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The Recession: College’s Sorting Hat?

by Alexis Mattera

When the recession hit in 2008, higher education officials wondered how – not if – enrollment numbers would be impacted. Three years later, the damage has been revealed...and it’s not what anyone anticipated.

In a new report conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment of traditional-age, first-time college students rose to 2.135 million in 2010, a 6.8-percent increase from 1.997 million in 2006. Enrollment at four-year public and private colleges remained relatively stable, as did retention and persistence rates, while more students than ever have enrolled in two-year colleges, from 41.7 percent in 2006 to 44.5 in 2009. The report suggests these students either 1. might have chosen a costlier school in a better economy or 2. would have otherwise joined the work force after high school. "The news of our demise is greatly exaggerated," Don Hossler, the center's executive director and a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington, says of four-year institutions in general. "I was expecting more dramatic data, and thus far, the changes are not that dramatic." He does, however, go on to say that despite the encouraging findings, the recession's impact on college choices and educational paths may take years to emerge completely.

The report, "National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession," is the first in a series of analyses that the National Student Clearinghouse plans to release in the coming months. Given what you’ve seen or personally experienced, do you feel the results are accurate?


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PayScale’s Best-Paying College Majors

by Alexis Mattera

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, it costs approximately $80,000 in tuition plus expenses to earn a bachelor’s degree from a public four-year college and about $140,000 to gain the same credentials from a private nonprofit four-year institution. There are certainly ways to find this kind of fundinggrants, student loans and, hello, scholarships! – but will your major of choice be worth the money? If you select one of the fields included on PayScale’s list of best-paying college majors, it is decidedly so.

The annual list is dominated by engineering, with seven of the top 10 in branches of the field, while the other top-earning degrees include physics, applied mathematics and computer science:

Petroleum Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $97,900
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $155,000

Chemical Engineering

  • Staring Median Pay: $64,500
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $109,000

Electrical Engineering

  • Staring Median Pay: $61,300
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000

Materials Science and Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $60,400
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000

Aerospace Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $60,700
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $102,000

Computer Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $61,800
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

Physics

  • Starting Median Pay: $49,800
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

Applied Mathematics

  • Starting Median Pay: $52,600
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $98,600

Computer Science

  • Starting Median Pay: $56,600
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,900

Nuclear Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $65,100
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,800

Does this list have you reconsidering your college path or will you stick to your intended major?


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Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

Rising Costs Have Students Skimping on Textbooks

August 12, 2011

Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, you’ve probably heard the saying “Friends, school, sleep: Pick two.” If you haven’t, it means you won’t have time to do everything you want...and sometimes need. While there are students who can balance all three, they have another difficult decision to make at the beginning of each semester: tuition, food or books?

According to survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven out of 10 undergraduate students reported not buying one or more textbooks because the cost was too high. How high? The Government Accountability Office estimated textbooks cost a quarter of the average state college tuition (three-fourths at community colleges) and the U.S. PIRG revealed textbook prices have risen faster than overall inflation with a 22-percent uptick in the past four years. For students, this means some serious money management is in order. "Generally what we get from students is 'Yeah, it's only a few dollars, but it could be my dinner,'" said Jessica Bruning, a student at Iowa State University. "It adds up pretty quickly." The survey also revealed four out of five students said new editions prevented them from purchasing cheaper used books and half cited bundles or custom editions as the culprits for increased costs.

The good news – yes, there is some! – is that groups like Textbook Rebellion, Campus Progress and even individual professors are doing their part to keep textbook costs from negatively impacting students’ college experiences. "Better options are out there," said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs. "Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students." Have you had to choose between tuition, food or books? What are you doing to keep your college costs in check?


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Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

by Alexis Mattera

If you think college textbooks have been in the news more than usual lately, you’re right: Classes are starting up again at many college campuses and students are looking for any ways they can to keep their college costs in check. When it comes to books, there are plenty of options to do so without skimping...but between work, interning and moving in, do you have the time to research each individual option to find the best deal? Yes, actually, you do.

The amount of textbook options available to students today is staggering – new, used, rent, digital, rent digital – but students trying to get the most bang for their educational buck now have some much-needed assistance, the Chronicle reports. For example, Amazon (which recently launched its own digital textbook rental service) has created Amazon Student, a free iPhone application designed to help students compare book prices on Amazon as a whole via barcode snapshots. There’s also BookSavr.com, a site formed by two Yalies in the vein of Kayak and Orbitz: The site shows prices from a variety of retailers – online, the campus bookstore and other physical booksellers close to the school's New Haven campus – all in one place.

Not to be outdone, nearly 100 campus bookstores have added research features to their sites through the Harvard graduate-created Verba. Similar to BookSavr.com, Verba displays prices for books at the store, on Amazon, on Half.com, through rental programs, etc. Some campus stores even include signs on each shelf reminding smartphone-wielding customers about the online comparison tool.

Have you had the opportunity to try any of these options when buying your textbooks? We’d love to hear firsthand feedback!


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Could College Culture Facilitate Gender Segregation by Major?

by Alexis Mattera

Next time you sit down in your favorite major class, take a look around. Are your classmates primarily male or female...and why? That depends: According to a new study, the culture of your school could be fostering gender segregation by major.

Authored by Ann L. Mullen and Jayne Baker, an associate professor of sociology and a doctoral student in sociology, respectively, at the University of Toronto, the study found that while college promoting liberal arts study have more students majoring in fields traditionally associated with majors of the opposite sex, “highly gendered” colleges – those with few tenured female faculty members, exceptionally small numbers of male undergraduates, and NCAA Division III football teams, for example – generally have higher levels of male and female segregation by major. The study also revealed it’s possible that culture of these schools influence "the options that become more thinkable and unthinkable for students as they choose their field of study" and that "gender segregation cuts across all types of institutions" and does not vary based on institutional selectivity.

While there are certainly other factors to consider (read more about Mullen and Baker’s study here), their findings are something to think about. Does your school sound like one of those described in the study? If so, have you noticed gender segregation by major?


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College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of ways students and their parents can pay for college – at Scholarships.com, we’re familiar with nearly 3 million options – and many begin socking away funds early on. As admirable as this timely planning is, a new study shows it won’t come close to covering the ever-rising cost of higher education.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments has revealed that while 67 percent of parents surveyed have put money into some sort of college fund this year, current and expected savings project the typical American family will only be able to pay for 16 percent of college costs when the time comes. Why? Many factors contribute, like the less-than-stellar economy and existing student loan payments (more than half of parents with children under five still have outstanding balances) but perhaps the hardest-hitting element is the colleges' steep price tags: Over the past five years alone, college costs have jumped 26 percent.

This news may sound bleak but families are still finding ways to afford school without going into debt...or having their children graduate with a mountain of it. More parents are asking their kids to work part-time, commute to save on room and board, opt for state schools over private ones and take additional credits - all to keep costs in check. These are all excellent options to defray ballooning education costs but don’t forget scholarships and grants – aka free money for college! Just like saving, it’s important to start searching for scholarships early and often. No time’s better than the present – complete a free scholarship search today!


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Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

Will It Flourish or Falter Without Steve Jobs?

August 26, 2011

Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

by Alexis Mattera

You may be pro-PC or a Linux lover but you have to give Steve Jobs some credit for not only the projects he’s helped spearhead during his time at Apple but also the personal emphasis he’s put on higher education initiatives. Now that Jobs has resigned as Apple’s CEO, many are wondering if and how the company will keep its collegiate focus.

Apple has been involved in higher education since the company’s early days with what’s now called the University Executive Forum, an advisory panel of top college officials who get early looks at products and a chance to influence design. For example, prior to the iPod’s debut, several schools experimented with the devices and their feedback prompted Apple to create iTunesU, a free service designed to store and stream audio and video files for university courses. The company also offers many incentives to college students, like sizeable discounts on computers and bonus iTunes gift cards...but will it all continue?

Despite new CEO Tim Cook’s responsiveness to and interest in higher ed, some college officials are concerned about what a Jobs-less Apple may mean. (Perhaps they're remembering when Apple forced Jobs out in 1985 and the company paid less attention to colleges.) Do you share in these concerns or do you think the culture Jobs has fostered will withstand the test of time?


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Clipping Coupons for College?

Groupon and NLU Offer Discount to Boost Student Interest

September 6, 2011

Clipping Coupons for College?

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you’re in the market for discounted feather extensions or oil changes, odds are pretty high there’s a Groupon for what you seek...but what about reduced-rate college tuition?

The Chicago Tribune reported National-Louis University is offering a Groupon today for 57-percent off a three-credit graduate-level introduction to teaching course at its Chicago campus. (Regular tuition for the course is $2,232 but Groupon will offer it for $950.) According to Groupon’s communications director Julie Mossler, this is the first time an academic university has used the website as an effort to boost student interest. "There are all kinds of factors in the K-12 world that are really discouraging teachers and people seeking teaching degrees," said Jocelyn Zivin, NLU’s vice president of marketing and communications. "We'd like (potential students) to understand what the realities are, whether you are committed to this profession...and see if you have what it takes."

Every little bit of tuition assistance does help these days but what do you think of NLU and Groupon’s deal? Is it something that you think other schools should consider offering as well?


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Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

by Alexis Mattera

It can be difficult for prospective college students and their parents to visit the campuses they’re interested in when classes are in session so instead, tours are often scheduled on weekends or between semesters. Though this may be more convenient, it’s harder for the tour takers to get a true feel for the school they may one day call their alma mater...unless their tour is taking place at Bradley University.

Though colleges have long employed virtual tours, Bradley could be the first to provide a complementary iPad application during in-person campus tours. Jim Ferolo, an associate professor and chair of Bradley’s interactive media department who helped come up with the idea, said the app is meant to give students a fuller sense of what campus life is like if they visit during off-peak hours. In addition to supplementary videos, the app suggests particular spots on campus to see depending on the data (intended majors, extracurricular interests, etc.) users input at the beginning of the tour, all of which are routed to the tour guides’ iPads to best customize each tour. Ferolo said the app is not meant to replace the traditional campus tours at Bradley but his department will track how prospective students use the application so it can be improved – possibly with on-the-fly likes and ratings – down the line.

Sounds pretty cool to us but what do you think? Would you be interested in using an app like Bradley's on a campus tour or would you rather get a feel for a school sans technology?


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College Presidents Personally Welcome Students to Campus

by Alexis Mattera

The past few weeks have been busy ones on college campuses. Students have been moving in, starting classes and getting to know the lay of the land at their new homes away from home and at some schools, the welcome wagons have been driven by none other than the institutions’ presidents.

Gone are the days of college presidents making official speeches and heading straight back to their offices: Sure, they still spend plenty of time behind their desks (some even Facebooking and tweeting!) but today, presidents are opting to get more involved. Just how immersed are they in campus life? Well, the nice man recently spotted bagging textbooks at the University of Maryland was President Wallace D. Loh and the gent playing a few games of knock-out on Catholic University’s new outdoor basketball court was President John Garvey. Presidents at the University of Kentucky, UPenn and GWU were also seen around their respective campuses doing everything from lugging boxes up residence hall stairs to spending time with student volunteers.

College students, has your president become equally accessible? High schoolers, would you be more inclined to attend a college where the president and other administrators resembled friends rather than figureheads?


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