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Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

Tenured Prof Leaves Stanford to Offer Low-Cost Online Courses

January 24, 2012

Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

by Alexis Mattera

Schools like MIT, Berkeley, Tufts and Michigan have been in the news recently for their support of online certificate programs. These courses are often low-cost or free alternatives to traditional college courses and one professor is so confident in this method of education that he has left a prominent position at a prestigious university to provide just that to the masses.

As reported by Reuters, The Chronicle and other outlets, Sebastian Thrun has left his post as a tenured computer science professor at Stanford to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes. Thrun is no stranger to this kind of education – he taught an artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students around the world that had students taking the in-person lecture at Stanford flocking to its online counterpart – and will now focus on crafting online courses that recreate the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring through Udacity. One of the start-up’s first offerings will be a course called “Building a Search Engine” that will teach students with no prior programming experience how to build a search engine like Google.

What do you think of Thrun’s new operation? Is this the direction higher education is headed in or will traditional classes still have a place in the future?


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The Pros and Cons of Graduating Early

by Radha Jhatakia

Much of the time, college students who are able to get the classes they need and have an education plan are able to graduate early. Graduating early can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it; it worked for my fellow virtual intern Jessica but how do you know if it's right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you have job offers lined up after graduation?

2. Did you go to college close to home?

  • If you said yes, then graduating early wouldn’t be a tough transition but if you attended college further away, graduating early may be more difficult. Many if not all of your friends were will still be in school and you’ll also miss out on the senior graduation programs.

3. Did you take out loans to pay for college?

After you answer these questions, you should be able to determine if you should graduate early or not. Just remember there are pros and cons to both and you should choose the path that’s right for you.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?


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University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

The weather in Maine is far from balmy this time of year but did the chilly temps inspire the University of Maine’s approach to college costs? Probably not but it’s kind of fun to think so.

For the first time in 25 years, undergraduate tuition has been frozen at all seven campuses: Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland and Presque Isle. Vice Chancellor Rebecca Wyke said the decision was not an easy one for the University of Maine System Trustees and though the implementation will be equally difficult, the tuition freeze was necessary. "It's going to challenge the campuses because they're already facing a budget gap that they're going to have to close," Wyke said, but explained, "The board’s action is very consistent with where Maine family income is and it reflects their understanding of the difficult financial times that we're in."

UMaine students in the audience, what do you think of the news? Are you glad to be getting a tuition reprieve or do you think tuition increases – even slight ones – are necessary to maintain campus resources, course quality and the college experience overall?


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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Study Reveals Fewer Students Attending First-Choice Schools

by Alexis Mattera

It’s finally decision day. You rush to your mailbox – either traditional or electronic – and find a fat envelope from your first-choice school waiting for you. They like you, they really like you...but will you reciprocate those feelings in the fall? According to a new survey, it’s becoming far less probable.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California Los Angeles study revealed that of the 204,000 college freshmen surveyed at 207 schools, just 58 percent enrolled at their first-choice college. This is the fifth year the percentage has dropped and program director John H. Pryor said financial aid (or lack of it) is a huge factor in students’ decisions. “These students who were accepted and are not attending are much more likely to say they are not going because they did not get the financial aid they wanted.” (Read the survey in its entirety here.)

How many of you were accepted to your first-choice school only to have to give up your spot because of one of the factors cited in the survey?


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Do Students Care About College Rankings?

by Alexis Mattera

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

The trend, discussed in a new Associated Press article, is that students typically use the rankings as a source of data and pay little attention to a school's number. The latest version of the national survey of college freshmen conducted annually by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute revealed that rankings in national magazines were number 11 on the list of factors affecting college choices behind factors such as cost, size and location; the number one factor, however, was academic reputation, which is a bit confusing as reputation is taken into consideration when determining rankings. "As someone who is asked every year to comment on the rankings, it seems to me that who cares most is the media," John Pryor, who directs the UCLA survey, wrote in a blog post last year. "Second would be college presidents and development officers. Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college."

Are college rankings a bigger deal to students or colleges? Did you or do you plan to use college rankings in making your college choices or do you think other factors are more important to consider?


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Simple Saving Solutions for Students

by Angela Andaloro

The last few weeks of the fall semester are a stressful time with finals, travel and the holidays to handle but you survived – congratulations! You may have made it into 2012 in one piece but your checking account may not be so lucky. The good news is that there are many ways for college students to save money and make living on a tight budget feel downright comfortable.

Discover discounts. You would be surprised at how many restaurants, clothing stores, hair salons and other businesses have special offers for students! Even some cell phone carriers offer student discounts, which is perfect for the college student who can’t live without his or her phone.

Plan ahead. Mapping out your week – specifically planning your meals – will help you save a lot of money: Stopping at convenience stores and fast food restaurants for snacks adds up fast!

Get a Student Advantage Card.. For $20 a year, the Student Advantage Card gets you extra discounts of up to 25% at a variety of retailers including textbook rental sites and movie theaters.

Enjoy student perks. You can often get free pens and USB drives from companies visiting campus for career fairs. Speaking of campus events, they are often stocked with free food and other swag – what’s better than getting to meet new people and grabbing a bite at no cost? If you can’t make it but still want to take advantage of gratis goods, grab your smartphone or comp to snatch up some samples of your favorite products from sites like SampleStuff.com.

Saving money in college is very important but we would also like to have money to do the things we want. These tips will get you on track to having a few extra bucks when you need them and learn valuable money management skills for your future.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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MythBusters: The Study Abroad Edition

by Darci Miller

Hello from the beautiful city of London! I’ve been here for a month and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the study abroad experience is just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s also given me the chance to put some study abroad myths to the test.

Myth #1: Study abroad is 90% partying, 10% studying. This certainly depends on what kind of student you normally are and what kind of lifestyle you lead at your home university. Europeans do go out more than Americans but “going out” often means drinking a pint with some friends at the local pub and not necessarily getting all dolled up and going clubbing. And once assignment deadlines start looming, you are going to have to hit the books.

Myth #2: It’s too much money. It’s very easy to study abroad in a financially responsible way. If you go through a program hosted by your home university, any financial aid you have will (or should) transfer. After that, it’s all a matter of using your money in a smart way. Also, check online and with your study abroad office to see if there are study abroad-specific scholarships you can apply for. I got $4,500 from Miami’s study abroad office and it’ll be funding all of my travels and then some!

Myth #3: It’s dangerous and/or scary. It’s drilled into our heads before we leave that pickpocketing is a big threat in Europe but as long as you’re smart about your belongings, international cities are no more dangerous than cities in America. And living in a new country is certainly a jarringly different experience but it’ll only change you for the better.

Myth #4: Europeans all dress a certain way and you need to fit in. Everyone in London looks like they’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine – well-dressed and attractive – so if I wear a Miami t-shirt to class, I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s ok, though: Regardless of how you dress, people will know you’re American as soon as you open your mouth.

Myth #5: You’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. I’m taking four classes and each is two hours per week with Tuesdays and Fridays off. I’ve become a champion napper but I’ve also done a ton of exploring. You’re abroad for a short time – don’t waste it!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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