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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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Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

by Alexis Mattera

There could be a 15-page research paper deadline, a monster exam and an internship shift tomorrow but if you think a college student isn’t going to take even a few minutes to destress or have a laugh, you’re crazy. My go-tos were Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Snood and UCTV but today, it’s all about college-centric memes.

According to Time (and Richard Dawkins), a meme is essentially an idea that replicates and evolves through imitation – a process the Internet makes almost too easy. Since October, schools like Florida International University, McGill, Appalachian State, UT, Duke, Northwestern and BU have all jumped aboard the meme train and the viral school spirit shows no sign of slowing: More student-created takes on Success Kid, Uber Frosh and others keep popping up on Facebook every day.

Have you caught college meme fever or do you think the meme trend has already worn out its welcome?


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Romney on College Costs

GOP Candidate Offers Little Comfort to Current and Hopeful College Students

March 6, 2012

Romney on College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

If you want to go to college but can’t completely afford it, don’t expect Mitt Romney to help you bridge the financial gap.

During yesterday’s town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney made it clear that he would not promise to give students government money to cover higher ed costs. The advice he did offer regarding colleges was blunt – pick an affordable option, get scholarships, join the military and graduate early – and very different than the words of President Obama during his third State of the Union address, which discouraged tuition increases and aimed to double the amount of federal work-study jobs. Though this is a man who pushed for state-funded four-year tuition scholarships while serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s mantra is now firmly “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on”...or protect you from it, for that matter: He supports the House Republican budget which would cut Pell Grants by at least 25 percent.

What do you think of Romney’s position regarding higher ed funding?


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Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

by Alexis Mattera

Did you have to take out student loans in order to pay for all or part of your college education? Probably, as total student loan debt passed total credit card debt for the first time and is approaching the $1 trillion mark, but the bigger problem could be that college students who truly need to borrow are not doing so.

In a new analysis of student debt published in AEA’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner explain that overemphasis in news coverage of students drowning in debt is scaring people away from taking on healthy debt. They say that capital investment one takes on with a student loan is growing – males with college degrees make $600,000 more in their lifetimes than peers with only high school degrees – but just one in six full-time students at four-year colleges who are eligible for a student loan do not take one out. Why? The study cites rational self-control, short-sightedness and risk factors like the difficulty of predicting future earnings but also reveals that many loan-less students accrue debt by relying heavily on credit cards to cover educational expenses and half work more than 20 hours per week – a schedule that could hurt their chances of graduating on time or at all.

There’s much more to the study here but what’s your take on student loans? Is borrowing worth it if it's done responsibly or is it best to use loans as a last resort in funding your education?


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IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

There have been strides taken to ease the financial burden of higher education but for every state that limits college credits to keep degree costs down or entire college system freezing its tuition, there’s another school increasing its fees and cutting benefits. The latter could soon happen in Illinois, as lawmakers are weighing whether to eliminate tuition discounts for the children of professors and other university employees.

The legislation would get rid of this prized benefit, which allows faculty and staff members who have been employed at public universities for at least seven years to receive half-price tuition for their children. More than 2,000 college students take advantage of this perk each year and advocates of the bill say the state cannot afford to continue to offer the discount because it costs the Land of Lincoln about $8 million annually. Bill sponsor State Rep. Luis Arroyo also questioned the lack of income cap on who can use the waivers (for example, a college president earning a six-figure salary could pay far less for their child to attend college than a lower-income family would) but university officials say the discount is an important tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty members.

Does the possible end to this tuition benefit impact you in any way? How are you covering the costs of your own college education?


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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?


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Commit Now, Pay Later

Public College Tuition Often Still Undecided by Enrollment Deadlines

March 21, 2012

Commit Now, Pay Later

by Alexis Mattera

The cost of college is a huge factor for a high school senior about to head off to college for the first time, a transfer student getting ready to continue his or her education at a four-year school and an undergrad preparing to pursue a graduate degree. If the student can’t afford to attend a specific school, an alternate institution that better fits his or her college budget should be selected...but what if tuition is still undetermined before the enrollment deadline?

This scenario is common at public universities across the country, as they cannot announce the next year’s tuition until they know how much funding they will receive from their respective states. Though schools like Towson and UVa offer estimates, banking on those figures is a gamble: For example, VCU raised tuition 24 percent in 2010 and the average public university in California raised expenses 21 percent last year – sizeable increases few college hopefuls could have expected. Colleges in this position have to work out preliminary financial aid packages based on the current year’s costs and adjust the awards after tuition is set. Students weighing their enrollment options at private universities have it much easier: A recent report projected private tuition would rise between 4 and 5 percent for next year but schools including Georgetown, UPenn and Goucher have already set and posted their tuition rates for the upcoming academic year.

Are you still waiting on next year’s tuition rates to make your college choice?


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Job Opportunities, Starting Salaries Increase for Class of 2012

by Alexis Mattera

Soon-to-be college grads will have a little more to cheer about as they toss their mortarboards in the air this year, as both job opportunities and starting salaries for new graduates have increased since last year.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported job openings for the class of 2012 are up 10 percent since last. With increased opportunities also come an uptick in starting salaries: The average for 2012 grads is $44,442, a 6.6-percent increase over the reported average salary of the class of 2011.

Of course, these numbers depend on the fields graduates plan to enter – starting salaries for those pursuing careers in education and economics increased more and are higher overall, respectively, than those going into health sciences – but it is nice to hear some mostly positive news about the impact of higher education. College seniors, does this information put you more at ease or increase your stress level as graduation day nears?


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Words of Wisdom for the Wait-Listed

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the college admissions cycle, most students have either been accepted, rejected or wait-listed; while the definitions of and actions associated with the first two outcomes are pretty clear (decide if you want to go or choose another school), things involving the third can be a little murky. What do you do if you find yourself in these waters? Here’s a much-needed paddle from the folks at The Choice blog:

Reevaluate: William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, suggests taking a second look at the school (or schools) you’ve been wait-listed at and deciding which you would realistically attend if you were accepted.

Respond: Some schools look at the time it takes students to reply to a wait-list notification; write a follow-up letter about why you want to go there or surrender your spot if the school isn’t the right fit for you as soon as possible, says veteran counselor Ted de Villefranca of the Peddie School in New Jersey.

Realize: A spot on the wait list is by no means a guarantee of admission – of the 996 students on Yale’s wait list last year, only 103 were accepted – so keep your expectations manageable in case you don’t get in.

Reach out...within reason: Mention only substantive information, says Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of admissions at Yale, and don’t overdo it. In that same vein, JHU’s Conley warns against constantly contacting the admissions staff, as your repeated calls and emails could be a turn-off.

You can read the rest of the experts’ tips here but we want to know if any of our readers are former wait-listers and, if so, what advice do you have for students who are in that position right now?


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Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

by Alexis Mattera

When I moved into my freshman dorm at UConn, I was one of the few out-of-state students on my floor. It wasn’t a bad thing by any means – I made a lot of friends through conversations that began with someone asking "Hey, can you say [any word ending in R]?" because they wanted to hear my thick Boston accent in action – but it was certainly foreshadowing for today’s abundance of non-residents at state schools.

According to an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the number of non-Californians accepted as freshmen to the UC system has nearly doubled in just two years. Twenty-three percent of all students admitted for this fall hail from other states or nations, partly because non-residents pay nearly three times the tuition and fees of in-state students – a huge boon for UC, which has had its budget cut by about $1 billion during the last few years. In-state students’ college costs are heavily subsidized with public funds and the nine undergraduate campuses simply don’t have the money to cover the cost of educating them, though UC officials insist that no eligible Californian is denied admission because of non-resident students.) In addition to funding woes, applicants also had to contend with increasing selectivity: UC admitted just 64 percent of the students who applied...and just 21 percent at Berkeley and UCLA.

There were some positive aspects to UC’s announcement (the Merced campus accepted 75 percent of applicants, more students of color were admitted systemwide and an additional 2,100 California graduates gained admission over last year) but what do you think of the influx of non-residents at state colleges and universities?


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