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Muchas Felicidades, Excelencia in Education

Nonprofit Campaigns to Improve College Graduation Rate Among Hispanics

September 8, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Right now, a mere 12 percent of all college graduates are of Hispanic descent. Those stats are no bien, if you ask me, but Excelencia in Education is poised to do something about it today when it unveils several nationwide plans to improve college completion among Hispanics.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Excelencia in Education says that 50 groups will be joining the campaign; the official policy document will be released in March. "We know everyone has to increase their numbers, but we have so much farther to go," Deborah A. Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia, said of the Hispanic population. Santiago knows her stuff: The policy brief Excelencia will release today states that young adults who are Hispanic are less likely to be enrolled in college than are other young adults and in 2008, the college-going rate for Hispanic high-school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 was 37 percent and for all 18- to 24-years-olds, the proportion of Hispanic people enrolled in college was just 26 percent.

Is it possible to increase these numbers? Santiago and her team obviously think so, as does President Obama, who has promised the U.S. will be the world leader in overall college-degree attainment by 2020. To reach that goal, Excelencia says, 3.3 million more Hispanic people than are now projected to complete college would have to earn degrees in the next 10 years. Excelencia will also track the college-completion progress of black and white students on an annual basis in addition to their work with Hispanics, using this year’s the statistical report as a baseline.

We know Scholarships.com is visited by students of many ages, locales and ethnicities so we’d like to hear what you think regarding this matter. What do you think of Excelencia in Education’s plan? Obama’s goal?


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An Apple a Day...

Students and Staff Receive More Than the Daily Fruit Requirement

September 9, 2010

An Apple a Day...

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in early April, the iPad has had quite the effect on consumers – even the most PC-loyal ones – around the world. The student population is no exception and just as they use the iPad and other Apple products every day on and around campus – this year, all Seton Hall undergrads received an iPad, while Stanford is bestowing the device on its incoming medical students – many colleges are even integrating the device beyond their curricula.

Eric Stoller of Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U. posted a piece last night where he followed up on a recent tweet from UNCP’s Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Becca Fick. In 140 characters or less, Fick said her office was getting – her words – a fleet of iPads…and while that particular fleet turned out to be just four (cuatro, quatre, vier, etc.), the department is making good use of its new quartet in conferences, student voice assessment and social media management, among other fields.

Have you noticed iPads popping up more around your school and, if so, how and by whom are they being used? If not, do you think wider usage would be a benefit or a burden?


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A ‘W’ for Women

For the First Time, Females Earn Majority of Doctorates

September 14, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

I’ve been hearing the Spice Girls on the radio a lot lately but before you question my taste in music, I’m thinking the stations had to have gotten wind of this next piece of girl power-infused news: Data released today show that in 2008-2009, women earned the majority of doctoral degrees in the U.S. for the first time ever.

These numbers shouldn’t be surprising given that female enrollment has grown at all levels of higher education (thanks in large part to scholarship funding for both undergraduates and graduates), but the doctoral degree arena has been male-dominated until now. Though the female doctorate majority is slight at 50.4 percent, in 2000 women were earning just 44 percent of doctoral degrees; progress like this in just under a decade is hard to ignore.

The probability a new doctorate recipient being female depends on the field: In the study, just 22 percent of doctorates in engineering were awarded to women and 27 percent in computer science and mathematics. According to Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools (the organization that compiled and released the data), this is because the number of undergraduates majoring in these fields remains disproportionate. If it weren’t for this fact, he says, women would have surpassed men in doctoral awards already.

Inside Higher Ed presents additional details from the study here, definitely worth looking into, in my opinion...but what about yours? It doesn't matter if you're male or female, what do you think on this announcement?


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An Update on Harrisburg University’s Social Media Shutdown

Some Students Participate, Others Find Ways Around It

September 16, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

When I first heard that Harrisburg University of Science and Technology planned to block Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger from its campus wireless network this week, I wondered how it would play out. Today, I got my answer (thanks, Inside Higher Ed!).

Fact: The sites are blocked on campus. Another fact: Students are resourceful. It seems like every student carries a smartphone or iPad equipped with access to their carriers’ respective 3G networks and Harrisburg U. students who don’t have left campus to get their social media fixes via the Wi-Fi in a nearby hotel’s lobby or attempted to hack into the campus network to bypass the block. Eric Darr, the provost behind the plan, said the university never expected full abstinence but bus personal observations reveal the proportion of students participating is between 10 and 15 percent – notable because students are required to have laptops and have their computers open in class. In Darr’s eyes, the initiative has been a success because people have become more aware of the role social media plays in their lives. “This extreme media coverage in and of itself is forcing more focus on social media,” he said. “That was the whole point of this in the first place.”

The slight percentage Darr noted could have been far different if the social media ban was implemented on a residential campus (Harrisburg is nonresidential, meaning that many students live nearby instead of living in dormitories and on-campus apartments), where students were more dependent on campus networks. Plain and simple, students can log on all they want when they get home…and they have been: Gio Acosta, a junior, said that while the ban has helped him focus in class, he still gives in to the digital urge at home. “They didn’t make any rules about that,” he said.

Do we have any readers currently at Harrisburg U. out there? If so, tell us how you’ve been dealing with the ban. Are you participating? Ignoring it? Hacking your way around it?


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Playing Favorites?

Kahlenberg and Co. Discuss Legacy Preference in College Admissions

September 22, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

I used to hate Hate HATE when my brother was allowed to do something and I wasn’t because he was a boy and I was a girl. I’d stomp and sigh and eventually find something better to do but the sting of that bias stuck with me for a while. I (and I’m sure my parents) would shudder to think of my reaction had I been denied admission to the college of my choice when another candidate got in based on any other reason than merit.

Though college officials claim their preference toward alumni children is modest at best, a new book states the opposite. In Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, editor Richard D. Kahlenberg calls for a reexamination and elimination of alumni preferences now; as an advocate for class-based as opposed to race-based affirmative action, Kahlenberg also argues that with the elimination of affirmative action in several states (a shift he predicts will spread), existing biases make it “hard to justify alumni preferences when you have gotten rid of help for minorities.” One section of the book, which is a collection of research articles by scholars, journalists and lawyers, even details how much the advantage of being an alumni child has increased in the last 20 years (Princeton admitted 41.7 percent of legacy applicants in 2009 – 4.5 times the rate for non-legacies – while the legacy admit rate was only 2.8 times the rate in 1992) though they are typically are “average” academically and “under-perform” those with similar demographic backgrounds who did not receive alumni admissions preferences; there is also additional assistance for white applicants, athletes and the children of wealthy donors. Inside Higher Ed delves deeper here.

I haven’t read the book so therefore I cannot choose a side just yet, but I have to say the article has me intrigued. Getting into college (not to mention finding the money to pay for it) is competitive enough so why turn it into a steeplechase rather than the marathon it already is?


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The Common App Conundrum

Why Some Schools Still Won’t Adopt It

September 25, 2010

The Common App Conundrum

by Alexis Mattera

The college application process is already underway and for many high school seniors, this means filling out multiple applications and composing an essay for each school on their list…unless they use the Common Application. This 35-year-old document is accepted by more than 400 schools; in fact, in the 2009-2010 admissions cycle, approximately 500,000 students used the Common App. While some admissions deans sing its praises for helping to recruit more first-generation and minority students, it elicits a far less favorable response from others.

Some of the most selective schools in the country have adopted the Common App like UChicago and Columbia but there are still a number of schools averse to the idea. The Chronicle’s Eric Hoover picked the brain of Charles A. Deacon, Georgetown’s dean of admissions and a vehement opposer of the Common App. While he agrees with the Common App promotes equality, Deacon feels it is an unnecessary tool, an unwelcome symbol of homogenization in admissions and “an enabler of bad behavior.” If the school adopted the Common App, Deacon says it would likely attract 3,000 to 5,000 additional applicants but “as long as you get the diversity you need, it doesn’t matter how many applications you have.”

Some admissions staffers at schools not accepting the Common App have been asked essentially what their problem is for not accepting it. It’s a decision that shouldn’t been arrived at quickly, that’s for sure, but it seems to be one that can do more good than harm – especially since so many schools allow their applications to be submitted online and the amount of paperwork (and risk of paper cuts) is far lower. Maybe I would feel differently if I were on an admissions committee but from where I’m currently sitting, wider adoption of the Common App seems like the way to go for schools wanting to attract a more diverse pool of applicants.


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SUNY Albany Bids Adieu, Ciao and Do Svidaniya

Classics and Theater Departments Also Eliminated…But Why?

October 4, 2010

SUNY Albany Bids Adieu, Ciao and Do Svidaniya

by Alexis Mattera

Coptic, Ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit have long been considered “dead languages” but at SUNY Albany, a few more are joining that list in terms of majors. On Friday, language faculty members learned the university was ending all admissions to programs in French, Italian and Russian. Classics and theater are also being cut once current students in those programs graduate.

At least 10 tenured faculty members in language programs, 20 adjuncts and tenure-track educators were told they have two years of employment left in which to help current students finish their degrees. It came as more of a shock, however, that so many languages were being eliminated at the same time – not to mention that it was happening at a doctoral university that touts the motto of "the world within reach." How could this be happening, they wondered? University president George M. Philip cited deep, repeated budget cuts and the failure of the New York Legislature to pass legislation that would have given more control over tuition rates and the use of tuition revenue to the state's university systems.

If this news left me slack jawed, I can only imagine how faculty members in the impacted departments must be feeling. One French professor said no other university of the caliber and size of Albany has taken such drastic measures so why now and with this institution? If others are making it work, why can't Albany?


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Teachers Who Tweet

Professors Microblog to Share Info and Get News, Not Teach

October 5, 2010

Teachers Who Tweet

by Alexis Mattera

Remember how weird it was when your mom friended you on Facebook? It’s probably the same way you’d feel if your calculus professor retweeted your weekend escapades at an off-campus party. That’s an unlikely scenario but more professors are using Twitter for purposed outside the classroom, reveals research by Faculty Focus.

The report, detailed yesterday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, says 35.2 percent of 1,372 individuals surveyed – a 5 percent increase from last year – have an account on the popular microblogging site and use it to share information with colleagues and get news in real time. Though some use it for this purpose, most professors do not communicate with students via Twitter or use the site as a classroom learning tool but perhaps they should, says Reynol Junco. Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, is studying social media and found that Twitter can improve student engagement because they are more likely to continue discussion outside the classroom.

Twitter wasn’t around when I was in college but since creating an account in 2008, I have seen the ease and efficiency of sharing information and couldn’t help but wonder if the site could have impacted my academic endeavors. Sometimes I had questions even after going to my professors’ office hours, posting on class message boards and studying the material; perhaps Twitter could have provided the answers I needed in a more timely fashion.


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An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

Obama Reveals Community Colleges Integral to Recovery

October 6, 2010

An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

by Alexis Mattera

Yesterday was a big day for community college students and faculty everywhere and rightly so: Not only did a recent poll reveal four-year colleges may not be the right educational choice for all students but President Obama himself stated that two-year colleges are instrumental to our country’s economic recovery.

Yesterday’s summit was attended by more than 100 community college decision makers and was the first of its kind at the national level, thanks to Second Lady and longtime educator Jill Biden. Two-year colleges were heralded as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities – state and private – alike and a key factor to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates. The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s announcement of the Skills for America’s Future program, which will connect businesses with community colleges to help better match workers with jobs now and into the future. Obama also brought to light a Republican plan proposing to cut education spending by about 20 percent – exactly the opposite of what this country needs if it wants to become the nation with the highest college graduation rate. “We are in a fight for our future,” he added, and community colleges are crucial to boosting degrees and competing with countries that are leading in higher-education attainment.

Community colleges have gotten a bad rap over the years but in truth, they are responsible for a number of outstanding individuals, like this 20-year-old who’s concurrently attending the University of Wisconsin-Barron County and serving as his town’s mayor. Pretty impressive!


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Textbook Alternatives = Big Savings

Open Books, Rentals Preserve Students’ Funds

October 8, 2010

Textbook Alternatives = Big Savings

by Alexis Mattera

As a college student, my pockets were far from deep but they got even shallower when I stopped at the co-op to buy my books at the beginning of each semester. My wallet and I loathed the astronomical price tags (even for used copies!) with a passion because we both knew there had to be a way for me to get books and not be forced to subsist on Top Ramen until my next break. I was right…just kind of bummed it didn’t happen during my collegiate tenure.

Data from the Student Public Interest Research Group’s new survey disclose textbooks available for free online or sold in print for low cost could slash students’ textbook bills from $900 to $184 each year. Using eBooks and textbook rental services like BookRenter.com and Chegg.com can also reduce book costs by $300. Though 93 percent of students surveyed said they would rent “at least some of their textbooks,” Cerritos College student Donald Pass prefers the flexibility of open textbooks because he could read the material for free online, purchase a print copy with study aids or print it himself. (Daytona State's administration agrees and will begin offering eBook access to students this coming January.) Professors like Lon Mitchell of Virginia Commonwealth University, however, say this option is troublesome because students often bring only limited sections of text to class, making it difficult for instructors to review supplemental material in different chapters. Mitchell also said that a number of his students have resisted the online versions of the open textbooks because compared to the print versions, they felt the online text was lacking.

I hear what Mitchell is saying loud and clear but if a student can reduce their spending by up to 80 percent by using open books and textbook rentals, I have a feeling print editions are going to be seen less and less as the years go by. Students, are you utilizing eBooks and textbook rentals or are you still relying solely on hard copies you don't have to share or return? If you’re using both, is there a noticeable difference in the material quality like Mitchell said? What's your preference between these options?


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