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A Blog from New America's Higher Education Initiative

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Syllabus: Week of March 10

Published:  March 15, 2013
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Buttrick Hall at Vanderbilt University. Photo Licensed CC by MikeMurry.

Welcome to the Syllabus, a weekly guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.


Double Majors Produce Dynamic Thinkers, Study Finds, Dan Berrett
Chronicle of Higher Education

The amount of students double majoring has been increasing for years, and universities have been operating blind, knowing almost nothing about the benefits and drawbacks for students. Two sociologists from Vanderbilt University have shed some light on the issue. They found that, “Students who major in two fields are more apt than their single-majoring peers to think both integratively and creatively.” It’s important to note, however, that the sample included students from elite, selective schools that were more likely to double major than the general college population (19 percent versus 9 percent).

HBCUs May Sue Obama Administration Over New Student Loan Rules, Tyler Kingkade
Huffington Post

New underwriting standards for federal Parent PLUS Loans went into effect in October 2011 and have caused an increase in loan denials. These changes have hit historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) hard since parents at these schools are twice as likely to use the program. Now HBCUs are considering legal action over the new rules. According to Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, “We’re going to continue to pursue the legislative process to find a better solution, [but] if at some point we determine that there is no agreement, then we may have to consider going to the courts.”


Harvard Searched Resident Deans’ Email Accounts After Cheating Scandal Leak
NPR News: All Things Considered

Harvard may have violated its own policy when it searched email accounts after a cheating scandal leak last year. NPR News reports:

[Harvard’s online policy] says, “Faculty emails are considered confidential and will only be read in extraordinary circumstances.” Harvard apparently considered "Resident Deans" under a separate staff policy, even though they teach classes and provide academic advising.


How Online Credits Could Change Higher Ed’s Business Model, Amy Scott

A bill proposed in California on Wednesday would require public colleges and universities to grant credit for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or other online courses if students cannot get into classes due to over-enrollment problems. According to Burck Smith, CEO of StraighterLine, there’s another added benefit, “What it also does is open a much larger marketplace [that] will ultimately drive prices down, will raise quality up, and that’s a good thing.”

New America’s Kevin Carey wrote a post here at Higher Ed Watch about California’s groundbreaking state online higher education plan. He concluded that, “In the long run this kind of plan represents an undeniable re-ordering of long-established regulatory, financial, and institutional arrangements, moving closer to a world where traditional college are only a subset of the larger world of higher education.”

Higher Ed Watch readers, what do you think? Is this the beginning of a whole new delivery model for higher education? If this bill passes, how do you think it will affect students? And how will it change institutions of higher education?

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