Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

Kindle Fire – the end of deep and focused reading?

by Grace

After using it for about a month, I have found it is sometimes challenging to focus when reading a book on my Kindle Fire.  When I’m out and about I can often find free WiFi, which means I can access the Internet.  So I can relate to Alexandra Petri’s lament about her Kindle Fire.

Look, if you put the Internet on the device I am supposed to be using to read, I will never read again.

Can you blame me? I am only human.

I can’t focus. If all these studies about multitasking have taught us anything, it is that we all think we can multitask but no one actually can. In the course of writing this I have eight times run off and reloaded the page to see if anything had happened on YouTube that I should know about.

The end of reading books?

It’s not that people will stop reading. We do vast amounts of reading online every day — the equivalent of a good Hemingway novel. But it’s not deep but broad, not focused but fast.

Students need deep and focused reading skills to learn, so this possible trend is worrisome.

E-reader ownership doubles in last six months
Save money on college textbooks by using Kindle 

December 29, 2011

Hybrid learning breaks down geographic barriers for Northeastern University

by Grace

Northeastern University is expanding its brand of co-op business education across geographic regions by investing heavily in hybrid education, with its first branch campus in Charlotte, NC.

The goal is to offer master’s degrees in industries like cybersecurity, health informatics and project management, matching programs with each city’s industries and labor needs, through a mix of virtual learning and fly-ins from professors based in Boston (tuition will be the same as at the main campus).

And it’s not doing it on the cheap

Northeastern, which is spending $60 million to support the expansion, is perhaps the most ambitious of a handful of brick-and-mortar institutions looking to broaden their footprint in new markets and with new methods of instruction….

Northeastern has hired 261 tenured and tenure-track professors in the last five years, about twice as many as in the previous five, and plans to add 200 more in the next three years — all of whom will be based at the home campus in Boston.

Examining traditional assumption that face-to-face is always better than online

“This is a time of huge transition in an industry that hasn’t changed much since the Middle Ages,” said Charles P. Bird, a former vice president of Ohio University who helped develop the institution’s online offerings and now works as a consultant. “Higher education is going from traditional face-to-face delivery, and the unexamined assumption that that is good, to thinking about delivering a high-quality online experience, whether fully online or hybrid.”

Drexel University has struggled with a similar enterprise it began in 2009, perhaps miscalculating the importance of local relationships.

“Bill Gates says place is going to matter less and less for universities in the future, but I think that’s wrong,” said Mr. Aoun, Northeastern’s president. “I think a successful university has to be part of a community.”

Savings for students, and the question of quality

Tuition costs for Northeastern’s new hybrid master’s are the same as those for its Boston campus program, but the savings for students will be in time, convenience, and living expenses.  I remember years ago when my husband was planning his return to school to pursue an MBA.  Since online was not an option, we had to price out the potential costs in terms of my lost income and moving expenses.  Today, that equation is quickly changing.

An important question that remains unanswered is about how the quality of online education compares with face-to-face.  Northeastern, ranked 56 on BusinessWeek’s list of business schools , would seem to have a good chance of serving up a high quality experience with its hybrid approach.

December 28, 2011

Is it racist to eliminate race as a qualifier for college financial aid?

by Grace

When the Wisconsin State Assembly recently deliberated on a proposal to eliminate race as  a qualifying condition for a state-sponsored college scholarship program, opponents labeled it a racist action.

“What it is is racism in its highest institutional level,” said Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee….

Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, called the proposal a “racist race to the bottom”…

But others argued that race should not matter.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, defended the proposal, saying the point of the Talent Incentive Program grants were intended to target poor students. Whether you also are a minority shouldn’t matter, he said.

The scholarship program targets “nontraditional’ students.

Applicants must be poor and a nontraditional student. To be a nontraditional student, the applicant must meet one of several criteria including being in prison, a first-generation college attendee or black, Indian, Hispanic or Hmong.

The administrator of the scholarship program claims it has actually not used race as a qualifier since last year as a result of a formal complaint.  However, a check on the official Wisconsin website still shows race as a criteria.

The proposal passed the Assembly, and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate planned for next year.

December 27, 2011

College costs – sticker price vs. net price

by Grace

Although college “sticker prices” have soared over the last few years, net prices have experienced a more modest increase. 

… For the average full-time student, net tuition – which subtracts grants and tax-based aid – is less than half of the published price at private nonprofit four-year schools and less than a third of the published price at the typical public four-year institution.

Moreover, trends in sticker prices and net prices have diverged over the past several years, such that many students are actually paying less now to attend college than they would have five years ago.

This divergence is the result of a 40 percent increase in grant aid and a 78 percent increase in tax-based aid since 2005-6. The average full-time undergraduate now receives about $6,500 annually in grant aid and nearly $1,000 in tax-based aid to help defray tuition and fees (these figures, also from the College Board, are averaged across all students, including those who received no aid)…

Some students are bearing the brunt of high sticker prices

That’s all well and good, but for the one-third of students who are paying full price, the positive news about net prices is small comfort.  And for the two-thirds of the class of 2010 who graduated with an all-time average high of $25,250 in loans, the grants and tax benefits are not shielding them from reality of rising college costs.

Net Price Calculators can help

Many students and their families consider only published prices when comparing colleges, without taking financial aid into account.

It’s not surprising that the complexity of the financial aid formulas confuses many families, leading them to assume the worst when considering college costs.  While it’s still too early to know, we can hope that the recent introduction of Net Price Calculators on all college websites will enable families to get a more realistic estimate of their net college costs.

December 26, 2011

The importance of sports as a hook for admission to highly selective colleges

by Grace

Do not underestimate the importance of sports as a hook for acceptance to highly selective colleges.

The following quote is from a New York Times article about the Ivy League’s new policies that have substantially enhanced financial aid for all admitted students, making it easier to recruit elite athletes.

A recruited Ivy League athlete must have the academic credentials to survive the stringent and highly selective admissions process at each institution. Coaches have little sway in the admissions process, although they do provide a list of potential athletes to admissions officials. Across the league, about 13 percent of each university’s incoming class is composed of athletes chosen from coaches’ lists.

Essentially, coaches are selecting 13% of the class.  Since most athletes are admitted in the early rounds of the process, the figures from this chart serve to make the significance of this hook even more compelling — 23% admit rate for the early rounds and 9% admit rate for regular decision.

Further explanation on how this works from another elite school, the University of Chicago

But at Chicago, as at most of the nation’s elite universities, a football player has the advantage of a big pair of cleats in the door. “Admissions always tells us, ‘There are 500 kids with perfect test scores we turned away,’ ” Maloney said. “But they also want kids who bring something else to the table — sculptors and actors and, yes, football players.”

You need the other credentials, but playing football can be the hook that gets you in the door of that elite university.

December 25, 2011

How college students spend their Christmas break

by Grace

Hope you are enjoying your holiday break!

December 23, 2011

Reed College nuclear reactor operated by students

by Grace

This is something different, a nuclear reactor operated by college students.

The Reed College Reactor Facility has been used for research and educational projects in the Portland area since its establishment in 1968. . . . The reactor is operated almost entirely by undergraduate students who are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It’s especially interesting to consider this juxtaposed with Reed’s reputation as a place “where students enjoy almost unlimited freedom to experiment openly with drugs”.

In any case, it’s reassuring to know that a “nuclear meltdown isn’t physically possible at a research reactor such as Reed’s”.  (At least, that’s what they tell us.)

Left: Reed College nuclear reactor. Right: Reed students celebrating at annual Renn Fayre.

December 22, 2011

SUNY Plattsburgh automatic merit scholarships and more

by Grace

Although state schools in New York are not known to be overly generous with merit-based financial aid, it is still worthwhile to learn what exactly is available.  SUNY Plattsburgh is one school that publicizes specific merit awards, even offering a scholarship calculator to learn if you qualify for any of their automatic grants for freshman ranging from $2,500 to $5,000.

Plattsburgh awards more than $1.5 million in scholarships to undergraduate students. About one in every five undergraduates has a scholarship of some sort, either funded by the college or foundation. Scholarships do not have to be repaid and are primarily awarded to students based upon academic achievement.

Here are the results for a few hypothetical students based on the Plattsburgh scholarship calculator.

*Assuming parent income of $85,000 with $1,971 in need-based financial aid estimated using the Net Price Calculator.  Competitive scholarships would further reduce net costs.

(You can read more about the preferred status of out-of-state students here:  SUNY wants ‘D’ students, as long as they’re from out of state)

Students can continue to receive these scholarships after their freshman year by demonstrating satisfactory academic progress and meeting other criteria.  In addition to the automatic scholarships (based solely on GPA and test scores) SUNY Plattsburgh students can apply for the competitive full-tuition Presidential Scholarship and for acceptance into the honors program.

BusinessWeek labels Plattsburgh as “selective”, with a rank of 91 on their list of Regional Universities (North).   Undergraduate enrollment is 5,906, with the most popular majors being business/marketing, education and communications/journalism.  Homeland security and related protective services majors are also popular.  It is located on the shores of Lake Champlain, about an hour’s drive from both Montreal and Burlington, VT.

December 21, 2011

SUNY wants ‘D’ students, as long as they’re from out of state

by Grace

How else would you explain that the State University of New York Plattsburgh automatically awards out-of-state ‘D’ students $2,500 scholarships?

If you manage to graduate high school with a D-average (as low as a 68% grade) and you are NOT from New York, you will be offered a $2,500 “merit” scholarship to attend SUNY Plattsburgh.  In-state students with similar credentials receive no such merit aid.  Now, if you’re a real “standout” and graduate high school with a B-average, you will automatically receive up to $5,000 in merit money.   Admittedly, even with these awards an OOS student’s net cost to attend is slightly higher than that of any in-state (IS) student.

You can check it out for yourself on Plattsburgh’s Scholarship Calculator.

Plattsburgh’s strategy is probably driven by the desire to attract the higher tuition and diversity that OOS students bring to its campus, located on the shores of Lake Champlain about an hour’s drive from both Montreal and Burlington, VT.  Currently, 88% of its first-year students are from New York.  BusinessWeek labels this school as “selective”, with a rank of 91 on their list of Regional Universities (North).

This leads me to wonder if a “selective” school actually accepts D students.  It’s quite puzzling.

With apologies to Emma Lazarus:

SUNY Sonnet to Out-of-State Students

Give me your average, your mediocre students,
Your huddled masses barely passing history,
The wretched slackers of your high school graduates.
Send these, we have money for them, to me.

UPDATED – For more details on SUNY Plattsburgh scholarships, including those for in-state students, go to this post:  SUNY Plattsburgh automatic merit scholarships and more

December 20, 2011

M.I.T. adds credentialing to its online course program

by Grace

M.I.T. has enhanced its long-standing free online course program.

But the new “M.I.T.x” interactive online learning platform will go further, giving students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.

CREDENTIAL for demonstrating mastery of the subjects taught!

While access to the software will be free, there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a credential.

“I think for someone to feel they’re earning something, they ought to pay something, but the point is to make it extremely affordable,” Mr. Reif said. “The most important thing is that it’ll be a certificate that will clearly state that a body sanctioned by M.I.T. says you have gained mastery.”

The certificate will not be a regular M.I.T. degree, but rather a credential bearing the name of a new not-for-profit body to be created within M.I.T; revenues from the credentialing, officials said, would go to support the M.I.T.x platform and to further M.I.T’s mission.

Will employers buy it?

“It seems like a very big deal because the traditional higher education reaction to online programs was, yeah, but it’s not a credential,” said Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “So I think M.I.T. offering a credential will make quite a splash. If I were still in industry and someone came in with an M.I.T.x credential, I’d take it.”

Related:  Is higher education on track to lose its credentialing monopoly?

%d bloggers like this: