Notes & Coffee: September 25 - October 1

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.

Department of Justice Will Back Suit on “Free Speech” Zone – Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared Tuesday at Georgetown University Law Center that freedom of thought and speech are “under attack” on American campuses. He said the Department of Justice would file a “statement of interest” in a lawsuit involving a Georgia public college’s use of “free speech zones” and that the department would make more such filings in weeks to come. Sessions’s new apparent focus on free speech in higher ed reflects an ongoing concern of many Republican officials, who have held multiple congressional hearings to take college leaders to task over high-profile campus incidents. It also comes after a week in which the president drew national attention for his coarse condemnation of National Football League athletes’ public protests against police brutality, which have remained lawful, nonviolent and nondisruptive.

Return of the college scorecard – An Obama administration initiative that provided consumer information on colleges and universities has survived for another year and into the Trump administration. The Department of Education published updated information on the College Scorecard Thursday, including a new feature that allows students to compare data from up to 10 institutions at once. The update is a significant win for proponents of transparency in higher education who have watched Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over recent months delay and water down requirements for the gainful-employment measure.

Making diversity happen – It’s easy to understand why so many colleges want to increase their share of faculty members who are underrepresented minorities: research suggests that cultural diversity means diversity of thought and experience – boons to any intellectual enterprise – and both minority and white students benefit from learning from professors who look like them, and those who don’t. But actually diversifying faculty ranks is hard. Implicit biases persist in hiring, some academics resist explicit faculty diversity initiatives and data still demonstrate some “pipeline,” or supply, issues, especially in the natural sciences. 

New SAT, old gaps on race – More than 93 percent of the students who took the SAT during the 2016-17 academic year took the new version of the test. That makes the results released Tuesday the baseline against which future scores can be compared. But since this is the first time the SAT has had a majority of test takers using the new version of the test, the College Board maintains that it would be inaccurate to compare this year's scores to previous scores for the annual articles here and elsewhere (at least most years) on whether scores are up or down. That said, the data do show that an issue that has worried educators for years – gaps in average scores by race and ethnicity – remains. Similar gaps are apparent in this year's ACT scores. 

College enrollment projected to grow 15% by 2025 – A new federal report projects that enrollment in American postsecondary institutions will climb 15 percent from 2014 to 2025, with larger proportional increases among adult than traditional-age students, women than men, graduate students than undergraduates, and minority students than white students. That growth would represent about half the increase in actual enrollments between 2001 and 2014, but is larger than many college leaders might fear. 

More Notes

Taking a knee on campus

The tuition-reset strategy

Black eye for college basketball

Offensive memes: first Harvard, now Pomona

Who is a college teacher, anyway? Audit of online university raises questions

A new liberal art