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Top Universities Experience Drop in Applications

January 20, 2012

Top Universities Experience Drop in Applications

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior considering applying to some of the top schools in the country – MIT, Harvard, Howard, etc. – you may have a better chance of getting in than your peers did last year: According to Bloomberg reports, elite schools across the country are experiencing a slowdown or drop in applications for freshman admission after years of record increases.

Has attending the Ivies become passé? Not likely but there are a number of factors that probably played a role in the decrease, like the adoption of the Common Application, which made it easier for students to apply to multiple schools. Both Harvard and Princeton reinstated early admission policies and then there’s the stagnant economy. So while your chances of getting behind those ivy gates are slightly better, paying back huge tuition bills is a major aspect to consider. Take for instance Columbia’s $59,208 tuition; in this economic climate, students may feel that just too expensive and are opting for more reasonable choices. (For more on this story, click here.)

Does this information have you reevaluating where you’ll apply? Let us know in the comments section.

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University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

January 26, 2012

University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

The weather in Maine is far from balmy this time of year but did the chilly temps inspire the University of Maine’s approach to college costs? Probably not but it’s kind of fun to think so.

For the first time in 25 years, undergraduate tuition has been frozen at all seven campuses: Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland and Presque Isle. Vice Chancellor Rebecca Wyke said the decision was not an easy one for the University of Maine System Trustees and though the implementation will be equally difficult, the tuition freeze was necessary. "It's going to challenge the campuses because they're already facing a budget gap that they're going to have to close," Wyke said, but explained, "The board’s action is very consistent with where Maine family income is and it reflects their understanding of the difficult financial times that we're in."

UMaine students in the audience, what do you think of the news? Are you glad to be getting a tuition reprieve or do you think tuition increases – even slight ones – are necessary to maintain campus resources, course quality and the college experience overall?

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Study Reveals Fewer Students Attending First-Choice Schools

January 27, 2012

Study Reveals Fewer Students Attending First-Choice Schools

by Alexis Mattera

It’s finally decision day. You rush to your mailbox – either traditional or electronic – and find a fat envelope from your first-choice school waiting for you. They like you, they really like you...but will you reciprocate those feelings in the fall? According to a new survey, it’s becoming far less probable.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California Los Angeles study revealed that of the 204,000 college freshmen surveyed at 207 schools, just 58 percent enrolled at their first-choice college. This is the fifth year the percentage has dropped and program director John H. Pryor said financial aid (or lack of it) is a huge factor in students’ decisions. “These students who were accepted and are not attending are much more likely to say they are not going because they did not get the financial aid they wanted.” (Read the survey in its entirety here.)

How many of you were accepted to your first-choice school only to have to give up your spot because of one of the factors cited in the survey?

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Do Students Care About College Rankings?

February 6, 2012

Do Students Care About College Rankings?

by Alexis Mattera

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

The trend, discussed in a new Associated Press article, is that students typically use the rankings as a source of data and pay little attention to a school's number. The latest version of the national survey of college freshmen conducted annually by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute revealed that rankings in national magazines were number 11 on the list of factors affecting college choices behind factors such as cost, size and location; the number one factor, however, was academic reputation, which is a bit confusing as reputation is taken into consideration when determining rankings. "As someone who is asked every year to comment on the rankings, it seems to me that who cares most is the media," John Pryor, who directs the UCLA survey, wrote in a blog post last year. "Second would be college presidents and development officers. Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college."

Are college rankings a bigger deal to students or colleges? Did you or do you plan to use college rankings in making your college choices or do you think other factors are more important to consider?

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Oops! Dozens of Vassar College Applicants Given Fake Acceptance Letters

February 1, 2012

Oops! Dozens of Vassar College Applicants Given Fake Acceptance Letters

by Suada Kolovic

Applying to some of the top schools in the country is unquestionably unnerving but after months of stress, sleepiness nights and stomach pains, it all seems worth it when you read those magical words, “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted.” Most would celebrate such an occasion with screams of triumph, followed by an immediate Facebook update or witty tweet sharing their enthusiasm...until that same school you were sure you’d call your alma mater informs you that there’s been a terrible mistake and that you have, in fact, been rejected. Is this a nightmare? Nope – it was an unfortunate reality for dozens of Vassar applicants.

Roughly two hours after 76 Vassar College early admission applicants learned they had been accepted to the prestigious liberal arts school, they received emails stating that they were actually rejected. The school president, Catharine Hill, said in a statement, "We understand how very upsetting this is for those students who viewed the inaccurate decisions that we posted online, and we are very sorry to have added to the overall stress of the college admissions process for these students and their families." The school says that though it will refund application fees and is reaching out to each individual family impacted by the error, the admissions decisions are final. Ouch.

Do you think Vassar should grant admission to those affected by the technological gaffe or would it be unfair to the rest of the student population? Let us know what you think.

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Campus Vote Project to Help Students Overcome Voting Barriers

February 9, 2012

Campus Vote Project to Help Students Overcome Voting Barriers

by Alexis Mattera

For many college students, this is the first year that they’ll be able to vote in a presidential election...but do they know exactly how, where, when, why and for whom to cast their votes? One advocacy organization hopes to eliminate all doubt and increase student voter turnout in November.

The Fair Elections Legal Network kicked off the Campus Vote Project yesterday at George Washington University's Law School with the hope of creating campus-wide policies and programs that would make voting more accessible for students. College students are often unaware of voter registration rules, polling locations and, for students attending college away from home, how to meet proof-of-residency requirements and obtain the proper identification but the Project’s advisory board is already discussing the creation of election-awareness campaigns, college-centric voting websites, on-campus polling stations and even rewards programs to entice more students to register and cast their votes. "We have to re-energize schools and get them to be creative," said Robert Newsome, director of outreach and state relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a member of the advisory board. Newsome’s fellow advisory board member and president of the United States Student Association Victor Sánchez agreed, stating, "With help and guidance, there should be better ways to help go about increasing access to voter registration and increasing voters on campus."

Do you think the goals set forth by the Campus Vote Project will get more students to the polls?

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Obama Grants NCLB Waivers to 10 States

February 10, 2012

Obama Grants NCLB Waivers to 10 States

by Alexis Mattera

When the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect 10 years ago, public schools across the country were tasked with developing assessments for students in certain grades in order to receive federal funding. A decade later, President Obama has waived these requirements for 10 states in exchange for new programs that will benefit both students and educators.

Though public schools in the states of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee will no longer have to meet the NCLB achievement standards, they will now be required to adhere to three specific reform criteria: standardizing curricula for specific classes, holding individual schools accountable for improving student performance (particularly for minority and disabled students) and establishing a system to evaluate teachers. The plans will vary from state to state based on individual needs – New Jersey, for example, must improve high schools with low graduation rates or face state action while Oklahoma will be monitoring school culture and attendance rates – something both Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan view as vital to future success; less than enthusiastic, however is Republican chairman of the House Committee on Education John Kline, who would have rather continued working within Congress until bipartisan support was achieved.

What do you think of the NCLB waivers? Was change necessary now or do you feel the administration could have taken more time to formulate a decision?

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SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

February 13, 2012

SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

by Kara Coleman

The Web was abuzz last month with talk of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Most people were probably aware that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out in protest on January 18th but what is SOPA and why should it matter to the average American? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stop online piracy, right? It depends.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) authored SOPA and introduced it to the House in October 2011. (The bill’s complete title is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” -H.R. 3261.) While protecting ideas that belong to the States from plagiarism by people outside the U.S. jurisdiction certainly sounds like a noble cause, dealing with the Web is a tricky demographic: If SOPA comes into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to seek court orders against sites generated in foreign countries that they believe are violating copyright laws and American sites would no longer even be allowed to conduct business with or be linked to these sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America is a proponent of the bill, citing protection of creative ideas. Other supporters of SOPA say that it will help the pharmaceutical industry in America by preventing counterfeit drugs from being shipped in inexpensively from other countries. Opponents of the bill fear that their First Amendment rights are being encroached upon, as user-generated sites would likely feel the biggest sting. If a small minority of users violated copyright laws, would sites like YouTube or Flickr be shut down for everyone?

Two days after the online blackout/protest, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) announced that the decision to consider SOPA was being postponed due to the negative response from the sites who protested and the citizens who supported them for doing so. Is this the last we will hear of SOPA or is it set to be an ongoing battle? And finally, how would SOPA affect college students? While most professors don’t consider Wikipedia to be a valid source of information to cite on a research paper, it does give students a good overview of a topic and provide valuable links to scholarly websites that would be good resources. Social networking sites could be affected, too...need I say more? SOPA is not just talk that will stay on Capitol Hill – it could potentially change the way Americans use (or don’t use) the Internet forever.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Excelsior College Rolls Out $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree Program

February 15, 2012

Excelsior College Rolls Out $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree Program

by Suada Kolovic

With spring just around the corner, high school seniors across the country are anxiously awaiting word from colleges they’ve applied to. And while getting into your top choice school is all well and good, figuring out how you’re going to pay for it is pretty scary. If the cost of your college education is keeping you up at night, you might want to consider Excelsior College. Why? They just rolled out a program that guarantees a bachelor’s degree for $10,000!

This may seem like the opportunity of a lifetime but there are limitations to the price-guaranteed program. Students only have the option to earn a bachelor’s degree in the following areas: BA in Liberal Studies with an area of focus in Psychology or Sociology; BS in Liberal Studies with areas of focus in Administrative/Management Studies or Health Professional; and BS in Liberal Studies in Psychology or Sociology. If you’re interest, here’s how it works: Excelsior specializes in credit-by-examination, meaning that students may earn credit through a single comprehensive exam. In the past, students would have had to pay $370 per credit, which put an Excelsior degree at about $20,000. Not anymore! The new program has the faculty matching each end-of-course exam to one or more free online courses. "Excelsior has been a pioneer in credit by examination for more than 40 years," said Dr. John Ebersole, Excelsior’s president. "What makes this program truly innovative is its use of open education resources as a key source of study material for students. Not only do these free resources help keep student expenses down, they engage students in learning subject matter from some of the world’s leading colleges and universities." (For more on the story, click here.)

Would you consider applying to Excelsior? Are you a tad apprehensive about the academic merits of a self-guided curriculum? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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Hearst Lawsuit Holds Unpaid Internships in the Balance

February 15, 2012

Hearst Lawsuit Holds Unpaid Internships in the Balance

by Angela Andaloro

College students are always being reminded of the importance of internships. Anyone who has taken a serious look into what’s out there knows that many of the internships offered are unpaid and though students may receive college credit or a stipend, it’s rare that they are actually paid hourly wages. While many students accept these conditions for the opportunity to break into their chosen industry, one former intern is taking a stand.

From August to December 2011, Xuedan "Diana" Wang was an intern at Harper’s Bazaar and is now suing the magazine’s publisher, Hearst Corporation, for improper compensation for her internship in which she was working anywhere from 40 to 55 hours a week. Her lawyers believe that Wang is among many interns who are working for an opportunity and being taken advantage of because if these interns were not doing the work they do, companies would be forced to hire someone to do the work. They reason that interns are not only losing out on money by working under these practices but benefits including Social Security contributions, the ability to collect unemployment and workers' compensation as well. Wang’s claims are grabbing the attention of many as her lawyers are looking to turn her case into a class action lawsuit. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit states that “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”

So what does this mean for unpaid internships nationwide? Will employers cave under pressure and start paying interns for their work? It’s hard to say at this stage but the fact is that many employers hire interns to provide a learning experience for students and because they cannot afford to hire entry-level employees to do that work. This could lead to a decrease in the number of internship opportunities available to students, making them more coveted and prestigious positions when attained. The qualifications to be hired for an internship would be higher than ever. Whether this would be a good thing for students or a bad thing depends on a number of factors. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.

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