College Lists: There are Apps For That

The Wall Street Journal: “Many websites and apps ask students a lot of questions to generate college lists, but only a few invite them to have a little fun with the process. The iOS app Admittedly quizzes users on their preferences for such factors as walkability or weather. An article on the app headed, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go,’ suggests 10 campuses in hilly terrain. (Admittedly recently launched on the web as myOptions.)”

“The College Fair, a mobile app launched in 2016 under the name Schoold, asks users for academic and personal data, then claims to use Netflix-like algorithms to fine-tune college lists. The app also posts whimsical rankings such as ‘Beyonce’s Short List’ of schools the pop star might like, and ‘Places Where the Professors Know Your Name’.”

“An extensive website called BigFuture, by the nonprofit college-planning concern The College Board, has helpful tools linking students’ interests with potential majors, careers and colleges … The Naviance program, owned by the Cincinnati-based education software company Hobsons, offers a wealth of college- and career-planning tools … It’s well-known for its ‘scatterplots—dot diagrams charting the grades and test scores of students from the same high school who applied to a particular college in the past and showing whether they were admitted. Seeing where your grades and test scores appear in relation to others’ helps students estimate their chances of admission.”


Snooze Alarm: Should Teens Get More Sleep?

The New York Times: “Many high-school-age children across the United States now find themselves waking up much earlier than they’d prefer as they return to school. They set their alarms, and their parents force them out of bed in the morning, convinced that this is a necessary part of youth and good preparation for the rest of their lives. It’s not. It’s arbitrary, forced on them against their nature, and a poor economic decision as well. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that teenagers get between nine and 10 hours of sleep. Most in the United States don’t.”

“A Brookings Institution policy brief investigated the trade-offs between costs and benefits of pushing back the start times of high school in 2011. It estimated that increased transportation costs would most likely be about $150 per student per year. But more sleep has been shown to lead to higher academic achievement. They found that the added academic benefit of later start times would be equivalent to about two additional months of schooling, which they calculated would add about $17,500 to a student’s earnings over the course of a lifetime. Thus, the benefits outweighed the costs.”

“Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek and Wendy Troxel conducted analyses to determine the economic implication of a universal shift of middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. at the earliest. This study was stronger than the Brookings one in a number of ways … It examined downstream effects, like car accidents, which can affect lifetime productivity. And it considered multiplier effects, as changes to the lives of individual students might affect others over time. They found that delaying school start times to 8:30 or later would contribute $83 billion to the economy within a decade. The gains were seen through decreased car crash mortality and increased student lifetime earnings.”


Empty Nesters: How Parents Cope

The Wall Street Journal: “When a child leaves for college, parents have the happiness of seeing their son or daughter mature and start off on an independent life. They also miss constant connection, fret about their child’s well-being, and worry about the way the relationship may change.Esther Boykin, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington, D.C., says that empty nesters may experience a type of grief—for the loss of the relationship as it was.”

She explains: “Parents experience an ambiguous loss, or a loss that doesn’t really look like loss. Their child is typically just a few hours or a short plane ride away, so they haven’t lost them. Yet the emotional experience of their absence can feel incredibly profound and permanent. This person whom you have centered your life around for 18 years is no longer around on a daily basis and is loosening the connection that had been all encompassing.”

“The greatest challenge for parents is that they know that the goal of good parenting is to a raise self-sufficient, independent adult, but the realization of that goal creates a deep sense of loss that can be confusing. It’s like realizing that you did an awesome job and the reward is that the person you love most is leaving you for good.”


US News Announces 2018 Rankings

US News: “Princeton University is No. 1 for Best National Universities for the seventh year in a row. For the 15th consecutive year, Williams College takes the top spot for Best National Liberal Arts Colleges.”

“California schools and military academies perform strongly in this year’s top public universities rankings. For the first time, the University of California—Los Angeles moves up to No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Universities, tying with the University of California—Berkeley. The United States Military Academy ranks No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges.”

You can access the full report here.


Toward a Car-Free Campus

The New York Times: “More universities are beginning to consider where transportation is headed as they wrestle with parking woes, often one of the thorniest issues on campus. Over the last 20 years, many campuses have shifted their emphasis to manage the demand, rather than build more garages, out of a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, put valuable land to higher uses and avoid construction costs that can run $20,000 to $30,000 a space … Increasingly, campuses are … charging more for the most convenient spaces, running shuttles, subsidizing public transit passes, and adding bike and car-sharing services.”

“Some universities are building mixed-use garages, which can be a more efficient use of land and help ensure maximal use of spaces. Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., has built two mixed-use garages in recent years, as part of a plan to move parking to the periphery of campus and free up more interior land for green space. A 1,125-space garage at the north end of campus houses an entrepreneurship incubator known as the Garage, as well as a speech and hearing clinic open to the community.”

Alan K. Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, comments: “We believe that it doesn’t really make sense to have space that is just for cars. You want to use the space in a thoughtful way.”


Food For Thought: Campus Cuisine Updated

The Wall Street Journal: “College students across the U.S. are making some precise demands of school chefs and dining halls. For a generation animated by a desire to make a difference and raised to believe personal wellness is paramount, a meaningful academic experience begins with minding what you eat.”

“That’s inspired the University of Houston to spend $6,500 to build two hydroponic grow towers, vertical gardens that use nutrient-rich waters to cultivate cilantro and oregano indoors, without soil. The University of California, Los Angeles has installed aeroponic grow towers that grow plants with just mist. Thyme, butter lettuce and microgreens are flourishing in the breeze on the roof of UCLA’s Bruin Plate dining hall.”

“When Virginia Tech students demanded more free-trade coffee in 2008, dining-services head Ted Faulkner booked a trip to Nicaragua, where he helped pick beans at an organic, bird-friendly coffee estate that now supplies the school. A churrascaria, a gelateria and a sushi bar are among Virginia Tech’s other campus dining options.”


UK Universities Top Global Rankings

The Wall Street Journal: “Oxford and Cambridge, the intellectual one-two punch of the U.K., took the first and second spots in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Their showing marked the first year schools outside the U.S. seized the two top positions in the 14-year history of the list. The U.S., led by California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, took seven of the top 11 spots.”

“Peking University and Tsinghua University topped Chinese schools, ranking 27th and 30th, respectively. That placed them ahead of the Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 33), Brown University (No. 51) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (No. 56) … The World University Ranking awards about a third of its score to the research generated by a university’s scholars, in part by culling 62 million citations and 12.4 million research publications. Research funding also plays a role.”

“The ascendance of Oxford and Cambridge comes after years of increases in research revenue—but much of that money, as well as the researchers who use it, come from the European Union. Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU has thrown that revenue source into question … The rise of Chinese universities also comes as the Chinese Communist Party has invested heavily in research universities.”


Supply & Demand Reduces Tuition Costs

The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. college tuition is growing at the slowest pace in decades, following a nearly 400% rise over the past three decades that fueled middle class anxieties and a surge in student debt … Abundant supply is running up against demand constraints … Longer-running economic and demographic shifts also are at play. Lower birthrates and the aging of baby boomer children have reduced the pool of traditional college-age Americans.”

“Another factor: Congress last increased the maximum amount undergraduates could borrow from the government in 2008. Some economists have concluded schools raise prices along with increases in federal financial aid. A clampdown on aid, in turn, could limit the ability of schools to charge more … Moreover, the number of schools is declining in response to oversupply, particularly among for-profit schools, a trend that could reduce competition and increase pricing leverage for schools that remain open.”

“Public four-year colleges, which teach the majority of bachelor’s candidates in the nation and tend to be cheaper than private schools, are benefiting from increases in direct state funding as tax revenues improve. That has eased schools’ need to raise prices on students … State officials have also pressured schools, through legislation and public speeches, to rein in prices, and they are admitting more international students to boost revenues.”


What is ‘The Essay’?

Lit Hub: “As accommodating as they are to subject matter and formal experimentation, essays permit no substitutes; every piece of short nonfiction prose is not an essay … the term ‘essay’ is ambiguous and thus allows those who use it to project onto it whatever it is that we either find most desirable or objectionable about certain kinds of nonfiction writing.”

“It is also easier to define the essay by insisting on what it is not. A habitual skepticism and self-awareness are qualities of mind we often associate with the genre’s most famous practitioners … essayists undo certainties almost as soon as they dare to appear in their own minds, or at least on their pages … genuine essays must not be confused with stories, and formulaic school writing … and worst of all, scholarly articles.”

“Michel de Montaigne … was the first to name his compositions “essais” when he first published them in 1580 … His titles reveal curiosity and reach: several of his most famous essays on topics with broad appeal, ‘Of friendship,’ ‘Of books,’ and ‘Of experience,’ find for company more unexpected foci, ‘Of the custom of wearing clothes,’ ‘Of smells,’ and ‘Of thumbs’ … With his own example, Montaigne offers his reader the possibility that the essay itself can protect us from our worst impulses—to ‘parrot’—and gives us something to do with what we know.”

“Montaigne seeks an education that would require students to examine ‘the relationship between individuals and the conventions by which their experience is defined and contained’ … ‘The true mirror of our discourse is the course of our lives’ … he is most concerned not that our language reflects our actions, ‘the course of our lives,’ but that we will shape our lives to fit the language we have learned to value; his essays model a use of language that encourages us to examine lies we are tempted to tell about those lives.”


Grade Inflation: Getting ‘A’s is Easier

USA Today: “There’s a pretty clear trend: At four-year schools, awarding of A’s has been going up five to six percentage points per decade, and grade point averages at four-year colleges are also rising at the rate of 0.1 points per decade … And grade inflation is more prevalent at private institutions than at public ones … the mean GPA for both private and public schools in the 1930s was 2.3, or a C+. That number for both types of institutions increased at the same rate until recently – today, the average GPA at private colleges is 3.3 (a B+), while at public universities it’s 3.0 (a B).”

“Although the meaning behind an A still varies at different schools … receiving high marks could mean anything from ‘you showed up for class and didn’t insult the professor’ to ‘you’re a good to excellent student.’ According to a 2013 study conducted by the University of North Texas’s Department of Economics, class size may be one factor in the grade inflation increase, and departments with smaller student-faculty ratios have a greater tendency to exaggerate grades. The type of degree program could also influence the extent to which professors overstate students’ grades: inflation was more prevalent among Ph.D. departments than it was among lower-level programs, according to the study.”

“Student evaluations could also incentivize instructors to issue higher grades than they deserve in an effort to ‘buy’ higher evaluation scores.”