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Students Create Makeshift Study Spot to Address Cuts to Library Hours

June 10, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s coming to the end of final exams at California State University in Los Angeles, but you won’t see students there studying at the library well into the night. You’ll see them in the make-shift “People’s Library,” an open air study spot outside the school’s main library set up by students looking for an answer to shortened library hours.

The “People’s Library” opened on June 1 as a response from students dealing with state budget cuts that have forced the college to cut library hours. The school’s library now closes at 8 p.m. each night, while the students’ version operates through midnight. According to an article today in the Los Angeles Times, the students have been using donated tables and chairs, and the campus’ lighting and electrical equipment. Free coffee is brewed to fuel the study sessions, and students have access to the Internet, a copier and a printer. According to the article, the students’ “library” has the support of administrators, despite initial resistance and concerns. (Administrators helped the students set up their electrical hook-ups safely.)

The state university system’s library budget was cut 20 percent overall this fiscal year. At Cal State L.A., student library assistant positions were cut from 19 to 11, and subscriptions to more than 400 print journals and 10 databases were canceled, potentially hampering students’ research capabilities. Although library attendance has decreased across the board, perhaps due to advances in technology and increases in access to the Internet thanks to wireless networks, it remains both a communal space and option for those who don’t have access to online tools at home or in the dorm, or who want a quiet place to study. According to the article, administrators will reconsider the main library’s operating hours for next year, although budget shortfalls will continue to dramatically affect the state’s university system.

Across California, institutions of higher education have been looking for ways to cope with millions of dollars in cuts in the state budget. At the University of California, a wait list was used for the first time in the school system’s history to allow the school to be more flexible in the number of students it enrolls for fall 2010. There and elsewhere, major school decisions are dependent upon what happens with the state budget.

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Study Suggests Colleges Should Consider Smartphone Use

June 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new study from Ball State University shows further proof that students’ reliance on mobile devices is here to stay, with more students using their smart phones over their computers to access the Internet and communicate with one another than ever before.

Smart phone use has doubled over the last year, according to the study, with nearly half of phone-owning students boasting the devices. Text messaging has become students’ main form of communication, with 97 percent of students surveyed using that method to communicate, compared to 30 percent using e-mail. The study took into account 11 different surveys of mobile device usage since 2005, with 5,500 college students participating.

The study suggests that while it should be easier to reach students now with these smart phones in hand, it also makes it easier for them to multi-task and lead more hectic lifestyles. An increase in students owning more sophisticated devices has also led colleges to reconsider how to both use advancing technologies in the classroom and limiting devices where they may serve as more of a distraction. Cell phone use is still typically prohibited in the classroom, although colleges have been working to integrate other technologies into students’ curricula. Seton Hill University saw so much potential in the new iPad that they announced they would give one to all incoming students. Elsewhere, professors are embracing social networking sites like Twitter as a way to make their instruction more relevant.

Laptops in the classroom in particular have been a topic of discussion since they began cropping up on desks, assisting students in note-taking during lectures. Some professors argue that while some students use their computers appropriately, others spend entire periods surfing the Internet or perusing their Facebook pages. An article in Slate this spring looked at measures some colleges have taken to keep students tuned in to class discussion, which often means disconnecting them from wireless access. The University of Chicago’s Law School shut off Internet access in classrooms several years ago along with several other law schools, where discussion is an integral piece of the educational experience. A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that those who used laptops in the classroom scored 11 percent lower on their first exam than those who took notes the old-fashioned way.

What do you think? Would mobile devices in the classroom be helpful or harmful? What about laptops? What kinds of regulations regarding technology already exist on your campus?

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Colleges Look for Ways to Cut Textbook Costs

June 24, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The cost of books and supplies may not seem like all that much when compared to the thousands of dollars you’re spending on tuition, fees, and room and board, but it’s still painful to drop $100 or more on a textbook you may not even use as often as your professors think. Recognizing your pain, colleges are looking for ways to reduce the costs of textbooks without sacrificing instruction.

At Rio Salado College in Arizona, administrators issued the rule that faculty members must choose one printed textbook for all sections of each course. At most colleges, professors and instructors are able to choose different books for different sections, leading to a rise in cost of those books because colleges aren’t able to purchase them in bulk. At Rio Salado, the school’s relationship with Pearson has allowed them to cut costs even more by promised the publisher it would be the school’s sole supplier. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, those decisions have allowed the college to retail textbooks for about half of what they would have charged under the old system. This kind of standardization wouldn’t work at all colleges, according to the article. Many professors use books they’ve authored, or customized texts based on what they’d like to highlight in their sections.

Elsewhere, campus bookstores have joined the textbook rental trend to respond to students going online to rent print copies of the requisite texts. Even though many students are able to recoup some of the cost of their books by selling them back at the end of the semester, putting down hundreds of dollars up front for a stack of books isn’t easy for anyone, especially a new freshman. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently, colleges had been hesitant about offering the service until now because of high start-up costs and lack of profits, and the fact that rental programs often require professors to keep the same edition of a book for at least four to six semesters. Storage can also be an issue, especially in a survey course that enrolls hundreds of students. Others say e-books will be the way of the future, with more textbook providers going digital and college campuses and bookstores following suit. Many students are already renting digital textbooks to peruse on their iPads and Kindles, according to The Chronicle article. Does your college offer a unique alternative to the traditional campus bookstore textbook purchases?

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College Cuts Housekeeping Services

George Washington University Says Students Too Messy for Perk

July 2, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

New freshmen at George Washington University this fall won’t be as pampered as their predecessors. Administrators there have decided to cut the housekeeping services they had offered in the past, in part to keep the costs of room and board at their current levels.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, the services included vacuuming students’ residence hall rooms and cleaning their private bathrooms. Come fall, it will be up to the students to tidy things up, although administrators said some housekeepers were unable to vacuum a number of freshmen’s rooms properly anyway because of the messes students would leave on their floors, which first prompted the school to look into eliminating the service. About 80 new freshmen have been vocally opposed to the school’s decision to cut the service, signing Facebook petitions to demand it be added back. In one article, one incoming student said it was one of those things that “semi-convinced” her to come to GW, and that with tuition at $54,000, it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep such perks in their communal living spaces.

It may seem silly to have a housekeeper keep your dorm room tidy, but GW wasn’t unique in offering the service. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology still offers the service, with housekeepers there changing linens, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and taking out students’ trash. According to the Inside Higher Ed article, administrators there said if they needed to trim their budgets, they would cut housekeeping staff rather than eliminating the program altogether, as they describe it as “one of the top selling points” of the college. At Xavier University, administrators use their housekeeping service (offered in three out of four dorms) as a way to relieve parents worried about their sons and daughters living in messy rooms now that they’re out on their own.

At other schools that have instituted cuts to housekeeping services, the reaction from students has been mixed. The College of the Holy Cross and Claremont McKenna College both reduced their service from twice a week to once a week, which may not seem like that big a deal to students without any kind of formal cleaning service. Administrators at Holy Cross said having housekeepers allowed the school to maintain a sense of upkeep in residence halls, and keep rooms in better shape for the next round of freshmen. The Inside Higher Ed article closed with a rising senior at Claremont deriding what he thought of as an excess: “Do we really need maids cleaning up after every mess? It’s pretty ridiculous. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love it. Who wouldn't? But I think for college students trying to become adults, people shouldn't be cleaning up our mess. That is a mother thing to do when you're 10 years old.”

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Community College Reverses Punishment for Profanity

July 29, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A student who was penalized for swearing at a community college in Mississippi last March will have the punishment reversed following intervention from the civil rights organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and attorneys working on behalf of the student.

Hinds Community College initially issued 12 demerits against student Isaac Rosenbloom for using an expletive to describe to another student how the low score he had just received on a late assignment would damage his GPA. (Fifteen demerits would have led to a suspension at the school.) The instructor had found him guilty of “flagrant disrespect,” according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The demerits stopped Rosenbloom from completing the course and receiving financial aid; the demerits were added to his student record.

The school has since decided—probably due to outside pressures or the threat of litigation—that Rosenbloom should be able to return to that class and others, and any demerits will be removed from his record. A spokesman for FIRE said it was still troubling that this could have happened at all, as the college “isn’t some Victorian finishing school – it’s a public institution bound by the First Amendment.” The school has not said whether they would be looking into revising their code of conduct, which bans “public profanity, cursing, and vulgarity,” and assesses fines and demerits based on the severity of a student’s offense. According to an Inside Higher Ed article last spring, fines range from $25 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense.

In a disciplinary hearing last spring, Rosenbloom said the instructor had originally told him he would be sent to detention, which does not exist on the community college campus. The incident seemed to escalate from there. What do you think? Was the punishment too severe for the crime? Does your college have a fairly strict code of conduct? Colleges often have more informal policies in place regulating profanity, although those policies typically only deal with profanity when it is disruptive to the class. In this class, Rosenbloom dropped the swear word among his peers, after class.

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Latest Princeton Review Rankings Cause Expected Stir

August 3, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Each year the Princeton Review releases its comprehensive list of colleges ranked by the extracurricular and social offerings on their campuses, how happy their students are, and which schools are the most religious or LGBT-friendly, among a number of other categories. The distinction that gets the most attention year after year, however, is the school the review dubs as the top “party school,” an honor that may be lauded by students but dreaded by the chosen school’s administrators.

The title this year goes to the University of Georgia in Athens. The school has appeared on the list 10 times since the Princeton Review began ranking the colleges based on these criteria in 1992. Choosing the top “party school” may seem like a difficult task, but according to an Associated Press article, students at the Georgia college party from Thursday through Sunday at the nearly 100 drinking establishments surrounding the college.

Administrators at the school aren’t unhappy, obviously. President Bruce Benson questioned the research methods used as part of the survey, and highlighted the efforts the school has made to introduce student alcohol education programs. Ohio University, funnily enough also found in a town called Athens, was ranked second, followed by Pennsylvania State and West Virginia universities. The University of Mississippi rounded out the top five. On the other side of the spectrum, Brigham Young University was ranked as the first-place finisher among “Stone-Cold Sober Schools,” a distinction that college has held for the last 13 years.

The Princeton Review collects its data based on email surveys of 122,000 students across more than 370 college campuses. The “party school” ranking comes from responses on alcohol and drug use, hours spent studying, and how prevalent Greek life is on each campus, according to the Associated Press article. Among the Review’s other findings:

  • Students study the most at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology; they student the least at the University of North Dakota.
  • Harvard University has the best college library; Bradley University ranked highest in the “This is a Library?” category.
  • Brown University students are the happiest in the country; the unhappiest are at Fisk University.
  • Bowdoin College serves up the best campus food; the worst food is found at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
  • The most politically active students are found at American University; students are most apathetic when it comes to politics at Salisbury University.

Obviously, take all lists like this with a grain of salt. While it may be helpful to have information on student-faculty ratios or the financial aid help offered by campus, only you can determine where your best fit will be when it comes to less tangible criteria like how social a college is or which school offers the tastiest meal plan. Do your own research, starting with a college search based on the most important criteria to you.

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Report Shows Students Spending Less Time Studying, More on Leisure

August 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A report released yesterday shows that college students today study about 10 hours less on average than college students in the 1960s. The report explains further that technology isn’t the cause of less time hitting the books or the library, as has been traditionally believed. The researchers say it’s up to the colleges to give students more work and to enforce academic standards and requirements to boost study times.

The American Enterprise Institute report, “Leisure College, USA,” looked at a number of national surveys over the last several decades to come to their conclusions. In contrast to previous theories over why students study less these days—some students choose tougher college majors, attend “easier” colleges, or work part- or full-time while in school—the researchers say the evidence points to other factors at play. Achievement standards at post-secondary schools have fallen, they said, and there’s been an overall shift in “college culture” to allow for more leisure time.

According to the study:

  • In 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college studied 24 hours per week; today, college students study about 14 hours per week.
  • Although students are spending more time working than they did before, the number of hours spent studying fell for all kinds of students, including those who didn’t have a part- or full-time job on their schedules in addition to their coursework.
  • Employers seem to care less about students’ GPAs while in college and more about an applicant’s individual experiences and college choices. This gives students less incentive to study hard for those good grades.
  • Students seem to be spending more time on applying to college and getting accepted to the college of their choice; once they’re there, the pressure seems to be off.
  • How's this for incentive? Students who study more in college earn more in the long run.

As with any report like this, it’s important to consider that these are theories of the researchers that could be explained in a number of different ways. Why do you think students are studying less? Should professors be tougher on their students? If you need some tips to stay motivated and meet your own personal academic goals, there are things you can do to stay on track. Check out our Study Skills section to learn more about topics like how you can become a more efficient student by studying smart, how you can feel more prepared going into a college exam, and how to tackle that first all-nighter, among a number of other topics. Have more tips? Share them with us!

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Reports Highlight Colleges With High Graduation Rates for all Students

August 10, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s a well-known fact that disparities exist when you look at the college graduation rates of black and Hispanic students versus white and Asian students. Two reports released yesterday, however, included data on colleges where those disparities aren’t as wide, suggesting that there are schools that are doing much better than others when it comes to graduating minority students.

The reports, released by The Education Trust and based on several years of database comparisons from College Results Online, looked at both private colleges and public universities. Many of those schools that boast small gaps (or a lack of a gap at all) have programming in place that promotes academic achievement across all student groups, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. At the University of California at Riverside, where 63 percent of Hispanic students, 67 percent of black students, and 62 percent of white students graduate, administrators have focused on retention and boosting students’ leadership skills to keep them coming back. At the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where 56 percent of black students and 51 percent of white students graduate within six years, administrators have focused on student success as part of their mission, and believe that it is more cost-effective for the school to have students graduate rather than to recruit new students, according to the reports.

According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, even those poor performers—Wayne State University, where there is a 34 percent gap between graduation rates for white and black students, and California State University at Chico, which graduates about 31 percent of black students, 41.5 percent of Hispanic students, and 57.5 percent of white students—are taking steps to improve their graduation rates. At Chico, for example, those numbers actually represent an improvement after the campus opened a minority student success center. At Wayne State, access to need-based financial aid has been expanded to address a big reason why many at-risk students drop out of college.

Overall, about 60 percent of the country’s white students, 49 percent of Hispanic students, and 40 percent of black students graduate with six years, according to The Education Trust. These new reports, however, show that there are steps colleges can take to improve upon those numbers and to improve retention across student groups.

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Should You Skip Class? A New Online Tool Weighs the Risk

August 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You’ve already read about the website that allows college students to wager on their grades. A new online tool allows students to calculate not whether they should risk some cash on their academic performance, but whether sleeping in and skipping class is worth their while.

The “Should I Skip Class Today?” calculator asks users 10 questions that glean information about how many times that user has that class in question, when the next major test/quiz will be held, and whether that class has an attendance policy, among other criteria. Once they hit submit, users are told whether they’d be safe or sorry if they stayed in bed and skipped class. For example, I was told it was OK to skip class but that I wasn’t completely safe when I gave the calculator a whirl. I used a hypothetical class that met twice a week, included regular handouts in class, and had an attendance policy where my instructor did not take attendance, but where participation mattered in my final grade. The results also told me that I had already skipped 7 percent of my classes this semester (I had informed the web tool that this would be my third absence), and when my next test or quiz was (I offered that information up as well).

The calculator is the brainchild of Jim Filbert, who thought of the idea “one cold morning” in February of this year. Filbert, a telecommunications management student at the time, didn’t want to go to class that day, and found himself wondering what the risks were to stay in his warm bed. Following a quick search online, he was unable to find a similar tool, so he took it upon himself to create an online risk calculator himself. He did end up skipping class that day, according to his bio on the site, but he spent his free time working on the calculator, instead.

While you should probably go to class as often as you can, barring an unfortunate illness, flat tire, or other incident that would stop you from doing so, it’d be interesting to see how “accurate” this calculator is in a real situation. How you’d measure its accuracy, though, I’m not exactly sure. Have you tried out this new online tool? How do you go about determining how risky it is to skip class? What’s an appropriate excuse? If you’re feeling swamped, check out our College Classes and Study Smart sections before deciding whether you’re really too overwhelmed to go to class; we have tips on everything from preparing for exams to choosing which courses you should sign up for.

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Beloit College Releases Latest "Mindset List" Describing Freshmen

August 19, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you’re entering college this fall, Beloit College has you pegged as a group that doesn’t know how to write in cursive, believe email is too slow, and can’t relate to those who don’t know what it’s like to have hundreds of cable channels on their televisions.

The school’s annual Beloit College Mindset List includes 75 items that go beyond the technology gap to describe the incoming class of freshmen (in somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek manner), as a way to remind professors and instructors that there are vast cultural differences between them and the new students. The list is put together each August by a Beloit College professor and a former official at the school, and represents the at times amusing world view of new freshmen, in this case the Class of 2014. The officials putting together the list began to do so in 1998, when they realized how outdated the references many instructors used in their classrooms were.

Included on the list:

  • “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.
  • Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
  • Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
  • They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
  • The first home computer they probably touched was an Apple II or Mac II; they are now in a museum.
  • Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.
  • Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

The originators of the list feel knowing these tidbits will help professors create more meaningful discussion in the classroom. It may also help instructors avoid blank stares when they use a cultural reference beyond the experiences of those new students. The 46th item on the list, for example, “Nirvana is on the classic oldies station,” may make some instructors feel old, but may also be a wake-up call for others when they’re looking to relate to students.

An article in USA Today this week quotes students that both disagree and agree with the list. While some say they do indeed still know how to write in cursive, one described the only time she’s ever used a telephone with a cord as such: “Yes, I’ve used them but only at my grandparents’ house.” Take a look at the list. Do you have anything to add? Is there something on the list you’d remove? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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