Expansion of National Colleges Study Funded

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University of California, Riverside |

RIVERSIDE, Calif. UC Riverside researchers have received a three-year, $390,060 grant from the Spencer Foundation to expand and update the Colleges & Universities 2000 study, which investigates patterns of continuity and change in four-year higher education institutions in the United States. A research team headed by Steven Brint, associate dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and professor of sociology, has created two databases: the Institutional Data Archive (IDA) on American Higher Education and the College Catalog Study (CCS). Those databases, which are available to other scholars, currently cover the period 1970 to 2000, at five-year intervals, but will be expanded with the new grant to 2010. IDA is a compilation of institutional data from finances to technology transfer to fraternity and sorority membership drawn from 25 separate data sets. It covers a sample of 385 institutions. CCS includes changes in major academic units, departments, interdisciplinary programs, and general education requirements for 294 institutions, every IDA institution from which a full set of college catalogs could be obtained. These databases have taken tens of thousands of hours to create, Brint said. They are a unique resource for higher education researchers. Our own studies using the databases have confirmed some widespread beliefs about higher education such as the growth of interdisciplinarity and of occupational-professional fields. They have also overturned other widespread beliefs such as the view that colleges and universities are only interested in market signals when they add new fields. The original study was funded by the National Science Foundation in 2000 and later augmented through December 2007 by grants from the Spencer Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the National Science Foundation, and the University of California Academic Senate Faculty Research Fund. Brint’s research team has included several graduate students from the UCR sociology department. The team currently includes Allison M. Cantwell, Kerry Mulligan, Scott Patrick Murphy, Kristopher Proctor and Matthew Rotondi. UCR sociology Professor Robert A. Hanneman has been a frequent collaborator. Among the topics Brint’s team has been investigating are the shift away from arts and sciences and toward occupational-professional majors, the rise of new interdisciplinary, degree-granting programs, and the extent to which new academic fields represent a response to market signals. The Spencer Foundation grant will allow the expansion of the databases to include more research universities and fund new studies on the growing inequities between private and public institutions, metrics of college and university performance, and the impact of presidential backgrounds and attitudes on university outcomes. We also will look at how public and private universities are diverging in their curriculum development, Brint said. Private universities have looked at high-status areas like law and business, while public universities have emphasized the sciences and engineering. We’ll see if that’s still true. The study Web site includes downloadable offprints, downloadable databases and more information about the project. The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California’s diverse culture, UCR’s enrollment of about 17,000 is expected to grow to 21,000 students by 2020. The campus is planning a medical school and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. To learn more, visit www.ucr.edu or call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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