Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

Some basic college financial aid terms

by Grace

FAFSA -Free Application for Federal Student Aid
It’s a form you fill out and submit to the government. The Office of Federal Student Aid determines your eligibility for getting student aid (including PELL grants, and work-study programs). You’ll need your parent or guardian’s help though, because it asks for information such as their income. It is recommended that you fill out the form as close to January 1st as possible. Don’t wait! Completing, and submitting this form should be the first step of your financial aid process.

EFC-Expected Family Contribution
This dollar figure is how much (the government) expects your family to contribute to your education for one year. The figure is calculated from the FAFSA information you provided, and factors such as family size, number of family members in college, family savings, and current earnings affect it. Usually, the lower your EFC, the more financial aid you’ll receive.

SAR-Student Aid Report- (ISIR- The Electronic Version of SAR)
A summary of your FAFSA responses, it’s sent back to the student electronically or in paper version after their FAFSA is processed. The SAR is also sent to the college’s you’ve selected to receive it. The colleges or universities will use this information to determine if you’re eligible for federal-and possibly non-federal-financial aid.

This is an online financial aid application service offered by the College Board, used to determine if you qualify for non-federal student aid. More than 500 colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools use it. It’s an efficient way for students to report their financial data to their schools of choice.

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to (usually) undergraduate students. They are not a loan; they do not have to be repaid. The amount you receive will depend on your financial need, your costs to attend school, whether your a part-time or full-time student, and your plans for length of attending school.

Stafford loans are low-interest loans for (eligible) students to help cover the cost of higher education. You can use it for a four-year school, community college, or trade, career, or technical school. Students borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools.

There are two types of Direct Stafford Loans: Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Direct Subsidized Loans, as the ones described above, are for students with financial need. They are not charged interest while in school, as long as it’s part time. For Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you are not required to prove financial need, and interest accumulates on the loan from the first time you borrow the money.

From Noelle Smith, a student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

September 29, 2011

Is data analytics the new ‘plastics’?

by Grace

In “The Graduate”, recent college graduate Ben receives advice from an old family friend.

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you -just one word.
: : : Ben: Yes sir.
: : : Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
: : : Ben: Yes I am.
: : : Mr. McGuire: ‘Plastics.’
: : : Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
: : : Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
: : : Ben: Yes I will.
: : : Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That’s a deal.

Is data analytics the new plastics?  If so, even traditionally math-phobic marketing students may be forced to confront mathematics and statistics courses.

Faced with an increasing stream of data from the Web and other electronic sources, many companies are seeking managers who can make sense of the numbers through the growing practice of data analytics, also known as business intelligence. Finding qualified candidates has proven difficult, but business schools hope to fill the talent gap.

This fall several schools, including Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, are unveiling analytics electives, certificates and degree programs; other courses and programs were launched in the previous school year….

Data analytics was once considered the purview of math, science and information-technology specialists. Now barraged with data from the Web and other sources, companies want employees who can both sift through the information and help solve business problems or strategize. For example, luxury fashion company Elie Tahari Ltd. uses analytics to examine historical buying patterns and predict future clothing purchases. Northeastern pizza chain Papa Gino’s Inc. uses analytics to examine the use of its loyalty program and has succeeded in boosting the average customer’s online order size….

Fordham this fall will introduce a required analytics course—Marketing Analytics —for M.B.A. students on its marketing track. “Historically, students go into marketing because, they ‘don’t do numbers,'”said Dawn Lerman, director of the business school’s Center for Positive Marketing. But these days, with so much data available surrounding consumer behavior, “you can’t hide from math and statistics and be a good marketer.”

Three more words:  21st Century Skills


As the use of analytics grows quickly, companies will need employees who understand the data. A May study from McKinsey & Co. found that by 2018, the U.S. will face a shortage of 1.5 million managers who can use data to shape business decisions.

September 28, 2011

‘College costs, financial data, and other key data’

by Grace

From The Wall Street Journal

81% of public four-year college students are paying less than $12,000 in annual tuition and fees.  Although this figure doesn’t include other costs such as room and board, it should be reassuring to know that paying $50,000 per year to attend college is not typical.

30% of adults 25 or older have bachelor’s degree, an increase from about 20%  in 1990.

The rising trend of women’s dominance in educational attainment is apparent, with 57% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to females in 2009 compared to 43% in 1970.

September 27, 2011

College planning made difficult by its complexity and infrequency

by Grace

In a Wall Street Journal article that offers advice on using rational thinking in college planning, Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson give some clues why this process is often such an ordeal for families.

It doesn’t help, of course, that decisions about college are mind-numbingly complex to begin with. For starters, a college education is really a joint production between both the college and the student, so “fit” matters greatly. The best college for one student might be a nonstarter for another. Second, both the benefits and the costs, at least for the two-thirds of students who borrow, are extended over a long period of time, requiring a kind of investment perspective.

Moreover, investing in college is not something families deal with frequently, so learning from experience is hard. Reliable information is hard to come by, and decisions aren’t reversed easily or without cost; transfer is possible, but it’s often expensive and risky.

Even a rational planner armed with all available information would have a tough time making smart choices. Add in the foibles and frailties of real human beings, and it’s easy to see why the college search process results in so many bad decisions by so many families.

The holistic nature of the admissions process makes it more complicated, often causing great uncertainty in predicting the chances of acceptance to a particular college.

You can read the entire article here.

September 26, 2011

Poor job prospects lead to more young adults staying near mom and dad

by Grace

In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others – nearly 1 in 5….

Among adults 18-34, the share of long-distance moves across state lines fell last year to roughly 3.2 million people, or 4.4 percent, the lowest level since World War II. For college graduates, who historically are more likely to relocate out of state, long-distance moves dipped to 2.4 percent.

This is from an article describing the “lost generation” of young adults feeling the effects of coming of age during a prolonged economic slump.  The numbers are from 2010 census data.

A low in jobs, mobility, marriage for young adults – AP

Reltated:  Impact of staggering growth of student loans on our children’s future

September 23, 2011

Bad news – rising college tuition combined with government aid reductions

by Grace

This summer, a number of states and colleges have slashed grant funding and raised tuition prices, giving students and their families little time to prepare for the hikes that will go into effect soon. According to Smart Money, Texas and New Hampshire announced tuition increases from 6 – 10% at some public universities. California just proposed to continue to drive tuition up, from an 8% increase just a few months ago to 12%. New Hampshire, Illinois and Georgia have all scaled down their state grant programs to students.

In an interview with Smart Money, Katharine Gricevich, director of government relations at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, stated that while the Illinois grant cuts are unlikely to affect students in their first semester at school this year, they will likely see a difference second semester.

So what does this mean for students? You might just be paying more for school than you originally thought.

Before you start to panic, realize that rapidly rising education costs have been a long-term trend that could not be sustained.  Now, with state and federal government funding cuts due in part to our crippling recession, bloated college budgets may be forced to shrink.  That’s probably good for the long term, but there is no doubt it is causing disruption and pain to current college plans.

Facing the reality

At this point, there’s little parents and students can do to cushion the shortfall. They can contact the college to find out if they’re raising tuition further, or ask the college’s financial aid office to provide more free aid if the state lowers their grant money, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, which tracks financial aid issues. For more radical results, a student could take classes at a local community college for a year or a semester. Those courses are typically much cheaper and can often be transferred for college credit. Meanwhile, for students and families who are starting the process of shopping for colleges or saving for tuition, the cautionary tale seems clear: for the foreseeable future, public college tuition prices and financial aid promises may be unreliable.

Tuition Increases & Aid Reductions: Will You Be Paying More for School?

September 22, 2011

Hirsch explains cause of decline in SAT scores is content-light instruction

by Grace

Average SAT scores fell this year, with critical reading results declining to the lowest on record.  E.D. Hirsch writes that the main cause is a move away from content-rich instruction in the elementary grades.

The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism — the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.

The most credible analyses have shown that the chief causes were not demographics or TV watching, but vast curricular changes, especially in the critical early grades. In the decades before the Great Verbal Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach.

Daniel Willingham on this subject:


How Knowledge Helps – It Speeds and Strengthens Reading Comprehension, Learning—and Thinking

(Cross-posted at Kitchen Table Math)

September 21, 2011

‘Diversicrats’ – diversity administrators’ role in college administrative bloat

by Grace

Administrative bloat is a major factor in the escalation of college costs, and “diversity” administrators are probably the biggest part of it.

Writing about recent disruptions  triggered by racial preference policies at the University of Wisconsin, Robert Weissberg labels these administrators “diversicrats”.

The University’s website lists the African American Student Academic Services, American Indian Student Academic Services, Chicano/a Student Academic Services, a Multicultural Student Center, and various multicultural student organizations.  A separate Academic Advancement Program (AAP) exists to assist “underrepresented students” and for four years helps “…create an inclusive campus climate where all members of the campus community feel valued, respected, and free to participate and achieve their highest academic and professional potential.”  AAP “…focuses on academic advising, academic instructional support, academic engagement and enrichment, and community building, which are the four pillars of our program.” The AAP is not, however, to be confused with the Center for Educational Opportunity that works with over 600 students to upgrade their skills and mentors them. And don’t forget the Office of Equity and Diversity targeting underrepresented groups to achieve social justice. And for students struggling with certain subjects, I counted an additional six separate tutoring services.

This is only a sampling and omits what occurs in the admissions office and in feel-good courses on identity politics. One can only wonder how many educationally useless hours were spent crafting the Orwellian mission statements, progress reports and schemes to create yet more bureaucracy.

This long list of diversity fly-in programs gives a clue about what some of these “diversicrats” do.

September 21, 2011

College diversity fly-in programs for 2011

by Grace

A link to a list of college diversity fly-in programs, some with expired deadlines: 2011 Diversity Fly-In Program List: Colleges Pay for Seniors to Visit This Fall!

If you’re unfamiliar with diversity fly-ins, here is a brief description.

These college visits are recruiting tools used to attract under-represented minority (URM) students.  They are typically aimed at high school seniors, with some trips occurring in the fall before college applications have been submitted and some in the early spring semester after applications have been sent.  A spring fly-in invitation is usually viewed as a strong signal that the student has been accepted to that college, although it should not be considered a guarantee of admission.

  • URM invitees can include racial/ethnic and gender identity minorities as well as  low-income students.
  • Trip costs are often covered at least in part by the school.  This can be in the form of a stipend or actual payment of travel expenses.
  • Invitations can be generated by CollegeBoard SAT reports, high school counselors or other means.  The schools are usually seeking students who stand out in academic achievement or in other areas.
  • The application to attend might be a simple form or a more lengthy process that includes one or more essays.  Essay topics are often related to diversity.
  • If a student does not receive an invitation but is interested in attending, he should contact the college.
  • Applying early is advised as sometimes these slots fill up fast.
  • In addition to “diversity” and “multicultural”, the names of these events often seem to include words like “discover” or “window”.

Example:  Diversity fly-in at Middlebury College

Middlebury College invites you to visit our campus during our annual multicultural open house, Discover Middlebury, October 16-18, 2011.  We are looking for students who are intellectually motivated and would like to explore the pursuit of higher education at a small liberal arts and sciences college.

The visit is open to seniors from traditionally under-represented groups: African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and American Indian students; students (regardless of ethnicity) with demonstrated financial hardship; and students who are first in their families to pursue a four-year college education.  Unfortunately, international students or those living outside of the country cannot participate in this program.

Because Discover Middlebury is a popular program, we unfortunately cannot accommodate all applicants.  There is a selective application process to fill the approximately 75 spaces available, with priority given to strong students who might not otherwise have a chance to visit campus.  Meals and lodging will be provided free of charge by Middlebury College for all participants, and transportation will also be provided for students who will be financial aid applicants.  Modes of transportation will vary depending on where a student is traveling from and may be by plane, train or bus.

Please apply via our online Discover Middlebury Application. Students are responsible for completing the application which can be accessed via the link on the right, including unofficial copies of your high school transcript, your standardized test scores, and a brief statement to the Admissions Office.

From the Middlebury application:

Personal Statement:
Write a brief statement (approx. one page) telling us why you would like to participate in Middlebury’s multicultural weekend and what you hope to get out of your future college experience

UPDATE:  What role do diversity administrators play in college administrative bloat?

September 20, 2011

High school online classes expand in Westchester County

by Grace

Eight school district in Westchester County are participating in a pilot program offering BOCES-sponsored online classes to their high school students.  The courses were designed by local teachers and make use of  “blended” learning, including both virtual and in-person experiences.  Initially limited to four elective courses, plans call for expansion in future years.

Although this might seem like a low-risk way for the schools to try online learning, I am left with some questions about this initiative.

  • What are the costs, both in terms of money and lost opportunity?
  • How will results be assessed?  Is saving money the main criteria?  Will the outputs be measured in quantifiable ways?
  • Although it seems like a good idea to try online teaching with what appear to be relatively light-weight electives, are there plans to go online with core courses also?  What about AP courses, where offering students more options could be a real way to take advantage of the efficiencies of technology?

It turns out that New York lags behind some other states in K-12 online learning initiatives, which actually could be an advantage if it means that we will learn from the experiences of other states who have taken a leading position in this area.

A reason for New York’s relatively slow start in online learning

Nationally, online learning is taking off. As of late 2010, online learning opportunities were available to some students in 48 states and Washington, D.C., according to the nonprofit International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Twenty-seven states plus Washington also had at least one full-time online school operating statewide. New York was one of the last states to finalize a set of distance-learning standards in 2011.

Martabano said that as a result, students in New York have had limited access to online courses compared with their peers around the country — though there have been recent advances.

You can read the article after the jump.

read more »

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