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A Step Beyond Defriending

Saint Augustine's Sued by Student Barred from Commencement

July 12, 2011

A Step Beyond Defriending

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re unhappy and you know it, do not take to Facebook.

This is advice Roman Caple could have used a few months back when he was barred from commencement exercises because of something he posted on Saint Augustine’s wall. He’s still mad – suing mad, in fact: Caple is suing the North Carolina school for more than $10,000 in damages.

Caple’s legal complaint accuses Saint Augustine’s of breach of contract, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims that he has incurred extreme mental anguish and distress, including bouts of uncontrollable crying, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, loss of confidence and difficulty transitioning from a college student to a professional. Saint Augustine’s is standing by its decision for now.

Do you think Caple’s suit is justified or should he have just been more cognizant of what he was posting? Did Saint Augustine’s go too far in disciplining Caple or did its response fit the infraction?


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The Good News and Bad News About State Aid for Students

by Alexis Mattera

There’s good news and bad news regarding state aid for students. The good: State financial aid for college students, including grants, work-study and loans, rose by nearly 4 percent last year. The bad: Just about half of the states surveyed cut need-based grants, even as demand for financial aid increased.

The data – from a report by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs – also revealed a 1-percent decline in overall state higher education spending and more money spent on need-based grants versus the amount spent on merit-based grants. While this means some students have access to resources that will help them complete college and bolster the economy, not all students are benefiting. Ohio, Alaska, Michigan, Hawaii and Utah have cut need-based grant funding by as much as 66 percent and in Georgia, lower award levels have been implemented for the HOPE Scholarship. And what about California and Washington, where financial aid increased? They’ve seen an increase in student-aid applications but cannot honor all requests because they have run out of money.

Experts view these findings as positive overall but are proceeding with “cautious optimism.” Do you agree or disagree with the actions taken thus far?


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Starting Salaries Increase for 2011 Grads

by Alexis Mattera

Attention recent college grads: You may be able to pay down those student loans a bit sooner than expected!

According to the annual Salary Survey by National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates from the Class of 2011 shows a 4.8 percent starting salary bump over last year’s graduates. The increase was seen across most disciplines including engineering, liberal arts and social sciences, though 5 percent more 2010 graduates were able to find jobs than their 2011 counterparts. With approximately $2,357 more before taxes (this year’s grads will average $51,018 to last year’s average of $48,661), new grads will have enough for a few months of rent, some padding to a savings account or, yes, a way to make a dent in those loans.

Recent grads, are you happy about this news? Soon-to-be grads, are you hopeful the salary figures will continue to increase until you finish college?


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UConn's New President Donates $100K for Scholarship

by Alexis Mattera

When most people start a new job, it takes a while for them to find their way and perfectly arrange their tchotchkes before they feel truly comfortable. Not Susan Herbst: She took over as president of the University of Connecticut just 22 days ago but she’s already made a huge impact on campus and beyond.

Herbst, the former executive vice chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and her husband, marketing consultant Douglas Hughes, have announced they will donate $100,000 to create a scholarship for needy UConn students pursuing degrees in the arts and humanities. "In these difficult times, UConn desperately needs increased private funding of student scholarships, faculty research, and building projects in order to become the top flagship university the state of Connecticut and its citizens deserve," she said in a statement.

The aptly-named Susan Herbst and Douglas Hughes Family Scholarship will be based on academic achievement and need and will be awarded for the first time next spring. Does this financial aid opportunity have you considering spending your college years in the Constitution State?


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Illinois Erases High School Writing Exam

by Alexis Mattera

Assessing students’ writing skills takes a keen eye, an open mind and – sometimes – a lot of red ink. In an effort to save some green, however, Illinois has eliminated its last standardized state writing exam.

The writing assessments for elementary and middle school students were dropped last year but now Illinois high school juniors no longer will be tested on writing skills. Though the move is saving the state about $2.4 million, educators are worried it will impact the focus on and resources for writing skills in Illinois classrooms. They speculate reading and math will take precedence, as these two subjects are used to measure public schools’ performance under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to Barbara Kato, director of the Chicago Area Writing Project, there has already been a shift: When the state nixed the elementary and middle school grade school writing tests last year, requests for teacher training in writing instruction plummeted.

Oregon and Missouri have also eliminated writing-centric exams but others, like Washington, have managed to preserve funding despite serious budget deficits. What do you think about Illinois’ educational editing? Do you think eliminating the writing exam will be doing a disservice to students?


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History Proficiency Low in America

by Alexis Mattera

Do you know who becomes our nation’s leader if the current president and vice president should both die? Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” Not sure of the answers? Neither are American students.

According to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test – an exam that measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, history, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics and geography – American students just aren’t “getting” American History. The results revealed high school seniors have the worst grasp on the subject with an 87-percent failure rate, followed by eighth graders (82 percent) and fourth graders (78 percent). These marks should be cause for parent-teacher conferences...except when the CBS affiliate in Boiling Springs, South Carolina asked locals some sample exam questions, not one person could answer how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court or name the Chief Justice and only one person could name South Carolina's two U.S. Senators and who American patriots fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Sure, not everyone is a history major and most people don’t have careers requiring the recollection of these facts on a daily basis but being informed about the country you call home is never a bad thing. Check out some of the questions here then tell us what you would do to increase these unsatisfactory scores.


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Department of Ed Demands Special Reports for Tuition Increases

by Alexis Mattera

Do you get a headache when thinking about rising college tuition and fees? You’re not alone...but your company may surprise you.

Yesterday morning, administrators at more than 500 colleges reached for metaphorical Advil bottles when the Department of Education decreed special reports detailing tuition and student fee increases must be submitted to the government for review. Schools cited include public institutions Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Alabama State University and roughly two-thirds of California State University's 23 campuses for tuition hikes of 38 percent, 46 percent, 43 percent and between 37 and 46 percent, respectively, over the last three years as well as for-profit colleges from DeVry University, Education Management and Corinthian Colleges. In addition to explaining why costs have gone up so dramatically, the schools must also discuss how they plan to address the rising prices.

Do you think these new measures will help students make more informed college choices?


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Standardized Test ACTually May Not Predict College Success

by Alexis Mattera

Are standardized test scores and collegiate success one in the same? Not necessarily, a new study says.

The National Bureau of Economic Research’s latest findings reveal that while the English and math sections of the ACT are "highly predictive" of college success, the segments unique to this exam – science and reading – have "little or no" ability to help college admissions committees predict whether applicants will succeed. Because of this, the validity of the ACT as a whole is in question because colleges typically rely on the composite score rather than individual subject scores. "By introducing noise that obscures the predictive validity of the ACT exam, the reading and science tests cause students to be inefficiently matched to schools, admitted to schools that may be too demanding — or too easy — for their levels of ability," the study says.

ACT refutes these findings, stating it has "decades of research supporting the predictive validity and application" of its scoring in college enrollment, performance and retention and is in the process of reviewing the study’s methodology and findings. For those of you who have taken the ACT, do you agree with the study or the testmaker? Do you find high school performance is a better indicator of college success than any standardized test out there?


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Fed Law Requires College Net Price Calculators, Experts Question Accuracy

by Alexis Mattera

How much will it cost to attend the school of your dreams? The federal government hopes its new law will make that question easier to answer but higher education experts have their doubts where accuracy is concerned.

By this October, the federal government will require all U.S. higher education institutions to offer net price calculators on their websites so prospective college students can easily compare attendance costs earlier in their college searches. Users will be asked questions about their financial and academic backgrounds and their answers – and the calculator’s tallies of tuition, fees, books, housing and food, minus scholarships and grants – will reveal the net price to attend that particular school. Though many experts are glad students will have access to this information, accuracy is a concern. Certain factors won’t be taken into consideration because direct student-to-school contact has been eliminated; for example, Washington University is willing to adjust financial aid packages if a parent loses their job and this might not be reflected in the calculators’ answers.

It’s likely the law will be revised to make side-by-side comparison more accurate before the calculators are implemented - read more about the net price calculators in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch - but would you use this new technology or do you think it’s still too early to glean accurate information?


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Facebook College Group Etiquette

by Alexis Mattera

You’ve been accepted. You’ve paid your deposit. You’ve stocked up on apparel emblazoned with your future school’s name. What’s next? For many students today, it’s joining their new school’s Facebook page to share their excitement, concerns and any other feelings about their upcoming postsecondary experience. Sure, some students think that what they say or do on this page won’t matter because it’s “just Facebook” but others – like incoming Wake Forest freshman Nicole Echeverria – will tell you that being “that guy” or “that girl” won't help your cause.

Echeverria recently penned a piece for USA Today Education detailing her experiences on her school’s Class of 2015 page and the recent high school graduate has created some pretty good guidelines for other incoming freshmen to follow online. Metaphorical pinkies up!

  • Introducing yourself with a few simple facts (name, hometown, prospective major, interests, etc.) and initiating conversations with other admitted students is a great way to make friends before setting foot on campus in the fall. Meeting new people can be difficult for some; breaking the ice online makes the process that much easier.
  • Asking questions about anything and everything can bring about some excellent insight about the coming year. You could find a mentor on campus, seek out help filling out housing forms or see who else is going to a meet-up for students in your major.
  • Limit your comments and likes to a reasonable amount. Chances are, other members of the group have notifications sent to their inboxes and if they see your name on each and every one, you can bet they’ll want to delete you from all friend lists – virtual and real.
  • Feel free to friend others, but don’t do so with reckless abandon. If you notice you and another person have been commenting on all the same threads, send them a friend request with a short message noting this. Who knows...you could have just met your new roommate!

First collegiate impressions are no longer made on move-in day but instead in the months leading up to it. How are you putting your best foot forward online?


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