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Happy Holidays…We’re Eliminating Your Degree!

U. Missouri to Reduce Degree Offerings by 16

December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays…We’re Eliminating Your Degree!

by Alexis Mattera

Welcome back, everyone! Have the holiday hazes, mall bruises and food comas worn off yet? If not, this next story may snap you back to reality…especially if you’re a University of Missouri student.

Just before our break, the Chronicle and Columbia Daily Tribune reported the university is poised to truncate its degree offerings by 16 - a decision that came after a state-mandated review revealed multiple programs graduating on average fewer than 10 bachelor’s, five master’s and three doctoral degrees per year. While a change like this isn’t new – SUNY Albany announced similar changes a few months ago – the method is: Some programs will be disappearing all together but the majority will merge with existing programs and create new degrees. Among the changes, Spanish and French programs will join to form a Romance language degree and the three master’s programs within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources may be rolled into one catch-all degree covering forestry parks, recreation, tourism, and soil, environmental and atmospheric sciences; education specialist and doctoral degrees in career and technical education, a specialist degree in special education and communication sciences and disorders doctorate and a clinical laboratory sciences bachelor’s program within the School of Health Professions will be eliminated completely.

The proposed changes are expected to be approved by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and the Coordinating Board of Higher Education in February. The affected programs, however, will continue for a while – even years – because, says Deputy Provost Ken Dean, the university will not implement anything that would have a negative impact on current undergraduate and graduate students. Are you enrolled in any of the programs mentioned? Will this news impact your decision to remain in your current major? Are you considering transferring to a different school with a more specialized program?


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Harvey Mudd Grads Get Paid

Science and Engineering College Has Highest Salary Potential

December 29, 2010

Harvey Mudd Grads Get Paid

by Alexis Mattera

I met many people during my undergraduate years that, upon hearing my major, had a good chuckle before informing me I was never going to make any money doing what I loved – writing. Their majors? Usually something involving business. I still giggle a little thinking of that irony: They not only picked the wrong field but the wrong school if they were concerned with raking in a hefty salary.

According to a new survey from PayScale.com, Harvey Mudd College's 2011 graduates are have the highest salary potential, beating out Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard and Caltech. The college's potential starting median salary is $68,900 while its midcareer median salary is $126,000 yet a campus official said the school does not plan its curriculum based on salary potential. Thyra L. Briggs, vice president of admissions and financial aid, said Harvey Mudd students receive a strong math and science education wrapped in a liberal arts context, meaning students can “solve even the most demanding technical problems, but they also know how to work collaboratively, present their ideas to a broad range of audiences, and write well - traits that may distinguish them from other high-level math and science graduates." Instead of being pigeonholed into only one discipline, she said, Harvey Mudd grads leave school with an adaptability that's an asset in the working world or graduate study. Not bad!

Briggs agrees that the number one ranking is impressive but she’s more excited that more people are looking at Harvey Mudd – especially prospective students and their parents. Future college students, does this news change your opinion about Harvey Mudd? What’s more attractive to you about a college – higher earning potential upon graduation or a higher quality of education as a whole?


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eBay Item 160522990911: Academic Dishonesty

Georgetown Alum Peddles Essays, Term Papers Online

December 28, 2010

eBay Item 160522990911: Academic Dishonesty

by Alexis Mattera

Once you’ve graduated from college, what do you do with the pages upon pages of writing assignments you completed during your tenure? You could go green and recycle them, I suppose…or you could try to make some green off of them, like the subject of our next story.

Having been there and done that once himself (or herself), one Georgetown alum knows that writing essays for admissions, scholarships and college classes takes a lot of time – time frazzled students just don’t have – and is attempting to profit from that burden by selling their own admissions essay, multiple class papers and a graduate school scholarship essay on eBay via the handle and alzheimers_caregiver. Georgetown’s own Vox Populi reported that while there are currently no bids on the items, the eventual winner (and I use that term very loosely here) will be e-mailed the materials and is free to edit the pieces as they see fit before turning them in.

Yes, we know the writing that goes into getting admitted to and succeeding in college is no small amount (just ask Harvard grad Natalie Portman) but if you’re truly committed to making the most of your college experience, crafting a few thousand words into an original essay isn’t going to kill you. Passing someone else’s work off as your own won’t either…but it could make your time at Big State U or Fancy Private College a lot shorter than you anticipated. An equally terrible but less-academically-poisonous bet? Buying alzheimers_caregiver’s other offering, a VHS copy of Look Who’s Talking Now.


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Mind the Gap

Should You Take a Year Off?

December 30, 2010

Mind the Gap

by Alexis Mattera

The road to college – once thought to be straight and narrow – is detouring into uncharted territory. It was once expected for all high school seniors to matriculate to an institute of higher education the semester after they graduate but today, many students (and their parents) are considering the notion of taking a year off from formal schooling first.

But what do students do during this time, often called a gap year? Not catching up on “Extreme Couponing” or trying out online dating: Students use this time to volunteer abroad or build their resumes and schools are adopting formal programs allowing incoming freshmen to defer admission for a year to do so. According to the Wall Street Journal, "gap fairs" are becoming just as common as campus job expos. The results? Mixed. While most students end their gap years better prepared to attend college, some get so waylaid that they abandon a collegiate education all together.

It may sound tempting to take a year off to explore the unknown but there are a few confounding variables. First, the price tag is far from alluring – unless you feel $35,000 is a reasonable figure. (The upside is that costs can be defrayed by stipends, grants, research fellowships and scholarships or the agreement to work in a very remote area.) Next, the hazy direction of your future. I won't deny that your late teens and early 20s are the best times to gain life experience but if said experience is going to leave you in debt or questioning once-important educational goals, is taking the time off worth it?


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5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New FAFSA!

2011-2012 Application Available Tomorrow

December 31, 2010

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New FAFSA!

by Alexis Mattera

Ladies and gentlemen, prospective and current college students, I (or the federal government, rather) give you the 2011-2012 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Hooray!

Vacuum up the confetti because it’s time to get down to business. January 1st marks the first day college-bound seniors, continuing undergraduate and graduate students, and their parents can begin filling out the FAFSA online. Completing the FAFSA is a vital part of the college process: The Department of Education uses it to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid for college. This aid includes federal grant programs (such as the Pell Grant), federal work study, and federal student loans; it is also used by states to determine eligibility for their college aid programs, such as state grants. Colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the need-based aid programs they administer and, finally, many scholarship opportunities request FAFSA information as part of their application processes. Even if you think that you won’t qualify for free money in the form of need-based college scholarships and grants, you should still apply. At the minimum, the vast majority of students qualify for Stafford Loans, low-interest federal student loans that represent one of the best deals in borrowing and paying for school.

Submission deadlines vary by state (verify yours sooner than later here) so, as with any sort of college funding, we recommend you complete the FAFSA as early as possible because funds do run out. For more information, visit the official FAFSA website or review our federal aid pages. Happy filing (and New Year)!


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Ready, Set, BiblioBout!

New Online Program Makes Bibliography Building Easier, Even Enjoyable

January 10, 2011

Ready, Set, BiblioBout!

by Alexis Mattera

As a journalism major, my classes were all writing intensive. From penning news briefs and features to participating in “Sudden Death Day” (when we arrived in class only to be sent directly back out to find and compose a story in under an hour), I was always doing some kind of research and had to keep my sources organized and accessible in case a fact was ever called into question. This practice came in especially handy whenever I had to construct a bibliography to accompany a lengthy term paper but for those who may be tackling a works cited page for the first time, give BiblioBouts a whirl.

Researchers at the University of Michigan developed BiblioBouts to make crafting a bibliography both easier and more fun: The once mundane task has been transformed into a competitive event, pitting students against their classmates and rewarding them for research skills and abilities to differentiate between good and bad material. Sources are judged by their peers for relevance and credibility and points are gained for sources they assess accurately.

“One of the most difficult things for students to do is their research,” said Karen Markey, research leader and professor in UM's School of Information. “After they exhaust things like Google and the Web, they don’t know where to turn.” The game was released in beta form this week participating colleges and Markey hopes to make it more widely available in the future as a tool in learning-management systems.

This sounds interesting but I agree with one user – Catherine Johnson, coordinator of library instruction at the University of Baltimore’s main library – who said the game should be used as a complement to instruction by a professor or a librarian in locating and evaluating sources, not a replacement for. Have any of you tried BiblioBouts or similar bibliography-assistance programs?


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What Do College Students Really Want?

Study Shows Self-Esteem Trumps Other Feel-Good Activities

January 11, 2011

What Do College Students Really Want?

by Alexis Mattera

With spring semester almost upon us (or already in session at some colleges), what are students looking to get out of the next four months on campus? Sure, Verizon iPhones, BCS Championship trophies and not having Facebook close down are excellent guesses but in reality, all students want is to feel good about themselves via regular self-esteem boosts. The real question then becomes if is this a good thing or a bad thing?

According to a new study by Ohio State University to be published in the Journal of Personality later this month, 130 University of Michigan students were asked to rate how much they wanted to partake in an enjoyable activity, like seeing friends, getting paid, having sex, eating a favorite food, drinking alcohol or receiving a self-esteem boost on a scale of 1 to 5 and how much they liked each of these things using the same scale. The findings overwhelmingly showed that these students cared more about increasing self-esteem.

Results did differ between male and female respondents – males ranked self-esteem above all else while females rated money and friendships as equally attractive as self-confidence – but the gap between liking self-esteem and wanting self-esteem was the slimmest out of all topics rated by both sexes, resembling an addictive mentality. Though not a full-fledged addiction for college students, the data show self-esteem comes dangerously close to being one. Levels of entitlement are also stronger with those who weigh wanting above liking - a trend the study’s authors Brad Bushman, Scott Moeller and Jennifer Crocker believe is not for the best.

Let’s put it to our own vote: Is it a confidence boost you want or does it take something else (our scholarship search, maybe?) to make you feel all warm and fuzzy?


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Fee Increase? No Problem!

Students Willing to Pay Up for Needed Projects

January 13, 2011

Fee Increase? No Problem!

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: You’ve been accepted by College A and College B - your two top choice schools - and have been awarded generous financial aid packages by both. You decide to attend College B but one year in, a project is announced that would increase the fees you’re paying...on top of the already hefty sums of tuition, books and housing. Are you on board? If so, you’re in good company.

State funding for colleges isn’t what it used to be so when a school needs new dormitories, laboratories and classrooms, students have become more willing to fund these endeavors because they will benefit their educational experience. In Colorado, mandatory student fee increases range from 18.5 percent (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) to 611 percent (Mesa State) since 2006 but current students are readily handing over the cash…even though the majority will have graduated long before the projects are finished.

"I won't be a student here when the projects are complete, but I do know my degree will only gain in value," said Sammantha O'Brien, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Brad Baca, vice president of finance and administration at Western State College in Gunnison, agrees. "We're in a very competitive environment and having high-quality amenities and facilities is an important factor," he said. And if the upgrades aren’t reward enough, students at these schools are more informed and involved: At Western State, for example, 40 percent of the student population participated in the fee vote – a record turnout.

What do you think, readers? Would you pony up the dough for a dorm you won't live in or an academic building in which you’ll never hear a lecture?


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Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

Retrieval Bests Traditional Concept Mapping as a Study Method

January 24, 2011

Self-Testing Boosts Info Retention

by Alexis Mattera

Did you spend your Sunday distraught over Jay Cutler and the Bears or horrified by the atrocity that was Mean Girls 2? I know I’m not completely alone here but, being the diligent students you are, many of you were probably holed up in the library preparing for your first exam of the spring semester and quizzing yourself on key pieces of information. Good thing, as a new study says self-testing while studying is the best way to retain facts and figures.

The study, "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping," was conducted by Purdue’s Jeffrey Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt and found that since learning is fundamentally about retrieving, practicing retrieval while studying is crucial to learning. The study focused on two groups of students (200 altogether) who were asked to read several paragraphs about differing scientific topics but one group was instructed to use the information to create a concept map and the other was told to put away their articles and spend 10 minutes writing what they recalled. When the students were tested on the same material one week later, the group that practiced retrieval retained 50 percent more information than those who engaged in concept mapping. Strangely, researchers also found that despite learning less, the students who engaged in concept mapping were more confident that they would remember the material than those who practiced retrieval while studying.

What’s your preferred study method? Is it producing the results you want? Will you employ the retrieval method given this study’s findings?


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Got Stress?

Annual Study Shows College Freshmen are Overwhelmed but Optimistic

January 27, 2011

Got Stress?

by Alexis Mattera

A student’s first year in college is one rife with new experiences and challenges. We have plenty of info on our site to help ease that transition – from dealing with common roommate problems to overcoming writer's block in college essays to beating the winter blues – but it looks like members of the class of 2014 are having more difficult times adjusting to the college lifestyle.

An annual study found 51.9 percent of first-year, full-time students reported their emotional health was above average. That may not seem so bad but lead author, UCLA's John Pryor, said this figure is a "fairly alarming" 3.4 percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since the inaugural study in 1985 when 63.6 percent reported feeling above average. Despite these record-low levels of emotional health, about 73 percent of students surveyed generally expressed positive attitudes toward higher education, even as they struggle to fund it because they believe it will help their future earning power.

But why the disparity between low emotional health and high expectations? It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific reason but Marcus Hotaling, chairman of mental health for the American College Health Association, has a theory: When the study began in 1985, he said, many students with mental health issues did not get into college but today, they are able to pursue post-secondary degrees because of improved medication, reduced stigmas and a greater willingness to share concerns with others. "Students are more attuned to who they are, what they're dealing with, and that there's help out there," said Hotaling.

First-time college students, do you share the sentiments of the students surveyed or is your freshman year shaping up to be one of the best years of your life thus far?


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