Archive for ‘colleges’

July 23, 2014

Sarah Lawrence College will rate itself on the value it provides students

by Grace

Sarah Lawrence College has developed a way to assess the value it offers its students.

… The faculty came up with six abilities they think every Sarah Lawrence graduate should have….

  1. Ability to think analytically about the material.
  2. Ability to express ideas effectively through written communication.
  3. Ability to exchange ideas effectively through oral communication.
  4. Ability to bring innovation to the work.
  5. Ability to envisage and carry through a project independently, with appropriate guidance.
  6. Ability to accept and act on critique to improve work.

These measures serve as an antidote to the Obama administration’s upcoming rating system, which will measure things like cost, graduation rates, and salaries of graduates.  Obama’s new system has generated controversy, particularly since poor scores could mean the loss of federal financial aid.

Sarah Lawrence developed a “web-based assessment platform, designed to measure student performance against these critical abilities”.  Advisors meet regularly with students to evaluate their progress.

20140718.COCSarahLawrenceCriticalAbilities
Students can learn if they’re getting “their money’s worth”.

That’s a different measure of the value of an education than, say, student loan debt or earnings after graduation — the sorts of things the Obama administration is considering as part of its ratings plan. Students and parents are right to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth, says the college’s president, Karen Lawrence. After financial aid, the average cost of a Sarah Lawrence education is almost $43,000 a year.

“People are worried about cost,” Lawrence says. “We understand that.”

And they’re worried about getting jobs after graduation. But she says the abilities that the new assessment measures—critical thinking and innovation and collaboration—are the same ones employers say they’re looking for.

I have a feeling every Sarah Lawrence graduate will be rated highly.

The idea behind Sarah Lawrence’s assessment is laudable, but I must say I’m a bit skeptical about the way they measure student performance.  Shouldn’t they have an objective third party doing the assessment?

———

Amy Scott, “What do students actually learn in college?”, Marketplace, April 22, 2014.

May 21, 2014

Apply now for the New York State STEM full-tuition scholarship

by Grace

The deadline to apply for the newly introduced New York State STEM scholarship is August 14.

The NYS STEM Incentive Program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school if they pursue a STEM degree in an associates or bachelor degree program and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for 5 years after graduation.

The dual goals of the program include helping students pursue STEM careers and promoting the state’s economy.

Innovative programs like the STEM Incentive Awards will help students compete in academic fields essential to the future of our state and nation,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly.

“Through this program, New York State is helping to foster a connection between a student’s interest in STEM and their ability to successfully pursue a STEM career,” said Elsa Magee, Acting President of New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), the state agency that will administer the program. “These awards will encourage more of our most talented students to pursue their love of science, technology, engineering and math in New York State, which benefits our State economy directly and the global economy, generally.”

Failing to fulfill the program requirements can result in significant penalties.  For example, if a recipient does not complete the STEM degree or does not follow through after graduation on the requirement to work “full-time for five years in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math in New York State, while maintaining residency within the State”, he must pay back the award.

The full list of approved occupations includes farmers, computer programmers, web developers, actuaries, cartographers, engineers, and secondary and postsecondary science teachers.

There does seem to be some flexibility in the choice of occupations.

20140518.COCNYSSTEMScholarshipFarmer1

Related:  “Free tuition at New York state universities for top STEM students?” (Cost of College)

———

 Sarah Darville, “State launches STEM scholarship for SUNY, CUNY-bound grads”, Chalkbeat New York, May 6, 2014.

April 21, 2014

Downsizing trend hits higher education

by Grace

20140419.COCSorryClosed3Half of all universities and colleges may close within 15 years.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.

With budget problems “particularly acute at small, mid-tier private’ colleges“,  Moody’s anticipates a “death spiral” in failing institutions.

“What we’re concerned about is the death spiral — this continuing downward momentum for some institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “We will see more closures than in the past.”

Moody’s, which rates more than 500 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities, downgraded an average of 28 institutions annually in the five years through 2013, more than double the average of 12 in the prior five-year period.

Falling enrollments are a problem.

Dozens of schools have seen drops of more than 10 percent in enrollment, according to Moody’s. As faculty and staff have been cut and programs closed, some students have faced a choice between transferring or finishing degrees that may have diminished value.

At Dowling College in New York a “dormitory is shuttered, as are a cafeteria, bookstore and some classrooms in the main academic building”.

Dowling, which got a failing grade for its financial resources from accreditors last month, epitomizes the growing plight of many small private colleges that depend almost entirely on tuition for revenue. It’s been five years since the recession ended and yet their finances are worsening. Soaring student debt, competition from online programs and poor job prospects for graduates are shrinking their applicant pools.

Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire will drop six majors.

Net tuition revenue fell 14 percent to $30.3 million last year from 2009 as Franklin Pierce boosted financial aid to attract freshmen and keep students from transferring. Standard & Poor’s cut the Rindge, New Hampshire-based school’s credit rating last year to B, five steps below investment grade, from BB. Moody’s reduced its rating to B3 from B1 the year prior.

Ashland University in Ohio cut its tuition.

Ashland University, a 136-year-old college in Ohio, reduced tuition by about $11,000 — and direct aid commensurately — for the coming school year, with the goal that a lower-tuition/lower-discount model will eliminate sticker shock and lure students. In November, Moody’s downgraded Ashland’s rating to Caa2, eight levels below investment grade, saying the probability it will default has increased after three years of enrollment declines.

As a strategy for survival, diversifying takes on a new meaning.

Some colleges are looking beyond belt-tightening for more permanent solutions. Morgan State University in Baltimore, a historically black college, is targeting more Hispanic applicants and those of other ethnicities, according to Moody’s. Chatham University in Pittsburgh, whose undergraduate program is women-only, said in February it was considering going co-ed to boost enrollment.

This just in:

Mid-Continent University, a private institution in Kentucky, will close June 30, KFVS 12 News reported….

Related:  Private colleges see declining enrollment (Cost of College)

———

Michael McDonald, “Small U.S. Colleges Battle Death Spiral as Enrollment Drops”, Yahoo Finance, April 14, 2014.

April 9, 2014

Want to appeal your college financial aid?  Go for it

by Grace

Ron Lieber in the New York Times has some tips for students hoping to appeal their college financial aid packages before making the final decision on where to enroll in the fall.

A change in a your financial situation holds the best chances for a successful appeal.

Your best shot with an appeal will come from a change in your family’s financial circumstances since you applied for aid. Possibilities include job loss or other reduction in income, new health expenses, death of a parent, disability of a family member, nursing home costs, natural disasters or parental credit woes that make borrowing impossible.

Adjusting need-based aid may be a more straightforward proposition, but that’s not always true since need-based awards are often based on a ‘student’s academic merit’.

Some tips:

Some schools automatically match offers from similar schools.

Cornell instantly corrects itself if you’ve got higher need-based aid offers from other Ivy League schools or M.I.T., Duke and Stanford; it will match that offer, no questions asked.

Carnegie Mellon appears to be acting similarly, noting on its site that the university has “been open about our willingness to review financial aid awards to compete with certain private institutions for students admitted under the regular decision plan.” …

Go for it.
Based on some feedback from colleges, Lieber seems to suggest that the odds are not bad that an appeal will result in increased aid.

The worst that can happen is that the financial aid office says no …

Related:  Will colleges negotiate financial aid packages? (Cost of College)

March 25, 2014

Do colleges care more about test scores or grades?

by Grace

The ongoing discussion about the relative importance of grades or test scores in predicting college success continues with a recent report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) titled Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions.

The report found that high school GPA was more important than test scores in predicting college success.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) finds that there is virtually no difference in college graduation rates among students who did and did not submit standardized test scores. It’s a student’s high school GPA that can play a role in college success.

How important are test scores?

I am skeptical of studies showing that test scores do not play a very important role in college grades.  In some cases selection bias skews results.  At least one study that pulled out SAT scores as an independent variable concluded they are, in fact, a key factor.

——

Boston University values high grades over high test scores.

Yesterday I posted a Net Price Calculation showing that in disbursing need-based aid BU awarded more grant money to higher-achieving applicants.  Today’s table* shows that SAT scores don’t seem to help or hurt award amounts.  Grades are more important.

20140324.COCBUNPCLopsided2

The College Board reports how BU rates the relative importance of  these factors in deciding admission:

Very Important

  • Rigor of secondary school record

Important

  • Academic GPA
  • Application Essay
  • Class Rank
  • Recommendations
  • Standardized Test Scores

All students in this NPC illustration took most courses at the “Honors/AP/IB” level.

I keep hearing that grades trump SAT scores in the college admissions game.  Apparently it’s true in the case of Boston University.

* In these examples, total earned income was $80,000/year.

 Kate Rogers, “GPA vs. SAT Scores: Which is More Important?”, FOXBusiness, March 03, 2014.

March 24, 2014

Need-based college financial aid often based on ‘student’s academic merit’

by Grace

When some colleges award financial aid, ‘even “need-based” grants aren’t based solely on need: The size of the grants also depends on a student’s academic merit’.

While families do not usually know the details of how financial aid is disbursed, colleges have access to comprehensive, detailed information about applicants in what amounts to “a massive information imbalance”.

Most colleges offer “vague and superficial” disclosures about how they allocate their financial-aid dollars, said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert with Edvisors, which publishes websites about paying for college. “They don’t give details about the actual formulas they use.”

Schools use “financial aid leveraging” to attract stronger students.

While universities don’t want to disclose the details, they have become increasingly strategic in recent years about how they use their aid and which students get it. Aid isn’t just given to students in need, it’s also used now for what schools call “financial aid leveraging” — often to entice high-scoring students who will help a school’s ranking or to give a small, feel-good discount to attract out-of-state students who will still end up paying a higher price.

Boston University is unusually candid about its strategy of using need-based financial aid to attract stronger applicants.

If you are an incoming student, your application for a need-based BU grant award will be considered based on several factors. These include calculated financial eligibility, academic achievement, and the availability of funds for your program of study.

BU publishes informative student profiles showing average aid awards.  I ran some simplified* Net Price Calculations that further illustrate how their financial aid works.  Given the same financial need, the stronger student is would receive more need-based financial aid.

20140324.COCBUNPC4

The Straight-A Student is estimated to receive $35,500 in grants and scholarships, compared to only $12,00 for the Solid B Student.  Remember, this is need-based financial aid.  Merit scholarships may be awarded in addition to these amounts.

* In these examples, total earned income was $80,000/year.

Marian Wang,  “How Exactly Do Colleges Allocate Their Financial Aid? They Won’t Say”, ProPublica, Feb. 25, 2014

Related:  Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based (Cost of College)

September 11, 2013

Harvard Business School gives itself a ‘gender makeover’ to ‘foster female success’

by Grace

Here is the problem, at least as perceived by many:

20130910.COCHBSSalariesGender1

As a way to close this gender salary gap, Harvard Business School set out to give itself a gender makeover, changing its curriculum, rules and social rituals to foster female success“.

It is an ambitious plan, intended  “to change how students spoke, studied and socialized”.

But in 2010, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president, appointed a new dean who pledged to do far more than his predecessors to remake gender relations at the business school. He and his team tried to change how students spoke, studied and socialized….

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds a little creepy?

… The school saw itself as the standard-bearer for American business. Turning around its record on women, the new administrators assured themselves, could have an untold impact at other business schools, at companies populated by Harvard alumni and in the Fortune 500, where only 21 chief executives are women. The institution would become a laboratory for studying how women speak in group settings, the links between romantic relationships and professional status, and the use of everyday measurement tools to reduce bias.

Many of us are familiar with the gender wage gap, including the part about women often feeling they have “to choose between academic and social success” and that business schools see their graduates “part by gender after graduation, with more men going into higher-paying areas like finance and more women going into lower-paying ones like marketing”.

But I didn’t realize that a typical HBS female student had to “be taught how to raise her hand”.  Who knew that these best and brightest examples of high-achieving women were such wallflowers?  Apparently they need coaching on how to participate effectively in classes where men tend to take over discussions.

… Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! …

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively. The deans did not want to publicly dwell on the problem: that might make the women more self-conscious. But they lectured about respect and civility, expanded efforts like the hand-raising coaching and added stenographers in every class so professors would no longer rely on possibly biased memories of who had said what.

Marianne Bertrand from the Chicago Booth School of Business recently gave a presentation that included a list of “documented robust gender differences in a set of psychological attributes”.

–Women are more risk averse
–Women negotiate less/women do not ask
–Women perform more poorly in competitive environments and shy away from such competitive environments
–Women lack in self-confidence (while men tend to be overly confident)

Even if the environment can be modified to promote more women into corporate leadership roles, Bertrand points out that policy responses will only be effective if we can confirm that these are learned behaviors.

… Innate or learned? nature vs. nurture?  …

Related:  Women who graduated from highly selective colleges more likely to drop out of workforce (Cost of College)

September 3, 2013

Financial aid for high-income families at Duke University

by Grace

Duke University’s financial aid statistics show that even “rich” families are eligible to receive help in paying for college.

20130815.COCDukeFAIncome1

Since the numbers for each income group are not provided, we don’t know how many families are in the top categories.  Based on information from other sources, a reasonable estimate would be that 400-800 families whose incomes are $130,000 or more are receiving financial aid averaging about $20,000 per year.  These figures comprise need-based and merit-based financial aid, including athletic scholarships.  That’s about 6-12% of total Duke undergraduates.


AWARD STATISTICS FOR DUKE’S 2011-12 ACADEMIC YEAR

20130815.COCDukeFAPiecChart1


Total Enrolled Undergrads:
 6,813

Total Aid Recipients: 3,469

% of Total Aid Recipients
Merit Aid Students: 6.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 7.3%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 86.6%

% of Total Enrolled Undergrads
Merit Aid Students: 3.1%
Athletic Aid Students: 3.7%
Need-based Grant Aid Students: 44.1%


Duke is one of only two of the top ten universities that give out merit scholarships.   Although not very common, in some cases it is possible to qualify for need-based aid even with an income approaching $250,000.

How Duke Does Aid is a short, informative video on how financial aid works at Duke.

Related:  Psst – one of Duke’s so-called merit scholarships is actually need-based (Cost of College)

August 7, 2013

Did Udacity online class pilot see poor results due to bad planning?

by Grace

Poor planning appears to be a factor in the disappointing outcome of one Udacity pilot program.

San Jose State suspends collaboration with online provider

San Jose State suspends its project with Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after many students fail to pass them.

San Jose State University is suspending a highly touted collaboration with online provider Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after finding that more than half of the students failed to pass the classes, officials said Thursday.

Preliminary results from a spring pilot project found student pass rates of 20% to 44% in remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics courses. In a somewhat more promising outcome, 83% of students completed the classes.

The San Jose State experiment with online education was being closely watched by other universities as they begin to step farther into the virtual classroom.

Udacity, a private Silicon Valley education group, and San Jose State announced jointly that they have agreed to pull the courses this fall to examine results in greater detail and fine-tune many aspects of the project.

“There are many complex factors that relate to student performance, and we’re trying to study the factors that help or hinder students in this environment,” said San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn.

Since the pass rates for students in traditional classes was not disclosed, it’s unclear how the online classes fared in comparison.

Udacity students were not typical San Jose students.

… Fewer than half of the Udacity students were enrolled in San Jose State; many were high school students from low-income communities.

Many Udacity students did not even have access to a computer.  Yeah, that might be a problem.

Provost Junn admitted the pilot program had some difficulties.

She acknowledged that educators did a poor job of explaining upfront what students should expect.

“We learned that we could have prepared them better about what it means to take an online course and that this is a university course with real faculty teaching for university credit,” Junn said. “Maybe some students didn’t take it quite seriously.”

It appears San Jose State rushed into this new venture unprepared.  After changes are made, San Jose State will again offer the Udacity online classes next spring.

Related:

July 26, 2013

Fiske lists best colleges for the money

by Grace

The Fiske Guide to Colleges Best Buys of 2014 was recently released.

PUBLIC PRIVATE
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Adelphi University
  • Iowa State University
  • Brigham Young University
  • New College of Florida
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Clark University
  • Purdue University
  • Cooper Union
  • SUNY-Binghamton University
  • Cornell College
  • SUNY-College at Geneseo
  • Deep Springs College
  • Texas A&M University
  • Elon University
  • The Evergreen State College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • University of Florida
  • Rhodes College
  • University of Iowa
  • Rice University
  • University of Mary Washington
  • St. Olaf College
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • The College of Wooster
  • University of North Carolina Asheville
  • Trinity University (TX)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of the South (Sewanee)
  • University of Oregon
  • Wabash College
  • University of St. Andrews (UK)
  • Warren Wilson College
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Geared toward parents, counselors and college-bound students, the guide uses high academic rating, inexpensive or moderate price and the quality of student life on campus as criteria for its best buys. All of the guide’s best-buy schools, including 21 public institutions, fall into the inexpensive or moderate price category, and most have four- or five-star academic ratings.

Yeah, it’s another ranking system that has its flaws.  But if you’re seeking value in a college choice, it might be worth taking a look at this list.

I notice that New York, North Carolina, and Texas each have two public colleges on the list.  Many of the Fiske schools are also on Kiplinger’s list of best values in public colleges.

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