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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

February 23, 2012

The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?

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Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

February 24, 2012

Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

by Alexis Mattera

There could be a 15-page research paper deadline, a monster exam and an internship shift tomorrow but if you think a college student isn’t going to take even a few minutes to destress or have a laugh, you’re crazy. My go-tos were Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Snood and UCTV but today, it’s all about college-centric memes.

According to Time (and Richard Dawkins), a meme is essentially an idea that replicates and evolves through imitation – a process the Internet makes almost too easy. Since October, schools like Florida International University, McGill, Appalachian State, UT, Duke, Northwestern and BU have all jumped aboard the meme train and the viral school spirit shows no sign of slowing: More student-created takes on Success Kid, Uber Frosh and others keep popping up on Facebook every day.

Have you caught college meme fever or do you think the meme trend has already worn out its welcome?

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UVA Students Go On Hunger Strike for Higher Wages

February 29, 2012

UVA Students Go On Hunger Strike for Higher Wages

by Suada Kolovic

After a decade of dialogue with administration, marches, rallies and petitions, the Living Wage Campaign decided enough was enough: The student group that has pushed for higher pay for low-level employees at the University of Virginia (UVA) is entering the 11th day of a hunger strike with more than a dozen students continuing their protest.

Organizers are demanding UVA pay its employees at least $13 an hour with benefits and wages that are indexed to inflation. “Our university seeks to distinguish itself as a caring community and prides itself on traditions of honor and student self-governance. However, in our ‘caring community,’ hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25 an hour while six out of the top ten highest paid state employees in Virginia hold administrative positions at the university,” wrote Joseph Williams, a hunger striker and football player at UVA, on Michael Moore’s website. On Monday, protestors met with UVA President Teresa Sullivan and other officials but declared it unsuccessful and said they would remain on a hunger strike until their demands were met. University officials insist they have no say over how much contractors pay their employees. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the extreme strategies the protestors are taking? Do you support their efforts? Would you participate in a hunger strike for a cause you believed in?

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Private College Group Lists Steps Toward Enhancing Affordability

March 1, 2012

Private College Group Lists Steps Toward Enhancing Affordability

by Suada Kolovic

With a growing number of students questioning whether the cost of a college education has grown too high to be justified, the reality of students selecting non-traditional paths has finally garnered a response from colleges: According to a list published by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, private nonprofit colleges and universities are unveiling lots of affordability measures in the coming academic year including tuition cuts, freezes and guarantees, three-year degree programs, four-year graduation pledges, curricular changes to help students graduate on time, partnerships with community colleges, lower tuition increases and scholarship assistance. Check out some of the highlights below (and to see the full list, click here):

Baylor University - Waco, TX: In the upcoming academic year, Baylor will begin the pilot phase of the new Baylor at MCC Co-Enrollment Program with McLennan Community College. Students in the program will attend the first year or two at MCC then move on to graduate from Baylor.

Roosevelt University - Chicago, IL: Beginning this fall, Roosevelt and nearby community colleges will offer students the opportunity to complete associate degrees and matriculate to Roosevelt at a frozen tuition price point across four years.

Simmons College - Boston, MA: Simmons will start offering 3+1 programs this fall that will allow students to receive both bachelor's and master's degrees in just four years.

University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA: UPenn is increasing total undergraduate charges by 3.9 percent for 2012-13, the second lowest increase in 44 years. The school is also increasing its financial aid budget by 7.7 percent over 2011-12.

Wentworth Institute of Technology - Boston, MA: Wentworth will debut its first three-year baccalaureate degree program this fall.

The list will be updated regularly as more 2012-13 campus measures are announced, NAICU said. Does this information have you reevaluating your college and financial choices?

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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

March 2, 2012

Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

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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Get a College Degree - It’s Good for Your Health!

March 2, 2012

Get a College Degree - It’s Good for Your Health!

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to get a college education – better employment opportunities, higher earning potential, experiences that will last a lifetime, etc. – but you probably didn’t realize that it might be good for your health, too: A new study suggests that earning a bachelor’s degree before reaching the age of 25 is linked with having fewer symptoms of depression and having a higher self-rating of health, compared to people who don’t have college degree before 25.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, were based on data from 7,179 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979. The study suggests that people with college degrees are more likely to report regular exercising – 63 percent of college graduates reported participating in “vigorous exercise” once a week or more, compared with 37 percent of people in the same age group who only had a high school diploma. Study researcher Dr. Katrine Walsemann of the University of South Carolina said in a statement that the findings “provides preliminary evidence that the timing of education is associated with health advances current research on the importance of attaining at least a bachelor’s degree after the mid-20s.” (For more on the study, click here.)

What do you think of the study’s findings? Do you think obtaining a college degree has a direct correlation to an individual’s well-being or do you think everyone has the potential to develop bad habits regardless of their educational backgrounds?

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Romney on College Costs

GOP Candidate Offers Little Comfort to Current and Hopeful College Students

March 6, 2012

Romney on College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

If you want to go to college but can’t completely afford it, don’t expect Mitt Romney to help you bridge the financial gap.

During yesterday’s town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney made it clear that he would not promise to give students government money to cover higher ed costs. The advice he did offer regarding colleges was blunt – pick an affordable option, get scholarships, join the military and graduate early – and very different than the words of President Obama during his third State of the Union address, which discouraged tuition increases and aimed to double the amount of federal work-study jobs. Though this is a man who pushed for state-funded four-year tuition scholarships while serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s mantra is now firmly “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on”...or protect you from it, for that matter: He supports the House Republican budget which would cut Pell Grants by at least 25 percent.

What do you think of Romney’s position regarding higher ed funding?

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IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

March 8, 2012

IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

There have been strides taken to ease the financial burden of higher education but for every state that limits college credits to keep degree costs down or entire college system freezing its tuition, there’s another school increasing its fees and cutting benefits. The latter could soon happen in Illinois, as lawmakers are weighing whether to eliminate tuition discounts for the children of professors and other university employees.

The legislation would get rid of this prized benefit, which allows faculty and staff members who have been employed at public universities for at least seven years to receive half-price tuition for their children. More than 2,000 college students take advantage of this perk each year and advocates of the bill say the state cannot afford to continue to offer the discount because it costs the Land of Lincoln about $8 million annually. Bill sponsor State Rep. Luis Arroyo also questioned the lack of income cap on who can use the waivers (for example, a college president earning a six-figure salary could pay far less for their child to attend college than a lower-income family would) but university officials say the discount is an important tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty members.

Does the possible end to this tuition benefit impact you in any way? How are you covering the costs of your own college education?

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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

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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The Truth About Tuition Rates

March 12, 2012

The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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