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Higher Education News

World & Nation

- Nationally, the six-year graduation rate for Black students is 20 percentage points lower than that of white students, says a report from Education Sector, a Washington, D.C. education research group. But it doesn't have to be that way, says the report's author Kevin Carey. Several colleges and universities—including some outside the elite ranks of private higher education—have developed strategies that result in Black students graduating at relatively similar rates to white students.

Successful colleges have improved their graduation rates, says the report, by improving how they serve students, especially minority and low-income students. Florida State University and the University of Alabama are cited as institutions that even graduate a slightly higher proportion of their Black students than their white students in six years. Graduation Rate Watch: Making Minority Student Success a Priority, is available at

- Lower- and middle-income families are more vulnerable to downturns in the economy than the wealthy, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, because of higher debt loads and falling real estate values. Wealthier families are likely to have savings and other assets to ride out the storm. The study, Pulling Apart: A State by State Analysis of Income Trends, notes that gains in income over the past decades did not reach middle- and low-income families, leaving them vulnerable to the current economic downturn. For a PDF of the report or to find out more on the economy, go to

Community colleges are leading the way in postsecondary online education, reporting an 18 percent increase in distance-education enrollments from fall 2005 to fall 2006, according to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Babson Survey Research Group. Two-year institutions enrolled more than 1.9 million of the nearly 3.5 million students taking at least one online course in fall 2006.

Faculty & Staff

- The National Academy of Sciences has elected 72 new members for 2008, including 16 women, up from nine in 2007. The record year is 2005, when 19 women were elected. To become members, candidates must be elected by the existing membership which is predominantly male. With the 72 new members this year, the academy now has 2,041 active members.

The academy is a private organization, chartered by Congress. Its mission is to advise the government on scientific issues and promote science for the general welfare.

- Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have approved Higher Education Act reauthorization bills that would require colleges to publicize to prospective students the number of adjuncts and graduate assistants they use. The American Council on Education and other college groups oppose these provisions, complaining that providing specific data on adjuncts would be burdensome for their institutions.

Professional News

- A significant proportion of high school biology teachers teach some form of creationism or intelligent design, according to a recent national survey. Significantly, the teachers likely to spend the most time teaching evolution were those who took the most college-level biology courses.

One in eight teachers said they taught creationism as a "valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species," says Michael B. Berkman, a professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University at University Park, who led the study.

The survey is published in the journal PLoS Biology at

- A report from the National Collegiate Athletic Association finds that the vast majority of college and university athletics departments lose money. About 17 of the more than 300 athletic programs in Division I—about 5 percent—earned a net profit between 2004 and 2006. Sixteen of the profitable programs were at elite Division I-A universities.

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