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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Agnes Jasinski

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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by Kevin Ladd

Between the realization that virtually every college student roaming their campuses has a cell phone and the rather considerable expense of “blue phone” maintenance, the Contra Costa Community College District has decided to do away with the recently upgraded telephones intended to ensure safety for those wandering the campus after dark.

Just a couple of years ago, the district spent around $100,000 upgrading the phones from analog to digital and are probably now wishing they had a little more foresight, given the rapid proliferation of cell phones on their campuses. Since that expense, they have been throwing good money after bad, with maintenance costs of about $50,000 each year and even with that, the call boxes are frequently down, sometimes with an actual “Out of Order” sign hanging from them.

As it has reportedly been several years since a single, verified “real” emergency call has come in from one of these rather expensive fixtures and there is no indication the blue phones act as any sort of deterrent against campus assaults, the prudent thing to do seems to be to just do away with them.

With the blue phones gone, more emphasis would be put on the college’s neighborhood-watch style program, encouraging students to be vigilant and to look-out for one another, reporting any assaults or conflicts warranting professional intervention to campus security and/or the police.

This may or may not become a national trend, with some campuses installing new blue phones to this day, but for Contra Costa, the return on their investment in the fixtures just isn’t there. There is a strong belief that, between cell phones so commonly being carried by students and increased awareness and vigilance, their campuses can remain safe while reducing some of their operating expenses. What about you? Does your campus still have blue phones? Do you think it is a waste of resources? Please feel free to comment and let us know what you think!


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An Apple a Day...

Students and Staff Receive More Than the Daily Fruit Requirement

September 9, 2010

An Apple a Day...

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in early April, the iPad has had quite the effect on consumers – even the most PC-loyal ones – around the world. The student population is no exception and just as they use the iPad and other Apple products every day on and around campus – this year, all Seton Hall undergrads received an iPad, while Stanford is bestowing the device on its incoming medical students – many colleges are even integrating the device beyond their curricula.

Eric Stoller of Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U. posted a piece last night where he followed up on a recent tweet from UNCP’s Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Becca Fick. In 140 characters or less, Fick said her office was getting – her words – a fleet of iPads…and while that particular fleet turned out to be just four (cuatro, quatre, vier, etc.), the department is making good use of its new quartet in conferences, student voice assessment and social media management, among other fields.

Have you noticed iPads popping up more around your school and, if so, how and by whom are they being used? If not, do you think wider usage would be a benefit or a burden?


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A ‘W’ for Women

For the First Time, Females Earn Majority of Doctorates

September 14, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

I’ve been hearing the Spice Girls on the radio a lot lately but before you question my taste in music, I’m thinking the stations had to have gotten wind of this next piece of girl power-infused news: Data released today show that in 2008-2009, women earned the majority of doctoral degrees in the U.S. for the first time ever.

These numbers shouldn’t be surprising given that female enrollment has grown at all levels of higher education (thanks in large part to scholarship funding for both undergraduates and graduates), but the doctoral degree arena has been male-dominated until now. Though the female doctorate majority is slight at 50.4 percent, in 2000 women were earning just 44 percent of doctoral degrees; progress like this in just under a decade is hard to ignore.

The probability a new doctorate recipient being female depends on the field: In the study, just 22 percent of doctorates in engineering were awarded to women and 27 percent in computer science and mathematics. According to Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools (the organization that compiled and released the data), this is because the number of undergraduates majoring in these fields remains disproportionate. If it weren’t for this fact, he says, women would have surpassed men in doctoral awards already.

Inside Higher Ed presents additional details from the study here, definitely worth looking into, in my opinion...but what about yours? It doesn't matter if you're male or female, what do you think on this announcement?


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An Update on Harrisburg University’s Social Media Shutdown

Some Students Participate, Others Find Ways Around It

September 16, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

When I first heard that Harrisburg University of Science and Technology planned to block Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger from its campus wireless network this week, I wondered how it would play out. Today, I got my answer (thanks, Inside Higher Ed!).

Fact: The sites are blocked on campus. Another fact: Students are resourceful. It seems like every student carries a smartphone or iPad equipped with access to their carriers’ respective 3G networks and Harrisburg U. students who don’t have left campus to get their social media fixes via the Wi-Fi in a nearby hotel’s lobby or attempted to hack into the campus network to bypass the block. Eric Darr, the provost behind the plan, said the university never expected full abstinence but bus personal observations reveal the proportion of students participating is between 10 and 15 percent – notable because students are required to have laptops and have their computers open in class. In Darr’s eyes, the initiative has been a success because people have become more aware of the role social media plays in their lives. “This extreme media coverage in and of itself is forcing more focus on social media,” he said. “That was the whole point of this in the first place.”

The slight percentage Darr noted could have been far different if the social media ban was implemented on a residential campus (Harrisburg is nonresidential, meaning that many students live nearby instead of living in dormitories and on-campus apartments), where students were more dependent on campus networks. Plain and simple, students can log on all they want when they get home…and they have been: Gio Acosta, a junior, said that while the ban has helped him focus in class, he still gives in to the digital urge at home. “They didn’t make any rules about that,” he said.

Do we have any readers currently at Harrisburg U. out there? If so, tell us how you’ve been dealing with the ban. Are you participating? Ignoring it? Hacking your way around it?


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