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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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Sixty-Two Schools Meet Students’ Full Financial Need

by Alexis Mattera

Wouldn't it be amazing if that super expensive college you were just accepted into said, "Hey there, new friend – thanks for all your hard work saving, scrimping and scholarship searching but we’ll take it from here, financially"? It can happen...kind of.

When a student fills out the FAFSA, a figure known as the expected family contribution (EFC) – the amount a student or family can reasonably spend on one year of college – is calculated using family income, number of children, amount of assets and other factors. There is sometimes a gap between the EFC and the final cost of college but 62 schools have reported to U.S. News that, on average, 100 percent of their admitted full-time undergraduate students' financial need was met for fall 2010 by some combination of aid (work-study, merit scholarships, grants, subsidized loans, etc.).

Now, we're not going to list every single college and university that reported these claims (you can check out U.S. News' site for that) but we will say that some well-known schools like Yale, Vanderbilt and Grinnell – the latter of which has never failed to meet full need for a student in 20 years, according to financial aid director Arnold Woods – have made the cut. Way to go and keep up the good work!


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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?


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Change the World with This Scholarship of the Week!

Microsoft Imagine Cup Deadline Approaching

February 20, 2012

Change the World with This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

The world’s toughest problems will be addressed one solution at a time. But who will lead the change? Compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup and you’ll join thousands of high school juniors and seniors from around the world who are stepping up to the challenge of global change...and the chance to earn $25,000 for college.

For the Imagine Cup, students can choose from three team competitions — Software Design, Game Design: Xbox/Windows, and Game Design: Phone. If you are already signed up to compete in one of the three competitions, you can increase your chances to share your world-changing ideas by signing up to compete in the Kinect Fun Labs, Windows Metro Style App, Windows Azure or Windows Phone challenges.

There are multiple deadlines approaching so be sure to check out the Imagine Cup website for more details. Get involved, stand out, raise your skills and find additional scholarship opportunities through our free scholarship search!


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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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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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Minimesters Provide International Experience in Less Time

by Alexis Mattera

Spending a semester abroad may not be feasible for students with rigid major requirements or ones who are aiming to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible to save on tuition. Instead of having students miss out on what could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, schools like the University of Maryland are offering truncated programs called minimesters to foster international travel.

This winter alone, UMD’s study abroad office offered 42 short-term programs to destinations including Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand with courses covering government and politics, art history, architecture, education, geography and more. These trips are usually about three weeks in length and students (including the article’s author, Elizabeth Roberts, who completed two minimesters to Chile and Brazil) have reported it’s plenty of time to immerse themselves in the culture without sacrificing school, work and other obligations back home. This time abroad even causes some students to alter their educational directions: One UMD senior's minimester in South Africa last winter sparked an interest in health issues and has since translated into an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

Do you think a minimester is a good way to interact with the age of globalization without compromising progress toward graduation?


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Passport to Practicality

Smith Workshops Move Beyond the Books, Into Real Life

February 7, 2012

Passport to Practicality

by Alexis Mattera

Adjusting to life in college can take some time but once you’ve mastered the campus layout, course catalog and dining options, will you be ready for the world beyond those hallowed halls? Many students are not but the skills taught in a pair of programs at Smith College could change that.

The women’s college in Northampton, Mass., launched two programs – “Passport to Life at Smith” and “Passport to Life After Smith” – to address what students need to succeed on and off campus and since their debut in 2010, hundreds of students at various stages in their college careers have signed up. From being more assertive in class and emailing professors appropriately to acing job interviews and changing tires (and looking cool in the process), the courses offer tips every student would find helpful, not just Smith’s female student population. “These are skills that any college student would benefit from,” said Jessica Bacal, director of Smith’s Center for Work and Life and the creator of the workshop series. “Just cause you’re a guy it doesn’t mean you’re going to go into a meeting and feel really comfortable giving your opinion even though it’s different from someone else’s opinion.”

If there are any Smithies in the audience, we’d love to hear your firsthand experiences with these programs. To everyone else, what do you think of colleges teaching courses that go beyond traditional classroom offerings? Would you take one or do you feel real-life experience is preparation enough?


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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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Love Math? Check Out This "Mega" Scholarship of the Week!

Moody's Mega Math Challenge Registration Deadline is February 24th

February 6, 2012

Love Math? Check Out This "Mega" Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

Are you good with numbers and also looking to find some money for college? If so, Moody’s Mega Math Challenge – and our latest Scholarship of the Week – is the best of both worlds.

Moody's Mega Math (M3) Challenge is an Internet-based, applied math contest for high school juniors and seniors. Participating teams are required to independently solve an open-ended, applied math-modeling problem focused on a real-world issue in 14 hours and winners receive scholarships totaling $100,000. Up to two teams of three to five high school students from each school are eligible to participate and will be judged on the approach and methods used and the creativity displayed in problem-solving and math-modeling.

Teams must have a teacher complete the online registration and select a Challenge day (March 3rd or March 4th) by February 24th at 6:00 p.m. EST. For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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