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Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

Additional Steps Could Be Required to Obtain Certificate

April 27, 2011

Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

by Alexis Mattera

What does it take to earn a high school diploma? At most schools, going to class and earning passing grades for four years is enough but in Oregon, students may have to do a little more legwork to have that valuable piece of paper in their possession.

The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would require high school students to complete one of three additional steps before they can turn their tassels from right to left. Though its main focus is to increase college applications and enrollment rates, the bill – sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read – says students can fulfill the requirements by submitting an enlistment application to the military or attending an orientation session for an apprenticeship or training program as well as applying to a postsecondary institution. “This bill does not intend to tell anyone what choice is right for them,” Read told The Oregonian. “It merely aims to prompt the consideration of those options and encourage students to think about what’s important to them.”

Read does have supporters – after all, the bill passed 33 to 26 and has moved on to the Oregon State Senate – but also numerous detractors, like Rep. Mike Schaufler. "This is not about education," Schaufler said. "It's just one more piece of paper. It's one more hoop we're making people jump through to get the diploma they have already earned."

Whose corner are you in – Read’s or Schaufler’s?


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Louisiana Board of Regents Cuts 100+ Programs

by Alexis Mattera

With the royal wedding set to happen in less than one day’s time, many people’s minds are filled with thoughts of excess, grandeur and all things sparkly. But instead of waking up at an ungodly hour to toast the new bride and groom with sapphire-hued Kate-tinis, the Louisiana Board of Regents has a rather opposite plan: cut more than 100 academic degree programs statewide.

The Regents labeled the programs averaging fewer than eight bachelor’s degree graduates, five master’s degree graduates or three doctoral graduates in the past three years as low-completers and terminated 109 programs directly, while 189 will be consolidated or shaped into new programs. Southern University, LSU, the University of Louisiana and Southeastern Louisiana University recorded the most degrees lost and no public historically black colleges will offer a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language once the programs are phased out; a small sliver of positive news for students is that eliminated programs will remain in place until currently-enrolled upperclassmen graduate.

Though Karen Denby, Regents associate commissioner for academic affairs, said the colleges will be more efficient with class sizes, faculty loads and graduation rates as a result of the cuts, some administrators – like Mike Gargano, LSU System vice president of student and academic support – are still wary about the motivation behind the changes...and we’d assume students are as well. To our Louisiana readers, does this announcement impact your intended major or career path?


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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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My College Graduation Checklist

by Jessica Seals

After four long years of taking history or biology classes you dreaded, the psychology classes that counted towards your major and quirky electives to reach the required number of credit hours to graduate, it’s finally time to walk across the stage and become a college graduate. As I am now entering the second semester of my senior year, I have learned that there are several steps that you must take in order to successfully graduate.

While attending school, you will more than likely have an advisor that will help you graduate with your desired major as quickly as you can. Of course, these advisors are human and they are bound to make a few mistakes so check the university general education requirements for graduation at the start of each semester to keep track of the classes you still need. This is what I did and because of it, I was never hit with the surprise that I would not be graduating when I thought I would. An advisor will definitely help you avoid this problem but it is always good to double check to make sure nothing is missed.

The other important thing that I learned is that graduating from college is very different from graduating from high school. In high school, you have guidance counselors and teachers who get everything together for you and constantly remind you to turn in any forms. In college, however, you are the one who has to submit your intent to graduate form to the registrar on time, make sure you don’t owe any money, complete exit counseling and turn in any extra documentation required by your school.

Graduating from college will be one of the happiest times of your life. Despite all the excitement, take some time to make sure that everything is in order so that no surprises keep your diploma out of reach.

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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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?


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Federal Mandate Will Standardize High School Graduation Rates

by Alexis Mattera

High school graduation rates have been on the rise across the nation but are the numbers of mortarboard-tossing students truly accurate? Experts say a new approach to data calculation will reveal the truth.

A new federal mandate scheduled to take effect next year will standardize graduation rates by calculating the number of students who graduate high school in four years divided by the number of students who entered the school four years prior. This means states will no longer be able to count students who complete special education programs, night school, the GED and virtual high school programs along with those who earn a traditional high school diploma; when these students are removed from the equation, Chris West of Johns Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center estimates official national graduation rates will likely decrease between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Parents may be alarmed when they see the numbers fall but the standardization will do far more good than harm: West says it will level the playing field for high schools vying for federal money through the Race to the Top program – funds that will allow these schools to better prepare their students and further increase graduation rates. Do you think the graduation rate standardization will have a positive or negative impact? Is this a change that should have happened a long time ago or was the old way of reporting just fine?


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Is College Still Worthwhile?

December 30, 2011

Is College Still Worthwhile?

by Alexis Mattera

There’s been much debate about the true value of a college degree. This isn’t surprising given rising tuition costs and lower employment rates but a new study by a 2011 Trinity College graduate reveals spending the time and money to obtain a college degree is still very much worthwhile.

That graduate – Sarah Millar – came to this conclusion by examining data from government and private sources as well as her own personal experience as a college student. She found that although college costs have climbed an average of 6.4 percent each year since 1981 and annual income has only risen 0.4 percent in that time, the average take-home pay of college graduates is $38,950 versus $21,500 of students who only graduated high school. Unemployment rates of the two groups are also in favor or college degree holders – as of last month, 4.4 percent to 9.6 percent – and earnings of college grads exceed high school grads by more than $1 million over 40 years. Millar does note that all colleges and majors are not created equal, though, as average starting salaries of recent grads in specific fields of study from well-known or prestigious schools are more than those from state universities or smaller private colleges.

Check out more information from the study here then tell us: What do you think of Millar’s findings?


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Pomp and Circumstance

Early Graduation and the Road Ahead

January 4, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

by Jessica Seals

After experiencing another Thanksgiving filled with laughter, tons of delicious food and family gatherings, I realized that graduation was right around the corner. Each morning, I hoped that the date would magically jump to December 17th so that I could walk across the stage and receive my bachelor’s degree; with all of my wishing, that day did arrive and all of my emotions hit me full blast.

I was excited to be done with my undergraduate work, I was nervous about potentially falling as I accepted my diploma in front of thousands of people, I was anxious to see what the future held for me and I was sad when I realized that I would no longer get to experience campus life anymore. Despite the fact that I was overcome with emotion, I sported the biggest smile as I proudly stood in line waiting for the graduation ceremony to begin.

Leading up to the commencement exercises, all of the soon-to-be graduates lined up backstage and I saw just how many students were aboard the same emotional rollercoaster as me. Some were so excited they could not stand still, some appeared sick to their stomachs and some tried to remain calm while clearly fighting back tears. When my name was called and I headed toward Memphis’ president to receive my diploma, my goal of obtaining a degree in less than four years – with several different honors, too! – became a reality. It was everything I’d imagined, plus so much more.

What happened next? I walked down the stairs (without falling!) and breathed a big sigh of relief. As I passed my seat, I felt extremely accomplished and wanted to keep the success I had as an undergraduate going for the rest of my life. With law school and internships on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before the world sees just what I am capable of.

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 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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DePaul Takes the Guesswork Out of Transferring

by Alexis Mattera

For any student thinking about transferring, there’s always the worry that the credits they’ve worked so hard to achieve will be worth nothing at their new school...any student except those transferring to DePaul University, that is.

According to Lois Bishop, DePaul’s director of community college partnerships, transfer students at DePaul have great grades and high graduation rates but many have failed to take prerequisite courses or accumulated credits at their previous institutions that won’t count toward their bachelor’s degrees. In order to make transferring as educationally- and cost-effective as it can be, the school created the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program to help transfer students earn their two-year credentials and bachelor’s degrees on time. Students in the program are guaranteed a spot at DePaul if they finish community college with a 2.0 GPA and receive $2,000 a year after transferring if they achieve a 3.0. They also lock in bachelor’s degree requirements if they enroll within three years of starting the program, have access to DePaul advisers while at the community college to ensure they take the right classes for their eventual majors and can earn reverse credits toward associate degrees. (Check out additional details from Inside Higher Ed here.)

Since the program’s launch last year, DePaul has partnered with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harold Washington College, Truman College, Wright College, College of DuPage, Harper College, Moraine Valley Community College and Oakton Community College but hopes to expand the opportunity to more schools and students. What do you think of the DePaul Admissions Partnership Program? Would a program like this appeal to you if you were thinking about transferring?


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