Harvard: ‘Bubbly’ Candidates Rise to Surface

The New York Times: “Days before the opening of a trial accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants, the college issued new guidance to its admissions officers earlier this month on what personalities it is seeking in its incoming freshmen, a question at the heart of the case. The new guidelines for the Class of 2023 caution officers that character traits ‘not always synonymous with extroversion’ should be valued, and that applicants who seem to be ‘particularly reflective, insightful and/or dedicated’ should receive high personal ratings as well.”

“One of the odder quirks of the trial testimony has been how often the word ‘effervescence’ has come up. It has been hammered home that Harvard values applicants who are bubbly, not ‘flat,’ to use another word in the Harvard admissions lexicon. Admissions documents filed in court awarded advantages to applicants for ‘unusually appealing personal qualities,’ which could include ‘effervescence, charity, maturity and strength of character.’ Now ‘reflective’ could be a plus as well.”

“The guidelines on assessing personal qualities also say that a top-rated student might have ‘enormous courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life,’ or perhaps ‘a singular ability to lead or inspire those around them,’ or even ‘extraordinary concern or compassion for others.’ One thing has not changed. The lowest rating, once defined as ‘questionable or worrisome personal qualities,’ is still the same.”

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ACT & SAT Math Scores Don’t Add Up

The Washington Post: “Scores on college admission tests for the Class of 2018 are sending warning signs about math achievement in the nation’s high schools.Forty-nine percent of students in this year’s graduating class who took the SAT received a math score indicating they had a strong chance of earning at least a C in a college-level math class, according to data made public Thursday. That was significantly lower than on the reading and writing portion of the tests: 70 percent of SAT-takers reached a similar benchmark in that area.”

“Among those who took the ACT, the share showing readiness for college-level math fell to the lowest level in 14 years — 40 percent. That was down from a recent high of 46 percent, according to ACT data made public last week.”

“The SAT scores gave the fullest picture to date of results from the revised version of the test launched in 2016 … The average score on the SAT was 1068 out of a maximum 1600, up slightly from the previous mark of 1060. This year’s national average for the reading and writing section was 536 out of 800, and for math it was 531.”

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Maryland Students ‘Crowdfund’ Tuition

The Baltimore Sun: “Thousands of students … have increasingly taken advantage of crowdsourcing platforms to help them cope with steady increases in tuition and fees in Maryland and across the country … The number of education-related campaigns has increased each year since GoFundMe launched in 2010, said spokeswoman Heidi Hagberg. She said that more than $70 million a year has been raised on the platform for educational initiatives, with more than 100,000 annual fundraisers for causes ranging from teachers’ back-to-school drives to students’ college tuition.”

“GoFundMe hosted twice as many campaigns in 2017 as in the previous year related to college tuition in Maryland, Hagberg said in an email. And according to GoFundMe data from the 2016-2017 academic year, the most recent available, about $1.5 million was raised for Marylanders’ educational purposes in roughly 3,200 campaigns.”

“John Quelch, dean of the University of Miami business school and an expert in consumer behavior, said widespread acknowledgement of the onerous nature of paying for college motivates many students to feel comfortable publicizing their need.”

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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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