What diversity?: The chief diversity officer at a college for the Deaf in Washington got punished this week for her diverse views. Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz put Dr. Angela McCaskill on paid leave after he found out she had signed a petition to overturn the law that allows same-sex couples in Maryland to marry. In a statement released Wednesday, Hurwitz said some at the school thought McCaskill's participation in the legislative initiative was inappropriate. He plans to use her time off to consider what other steps he needs to take--which presumably means whether she'll be able to keep her job. Ironically, the roll of McCaskill's office at the school is to promote a diverse community. But evidently, the school's definition of diversity is rather narrow.
Right to know: A new bill filed in the senate aims to give students and parents more reliable data to evaluate colleges before writing that first tuition check. The "Student Right to Know Before You Go Act" would expand the statistics schools are required to report to include post-grad annual earnings; remedial enrollment, credit accumulation and graduation rates; average costs; and the effect of remedial education and financial aid on getting a diploma. George Leef, chief analyst for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, dismisses most of the stats as redundant. Students and parents looking for most of the info can find it fairly easily. The post-grad annual earnings numbers are the exception, he said in a post on the Pope Center's website.
Knowing how much graduates stand to make, and by extension how long it will take them to pay off their student loans, could be very useful, Leef said: "Reliable data showing that degrees from certain schools and in certain majors are generally of little value in the market would cause many students to steer away from them. It would be as valuable to students thinking about college (including whether it's a good idea at all) as it's valuable to automobile shoppers to be able to find out which models are excellent and which ones give owners lots of trouble."
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), has bipartisan support. But Leef predicts higher ed lobbyists will do everything they can to kill it. The bill is intended to help students choose between schools, but it could prompt some to bypass a traditional degree in favor of a technical or certification program. And that unintended consequence could be the bill's best legacy, Leef says.
Declining enrollment: According to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Education, some students are moving away from four-year degrees already. Between 2010 and 2011, 30,000 fewer students enrolled in the 7,000 schools that receive federal aid. And 10,000 fewer students enrolled in graduate programs. The report doesn't offer any reason for the slight decline, but everything we already know about the economy, rising tuition and increasingly heavy debt burdens probably contains the answer. And the report offers a reminder that too few of the students who start college actually finish.