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Friday 5: Things To Ponder This Week In Higher Ed 7/23/2021



Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University's Vaccine Requirement

Eight students at Indiana University sued the institution over its vaccine mandate. The lawsuit centered on the lack of full FDA approval for the COVID vaccine and claimed the university’s requirement violated students’ constitutional freedoms.  The judge’s 100 page brief cited legal precedent for enforcing vaccine mandates and stated the university was "pursuing a legitimate aim of public health for its students, faculty, and staff." This is an important decision for the hundreds of higher education institutions that are requiring students and employees to get the COVID vaccine in order to work and attend school on campus.



Roadmap for High Quality Online Learning

This week the Hechinger Report examines the future of online learning, a “sneak peak” of the future of higher education according to the progressive think tank New America. Policy recommendations for making online learning more accessible involve providing universal access to technology and quality internet service. Successful online education, experts maintain, include: clear learning objectives, organized class structure and clear communication, access to supportive technology, and opportunities for student connection and community.


“We all knew that the internet was important before the pandemic but didn’t realize how important it was. It is basically a basic need at this point, maybe not as basic as food and shelter, but pretty close to that.” - Alejandra Acosta, higher education policy analyst at New America



New Research Center to Focus on Online Learning

A partnership of higher education research institutions has created a new research center to “assess how educators and emerging technologies can help students better manage their own learning, funded by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.” SRI Education, a division of the Stanford-affiliated nonprofit research institute SRI International, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Achieving the Dream will lead the new initiative. In the last 9 years, participation in online classes has increased by 11%, and experts expect that number to increase after the “COVID-19 digital learning surge.”


30%: The number of college students taking online courses in the fall 2019 semester



Another Decrease in FAFSA Applications

According to research from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), 102,000 fewer high school students submitted FAFSA applications this year, a drop of about 5%.  Per the report issued by NCAN, the largest decreases in FAFSA completions occurred at high schools with higher poverty levels and high shares of Black and Latinx students. FAFSA data could forecast uncertain enrollments this fall.


Looking to learn more?  These upcoming webinars may be of interest: 

Online Peer Mentoring: Meeting The Unique Needs Of Non-Traditional Students 7/29

Promoting Mental Health As We Return To Campus: Creating A Proactive Culture Of Well-Being 8/11


Could Job Training & Childcare Be a Winning Combination for Single Mothers?

PBS NewsHour reported last week on a workforce development program in Mississippi called Women in Construction.  The program began to meet the need for skilled construction workers and has assisted 800 single low-income mothers.  In addition to job skills, students enrolled in the program receive quality, free daycare for their children. Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of women serving as the primary breadwinners for their families, and a typical family in the state will spend 20 percent of their income on childcare. Programs like Women in Construction are finding that providing women an opportunity to enter fields that pay more than minimum wage allows them to better support their families and shift out of poverty.

Author: Meg Foster
July 23, 2021
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