September 10, 2009
A new book is shedding light on graduation rates at state colleges, and also causing a stir with its findings and recommendations. The book, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities, was written by William G. Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, Michael S. McPherson, a former president of Macalester College, and Matthew M. Chingos, a graduate student at Harvard University. It shows many of the nation's top public schools are coming up short when it comes to graduating students in four years, especially low-income and minority students.
The book analyzes the four-year and six-year graduation rates of students at 21 flagship universities and 47 four-year public universities in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. Among the findings, the authors reveal that flagship universities, typically the most competitive and prestigious in their state university systems, graduate only 49 percent of their students in four years, with other state colleges having even less success. The six-year graduation rates for both sets of schools are better, but vary widely based on several factors discussed in the book.
Disparities by common demographic factors, namely race and socioeconomic status, were found in the research for the book, and were most pronounced among male students. However, the most striking differences come in terms of schools' selectivity. Some of these disparities include:
These results have many questioning the effectiveness of academic scholarships and other merit-based aid, especially in light of the University of Texas at Austin's recent decision to stop sponsoring the National Merit Scholarship Program. More so, though, they have experts, including the book's authors, wondering what is causing this disparity in graduation rates.
Price plays a huge role for students of low socioeconomic status, pushing them to attend the least expensive (and often least selective) schools or to opt out of four-year colleges entirely. Rising costs also could play a role in dropout rates among poorer students, so the availability of financial aid for all four years is crucial to graduation.
One of the biggest problems identified in the book is a phenomenon dubbed "under-matching." Highly qualified students are aiming low in the college application process, attending less selective schools with lower graduation rates when they could easily be accepted to and graduate from more selective schools with higher graduation rates. Students most likely to under-match are low socioeconomic status students whose parents did not attend or did not graduate from college. The higher a student's income and parents' level of education, the less likely the student is to under-match.
Based on this information, the authors suggest that schools focus their efforts on encouraging students to graduate in four years and to remain in school until they graduate. Keeping tuition low is a part of this, as are readjusting requirements to make graduating in four years more doable and, above all else, making it clear that students are expected to graduate in four years.
Graduation rates are gaining attention from other corners, as well. Washington Monthly included graduation rates in their recently released college rankings, and another study published this summer by the American Enterprise Institute compared graduation rates at colleges.The Education Department is also doing its part to make information on graduation rates available to students who complete the FAFSA on the Web.
October 2, 2009
Whether you're applying for college, considering a transfer, or nearing graduation, chances are moving somewhere new has crossed your mind. Any number of factors can come into play in such a big personal decision: closeness to family, availability of jobs in your field, the cost of living, the quality of education, and more. But regardless of their other criteria, few people want to feel like one of the only people under 40 living in their town. This week, The Wall Street Journal came out with a list of ten cities that have the potential to be post-recession "youth magnets." If you're undecided as to where to head for college or after graduation, their list may be worth a perusal.
While the Wall Street Journal is not exactly known as the authority on hip, this list is the product of a panel of six experts on geography, demographics and economics assembled for this purpose. Panelists each provided their top 10, giving reasons for their choices, then the cities with the highest total rank were chosen for the list.
First place, somewhat surprisingly, went to Washington, D.C. (in a tie with Seattle), which doesn't have much of an established reputation as a hot destination for young people. The recent explosion in federal hiring and President Obama's cool are drawing young job seekers, and the museums and live music, as well as the large number of universities in the area also help attract young people beyond just political science majors. The down sides of D.C., though, are its high cost of living and the potential for government to drastically scale back hiring next year.
Seattle, on the other hand, has a diverse economy and a relatively low unemployment rate (currently 7.7%). Its music and media scenes and employment prospects in these areas are strong and well-known, and other high-tech job opportunities for computer science or medical students abound. Like many of the other cities in the list, Seattle also has a strong university presence, providing more incentive for college students and graduate students to place it at the top of their lists as well. The best part: the only negative listed in the article is the weather.
The rest of the top 10, in order, were New York City; Portland, OR; Austin, TX; San Jose, CA; Denver, CO; Raleigh, NC; Dallas, TX; Boston; and Chicago. Several of the cities in the list struggle with high unemployment or high costs of living. Most feature excellent colleges and universities and may already be focal points for your college search. A number also have an excellent variety of things for young people to do; for example, Portland and Austin are well-known cultural outposts and Chicago also has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and night life, though sports fans may be disappointed that Chicago didn't land the 2016 Olympics.
What do you think? Are any of these places you'd consider heading for college or after?
October 5, 2009
It's nice to know that in the event of a disaster, your school will be prepared. Colleges and universities nationwide already have contingency plans for situations such as fires, floods, and other on-campus emergencies. In anticipation of on-campus outbreaks of the H1N1 swine flu virus, colleges are also reviewing and tweaking their plans for dealing smoothly with infectious diseases on campus. While undergoing this process, one official on the University of Florida campus decided to do one better and prepare his college for another type of outbreak-a zombie attack.
The zombie attack disaster preparedness plan was initially posted on the University of Florida's e-Learning website along with response plans for other, more likely, disaster scenarios. The plan's author, e-Learning Support Services Manager Doug Johnson, composed it as a joke one night during a bout of insomnia while his office was working on strategies for handling a campus closure, then posted it to provide a bit of levity for fellow e-Learning staff members.
Highlights of the plan include humorous definitions of "zombieism" and "zombie behavior spectrum disorder," as well as a form for university employees to complete if they need to deal with undead coworkers. While it was removed from the University of Florida website shortly after discovery and publication by local media, The Gainesville Sun still has a copy available online.
While the University of Florida zombie attack plan was humorous in nature, zombies have been used to model disease outbreaks in serious contexts. Earlier this year, a group of Canadian graduate students modeled a zombie attack as a classroom exercise that is now slated for publication in the upcoming book Infections Disease Modeling Research Progress. Their zombie attack model could have useful implications for modeling and understanding the spread of other infectious diseases, including swine flu.
One of the jokes in Johnson's paper was an allusion to the field of Zombie Studies (which, sadly, is not yet a viable college major), but given the recent uptick in interest in zombies on college campuses, can it be long before zombies find their way into more standardized parts of the college curriculum? Perhaps we will soon see more eye-catching titles for college classes dealing with the undead.
October 29, 2009
Do you think you could get tricked into eating more healthy foods on campus? A recent article in the Boston Globe describes the strategies being taken by some schools in Massachusetts to get their students eating more nutritious meals and smaller portions, and it has required some sneakiness.
Most of you have probably heard of the "freshman 15," the 15 (or more) pounds that you're at risk of putting on that first year away in college when you're making your own decisions on what to eat. According to the Globe and the Nutrition Journal, recent studies have shown that at least 1 in 4 college freshmen gain an average of 10 pounds in their first semester alone. (That'd make it more like the "freshman 20.") Data like that and an increased awareness of obesity among young people has led schools like Wellesley College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to take matters into their own hands by shrinking plate sizes and sneaking veggies onto students' plates. And they're not publicizing their methods, as anecdotal evidence has shown that if students are given a choice in whether to eat healthy or not, they'll usually go for the burger and fries.
Elsewhere, schools are doing things like offering miniatures of popular food items (sliders vs. burgers) and substituting fattening ingredients for more low-calories options. Getting students to eat healthy and exercise portion control is made even tougher in cafeterias, where they can often make return trips for second and third helpings with no one there to stop them. “Whatever restraining influences parents might have had when the teenagers were at home are unshackled when kids go off to college,’’ Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston said in the Boston Globe article.
If you're particularly worried about the choices you've been making when eating (or drinking), consider burning off some of those calories. Try to make time for a club sport or a couple hours a week at your schools' gym. Your tuition fees are already paying for your privileges to use their facilities, so you may as well visit them once in a while. And check out our site for options on healthy eating and eating on a budget, another difficult hurdle when you're looking not to order pizza for the third night in a row.
November 3, 2009
College admission practices are often points of contention, especially when tricky issues like race, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned. Colleges worry about trying to promote diversity and give students a fair chance in their admission practices and other parties worry about practices potentially shortchanging students. Based on some of these concerns, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate allegations of gender bias in admission practices at selective colleges. The concern: in order to preserve male-to-female ratios on campus, colleges are being less selective in admitting male students than in admitting female students.
In recent decades, women have begun to thrive in higher education, making up a significantly larger share of undergraduate students, bachelor's degree recipients, and master's degree students than men. Postsecondary Education Opportunity data shows that currently there are 77 men in college for every 100 women, and 73 male bachelor's degree recipients for every 100 female graduates. While gender gaps still persist within specific fields, including traditionally male-dominated disciplines like engineering and computer science, overall women are coming to college in droves and doing well once they arrive.
This trend shows no sign of reversing and has some worried that men will become increasingly underrepresented in higher education, while simultaneously work opportunities contract in traditionally male-dominated fields that don't require degrees. Schools and other organizations are beginning to address these concerns. For example, a conference panel last month addressed some of the moves being undertaken to encourage more young men to attend college and persist to a degree.
The Commission on Civil Rights inquiry is intended to see if practices are going beyond encouraging young men to enroll and have actually moved into the territory of discriminating against women in admission by admitting a smaller percentage of female applicants and being more selective in admitting women than men. This practice, while possibly unethical at private colleges, would be illegal at state colleges. So far, there hasn't been sufficient evidence to support this theory, with the majority of admission officers recently saying they don't consider gender as an important criterion in college admission, leaving some wondering if the inquiry is entirely necessary. Information subpoenaed from colleges in the Washington, D.C. area should help the commission determine whether reality reflects reporting.
Adding in another level of controversy and drawing a great deal of criticism to the investigation is the strong focus on athletics in the text of the proposal for the investigation. The theory behind it seems to be that Title IX, the federal regulation designed to prevent sex discrimination--most visibly by mandating that men's and women's sports are equally represented in public schools--is preventing men from enrolling in college by limiting their opportunities for athletic involvement. Of all the directions the investigation could take, this certainly seems to be an unusual one, and on the surface it seems to present some problematic and likely inaccurate assumptions about gender. The investigation gets underway this month, so a clearer sense of direction may emerge as time goes on.
November 5, 2009
Your opinions on how tech-savvy your professors are differ quite a bit from the instructors' opinions of their own technological effectiveness in the classroom, according to a survey released this week by CDW-G, an education technology provider.
According to the survey, which was collected via a nationally representative samples of students and faculty members at two- and four-year public and private colleges, students consider themselves much more technologically adept than their instructors, which may not be all that surprising:
Students' perceptions of the technology gap isn't a new idea. Instructors are often viewed as being behind on the trends, even when they're actually quite technologically adept and can prove as much in the classroom. The problem comes in when the students actually are outpacing their instructors, especially in courses where technology could vastly improve a student's educational experience.
The survey, described in Inside Higher Education today, also polled IT staffers, and compared their answers with those of college professors'. In general, IT staffers expect more out of "smart" classrooms and instructors' capabilities. Both groups were asked what constitutes a smart classroom, and only about 40 percent of professors responded that an interactive whiteboard and distance learning capabilities to connect students from multiple locations constituted a smart classroom, compared to about 70 percent of IT staffers. Both groups were more on the same page when it came to general and wireless Internet access in the classroom.
The point is, technology isn't going anywhere, and it's only going to get more complex as time goes on. Professors, especially in fields where technology is going to be an important tool post-graduation, which is in most disciplines these days, should keep on top of new advances that will help make their students more effective learners.Another article in Inside Higher Education today looks at Twitter and whether the social networking tool will become commonplace in the classroom. In that article, instructors and administrators seem wary of using Twitter in any educational way - although some are already using Twitter as the basis of their coursework - because it's seen as more of a fun diversion than a live resource or way to gather data. (Although you should obviously always fact-check anything you read on the site.) Professors may also worry that inviting Twitter into the classroom may distract students more than help them, while others argue that the site will become difficult to ignore by any institution, including colleges and universities.
What do you think about the technological capabilities at your college? Do you think your professors need a primer in new advances in technology? Let us know what you think, and whether you have ideas on how to bridge that technology gap, or whether you think it's as wide as this survey suggests.
November 25, 2009
Not everyone will be saying grace and sitting down to football and multiple helpings of turkey and pie on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Some of you will be spending the holiday in the dorms, or elsewhere on campus. Perhaps you're an international student who doesn't celebrate the holiday. Or maybe home is too far away to justify the costs of flying back for both the turkey dinner and winter break. You may then be wondering how you can make the most of your time off from class. Well, don't fret. You won't be the only one seemingly stranded, and there are on-campus alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.
If you know of others sticking around for the holiday, consider getting together. Your college could be hosting Thanksgiving Day-related events for students like you who are staying in town. Or, if you feel like you'll be missing out on that home-cooked meal, consider a potluck with those other students to eat on a budget. You don't need to break the bank for a Thanksgiving meal, especially if you're sharing the duties, so look for tips on Thanksgiving on a budget. Pick up the boxed stuffing and canned cranberry sauce rather than making things from scratch like Mom might. If you're in the dorms, consider checking out the Thanksgiving meal deals on campus. If you're really lucky, you've made a good enough friend who wouldn't mind having you over to their family's Thanksgiving. Don't be shy about taking leftovers back to the dorm, which you'll surely be offered if you play the "I miss home" card.
Take the time to get acquainted with your college. You've probably been in too much of a rush balancing work and college or getting used to larger loads of homework to appreciate what the student center has to offer, or that new walking path on the outskirts of campus. Explore your surroundings, so that you have plenty to share when your friends come back from their long weekends home.
Study at your own pace. You'll probably have finals week on your heels shortly after this mini-break is over, so take advantage of a quieter campus and emptier student lounges to get the bulk of your studying done before everyone comes back and the chances of procrastination and distraction are greater. Enjoy the time off, but try your best to be productive, too. You'll feel a lot less stressed than everyone else when they're cramming and pulling all-nighters before their big exams.
Don't forget about your family. If Thanksgiving is typically a big deal at home, but you just couldn't swing the costs of the trip, make sure you check in once in a while over the next few days. Chances are your family will be missing you just as much as you're missing them, and while you don't want to be moping around or hiding away in your dorm room the entire weekend, you want to make sure everyone knows you're thinking of them. Talk about how excited you are about the upcoming winter break, and your plans for your own alternative Thanksgiving Day on campus. It could be a pretty good time if you're a little creative.
December 7, 2009
Following a good deal of criticism and complaints from its student population and across the state, faculty at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania voted Friday to make the school's mandatory "Fitness for Life" course optional instead. The school came under fire and received a large amount of unwanted media attention over the last few weeks for their requirement that any student who entered the school in 2006 or later and had a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater would be enrolled in a fitness course to lose weight before graduation.
The course didn't receive much attention until this fall because it was the first time administrators had to warn seniors that they were in danger of not graduating if they did not meet the school's fitness requirement. Eighty students were sent emails that they were required to either complete the one-credit course or show they had lost enough weight to make a dent in their BMI before being allowed to graduate. Critics since questioned whether the special graduation requirement was legal and unfairly singled out a population of students.
In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the school's administrators say the requirement will remain in place through the spring semester, and defended the school's initial decision to require a fitness requirement of obese students. Ashley E. Gabb, assistant director of communications at Lincoln University, said in the article that it wasn't the school's intention to have an "adverse effect on students," and that the school remained committed to finding ways to make the student population healthier.
Many schools have programs set up that encourage healthy diets and promoting healthy lifestyles. A number of Massachusetts schools, for example, have been making changes in their dining halls to "sneak" healthy foods past college students. Others also require fitness and physical education requirements. Rollins College, for example, requires three physical education courses of its incoming students, including two terms of elective lifetime recreational activities. (The school offers classes in a wide variety of physical activities, including ballroom dancing, sailing, and weight training.)
A swim requirement is also still popular at many colleges, including Hamilton College, the Washington and Lee University. At many of those schools, students who fail the college's swim test - 10 minutes of continuous swimming, for example, or proof that you can tread water - are required to take a swim class prior to graduation. Most of these schools require some sort of physical education class as part of the general education requirements, so the swim class may count toward that requirement in many cases.
How about your school? What kinds of things is your college doing to make the student population healthier? Do you have PE requirement? Is this even appropriate to do? Let us know what you think.
December 11, 2009
Everyone knows not to say "fire" in a crowded theater or "bomb" on an airplane. But what about saying "bomb" in a classroom? As a graduate teaching assistant at University of California-Davis learned last week, that might not be such a good idea either.
James Marchbanks, the teaching assistant in question, was arrested last week for making a terrorist threat, false imprisonment, and making a false bomb threat. Why? The graduate student referred to the course evaluations he was distributing to his introductory drama class as a bomb.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Marchbanks reportedly walked into class on the last day with his backpack on one shoulder and told the class, "I have a bomb, this is the last time I am ever going to see you. I am going to leave class before the bomb goes off but you are all going to stay here until it's done," then tossed a packet of course evaluations and pencils on the desk at the front of the class and ran out
The move was widely interpreted as a dramatic and lighthearted delivery of evaluation forms that he felt could potentially destroy his career. In fact, 13 students signed a letter to this effect. Unorthodox teaching methods, relaxed and informal attitudes, and extreme nervousness about their effectiveness as teachers are all pretty standard for graduate students, especially in the arts and humanities, so for many students in Marchbanks' Drama 10 class, his delivery of course evaluations probably seemed on the quirky end of ordinary.
However, a few students took his remarks seriously and decided to file a complaint, even when it became clear that he was alluding to the destructive power of negative evaluations, and not to a homemade explosive device. Campus police obtained a warrant for his arrest and a judge set bail at $150,000, a figure substantially higher than the Sacramento Bee calculated the charges should carry, and a price certainly well out of the reach of what a student receiving a graduate fellowship or assistantship could afford. It was eventually decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime and he was released, but only after he had spent four days in jail.
While few people are likely to argue that Marchbanks deserved jail time for his comments, it does raise questions about what's appropriate to say in a classroom. With multiple incidents of on-campus violence, including a graduate student's recent murder of a professor at the State University of New York-Binghamton, appearing in the media, many already stressed-out students may be more on edge than normal right now. Did students overreact? Do graduate students need to be more aware of their actions in the classroom as new teachers? What do you think?
December 17, 2009
On Monday, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was greeted by campus police when she arrived on campus. The reason: faculty members had felt threatened by her Facebook status updates.
Amanda Tatro, a student in the university's mortuary science program, had made a series of Facebook status updates over the weekend that made references to violence and her embalming lab class. Some of her professors were concerned by these updates and called the police. Tatro was escorted off campus Monday and barred from her classes for the first half of the week, finally being reinstated and allowed to make up missed work yesterday after police and the university's Office of Student Conduct deemed her posts non-threatening.
After being dumped by her boyfriend, Tatro posted to Facebook that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" because "lots of aggression can be taken out" with a sharp embalming tool. She later added she wanted to "stab a certain someone in the throat" and followed that up with an oblique reference to the movie Kill Bill and "making friends with the crematory guy."
To many, this was just blowing off steam to her friends after receiving some bad news. But to professors being bombarded with last minute pleas and thinly veiled threats from stressed students during the finals week frenzy, Tatro's threats could easily refer to them, rather than an ex-boyfriend they knew nothing about. Given recent violent acts and threats on other college campuses, instructors chose to share their concerns with police.
While Tatro's situation was resolved relatively quickly and peacefully, others have faced serious consequences for threatening posts online. If you use Facebook or other social networking sites casually, be aware of who might be able to read what you write. Think about possible interpretations of what you say before you say it, especially if it could be in any way construed as a threat of violence against or a malicious attack on someone you know. If you put something on the Internet, always assume that it's public, and that your professors, peers, prospective employers, high school nemeses, and parents are able to stumble across it. Though public venting can be nice and can help you blow off steam when you're stressed, it can potentially lead to trouble and Internet drama that could last much longer than the original cause of your stress.
Copyright © 1998 - 2015 Scholarships.com, LLC
Scholarships.comTM All Rights Reserved
Scholarships.com, LLC, Publisher