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Leading the News
Report: First-Year Undergraduate Enrollment Down 16% This Semester
A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found the number of first-year undergraduate students enrolled fell 16% this semester, compared to just 4% last year at this time, Bloomberg (10/15, Lorin) reports. Declining enrollment numbers are “inflicting financial damage on colleges already reeling from the pandemic.” In addition, a 13.6% decline in international student enrollment is “among the deepest,” likely exacerbated by the Trump Administration’s push this summer for a “federal rule that would have required foreign students at U.S. universities to take at least one in-person class or risk deportation if schools switched to online only. While the guidelines were quickly rescinded, international students still struggle with travel restrictions and visa issues.”
Forbes (10/15, Nietzel) reports the new figures “represent a further enrollment drop from last month when preliminary national figures showed undergraduate enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities down by 2.5% and graduate student enrollment up 3.9%.” The Clearinghouse is expected to release final fall enrollment numbers in December.
Chronicle Survey Explores Impact Of Pandemic On Fall Enrollments, Colleges’ Plans For Spring. The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/14) reports that “two-thirds of institutions responding to a new survey by The Chronicle reported drops in undergraduate enrollment this fall, with community colleges experiencing the steepest declines during a semester of pandemic-fueled challenges.” The survey “of enrollment managers and registrars provides a look at enrollment shifts and spring-planning decisions at institutions representing a broad cross-section of Carnegie classes.” The responses “to the survey reinforce some of the top-level findings of recent studies by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and the American Council on Education: Declining enrollment, increased operating costs, and state budget cuts are inflicting deep financial pain on nearly every sector of higher education.”
Some Colleges Ignore Guidance From White House Coronavirus Task Force
Education Dive (10/14) reports the White House’s coronavirus task force has been offering public health guidance to colleges for months, but some appear to be ignoring their advice. For example, in a report dated Oct. 4, “the panel urged three Idaho universities to switch to online learning, given high coronavirus positivity rates among young adults in their counties. The schools did not make the switch.” Chris Marsicano, founding director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, says colleges “are in a tough spot” because they have to “weigh guidelines from local and state health departments, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Marsicano said, “It’s a choose-your-own adventure, and you have to pick the guidelines that best comport with what you’re capable of doing.”
Research Shows Community College Students More Likely To Transfer After Connecting With Advisers
In a piece in The Conversation (10/14) University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Xueli Wang writes, “I worked with my research team to follow about 1,670 first-year students who started at two-year colleges in fall 2014 in a Midwestern state. Seventy-three percent of those students wanted to transfer to a four-year university. We kept in touch with these students through 2019 as they shared with us their experiences and stories of being drawn closer to or pushed away from their dreams of transferring to a four-year university.” Part of what the study found was “that when students connected during their first term with advisers or professors at the school where they wanted to transfer, they were more likely to transfer eventually.” She writes that the findings “show the importance of four-year colleges being more intentional about helping community college students transfer.”
As College Faculty Face Layoffs, Some Experts Argue Against Budget Cuts
Inside Higher Ed (10/14, Burke) reports that “the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in waves of layoffs and furloughs in higher education.” While adjunct faculty and other academic workers “have been affected, employees who work in nonacademic and nonadministrative roles, such as dining and custodial services, have been particularly targeted by cost-cutting measures.” Universities and state governments “are surely facing budget shortfalls due to losses in tuition, room and board, and other revenue streams.” Rutgers, “for example, adopted a budget this week that projects the university deficit at more than $97 million.” Still, “some in higher education have argued that universities could do more to protect the most vulnerable people who work for them.”
Experts Suggest Increase In Marketing, Flexible Class Times To Boost College’s Spring Enrollment
Education Dive (10/14, Schwartz) reports that “two- and four-year colleges can use several tactics to help grow their spring enrollment, higher education experts say.” Community colleges “should increase marketing and emphasize their flexible class times, while four-year schools can remove enrollment barriers for transfer students, they suggested.” Preliminary reports “show undergraduate enrollment fell this fall, a concerning trend for cash-strapped colleges that have had to invest in online education and safety measures.”
Georgetown University Report Finds Biden’s Free Public College Plan Would Pay Itself Off In Ten Years
CNBC (10/14, Hess) reports that “over the past 10 years alone, college costs have increased by more than 25% and today, some 44 million Americans collectively hold over $1.6 trillion in student debt.” To address such concerns, “Democratic nominees former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris have proposed a lengthy education plan that includes an eye-catching proposal: tuition-free public college for all families with incomes below $125,000.” According to an analysis by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “the policy, which also proposes tuition-free community college, would pay for itself within 10 years.”
University Of Arizona Adds Reading Days, Cancels Spring Break
The Arizona Republic (10/14, Frank) reports that University of Arizona officials “announced the cancellation of spring break and that it will be replaced with reading days spread throughout the semester as part of its COVID-19 mitigation efforts.” The school’s faculty senate “on Oct. 5 approved the one-time adjustment to the spring schedule, and Provost Liesl Folks announced the changes in a letter sent to students and staff on Wednesday morning.”
University Of Oregon’s Winter Term To Be Largely Online
The AP (10/14) reports that the University of Oregon “said Tuesday that winter term courses will continue to be largely remote and online.” The university in Eugene “said it will continue to offer some classes in-person, such as science labs and physical education courses, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.” Those in-person courses “will require face coverings and physical distancing, according to the university.”
Brigham Young University-Idaho Takes No Chances As Rumors Spread About Students Getting COVID-19 To Earn Money
The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/14, Mangan) reports that “with COVID-19 cases surging on campus and the in-person semester hanging by a thread, officials at Brigham Young University-Idaho weren’t taking any chances.” They had received reports “that, at any other time, might have seemed too bizarre to take seriously: that some students were deliberately exposing themselves to COVID-19 so they would be paid more for their antibody-rich plasma.” If students “were, indeed, trying to get infected with COVID-19 to be paid more, they might have seen the idea in an article last week in EastIdahoNews.com.” The Idaho university “had reasons to err on the side of caution.” Last month “it issued a statement expressing alarm at the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the region and on campus.” It warned “that the failure to heed public-health warnings could result in the suspension of students and the shutdown of the entire campus.”
Miami Dade College Reopens Amid Pandemic, Despite Protests
Inside Higher Ed (10/14, St. Amour) reports that Miami Dade College “is one of the most respected – and largest – colleges in the country.” Founded “as a community college, it continues to offer those programs and now also offers a range of four-year programs.” It’s a commuter college, “so it doesn’t rely heavily on revenue from room and board fees” and “it’s located in Miami-Dade County in Florida, a county that’s been a hot spot within a state that’s also been a hot spot for COVID-19 until recently.” The faculty union, public health experts as well as students “who created and signed petitions to stop the reopening of campus” want to know why the college is reopening for in-person classes.
Over 100 Notre Dame Faculty Sign Letter Opposing Barrett Supreme Court Appointment
Inside Higher Ed (10/14, Murakami) reports that “as Amy Coney Barrett was undergoing hours of questioning Tuesday, on the second day of her confirmation hearing for appointment to the Supreme Court, more than 100 faculty members back at the University at Notre Dame, where she had been a law professor for 20 years, were signing an online letter opposing her appointment.” The letter, “in part, was meant to make the point that not all of Barrett’s former colleagues at the university support her appointment to the court, said Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a Notre Dame biological sciences professor who organized the petition with three other university professors.”
Opinion: It Is Difficult To Get A Tenured Sexual Predator Fired
In an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/14), University of Toronto associate professor Aisha Ahmad writes, “Everyone I know who has tried to pursue the firing of a tenured predator has failed, often with dire personal and professional consequences.” She continues, “Let me be clear: You cannot simply point out a predator and get that man – or in some cases, woman – fired. Do that and you will trigger an internal investigation and parallel legal processes, both of which will require the victim to meet daunting evidentiary standards.” She asks, “Certainly the #MeToo movement has outed some serial harassers, but how many actually lost their tenured gigs?” She concludes that this is because “predators know the system” and that “institutions worry about liability and risk.”
NSF Engineering Research Centers History - Free E-Book
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New Prism Magazine Online
Our cover story, "A Virtual Reality" examines how engineering educators find creative substitutes for in-person labs and other hands-on learning experiences. This story and more, at the Prism online site.
Webinar: Supporting Underrepresented Engineering Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Oct. 22 at 2 PM, ET
Explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting traditionally underrepresented students in engineering and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from two NSF RAPID grants. Register Now!
Webinar: Supporting Engineering Graduate Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Nov. 5 at 1 PM, ET
This free webinar will explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting engineering graduate students and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from three NSF RAPID grants. Register now!
Research and Development
Nearly Three Quarters Of Americans Afraid Of Returning To Workplace Due To COVID-19, Survey Reveals
Forbes (10/14, Segal) reports, “According to the results of the Envoy Return to Work survey that was released today, 73% of Americans are afraid of putting their personal health and safety at risk by returning to the workplace, with 75% saying they would consider quitting their jobs if the Covid-19 prevention measures by employers were inadequate or inappropriate.” The survey also revealed that “workers in the business or tech services are more likely to consider leaving their job than those in the construction, manufacturing, retail or service industries.”
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Fujitsu’s Fugaku Supercomputer Helping Fight COVID-19 In Japan
ZDNet (10/13, Barbaschow) reports that Fugaku, the world’s most powerful supercomputer located at Japanese scientific research institute RIKEN “is being used already by researchers in Japan for various matters, one of which is the country’s fight against COVID-19.” RIKEN Center for Computational Science director Satoshi Matsuoka said the supercomputer will “be used for a wide variety of applications, including those of high concern in the general public around medical and pharmaceuticals, disaster and environmental, energy and production ... also industries from materials to general manufacturing.” Matsuoka said the program has been receiving “stellar results,” since the computing resources noiw available to scientists match “the entire high-performance compute capacity in Japan.” Fujitsu also “announced kicking off three quantum computing initiatives with research facilities in Japan and the Netherlands: One with RIKEN and the University of Tokyo, another with Osaka University, and the third with the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands.”
Einride Unveils New Line Of Electric, Driverless Delivery Trucks
CNBC (10/14) reports that on Thursday, “Swedish trucking start-up Einride recently unveiled a new line of electric, driverless freight trucks that don’t have a cab.” According to The Verge, Einride’s new line of trucks is “similar to previous iterations, in that the Pod does not have a cab for drivers, and it also has no steering wheel or a traditional windshield.” The trucks drive autonomously using software developed by Nvidia. Meanwhile, deliveries are “planned and executed using Einride’s freight mobility platform.” Einride expects to put the trucks on the road next year.
NASA Awards $370 Million In Contracts To Aid Moon Exploration Push
SPACE (10/14, Wall) reports that NASA announced that it has awarded $370 million in 15 contracts to 14 different companies, including Astrobotic, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Intuitive Machines, and United Launch Alliance. The “Tipping Point” contracts are “designed to aid its push to get astronauts back to the moon and then on to Mars.” Nearly 70% of the funding will go to the management of cryogenic fluids, which could “allow rockets and spacecraft to fill their fuel tanks in orbit and other off-Earth locales, NASA officials said.”
Virgin Galactic’s Next Spaceflight Test Remains On Track To Launch In The Coming Weeks
CNBC (10/14, Sheetz) reports that Virgin Galactic said in a blog post Wednesday that the company remains on track to conduct its next test spaceflight in the coming weeks. This will be the first of two space flights that Virgin Galactic has planned to complete SpaceShipTwo spacecraft system testing.
Engineering and Public Policy
Treasury Secretary: Agreement On Coronavirus Bill Unlikely Before Election
Reuters (10/14, Cornwell) reports Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said Wednesday he and House Speaker Pelosi are “far apart” on a coronavirus relief package and although it would be difficult to reach an agreement before the election, he would keep trying. Mnuchin, who spoke by phone with Pelosi Wednesday morning, said, “I’d say at this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are and the level of detail, but we’re going to try to continue to work through these issues.”
The New York Times (10/14, Cochrane, Rappeport) reports negotiators resumes talks Wednesday, “even though Democrats and Republicans remain wildly divided over the scope and size of another stimulus bill.” Mnuchin said his conversation with House Speaker Pelosi was “comprehensive,” but he “indicated that important differences remained.” The Times reports Mnuchin and Pelosi “spoke on Wednesday for about an hour, discussing the language of the administration’s latest $1.8 trillion framework as compared to House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, which Ms. Pelosi pushed through the House earlier this month. They agreed to speak again on Thursday.”
Politico (10/14, Ferris) reports Senate Republicans “have sought to pressure some Democrats in their chamber into voting for a much more pared-back version of the aid package.” Senate Majority Leader McConnell “has teed up a vote on a GOP aid bill next week, which would offer more money for unemployment insurance and provide funding for schools and hospitals, in addition to Paycheck Protection Program funding for small businesses.” The measure “is expected to be far below what Democrats have demanded to help shore up the coronavirus-battered economy.”
Additional coverage by the Washington Post (10/14, Werner, Stein), CNBC (10/14, Pramuk), The Hill (10/14, Lillis), Roll Call (10/14, Lerman) and Bloomberg (10/14, Dennis, Fabian).
Federal Reserve Vice Chairman: Economy Will Need Additional Support
The Wall Street Journal (10/14, Derby, Subscription Publication) reports Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said Wednesday that While the economy’s recovery has been strong, additional support will be necessary for economic activity and employment to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Labor Department: U.S. Producer Prices Rose 0.4% In September
Reuters (10/14, Mutikani) reports that the Labor Department said Wednesday U.S. producer prices rose 0.4% in September, following an increase of 0.3% in August. The rise in prices surpassed expectations, as a poll of economists by Reuters projected a 0.2% increase for the month.
Biden Considering Using Trade Agreements As Means Of Addressing Climate Change
Politico (10/14, Bade) reports Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is considering using trade agreements as a means of addressing climate change if he is elected president, which would be a significant change from previous US trade policies. The move “would add financial teeth to international pacts to reduce carbon emissions, which until now have relied on voluntary participation by the countries signing them.” Biden’s trade agenda “calls for a global ban on fossil-fuel subsidies, tariffs on imports that produce a lot of carbon, and trade deals that include commitments to reduce emissions.” Republicans “warn that Biden risks alienating the Rust Belt voters who will have sent him to the White House if he becomes president and [that] his policies reduce exports of heavy manufactured goods or fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, even if that’s accompanied by a drop in imports from other countries.”
Also in the News
Scientists See Sharp Contrast Between Trump, Biden
Inside Higher Ed (10/14) reports many scientists are backing Joe Biden for president as they believe “a more fundamental issue – respect for science in government – is at stake in this election.” Scientists have criticized President Trump “for rejecting scientific and other forms of expertise, including by forcing out or muzzling government-employed scientists and by eliminating many advisory committees comprised of outside experts.” Trump has “denied or downplayed the scientific evidence about the threat of climate change,” and his Administration has proposed policies “seen by many in higher education as detrimental to international students or scholars, including a recently proposed rule that would limit the time student visa holders could stay in the U.S.” In contrast, Biden has “pledged a move toward a ‘100 percent clean energy economy’ and net-zero emissions by 2050,” and has promised “billions of dollars” to seek cures for cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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