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by Agnes Jasinski

California has had it particularly bad during the economic crisis. The public school system there has tried to address millions of dollars in cuts using wait lists and more selective admissions processes in the state’s community colleges to avoid adding to the budget shortfalls. One California community college district, however, is taking a different approach. Several two-year schools in San Diego will be adding about 1,150 classes this fall, rather than following the example of other community colleges and their own district in the recent past, where cuts to course catalogs have become the norm.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed this week, the San Diego Community College District will be paying for the additional classes using rainy day funds and what’s left of their operating budget. While the school won’t be able to sustain that kind of funding indefinitely, administrators there are hopeful that the state will provide some funding over the next two years to support the extra offerings.

The state’s community college budget was cut by 8 percent overall over the last year; college classes at the schools were cut by more than 6 percent, according to Inside Higher Ed. This led to a more competitive community college system, which had up to that point catered students looking to return to school after a long absence or to build up their transcripts and save some money before transferring to a four-year college. This past year, about 10,000 students were turned away from the San Diego Community College District. Administrators there decided they were being less helpful to students than harmful, as some were forced to postpone their coursework because they were unable to get into required courses. The additional classes will be in the most high-demand subjects, according to the article.

Elsewhere, another college is taking a creative cost-cutting measure to recoup losses from their own budget crisis. Texas A&M University will be getting rid of toilet paper in residence hall bathrooms, a move administrators say will save the college $82,000. The college will still supply toilet paper in larger bathrooms in public areas and administrative offices, according to another recent Inside Higher Ed article. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience—and some students have already said they plan to lift toilet paper from wherever it’ll be on campus—budget cuts at the Texas school have also forced administrators to cut 500 faculty and staff positions, among a number of other amenities.


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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

You already know all about the technology gap, and probably have little faith in your instructors’ web know-how when compared to your own. A recent study, however, shows that you young people may not be as savvy as you think when it comes to online research.

Researchers from Northwestern University looked at 102 University of Illinois at Chicago students to determine how they went about their research when given a number of information-seeking tasks. The study, published by the International Journal of Communication, described the pitfalls of the trust students place in Google and the search engine’s rankings. The main criteria students looked at when choosing which sites to find their information on were where those sites were ranked in Google and other popular search engines like Yahoo!. They also placed little weight on more reputable sites ending in dot-gov or dot-edu, for example, when compared to dot-com pages.

According to the press release for the study, one student responded that they chose a particular site because it was the first to come up in Google. The student was unable to describe much else about that site. Other sites the students said they relied on to complete tasks included SparkNotes, Facebook, and Wikipedia. If you follow the blog, you may remember our tip to use Wikipedia as a starting point only when beginning research; the user-edited Encyclopedia should never be used as a reference, and anything you do find there should be fact-checked elsewhere.

The study suggests that students need more instruction on credible online sources and how to use the web and similar technologies appropriately. IT staff members would probably agree. In an article in eCampus News describing a recent survey of IT officials, faculty, and college students, students and instructors viewed their campuses’ use of technology in the classroom in a much more positive light than the IT staff members. According to that survey, IT staff says more needs to be done in terms of education technology on college campuses and the access to technology in the classroom by students and instructors.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you’re an incoming freshman new to the idea of communal living, there’s something you should know. You may not be instant best friends with your new roommate. Random pairings are just that: random. And a recent article in The New York Times describes just how bad new undergraduates have gotten at managing even the minutest problems. 

According to the article, students are getting more passive aggressive, using technology and social networking to vent rather than confronting an annoying roommate. One director of housing says students text one another while they’re in the same room rather than talking out a disagreement. Or their complaints will go “public” via Facebook, with the other roommate finding out on the website that there’s trouble brewing in their living space. Students won’t even tell noisy dorm-mates to quiet down, according to a recent focus group at North Carolina State University.

Another problem is more parents getting involved in the conflicts, rather than the students handling their roommate issues themselves, according to the article. Most colleges have mediation services or resident advisers at the ready to handle these problems, but few students take advantage.

But there are ways to make a mismatch work. If you’re aware of the common roommate problems before you move in, like borrowing personal items without the roommate’s permission or messy living habits, you may be more prepared to handle them. If you think you may be the problem, it may be time for a bit of self-reflection. It’s probably not a bad idea, for example, to learn how to not eat food that isn’t yours. 

If it gets really bad, most colleges have systems in place that allow students to swap out their roommates. At Loyola University in Chicago, students are able to move out of their rooms if they find other students to trade places with them, according to the Times article. The school gives unhappy roommates a little help with organized “swap nights,” where they are able to meet other students looking for improved living situations. The University of Florida has introduced the Facebook tool RoomBug as a move away from random assignments. The application allows students to give more detailed responses on what they’d like to see in a roommate, and to match themselves with profiles they feel may be a good fit. Whatever your situation, don’t take a failed roommate situation too personally. By sophomore year, more than 70 percent of freshman year roommates are no longer living together, choosing instead to bunk with friends they make freshman year.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Law school is by no means inexpensive. If you’ve taken the leap to ace that LSAT and get yourself into a law school program, you should know there are scholarships out there for you future lawyers. If you plan on using that law degree to better your community or for humanitarian purposes, there may be even more funding available. This week’s Scholarship of the Week from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) targets law school students interested in the civil rights of Latinos.

While the MALDEF Law School Scholarship Program isn’t a minority scholarship, you will need to prove that you’ve already shown your commitment to the Latino community or have a plan to do so once you’ve completed law school. If this doesn’t describe you, know there are plenty of law and criminal justice scholarships out there for you to explore to help you cover the costs of your degree.

Prize: Scholarships come in varying amounts, but the maximum is $7,000 annually.

Eligibility: This award is open to students who will be enrolled full-time in an accredited law school in the United States in 2010-2011. Applicants must have a commitment to advancing the civil rights of Latinos through law. Financial need, past achievements, and the potential for achievement will be considered.

Deadline: September 30, 2010

Required Material: Those interested in the scholarship must complete the MALDEF Law School Scholarship Application (available for download online) and submit a current resume, personal statement that details a history of service to the Latino community and the applicant’s background, and two letters of recommendation. Current law school students should also submit their most recent law school transcripts.

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

In response to recent criticisms of for-profit colleges, the U.S. Department of Education announced a rule today that will cut off federal aid to those schools that leave students with loan debts they are unable to handle once they receive their degrees and certificates. The new “gainful employment” rule would also penalize those programs with the lowest loan-repayment rates, meaning for-profit colleges will be more on the hook to make sure those enrolled in their programs are being prepared for the job search and for entering the workforce.

The for-profit sector currently accounts for less than 10 percent of total enrollments but about 25 percent of federal financial aid disbursements. Congress has also been looking at the issue this summer, with some legislators concerned by the large amounts of debt students were being saddled with at some for-profit colleges when compared to the comparably low salaries they could expect to receive upon completion of those programs, or the difficulty they may have finding work at all. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, officials with the Education Department said this was a way to both protect students and taxpayers, as the measure could help prevent both groups from incurring the high costs of student-loan defaults. 

According to the article, the new rule would consider the number of borrowers repaying their federal student loans against the ratio of total student loan debt to average earnings. About 5 percent of for-profit programs nationwide may be affected by the new rule, and thus would become ineligible for federal aid. About 55 percent on the cusp of ineligibility might need to become more forthright with potential students about excessive borrowing. The new rule doesn’t go as far as the Education Department had initially proposed; that first proposal would have cut federal aid to those programs where a majority of students’ loan payments exceeded 8 percent of the lowest quarter of students’ expected earnings over 10 years of repayment, according to The Chronicle.

Most for-profit schools do serve an important purpose, especially for students changing careers or looking for a flexible alternative. If you’re interested in a career college, just make sure you do your research. There are programs out there that are accredited, or that meet a set of standards from the Education Department, and qualified to give you an advantage in the job market.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As more high schools across the country begin offering students alternatives to Advanced Placement like dual enrollment partnerships with local community colleges, the College Board, which offers the exams, has been forced to take a look at the AP program in order to make it more relevant to the college-bound.

One of the things the AP provider hopes to do is make sure the high school courses do a better job of preparing students for college-level work. As competition for enrollment increases, especially at the most selective colleges and universities, more schools are becoming stricter about awarding credit for students’ efforts on AP exams. For students interested in those schools, there remains little incentive to sign up for an AP course over a college course elsewhere, as one of the main draws of AP is the fact that you’ll start your freshman year of college with some credits under your belt. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the test provider will work to improve communication between the program and colleges, to both make sure students’ credits are being accepted and to make the courses look more like college-level classes.

Another criticism of even those educators who take on AP courses has been that teachers focus less on looking at topics in an in-depth way, and more on covering the maximum content possible so that students are ready for the AP exams at the end of the class. With more students failing AP exams, particularly in the Southern states, teachers and students are under even more pressure. Such statistics make signing up for dual enrollment, where there may not be a similar comprehensive exam at the end, more desirable, especially for those students who may not be good test-takers. The College Board also plans to make the AP program more flexible by adding computer-based testing dates and making sure students receive their scores earlier.

So what are the benefits? For those who may not have the option of dual enrollment or who may feel more comfortable in a high school classroom, AP is a good option to get some exposure to college-level work. With more than 30 AP courses to choose from, high school students may also be able to take those classes that they’re more interested in, improving their chances of doing well on the final exam. (This must mean your high school has a wide variety of AP offerings, of course.) Finally, if you are confident in  your abilities to do well on an AP exams and you do well in a course that will give you the opportunity to transfer college credits to a two- or four-year school, you’ll be getting college-level instruction at a deep discount.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A big selling point of attending a community college is the money you’ll save when compared to the tuition and fees at a public or private four-year college or university. If you’re one of the many students out there with plans to transfer to a four-year institution once your two years are up at the local community college, there are a few things you should know when you’re looking to transfer. The credits you collected at your two-year college may not all transfer to your intended four-year school.

A recent article in the Indianapolis Star took a look at the trouble students at Ivy Tech Community College have been having when looking to transfer to the state’s public colleges, namely Indiana and Purdue universities. What they’ve found is that the public colleges aren’t accepting credits for many of the core classes that make up four-year colleges’ general education requirements.

According to the Indianapolis Star, there are many reasons why credits may be difficult to transfer. For one, there are no across-the-board standards when it comes to what constitutes a first-year English course, for example. It is then up to the discretion of the four-year schools’ administrators to decide whether or not to accept those credits. Credits that don’t transfer must be repeated on the four-year college level, which means students may not be saving as much money as they thought and take longer to graduate than they had initially planned. As most two- and four-year colleges don’t have standard numbering systems when it comes to listing courses in the college catalogs, it may also be difficult for students to know which level English course they should take in the first place to make sure they’re taking transferable credits.

There is no easy way to make sure the community college classes you’re taking will transfer to the four-year university of your choice, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. We’ve come up with some tips to help.

  • If you know where you’d like to transfer early on, develop a relationship with administrators at that four-year college. The more you know about the kinds of college classes that do transfer, the more informed you’ll be when it comes to picking courses out of the catalog at your community college.
  • If you’re flexible about where you’d like to go when you’re ready to transfer, consider the partnerships many community colleges have with state universities. Many two-year schools have long histories as feeder schools, making it easier to transfer credits from one place to another.
  • Know who to talk to, both at the community college and four-year college level. Often, department heads are the ones who approve transfer credits or who know about the kinds of courses that would meet requirements.
  • If you’re denied transfer credit, petition. Many schools will reconsider transfer credit decisions if you give them more information about a particular course, such as evidence of assignments and exams or syllabi. Four-year colleges just want you to be ready to transfer, so show them that you are.

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by Agnes Jasinski

As if you needed more reason to study abroad, a recent study looking at 10 years worth of data shows that students who take educational experiences overseas have higher graduation rates once they’re back on their campuses. Not surprisingly, the study also found that those students also have a greater appreciate of cultures outside of their own once they’re back from their time abroad, and see the world in the a broader context.

The project comes from the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative, or GLOSSARI. It looked at data from 35 institutions of higher education and more than 19,000 students across Georgia since 2000. Study abroad students were compared to a “control group” of nearly 18,000 students who matched those students studying abroad when it came to variables like socioeconomic status and where they were in their college careers, among other characteristics. Among the findings:

  • The six-year graduation rate for study abroad students was about 88.7 percent, compared to 83.4 percent for those in the control group.
  • The four-year graduation rate for study abroad students was 49.6 percent, compared to 42.1 percent for those in the control group.
  • Four-year graduation rates for African-American students who studied abroad were 31 percent higher than for those African-American students in the control group. (According to an article in Inside Higher Ed on the study, it is important to note that minorities are still underrepresented in study abroad programs; about 81.8 percent of American students studying abroad are white.)
  • GPAs were higher among those studying abroad as well. Those who went abroad had average cumulative GPAs of 3.30, compared to 3.06 among those in the control group.

This doesn’t mean your grades will automatically improve once you study abroad, or that you’ll get back on track to graduate on time if you head overseas for a while. But it may mean that even those students at risk of dropping out of college may benefit from study abroad.

Study abroad isn’t always painted in a positive light. Some critics say it’s a distraction from academics, and more of a vacation for college students than a learning experience. Sure, living in a foreign country for a semester or even just a summer probably has perks that have nothing to do with your job as a student. But there is value in the experience. You’ll be forced to become more independent and hone new skills, have the opportunity to learn a new language, and even give your resume a boost. Have you studied abroad? What would you say to college students considering going abroad?

Posted Under:

GPA , Study Abroad

Tags: GPA , Graduation Rates , Study Abroad

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AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship

Deadline Approaching for this Week's Scholarship of the Week

July 19, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

One of the more popular scholarship categories is “scholarships by type,” or awards based on specific student characteristics, like a commitment to community service or a passion for poetry. An expanding category has been scholarships for students with disabilities. As access to education in general has improved for students with disabilities over the years, so has the access to resources that can help pay for those educations. This week’s Scholarship of the Week is the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship, which targets students who use wheelchairs.

As part of this scholarship, you’ll be asked to write an essay on one of two topics provided by AmeriGlide. The first asks which area of your school you think would benefit from improved accessibility and how you would improve it; the second asks which area of your school already has excellent accessibility and why. If you don’t fit the criteria for this award but feel you’d be eligible for a different disability scholarship, browse through the information we have posted on scholarships of that type or try a scholarship search. There are awards out there based on any and all student characteristics. It’s up to you to put in the work to seek them out and apply!

Prize: $500

Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited two- or four-year college, use a manual or electric wheelchair, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and be a legal resident of the United States or hold a valid student visa.

Deadline: July 31, 2010

Required Material: Those interested in the scholarship must complete an online application form, which includes an essay of a minimum of 500 words on one of the prompts provided by the scholarship provider. Applicants will also be able to submit two character references once they complete their online applications.

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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