Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Claiming independence for FAFSA is hard

by Grace

Claiming independent status when completing college financial aid forms may offer a tremendous benefit  in garnering financial aid.  However, it is very, very hard to establish independence for FAFSA purposes.  StudentLoanNstwork offers a good summary of the requirements.  If any of the following apply, you would be considered an independent student.

  • You are enrolled in a Masters program, Doctorate Degree, or graduate Certification program
    • age does not matter, if you are enrolled in any of these types of programs you are considered and independent student
  • You have a child or children that are your legal dependent(s)
    • you may have a family member etc. that is considered your dependent…he/she does not necessarily have to be a child
  • You are married
  • You are under the age of 24 and both of your parents are deceased
  • You were a ward of your state until you were 18 years of age
  • You are 24 years of age or older
  • You are a Veteran of the United States Armed Force
  • You were a foster child after the age of 13.
  • You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.
  • You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.
August 30, 2011

‘co-teaching seldom raises student achievement’

by Grace

Few ideas have captured the imagination of special educators more than co-teaching, the practice of teaming a special education teacher with a general education teacher in a regular classroom for students with and without an IEP. The hope is that the general education teacher provides content expertise and the special educator provides modifications and accommodations to students with special needs (and perhaps all the children in the class).

Proponents of co-teaching extol it as ― the best of both worlds, because it ―brings children together rather than separates them and finally knocks down the walls between general education and special education.

Unfortunately, co-teaching is like dieting. Lots of people want to lose weight and look good in a bathing suit, but actually doing so is hard. National research indicates that co-teaching seldom raises student achievement.

I’ve not been impressed with the results when I’ve seen co-teaching up close.  It seems that the resources being used could be channeled into more efficient methods.  Teachers typically have very little say in any decisions to use co-teaching.

Something Has Got to Change:  Rethinking Special Education

Recent cutbacks at the nearby Mount Vernon school district

The layoffs mean that the district will have fewer classrooms staffed by two teachers.

Under the new approach, special-education teachers will only come into the classrooms that have a mix of nondisabled and special-education students for part of the day.

August 29, 2011

How one school calculates merit aid

by Grace

Jonathan Burdick, University of Rochester Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid,  writes very candidly about the factors that matter in awarding merit scholarships.  Although his revelations are specific to his particular school, they offer a window into the black box of merit financial aid.

I already posted about how family income does matter for “merit” awards, and in a Washington Post column Daniel de Vise offers a useful summary of the factors.

  1. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Burdick found that merit awards increased by $400, on average, per AP or IB course taken by an applicant.
  2. Grades. Every A grade translated to $62 in merit aid. Lower grades chipped away at the award.
  3. Test scores. An upward variance of 10 points on the SAT was worth $115 in merit aid, and each additional point on the ACT was worth $425. In other words, “a student with three 750s on the SAT on average received $1,725 more in scholarship than a student with three 700s.”
  4. Earnings. Merit awards increased by one cent for every four dollars less in family income.
  5. Personal appeals. Students who had “serious conversations” with admissions and aid counselors earned $3,000 more in merit aid than those who did not.
  6. Timeliness. Students who completed their application on time reaped $400 more in merit aid than those who did not.
  7. Recommendations. Applicants with very strong letters of recommendation earned $1,800 more in merit aid than other students.
  8. Age. Older students received more merit aid than younger students, at a rate of 82 cents per day.
August 26, 2011

DREAM Act updates

by Grace

States that allow illegal/undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition

      • California
      • Illinois
      • Kansas
      • Maryland (community colleges)
      • Nebraska
      • New Mexico
      • New York
      • Oklahoma
      • Texas
      • Utah
      • Washington
      • Wisconsin

Maryland’s law is suspended until the results of a referendum that will be on the ballot in November of next year.

The General Assembly passed the Dream Act in May but opponents were able to get enough signatures to put the proposal before voters. The immigrant advocacy group Casa de Maryland has sued to block the referendum but as of now, voters will have a chance to decide if the Dream Act will become a reality.

California is moving ahead with plans to provide financial aid to illegal students.

Following through on a campaign promise, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Monday easing access to privately funded financial aid for undocumented college students. He also signaled that he was likely to back a more controversial measure allowing those students to seek state-funded tuition aid in the future.

Rick Perry signed the Texas DREAM Act in 2001, as reported by USNews last month.

In sharp contrast to the national Republican Party line, Texas Gov. Rick Perry still supports his state’s version of the so-called DREAM Act, which permits foreign-born children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. “To punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about,” the potential dark horse GOP candidate told the New Hampshire Union Leader in his first New Hampshire interview of the 2012 campaign cycle.

August 25, 2011

Easy borrowing makes higher education bubble look like the housing bubble

by Grace

. . . just as one couldn’t imagine house prices being as high as they now are if mortgage financing were not available, it is difficult to believe that colleges and universities could have increased their charges so rapidly over time without the ready availability of students’ ability to borrow.

Arthur M. Hauptman, public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance.

August 24, 2011

How much parent involvement is too much?

by Grace

According to the National Survey of College and University Parent Programs, in 1999, some 35 percent of institutions offered parent orientations. In 2007, over 95 percent conducted them.

It seems amazing to me that just over ten years ago only 35 percent of colleges offered parent orientation.  Is this development good or bad?

This generation of parents has readily accepted that they have earned the Helicopter Parent label. Some flaunt the label proudly, despite warnings that their “hovering” may undermine success and prevent their children from learning some fundamental lessons of young adulthood — such as negotiating conflicts, advocating for themselves, and coping with disappointment.

I’m unaware of conclusive evidence showing that “over-involved” parents are causing serious problems for young adults.  Also, I’m a bit suspicious of a label that educators seem to promote as a way to push parents out of the way when their involvement is inconvenient to the schools.  On the other hand, I know that some parents are guilty of making it hard for their children to develop self-sufficiency skills.

Some parents speak with their college children every day

How much contact between college students and their parents is too much? The Second Annual Survey on College Parent Expectations indicated that 72.5 percent of parents communicate with their college students at least 2 or 3 times per week. If parents wish to foster independence, this number of weekly contacts may be excessive, depending on the purpose of the communication.

Parents need to ask themselves whether they are calling to simply touch base or keep tabs on their students. Parents and students should determine a communication plan that is comfortable for both parties.

Why parents should leave their kids alone at college – WaPo

August 23, 2011

‘Browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function’

by Grace

Don’t feel guilty about browsing the Internet at work—turns out it may actually improve your performance.

According to a new study, Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all.

The study, “Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement,” by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore …

The researchers found that the Web-surfers were significantly more productive and effective at the tasks than those in the other two groups and reported lower levels of mental exhaustion, boredom and higher levels of engagement.

“Browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function,” the authors said….

When browsing the Internet, people “usually choose to visit only the sites that they like—it’s like going for a coffee or snack break. Breaks of such nature are pleasurable, rejuvenating the Web surfer,” wrote Dr. Lim, in an email….

Because Web-surfing can aid productivity, the researchers caution employers against over-restricting workers’ Web access.

I would imagine the same benefits apply to study sessions.  So all students should now feel free to cyberloaf, but only on a limited basis.

Web Surfing Helps at Work, Study Says – WSJ

August 22, 2011

College students feeling the effects of soaring textbook costs

by Grace

Most college students are opting not to buy at least one textbook because of high costs, and many wait until class starts to see if they really need the book.  With book prices increasing almost three times the rate of inflation over the last four years, many students are having to spend $1,000 to $2,000 a year for all their class texts.

Seven out of 10 undergraduates surveyed at 13 college campuses said they had not purchased one or more textbooks because the cost was too high, according to a new survey released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group….

The survey, although not scientific, included 1,905 students from 13 college campuses, and found most of the students believed not having all their textbooks would adversely affect their grades….

U.S. PIRG, in collaboration with student chapters, have been conducting research for years on the high cost of college textbooks. Their survey found four out of five students said new editions had been a factor by preventing them from purchasing used copies, and half said bundles or custom editions for their campus caused them to encounter an increased cost.

Options to cut costs include renting e-books

“For years, a handful of powerful textbook publishers have monopolized the industry and driven up costs four times the rate of inflation,” said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs, last week in a release. “Better options are out there. Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students.”

Some student groups have joined  Textbook Rebellion. is a movement of students, parents, professors and organizations inspired to take action against skyrocketing college textbook prices. Textbook publishing is broken. We’re making a difference by raising awareness of the problem and shining some light on emerging solutions, like open-license textbooks.

We enlist the support of students and campus associations, as well as parents, faculty, administrators, legislators, and creators of open educational resources.

Rising Costs Force Students To Skimp On Textbooks – HuffPost

August 21, 2011

Art imitates life on these Old Navy college team t-shirts

by Grace

Old Navy left out the grammatically correct apostrophe in its college team t-shirts for sale online.


I suspect many kids won’t notice the error.

August 19, 2011

SmartMoney’s college ranking based on ROI

by Grace

SmartMoney’s college ranking system is based on schools’ Return On Investment (ROI)

For decades, the best-known college rankings have tried to encompass everything from alumni giving and “academic reputation” to dorm amenities. But a few years ago, SmartMoney stripped all that away in favor of a simpler benchmark. With help from PayScale, a Seattle-based compensation-data company that maintains salary profiles of 29 million workers, we collected median pay figures for two pools of each school’s alums: recent grads (who’ve been out of school for an average of two years) and midcareer types (an average of 15 years out). For each class, we divided the median alumnus salary by tuition and fees (assuming they paid full price at then-current rates), averaged the results and, finally, converted that result to a percentage figure. The outcome: a measure of return on (tuition) investment that we’ve dubbed the Payback Score. For example, a hypothetical grad who spent $100,000 to attend college and now earns $150,000 a year would score 150. The higher the score, obviously, the better.

Another imperfect college rating system
SmartMoney’s system, like all the others, is far from perfect.  In addition to ignoring financial aid, it does not account for course of study, graduate school attendance or lower tuition paid by in state students.  Only the 50 top-priced schools are included in the ranking.  So while it does  give a generalized view of  the financial value of the listed colleges, your own situation can be very different.

Georgia Tech had the best ROI measured as average alumni salaries divided by the tuition and fees they paid.

Ivy League beat by public schools even though their salaries were lower.

This link – Colleges That Help Grads Get Top Salaries – has the interactive list with specific information for all colleges.

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