, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh charges more than $44,800 for an associate degree in graphic design, but only 12 percent of students graduated on time. And those graduates typically earned less than $22,000 a year and had more than $40,000 in federal student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

"Changing the tax status without changing the culture or changing the product is not going to lead to any different outcomes," Protopsaltis said.

When the Dream Center took over the struggling EDMC campuses, critics questioned whether the organization was equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to run one of the country’s largest for-profits. At the time of the sale, EDMC records indicated an enrollment of 65,000 students.

Critics also point to another example of a failed attempt to convert a for-profit institution into a nonprofit by the ECMC Group, a student loan guarantee agency. ECMC created the Zenith Education Group to turn some of the former for-profit Corinthian Colleges into nonprofit entities.

ECMC purchased 56 former Everest and WyoTech campuses in 2015 and together with Zenith spent more than $500 million to keep the former Corinthian Colleges operating. The company closed 21 of the campuses in 2017 but left three open.

Protopsaltis said these types of conversions need to be scrutinized more carefully.

Dream Center supporters dispute the assessment that the company doesn't understand the complexity of turning around former for-profit institutions. They point to Brent Richardson, who was previously the executive chairman of Grand Canyon University, a private, nonprofit Christian university in Phoenix. Richardson spent years investing in and helping to build GCU when it was a struggling for-profit entity.

Michael Clifford, a former board member of the Dream Center who has invested in for-profit colleges and describes himself as a “friend of the nonprofit,” said the campus closings are a sign that the Dream Center’s administrative teams are moving the company in the right direction and in the best interests of the students who continue to attend the institutions.

“They’ve done more positive things in six or seven months than anyone in this business,” he said while declining to give specific examples on the record. “I’ve never seen a management team turn around a nonprofit school center as this group has done.”

Clifford's appraisal of Dream Center's financial outlook did not include other challenges the organization is currently facing.

The Art Institute of Seattle, which was not on the list of campuses closing this year, laid off 10 of 13 full-time instructors this fall. The institute also employs 75 part-time instructors, none of whom were laid off.

Meanwhile, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is the accreditor for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, recently ruled that Dream Center had to provide more evidence that it adheres to commission standards by March 1 in order for the institution to be accredited.

Middle States, along with other regional accreditors for the DCEH campuses such as the Higher Learning Commission, has also approved teach-out agreements for the 30 campuses slated to close. The Higher Learning Commission, for example, approved a plan that would allow Illinois Institute of Art and Art Institute of Colorado students to transfer their earned credits to Columbia College Chicago or Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, in Denver.

Students who attended the Illinois campuses last week launched a class action lawsuit with the National Student Legal Defense Network. They accused the institution of hiding the fact that HLC revoked accreditation in January while continuing to encourage students to pay for courses and to graduate with unaccredited degrees.

Clifford is optimistic that regulatory changes made by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will help put DCEH campuses on stronger financial footing. He points to the administration's accreditation overhaul and its concerns that accreditors may not be in the best position to properly scrutinize the financial health of institutions and nonprofit conversions. Clifford said he supports the idea of shifting oversight from the accreditors to the states.

"No one wants another Corinthian or ITT [Technical Institutes]," Clifford said, referring to for-profit chains that collapsed in recent years after being subjected to increased federal oversight.

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Fifty colleges sued in barrage of ADA lawsuits over web accessibility

Inside Higher Ed - News - December 10, 2018 - 7:00pm

Jason Camacho, a blind resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., is suing 50 colleges over the accessibility of their websites.

The 50 lawsuits, filed in November, say the colleges are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as their websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. Camacho uses a screen reader and said he experienced barriers when trying to access the colleges' websites.

Despite the court cases being filed in New York's Southern District, the institutions targeted are located all over the country. Almost all are private colleges, universities or conservatories, and include large research universities such as Northeastern University and Drexel University. Both institutions said they do not comment on ongoing legal matters. Also being sued are Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, the California Institute of the Arts, Oberlin College, Loyola University New Orleans, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and many others

The lawsuits, which all appear to have similar wording, argue that because the colleges recruit students in New York, the colleges can be sued in New York. All the colleges recently took part in a college fair in New York City for prospective students interested in performing and visual arts, which Camacho says he attended.

Camacho’s attorney, Jeffrey Gottlieb of Gottlieb and Associates, declined to comment, but has previously indicated that the intention of the lawsuits is to ensure accessibility for all. “If the website is not accessible, you’re shut out,” he told the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.

Gottlieb and Associates describes itself as a “boutique litigation firm dedicated to representing disabled persons who’s [sic] rights have been violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The firm says on its website that it works “solely on a contingent fee basis” which means that clients do not pay if their case is unsuccessful.

This is not the first time Camacho and Gottlieb have worked together to sue higher education institutions over website accessibility. New York University, Adelphi University, Monroe College, Lim College and the New York Code and Design Academy were all sued by Camacho earlier this year. The cases were settled out of court. A New York University spokesperson said the terms of its settlement with Camacho were confidential.

Camacho was also the lead plaintiff in several other ADA lawsuits filed in 2017, including against companies such as Peet’s Coffee and Aldi.

While there are disability advocates who have single-handedly filed thousands of ADA complaints against colleges and universities to U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, there are few individuals who have taken so many colleges to court, said Chris Danielson, director of public relations at the National Federation of the Blind. That group has sued many colleges and reached settlements with others over issues similar to those raised in the new round of lawsuits.

The litigation-first approach is not one the NFB advocates.

“We tend to worry a little bit when we see one individual filing a bunch of lawsuits at once like this, because it’s not usually the best way to get a good result and enter into a good dialogue with the institutions,” he said. “Our approach is usually to go to litigation only after all other approaches have failed.”

Filing a lawsuit as a first move “puts universities on the defensive and is automatically adversarial,” said Danielson. But he added “it’s not necessarily a bad thing that someone who isn’t attending a university yet is doing some advocacy.”

The NFB has created a self-advocacy toolkit for students who experience accessibility barriers at college but said it can be tough for them to deal with these issues on top of their schoolwork.

The trend of somebody finding an accessibility issue on a website, “however big or small,” and filing a lawsuit is not unique to college and universities, said Danielson. “There are plaintiffs and lawyers who just take a category of business, like wineries for example, and just sue a bunch of them all at once.”

Filing large numbers of similarly worded ADA lawsuits against one type of business is sometimes referred to as “drive-by” litigation. This activity is widely seen as a means to get a quick settlement, rather than improve accessibility.

Whether Camacho is a disability rights advocate or an opportunist is irrelevant, said Peter Blanck, University Professor of law at Syracuse University and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute, which aims to advance the participation of people with disabilities in society.

“It’s beside the point whether there are 50 or 1,000 lawsuits,” said Blanck. “These cases are reflective of a larger systemic problem -- that there is a lack of a strong commitment by many institutions to try to be as inclusive as possible.”

It’s been almost 30 years since the ADA was passed, and we should have made more progress, said Blanck. “Way back in the '90s I was asked to testify whether or not websites would be subject to the ADA,” he said. “There is no question that universities have been on notice for a long time.”

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Categories: Higher Education News

Saudi partnerships too valuable to give up - MIT report

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Research misconduct penalties extended into other areas

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UNC teaching assistants go on strike over Confederate monument

Inside Higher Ed - News - December 8, 2018 - 6:11am

Several dozen teaching assistants at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill started a strike Friday, saying that they will withhold student grades as long as the university moves ahead with the idea of constructing a building to house the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam. The strike comes after classes have finished for the semester and students are preparing for final exams and normally would be soon receiving final grades.

As of early afternoon, the organizers said that they had nearly 80 teaching assistants on strike, and that they were holding back the grades of more than 2,000 students. The banner above was an early listing of the number of teaching assistants on strike and the number of students affected.

The organizers say that their move is an "action," not a strike because they are working, grading student papers and so forth, and that they are simply not handing in grades.

Silent Sam was toppled by protesters in August. Protesters used ropes to take down the statue, which was then removed by the university, setting off a debate on whether and how it would return to campus.

The action came after years of debate. As many other colleges and universities removed Confederate statues and symbols, UNC officials said that they lacked the power to remove the statue, with the campus deferring to the system, and the system board in July saying that any decision needed to come from a state agency and that the system had no plans to ask that agency to act.

On Monday, university leaders announced a plan -- widely criticized by student and faculty groups -- to spend more than $5 million on a building on campus to house Silent Sam. They said this was necessary to comply with a state law that monuments not be moved off campus, although university leaders said that they would prefer to do so.

Those organizing the strike said that the plan would amount to glorifying a monument to white supremacy and would waste money.

Many students are taking to social media to support the strike:

Undergrad action: https://t.co/KDHqn36fgl

— #StrikeDownSam (@strikedownsam) December 7, 2018

 

Black Congress joins in solidarity with all Teaching Assistants and Faculty participating in the action to #StrikeDownSam.
Read the demands here: https://t.co/CS1wktk2lG pic.twitter.com/VRkNIDLXbV

— MiZ BDE (@Angummm_) December 7, 2018

Bob Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost at Chapel Hill, sent an email to the campus objecting to the strike.

Said Blouin: "This type of action violates our university’s instructional responsibilities, which include: 1) to deliver instruction; 2) to evaluate student performance; and 3) to record/document performance and progress toward degree completion. Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten their eligibility. The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students."

He added: "Finally, this afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike. The university has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law."

 

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New cross-border university launched under HE reforms

University World News - December 8, 2018 - 2:32am
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Call for improved student-teacher ratio as enrolment dips

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Become a UWN partner and raise your profile globally

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Academic freedom goes on trial in Hong Kong

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Answer threats to academic freedom with engagement

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Defiant vice-chancellor aims to 'do things differently'

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Towards inclusive intercultural learning for all

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American science in decline as China's rises

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UC at tipping point, in pursuit of a new funding model

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Leading a university in financially challenging times

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Top universities collaborate on teaching

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Vice president challenges academics on state of education

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Can't cancel PhD over fake claim, Panjab University told

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