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College Class Size: Does It Matter?

by Mike Sheffey

Large classes or small? As colleges look to save money per student, this has become a key discussion topic. Recent studies are now showing that redesigning the typical lecture-type lesson has proved successful in large class settings, boasting higher exam results than those on the old model...but I think it really depends on the institution.

I can only speak from experience about Wofford College: The largest class I’ve ever had had about 50 people in it (and the average class size here is 15), though I will soon find out how large classes work when I take a summer course at UNCG to fulfill a gen ed requirement in statistics. I can guarantee that in terms of building professor connections and having instructors as resources outside the classroom, small classes have the advantage but I could definitely see how this setting could be intimidating and that there could be students that flourish more in large-scale lectures.

Attendance policies also seem to be stricter at smaller schools and in smaller classrooms. In a class of 300, nobody bats an eye if somebody’s missing; in a class of 12, however, every absence is noticed. Those who are engaged and active in class will probably benefit more from smaller courses, with more direct contact with the professors. But these assumptions seem to be changing. Like I said, the lecture-style of teaching is being altered at bigger schools and being replaced by interactive and virtual courses supervised by professors or teachers. The computers seem to keep the larger classes focused and have directly contributed to better grades in the sciences and visual arts.

When determining what class size is best for you, the best thing to do is to talk to people that attend your prospective schools. How do they like the large classes? Would they recommend them? Do they take any small classes? Are their learning styles similar to yours? Results don’t lie but you know yourself better than a statistic. For me, the small classes at WoCo are where it’s at. What about you?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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You’re Accepted...for Next Semester

New Admissions Addresses Retention Concerns, Confuses Students

June 3, 2013

You’re Accepted...for Next Semester

by Mike Sheffey

Congratulations! Well...sort of. Many incoming college freshmen feel this bittersweet sensation when they read they’ve been accepted to college but not until a semester or two after their intended start date.

Colleges are adopting this practice more and more and it’s no surprise why: Retention rates drop after the first year and this decrease combine with the junior year “I want to study abroad” rush leaves colleges with gaps and vacancies in classes, resulting in less money for schools. This admissions approach is economically better for colleges and universities but is it better for students? Not when they want to take classes somewhere else before that requires full-time student status and not when the students need to get jobs in the semester before they start. This could also potentially disconnect them with the incoming freshman class in the fall and put them in awkward social positions once they arrive.

I personally don’t know anyone that this has happened to – the most I’ve encountered with friends is wait lists – but I know a few that applied to transfer to other colleges and weren’t accepted for the following semester, but the next one. It’s great news that the student gained admission but there’s the question of “Why then and not now?” In an almost B-list manor, colleges are glad to have you but not now – only after the first wave of freshmen.

I know the bottom line is money but in my opinion, this approach devalues all of one’s efforts and projects a message of self-doubt and questioning. If colleges plan to keep doing this, they need to figure a way to build the students up during that semester before entry and provide program options and support so that these kids don’t feel that sense of bittersweet victory and defeat. Deals with other colleges for transfer credits, extracurricular activities, ways for these students to get ahead and job options on or off campus would be an awesome start. What else do you think schools could (and should) do to bridge this gap?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Congrats! Or Not…

With False Acceptance Emails on the Rise, Be Sure to Double Check Your Admissions Decision

March 26, 2014

by Mike Sheffey

Imagine receiving an email from your dream college or university congratulating you on your acceptance. It's a great feeling, right? Now imagine receiving a follow-up email from that same school stating that admissions decision you waited so long to hear was sent in error. Worst. Day. Ever.

This unfortunate scenario has been a reality for many students, as the number of colleges sending out acceptance emails by mistake has increased in recent years. Gone are the days where you could determine your post-secondary fate by the size of the envelope in your mailbox; now, admissions decisions are often released first electronically but the system is far from foolproof. Technology isn't all it’s cracked up to be sometimes and people aren't perfect...but when you're dealing with students' futures, these mistakes should never happen.

For the colleges that have been messing up: GET IT TOGETHER! These emails are nothing more than an added comfort so if you can't get it right, don't do it at all. This isn't a small error: It's a life-changing one. As a center for higher learning, you need to care about your future students a little more. If you can spellcheck an email, you can also check to see who it's going to.

So students, if you've received an electronic admissions decision, just double check before starting the celebration. Look elsewhere online, email somebody or call the school directly as soon as possible. The last thing you want is a false sense of relief. Once you're sure, however, go crazy – getting into college is a big deal and should be treated as such!

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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by Paulina Mis

On October 8, 2007, Sallie Mae announced its intent to file a lawsuit against the company’s potential buyers, a group of investors led by J.C. Flowers & Company. In April, the student lender agreed to a buyout offer of $60 per share. Since then, the buyers retracted their initial proposal, citing recently passed student loan legislation as reason. 

By signing the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, President Bush agreed to cut student lender subsidies by about $21 billion. Numerous companies, including Sallie Mae, threatened that the cuts would force them to eliminate borrower benefits such as, among other things, on-time payment reductions.

Following the bill’s passage, buyers lowered their initial buyout price to $50 per share. Sallie Mae rejected the offer and filed a $900 million lawsuit for contract termination. Albert L. Lord, the Chairman of Sallie Mae’s Board of Directors stated, “We regret bringing this suit. Sallie Mae has honored its obligations under the merger agreement. We ask only that the buyer group do the same.”

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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by Paulina Mis

Effective October 15, 2007, College Board will no longer accept student loan applications. College Board, best known for administering the SAT and AP tests, announced its decision to leave the lender industry on August 22nd. In a press release, College Board stated that legislation aimed at curbing unethical relations between lenders and colleges made it too difficult to cover costs associated with education professional meetings. 

The legislation was created as a result of findings that numerous lenders made payments to colleges in exchange for spots on college preferred lender lists. Legislation included a more concrete definition of a lending institution—which categorized College Board as a lender—and restrictions on lender payments to financial aid officials. Although College Board does not itself lend money to students, it receives payments from lenders for allowing students to sign up. As it is now considered a lender, it can no longer offer funds to the financial aid officials it works with.

The meetings College Board convenes for education professionals are now subject to strict regulations. Under new rules, College Board would no longer be able to reimburse members for travel and lodging expenses.  Edna Johnson, a College Board spokeswoman stated, “If we no longer reimburse the educators, then only those educators from schools, colleges and universities with the financial resources to pay for the travel and the accommodation would attend.” The meetings held by College Board include discussions of practices for assisting families in paying for an education and tactics for effective administration of financial aid programs.

The new decision is likely to affect lenders more than it does College Board and the students who search for financial aid. According to the Washington Post, College Board issued 74,000 loans valued at $400 million in 2007, and the year is not over. However, less than 1 percent of College Board’s revenue comes from the lending sector.

Students who signed up with College Board aren’t the losers in this decision either. Those who wish to take out loans with companies represented by College Board may still do so by contacting lenders directly. They may be forced to do some extra research, but that’s a good thing. 

Posted Under:

College News


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by Paulina Mis

On Friday June 20, the Senate approved the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 by a vote of 78-18. The bill, if approved by the House, would increase Pell Grant eligibility and lower government subsidies to outside lenders. The House passed a similar proposal—the College Reduction Act of 2007—in June, making a compromise on both versions likely. The overarching theme of the bill was an increase in government aid to students and, at the same time, a decrease in aid provided to student lenders.

Lowered subsidies would likely result in increased interest rates for students who take out loans from lenders outside of the government. Government loans offer students the best interest rates, but such loans also have smaller borrowing limits. Many students end up looking to lenders subsidized by the government for additional aid. While interest rates on subsidized loans are not as favorable as those offered by the government, they are still more favorable than those offered by private, unsubsidized lenders.

According to MarketWatch, the new bill could save the government up to $15.4 billion by 2012. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, was enthusiastic about the approval stating, "The passage of the Higher Education Access Act tonight was a victory not only for students and their families, but for the American people. With this new congress we made education a national priority again, and we’ve given the next generation the tools they need to compete in the global economy."

Fortunately for student borrowers, the bill did address worries about lender rate increases. Cuts on outside lender subsidies were also accompanied by increased caps on government loans as well as by increased laxity on government loan eligibility requirements. These changes are likely to benefit students who don’t borrow much. For those that do, effects will depend on just how much more the government is willing to lend and on how much outside lenders will choose to charge after cuts.

Students still have a lot to cheer about. The biggest perk of the Higher Education Access Act is its proposal to increase government grant offers. Free money is the best kind. Like scholarships, grants provide students with aid that need not be repaid. If the bill is enacted, the government would increase the amounts of Pell Grants a student may receive to a maximum $5,100. It would also alter the formula used to determine grant eligibility in a way that would lessen restrictions on financial circumstances required for grant reception.

Additional bill provisions include loan forgiveness options for borrowers who work in areas of public service for ten years, a cap on monthly loan payments required of students, and the establishment of a program that would increase competition between lenders. If the bill passes, the enactment may be expected within the next few months.

Posted By Scholarships.com to Scholarships.com Blog at 7/20/2007 09:57:00 AM

Posted Under:

College News


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by Paulina Mis

College Board has been dealt another big blow. Just days after it was revealed they had bought their way into spots on preferred-lender lists, College Board announced a drop in SAT scores. College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and AP tests, announced on August 28th that the average combined scores for 2007 graduates dropped by 1 point in critical reading and by 3 points in math and writing. Since 1967, average reading scores dropped by 41 points and math scores by 1 point (writing scores were not reported). College Board stressed the positive saying that more students, minorities in particular, were taking the test.

Earlier this year, the SAT was scrutinized after research released by the University of California revealed that the correlation between high school grades and SAT scores may not be as accurate as once thought. Although the test was a good indicator of first-year grades, the following three did not match up. Eventually, ambitious students adjusted to the University of California’s difficult curriculum, regardless of initial preparation.

The study was a continuation of a 2003 study which showed that SAT performance was better than GPA in predicting first-year college performance. Apparently, after catching up with the 80,000 students sampled, things had changed. In fact, findings showed that the longer students attended college, the greater the value in using high school grades as a means of predicting future performance. Such findings indicate that the strong correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic factors is eventually watered down. The implications of this research are yet unclear. It is, however, becoming clear that the SAT may not be as good of an indicator of college performance as was once thought.

The question of whether the SAT & ACT tests should continue to be administered was one of two issues addressed in Scholarships.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve essay contest (the second dealt with the population’s effect on the environment.) To read what students had to say, you can visit the Scholarships.com 2007 Resolve to Evolve Award Winners page. To find sample questions and advice on preparing for standardized tests, you may visit the Resources section at Scholarships.com.


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by Paulina Mis

Yesterday New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his settlement with student loan consolidation company Student Financial Services Inc. (SFS) over offers of kickbacks to athletic departments. The lender had given money to school athletic departments in exchange for the right to use their official symbols on forms and advertisements.  The school contracts allowed for the use of school and team names, colors, mascots and logos, thereby creating the impression that SFS was the official lender of the school. According to the settlement, SFS agreed to break ties with these colleges and universities, most of which were Division 1 NCAA schools.

“Student loan companies incorporate school insignia and colors into advertisements because they know students are more likely to trust a lender if its loan appears to be approved by their college,” stated Cuomo.  “We cannot allow lenders to exploit this trust with deceptive, co-branded marketing.”

Under the new code, SFS agreed to end its loan-related contracts with 63 schools, including Georgetown University, Florida State University and the University of Kansas, as well as with five sports marketers, including ESPN Regional Television, Inc. The lender also agreed to tout the importance of informed loan decision making by organizing campaigns to be featured in the schools’ leading newspapers. The lender would no longer be able to pay for student referrals nor could it organize contests with financial prizes for students.

Cuomo’s settlement is part of an ongoing investigation aimed at ridding financial aid offices of illegal and immoral lender marketing tactics. So far, the attorney general has settled with twelve student lenders for such relations and collected $13.7 million in lender money to go to the National Education Fund, a fund dedicated to educating students about their financial aid options.

Posted Under:

College News , Sports , Student Loans

Tags: Athletics , Sports

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by Paulina Mis

In a move that’s both impressive and grossly irritating to poor students across the nation, Harvard University announced on Tuesday its intent to improve the financial aid packages of well-off students. Of course that’s not how they announced it. According to the Harvard Crimson (the university newspaper), the Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons proudly declared that the aid would allow students to pursue careers in public service without fear of outstanding debt--as if that's the ultimate goal of most Harvard graduates.

In 2006, Harvard eliminated contribution requirements for students whose families made less than $60,000 per year. It has taken things one step further this year by increasing the amount of financial aid offered to students whose household income was greater than that. Mr. Fitzsimmons stated that families making between $60,000 and $200,000 were in a state of “crisis” when it came to finding money for college.

Hmmm…Crisis eh? That’s quite a hyperbole, especially when one considers  the rising number of students who leave school with debt that exceeds $100,000. I somehow don’t feel bad for people making $200,000 each year, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the fact that they are going through a crisis. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, the median (not average) income in the U.S. is $48,201 and only 19 percent of households make over $100,000. Double that and the word crisis does not apply.

Under Harvard's new plan, families with incomes between $60,000 and $120,000 per year will soon be expected to pay 0-10 percent of their income for an education.  Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 will be expected to pay 10 percent of that amount. To put things in perspective, the sticker price for the Harvard package is $45,620, and a family making $180,000 will pay 39 percent of that.

After reading the article, Harvard graduate Andrew Kalloch offered his thoughts on the news in a letter to the editors, “I wear old T-shirts, and they suit me just fine. Others wear designer clothing and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is asking alumni to contribute to the embarrassment of riches already bestowed upon the American upper class.”

I'm not saying we should begrudge any students their financial aid, popped collars or not. After all, low or nonexistent tuition would be a deserved dream come true for most hard working students. It's just a bit disconcerting that myriad students with incomes far below those acknowledged by Harvard are burdened by student loans, and no one is giving them a reasonable piece of the pie.


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