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by Agnes Jasinski

A report released today examines what policy makers should be paying attention to when crafting educational policies that benefit all college students. The report also comes to the conclusion that many decisions regarding Latinos in higher education are based on misconceptions about that student population.

The report, "Taking Stock: Higher Education and Latinos," was put together by Excelencia in Education, an organization that looks at racial and ethnic trends to identify where the need exists for more effective educational policies. The Lumina Foundation for Education, Jobs for the Future, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) supported the report.

In a preview of the report earlier this week, The Chronicle of Higher Education described conversations at a panel discussion on Monday morning with the report's authors and leaders from a number of Hispanic organizations. The panelists suggested that public policy is based less on facts and more on stereotypes that define Latinos as an immigrant population with high drop-out rates. A majority of Latinos, however, are native-born and want to succeed in higher education.

Other highlights of the report include the following:

  • Administrators should look into expanding current college and university programs that are proven to accelerate Latino success and graduate Latino students.
  • Policy makers should consider the success of Latino students, a rapidly growing student population, when considering the educational success of the entire country.
  • In order to meet President Obama's degree-completion goals, policy makers must make degree completion among Latino students more of a priority.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of Hispanics enrolled in college rose from 20 percent in 1996 to 24 percent in 2006, a greater increase than seen among white students. Still, Hispanic students are still lagging behind other groups when it comes to college admission, retention and graduation rates. Studies looking into that attainment gap suggest that while most Hispanic students believe in the value of a college degree, their educations may be cut short for a variety of reasons. In data released in October by the Pew Hispanic Center, about 74 percent of respondents said they had to leave school because of personal and family responsibilities. Others said poor English skills hampered their ability to keep up with the rigors of college, and even high school. About 40 percent said it was just too expensive to go to college.

All minority students should know there is help out there when it comes to funding your education. Scholarships for minorities are the most common student-specific awards out there, and minority students are eligible for funding from not only the federal government, the state, and their intended colleges, but outside organizations that aim to diversify college campuses. Try conducting a free scholarship search to find not only Hispanic scholarships, but scholarships based on a myriad of criteria specific to you.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A growing number of high school students are considering their options outside of Advanced Placement courses when it comes to pursuing early college credit. More are now looking into dual enrollment courses at community colleges to pad their academic resumes and get a taste of college life before they graduate high school. Some high schools have even begun offering fewer AP offerings in favor of partnering with community college programs.

An article in The State Journal-Register today explores the options available to students across Illinois. Nearly 1,900 high school students are currently taking courses online and on campus at Lincoln Land Community College, according to the article, and many are foregoing the typical high school experience of proms and pep rallies in favor of a preview of the college experience. Most of the courses are general education requirements students would take their freshman year. One student quoted in the article said she enrolled in college classes while in high school so that she will be able to work as a certified nursing assistant while going to college after her high school graduation.

We see value in both options. Dual enrollment at a community college may help prepare high school students for the college experience, giving them the confidence they need to excel that first year. There also won't be an AP exam to take at the end of your course, putting less pressure on students who may not be the best test-takers. (Most colleges require that you get a score of 3 or better on an AP exam to receive credit for the course.) Your academic transcript will also be more impressive when you're ready to apply to college, and you could be looking at a shorter, and subsequently less expensive, college experience. (This last point could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.)

But AP courses aren't bad either. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you’ll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. While you won't be taking classes on a campus, the rigors of AP courses could still help you prepare for college and the study habits you'll need to succeed after high school. If your school offers both dual enrollment and AP classes, consider all of your options to find the program that will work best for you, and you may be drawn toward one over the other.


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by Agnes Jasinski

There are a lot of awards out there that target high school seniors and college freshman, one justification being that in order for those student populations to even consider going to college, they may need more help getting a start and funding that difficult first year. This week's Scholarship of the Week, however, targets college sophomores who have spent that first year proving themselves on their college campuses.

The Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship is given to college sophomores who are making a difference on their campuses as leaders and have taken a stand against ideological conformity. The award is given annually by The Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit that looks to advance constitutional principles, free enterprise, and a democratic society. This scholarship program was launched in 1999 to provide renewable awards to undergraduates demonstrating leadership on behalf of the cause of freedom, American values, and constitutional principles. The foundation awarded more than $200,000 in new and renewed scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Prize: Up to two $10,000 awards will be awarded, but scholarship renewals will also be given in the amounts of $7,500, $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000 for the 2010–2011 academic year.

Eligibility: Applicants must be college sophomores enrolled full-time and in good standing at any accredited, four-year degree-granting institution in the United States or its territories. Third-year students are eligible to have their awards renewed to help in the costs of their senior years on campus.

Deadline: January 15, 2010

Required Material: Applicants must complete an online application that will ask for proof of good standing at their accredited colleges, a short essay highlighting their personal background and scope of activities consistent with the reasons for the award, any documentation proving the students' leadership abilities, and at least two letters of recommendation.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Yes, the weather outside is frightful for many of you, and some of you really do have no place to go in the wake of the first big snowstorm of the winter season.

For the first time in 45 years, the University of Wisconsin at Madison canceled a full day of classes following a declared snow emergency that kept all but emergency services indoors during the worst of the blizzard Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service, more than 19 inches of snow fell in Madison earlier this week. The last time Madison saw that much snow was in 1990, when the school's chancellor offered the students a half day after realizing that it was improbable students would arrive in class on time - and in one piece. The last time a full day of classes was canceled was in 1965. The snow total was just under 7 inches that day, but it fell on top of freezing rain that made things that much more dangerous for Madison students and residents.

Des Moines was also hit hard this week, with a number of college closures, including at Grand View University and all Des Moines Area Community College campuses. And it isn't just mounds of snow that's causing problems, either. Montgomery County Instructional Center of Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette closed this week due to power outages following a bout with winter weather.

While we shouldn't be surprised at all by winter's arrival, especially in Midwestern states that get heavy snowfalls on an annual basis, it has been interesting to see the range of ways administrations are notifying students of school closures. The University of Wisconsin notified students and staff using not only mass emails and website announcements, but through Twitter, a social networking tool that has grown in popularity among not only college students, but college classrooms.

So what does a college student do on a snow day? If you're in Madison, you may have taken one look at the weather inside and stayed indoors with a mug of hot chocolate. Or you were a little more adventurous and you're like the students who went sledding on "borrowed" cafeteria trays this week. Either way, don't feel guilty about a break from your day-to-day. Madison students' snow revelry was short-lived. They were back in class Thursday and studying hard for final exam week.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Samantha P. spent her childhood in Akwesasne, a Mohawk Nation territory on the New York-Canada border. When she moved from her Mohawk-language elementary school to an English-language middle school, she saw students from her reservation struggling with the abrupt transition and knew where her future would lead her. To help Samantha complete a degree in Education at the State University of New York at Potsdam and prepare for a career helping students from her community excel in both English and Mohawk, Scholarships.com has named Samantha the 2009 recipient of the annual $1,000 College Education Scholarship.

Scholarships.com has been awarding Area of Study College Scholarships since summer 2008 to help students like Samantha meet their college and career goals. The competition grants a $1,000 scholarship each month to a high school senior or undergraduate student planning to pursue a career in one of 13 areas of study, such as Education.

"Education is an important field in need of passionate and forward-thinking individuals," said Emily Hilleren, Director of Content for Scholarships.com. "Samantha’s dedication to her area of study and commitment to a multicultural approach to teaching made her entry stand out among the numerous applications we received. Scholarships.com is honored to play a role in funding her college education with this scholarship award."

Scholarship applicants are asked to describe what influenced their career choices. In her essay, Samantha described her goal of becoming an English teacher near the community where she grew up, so that she could “incorporate traditional Mohawk stories like ‘The Creation Story’ with classics like ‘Romeo and Juliet’” to instill in her students a passion for reading and writing. “I want my students to be chameleons and blend into the world of the Mohawk culture and the English world that surrounds them,” she wrote.

The Scholarships.com Area of Study Scholarships are open to all U.S. citizens who will be attending college in the coming fall, regardless of age, test scores or grade point average. To apply for the Scholarships.com Area of Study College Scholarships, students can conduct a free scholarship search and complete an online scholarship application.

A complete list of Area of Study scholarship winners as well as their winning essays is available on our Student Winners page.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Congress has a lot going on right now, from the ongoing health care debate to a number of bills looking to improve student lending and credit card practices. But that doesn't mean college football fans shouldn't have their day in government.

Just in time for this season's Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday that would change the way the current championship series is run. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who introduced the bill, said college football champions should be crowned through a playoff method rather than a series of bowl games, such as the Fiesta, Sugar, Meineke Car Care and Rose Bowls, among others. The bill, named the College Football Playoffs Act, would ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I football game as a national championship, which Barton called unfair, unless it's the outcome of a playoff.

An article in the Dallas Morning News today details how the subcommittee came to its decision, noting that even President Obama has voiced his displeasure over the lack of playoffs in college football. One legislator said the current process was less about finding the best team out of dozens but about revenue sharing. Another said schools with less fundraising power are less likely to find themselves in a Bowl game. The one dissenting vote, Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, said Congress had better and more important things to do than worry about college football.

In other college football news, a recent study released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida showed that of the 67 schools surveyed, 57 had graduation success rates of 66 percent or more for white football players participating in bowl games. But 21 colleges (up from 19 in 2008-2009) graduated less than 50 percent of their African American football athletes; 35 colleges (up from 29 in 2008-2009) had graduation success rates for African American football athletes that were at least 20 percent lower than their rates for white football athletes. What's it all mean? Racial gaps remain between white and African American football student-athletes despite any progress with overall graduation rates. As the findings only looked at schools appearing in bowl games this year, it would be interesting to see what kind of data exists across the board.


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by Agnes Jasinski

You've already heard about rising enrollment rates at community colleges as many across the country look to make themselves more desirable job candidates in a tough economy by returning to school. But you may not know how some of the two-year schools have been accommodating the large numbers of students flooding their campuses: courses offered at midnight.

Typically offering classes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., some community colleges have found modest success by offering midnight course offerings to those who were shut out during an overcrowded registration process or whose day jobs and lifestyles conflict with sessions within more traditional time frames. An article in Inside Higher Ed today takes a look at Clackamas Community College's "graveyard welding classes," courses that run from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in both introductory and specialized welding. The classes made their debut last spring with two classes offered, but their popularity caused administrators to offer them four times a week this fall. The classes were the idea of an adjunct welding instructor who compared the classes to early welding jobs where he would stay at manufacturing shops until 2:30 in the morning, often later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it).

The College of Southern Nevada will offer six classes from midnight through 1:30 a.m. next semester. The Community College of Allegheny County will offer welding classes similar to those at Clackamas this spring. Bunker Hill Community College started offering two graveyard shift classes this fall that start just before midnight and go until 2:30 a.m. Administrators say that the classes, introductory courses in English and psychology, were successful enough that they will both be offered next semester, along with an introductory sociology course.

An opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed last fall from one of the instructors at Bunker Hill criticizes the need for courses at such an unorthodox hour. Courses there were already being offered through 10 p.m., which wasn't enough. Two thirds of the writer's class enrolled in the late course because all of the day, evening, and weekend classes were full, making it difficult for students to move forward in their programs and meet course requirements. The writer went so far as to call it a "national nightmare."

"Actually give these institutions enough money so that there are professors and classroom space before midnight? No one is really talking about that – and students are being denied sections in massive numbers, nationwide this year," the Bunker Hill instructor Wick Sloane wrote.

As even President Obama continues to urge more students back to college, and with more of an emphasis on community colleges to absorb those rising enrollment numbers, midnight courses may be here to stay.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Two articles in The Dallas Morning News this week take a look at trends happening across the state regarding Advanced Placement course offerings. One article looked at data evaluating Texas high school students that showed more than half fail the AP exams, where passing marks of a 3 on a 1-5 scale are typically required to receive college credit for the courses. Another article looked at inequities in AP choices across the region. Some schools offered students more than 30 courses to choose from; others offered a less than impressive slate.

AP courses have been growing in popularity over the last few years, as guidance counselors urge excelling students to take more of the courses to get more college credit, and, in most cases, save on the college costs of many general education requirements if they end up passing those final exams. AP classes often mean a more impressive academic transcript, and at a time when college admissions are more competitive, any boost on that transcript might be worth the effort.

But as the data from Texas suggests, questions remain about the shortcomings of the program. Supporters of the courses say that with the growing number of students taking AP classes, it is only natural for there to be a larger number of students failing their comprehensive AP exams. However, even the administrators of the AP program agree that more should be done to address the low number of college-level offerings at lower-income high schools. According to The Dallas Morning News, schools in low-income districts don't have the funds to not only cover the costs of an extensive AP program, but attract educators to teach those courses. Many of those schools have decided to offer college-level through other means, such as partnerships with local community colleges.

AP classes aren't for everyone. While your GPA may see a boost if you get a high grade in the course, if you don't do well, you could hurt your academic record more than help it. Still, there are a number of advantages. We've already mentioned the cost benefits. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you'll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. A taste of college-level courses could also better prepare you for your first year on campus. So if you're willing to challenge yourself and put the work in that will be required for you to ace those final AP exams, consider your school's offerings. If those offerings are slim, look outside your high school. AP isn't the only way to earn college credit and prepare yourself for college.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Following a good deal of criticism and complaints from its student population  and across the state, faculty at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania voted Friday to make the school's mandatory "Fitness for Life" course optional instead. The school came under fire and received a large amount of unwanted media attention over the last few weeks for their requirement that any student who entered the school in 2006 or later and had a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater would be enrolled in a fitness course to lose weight before graduation.

The course didn't receive much attention until this fall because it was the first time administrators had to warn seniors that they were in danger of not graduating if they did not meet the school's fitness requirement. Eighty students were sent emails that they were required to either complete the one-credit course or show they had lost enough weight to make a dent in their BMI before being allowed to graduate. Critics since questioned whether the special graduation requirement was legal and unfairly singled out a population of students.

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the school's administrators say the requirement will remain in place through the spring semester, and defended the school's initial decision to require a fitness requirement of obese students. Ashley E. Gabb, assistant director of communications at Lincoln University, said in the article that it wasn't the school's intention to have an "adverse effect on students," and that the school remained committed to finding ways to make the student population healthier.

Many schools have programs set up that encourage healthy diets and promoting healthy lifestyles. A number of Massachusetts schools, for example, have been making changes in their dining halls to "sneak" healthy foods past college students. Others also require fitness and physical education requirements. Rollins College, for example, requires three physical education courses of its incoming students, including two terms of elective lifetime recreational activities. (The school offers classes in a wide variety of physical activities, including ballroom dancing, sailing, and weight training.)

A swim requirement is also still popular at many colleges, including Hamilton College, the Washington and Lee University. At many of those schools, students who fail the college's swim test - 10 minutes of continuous swimming, for example, or proof that you can tread water - are required to take a swim class prior to graduation. Most of these schools require some sort of physical education class as part of the general education requirements, so the swim class may count toward that requirement in many cases.

How about your school? What kinds of things is your college doing to make the student population healthier? Do you have  PE requirement? Is this even appropriate to do? Let us know what you think.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Stressed about finals? Pet a puppy. That's what one college is urging students to do to relieve their stress over finals week.

A student group at Chapman University will station a group of puppies outside the school's main library next week as part of operation "Furry Friends for Finals," inviting studious students passing by to take a minute to pet the pooches. The group, the Active Minds Club, promotes mental health, and believes that the "puppy therapy" will help their worried peers relax a bit, and maybe even smile.

In an article in the Los Angeles Times today, Jennifer Heinz, an organizer of the event and a Chapman University sophomore, described the way her poodle-Maltese mix helped her keep things in perspective, even during the most stressful times of her college experience. "Dogs are always so happy and want to play, and that helps make you happier," she said in the article.

Using animals to relieve stress isn't a new idea. There's a lot of research out there showing that therapy dogs in particular have a marked positive effect on the people in hospitals, nursing homes, or in crisis situations they're "hired" to comfort. Dogs have also been used in motivating children to read, improving the communication skills of the disabled, and generally improving the quality of life of the sick and depressed. The dogs providing Chapman's student population with some much-needed puppy love include 10 Malteses, Yorkies, pugs and dachshunds, and will be provided by a pet group based in Torrance.

What kinds of things is your college doing to help you de-stress during finals? Many schools have events set up post-finals as a motivator for students once they reach the finish line, or host special meals outside of the usual cafeteria fare for those too busy studying to make decisions on what they'll be having for dinner. If you're worried about the studying getting the best of you, look through our site for tips on beating the finals week frenzy. It may seem right like you'll never get everything done that you need to, but winter break is just around the corner, so take a breather, get yourself organized, and pet a puppy if you have to.

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