Boston College Revamps Remedial Courses

The Washington Post: “When students are unprepared for the rigors of college, schools often require them to take courses to catch up to their classmates. Those remediation courses, though, do not count toward a degree and may delay students from graduating on time, costing them money in the long run.”

“Boston College is taking a different approach to help students with weak academic records by using a set of learning strategies that require no more than one three-credit class. And new research shows the model is paying off as the vast majority of students are graduating in four years, results that administrators say have national implications for improving college completion.”

“The course teaches techniques for critical thinking, reading, note-taking and test preparation. The idea is to move away from rote memorization toward inquiry-based learning, encouraging students to develop an ongoing dialogue with new information … What’s striking about the results is the population of students in the Learning Theory class had SAT scores as low as 500 (out of a possible 1600), not the typical profile of students admitted to Boston College.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Endowment Duel: Houghton vs. Harvard

The New York Times: The hotly competitive returns of college endowment performance are out, and the results have again shaken the higher education elite down to their Ivy League roots: The smallest endowments — those with total assets under $25 million — outperformed their billion-dollar-plus rivals for the second year … Falling behind by nearly a full percentage point has a huge impact on giant endowments like Harvard’s, which stood at $35.7 billion at the end of the fiscal year … Yale’s total endowment dropped by $200 million, to $25.4 billion.”

“Compare the results with those of Houghton College, a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Wesleyan Church in the Genesee Valley in western New York. Houghton has just over a thousand students and an endowment of $46.4 million. Houghton emerged in the top quartile of all endowments, according to Nacubo, with a return of 11.85 percent for the year ended Sept. 30.”

“How did tiny Houghton do it? The answer is pretty simple: Houghton got out of hedge funds and all alternative investments a year and a half ago, and moved the entire portfolio to a mix of low-cost index funds and mutual funds at the fund giant Vanguard.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Hillsdale: A College for Conservatives

The New York Times: “Hillsdale, a private college of 1,400 students in southern Michigan that describes itself as ‘nonsectarian Christian’ and dedicated to ‘civil and religious liberty,’ is scarcely known in many circles. But among erudite conservatives — think progeny of William F. Buckley Jr. — it is considered a hidden gem.”

“What they admire is the college’s concentration on the Western philosophical and literary canon (sometimes disparaged as the Great Books of dead white men) and its reverent treatment of the American founding documents as the political culmination of that tradition — a tradition that scholars at Hillsdale say has been desecrated by a century of governmental overreach.”

“Hillsdale attracts students from across the country … and they don’t wind up there by accident. Many said their parents received Hillsdale’s newsletter, Imprimis, featuring speeches by conservative thinkers … They were also attracted by the moderate cost. Hillsdale is well financed with private donations, and college officials said that 95 percent of students this year received grants averaging $17,206, to offset the $35,722 for tuition, room and board.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Common App Update: Big Changes This Year

Washington Post: “The Common Application, used by nearly 700 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad for admissions, just announced its essay prompts for the 2017-2018 college admissions season — and there are some big changes from last year.”

“So here they are …

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6. Describe a topic, idea or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

‘Big Data’ Can Predict College Success

The New York Times: “Georgia State is one of a growing number of colleges and universities using what is known as predictive analytics to spot students in danger of dropping out. Crunching hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of student academic and personal records, past and present, they are coming up with courses that signal a need for intervention.”

“At the University of Arizona, a high grade in English comp proved to be crucial to graduation. Only 41 percent of students who got a C in freshman writing ended up with a degree, compared with 61 percent of the B students and 72 percent of A students … At Middle Tennessee State University, History 2020, an American history course required for most students, has been a powerful predictor. The most consistent feature for those who did not graduate was that they received a D in it.”

“Such insight may revolutionize the way student advising works … The analytics programs know the paths that successful students have followed. When a student veers off that path, like getting a low grade in a predictor course or taking a course out of sequence, advisers get an alert, a signal to reach out to the student and offer suggestions.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Private Schools Like Community College Transfers

The Wall Street Journal: “Small, private colleges have found a new place to troll for prospective students: At community colleges down the road, or even across the country … In the past year alone, more than a dozen private colleges and universities nationwide have signed deals to make it easier for community-college students to transfer in. They’re swaying prospective students thanks to hefty scholarship offers and guarantees of graduating in four years, nearly eliminating cost differentials with public counterparts.”

“The new effort marks a change in attitude for private colleges, which historically have assumed community-college graduates’ coursework wasn’t rigorous enough to count toward a four-year liberal arts or pre-professional degree. But with nearly half of all students now starting their college careers at public two-year schools, leaders of four-year private institutions say they can’t afford to turn up their noses at potential students who started down a different path and would be happy to get the two years of tuition revenue over none at all.”

“From 2006 to 2013, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation invested nearly $10 million to help elite institutions like Amherst College and University of California, Berkeley, create pathways for low-income community-college students. More than 2,100 students moved to four-year schools through the program; they largely succeeded academically, with many going on to pursue graduate degrees.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Tulane Retracts 130 Early-Admissions Offers

The New York Times: “Alyssa was in her high school health class around midday Wednesday when she got the email welcoming her to Tulane University and giving her a college email address. In a grueling college admissions season, it was her first-choice university, and she had applied early decision, meaning she was committed to the place. Excited by the news, Alyssa texted her mother, told many of her classmates and was congratulated by one of her favorite teachers, a Tulane alum. But two or three hours later, she received a second, decidedly more downbeat email telling her it had all been a mistake.”

“Tulane’s defenders were quick to point out that it is not the first university to have made such a mistake. Some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country — including M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon, Vassar, U.C.L.A., Fordham, Johns Hopkins and the University at Buffalo — have sent out misfired admissions notices in recent years.”

“The university’s explanation was complicated and blamed new software. True offers … come from the Office of Admission. When a student accepts the offer and makes a deposit, that results in the type of message, from Technology Services, that the 130 students received, with instructions on how to set up a Tulane email account. ‘Due to a coding error in how we installed new software, our system mistook deferred students for deposited students,’ he said.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

‘Hotel at Oberlin’ Reflects College’s Values

The New York Times: “Oberlin, like many other colleges and universities around the country, has decided that campus guest quarters, instead of perfunctory, can become pampering places that help promote the institution’s brand and image.”The Hotel at Oberlin “was designed to be one of the most environmentally sustainable hotels in the world. It has earned platinum-level status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system used by the U.S. Green Building Council.”

“Even guests who might be oblivious to the hotel’s solar, geothermal and radiant cooling and heating systems might have trouble overlooking amenities that chain hotels would not think to offer for rooms starting at $129 a night.For example, soap dishes in each room are made by a local glassblower. Shampoos and lotions are locally produced and made with all-natural ingredients. And the food at 1833 Restaurant, the hotel’s dining facility, is locally grown as much as possible.”

Mike Frandsen of Oberlin comments: “One of the objectives we had going into this was communicating Oberlin’s core values. So if we didn’t pick out the soap dishes and the picture frames, we did make a conscious decision to work with people who understood that sustainability is something we value here at Oberlin, and a big part of our story.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Board Games: How to Tackle the SAT

“To learn about last-minute strategies for students to boost their SAT scores, Business Insider talked to Chris Ryan, an SAT instructor who got a perfect score on the SAT … ‘It’s like the old Clash song, Should I Stay or Should I Go,’ he says. In other words: Are you going to stick with this question and tough it out, or move on?”

“Test-takers must understand their strengths and weaknesses and leverage that information to decide which problems to spend time on and which ones to pass up. To do this, Ryan suggests practicing what he calls ’30 second starters.’ You set a stop watch to count down 30 second intervals and you start different practice questions. This exercise gives students a good idea of which questions come easily and which ones they struggle on.”

“He also stressed that students shouldn’t be scared of skipping the questions they immediately recognize they will struggle on. Test-takers shouldn’t waste time on their “problem” questions, but they should eventually answer all the questions on the exam … Even though there is technically a quarter of a point penalty for wrong answers, it’s always better to answer them all. Test-takers’ instincts are probably better than they think, and the penalty for guessing shouldn’t stress them out, according to Ryan.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

LinkedIn: An Emerging Tool for College Applicants

The New York Times: “Public schools from San Francisco to New York City are teaching online conduct skills as part of a nationwide digital citizenship push to prepare students for colleges and careers. Teenagers who set up LinkedIn profiles in the hope of enhancing their college prospects represent the vanguard of this trend. But the phenomenon of ambitious high school students on LinkedIn also demonstrates how social networks are playing a role in the escalation of the college admissions arms race.”

“For high school students, LinkedIn is partly a defense mechanism against college admissions officers who snoop on applicants’ public Facebook and Twitter activities — without disclosing how that may affect an applicant’s chance of acceptance. A recent study from Kaplan Test Prep of about 400 college admissions officers reported that 40 percent said they had visited applicants’ social media pages, a fourfold increase since 2008.”

“Some high school students are establishing LinkedIn profiles to give the colleges that do look something they would like them to find … To attract high school students, LinkedIn in 2013 dropped its minimum age requirement for members in the United States to 14 from 18. Since then, the site has had a significant increase in high school users.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail