5 Most Important Education Events of 2012

5 Most Important Education Events of 2012

Cheating scandals and sexual orientation were just two of the higher education headlines that made the list this year.

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For the first time ever, 33 percent of the nation's 25- to 29-year-olds have earned at least a four-year degree.

The year of 2012 has been a whirlwind: Hurricane Sandy landed the title as one of the most destructive storms in United States history.

The presidential elections took over the airwaves, social media and water cooler chit chat. And who could forget the Penn State scandal, Felix Baumgartner's stratosphere jump and even baby-bump-watch photos for the now-confirmed-pregnant Kate Middleton?

And that's not to say that higher education has been a stranger to the mix. In fact, there were quite a few happenings in the land of colleges and universities. Below we’ve summarized the details of the top five education events of 2012.

1. University of Iowa becomes the first public university to ask students about sexual orientation.

With discussion about gay marriage at the forefront of this year's presidential elections, it's no surprise that universities and colleges are also beginning to incorporate the topic into their admissions processes. This past fall, the University of Iowa became the first public United States to university to ask incoming students about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

This has in turn made the university a topic of discussion as to whether or not the question is intrusive. The university, which enrolls more than 30,000 students, is confident the knowledge will help them to "better offer on-campus resources to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students," Georgina Dodge, University of Iowa's chief diversity officer and associate vice president, said, in a recent Reuters article.

Elmhurst College in Illinois, a liberal arts institution, last year became the first private U.S. college to ask incoming students their sexual orientation.

2. President Barack Obama earned four more years in office.

According to a recent article by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASAA), the president's re-election gives the administration for more years to achieve its higher education and student aid goals. "In addition to increasing student aid, Obama hopes to help slow increasing college costs. The president has said his goal is to reduce the rate of tuition growth by half over the next decade.”

It should be noted, however, that the current economy and financial issues that are weighing on the United States will affect the budget for higher education. Therefore, the president's support will be vocal and he’ll keep what he can, but he may not get enough funds approved by congress.

3. Harvard cheating scandal reignites debate about athletics and academic integrity at Ivy League institutions.

Just six months after Harvard University was celebrating its ranking among the nation's top 25 basketball teams in the N.C.A.A., the co-captains of the basketball team were implicated in a widespread academic cheating scandal that may have included dozens of varsity athletes. The report stated as many as 125 students in a 279-person class may have been guilty of a cheating on a take-home final exam during the spring 2012 semester.

This news revived a decades-old debate that questioned Ivy League athletes and their academic integrity. In a book titled, "The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” by the former Princeton president William Bowen and James Shulman of the Mellon Foundation, it is suggested that these institutions will often allow athletic culture to influence the moral code that should be attached to a campus.

“The competitive pressures the Ivies face are similar to those that big-time sports schools face," Shulman said in a September 2012 New York Times article . "The legend is that the Ivies don’t have any issues about sports, but that clearly is not true. They compete intensely for students, they compete to bring in more alumni donations and they compete for reputation. So, of course, intense competition leads to trade-offs.”

The question now is: Will these trade-offs be penalized?

4. One-third of young adults have a bachelor's degree.

In 2012, for the first time ever, 33 percent of the nation's 25- to 29-year-olds have earned at least a four-year degree, up from 28 percent in 2001 and 2006, and 17 percent in 1971, according to a report by the Research Center.

President Obama has certainly placed encouraging young adults to complete a higher education degree at the top of his agenda. But experts say the increase might actually be the result of the downtrodden economy and decline in job opportunities, leading to more adults seeking a degree from a college or university.

The report also showed jumps in college completion rates, including a larger share of women (37 percent) completed college than men (30 percent), but men did surpass their 1976 peak of 28 percent.

5. The Supreme Court revisits affirmative action in public university admissions.

On Oct. 10, 2012, the Supreme Court heard arguments on Fisher v. University of Texas, a case brought by Abigail Fisher of Sugar Land, Texas. Fisher applied to The University of Texas at Austin and was denied admission to the university; she claims the school illegally discriminated against her by not admitting her to the school because she is white.

The case is the result of Fisher's belief that the school placed her in a pool of applicants that were given extra consideration if they were black or Hispanic — which, if true, would violate a set of policies known as affirmative action.

Affirmative action is a federal agenda that was initiated in the 1960s as a method for counteracting any decision — specifically, those in relation to education of employment — that takes race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin into consideration in order to benefit a minority group.

"We don’t need a case like University of Texas’s before the Supreme Court to know that the practice of affirmative action is a hotly contested one," said Monica McGurk, CEO and Executive Editor of The Alumni Factor.

The case will be left unanswered until the Supreme Court makes its ruling, a decision that is expected to take place before July 2013. If the court rules the University of Texas was out of line, then that would, naturally, reflect poorly on the university. But if the court rules against all race-conscious admission policies within the nation's colleges and universities, then it would not only reject its own precedents, but set forward a new one.

And speaking of 2013, educators and students will certainly leave behind 2012 with an excitement for what has passed and what's to come on the higher education forefront. These social changes, advancements and challenges are simply proof that education is growing with the times, creating new opportunities for students across the globe.

Quick Facts

  • The University of Iowa became the first public university to ask students about sexual orientation.
  • For the first time ever, 33 percent of the nation's 25- to 29-year-olds have earned at least a four-year degree, up from 28 percent in 2001.
  • In October 2012, the Supreme Court revisited affirmative action in public university admissions; a decision will be made by July 2013.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

3 New Criteria for Your College List
Moving On To An Associate's or Bachelor's Degree
What You Need to Know About Affirmative Action
Gay and Lesbian Students on Campus
Cheating in College

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