ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

FTC, ED Move Against For-Profit DeVry University.

Several media outlets around the country covered a series of Federal actions being taken against for-profit education firm DeVry University. Coverage is neutral and fact-based, and focuses on the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against the firm, with ED’s movement against DeVry taking a secondary role in articles. The Washington Post  (1/27, Douglas-Gabriel) reports FTC filed a lawsuit against DeVry University, one of the largest chains of for-profit colleges in the US, claiming the firm misled its students about their job prospects and likely incomes after graduation. The lawsuit claims that DeVry deceived customers by advertising a 90% six-month employment rate, which was calculated by including underemployed individuals working at jobs not related to their fields of study. The lawsuit also claims that DeVry claimed its graduates had 15% higher incomes than other college graduates, despite having no evidence of this. Meanwhile, ED “is requiring DeVry to pull advertisements about post-graduation employment outcomes and notify students of its inability to substantiate the claims.” The Post quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “Students and families deserve to know that when they select a college based on its marketing materials that those claims about graduation rates and student success are based on substantiated facts. It’s both a reasonable expectation, and it’s required by law.”

Noting that the firm’s stock fell some 21% on news of the lawsuit, Bloomberg News  (1/27, Mclaughlin) quotes FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez saying, “Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates’ success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn.” Bloomberg reports that DeVry issued a statement vowing to fight the lawsuit, and places this story within the context of the increasing regulatory pressure against the for-profit college sector which torpedoed Corinthian Colleges Inc. last year. Bloomberg reports that ED “is also disputing DeVry graduate employment rate claims dating back to 1975, and conditioning its eligibility for some federal funds on its ceasing to make those claims or substantiating them.”

The AP  (1/27) reports Ramirez said that “instead of landing jobs in their field of study…some graduates found themselves working as delivery drivers or restaurant servers,” and that as many as “50,000 students may have been affected by the alleged deceptive advertising.” The AP notes that the firm “has more than 55 campuses across the country and offers online or on-campus degree programs in business, technology and health care technology.” The AP adds Mitchell said ED “has informed DeVry that it must stop making certain claims about its postgraduation outcomes and that it must inform students that it cannot substantiate those claims — or risk losing federal student loan money.”

The Los Angeles Times  (1/27, Kirkham) reports Federal authorities say DeVry “counted students who were working the same jobs before enrolling toward the 90% success rate” and “stretched the definition of graduates ‘employed in their field.’” The article notes that the for-profit sector is “facing increasing scrutiny from state and federal regulators amid evidence of aggressive recruiting, high costs and poor student performance.” This piece also mentions that ED is requiring the firm “to stop certain advertisements about job prospects for students and to hire an auditor to examine any future claims.”

Diverging from other reports, US News & World Report  (1/27) says FTC and ED are both plaintiffs, saying the agencies are “initiating a process that would require it to cease making such statements.” FTC says that the firm claimed that a former student “who was a sever at a restaurant, several who were volunteering at medical centers, one working as a rural mail carrier and another delivering rain gutters for a construction company” were all working in their fields of study. Meanwhile, ED began “a process to require DeVry to stop certain advertising” practices. The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “As required by the law and expected by the public, institutions need to be accurate in their marketing and recruiting to prospective students. And we confirm this truthfulness of advertisements through the backup information schools provide upon request.” The piece say that this “tag-team effort” continues the Administration’s “actions against for-profit schools.”

Other media outlets covering this story include PBS NewsHour  (1/27), the Chronicle of Higher Education  (1/27), Reuters  (1/28, Bartz), MarketWatch  (1/28, Berman), the Chicago Tribune  (1/27, Shropshire), the Miami Herald  (1/27), t  (1/27)he Cincinnati Enquirer  (1/27), the Los Angeles Daily News  (1/27), KNXV-TV  Phoenix (1/27), WLS-TV  Chicago (1/27), My News LA (CA)  (1/27), KCAL-TV  Los Angeles (1/27), WPMT-TV  Harrisburg, PA (1/27), and WPLG-TV  Miami (1/27).

Higher Education

Moody’s Ratings Reports Provide Clues On The Future Of Higher Education.

The Washington Post  (1/27, Selingo) reports that new ratings from Moody’s Investors Service “give plenty of clues about where higher education is headed in the United States.” The ratings indicate “law schools are in deep trouble” because “fewer students are going to law school and fewer graduates are obtaining the jobs that they went to law school to get.” Moody’s said in a recent report about law schools, “The legal industry is experiencing a fundamental shift rather than a cyclical trend.” Moody’s also believes the “strongest universities are those that depend on more than just their students for revenue,” which echoes a larger discussion about whether colleges or universities need to “unbundle” their operations to lower their prices. Third, public schools “still depend on taxpayer dollars” and that “most public colleges couldn’t survive if not for their states.”

International Association of Continuing Engineering Education
Call for papers for May 17-20 conference in Porto, Portugal. January 31 deadline.

Surmounting the Barriers
The joint NAE-ASEE report makes recommendations for breaking down long-identified barriers to diversity in higher education.

Research and Development

Researchers Design Wearable Sweat Sensor To Track Body’s Biochemical Data.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/28, A3, Long, Subscription Publication) reports University of California Berkeley researchers claimed to have designed a wearable sensor that tracks biochemicals in sweat to provide a picture of molecular health. The device aims to expand on wearable trackers such as Fitbit by monitoring several chemical compounds simultaneously.

Additional Sources. Relying on information in the scientific journal Nature , the Los Angeles Times  (1/27, Netburn) reports the device could someday “alert sweat drenched users to risks of dehydration, fatigue, stress and other physical ailments.” The sensor tracks four biomarkers “including electrolytes like sodium and potassium, and metabolites like glucose and lactate,” as well as body temperature. Long term, the research team seeks to track “an array of other proteins, molecules and ions that could offer more clues to a person’s physical well being.” The Times highlights the prospect this device may become commonplace in the future.

AFP  (1/27) notes that the “real-time, continuous analysis” this device purports to offer “has proven difficult due to a lack of flexible, lightweight and wearable electronic monitors.” Science Magazine  (1/27, Perkins) praises the device as being able to do “much more” than “even the most sophisticated” fitness trackers. The article says the researchers are working to make the technology smaller, and points out that “to commercialize the team’s device as a medical product would require lengthy clinical testing and assessments by the FDA—a process that could easily take years.”

TIME  (1/27, Oaklander) quotes the author of the research team’s paper Ali Javey as saying, “There are so many chemicals in sweat it’s unbelievable. … And every chemical is associated to different information about your health.” Ron Davis, one of the authors and professor of biochemistry and genetics and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, predicted, “We’re going to see lots of these kinds of things in the future, trying to make medicine cheaper and better,” adding, “Fortunately the National Institutes of Health is taking that seriously, and there are lots of young people with a lot of excitement about how to do it.”

LiveScience  (1/27) adds that the “researchers have filed a patent on their work, although they are not currently collaborating with anyone to commercialize the sensors.” Similar coverage is provided by STAT  (1/27, Swetlitz), Medical Daily  (1/27, Castillo), and an article in Nature  (1/27, Geddes).

Florida Professor Wins $200,000 Federal Grant For Solar Fuel Research.

Space Coast (FL) Daily  (1/27) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded $200,000 to Florida Institute of Technology Professor Michael Freund, head of the university’s Department of Chemistry, “to continue his work developing membranes for solar fuel generation. Freund, along with researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, is developing “an efficient, cost-effective method of converting solar energy directly into fuel.’

Industry News

MIT Graduate Engineers General Motors’ Electric Vehicles.

Boston  (1/27, Salomon) interviews Greg Hubbard, an MIT graduate and the chief engineer for General Motors’ Voltec Propulsion Systems. Hubbard highlights changes in the Volt, including an increase in range from 30 to 53 miles. In addition, Volt comes with a gas tank that lasts for 370 miles while the battery recharges. Changes have been made to the vehicle’s exterior as well, all at a price of $30,000 after tax credit.

Capital One Data Engineering Director Discusses Top Fintech Trends.

Mashable  (1/27) sat down with Il Sun Yoo, director of data engineering at Capital One, to discuss the top fintech trends. Yoo said, “At Capital One, we are focused on reimagining banking. … We are innovating in a range of ways, incorporating design thinking for an empathetic customer-driven focus, leveraging big data to generate customer insights, and embracing the cloud to deliver digital products to market faster.” Yoo pointed to a recent survey Capital One conducted at the Money20/20 conference which found the following key trends: biometric security; more cashless payments; increased role of big data; better access to financial advice; and social media shopping.

Germany Approves Volkswagen Emissions Fix For First Model.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/27, Geiger, Subscription Publication) reports that Volkswagen received approval in Germany on Wednesday of a fix for emissions-rigging software in its model Amarok 2.0-liter pickup truck. Volkswagen can now launch a recall and remediation effort for the model. Approvals for the other affected models are currently under examination, Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority said Wednesday.

Volkswagen Scandal Prompts EU Push For Greater Enforcement Powers. Bloomberg News  (1/27, Stearns) reports that in response to Volkswagen’s emissions-test deception, European Union regulators want greater authority over the approval of car models, “risking a clash with EU governments.” The European Commission asked for the power to fine automakers up to 30,000 euros per faulty car “as part of a plan for more centralized market oversight and greater independence of vehicle-testing organizations.” Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the EU Parliament, expects the draft law to see support in the EU Parliament, but face resistance by national governments, saying, “It boils down to giving away national sovereignty to Brussels.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate To Begin Debate Of Bipartisan Energy Bill.

The New York Times  (1/27, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports the Senate on Wednesday “started debating” a “bipartisan measure meant to update the nation’s power grid and oil and gas transportation systems to address major changes in the ways that power is now produced” in the US. According to the Times, the bill would be the “first comprehensive energy legislation since the George W. Bush administration.” The Times says that since the 2007 legislation, the US “has gone from fears of oil and gas shortages to becoming the world’s leading producer of both fuels.”

Actress, Coastal Leaders Urge Government To Protect Coast From Drilling. McClatchy  (1/27, Bergengruen) reports actress Kate Walsh “teamed up with 50 coastal leaders for a day of lobbying Wednesday on Capitol Hill” as they urged federal officials, including individuals from the White House and Interior Department, to protect the Atlantic coast from offshore drilling exploration. Walsh said, “It has only been six years since the Gulf oil spill, and it seems as if our government has forgotten that it ever occurred.” Walsh added, “Everywhere we’ve drilled, we’ve spilled, and it’s time to stop this dirty and dangerous cycle before it starts in the Atlantic. It’s time for President Obama to say no to East Coast drilling.”

States, Business Coalitions File Appeals With Supreme Court Over Clean Power Plan.

The Hill  (1/28, Cama, Henry) reports the Supreme Court is being asked by “three business coalitions” to “block the EPA’s climate rule for power plants.” The appeals were filed by the coalitions yesterday, “a day after 26 states told the Supreme Court that a lower court’s denial of a judicial stay of the regulation is improper.” Large business groups including “the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers filed one of the appeals, and dozens of utilities and their allies filed another.” The Hill adds that “Murray Energy Corp., Peabody Energy Corp. and two coal associations filed their own appeal.” In a statement Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said, “The impact of this rule on the economy cannot be overstated. … The rule causes many businesses in the electricity sector and beyond to radically restructure or even close their doors, setting off a domino effect in local communities across the country.”

The Los Angeles Times  (1/27, Savage) reports “lawyers for West Virginia, Texas and 24 other mostly Republican states filed an emergency appeal Tuesday night with Chief Justice John G. Roberts that calls Obama’s plan an ‘unprecedented power grab by the Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to reorder the nation’s energy grid.’”

NYTimes: Supreme Court Rightly Backs Regulators In Electricity Case.

The New York Times  (1/27, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the Supreme Court made the “well-reasoned decision” this week by ruling in favor of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a case brought by a coalition of power plants. The Supreme Court upheld the regulators’ rule encouraging “factories, shopping malls and other users of electricity to reduce their consumption during periods of high demand.” While power plants say they will earn less money if businesses have an incentive to use less energy when it is most expensive, the Times says regulators “ought to do what is in the public interest, which is exactly what the energy commission’s rule does.”

Snyder Appoints Committee To Address Flint Water Crisis.

Reuters  (1/27, Wisniewski) reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed a 17-member committee to put in place long-term fixes to Glint’s water system. Panel members, who include Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, and state, city, and county officials, as well as health and other experts, are charged with recommending ways to aid people who have been exposed to lead, studying the city’s water infrastructure, and determining potential upgrades.

Lawsuit Seeks Replacement Of All Lead Pipes In Flint. The CBS Evening News (1/27, story 6, 2:15, Pelley) reported a lawsuit is “demanding that all the lead pipes in Flint, Michigan’s water system be replaced.” CBS (Diaz) added many Flint residents “are refusing to pay their water bills, and some have joined a class action lawsuit to get their money back.” NBC Nightly News (1/27, story 11, 2:10, Holt) said Snyder “admitted there are no plans to replace” the pipes. The state is instead “relying on water treatments to build up a protective coating inside the pipes.”

House Panel To Hold Hearing On Flint, Without Snyder. The Detroit News  (1/27, Burke) reports a spokesman for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Wednesday the panel will hold a hearing on the Flint water crisis Feb. 3. While details on the witnesses who will testify have not been released, the spokesman said Snyder “will not be invited to testify.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

California Spending $1.5 Billion On Career And Technical Education.

In an over 1,500 word article EdSource  (1/27) reports California is spending $1.5 billion over five years to improve career and technical education programs in the state’s high schools by improving relationships with community colleges and local businesses. The article highlights some of the new programs created or improved with the state funding. At Canyon High School in Anaheim, an aviation class offers students the chance to train with six flight simulators. In Los Angeles Unified School District, the funding has been used to support 36 career pathways including agriculture, art and new media, construction, fashion and design, and hospitality and tourism.

Oregon Club Hosts Event To Get Girls Excited About STEM Careers.

The Coos Bay (OR) World  (1/28) reports the Zonta Club of the Coos Bay Area in Oregon is sponsoring the second annual “Girls Rock” event aimed at helping girls “discover and cultivate an interest” in STEM professions. The event is open to all girls from third to eighth grade in nearby school districts where they will have a chance to meet and talk with local women who work as STEM professionals.

Georgia Middle School Students Promoting Recycling With Clubs, Robotics.

The Oconee (GA) Enterprise  (1/28, Prochaska) reports students at Malcolm Bridge Middle School in Oconee County, Georgia are working to promote recycling in several ways. The school has a FIRST Lego League team that built a robot that helps sort trash into waste and recyclable material to compete in the “trash trek” themed regional tournament. Another student group promotes recycling while educating students about STEM careers.

Illinois Businesses Want More STEM Education.

On its website, KWQC-TV  Davenport, IA (1/27, Yuen) reports Illinois industry leaders are asking for the state to make more STEM education programs in schools. John Deere gave a grant to Rock Island High School to begin offering engineering classes at the school.

Also in the News

Blog: Does The US Have A Problem With STEM Students?

In a blog post for SIGNAL Magazine  (1/27), former assistant professor of economics at West Point M. Thomas Davis considers whether the US has “a problem” with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Citing data from the National Science Foundation, Davis asserts that the US should be more concerned with “[sustaining] a defense work force offering exciting employment to those U.S.-born students who would like to join it” than with the percentages of foreign-born STEM students.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

States Urge SCOTUS To Delay EPA’s Carbon Emissions Plan.
Maryland Legislature Mulls Free Community College.
‘Hyperloop’ Transportation Idea Being Tested.
LG Announces Plans To Launch Two Flagship Smartphones In 2016.
Twenty-Six States Urge High Court To Block Clean Power Rule.
Georgia House Committee Passes Bill Boosting GPA Points For Difficult STEM Courses In College.

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