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The Kindle Fire: Will It Have a Place in College?

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in 2007, the Amazon Kindle has changed the way people buy and enjoy books. Amazon’s wealth of e-book offerings and new rental program have proved to be valuable weapons for college students in the war against rising textbook costs but will Amazon’s newest addition to the Kindle family – the Kindle Fire – find its own place in higher education?

The 7-inch Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet was revealed last week and though it won’t begin shipping to customers until mid-November, the buzz surrounding it is already significant. With a $199 price tag, could the Kindle Fire be a cost-effective alternative to the collegiate bank account-busting iPad? Maybe, but will it truly gain a toehold in college classrooms? Robert Talbert isn’t so sure it will. In his recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Talbert states the device is great for electronic textbooks and fun applications but little else for college students. “Could you write a research paper on it? Or a LA TE X document? Or a computer program? How about creating and then giving a slideshow presentation? Or running a computer algebra system to do your math homework? Or shooting a video? When it comes to consuming things, the Fire seems like a great device. For creating things? Not so much. And college work is about creating things, not consuming them,” he says.

What do you think of the Kindle Fire? Would you buy one for college or would you rather wait for a tablet with more useful college features AND a lower cost?


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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?


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Early Decision vs. Early Action - Which is Right for You?

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve wanted to attend University X for as long as you can remember. You made sure your academic and extracurricular accomplishments exceeded its admissions criteria, took multiple campus tours and even made its .edu your homepage but the time has finally come to submit your application packet. Doing so early seems like a no-brainer...but is it really?

Applying to college ahead of traditional deadlines has become quite popular in recent years; with that increased interest, however, comes some confusion. Should you apply early decision or early action? Can you apply early to multiple schools? Can you apply early to one college and regular decision to another? Here’s some much-needed clarification from Examiner.com.

Early Decision: Generally, ED programs are binding and require applicants to relinquish all rights to consider offers from other colleges. If you are surer than sure of your college choice and would go to this school beyond a shadow of a doubt if you were accepted, this is a great route to take. If you’re concerned you will not get in, you should consider another application method that allows you more options.

Early Action: EA, on the other hand, is non-binding in that it allows applicants to choose from other colleges they’ve been admitted to instead of being locked into one. While most early action programs say it’s ok to apply early action and regular decision to other institutions, some can be restrictive (check out Yale’s policy compared to Harvard’s) so be sure to check the requirements before sending in your materials.

College students, did you apply early? If so, what did you think of the process? High school seniors, do you plan to apply early – either ED or EA – and did these explanations help you?


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UCLA Considers Coed Dorm Rooms

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re trying to avoid rooming with the partier, the homesick bumpkin, the borrower of clothes (without asking!), the slob or the compulsive liar, rooming with the opposite sex may be the best housing option for you. Students interested in this alternative and attending or planning on attending UCLA next year are in luck: The school is considering allowing students to request a coed roommate for the 2012 academic year.

According to UCLA’s Daily Bruin, the On Campus Housing Council received an official request for a gender-inclusive housing option last year that led to the approval of a single room to serve as the pilot for the program. Suzanne Seplow, director of the Office of Residential Life, says the university is “following suit of this national trend” and taking into consideration the roommate needs of transgendered students. Out of the handful of requests UCLA received, most were from transgender students asking to live with a student of the gender to which they are transitioning, Seplow added, but if UCLA decides to offer a gender-inclusive housing program, it will be open to all students – not just gay, lesbian or transgendered ones. Housing Services is currently looking at other universities offering coed options, such UC Berkeley and Stanford University, as models.

What do you think of gender neutral college dorms? Should all colleges follow suit and give students the coed option? Is coed housing right for you? Let us know what you think.


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Professor Tells Stuttering Student Not to Speak in Class

by Suada Kolovic

For years, educators have stressed the importance of asking questions and participating in classroom discussions, insisting that education is a dialog between student and teacher. But what if your professor personally insisted that you keep quiet during class? For one student at a New Jersey community college, that was just the case.

Philip Garber Jr., a 16-year-old who is taking two classes at the County College of Morris, has a profound stutter that makes talking difficult – and talking quickly impossible. According to the Star-Leger, after the first few class sessions in which Garber actively participated, he received an unusual email from his instructor: The professor, an adjunct named Elizabeth Snyder, requested that he pose his questions before or after class, “so that we do not infringe on the other students’ time.” As for the questions she asks during class, Ms. Snyder suggested, “I believe it would be better for everyone if you kept a sheet of paper on your desk and wrote down the answers.”

Determined to resolve the issue, Garber reported the situation to a college dean, who suggested he transfer to another teacher’s class, where he has been asking and answering questions again. The college wouldn’t say if any disciplinary action was taken against Snyder. (For more on the story click here.)

Do you think Garber was unfairly discriminated against because of his stutter? Do you think Ms. Snyder’s request was out of line?


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Florida Governor Criticizes Anthropology Majors, Daughter Holds Degree in Field

by Suada Kolovic

Recent college graduates have entered one of the toughest job markets in decades. Full-time positions are scarce and with the unemployment rate hovering at 9 percent, some people have harsh words for those pursuing liberal arts degrees. For instance, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s message to anthropology majors: The state doesn’t need more anthropologists. Perhaps he forgot his own daughter has a degree in the field. Oops!

In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Mr. Scott said, "Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so." He told the paper that he wants to shift more funding to science, technology, engineering and math departments – aka the “STEM” disciplines – and away from departments like psychology and anthropology. This comment didn’t sit well with the American Anthropological Association, prompting 11,000 of its members to fire back at Scott in a letter stating the governor is “unaware that anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualisms, the African American heritage and infant learning.” A spokesman for the governor later said that he didn’t mean to criticize anthropologists but rather intended to highlight the demand for graduates with degrees in STEM fields.

Do you think Gov. Scott’s words were a bit too harsh? Should students pursue degrees in STEM fields because there is a demand? Recent liberal art graduates, would you go back to school and change your degree path?


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A New Approach to Learning

October 18, 2011

A New Approach to Learning

by Alexis Mattera

Did you know that approximately nine out of 10 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges enroll students with disabilities and 86 percent of those schools enroll students with learning disabilities? Promising statistics...but only at first glance: The Department of Education reports just 24 percent of these schools say they can help disabled students "to a major extent." Fortunately, Landmark College exists.

The transition from a specially designed high school program to a mainstream college campus environment can be a bumpy one but Vermont-based Landmark has developed a number of programs and strategies to help these students stay focused, remain on top of assignments and understand their rights as college students with documented learning disabilities like dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder. Offerings include boot camp-style seminars, internship programs and scholarships paired with one-on-one coaching – assistance bureaucracy-mired traditional colleges often cannot provide – and with the number of disabled college students steadily increasing (they comprised 11 percent of the college student population in 2008, up from 9 percent in 2000), these programs are helping to take away the social stigma associated with these disorders and empowering students to speak up, seek assistance and ultimately succeed.

You can learn more about Landmark’s goals and additional information about learning disabled students here but we think student Morgan Behr sums up what Landmark is addressing perfectly in 10 words: "We're not that weird. We're normal. We just learn differently." What do you think about Landmark’s approach to learning?


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Clouds of Smoke on Campus? Not Anymore!

by Katie Askew

Fall in Minnesota conjures images of apple orchards, sweaters, falling leaves and pumpkin patches. The ravishing yellows, browns, reds and greens of the leaves perfectly accent the serious brick buildings and stately campus architecture at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Students take advantage of the pleasant weather patterns by spending as much time as possible outside. There is only one thing that ruins that distinct fall feeling: tobacco smoke.

Even though it’s well-known that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious disease and even death, few colleges have actually made changes to protect the health and safety of their students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 126 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke each year. In addition, secondhand smoke in the United States causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. Colleges have been hearing the pleas for tobacco-free campus proposals for years but only a handful have listened – for example, all of Arkansas’ and Iowa’s state-supported college and university campuses have been smoke-free since last year – and it’s time for the rest of the nation follow suit.

Thankfully, a Minnesota school – Minnesota State University – is. MSU in Mankato will implement a tobacco-free campus program starting January 1, 2012. Sadly, the protocol change is not free of complaints from the student body but, if the Facebook page is any indication, the majority is in support of this change. There’s no doubt that not only will campus air be cleaner to breathe but cigarette butt litter will also be vastly reduced. I only hope the same kinds of changes are made at the U of M – I HATE dodging smoke clouds on the way to class!

Is your campus smoke-filled, smoke-free or somewhere in the middle thanks to new initiatives? (Find out your school's status here.) Do you think administrators should address the campus smoking issue more or should it be up to students to take action?

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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The Daily Paywall

College Newspapers Get Mixed Reactions to New Fee Initiatives

October 17, 2011

The Daily Paywall

by Alexis Mattera

You’re working on a paper in your dorm room one evening (not the night before it’s due, of course!) and are searching for sources to strengthen your argument. As you near the required page limit, you remember your brother mentioning a series of articles published in his school's newspaper a few months back that would help bolster your point. So you log on to the paper’s website and find the articles you are looking for...only to be met with a paywall.

If you haven’t experienced the scenario above, you may in the near future as a number of college newspapers are adding paywalls for online content access. Early adopters of the initiative aren’t charging on-campus users but are instead asking off-campus non-students for donations or relatively small dues depending on the amount of content they consume. How does it work? It depends on the school: For example, Boston University’s Daily Free Press added a donation page and Oklahoma State’s Daily O’Collegian charges a nominal $10 yearly fee to non-students outside a 25-mile radius of the college to access more than three articles a month.

The paywall initiative does have its supporters – BU calls it a “no-lose situation” and digital-subscription company Press+ has offered to cover the start-up fees of the first 50 campus papers that sign up for their service – but it also has its detractors: Jeff Jarvis, a blogger and professor of new media at the City University of New York, thinks colleges would be better off taking a page from Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and looking for alternative revenue streams. Where do you stand on the college newspaper paywall issue? Should the content be free to everyone or are fees a way to remedy the broken traditional media model?


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The Impact of Merit Aid

October 19, 2011

The Impact of Merit Aid

by Alexis Mattera

Wherever you are in the financial aid process, you’ve probably heard the term merit aidfinancial aid based on students' academic and other merit rather than financial need – and its increasing popularity over the last decade or so. What you may not know, however, is the impact this trend has had on students seeking need-based aid.

According to a new report by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, state and institutional financial aid for low-income students has dropped significantly as merit aid has increased. From 1995-96 to 2007-8, the proportion of merit aid recipients in the highest quartile of family income rose from 23 percent to 28 percent, while the proportion of merit aid beneficiaries from the lowest economic quartile fell to 20 percent from 23 percent. (See more statistics here.) The report also suggests that many institutions have embraced merit aid because they believe this type of award will entice middle- or high-income applicants to attend their school over others (and pay more money to the school as a whole during the time they are enrolled) instead of offering financial assistance to low-income students who truly need the funds to attend college.

What’s your stance on merit aid? Does it help more than it harms in higher education or vice versa?


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