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Quirky Course Offerings

June 17, 2011

Quirky Course Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever been sitting through a lecture and been on the verge of falling asleep? Do you find yourself wishing your classes were more interesting? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, grab your course catalog and discover your school’s quirky class offerings.

The Science of Harry Potter” is an honors course offered by Frostburg State University in Maryland. As the name suggests, it involves analyzing topics from J.K. Rowling's best-selling novels from a scientific perspective. For instance, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans help students understand how our taste buds function and flying broomsticks are viewed through the lens of anti-gravity research.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is offered at Occidental College in California. Its main topic of study is the concept of race and how Barbie has inadvertently encouraged societal racism; it also offers surprisingly deep insights on gender roles, capitalism and more.

Some people are skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, with the more extreme critics denouncing them as a waste of money. While they are unorthodox, keep in mind these classes still require a significant amount of work. Students taking “The Science of Harry Potter,” for example, must take daily quizzes, complete scientific projects and read textbooks. Speaking of books, “The Science of Harry Potter” only requires two textbooks but the reading list for “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is surprisingly extensive and includes works by social class analysts Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin.

So, if you're tired of more traditional course offerings like physics or sociology, consider finding out if your college offers any unique classes like the ones mentioned above. Just don't expect to do less homework!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Gaming on a College Budget

by Kayla Herrera

If you are a gamer in college like me, you know how difficult it is to choose between saving money for school and buying that video game that just came out. You know you have to pay for cable and electricity but that video game is so enticing! But trust me, my gaming friends: It’s possible to game successfully and pay the bills!

As you probably know, there are tons of free games online; naturally, some are low-quality but if you dig, you'll find pretty good free games. For a classic, try Tetris Friends; I have become addicted to this site – it’s a nice way to fill what little free time you may have.

If you are looking for something more adventurous, get Steam. Steam is an online gaming platform that I mentioned briefly in my piece about long-distance dating. It runs smoothly, has a large selection of free games and games for purchase, offers demos of new releases and stores your games for you on your computer. The negative part? It's almost too easy to purchase games. It's thrilling to find a game you've been dying to have, click a button and own it but this can be bad news if you’re trying to watch your spending.

There is always the opportunity to get an emulator, which acts as a console and allows you to play older games from Sega Genesis or Nintendo 64 on your computer for free. All you need to do is download the emulator and start searching for games – easy and entertaining.

College gamers don’t have to break the bank; you just have to know how to wiggle your way through the system. The best part is you'll still have enough for groceries!

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Financial Woes for Students in Tennessee

by Jessica Seals

Students with hopes of obtaining college degrees in the state of Tennessee now have more issues to worry about other than just getting accustomed to the college lifestyle: Negotiations have been taking place that will place an even bigger burden on the financial status of students.

Currently, students who have been living in Tennessee for at least a year can apply for a lottery scholarship formerly known as the HOPE Scholarship. This scholarship provides $4,000 to students who attend four-year public or private schools and $2,000 for students at two-year schools. A student could receive this award during each fall and spring semester for up to five years; however, legislators are currently working to put a 120-hour cap on the scholarship before the 2011-2012 school year begins. A 120-hour cap means that some students who have chosen to have more than one major will more than likely lose the scholarship before they graduate and have to find alternative ways to pay for school. This cap will reportedly only apply to students who began attending college in 2009 or after but depending on where students go to school, they could also be hit with tuition increases. Schools such as the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are hoping to implement a 12-percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year.

This increase, along with a cap on lottery scholarships, has caused more students to become stressed out because it will be even tougher to pay for school. These limitations on financial aid could lead to an increase in students who drop out of college, a decrease in the number of students attending college and an increase in the amount of loans that students will have to take out. Will these changes impact your college experience? If so, how do you plan to address them?

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is 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. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Fed Law Requires College Net Price Calculators, Experts Question Accuracy

by Alexis Mattera

How much will it cost to attend the school of your dreams? The federal government hopes its new law will make that question easier to answer but higher education experts have their doubts where accuracy is concerned.

By this October, the federal government will require all U.S. higher education institutions to offer net price calculators on their websites so prospective college students can easily compare attendance costs earlier in their college searches. Users will be asked questions about their financial and academic backgrounds and their answers – and the calculator’s tallies of tuition, fees, books, housing and food, minus scholarships and grants – will reveal the net price to attend that particular school. Though many experts are glad students will have access to this information, accuracy is a concern. Certain factors won’t be taken into consideration because direct student-to-school contact has been eliminated; for example, Washington University is willing to adjust financial aid packages if a parent loses their job and this might not be reflected in the calculators’ answers.

It’s likely the law will be revised to make side-by-side comparison more accurate before the calculators are implemented - read more about the net price calculators in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch - but would you use this new technology or do you think it’s still too early to glean accurate information?


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Credit Cards Are Not Magic and Other Money Management Tips

by Radha Jhatakia

Managing money is difficult for many people, not just college students! I’ve been taught to save every penny and paying for school myself has been the biggest reason but friends of mine who haven’t struggled as much don’t have the same outlook. For them, credit cards are magic and their parents are instant money taps.

My best friend is the reason I’m writing this article. She struggles with money but I don’t understand why. She’s been working since she was 16, her parents pay for school and bought her a car yet she doesn’t have a single dime saved! Ever hear the phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned?” I’m guessing she hasn’t but it’s true. Gaining a dollar doesn’t mean you have to spend it because in the future, you may not have that dollar. Here are a few more tips:

Having bad credit now may not matter to you but it will affect you in the future when you apply for home loans and car insurance. Be wise, spend wise and look up the rule of 72.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s 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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California Makes Cuts, Students Feel the Pain

by Jacquelene Bennett

It was recently announced that many state-funded universities in California were eliminating or reducing summer sessions due to budget cutbacks. This news comes on the eve of California lawmakers finally passing a budget plan in the state senate that would help modify the California’s debt problems. While this plan may help with the state's deficit, it puts thousands of students in trouble.

Summer school has traditionally been a time for students to either gain headway with their degrees or to stay on track with their programs because of unforeseen circumstances during the regular academic year. But now due to the budget plan, some schools like West Los Angeles College are not offering summer courses at all while other schools such as Cal Poly Pomona are increasing summer tuition fees and offering fewer classes. It is also being reported that many state universities as well as several California community colleges will offer less for-credit courses while still maintaining and offering specialized training courses and not-for-credit classes for students during the summer.

So what does this mean for students? Not only will they have to pay more per unit for summer courses than if they were taking them during the traditional academic period but the available summer classes will be not-for-credit and the for-credit classes will be extremely difficult and expensive to register for. So with the already overcrowded state schools raising the tuition fees earlier this year, these new cuts will further delay a student's ability to graduate on time.

Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Pet Ownership 101 for College Students

by Kayla Herrera

Students taking classes and living away from family and friends for the summer often yearn for a companion, a snuggler or just a pair of appreciative eyes. There is a solution – or at least a Band-Aid – to help heal the lonely hole in your heart: a pet!

Before deciding get a pet, check with your landlord. Even if your lease prohibits pets, it doesn't hurt to ask if your landlord will make an exception; my landlord’s biggest concern was cats scratching up the furniture so it’s possible yours may allow smaller animals. I decided to get a rabbit but before doing so, I read up on them and did my research to prepare, just like I would for a college exam.

So far, my rabbit has been extremely entertaining – almost as if I own a small dog: He lies out on the couch with me, watches television with me and follows me around the apartment. I even bought him a harness and leash so I can take him outside and am getting an old pet stroller to take him on walks. Pets can become the center of our worlds and my rabbit has definitely become the center of mine.

If loneliness is nipping at you this summer, think about getting a pet. Just make sure you have the money and time to devote to your pet once school starts up full-time again; if you have even slight concerns about your class schedule, work-study or social life will get in the way of properly caring for your pet, save the trip to the pet store or animal shelter for a later date.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Department of Ed Demands Special Reports for Tuition Increases

by Alexis Mattera

Do you get a headache when thinking about rising college tuition and fees? You’re not alone...but your company may surprise you.

Yesterday morning, administrators at more than 500 colleges reached for metaphorical Advil bottles when the Department of Education decreed special reports detailing tuition and student fee increases must be submitted to the government for review. Schools cited include public institutions Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Alabama State University and roughly two-thirds of California State University's 23 campuses for tuition hikes of 38 percent, 46 percent, 43 percent and between 37 and 46 percent, respectively, over the last three years as well as for-profit colleges from DeVry University, Education Management and Corinthian Colleges. In addition to explaining why costs have gone up so dramatically, the schools must also discuss how they plan to address the rising prices.

Do you think these new measures will help students make more informed college choices?


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College Challenges and How to Overcome Them

by Thomas Lee

The practical hassles of everyday life can become a problem for college students used to living at home. I learned this the hard way my freshman year when simple tasks like doing the laundry became a chore.

My freshman dorm only had two washers and dryers per hallway. A week’s worth of laundry quickly became an insurmountable pile because I couldn’t find a free washer. My parents suggested using a Laundromat but that costs extra money which a student may or may not have. The trick was for me to pick a specific time of the week where the laundry room would be mostly free and stick to it. Washing on Sunday afternoon when most students were not in the dorm became my weekly ritual.

The most difficult part of day-to-day college life for me was car trouble. Throughout all four years, gasoline prices were roughly around $3 a gallon and today show no signs of dropping. If you have a car on campus, the best thing you can do is hope to get a decent paying job and minimize your driving to only what is necessary. Another option is establishing a good network of friends and carpooling to save both time and money. Another major cost for me was car repair. I shelled out hundreds of dollars for a single repair, as well as an incident in which I was towed after having a flat tire. One rule of thumb (although this may differ by region) is to hook a white t-shirt or plastic bag to your window if your car breaks down as a distress signal to avoid towing for two days.

The best general advice I can give for college life is make smart, rational, common sense decisions. And don’t give in to peer pressure. But perhaps that is a story for another time.

Thomas Lee recently graduated from Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina with a BA in political science and journalism. His father is an ordained Church of God minister and his mother is a private school teacher; he also has two younger sisters. Thomas’ interests include politics, law, debate, global issues and writing fiction and he believes in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and a strong commitment to biblical morality and ethics. He currently resides in Washington, North Carolina and will be attending law school in the near future.


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Graduating On Time: It CAN Be Done!

by Shari Williams

Before starting school, I didn’t know very much about college life but now that I will be in school a year beyond my expected graduation date, I know what I could have done to enter the real world sooner.

At Towson, all freshmen receive class schedules assembled by the school. I didn't think to change the times of the classes (which were all at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday), nor did I research the professors. This turned out to be a huge mistake – I never was a morning person and I got stuck with some of the worst professors at Towsonmy school – as was the number of credits (12). I figured my university that I pay thousands of dollars in tuition to attend would know best, so I stuck with only 12 credits from then on. It was another oversight: Even though 12 credits is considered as full time, 12 credits is not enough to take every semester in order to graduate in four years without taking winter or summer classes. I had to figure this out myself and adjusted my class schedule accordingly.

I’m not saying you need to overload yourself with academics and never leave your dorm room – that’s not a college experience to remember! – but I am saying take as many classes as you can comfortably manage. If you have the means or have grants and scholarships, you can always take some classes over the summer or the next semester as long as it falls accordingly to your academic plan. Simply do what is best for you.

Graduating a four-year program in five years is not the end of the world but it is not something that you should shoot for, either. If you can handle five or more classes each semester, take them; you can also consider enrolling in a few online courses or opting to take a few classes pass/fail. Take what you can handle so that you can succeed.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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