News and Notes: And…

Shifting Majors Count
In fall 2009, there were 792 English majors among UMCP undergraduates. That was nearly equal the total of computer science majors, 796. Five years later the computer science total had more than doubled, to 1,730. The total for English had fallen 39% to 483.  English was hardly alone in decline. Down at least a quarter in that span were major totals for anthropology, art history, general biology and history.
“’The approaches that we use in teaching the humanities and the arts … do give students the skills that employers are looking for,’ said Arts and Humanities Dean Dill. ‘And they also give students skills that are transferable to a lot of different kinds of work settings and situations.’ Employers, she added, ‘need people who have broader capabilities to be creative and thoughtful.’ …
“Wallace D. Loh, president of U-Md. since 2010, says he likes to think of the university as a flower. ‘That flower has a long and very sturdy STEM, but at the top of that STEM, there’s a flower, a blossom. And that flower is the humanities.’ He said he walks around campus ‘with that metaphor of the flower in my head all the time. We have to nurture that blossom.’”


Law Schools
Enrollments are down in law schools across the country, and cuts have been made or are
on the horizon. A decade ago, about 90,000 students applied to law schools, and the latest figure is about half. It’s not that law all of a sudden has become unappealing; rather, the job market has dried up. Perhaps a turn-around is just around the corner.

Admit and Help Succeed
An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (15 May 2015) states that there are three key findings about that essential but sometimes painful component of higher education: yield rates are sliding, transfer students are crucial, and recruitment has no borders. The article draws upon an NACAC report, The State of College Admissions.
In the report, Student Success, we read about a shift from admissions to something broader: “Colleges and universities long have focused on getting students in the door, spending vast resources and time on recruiting and admissions to craft the right classes and meet their revenue targets. Whether students succeeded once they arrived on campus was seen as the responsibility of academic
departments and individual faculty members, not as an institutional priority. But in recent decades, colleges and universities have started to investigate why students leave before they graduate and how
institutions could improve retention and completion rates. …
“The institution’s role was to provide the tools for students to succeed, but not to shadow them on that journey with support services at every turn. But as access to higher education expanded over the past several decades—especially for students who were first in their family to go to college—institutions discovered that they needed to build new advising structures to ensure that this new wave of students would make it to graduation.”

Police report: “The victim was walking on the sidewalk between Lehigh Road and Regents Drive [in College Park], near a picnic table, when a group of five males approached the victim from behind. One suspect pushed the victim down to the ground and took property out of the victim’s hand. The victim stood back up and grabbed the suspect in which a fight ensued. Other members from the group assisted the suspect and began kicking the victim down to the ground. The suspect took the victim’s cash and the group fled on foot towards Baltimore Avenue and Regents Drive. There were no weapons used in commission of this crime. The victim suffered minor injuries.” We wonder what the impact of crime is on student and faculty recruitment. And we also wonder if it is possible to improve safety around our campuses.

Who Can Teach?
Skillshare is an online video platform that allows anyone to sign up and teach a class. … Those behind the service are banking on the idea that amateurs will be inspired to share their knowledge online. They envision the website as a kind of educational YouTube: If you want to teach anyone anything — how to use Photoshop, or even how to chug a beer more efficiently — Skillshare wants to host your classes. How about the history of French art or third level calculus; that might dig into the university system monopoly.
Source, edited: New York Times, 19 March 2015

Grade Inflation
From Teachers College Record (2012): “Contemporary data indicate that, on average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. … As a result of instructors gradually lowering their standards, A has become the most common grade on American college campuses. Without regulation, or at least strong grading guidelines, grades at American institutions of higher learning likely will continue to have less and less meaning.”
Why the inflation? Maybe it’s avoiding student complaints, maybe it’s a desire to be loved, and just maybe it’s that teaching is of less significance to many tenure-track full-time instructors as pressures mount to raise money, and not of much significance to contingent come-and-go instructors.

Student-Professor Relationships

  • “When college is more about career than ideas, when paycheck matters more than wisdom, the role of professors changes. We may be 50-year-olds at the front of the room with decades of reading, writing, travel, archives or labs under our belts, with 80 courses taught, but students don’t lie in bed mulling over what we said. They have no urge to become disciples.
  • “Sadly, professors pressed for research time don’t want them, either. As a result, most undergraduates never know that stage of development when a learned mind enthralled them and they progressed toward a fuller identity through admiration of and struggle with a role model.”
  • Source: Mark Bauerlein, New York Times, 10 May 2015“The lower a college’s ranking by the three [rating] magazines, the more frequently its faculty members reportedly interacted with students.” Surely the importance of research in ratings contributes to this relationship.


Higher Ed Does Make a Difference
Among women in the United States, postgraduate education and motherhood are increasingly going hand-in-hand. The share of highly educated women who are childless into their mid-40s has fallen significantly over the last two decades. The decline is steepest among women in their 40s who have an M.D. or Ph.D.
Source: Pew Research Center, 7 May 2015

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