New Mexico State Launches ‘Crimson Concierge’

Forbes: New Mexico State has introduced Crimson Concierge. Yes, it’s a concierge service for its students, managed by Sodexo, “the food services and facilities management company .. No kidding. New Mexico State’s concierge is believed to be the only one in the country, at least for now. But Sodexo says it’s planning others.”

“The Crimson Concierge program handles everything from travel arrangements to moving and storage, events tickets, auto services and local events … The Crimson Concierge also includes laundry service, doctor referrals, and local support such as running errands. This summer, it even helped students find housing … To improve the way Sodexo delivered the services, it also worked with Ritz-Carlton’s famous Leadership Center to train its concierges … There’s no fee to use the concierge.”

“Colleges are resistant to calling their students ‘customers,’ according to the latest research. The conventional wisdom seems to be that there’s a ‘middle ground’ between considering college students customers versus simply students. But the most forward-looking universities can already see that in order to compete for the top students, you have to at least treat them as customers — otherwise they’ll enroll somewhere else.”

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MIT Launches Billion-Dollar AI Intitiative

The Verge: “MIT has announced a $1 billion initiative to … establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT president L. Rafael Reif calls ‘the bilinguals of the future.’ By that, he means students in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history, and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.”

“MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research ‘ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.’ It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to ‘disrupt’.”

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Stanford Study Says Rankings Don’t Matter

Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education examines all of the evidence about rankings and comes to this conclusion: the best way to find a college that is a ‘good fit’ is to ignore the rankings. Notably, the finding isn’t based on abstract ideas about the value of education not being something that can be measured. Rather, the analysis is based on research about factors many students (and parents) say they take into consideration when they evaluate potential colleges: student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income. If you care about those factors, the rankings will not steer you well, the paper says.”

“Key factors in U.S. News and other rankings reward graduation rates and reputation. U.S. News has, over the years, placed more emphasis not just on raw graduation rates but ‘expected’ graduation rates to reward institutions with higher than expected rates for students from at-risk populations. But the Stanford study finds that graduation rates still reflect the student body being served more than the quality of the institution. And the study says there is no evidence linking reputation to anything but … reputation. So reputation is ‘a self-fulfilling metric’.”

“The report adds that ‘rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community’.”

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Wake Forest Issues “Call to Conversation”

Wake Forest: “Honest, personal engagement has always been at the heart of the Wake Forest experience. That’s why we’ve launched A Call To Conversation, a nationwide – and campus-wide – movement designed to help people see each other as human beings rather than as stances, positions or opinions. As a part of this movement, we reached out to students to hear what they had to say about the value of conversation and civil exchange.”

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Tuition ‘Resets’ Yield Mixed Results

Forbes: “For decades, the cost of college in the US has risen meteorically. But now, a four-year degree has become so expensive that some colleges and universities think costs have hit somewhat of ceiling – and are slashing tuition by as much as 50% in hopes they can attract more students .. So far the move – known as a “tuition reset” – has had middling results. Only 27% of schools studied by the Education Advisory Board that had employed tuition resets as a strategy managed to sustain enrollment gains of 5% or more. In addition, only 29% of schools managed to meet a 3% revenue growth target following their tuition reset.”

“Small, private, liberal arts institutions are predominantly the ones electing to adopt tuition resets. Ten schools pursued the strategy this year, and four have already announced cuts for 2019-2020. Seton Hall University, a private Catholic school, slashed tuition by 61% in 2012-2013. Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts institution in Virginia that announced it would close in 2015 – and was resurrected by alumnae the next year – reduced tuition by 32% this year.”

“The College of William and Mary, an elite public school in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1999 was among the first to pursue a reset, though the concept has become trendy just in the last few years. More than four dozen schools used the tactic in the past decade, and more are likely to follow.”

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College Selectivity Doesn’t Equal Satisfaction

Quartz: “Many of us think the college or university we attend matters a lot. If we go to Harvard, or Oxford, we will be happier, smarter, richer and land a killer job. A new report from Challenge Success, a nonprofit that is part of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, suggests this thinking is almost entirely wrong. The white paper, A ‘Fit’ Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity, finds that college selectivity … does not determine how much a student learns, how happy they become or how satisfied they are with their jobs.”

“Better learning, it seems, is associated with better studying, not brand-name colleges. What about happiness and general life satisfaction? Since 2014, Gallup-Purdue has conducted a survey of job satisfaction and general well-being among college graduates … found no relationship between college selectivity and either broad measure of life satisfaction, arguing that what seems to matter is ‘what students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it’.”

“OK, maybe selective colleges don’t make you happier. Do they make you richer? … Some research shows graduates of ‘high quality’ institutions earn 6% to 8% more out of college than graduates of ‘low-quality’ institutions (those which accept everyone). That percentage rises to 16% to 19% a decade after college. The authors argue that it is hard to disentangle how much of this comes from the student and how much comes from the institution.”

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Elon: Professor Squire & Online Insights

Elon: “Explaining how she works with data to identify trends, relationships and networks, Professor of Computer Science Megan Squire turned to a heap of Legos — disconnected and colorful, and seemingly without order. Sharing what she said was her “favorite graphic,” she explained that data science is the process of taking that pile of Legos, sorting them by color, arranging them so they make sense, and then presenting them in single-color stacks that allow you to hear what the data is trying to tell you.”

“The stories Squire told through her research have offered insight into the nature of the communications and connections among online communities, with recent work to demonstrate the overlapping memberships of groups such as neo-Nazis, white nationalists, anti-immigration and other extremists … Squire explained that an early project centered on humor — how computer programmers joked with each other as they interacted online.”

“In examining that data, Squire kept seeing the use of the phrase ‘Aunt Tillie,’ which she discovered had become widely used a phrase used by software developers for ‘an old lady who doesn’t know how to use their computer.’ That led her to begin examining how some language in these online communications was used to mock women and also racial minorities. It was a first step into exploring toxicity in online interactions.”

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Which Majors Pay Off Biggest?

CBS: “A student’s major as well as their college can make a significant impact on their career earnings, according to a new study from compensation site PayScale … Not surprisingly, the top-earning majors are squarely in the STEM-related fields, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students who attend top-ranked schools like Ivy League colleges or those known for particular expertise, such as the U.S. Naval Academy, also tend to earn more than those who matriculate from middle-of-the-pack colleges.”

“But is it important to attend an elite or expensive college? Not necessarily, said Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. For instance, a student who wants to study engineering — already a top-paying field — may not be hampered in her career if she attends a lower-ranked college because engineering skills are in strong demand.”

“As for the old-fashioned liberal arts degree, Frank said there’s still demand for the types of skills that students learn in such majors. ‘It’s about critical thinking and communication skills,’ she said. ‘When we ask employers about skills that are lacking in new college grads … what we hear from employers is often the new hires right out of college are lacking things that you think everyone in college should graduate with, which are communication skills and critical thinking’.”

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Late & Great: Mel Elfin

The New York Times: “Mel Elfin, a longtime Washington bureau chief for Newsweek who moved to the rival U.S. News & World Report in 1986 and helped build its college rankings feature into a major educational franchise, died on Saturday in Washington … The rankings had begun in a rudimentary way in 1983, but under Mr. Elfin’s stewardship their criteria were broadened, graduate schools were ranked and U.S. News’s Best Colleges guidebook was published, expanding on the information in the magazine (which is now published only online).”

“Mr. Elfin … faced pushback about the quality and meaning of the rankings. Some critics believed that the rankings formula created a false air of scientific certainty, caused colleges and universities to adjust their policies — or fudge their figures — to raise their rankings, and turned the choice of a college from an essentially educational issue to a high-stakes economic and social transaction. And some school officials howled when their institutions dropped in rank.”

“But Mr. Elfin defended the rankings as an effective way for students and parents to comparison-shop for higher education.” He commented: “When you buy a VCR for 200 bucks, you can buy Consumer Reports to find out what’s out there … When you spend 100 grand on four years of college, you should have some independent method of comparing different colleges. That’s what our readers want, and they’ve voted at the newsstand in favor of what we’re doing.” Mel Elfin was 89.

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Finally: An App for FAFSA

NPR: “At midnight, Oct. 1, the rush begins. That’s when first-time and returning college students can get their first look at the 2019-’20 FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Anyone who wants the government’s help paying for college has to finish the notoriously complicated form. But this year, in an effort to make it easier, the U.S. Department of Education has given the FAFSA a new look: a smartphone application.”

“Ultimately, the department hopes the app will be a one-stop shop for students. A place they can research colleges, check their loan balance and even make a payment. But the real game-changer comes soon, Oct. 1, when borrowers will be able to fill out the FAFSA on their phones using the new app … in the past, many students had no choice but to fill out the FAFSA in a school computer lab. They still can, especially if they’re getting help from a counselor, but now they can also take it home — for the questions that only a parent can answer. They’ll also be able to access the IRS’ data-retrieval tool, which helps students by autopopulating the FAFSA with key tax information.”

“The fact is, this form still won’t be easy for everyone. It never will be — unless Congress radically rewrites the FAFSA. For now, though, students can take some comfort knowing that it may not be easy, but it did just get easier.”

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