Is College Food a Function of Financial Aid?

Inside Higher Ed: Tipping Point author “Malcolm Gladwell says a trade-off exists between high-quality campus dining and admitting low-income students … Letting students make do with mediocre food would enable colleges to admit more low-income students and provide them with the aid and support they need to succeed, he maintains.”

“In his new podcast series, Revisionist History, he makes this point by contrasting Bowdoin College, which is regularly cited by campus guides for outstanding food, with Vassar College, where students tell him the food is mediocre. Both are elite liberal arts colleges, with highly competitive admissions, respected faculty members and beautiful campuses. But Vassar enrolls a much larger share of low-income students than Bowdoin, and Gladwell blames the gourmet food Bowdoin students enjoy.”

“While many agree that colleges can and should do much more than they are doing now to increase the admission of low-income students, many question whether Gladwell’s focus on dining makes sense.” Bowdoin responds that it “is among the very small number of colleges that are need blind on admissions, meet full need and never use loans in any part of an aid package.” In addition: “No funds from the endowment or other revenue sources pay for dining, the college says.”

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Should College Lectures Be Banned?

The Atlantic: “Getting rid of the college lecture entirely is the mission of a broad group of educators. Educators and administrators alike argue that active learning yields superior results to the lecture … Concerns about the lecture derive from anecdotal impressions as well as research data, including one meta analysis of 225 studies looking at the effectiveness of traditional lectures versus active learning in undergraduate STEM courses. That analysis indicated that lecturing increased failure rates by 55 percent; active learning—meaning teaching methods that are more interactive than traditional lectures—resulted in better grades and a 36 percent drop in class failure rates.”

“Still, although proponents of the movement to move away from the lecture cite data on its ineffectiveness, the debate has failed to take into account the fact that academics are rarely, if ever, formally trained in public speaking.”

“Christopher Martin, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology who has been teaching for nearly 30 years, would never give up the lecture format.” He comments: “A lecturer can take students on an intellectual journey at the speed of thought. It is a performance and the ideal is to excite and inspire, create something out of nothing in front of the students’ eyes, a form of magic.”

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Thinking Outside the ‘Ivy League’ Box

Quartz: “Well-heeled universities tout the benefits their name will give graduates: namely strong alumni networks, star faculty, and a résumé boost. But you needn’t attend an Ivy to reap those rewards. In fact, lower tier school alumni networks are arguably stronger, because fellow alumni recognize that you didn’t necessarily have an easy path to follow. They might be more willing to offer career help, because your less illustrious school denotes that, like them, you are also full of hustle and tenacity.”

“The Washington Post reported on a recent study by Princeton economists in which college graduates who applied to the most selective schools in the 12th grade were compared to those who applied to slightly less selective schools. They found that students with more potential earned more as adults, and the reverse held true as well, no matter where they went to school. Likewise, star faculty are not always found where you’d expect. Big name schools are not necessarily the best places for professors; plus, many professors split teaching time between multiple colleges and/or universities.”

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Five Unusual (Very Small) Colleges

Go Local Prov: “Located in the high desert of California, Deep Springs College is home to just 26 students … The college runs a cattle herd and an alfalfa hay farming operation … Tuition, room, and board are not charged, but students work at least 20 hours a week on the ranch or in positions related to the college and community.”

“St. John’s College boasts two campuses in equally stunning settings: Santa Fe and Annapolis. Each location enrolls about 450 students. Textbooks, lectures, and examinations are shunned, in favor of a series of manuals and classroom discussions.”

“Set amidst the beauty of Maine, College of the Atlantic has just 350 students. The school’s curriculum is based on human ecology … COA students are often knee deep in experiential learning and the frigid Maine waters during their classes. The intention is for students to explore ideas from different disciplines and to construct their own understanding of human ecology.”

“Located in Vermont, Marlboro College is home to a group of 300 eclectic students … The mission of the school is to produce clear thinkers and writers. Students create their own curricula with the oversight of a professor and are given the freedom to study just about any topic.”

“Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts … was founded in 2002 and has just 350 students … it now rivals MIT and CalTech in the engineering rankings … Olin students race robotic sailing teams, travel to West Africa to help empower women entrepreneurs and design gadgets that allow seniors to get out of their cars more easily … All accepted students are granted a scholarship that covers half of their tuition for four years, which makes it among the most affordable, top-rated technical institutions in the U.S.”

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Admissions Gap: The Gender Factor

Charlotte Observer: “Over the last decade women have comprised 57% of the four-year college students in the country … Naturally, the relative scarcity of qualified male applicants gives them a leg-up in admissions at many schools … Among the elite institutions offering men a significant edge are George Washington, Tufts, and William & Mary, where gentlemen enjoy a stunning 14 point advantage over young women. Vassar features admit rates for men that are nearly twice that of female applicants. Many other highly selective institutions offer a more modest advantage to men including Brown, Pomona, Vanderbilt, and Middlebury.”

“Generally speaking, gender-based advantages typically on occur at smaller liberal arts schools. Larger school … tend to hold the same, more statistically-based admissions standards across gender lines … Not surprisingly, many of the schools that favor female applicants have ‘Tech’ in their name; Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Georgia Tech, and Caltech all have a much higher acceptance rate for young women. MIT’s acceptance rate for women is double that of male applicants.”

“Other top schools without the official ‘Tech’ designation that grant favor to female applicants include Babson College, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvey Mudd.”

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Taking a Gap Year May Be Beneficial

Business Insider: For those concerned that a gap year will in some way damage someone’s academic record, don’t be. Gap year students are actually more likely to finish college in four years than those who go to college right after high school. They also tend to focus better in college and have higher GPAs … Students who take a gap year are seen as “more mature, more self-reliant and independent” than peers who don’t — all qualities employers find appealing in job candidates.”

“Something magical happens when you travel as a young adult. You use your language skills to connect and communicate, not to pass a test. You make new international friends on trains and buses. Your beliefs are challenged in hostel courtyards. You learn about culture by being in it, not reading about it in a book.”

“According to the Journal of Educational Psychology, gap year students showed increased ‘adaptive behavior’ in college, including planning, task management, and persistence. Why? Because they had to actually plan, execute tasks, and persist. These are things that last beyond college, and are arguably more important than any coursework ever could be.”

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Payback Time: Colleges That Change The World

“The Princeton Review recently published ‘Colleges That Pay You Back: 2016 Edition,’ which includes a list of the top schools in America for making an impact. Princeton Review based the ranking on student ratings and responses to survey questions covering community-service opportunities at their schools, student government, sustainability efforts, and on-campus student engagement. They also took into account PayScale.com’s percentage of alumni from each school that reported having high job meaning.”

To access a list of the top 25 schools, click here.

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Colleges Must Navigate Sea of Changes

Slate: “In the coming year, we will see changes in standardized testing, use of prior-prior year tax information in applying for financial aid, elimination of colleges’ access to the selected institution list on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the likely expansion of Simplified Needs Testing resulting from Medicaid expansion. These and other factors like demographic shifts, ability to pay, and public support for higher education represent unprecedented changes to the world of college admissions.”

“The wealthiest and most selective will continue on their tried and true paths, and open-access institutions will serve out their missions in the way they always have. But most colleges are working desperately to navigate the changes in a way that is not harmful to them and genuinely benefits students, especially those with the greatest need.”

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The Many Benefits of ‘Study Abroad’

The Atlantic: “A couple of years ago, the nonprofit Institute of International Education launched a campaign called Generation Study Abroad to double the number of U.S. students who spend time in foreign countries each year to 600,000 over five years. Right now, only around 10 percent of American college students study abroad. While people of color make up about 40 percent of each graduating class, they comprise just a quarter of those who go abroad. The numbers are especially low for black and Latino students. So hundreds of schools across the country … are focusing on reaching out specifically to students of color.”

“Where study abroad has traditionally been viewed as a year-long immersive experience, universities are expanding short-term opportunities for students who don’t have the money or time to go away for longer. These days, more than 60 percent of students who go abroad do either a summer program or a trip during the school year that is less than eight weeks. Around a third spend a semester abroad, and just 3 percent go for an entire school year.”

“Wagaye Johannes, the project director of Generation Study Abroad, said students see cost as the biggest barrier, even though some study abroad programs are less expensive than staying at their home universities … Culture is another, sometimes tricker, topic … Sometimes the pushback comes from families who are fearful of their children going someplace unfamiliar.”

“There is evidence that studying abroad has measurable benefits. A study prepared for the European Commission found that students who went abroad had lower unemployment rates after graduation. A report by the University System of Georgia found that graduation rates were higher for students who had been abroad, especially for low-income and minority students. Other studies have indicated that students come back more culturally aware … not only do individual scholars stand to benefit, but so does the nation’s ability to interact with other countries in an increasingly global economy.”

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Navigating The ‘Admissions Funnel’

The Wall Street Journal: “Enrollment managers call it the admissions funnel. At the top is a huge pool of prospects. At the bottom is the handful of students who enroll. And in between are inquiries, applications and admissions. The funnel isn’t new, but several developments in recent years have made it more difficult to hit the enrollment target … To help compensate for the uncertainty, schools assemble large pools of prospects by buying the names of high-school students from the organizations that administer the SAT and ACT college-admissions exams, as well as other vendors who solicit contact information from prospective college students.”

“If students don’t respond to unsolicited contacts—often in the form of mailings that may include a prepaid postcard to request additional information—they will be dropped from a college’s list of prospects … Students who respond, or initiate contact with a school on their own, filter down to the next level of the admissions funnel, the pool of inquiries, which include students who have demonstrated an interest in the school—a more desirable group than the cold leads … Meanwhile, thanks to common applications and ‘snap apps,’ colleges and universities receive more submissions than ever. Common applications allow students to submit the same application to multiple schools. Snap apps go several steps further.”

“Having lots of applicants allows schools to appear more selective when they admit students, which may help improve their rankings on best-college lists, but for enrollment managers, it’s all about conversion rates: The number of prospects that convert to applications, the number of applications that convert to admissions, and the number of admissions that convert to enrollment.”

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