Accoding to the March jobs report, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, while 103,00 jobs were added.
Contrary to (exaggerated) fears of losing transportation jobs to automation, the Financial Times reports on a shortage of American truck drivers. Drivers are currently utilized at 100%, compared to an 85% rate several years ago. The article cites the high costs of self-training ($5,000-10,000) and “a thicket of bureaucracy” as barriers to entry in this field.
Another Boston school dies: Mount Ida College will close and be absorbed into the University of Massachusetts system. All Mount Ida faculty and staff are losing their jobs, and all students in good standing will be offered admission to UMass.
At the South by Southwest education conference in March, participants in a “Shark Tank” style forum pitched ideas for improving higher ed. The presenters clearly embraced the startup-company theme as they offered solutions with names such as “Prof Fit,” “Edquity,” and “GradSnapp.” We suspect none of these would have helped the students or faculty at Mount Ida College.
Separately, the president of a small, Michigan liberal arts college describes how an experimental partnership with Google allows three collaborating colleges to pool resources with a “Courseshare” experience. Each school received $10,000 of equipment to support course videoconferencing with a host campus.
The Justice Department has sent letters to certain (unidentified) colleges informing them of an antitrust inquiry. Apparently the invesigators are interested in early-decision programs at schools and whether inappropriate sharing among schools of admission and financial aid information has occurred.
Perhaps they were just anticipating a lowering of standards: Kentucky’s American National University has been fined $23,000 for advertising inaccurate graduate “success rates.” The school defined “success” as having any job during or after college but gave the impression the figures represented placement numbers within desired fields. The state’s attorney general had sought a $2.7 million fine.
The University of Texas System has begun a search for a new chancellor. The system includes eight universities and over a dozen medical and nursing schools. We were surprised to see that the system’s website announcing the search includes a field at the bottom for submitting nominations.
An opinion piece in Greenville Business Magazine draws a connection between oil-based state economies and large university endowments. He notes that Houston’s Rice University has an endowment which averages $1.4 million per undergraduate student. Also, BP recently donated $500 million to the University of California. The writer encourages South Carolinians to regard offshore drilling as a means to grow beyond the state’s current dependence on the hospitality trade and to boost education assets.
The New York Times observes that middle-class families are regarding community colleges more favorably. As one higher ed policy professor is quoted, “More middle-class parents are saying, I’m not succumbing to the idea that the only acceptable education is an expensive one.”
The concept of “food insecurity” among college students continues to garner attention from the media, most recently fueled by a study which found 36% of students were “food insecure” within a 30-day period. The same report says that 36% of students were “housing insecure” over the last year. Note that “insecurity” is broadly defined in the study: for example, food insecurity includes “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.” We’re not sure what “safe food” means but nevertheless figure by this standard, most any dormitory filled with impoverished, pizza-desperate freshmen is closer to 100% insecure.