Archive for the 'Resources' Category

The Technological Side of Online Degrees

Aug. 1st 2013

The key behind the success of online learning is flexibility. Gone are the days of commuting long distances to sit in a classroom just to learn. Computers have eliminated the need for fixed schedules and made formal education available for busy professionals and parents. Now, mobile technologies like smartphones, tablets, and wireless internet are taking us even further. You are no longer restricted to where and when you do your studying. For many, the breakneck technological developments that make online education possible are dizzying. In this article we’ll try to sort it all out for you, so you can realize the true benefits of a flexible online education.

The Shift Toward Mobile Learning

Distance learning institutions began to appear during the early 19th Century, as correspondence schools used the postal service to send course materials and textbooks to students in the United States and Europe. Paper materials were used all the way up until the digital era, when computers hit the market during the 1980′s and 1990′s. Many reputable schools then began to shift their curricula online. The New York Institute of Technology was one of the first schools to offer a “virtual campus” in 1984. Digital environments now allow students to take classes all while maintaining hectic work schedules and home duties.

Now that smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous, online schools are developing proprietary mobile apps and tools so you can take classes virtually anywhere. It’s a big step forward from a decade ago, when online students were limited to studying in front of their desktops at home. Today, these apps give you access to reading materials, discussion boards, and relevant media – all in one place.

Traditional, on-campus schools are also using mobile education apps in the classroom. You no longer have to suffer through chalkboards and dry erase boards. Professors can plug their tablet into a projector or flat screen television, and then share information through digital drawing boards, collaborative apps, and online media.

Technology Requirements for Online Programs

Computer Hardware

  • A PC with Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows 8, or an Apple computer with OS 10.6
  • 2GB RAM or higher
  • Intel Core2Duo processor or better
  • 50 GB or more available hard drive space. This amount will depend on the software and file formats your college uses.
  • 1024 by 768 monitor
  • Optical disc drive
  • Internal / external speakers
  • An internal or external microphone

NOTE: For online discussions through Skype, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting, headphones are better than speakers for avoiding audio feedback and echo.

Software

  • Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari
  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Java
  • QuickTime

Internet

  • A broadband Internet connection from a service provider like Google Fiber, Comcast, or Centurylink
  • An email address
  • Ethernet cord for faster video streaming

Printers

  • Consumer- level printers by HP, Lexmark, Canon, and many other companies. If you have Apple technology, look for a model with the AirPrint feature, so you can print wirelessly from your iOS device or computer.

Mobile Devices

  • iPhone 3GS or newer
  • iPad
  • Android Phone
  • Android Tablet

Mobile Devices as Learning Tools

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 56% of American adults own a smartphone and 22% of U.S. adults own tablets. Mobile devices are permeating our culture, as technology giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon provide user-friendly technologies at affordable prices. Academic institutions are jumping on the mobile bandwagon, because they recognize that these technologies make education far more accessible than larger desktop and laptops. Colleges like the University of Phoenix are now creating their own apps for popular mobile devices, so that students can enroll in classes, participate in discussion boards, read course materials, and check their grades.

Mobile devices are great for news and information consumption, as the University of Missouri learned during a survey on mobile media exposure. Researchers found 55% of survey respondents consumed mobile news during the first quarter of 2013, and 12% had canceled print subscriptions. Smartphones and tablets make it very easy for people to view content, whether it is a streaming lecture video, required eBook, digital study sheets, or flashcard apps. Interactive eBooks will even allow readers to zoom in on three-dimensional models, view embedded animations, and play audio accompaniments.

However, there are some downsides to mobile education. Creating presentations, writing essays, and even researching can be far more difficult on mobile devices, especially if you are new to mobile platforms. There will be a learning curve as you adjust to touchscreen gestures and on screen typing. It is important to become somewhat familiar with a mobile device before relying on it for school. The booming app industry presents another challenge for mobile users in that there is now an overabundance of choices.

If you are trying to write an essay for a class, you may download several word processors for a tablet, only to be faced with proprietary file formats that aren’t compatible with other devices. This can make it a pain to transfer a file to another device or submit an assignment to your professor. Use your school’s recommended apps, or find software that uses industry standard file formats, such as Word or PDF. For example, even mainstream solutions, such as Microsoft Office for Mobile, come with limitations. Subscribers are unable to create new PowerPoint presentations or create sophisticated animations on their devices; they can only edit and view some basic transitions.

Examine your course load and responsibilities and see if mobile learning techniques are applicable. A smartphone or tablet wouldn’t be practical if your degree program requires lab courses, experiential learning, or internships in person. But some learning experiences simply cannot be replicated on the screen of a mobile device.

Smartphone and Tablet Recommendations

Android and Apple create most of the leading tablet and smartphone software. Many manufacturers create hardware for Android operating systems, including Acer, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba. This means consumers have more options to choose from, but also less product standardization. Many Android tablets, such as the Ainol Nova 9 Spark are well known for their MicroSD card slots, which allow you to expand the storage capacity of your device. This can be great as you accumulate more reading materials, assignment files, and library materials.

Apple’s iOS devices, such as the iPad Mini, Retina Display iPad, and iPhone are a closed market, meaning Apple makes the hardware and the software. This means software and hardware behavior is similar across product lines, which makes the devices more appealing for students new to mobile. The iTunes University provides vast libraries of supplementary learning materials, including free Ivy League lectures, homework assignments, and textbooks. However, iOS devices do not support Flash content, so check your course websites before purchasing an Apple device. If your college relies on Flash content, you may wish to consider a different tablet.

Some App Suggestions

  • Evernote: Do you have snippets of notes, diagrams, quotes, web addresses, and audio files scattered across your computer and mobile devices? The free Evernote desktop and mobile apps can organize these items for you in neat folders and save portions of websites for offline viewing. Tags allow you to quickly search and locate files, text, and bookmarks stored in your collection.
  • StudyBlue: Students in any field can use digital flashcards to memorize important quiz information and prepare for finals. Simply enter text and photos onto both sides of your study cards, test yourself, and view statistics about your study scores.
  • QuickOffice: Before Microsoft began offering a mobile Office app for subscribers, QuickOffice released a powerful suite for the creation of Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets. This app syncs backups with multiple cloud services, so that your important course assignments are safe and sound.
  • Notability: Annotate your PDF documents, sketch diagrams, and write on screen using this great document viewer and editor. If you are having a difficult time dropping pen and paper from your study habits, try writing on documents with Notability.
  • Wolfram Alpha: This app is like your pocket assistant, finding scientific formulas, making calculations, and graphing results on your screen. Just type in a query, like “What are the tide levels like in Pa’ia, Maui?” and Wolfram Alpha will graph the data out for you.

Mobile devices aren’t always necessary for online degree programs, so read over your school’s technology requirements before purchasing a smartphone or tablet. Your current technology may be sufficient for your academic needs. While mobile devices have many great uses, they can also become a distraction during study times if you’re not careful.

Most online colleges will only require a computer, listing mobile devices as optional tools. However, smartphone and tablet use can provide you with greater technological experience, knowledge, and, most importantly, flexibility. Because they are cordless and lightweight, mobile devices give you opportunities to study away from a desk and use time you didn’t even realize you had.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

Math Majors Hold the Key to Tomorrow’s Most Valuable Jobs

May. 20th 2013


Florence Nightingale. J.P. Morgan. Alan Turing. Lewis Carroll. They’re all famous names noted for their many accomplishments. But that’s not all they have in common: they’re all students of math, too. Do you have what it takes to join their ranks?

Math majors face one of the most difficult of all intellectual pursuits. But there’s a huge payoff for those brave enough to rise to the challenge: higher salaries, better job satisfaction, and the opportunity to apply math skills to nearly any career.

A Worthy Challenge

Students who major in math certainly don’t have it easy. Math requires you to think in abstract terms, then apply what you’ve learned practically, which is difficult to do. And top math students may spend 12 to 15 hours per class in addition to lectures and sections. For a student taking 12 hours, that’s 60 hours of work each week at the minimum. Perhaps that’s why math majors rank among the lowest GPAs at 2.90, below economics, but above chemistry.

Yet where math majors may struggle to keep up with the rigorous demands of this often difficult area of study, they enjoy the reward of meeting the challenge. For math majors, a future of infinite possibilities and an above average job outlook awaits.

If you’re planning to pursue a career in business, law, or medicine, math may not be the first major you think of, but maybe it should be. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, math majors score substantially higher on admission tests for graduate and professional schools. In fact, math majors score 12.8% higher on the LSAT, and 13.3% higher on the GMAT. Professional graduate schools view math as a highly desirable major because it develops analytical and problem solving skills.

But even if your interests aren’t leading you to grad school, your future as a math major is bright: math majors enjoy salaries 14.9% higher than chemistry majors, and 37.7% higher than English majors. Math majors enjoy better job satisfaction as well. In a ranking of the most satisfying jobs based on factors like environment, stress, and outlook, math careers swept the top three, with mathematicians topping the list, followed by actuaries and statisticians.

Is Math a Good Fit for You?

The study of math satisfies a variety of interests. Ben Levitt, the Chief of Education at the Museum of Math explains that those who enjoy engineering, art, economics, music, biology, puzzles, astronomy, or games are also likely to find an interest in math.

“I studied math and now work in a museum,” so there’s really no telling where math can take you, says Levitt, encouraging students to pursue a mathematics degree. He highlights math careers that students may not have considered, like work on video games, medical research, public policy, and filmHis best advice for students considering math? “Do it!”

Math professionals come from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Levitt studied literature as an undergrad before getting his PhD in math. And what led him to math was the same thing that made him want to study poetry: “I wanted to better understand the world and find the answers to interesting questions,” Levitt says.

Mark Herschberg, CTO at Madison Logic got into math because he enjoyed secret codes as a kid. So a quantitative undergraduate study was a natural fit for him, and he found cryptography to be a fun pursuit.

Competitive Salaries for Mathematicians

Compared to other majors, math grads are doing well financially. How well? Well enough to keep your home office stacked with all the graphing calculators and vintage abacuses your heart desires.

In PayScale’s 2012-2013 College Salary Report, math majors took three of the top 10 majors by salary potential: actuarial mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics. Math was bested only by engineering and computer science, which rounded out the remaining seven. But math is an essential skill for any engineer or computer scientist, so all of the top majors were math related.

Actuarial mathematics, PayScale’s No. 3 major by salary potential, boasts a mid-career median pay of $112,000. And even statistics, which is the 10th ranked major, will bring in a nearly six-figure salary of $99,500 by mid-career. Compare that with 54th ranked accounting, which is generally considered to be a stable career, but offers a much lower mid-career salary of $74,500. And there’s no contest between math and art majors, who are ranked 100th with a mid-career salary of $56,700.

Jobs for Math Majors

Just what are these six-figure jobs for math majors? Most of the math professionals we spoke with have high profile positions as presidents, CEOs, or CTOs. But math majors can really do anything. Math teacher Benjamin John Coleman jokes, “Is there a job that isn’t math related?” And it seems there really isn’t. We Use Math highlights all of the careers that find value in mathematics, ranging from Major League Baseball to fighting terrorism and practicing law.

With skills in logic, analytical and abstract thinking, and problem solving, all of which are among the skills most sought after by employers, math majors are likely to have their pick of potential careers. And “knowing your numbers” has been identified as one of the three most important skills to land a job.

According to the Mathematical Association of America, popular career choices for math majors include:

Mathematicians in the Real World

Nathan Popkins is the founder and CEO of Cumulus Funding, a consumer finance company. He earned his degree in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences from Northwestern in 2001. In addition to managing the company as an executive, Popkins uses math to work with data sets for predictive risk models, profitably underwriting new customers. He pursued a math degree because he felt like data analysis was a powerful tool to see how the world works, and with the proliferation of Big Data, he’s seen that skill become more valuable and relevant. His undergraduate work focused on the practical applications for math, and he’s found that it was the perfect preparation for the work he does today. He even keeps a number of “dog eared textbooks” in his office that he originally acquired as an undergrad. And he really enjoys using his math background to help his customers with financial services products that are unique and well-tailored to their needs.

“As you work your way through your math degree, constantly be asking your instructors what the practical applications are for what you’re learning,” he says. Doing so will allow you to better understand how math works in applications like finance. And even for students who aren’t pursuing math degrees, Popkins urges they take at least a one or two math classes in college, preferably statistics, as “even a modicum of quantitative ability can set you apart from your peers.”

Bjorn Roche is the president of XO Audio, a provider of digital audio software for the pro audio industry. Roche graduated from Swathmore College in 2001 with a BA in Mathematics with a concentration in computer science. His math degree prepared him for the highly interdisciplinary field of audio technology, allowing him to work on interesting projects like a web-based audio editor and a new text-message based system for firefighter emergency dispatch. “I never thought I would use my technical — or music — skills to help fight fires,” says Roche, adding that his math degree as essential to building discipline and the ability to understand complex problems, skills he uses in music and recording.

“Mathematics is a great degree if you are not sure what to study because it prepares you for getting jobs in a variety of fields,” says Roche. “Math is an amazingly powerful tool that can be applied to literally every other discipline. If you are not sure what you want to do career-wise, mathematics is a nice way of not closing too many doors as you go through college.”

Mark Herschberg is CTO at Madison Logic, provider of data powered lead solutions, overseeing software development, QA, the IT system, and the data science team. He earned a BS in Physics and BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, as well as an MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with heavy class time doing mathematical proofs. In his masters work, Herschberg created the world’s first fully secure software based voting system, designed to provide anonymous voting while preventing ballot box stuffing. Today, he uses his analytical reasoning skills in data and beyond, and enjoys being able to work with in an environment surrounded by other smart people.

“The world will continue to change as will which jobs are in demand, but having a math degree will give you skills for multiple careers that will absolutely be in demand for decades to come,” explains Herschberg. Nearly every industry has a quantitative problem that needs solving, and grads who can demonstrate the ability to find solutions will find that ability to be a powerful selling point. Herschberg encourages math majors to consider regression modeling and basic programming, as they offer employability in a number of fields.

“Today’s Don Draper doesn’t win business with charm and clever slogans from a team of writers,” says Herschberg. “He does so by showing statistically meaningful improved results from trial and error marketing campaigns created by his team of quants.”

Benjamin John Coleman is a middle school math teacher, as well as an origami artist. He earned a BS in Mathematics with a minor in Economics from Worcester State University in 2003. As a math teacher, Coleman says he has the “greatest job in the world,” teaching multisensory math to middle schoolers in Massachusetts. His understanding of math has also influenced his work in origami, as the practice of artful paper folding is fundamentally a hands-on approach to geometry. Coleman relishes being able to make a difference with his work as a teacher and having an impact on his students as they become excited about math. “Working with young people is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” says Coleman. And he especially enjoys the “fundamental truth” that can be found in math, as he relates that nearly anything can be argued, but 1+1=2 is an indisputable fact.

Coleman, who returned to college at the age of 38, admittedly unprepared and terrified, was able to pass each course on the first attempt. “If I can do it, anyone can do it,” assures Coleman, who researched YouTube for informational videos when he was stuck on a problem.

Is math a good choice for you? If you’re willing to invest a few years of rigorous work for a lifetime of possibilities, it just might be. Math is everywhere, and it’s everywhere today’s grads want to be.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

The New Presentations

May. 14th 2013


PowerPoint is dead. Long live PowerPoint.

The demise of the ubiquitous presentation tool has been predicted for a few years now. Sure, it gets the job done, but there is a whole new generation of presentation tools that do the job while making more engaging, creative, and eye-catching slides that can help you tell your story and connect with even more people. In today’s 21st century workforce, regardless of where you work: Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, South Carolina, your resume will not be complete without them.

Going Online

With each new tablet and social network that launches, more of our interactions are happening online, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google +. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, half of all Americans use social media, compared to only 5% just six years prior. Given our increasingly reliance on the online world, it’s only natural that our work shifts online, too.

“As more and more of our interactions become asynchronous and globalized, the need to present information online becomes greater,” says Chiara Ojeda, an educator, blogger and speaker who blogs at Tweak Your Slides.

Enter presentations tools like SlideShare, SlideRocket, and Google Slides, which make it easy to create slides and share them online with your classmates, colleagues, or a global audience of millions. More sophisticated tools like cloud-based presentation app Prezi.com do away with the idea of individual slides altogether to help you make impressive, modern-looking animated presentations on a seemingly endless canvas. Along that line are video scribe tools like Doodle and PowToon, which can truly animate your ideas. Not only can these presentations become more engaging, they can help your audience understand the subject matter better. One of the most popular Prezi presentations can teach you about the theory of relativity by showing it to you in action through a nifty animated elevator.

These presenting tools are prevalent in business, as well as IT, marketing, and education, and are quickly becoming essential. Jennifer Stagner manages SEO and ecommerce sales for office supply website www.tops-products.com and regularly uses Google Docs and SlideRocket to communicate with coworkers in other parts of the country.

“I use online tools for every presentation, whether it is presenting sales analysis to our executive team, search engine optimization best practices to our content team, training presentations to our technical support team, or product solutions to our customers,” says Stagner. “As a manager of a large department I also believe that students who are familiar with online presentation tools will be more valuable to future employers.”

If you’re an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate, now is the time to learn how to learn these tools and get these increasingly valuable skills on your resume. You can use them now in your classwork or internship, and have them in your arsenal for when you enter the workforce.

“This is absolutely an important skill,” says Ojeda. “Particularly because those already established in the workforce tend to do things in the old death-by-PowerPoint style, the opportunity for young, 21st century-workers to set themselves apart by taking on the tools of 21st-century presenting is very great.”

The Online Presentations Tools You Need To Know

Because many of these presentation tools are free, you can get started learning how to use them right now and incorporate them into your own assignments. Here’s our primer to understanding the more popular online presentation tools — and how to get the most out of them:

  • Google Slides: For Google’s version of PowerPoint, check out the Google Slides section of its Google Drive cloud storage (previously known as Google Docs). Through this free online presentations app, you can create and edit presentations using pre-made templates and inserting images and videos. For more collaborative projects, you can edit the presentation with fellow students or coworkers. Once it’s ready, you can share with others via Google Drive, download as a PDF, PPT, or .txt file, or even embed onto a website.

  • SlideRocket: Like Google Slides, SlideRocket helps you make presentations online. But the website also has more sophisticated tools so you can add animations and transitions. You can also include data from real-time sources, like Twitter live feeds and Yahoo! Finance stock quotes, for an always up-to-date presentation. When you’re finished, you can publish your presentation as a URL, which you can then embed in a web page or blog or share with others. There is one caveat — this popular tool is at a bit of a crossroads. Following an acquisition by ClearSlide, a sales-based presentation platform, SlideRocket is not currently accepting new registrations for its services. So you’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s next in store.

  • SlideShare: As the name implies, SlideShare is all about sharing your work. If you made a presentation through PowerPoint, OpenOffice, or Keynote, you can upload it to this online community to share with a global audience. The free website supports a variety of documents, including PDFs, MSOffice, OpenOffice, and iWorks docs, which you can add audio to through the site. You can upload presentations publicly or privately and share on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or embed on blogs, wikis, or websites. The site can be valuable for when you’re conducting research, too, thanks to the thousands of uploaded SlideShares covering any number of searchable subjects.

  • Prezi: One of the more advanced tools of them all, this cloud-based presentation app uses Adobe Flash to help you choreograph non-linear, dynamic presentations. Its signature rotate and zoom capability can be useful for conveying complex ideas, so it might not be best for every project. It’s free to sign up, and you start with 100 MB of cloud storage. Working in a group? You can collaborate on a prezi with others in real time. When your presentation is ready, you can share publicly or download to present offline.

  • Skitch: Visuals are key in any presentation, and this free Mac image editor app from Evernote lets you easily manipulate your images and add annotations, shapes, and sketches.

  • Keynote: When working offline, many designers prefer this Apple product to other desktop-based presentation tools like PowerPoint to make their slides. Choose from more than 25 transitions, made 3-D charts, or morph text from one slide into the next for visually stunning slides that can then be uploaded to a site like SlideShare.

The Next Generation

To some presentation gurus, even cutting-edge tools Prezi and SlideShare are already passe, and the future of presentation belongs to video scribing — a new form of visual story telling that uses whiteboard animation, stop-motion photography, or illustrations to explain a concept.

“The days of PowerPoint, Slideshare, even Prezi are not long for the world,” says Duane Siebert, founder of www.TonerRefillKits.com. “People are suckers for motion, videos, more engagement, more entertainment.”

Siebert would know. He regularly creates “doodle-art” whiteboard videos using tools like Powtoons.com, as well as YouTube videos based on PowerPoint files, effectively for his business. These video presentations can make even the most mundane topics watchable and engaging. Siebert himself will tell you that his YouTube videos have garnered more than 300,000 views on stuff as boring as toner for printers.

Some of the emerging players in this animated arena include PowToon, a free animated presentation online software tool; Sparkol VideoScribe, a subscription-based whiteboard animation tool; and Camtasia Studio, an app that turns screen recordings into video. And as is usually the case with adapting brand new technology, younger people are at an advantage.

“A huge leg up young people have on us ‘old farts’ is that they are so keenly aware of the cutting edge nature of video, what’s appealing, what is eye-catching,” says Siebert. “It is far easier for them to see the power of tools like these and come up to speed on them far faster.”

Tips for a Killer Presentation

Though the tools themselves may have evolved, what makes a great presentation indeed great still relies on three key things: content, delivery, and visual presentation. Jim Endicott, author of The Presentation Survival Skills Guide, calls this a three-legged stool, a concept that Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, expanded on more recently with her presentation ecosystem. It all boils down to this:

“A presentation is strong in three areas: content that is dynamic, real, and resonates; delivery that is natural, engaging, and connected; and slides or visuals that are design-centered and visual in approach,” says Ojeda. “Each one takes unique preparation, self-critique, the critique of others, revision, and practice. An effective presentation is one that leaves the audience wanting to take action and effectiveness doesn’t come without [these] characteristics.”

Here are some tips to help you make effective presentations, whether you’re using online tools like SlideRocket, Google Docs, SlideShare, and Prezi, or, yes, even PowerPoint:

Follow by example: There are thousands of online presentations out there, curated by design and presentation blogs. It’s likely the more popular ones will also be some of the more engage, too, so point around and learn by example to see what works. “Study great presenters, don’t just go it alone,” says Ojeda.

Be succinct: An online presentation isn’t an essay — less text is better. And better than text is an image. “You want to avoid too many words on a slide or too many slides; often you can relay the same concept with an interesting visual or infographic instead,” says Stagner.

Rehearse: If you’re in school, you’re likely not just uploading your work to sites to let it potentially go viral; you’re presenting it before a classroom. And just like any presentation, it’s important to practice and put the time into the actual presenting — not just the presentation itself. “Don’t procrastinate, prepare instead,” says Ojeda.

Getting Started Now

Becoming proficient in any or all of these online presentation tools can be a valuable addition to your resume and portfolio. And the best part is you can start now; many of these tools are free and provide tutorials to help get you on your feet. You’ll be wowing your fellow classmates, professors, and future employers in no time.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Education, Resources | No Comments »

A Practical Guide to Scholarships

Apr. 17th 2013


For prospective college students, there is no doubt a great deal of excitement, expectation, and, of course, trepidation about where they are headed. Scholarships are a major part of the college prep, and while they are often regarded as overwhelming and confusing — something students don’t even want to bother with — they don’t have to be.

We’ve broken down the basics of scholarships for you. Where to find them, how to apply for them and why you (or your student) will definitely want to bother. However, before we get into all that…

What are Scholarships, Exactly?

Scholarships are a form of financial aid awarded to students to further their education based on any number of different criteria; scholarships usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.

You will likely have heard scholarships discussed along with other sources of aid such as grants and student loans. Like scholarships, student loans are designed to help students pay for university tuition, books and living expenses. However, the difference is — and it’s a key difference — loans must be paid back, with interest.

Grants for college are similar to scholarships, in that grants are not expected to be paid back. They are often seen as an investment on the part of the organization giving the grant. For that reason, grants often require much more compliance and reporting on the part of the recipient than scholarships. That being said, many scholarships still require a student to maintain a certain level of scholarly conduct and a minimum GPA.

In recent years, a common misperception regarding scholarships has formed: students from specific, non-white ethnic groups have more opportunities for scholarships based on their minority status within the US. However, a 2011 report illustrates that Caucasian students still receive a disproportionate share of private scholarships and merit-based grants. In fact, Caucasian students receive more than three times as much in merit-based grant and private scholarship funding as minority students.

The Different Scholarships Available

Despite inequities, the sheer number of scholarships available to students of every walk of life continues to grow. Virtually every prospective college student is eligible for some type of scholarship, and there is no limit to the number of scholarships available to one person. Here are some of the most common:

Academic

When people think of scholarships, academic achievement is probably what springs to mind first. Many high profile scholarships are based on academic merit — especially a student’s GPA. It’s worth noting that extracurriculars and volunteer work also tend to factor into merit-based awards. Some academic scholarships offer a relatively large payout – some even offering a “full ride” scholarship. While students will push themselves to win such giant sums, regardless of what sort of scholarship they actually end up with, simply earning a scholarship at all is an accomplishment that always look very good on a resume.

Athletic

There are some students whose athletic abilities are so exceptional that universities all over the country vie to award them generous scholarships. Landing a stellar athlete can mean years of success — and money — for prominent universities. It should be noted, however, even for athletic scholarships, students must also be able to demonstrate a solid academic performance; scholastics are still the backbone of the collegiate experience.

Need-Based

Need-based scholarships are offered to students who would otherwise be unable to attend college due to financial constraints. These are offered at nearly every major university, with some schools even promising to offer need-based aid to any eligible student who would not be able to attend the school due to economic hardship.

Minority Groups

Almost every ethnic or minority group has a scholarship dedicated to recognizing and awarding exceptional students from a specific background; this includes women, who, while not a minority, were long considered a minority in the world of advanced degrees. There are also scholarships offered to minority groups in general, usually in the interest of promoting academic diversity. Funding for these scholarships comes from various sources, ranging from government programs to universities and private organizations.

Veterans

For veterans of the U.S. armed forces, there are a variety of scholarships designed to enhance opportunities and increase the number of vets who go on to college and pursue lucrative careers. Veterans scholarships are offered by the U.S., as well as a variety of veterans groups, nonprofits, and even some private organizations.

Community Service

There are also a number of scholarships available for students who, as upstanding citizens, have made meaningful contributions to their community. These scholarships can be somewhat less common — and somewhat less known — than merit-based awards. This can limit the number of applicants and increase the chances of being a recipient.

How to Apply for Scholarships

When it comes to scholarships, the sooner you start researching what’s out there, the better. You’ll not only get to spend more time crafting your applications, you’ll get to apply to more scholarships, increasing your chances of landing some great financial aid.

Remember, every scholarship has its own distinct requirements. It’s smart to reach out to people in the know who can direct you to the applications worth your while. Both your high school guidance counselor and the financial aid office at universities you are applying to, or hoping to apply to, help students with their financial aid choices for a living. Getting in touch with them as early as possible will help them find what best suits you.

Of course, the 21st century student also has ample opportunity to do research on their own. In fact, public libraries are an excellent place to do some independent sourcing of possible scholarships.

Every scholarship has its own deadline, and it’s up to you to keep track of each on you are going for. You will likely have to fill out an application online, or print the application and turn it in via the post office prior to the deadline.

If and when you are finally awarded a scholarship, it’s worth knowing that you may never have direct access to the funds. In some cases the funds are sent directly to the college to cover your tuition and other academic expenses. However, if there is still something left over, some scholarships will give the remaining money to the recipient in the form of a check.

In Conclusion

It takes time to track down great scholarships, put together a great application and wait to hear back from an organization. However, for motivated students, they can be a fantastic investment. Well before your first day at college, applying for scholarships allows you to get a head start on the independence that makes the college experience such a unique and worthwhile transition into adulthood.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Financial Aid, Resources | No Comments »

Status Not Protected: Colleges and Student’s Electronic Privacy

Apr. 9th 2013

Think you can’t be kicked off campus for a tweet? Or that messages sent through your school email aren’t anyone’s business but your own? As many students are finding out, the web offers as many challenges to their free speech and privacy in college as it does opportunities to connect.

The same resources that allow students to connect, learn, and share with others also allow their actions to be tracked and monitored, often by colleges themselves who may limit how students can use certain sites, what they can say, and may even be able to access and search students communications sent through their networks. Colleges have begun to more closely monitor how students use their internal networks and social media alike, resulting in some major confrontations between students and administrators, some of which have even made national news.

While Millennials have consistently been branded as not caring about privacy in the online sphere, research shows quite the opposite. Young people, college students included, care just as much about protecting personal information online as their older counterparts, even more so when it comes to social networks. Yet it’s not always clear how to best protect this privacy, when it’s at risk, and what laws protect privacy rights. The following resource explores the increasingly complicated issue of colleges and student privacy in the digital age.

 

Social Media and the Student

Over the past few years, social media has become a major part of how nearly everyone, young and old, uses the web to connect, share, and find information. Colleges haven’t missed out on this trend, creating Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, and even their own internal social networks to connect students, alumni, and faculty members. In many ways, this has been a positive change, as it allows students to learn more about schools before attending, to network, and even to keep up with what’s going on with a school on a daily basis. Some students even report being able to build up groups of friends before setting foot on campus, easing the transition to college life and setting students up for greater success.

Yet not every aspect of the expansion of colleges into social networks has been positive. Students may find that their social media profiles are subject to scrutiny from admissions officers during the admissions process, with officials looking for any activities or information that might indicate that a student is a less than ideal candidate to attend their university.

It might seem trivial, but the issue has become such a big deal that many prospective students have begun changing their names on Facebook or deleting social media accounts altogether to avoid scrutiny from admissions officials. It may just be a smart move as a recent survey found that, more than 25% of 350 admissions officers at top schools use Facebook and Google to look up prospective students.

Cases Making Headlines

It doesn’t take much effort to find examples of schools challenging students’ right to privacy and free speech when using social media. At Catawba Valley Community College, student Marc Bechtol was banned from campus and suspended him for two semesters for complaining via Facebook about the school’s aggressive marketing of a debit card, which he believed led to his information being shared without his permission. His comments, which he immediately retracted, cost him his enrollment at the school, but the decision was reversed once the Foundation for Individual rights in Education (FIRE) got involved. Still, Bechtol didn’t get off without a scratch. He now has to notify the school anytime he uses campus computers.

Rulings aren’t always in student’s favor, however. University of Minnesota student Amanda Tatro found herself in hot water after making some off-color remarks on Facebook about her mortuary science courses. The university wasn’t pleased and gave her a failing grade in the course, forced to her take an ethics class, and required a psychiatric evaluation. Tatro felt the punishment violated her free speech rights, but the Minnesota Supreme Court didn’t agree, stating that schools can reasonably limit speech if it is disruptive.

Student and dedicated environmentalist Hayden Barnes felt the impact of social media’s impact on free speech after he posted a collage of Valdosta State University president’s remarks regarding the construction of a $30 million parking facility on campus. Barnes didn’t realize his Facebook account was being monitored by the president, already aware of Barnes’ outspoken activism against the project, who decided to expel him for the remarks. While the case is still ongoing, the school’s president was found liable for violating the student’s due process rights.

Protecting Yourself

So what can you do to keep your social media profiles private and out of the reach of your college?

A good first step is to learn what rights your individual state gives you with regard to social media privacy and what the rules are in place at your school for social media use. Knowing where you stand with regard to both the law and the rules of your individual institution will help you to understand your rights and your obligations and may take some of the mystery out of what you can expect when using social media before and during your college years.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s also smart to ensure that your social media profiles — every single one of them — are as private as the settings of each site will allow. This may mean requiring passwords to access your content or changing settings so that friends can’t tag you in photos or posts. For those who are truly worried about privacy concerns, blogging, tweeting, or using other social media sites under an alias might be an option. However, not all sites allow or encourage this, and some, like Google Plus, make it very difficult to create fake profiles.

“In truth, there is no such thing as true privacy on social media,” said Steven Shattuck, of Slingshot SEO and Social Media Today. “Anything you post can be viewed and shared by anyone, even if you have ‘privacy’ settings set to the max. The only true way to have privacy is to not use social media at all.”

Since for most students, totally disconnecting isn’t an option, Shattuck advises, “students should take caution not to post anything intensely personal or potentially embarrassing about themselves or post embarrassing content about others. Invading another person’s privacy using social media can open people up to legal problems.”

If students really feel the need to express themselves publicly, they should keep it civil. “It’s likely that students will take to social media to voice opposition about the issues they care about,” Shattuck states. “They should take care not to do so in an inflammatory or threatening way, or voice opinions that they may regret later on in adulthood.”

What if you’re worried that you’ve already said something you shouldn’t have? While there’s no way to completely erase something from the Internet, you can delete old posts or tweets, remove your name from them, or simply learn if you’re protected under current free speech laws to say the things you’ve said. All of these actions can help to protect you and ensure you’re not putting your college career in jeopardy for a few online missteps. What’s more, these kinds of preventative actions are even more important to remember as you move into the workplace, where social media and free speech often come to odds with employers.

 

College Email Privacy

While you might like to think that the emails you send to friends, family, and professors through your student email account are private, the reality is that they aren’t. Not even close, in fact. While it’s not common practice for colleges to randomly go through student and faculty emails, if wrongdoing is suspected, schools often don’t hesitate to access student accounts and to read the emails contained within. Perhaps more disturbing is the face that they’re well within their rights to do so.

Cases Making Headlines

One of the most high-profile examples of this in recent months has been at Harvard, where administrators searched through the email accounts of 16 resident deans without permission or notification in an attempt to find out who was behind a leak that revealed a student cheating scandal to the media. Not only were Harvard’s actions ethically questionable, they also violated the school’s own policies, which require notice of any email search before or immediately following the incident. Harvard alum Richard Bailey said of the university’s actions, “This is, I think, one of the lowest points in Harvard?s recent history — maybe Harvard’s history, period. It’s an invasion of privacy, a betrayal of trust, and a violation of the academic values for which the university should be advocating.”

While Harvard’s search may have been off-putting, schools are well within their rights to monitor emails sent through their own servers, at least according to court rulings on the matter. In 2011, a student took Elizabethtown College to court after a heated encounter with the school’s chairman of the education department motivated the school to begin monitoring his emails. The student claimed this monitoring violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Stored Communications Act, and was common law invasion of privacy. The court disagreed, stating that colleges have the right to search and monitor their own systems.

It’s not just the potential for snooping that makes college emails a privacy concern, however. School email accounts are often used to communicate with administrators, advisors, and professors about a student’s grades, information that’s protected by law. It is not unheard of for emails warning about low grades or other sensitive information to be released to the wrong individuals, or in one case the entire school. At Wesley College, an email about low GPA intended for just 18 college students made its way to entire student body, compromising confidential information and embarrassing the students it was intended to motivate.

Protecting Yourself

While you may not be able to prevent a mass email from revealing private information about yourself to the whole school, there are measures you can take to help improve the privacy of your emails on campus. The most important step is to only use your school-issued email for discussing your classes, emailing professors, and other school-related issues. All other emails should be sent through a private email account created through an outside provider. While these types of accounts aren’t entirely private either (they can be monitored by the government), they will ensure that school administrators can’t get instant access to any emails you’ve sent on campus.

It can also be helpful to know your school’s policy on email privacy. Some may require you to be notified that your emails are being monitored or read while others will not have any such policy in place. Associate Professor of Communications Law and Journalism at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University Roy Gutterman agrees, saying that while some forms of speech may be protected that there are technical concerns with regard to messages sent over campus emails or using campus computers that are described in computer use policies which may limit some kinds of speech. Remember, it is legal to search and read any emails on your school’s server, so be smart about what you choose to share and send over these networks.

Legal Protections Offered to Students

While there are not laws that address all aspects of digital life and privacy just yet (things are changing much too rapidly for legislation to keep up), there are a few laws that can help you to keep your private life private while you’re a student. Here are the two major ones you need to know about.

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): FERPA, passed in 1974, is a federal law that helps to ensure that students both have access to their educational records and have control over disclosure of information in those records. Generally speaking, this means that schools are not allowed to disclose information about grades, test scores, or other educationally-related information without a student’s permission. Parents, or any other figures outside of the school, cannot access any of this information without express permission from students.
  • Social Media Privacy Laws: Whether or not you’ll be protected under this type of legislation depends on where you go to college. Currently, only six states offer protection of one form or another under social media privacy laws. These states include California, Illinois, Delaware, New Jersey, Michigan, and Maryland. Not all of these laws apply to academic institutions, however. Only California, Delaware, Michigan, and New Jersey have prohibited colleges from forcing students to disclose any personal password information to school officials. This many change in the future, as more states propose and attempt to pass laws that protect private passwords from being disclosed by employers or schools.

Gutterman adds that students can often fight back with regard to free speech infringements using the First Amendment itself, but how far it goes in offering protection may depend on the type of school you attend and the way it interprets certain types of speech. “On a state college campus, the First Amendment applies and any action can be considered state action, assuming there are no legitimate grounds to punish the student or censor the student,” says Gutterman. “But college administrators often have a liberal interpretation of legal doctrines like harassment or defamation and often use these doctrines to punish offensive speech when there has not been a legitimate legal finding that the speaker actually harassed or defamed someone. Private colleges do not have First Amendment barriers. So, students face more risks there.”

These laws and others guaranteed to all Americans don’t cover all the ways that students can experience a violation of their privacy while they’re in college, especially as new data collection and tracking technologies make it easier than ever for schools to keep tabs on their students. However, they do offer a great first line of defense and help to ensure that students have a way to fight back when their private information is being unwillingly shared.

Generally speaking, most colleges respect the privacy of students and work to help ensure that records and information stay out of the wrong hands. But not everything is off limits, especially as the Internet makes it easier than ever for schools to monitor students even when they’re off campus. While many students may not see privacy as a major concern, at least not one that affects their daily lives, it is something that needs to both be considered and addressed as it can have a big impact on success in school and in jobs after graduation.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

50 Books To Prepare You For the Next 50 Years

Jan. 29th 2013

Making predictions can be tough — Exhibit A, Harold Camping. But while prophesying the end of the world always ends badly (or always has in the past, anyway), there is such a thing as an educated guess. Prognosticators, futurists, and run-of-the-mill experts are often proved right by viewing the existing data and projecting it into tomorrow, or 50 years from now. To make ready for the next half century, check out some of these 50 books on everything from business to the biology of the future.

Business

  1. I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton:

    The digital media world is changing so quickly, this book by The New York Times head tech writer probably won’t see you through 50 years. But it will explain how experience, not content, will be the business model of successful companies in the near future, anyway.

  2. The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd:

    Corporate curricula that use video games and employees electing their leaders are just two of the 20 predictions these two businesswomen are lobbing at the coming decade.

  3. The Future of Content by Gerd Leonhard:

    Good news, consumers; this futurist thinks the old business model for content of pay-to-play is dead. The business of content producing in the future will be to add value with followers and generate trust.

  4. Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee:

    Get ready for the protestors shouting “A robot took my job!” This duo from MIT believe such days are ahead but with preparation we can keep from leaving workers behind.

  5. Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next by Cecily Sommers:

    Like a magician revealing the secrets of his trade, Sommers shows you how to recognize patterns and “future-proof” your business.

  6. Foresight 2020: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow by Jack Uldrich and Simon Anderson:

    Being a futurist only pays to the extent he or she can make a business (or prevent it from losing) money. Uldrich and Anderson earn their keep by delving into 11 possible scenarios on the horizon.

  7. The Next Boom: What You Absolutely, Positively Have to Know About the World Between Now and 2025 by Jack W. Plunkett:

    It’s going to be sunny in the U.S. in the future, and not just in Philadelphia. Plunkett’s optimistic forecast predicts bullish times for nanotech, biotech, and remote wireless sensors.

  8. Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It by Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat:

    With easy-to-read prose and easily enacted advice, this recent bestseller is already earning rave reviews. Read and you’ll see how in the future, customization is king.

  9. The Future of Management by Gary Hamel:

    You probably won’t have a robot manager any time soon. But for all those human managers out there who are basically robots now, read this book and get with the program; the future is encouraging creativity, not exerting strict control.

  10. Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson:

    Don’t worry, oil magnates; this book isn’t meant for you. But the facts prove the costs for online business are shrinking to nil, and pricing at zero dollars might be the key to success in tomorrow’s market.

Technology

  1. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil:

    According to Kurzweil, his 1999 published predictions for technology in the year 2009 were 86% correct. His latest book again deals with a future in which he sees a new intelligence coming into existence that far surpasses that of humans.

  2. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky:

    Following up on his hit book Here Comes Everybody, technology sage Clay Shirky sees mankind become collaborators, not just consumers, in the production of new creations that will move humanity forward. LOLcats notwithstanding.

  3. Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World by David D. Friedman:

    With his triple-threat background of theoretical physics, economics, and law, Friedman is perfectly suited to give an interesting, at-times fascinating look at AI, virtual reality, and other technological frontiers.

  4. The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything by Michael Saylor:

    As ingrained as smartphones and tablets already are to life today, at least one “science historian” believes they will be the death of credit cards, classrooms, cash, even real estate.

  5. Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson:

    The rock star of the NASA crowd, Tyson is a huge opponent of the defunding space exploration is currently mired in. This book is his treatise on what we’ll miss out on if we don’t wise up.

  6. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku:

    Flying cars, space elevators, and robot chefs—now this is a future we can get behind, courtesy of well-known theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

  7. Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? by Howard Rheingold:

    The fact that it’s only 62 pages might be evidence that our attention spans are shorter, but as far as intelligence is concerned, “online instigator” Howard Rheingold makes a good case for how tech will help us solve mankind’s problems.

  8. Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler:

    One by one, Diamandis and Kotler tick off the list of human needs and present their evidence for how innovators, “Technophilanthropists,” and new tech will help all citizens of the world not just survive, but prosper.

Environment, Energy, and Food

  1. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming by Bjorn Lomborg:

    The good news is, according to this environmental journalist, the polar bears are fine. The bad news is we may be wasting our time with our current efforts to curb global warming.

  2. Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller:

    You don’t have to be “the Decider” to be concerned about the future of energy. Berkeley physics prof Richard Muller has answers to your pressing questions on nuclear power, the viability of alternatives like wind and solar, and more.

  3. Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter:

    The war for what we eat has already begun, and if you want to be prepared for the massive fight that’s coming with the giant food conglomerates, you’d better get this book and study up.

  4. The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One by Sylvia Earle:

    Time‘s first ever “Hero for the Planet,” Earle is a voice crying in the wilderness on behalf of our ever put-upon oceans. She lays out in no uncertain terms what our pollution and overfishing will do to this blue planet of ours.

  5. Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David JC MacKay:

    As this Cambridge professor well knows, discussing the benefits of alternative energy sources can bring out the exaggerator in proponents. Steering clear of hyperbole, Mackay gives an entertaining and intriguing look into the hard data of sustainable energy.

  6. The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith:

    UCLA geography professor Smith offers his measuredly optimistic take on life four decades from now; optimistic, that is, for the countries in the Arctic Rim. It’s well-researched, insightful, and doesn’t descend into the doom and gloom books like this often do.

  7. The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food by Josh Schonwald:

    You won’t find much in the way of coming revolutions in the world of dairy, but check this one out if you share Schonwald’s passion for finding “the perfect salad.” You’ll also be treated to a lesson on what’s being done on in vitro meat production.

  8. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg:

    Covering similar territory to The World is Blue, lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg gives a startling look at how we get our salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. If what he describes is the future, you may want to get your fill of these tasty fish while you can.

  9. The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman:

    We’ve all heard it said “water is the next oil,” but that’s not really the case. What is true, according to Fishman, is our need to develop a newfound respect for water and to redouble our efforts to conserve the clean stuff.

  10. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner:

    As downright horrible as it sounds, $20 gas might be just the tough love we need to break us of our gas-guzzling, SUV-driving, plastic-consuming ways.

  11. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse by Lester R. Brown:

    As you can tell from the title, this is one of those reads that won’t leave you with the warm and fuzzies. Still, it’s a crucial read by a hero of the global environmentalism movement.

Health and Medicine

  1. A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine by Len Saputo M.D.:

    Could it be we’re finally ready to move our health care system beyond symptom treatment with prescription drugs to full-fledged healing and even prevention? This doc thinks so and makes a compelling case.

  2. The Future of Health-Care Delivery: Why It Must Change and How It Will Affect You by Stephen C. Schimpff M.D.:

    Hopefully you don’t harbor any illusions about the U.S. having the best health care system in the country. However, longtime medical expert Dr. Schimpff has some ideas about what the improved system will look like if we cut insurance companies out of the process and get medicine back to a doctor-patient relationship.

  3. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care by Eric Topol M.D.:

    Cancer cell detection: there’s an app for that? Dr. Topol argues we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the intersection between medicine and technology, and that it holds the key for truly universal health care.

  4. The Stem Cell Hope: How Stem Cell Medicine Can Change Our Lives by Alice Park:

    Although it deals more with the by now well-established topic of stem cells, Time senior science writer Alice Park’s book gives a clear breakdown of a phenomenon that is sure to play a large role in the future of medicine.

  5. The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Clayton M. Christensen, Jerome H. Grossman M.D., Jason Hwang M.D.:

    With help from two respected doctors, Harvard business prof Christensen brings his innovator cred to bear on how the health care system can be salvaged for future generations.

  6. My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time by Lone Frank:

    It turns out Gattaca was scarily prescient, right down to the fact that “personal genetics” was coming in “the not-too-distant future.” In fact, it’s here, and in the not-too-distant future you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it.

Education

  1. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz:

    Kamenetz gets no argument from us that online education is the future. But for the doubters, she lays out how we got to the broken system we have today and how personalized and experiential learning will cure what ails it.

  2. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown:

    Required reading for anyone interested in the classrooms of tomorrow, A New Culture of Learning offers methods for adapting to a new vision of education that embraces game learning, lifelong learning, and more.

  3. Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America by Mary Landon Darden:

    Who better to ask about the future of the university than a bunch of college presidents and higher ed experts? In her questions, Darden tackles all the pressing issues, from technology to legal concerns and the all-important question of financing.

  4. The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future by Linda Darling-Hammond:

    Despite our specific efforts to the contrary, the world is leaving our students behind. Linda Darling-Hammond makes a strong case that major change is needed to revamp our dated education system.

  5. Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities by Richard A. DeMillo:

    If you’re, say, a college president looking for crib notes on how to move your school into the next era of education, DeMillo has you (and teachers, students, and parents) covered.

  6. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson:

    Collins and Halverson give so much space to criticisms of edutech that some come away thinking they’re pessimists. The truth is the book is a balanced discussion of how best to incorporate social networks and distance learning into education.

  7. The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up by Kieran Egan:

    Obviously we couldn’t leave this one off the list. Prof. Egan’s dream is for “imaginative education,” and he lays out his plan for getting us there by 2060.

Miscellaneous

  1. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein:

    This bestselling, controversial book is nearly five years old now and covers events as far back as the ’70s. But considering many countries are still recovering from their run-ins with the free-market system, and U.S. foreign policy doesn’t look primed to change anytime soon, this makes a good read for what to expect in the future.

  2. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years by Jorgen Randers:

    A co-author of 1972′s seminal Limits to Growth, Randers is back to provide a sneak peak of the entire first half of the 21st century, complete with decreased fertility and productivity and rampant global warming. Bummer.

  3. The Future of Power by Joseph S. Nye Jr.:

    The Harvard man who coined the phrase “soft power” shines the light on the coming battle for global dominance that will be waged not on the battlefield, but in cyberspace.

  4. Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution by Steve McIntosh:

    McIntosh tackles no less than the future of the universe with this work. It’s a great introduction to the integral thought field of study.

  5. The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox:

    What will the Christian church look like in 2030, or 2050? Legendary Harvard theologian Harvey Cox thinks faith will be more about spirit and community in the next generations.

  6. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew Bacevich:

    A retired U.S. Army colonel, Bacevich is no conspiracy theorist, which is why his sobering accusation that we the people have to abandon our thirst for resources before we will see an end to war.

  7. Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism by David Folkenflik:

    An award-winning journalist for NPR assembles some of the most knowledgeable of his peers in the industry for an in-depth look at news in the 21st century, with the storied New York Times as his go-by.

  8. The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction by David Orrell:

    As our parting suggestion, go meta with David Orrell’s book on the discipline of prognostication so after reading the other books, your expectations will be grounded in reality.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

The Future of College Enrollment: 10 Trends Coming Soon

Jan. 21st 2013


Some of these trends actually launched a little earlier than 2013, though they hold the potential to gigantify into something significant soon or in the near future. But the shape of college admissions, whether it be student-side or school-side, will most assuredly change in due time. After all, most elements of higher education already are thanks to demographic and technological fluxes.

  1. Challenging, creative essay prompts:

    University of Chicago, Caltech, and other schools decided to jettison the usual, “Discuss a challenge you overcame!” or “Who has left the biggest impact on your life?” in favor of essay topics far more unconventional and creative. Asking applicants to describe Waldo’s whereabouts or some other fanciful scenario tests their capacity for imagination and innovation – not to mention lessens the chances of meddling parents coaching them on well-worn “right” and “wrong” responses. Some colleges and universities also see it as a means of gauging who is and is not the most interested in their programming as well, since the not-so-serious likely wouldn’t exert too much effort.

  2. Applying as a junior:

    Most schools allow juniors to apply, but more and more seem to be taking advantage of this option in order to open up new opportunities and hopefully get their name out there. Unfortunately, this motion doesn’t exactly grant them any sort of advantage. Sending in applications early does not equate to hearing a “yes” early, no matter how eager and go-getting it makes them seem. In fact, it may very well hamstring their motivations since they still compete against seniors; just because schools send rejection notices doesn’t exactly mean they wouldn’t succeed in later years. But receiving a “no” runs the risk of demoralization, which they don’t really need when trying to carve out their futures in higher education.

  3. Test optional:

    SATs, ACTs, and other migraines enjoy buckets of criticism levied at the fact that they just don’t provide the most accurate assessment of a student’s academic potential. As a result, more and more colleges and universities consider them optional rather than a major player in the admissions process. So far, more than 850 schools decided to shunt the exams to the sidelines and focus on other factors illustrating a candidate’s preparedness and acumen in the classroom. While the trend certainly stretches back a little further than some of these, increased pressure from administrators, parents, and students concerned about the not-so-standardizing elements of standardized tests means a more significant shift away in the coming years.

  4. Submitting more than three applications:

    Back in the day, hopeful college enrollees applied to their No. 1 choice and one to two “safety schools” just in case. But finances and other concerns mean graduating seniors (or idealistic juniors) open themselves up to even more options these days. Seventy-nine percent reported submitting information to three or more schools in 2011, marking an uptick from 67% in 2010. A further 29% applied to a staggering seven or more, an increase from 25%. And this trend shows very little sign of abating anytime soon, as hand-wringing kids and parents hope to wait out the recession with education.

  5. More students in medical school:

    Medical school enrollment regularly experiences increases, with the Association of American Medical Colleges expecting to grow by 30% between the 2002-2003 and 2016-2017 school years. Fifty-six percent of this has already happened; suffice to say, the AAMC feels pretty confident that the next few years won’t disappoint, either. More first-time medical students means more doctors. Which is great with Baby Boomers aging and life expectancy increasing. Unfortunately, though, primary care enrollment is down. That’s kind of the most important position needed right now.

  6. Less competition:

    Maybe. With declining numbers of high school graduates, this means fewer students applying to colleges nearby and across the country (if not world). This has less to do with dropout rates rather than declines in the amount of babies born annually and fewer immigrants. About 3.4 million kiddos graduated from high school last year, but the amount will likely decrease to around 3.21 for the 2013-2014 semesters. In order to keep numbers up, admissions offices will have to start courting more international, nontraditional, and returning students over time.

  7. One-year master’s programs:

    Linda Abraham of Accepted.com predicts a surge in one-year master’s degree plans, which tend to focus largely on business-related subjects (like entrepreneurship) these days. University of Michigan, Cornell, Kellogg, and Columbia all offer up “more accelerated MBA programs” to help b-school graduates finish school faster and cheaper without compromising their ability to score jobs afterwards. She also believes that, over time, such programs both in the United States and other nations might wind up overtaking their two-year counterparts thanks to the appealing ease and cost.

  8. More early applicants at Ivy League schools:

    Save for Dartmouth, curiously, which experienced a drop of 12.5% in early applications last year. Harvard and Princeton saw a swell of 14.9% and 10%, respectively, with the rest of the schools underneath the Ivy League banner upticking to a more modest extent. Likely this blooms from the same logic as juniors who just can’t wait for senior year to see which schools bite, as early application might very well reduce the amount of competition over primo class spots.

  9. Gap years:

    Life quite often proves the best classroom, so states the cliche. But the sentiment certainly roots itself in reality. About 1.2% of incoming freshmen in 2011 elected to wait a year before beginning their studies, and it seems as if this trend continues on into 2013. Research at Skidmore noted that students who opt to take a gap year enjoy higher grades and retention rates than those who do not. It also helps improve their motivation levels, which do kind of very much feed into grades and staying in school.

  10. “Hooks”:

    Blues Traveler knows that the hook brings you back, and it also happens to increase your chance of securing a spot at your aspiring alma mater. Application rates may drop, but demand for students to show off their special snowflake attributes increases. They might very well boast some excellent grades, but schools increasingly want them to stand out in other areas, particularly extracurricular activities. Schools want to see more well-rounded individuals applying, with the logic being that they add texture and diversity to the campus, not just a sexy GPA.

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10 Disturbing Facts About The College Admissions Process

Jan. 15th 2013


Whatever college admissions counselors are getting paid, it probably isn’t enough. They each have the unenviable task of parsing through hundreds or even thousands of eager young students’ applications, most of whose dreams they will have to dash to pieces with a single stroke of a pen. Still, they are cogs in a process that is rife with enough stuff to discompose, discombobulate, distress, and discomfort anyone who happens to look right at it for too long.

  1. Web profiles are coming back to haunt students:

    It’s surprising that the figure isn’t even higher, but three-quarters of teenagers are social media users, and almost all of them are on Facebook. And apparently one-third of them are poor judges of what constitutes appropriate material for sharing. From 2011 to 2012, admissions officers increased their social media background checks on applicants only slightly, but the percent that found something that hurt students’ chances of getting into their particular school nearly tripled, to 35%. Considering that only a fraction of colleges conduct criminal background checks despite one in 29 students having criminal records (as of 2009), the weight attributed to youthful indiscretions posted online is troubling indeed.

  2. The bar is higher for Asian-Americans:

    Considering race is an issue we’ll be talking about more, but none of us like to imagine race being a factor that makes it more difficult to be admitted to a certain school. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what’s happening for Asian-American students. A 2009 book found a 140-point SAT penalty waged against Asian applicants, meaning a 1600 scored on the test by an Asian American applicant would be considered equally with a 1460 by a white student. The investigations have already begun, but until they are completed, many applicants will think hard before checking the “Asian-American” box on their applications.

  3. The SAT range can be very misleading:

    Contrary to a growing belief that the SAT is an unfair or otherwise poor indicator of student success in college, recent research has found it is still a useful part of the admissions process. That being said, the commonly-seen “25/75 percentile” — the stat that reveals the range of scores the middle half of last year’s incoming freshmen class scored on the SAT — might lead a student to believe he is well within the range of acceptance when in reality he’s as much as 200 points behind the majority.

  4. Admissions consulting has become big (and often ugly) business:

    Can we all agree the system needs tweaking when over one out of every five students in private colleges has used private admissions consultants to get in and the number of said consultants has doubled since 2010? And when consultants are taking fees as high as $2 million to get Junior into Harvard? Disconcerting as those facts alone are, some of these companies are less than above-board. As one stateside application coach working for a Chinese firm discovered, some consulting groups go beyond essay editing so far they’re treading “dangerously close to plagiarism.”

  5. Colleges are judging the entire student:

    Imagine having a dozen strangers perusing your academic achievements, your family background, your high school activities, your essays about who you are and who you want to be, and basically everything else that makes you you and deciding you just don’t “fit.” “Institutional fit” they call it, and at 21% of schools, it’s the first cut you have to survive in the admissions process. Not only does this method have the potential to vary wildly by school, it is alarming that schools promote this “holistic” approach, as the ones who are rejected have little else to conclude than that they have been rejected as whole people, not just students.

  6. Schools have been caught fixing their admissions numbers:

    As The New York Times put it, the early 2012 news that a top-flight school like Claremont McKenna had manipulated its admissions numbers left the academic world “dismayed.” We’re simply going with disturbed. Emory University coming clean about having also lied about admissions data for a decade did little to help our disturbia. The two were simply the latest examples of colleges manipulating data to improve their rankings and get more applicants in a system that now relies heavily on those rankings.

  7. Considering race sets back desegregation:

    Here’s something pretty much nobody saw coming: the states that don’t allow race to be considered in college admissions may actually help move along the process of desegregation that unfortunately is still underway some 50 years later. A study out of Georgetown University just found that in states where schools aren’t allowed to factor race (like California, Florida, and Texas), black students’ exposure to white students increased 1.45%. More work will no doubt need to be done on this line of inquiry, but it needs to happen sooner than later as the Supreme Court may rule soon on the constitutionality of using race in college admissions.

  8. Legacies get a huge boost:

    Much like in other areas of life, the best thing you can do for yourself is be born into a privileged family. The legacy system is one of the most off-putting aspects of the college admissions process, except obviously to those lucky few who benefit. How much do they benefit, exactly? A Harvard researcher found that at elite universities, being what he called a “primary” legacy (having a parent who attended the desired college as an undergrad) was good for a 45% bump in the chances of getting in. So to put that in perspective, having the right parents can take your chances of being admitted from 5% to 50-50.

  9. Applicants who can pay have a better chance of getting in:

    Darn you, recession; have you no decency? Must you invade the hallowed halls of academia as well? Yes, cynical as it may seem, news began to emerge in 2011 that more than half of public universities and a third of four-year colleges had cranked up the search for students who didn’t need any financial assistance. Nearly 20% of admissions officials at private colleges even admitted that most of the full-pay students they were letting in had worse scores than their peers.

  10. Random admissions committee comments can make or break you:

    As our readers familiar with the actual workings of the college admissions process will know, most applicants go through several stages of cuts before being finally accepted, the final stage often being an admissions committee meeting where a panel discusses each student together. As the Daily Beast reported, at a “top” northeastern liberal arts school (that obviously would not appreciate being named), comments from these talks revealed such bizarre, vague, and otherwise outrageous disqualifiers as not “feeling a spark” from an application, how the student stacked up against an already admitted sibling, and whether the decision would “make sense to the high school.”

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10 Higher Ed Money Trends Students Should Know About Heading Into 2013

Jan. 7th 2013


So the world didn’t end on December 21st. Hopefully you weren’t banking on that happening and haven’t given away all your money and possessions. If you have, you’re probably more concerned with where your next meal is going to come from than what’s going to happen to Stafford loans next year. For everybody else, we’ve pinpointed a few patterns, innovations, and upcoming issues that will feature prominently in the higher ed world in 2013.

  1. Tution rising faster than inflation:

    Benjamin Franklin said the only certain things in life are death and taxes, but then again, Ben never had to pay for college. To say college tuition rising faster than the rate of inflation is a trend is putting it mildly; it’s been going on for decades. And unfortunately, the streak is almost guaranteed to continue in 2013, short of a monumental shift in higher education. Even with the Fed putting less emphasis on a target of 2% max inflation next year, college tuition would have to increase by half as much as it did in 2011-2012 (4.8%) to even be close.

  2. Professors setting their own price schedules for online classes:

    Here’s something students and college profs alike will want to keep an eye on. 2012 was without question the year of the MOOC (massive open online course, for those who missed 2012), but 2013 could be the year of the MOCC: mid-sized online closed courses. These would be smaller, paid courses, as opposed to the, well, massive class sizes that gratis courses pull in. Already education provider StraighterLine has set up Professor Direct, where college profs can set their own prices for online courses they teach. The monetary advantage to teachers is obvious, but students would benefit by getting more face-time with an instructor than MOOCs allow, while still paying less than at a traditional school.

  3. More financial aid transparency:

    One of the results of the housing bubble that caused the recession was a national demand for banks to be more transparent when making mortgage transactions. Perhaps 2013 will show whether a similar call for student loan transparency will prevent what many predict will be the next bubble to burst. There is reason to hope: In June 2012, 10 colleges promised Vice President Joe Biden that they would make sure students know how much a year of college with them will cost, how they can find help paying for some of that cost, how much they can expect to pay in student loans once they graduate, and more. Now that the ball is rolling, more colleges should follow suit (or else risk looking shadowy by comparison).

  4. Education budget cuts :

    How are we so sure tuition is not going to come down any time soon? Because public college tuition levels are closely tied to state education budgets, and those continue to be hammered. From Texas and Louisiana to California and Colorado, 26 states have cut spending already and the effects will be noticeable in 2013 and beyond. And the federal government may not be much help. At the time of this writing, Congress is still wrangling over how not to tumble head-first off the “fiscal cliff” and higher ed is in line to get a painful budget slash on the first day of the new year if a deal is not made.

  5. More performance-based college funding:

    With such monetary dilemmas front and center, many states are beginning to take a different approach to how much funds they allot specific public universities. With the full support of major education players like Bill and Melinda Gates and President Obama, states like Ohio have begun to move toward rewarding public money to public universities based on the success with which they retain and graduate out their students. Unlike the performance funding of the past few decades, PF 2.0 (as U.S. News & World Report put it) may see states basing their judgments on factors like critical thinking, graduates’ ability to get a job, and student progression over their college career.

  6. Changes to federal higher ed funds:

    Although Congress managed to avoid letting the interest rate on federal student loans double overnight in June 2012, the deal that kept it at 3.4% was only for a year. That means that come summer 2013, it will be right back in the crosshairs again, only this time, it’s personal. By that we mean, students should brace for the worst. But it’s not all bad news. The American Opportunity higher ed tax credit, the higher ed tuition reduction, and the student loan interest reduction will all be up for review in 2013, and they’re all predicted to turn out favorably for students.

  7. Cheaper textbooks:

    With any luck, textbooks’ long reign of terror may soon be over, banished to the history section of the bookstore. On one hand you have developments like Washington State creating an e-library of free textbooks for 40-plus community college courses. Then there’s groups like Rice University’s OpenStax College, which thinks it can save students a collective $95 million in five years with its free e-textbooks. Finally, textbook rental companies are hitting their stride, as well. After all, you know it’s a big deal when Amazon gets into the game. Between the influence that online retailer wields and the increasing amount of heat longtime industry company Chegg seems to have now, textbook rental is poised to go gangbusters in 2013.

  8. Nonprofit online colleges challenging for-profits:

    For-profit online universities had a rough 2012, losing students and landing on the receiving end of some tough love from the federal government and some downright brutal press coverage. Meanwhile, nonprofit schools began to gain ground. A report by consulting firm The Parthenon Group entitled “Are the Sleeping Giants Awake? Non-Profit Universities Enter Online Education at Scale” stated, “The race is on to scale as quickly as possible.” While they still have quite a way to go to catch up, all signs point to nonprofits continuing to increase in popularity in 2013, while the for-profit market contracts.

  9. Student loan repayment will become much less painful:

    Just as the way students get college money will be shaken up next year, the way they give it back will be in flux, as well. On July 1, 2013, President Obama’s pet project Pay As You Earn is set to take effect, capping monthly payment of federal student loans at 10% of monthly discretionary income. There is also talk of doing away with the debt collectors and middle-men that currently add up to an additional 25% of what a student already owes by stacking their fees on top. Instead, payment would be automatically deducted from graduate’s paychecks at a set percentage, as is done in the U.K. Even the ban on students declaring bankruptcy is in question, a very promising development for debt-riddled college grads.

  10. Student lawsuits against their alma maters:

    An ugly trend cropped up in 2012 of college graduates suing their alma maters alleging the schools misrepresented students’ chances of finding a job after college (that’s where the “money” part comes in). Actually this started happening in the second half of 2011, picking up steam in December with 11 class action lawsuits against law schools, then barreling into early 2012 with at least 20 more. It will be interesting to see in 2013 if some of these are settled, in which case we will undoubtedly be seeing more of them.

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Higher Education Reform: What Students Expect Next

Jan. 2nd 2013

The verdict is in: the future will belong to those who seek as much education as they can get. Don’t believe us? Just check out this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics correlating various degree levels with unemployment rates and wages. It’s uncanny. Every additional educational attainment makes a noticeable difference (with one tiny exception at the very highest level: an academic doctorate is worth slightly less on the market than a terminal professional degree … but still, 39 out of 40 Ph.D.s have jobs, and they pay well). Pursuing this American dream, though, is expensive. Total student debt now totals over $1 trillion, and the average graduate owes $26,000 in student loans. That’s why Congress slipped a student loan reform package into the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010. However, this bill only took incremental steps in terms of cutting out for-profit middlemen (saving both students and taxpayers money), increasing Pell Grants, and implementing income-based repayment. Here are some ideas for potential reforms that students would cheer, some blue-sky, some very doable:

  1. Make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy.

    Unlike nearly any other kind of debt, outstanding student loans are not forgiven even if you declare bankruptcy. Senator Dick Durbin is angling to change that, stating: “I have a bill, the Fairness for Struggling Students Act, that would once again permit private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy as they were before 2005.” If such a bill should pass, it would be good for the economy. Bankrupt students who borrowed more for education than the available jobs could enable them to pay back would have a chance to rebuild their lives, instead of fighting a futile struggle to pay off the principal, and the extortionate interest, before retirement or death … or even after!

  2. Finish the job when it comes to cutting out profiteers.

    The 2010 provisions signed by Obama eliminate subsidized loans going forward, in favor of direct loans, but the reforms do not go far enough. For one thing, private lenders still get fat contracts to “service” these loans. For another, existing subsidized loans should be bought up by the government as they’re already doing the damage. Critics such as Senator Lamar Alexander howled about a “Soviet-style takeover” of federal student loans, which is a hilarious concept, akin to “keep the government out of my Medicare.” Interestingly, Republican critics have had little problem with the fact that these loans were guaranteed and subsidized by taxpayers all along … provided that the profits kept flowing to private bankers.

  3. Create a “public option” of tuition-free universities.

    If the problem is out-of-control tuition, why not take the idea of cutting out the middleman even further, and set up free schools instead of federally subsidizing privatized schools and lenders? Many colleges have functioned just fine without charging students an arm and a leg, or anything at all; indeed, countries like the UK have free higher education for all. Why our most prestigious private nonprofit schools need to extract money from attendees in addition to their billion-dollar endowments (though many of these rich top-tier schools have been pursuing aggressive need-based tuition remission) is fairly inexplicable.

  4. Impose price controls on tuition.

    The heads of free marketeers are undoubtedly exploding upon reading the phrase “price controls,” but it’s important to remember that as recently as the Nixon administration, the idea that government could set prices (and even wages!) was a bipartisan notion. While we’re certainly not suggesting a return to Nixon’s stagflation-fighting price controls on oil, meat, and other products, education is a different beast. As a society we all have a vested interest in providing affordable learning. The idea of education as a public good is hardly revolutionary, and hasn’t been since the 19th century. Especially when the money used to pay the tuition is rarely paid up front and ultimately backed by the government, laws should be set to limit this exorbitant “sticker shock.”

  5. Consolidate all existing student loans at the discount rate offered to bailed-out banks.

    Aren’t we the people Too Big To Fail as well? Why should we have to pay any more interest to banks than they paid the feds to keep them afloat? Refinancing all outstanding loans at about 5%, in addition to keeping them just above the prime rate going forward, say 3.5%, would create simultaneous booms in consumer spending and pursuit of advanced degrees, which in turn would improve Americans’ future employment prospects in aggregate. The fact that it’s such a no-brainer, combined with the profits the status quo reaps for powerful private interests, ensures this will never be done. But we’d love to be proven wrong.

  6. Throw a student-debt jubilee!The jubilee is an ancient Near Eastern custom that was adopted by first the Jewish and then the Christian tradition, and, in the most familiar use of the word, the British monarchy. A jubilee year celebrates the ostensible stability and prosperity provided by a long-ruling monarch, who demonstrates his or her beneficence to the people on this rare occasion by the forgiveness of all debts and the freeing of slaves. This relieves debtors who never had a chance of repaying, and shuffles the economic deck, so to speak. For that reason, it is not such a great deal for usurers and landlords, who are currently holding so many of the cards. In the absence of a unifying faith or an absolute monarch, we probably shouldn’t expect a revival of this admirable custom. However, several recent initiatives (the Student Debt Jubilee linked above, as well as the Jubilee Debt Coalition and Occupy Wall Street’s Rolling Jubilee) have adopted its ideals and its rather catchy moniker.

  • Expand and improve income-based repayment.

    Income-based repayment, or IBR, is just what it sounds like: a payment plan that pegs your monthlies to no more than a certain percentage of your income. Of course, your debts are still accumulating interest at the usual rate, but for those who won’t be able to make a large salary when they’re first out of school (i.e. anyone who’s not going to a top-flight law or business program), it can still be a lifesaver. However, even with Obama’s expansion of this program, it has some flaws. For example, it was not made available to current borrowers, private loans aren’t eligible, many borrowers don’t understand how to choose it, and enrollment can only be chosen once a year rather than on any given month. All of these problems are fixable if legislators grow spines.

  • Let community colleges offer four-year degrees.

    This is one bold proposal that has ruffled some feathers in higher education. Community colleges in most jurisdictions only offer two-year programs and typically partner with public four-year universities to transfer students for bachelor’s degrees. However, this is now being challenged. Legislation is being passed at the state level to allow community colleges to award four-year degrees, typically in vocational fields. The public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutions have finally found something they all agree on: they don’t want this to happen and have banded together to fight these initiatives. You’ve got to wonder if that doesn’t mean it’s a pretty good idea.

  • Bring the for-profits to heel.

    In recent years, more and more students have been purchasing their education from corporations rather than traditional schools. Many of these for-profit entities offer degrees that are borderline worthless. When their students can’t find jobs, the companies still profit from the tuition—paid, remember, not by students themselves, but by third-party lenders, who in turn are ultimately backed by the government, i.e. all of us who pay taxes. The companies then spend this loan money on marketing, to convince more of the poor, ignorant, and vulnerable to enroll. (Legislation to prevent this use of federal money was shot down thanks to lobbying.) It’s the perfect pyramid scheme, and many people have gotten very rich off of it … but seldom the students this sector claims to serve. t’s time to return some integrity to higher education by demanding accountability from these entities, or else shutting the whole racket down entirely.

  • Redirect funding to more lucrative departments.

    A couple years ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates gave a speech in which he suggested that governors might want to consider rerouting education dollar toward STEM fields (science/technology/engineering/mathematics), on the premise that those will be the skills required for high-paying jobs in the future. Speaking of jobs, the founder of Apple characteristically refused to let Gates have the last word, giving a speech a couple weeks later wherein he extolled the virtues of a liberal arts education. While both are right in a sense (generalists will always be needed, as will geeks), and as writers we’re inclined to side with the hippie, some matching of state subsidies to the demands of job vacancies is certainly worth examining.

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