Does Harvard University discriminate against Asian-Americans in its admissions process?
That’s the question on trial in a Boston federal courtroom this week. At issue is whether Harvard unfairly discriminated against an Asian-American applicant who says the Ivy League school held him to higher standards than applicants of other races. This trial will also dissect a contentious political issue in higher education: affirmative action.
But what exactly is affirmative action, and how did it become such a controversial issue?
Today in U.S. higher education, affirmative action refers to policies that give students from underrepresented racial groups an advantage in the college admissions process, said Mark Naison, an African-American studies professor who teaches about affirmative action at Fordham University. But that wasn’t the original definition when it was introduced by President John Kennedy in the 1960s.
In 1996, right after voters in California banned affirmative action in employment and college admissions, minority student enrollment at two and four-year institutions plummeted. What has happened since though, is pretty remarkable.
Of the 2.8 million students attending college in California today, two out of three come from racially and ethnically diverse populations. The most eye-popping increase in enrollment has been among Latinos.
They now make up 43 percent of all college students in California. Twenty-six percent are white, followed by Asian and Pacific Islanders at 16 percent and African Americans at 6 percent.
When Hollywood’s glitterati walked the red carpet for the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday evening, it was the #MeToo movement that took center stage, not the directors, actors or actresses there to fête and be fêted – many of whom donned black clothing to draw attention to reports of sexual harassment that have rocked Tinsel Town, sent politicians packing and exposed chronic abuses in higher education, finance and other societal spheres.
One area that’s remained insulated, however, is K-12 education. Yet that’s not because instances of sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct and assault aren’t happening to students in elementary, middle and high school.
In fact, nearly half of students in grades seven to 12 – and more than half of girls overall at that level – reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-2011 school year, according to research from the American Association of University Women.
“What would it mean to redesign higher education for the intellectual space travel students need to thrive in the world we live in now?”
That is one of the provocative questions that opens Cathy Davidson’s latest book, The New Education. And unlike some of the journalists and business figures who have taken previous swings at that piñata, Davidson has a full career of research and practice to inform her abundance of answers.
Davidson spent more than two decades as a professor at Duke University. She taught English and humanities, but with the advent of the Internet, she saw the need for a new kind of interdisciplinary and student-centered learning. She opened up her classrooms, beginning in simple ways, trying to get more people to participate and collaborate — while lecturing less. She has even been known to interrupt her own keynote addresses to get people in the audience talking to one another.
Greater access to Higher Education could have reversed the result of the 2016 EU referendum, according to new research from the University of Leicester.
The paper, published in the journal World Development, suggests that access to Higher Education was the ‘predominant factor’ dividing those who voted Remain and those who voted Leave.
The research also suggests that greater access to higher and further education can produce different political outcomes — which has been demonstrated in the 2017 General Election, where it can be argued that voting populations with a higher education had a decisive effect on the result.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is inviting eight selected partnerships between institutions of higher education and non-traditional providers to participate in the EQUIP (Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships) experiment.
These partnerships will allow students—particularly low-income students—to access federal student aid for the first time to enroll in programs offered by non-traditional training providers, in partnership with colleges and universities, including coding bootcamps, online courses, and employer organizations. The goals of the experiment are to: (1) test new ways of allowing Americans from all backgrounds to access innovative learning and training opportunities that lead to good jobs, but that fall outside the current financial aid system; and (2) strengthen approaches for outcomes-based quality assurance processes that focus on student learning and other outcomes. The experiment aims to promote and measure college access, affordability, and student outcomes.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today laid out his vision for America’s higher education system of the future. Duncan noted that while more students are graduating college than ever before at our nation’s world-class colleges and universities, for far too many students, the nation’s higher education system isn’t delivering what they need and deserve. America’s students and families need, and the nation’s economic strength will depend on, a higher education system that helps all students succeed. That starts with making college more affordable but goes much further – to focus on whether students are actually graduating in a timely way with a meaningful degree that sets them up for future success.
Today, nearly half of all students who begin college do not graduate within six years, and the consequences of taking on debt but never receiving a meaningful degree can be severe. Students who borrow for college but never graduate are three times more likely to default. A stronger focus on outcomes for students means change for everyone – schools, students, states, accreditors, and the federal government.
As part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to encourage children to reach higher and pursue higher education, she will be visiting San Antonio on Friday to speak at the city’s College Signing Day.
College Signing Day is part of Destination College, a week of events started by Mayor Julián Castro to celebrate San Antonio as both a college town and a college-going town. To celebrate their commitment to higher education, San Antonio residents show their support by wearing college apparel on Signing Day.