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MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Let’s be honest, few do but if you’re interested in testing the waters, MIT will soon offer free online certification courses to outside students who complete them!

How will the interactive e-learning venture, known as MITx, work? Here’s the breakdown: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students currently enrolled at MIT as well as external learners like high school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, interact with teachers and other students globally, experience stimulated labs, participate in quizzes and take tests. Still have your doubts? MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif assures interested students, "This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT," he said. "An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

One slight catch is that although MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a “modest” fee for the certificates. (The exact amount is still undecided.) The first course will begin around spring of 2012 but MIT has yet to announce the course. Does this opportunity spark your interest? Should other prestigious institutions – Harvard, Stanford, Brown, etc. – offer similar initiatives? Let us know what you think.


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Study: E-Textbooks Saved Majority of Students Only $1

by Suada Kolovic

Despite students’ early enthusiasm toward e-books as a cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks, a new study finds that for the most part, the total savings was just $1. With publishers saving a great deal of money by not having to print textbooks and ship them out, why aren’t those savings being passed on to students?

The study, conducted over four semesters at Daytona State College, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. According to the study’s authors, the $1-dollar difference was attributed to “publisher pricing decisions” and the fact that students who opted to rent e-textbooks could not sell their materials back once the semester ended. But pricing wasn’t the only hiccup: E-books have proven to be unreliable in some classroom settings. For instance, wireless networks in classrooms where several students were using e-textbooks at once sometimes became overwhelmed and translated into no e-book access for the entire class. (For more on the study, click here.)

Even with these glitches, do you think e-textbooks in every classroom in the near future are inevitable? What steps can colleges and universities take in order to ensure publishers set up fair pricing for e-textbooks and that the students using them will have better in-class access to the materials?


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by Suada Kolovic

With the economy still in a slump, debt-ridden college students aren't alone in their financial struggles. Colleges and universities nationwide – who've had a fair share in creating insurmountable amounts of debt for the majority of students – have struggled to attract potential donors as concerns about unstable markets remain. Harvard University, however, may be the exception: An alumnus who started trading stock options from his dorm room almost 25 years ago recently donated $150 million to his alma mater for financial aid.

Hedge fund manager and Citadel Investment Group founder Kenneth Griffin’s donation (Harvard’s largest-ever gift specifically devoted to financial aid) is expected to help as many as 800 undergraduates annually. With tuition, room and board at Harvard University hovering at about $56,000, you'd assume that only students from affluent families could afford the outstanding price tag. The reality: Sixty percent of undergraduates receive financial aid from the school and pay on average just $12,000 a year. Families making up to $65,000 a year pay nothing, while those with incomes up to $150,000 pay between zero and 10 percent of their income. Griffin said he hopes to donate more to Harvard in the coming years and called for his peers to consider doing the same. "At Harvard, we've had not decades of commitment for our alumni, but centuries. It's time for my generation to step up," he said.

What do you think of Griffin's donation to Harvard – a school that already has an endowment of $32.3 billion – and not those in need directly? Is this a step in the right direction or not?


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Toddler’s F-bomb on “Modern Family” Stirs Controversy with College Club

by Suada Kolovic

Bill Cosby was right: Kids really do say the darndest things. Sometimes, they’re awesomely hilarious but at other times, they’re horribly inappropriate and then there’s that awkward moment when a child first discovers profanity. (Oh, fudge.) Once this happens, fingers are generally pointed at a rowdy uncle, that unruly park down the street or the classic scapegoat…television. And while most adults accept that a child parroting naughty words is a part of the language learning process, others disagree, like the college anti-profanity crusader who asked ABC to pull this week’s “Modern Family” episode featuring a toddler using a bleeped curse word.

The child, played by Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, actually said the word “fudge” during taping but because her mouth was obscured by pixilation, viewers got the impression that her character used the actual F-word. This isn’t good enough for the founder of the No Cussing Club, though. "Our main goal is to stop this from happening," said McKay Hatch, an 18-year-old Brigham Young University student who founded the club in 2007. "If we don't, at least ABC knows that people all over the world don't want to have a two-year-old saying the `F-bomb' on TV." Hatch is insisting his 35,000 club members complain to ABC.

Meanwhile Steven Levitan, creator and executive producer of the sitcom with Christopher Lloyd, told the Television Critics Association last week that he’s “proud and excited” about the F-word plotline. "We thought it was a very natural story since, as parents, we've all been through this," Levitan said to EW.com, but added, "I'm sure we'll have some detractors."

Do you think having a two-year-old swear like a sailor is a bit much for network television or is the No Cussing Club overreacting to what’s really nothing more than the implication of a cuss word? Let us know where you stand in the comments section.


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Top Universities Experience Drop in Applications

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior considering applying to some of the top schools in the country – MIT, Harvard, Howard, etc. – you may have a better chance of getting in than your peers did last year: According to Bloomberg reports, elite schools across the country are experiencing a slowdown or drop in applications for freshman admission after years of record increases.

Has attending the Ivies become passé? Not likely but there are a number of factors that probably played a role in the decrease, like the adoption of the Common Application, which made it easier for students to apply to multiple schools. Both Harvard and Princeton reinstated early admission policies and then there’s the stagnant economy. So while your chances of getting behind those ivy gates are slightly better, paying back huge tuition bills is a major aspect to consider. Take for instance Columbia’s $59,208 tuition; in this economic climate, students may feel that just too expensive and are opting for more reasonable choices. (For more on this story, click here.)

Does this information have you reevaluating where you’ll apply? Let us know in the comments section.


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Study Reveals College Graduates Are Ill-Prepared for the Workforce

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re like most college students, you might revel in the fact that you are now the authority when it comes to course selection. Students tend to take advantage of this new found freedom and pick classes they’ll enjoy like “Philosophy and Existential Themes” or “Psychology: Sensation vs. Perception” instead of something as uninspiring as “Introduction to Professional Writing” but employers warn that they may not adequately prepare them for the workforce.

According to a recent study conducted by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, less than 10 percent of employers thought colleges did an “excellent” job preparing students for work. The group surveyed more than 1,000 employers in various industries and found that more than half said finding qualified applicants was difficult and agreed that students should receive specific workplace training rather than broad-based education.

Following the announcement of the study’s finding, Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican and chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives higher education subcommittee, urged institutions to heed employers’ calls. "Colleges and universities are pandering to the students and giving them what they want, instead of what the employers want," she said. "I don't think you have to make a distinction between getting skills and getting an education. We need to do both."

Do you agree with the Rep. Virginia Foxx? Are colleges and universities pandering to students wants verses needs?


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Stanford Receives $150 Million Gift to Fight World Poverty

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a slump, debt-ridden college students aren’t alone in their financial struggles. Colleges and universities nationwide – who’ve had a fair share in creating insurmountable amounts of debt for the majority of students – have struggled to attract potential donors as concerns about volatile markets remain. Stanford University, however, may be the exception: A local philanthropist and his wife have donated $150 million to establish an institute aimed at alleviating global poverty.

The gift from Robert and Dorothy King includes a $100 million grant to start the Stanford Institute on Innovation in Developing Economies, which will be known as Seed. The new center will be housed in the business school and will conduct research, coordinate courses in social entrepreneurship and design, and oversee projects worldwide to alleviate poverty. "We know there are people out there who can make this world a better place, and we want to get behind them," Mr. King, a venture investor and philanthropist in Menlo Park, Calif., said in a YouTube video about the institute. The remaining $50 million will be set aside to encourage donations to Stanford programs that tackle poverty and, if all funds are matched, the total could reach $200 million.

What do you think of Mr. and Mrs. King’s donation to Stanford and not those in need directly? Is this a step in the right direction or not?


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Top 10 Majors That Will Get You Hired

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re like most college students, you expect to hear those two beautiful words that make all those sleepless nights cramming for exams the last four (possibly five) years worth it upon graduation: “You’re hired.” But with the economy in a relentless slump and the unemployment rate hovering at 9%, college students need to realize that what they choose as a major will influence their career prospects. With that being said, here are Wall Street Journal’s top 10 majors that will get you hired:

What do you think of the majors that made the list? Is your field of study listed? Do studies such as the Wall Street Journal’s influence your academic pursuits or are you unwavering in following your heart when it comes to your major?


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College Athletes Press NCAA for Share of Profits

by Suada Kolovic

College athletes enjoy certain perks – the strong possibility of a free education (we’re talking full-ride scholarships!), on-the-house room and board, complimentary textbooks and top-notch tutors – but with that territory comes a serious commitment to grueling practices and high expectations to excel on the field, all the while juggling a full course load. Sure, college athletes are considered amateurs in their sports but the fact remains that these students participate in a multi-million dollar industry. Should they be compensated? More than 300 football and men’s basketball players seem to think so.

In a petition to the NCAA, student athletes are requesting that more of the money generated by their teams to go directly to the athletes, both while they are in school and after they graduate. The document, which the National College Players Association provided to the Associated Press, urges the NCAA and college presidents to set aside “an unspecified amount of money from what it estimates is $775 million in recently acquired TV revenues in an ‘educational lock box’...where players could tap those funds to help cover educational costs if they exhaust their athletic eligibility before they graduate.” And that’s not all: The petition also calls for players to receive what’s left of the money allocated to them after they graduate – a step that could be considered by some as professionalizing college sports. (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think college athletes should get a piece of the multi-million dollar pie or is a free education (which will last a lifetime) compensation enough?


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Florida Governor Criticizes Anthropology Majors, Daughter Holds Degree in Field

by Suada Kolovic

Recent college graduates have entered one of the toughest job markets in decades. Full-time positions are scarce and with the unemployment rate hovering at 9 percent, some people have harsh words for those pursuing liberal arts degrees. For instance, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s message to anthropology majors: The state doesn’t need more anthropologists. Perhaps he forgot his own daughter has a degree in the field. Oops!

In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Mr. Scott said, "Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so." He told the paper that he wants to shift more funding to science, technology, engineering and math departments – aka the “STEM” disciplines – and away from departments like psychology and anthropology. This comment didn’t sit well with the American Anthropological Association, prompting 11,000 of its members to fire back at Scott in a letter stating the governor is “unaware that anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualisms, the African American heritage and infant learning.” A spokesman for the governor later said that he didn’t mean to criticize anthropologists but rather intended to highlight the demand for graduates with degrees in STEM fields.

Do you think Gov. Scott’s words were a bit too harsh? Should students pursue degrees in STEM fields because there is a demand? Recent liberal art graduates, would you go back to school and change your degree path?


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