Archive for the ‘college admissions’ Category

College Accreditation and Disclosure

July 18, 2008

Roland Martin is a pretty frequent CNN contributor.  In his latest CCN column online, he states that John McCain’s stance on school vouchers is correct and that Barack Obama’s position is misguided.  McCain, as you are probably aware, like most Republicans, favors vouchers, while Obama, like most in his party, is not enthusiastic about them.

I’ve read Martin’s columns before, so I was not surprised that he takes such a strong stance on the issue of vouchers or that he pretty much adheres to the traditional conservative mantra on the subject.
In an attempt to learn more about Mr. Martin, I visited his website, where his activities, past and present, were listed.  Certainly Mr. Martin is a prolific journalistic.  He has received numerous awards.  And, after reading a bit more about his background and his writings it becomes obvious he has an unflinching point of view about the world.  Martin is clearly a man to whom faith and religion are important.  And, he is married to a clergywoman who is herself a published author.

That’s why it’s surprising that Mr. Martin,  a man whose work appears on CNN.com, a man who is seen on TV and heard on radio, a multiple journalism award winner, and a man with strong opinions about education, and a man who has certainly been successful, claims a masters degree from an apparently unaccredited online “university”.  The institution in question is Louisiana Baptist University, which describes itself as “a pioneer in distance education” and lists 1973 as the year it was founded.

Louisiana Baptist does not claim accreditation.  And, it is not listed in the U.S. Department of Education data base of accredited institutions.  The University website does say that it is, “semi-annually examined by an independent review committee comprised of ministers and educators” and lists a few memberships and/or affiliations.

The President’s message states, “We do not strive to pattern our institution after the humanistic, shifting systems of secular education”.  Similar statements have appeared on the websites of other religiously-based unaccredited colleges and universities which frequently claim that, because of the nature of their missions, accreditation is not important to them and/or might require them to make unacceptable religious compromises.  That premise may seem reasonable to some people.

But, I have a very big problem with it, especially if such institutions do not clearly state that students who spend significant time and money to earn a degree at their institutions will have fewer options than graduates of accredited colleges and universities.  I have worked in graduate school admissions and met with folks who have earned B.A. or B.S. degrees from unaccredited colleges.  These very decent people were often shocked to learn that the institution for which I worked, and similar graduate institutions, could not even consider them for admission.

Louisiana Baptist offers both undergraduate and doctoral degrees in education.  If the University warns prospective students that these programs will not enable them to be licensed to teach in public schools, I couldn’t find the warning anywhere on their website.  I bet you won’t find it either.

As for the we-don’t need-to-be-accredited or we-won’t-compromise-our-beliefs arguments that some unaccredited institutions make, my response is simple.  Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most fundamentalist clergymen of the last 50 years founded universities that have become fully accredited.  Even Bob Jones University is accredited.

In fact, there is a long list of accredited Christian colleges and universities which ascribe to pretty fundamentalist religious doctrines.  And, many more accredited colleges are affiliated with religious denominations.

It is time…well past time, actually… that we compel unaccredited colleges and universities to make full disclosure to prospective students.

And, in my humble opinion, it’s time for Mr. Martin to either remove the reference to his graduate degree from his website or to be up- front about the fact that it comes from an unaccredited institution.

Note:  Learn more about the importance of college accreditation.

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Don”t Let the Scholarship Scam Artists Get You

July 12, 2008

Used cars salesmen get much more bad press, but they’re a lot higher on the food chain than the scholarship scam artists who victimize tens of thousands of families a year.

Some in the higher education community believe these scammers put more than $100 million in their pockets every year.

Because the media bombard us with stories about escalating college costs, and because most of us know little about the availability of scholarships and financial aid, we’re often easy victims.

The con starts with a letter from a company named to sound like a benign organization whose mission is to assist students and their families.

The letter doesn’t look like the other junk mail you are deluged with every day. The company logo often looks like it might belong to Yale or Harvard, and the letterhead and paper look like they might come from the White House or a Fortune 500 company. Like the scammers themselves, the promotional materials they use look credible.

In nearly all the letters they send, the con men begin by reinforcing families’ fears about their ability to meet college costs. Not exactly a task requiring the intellect of a rocket scientist.

But, the letter says, we can help you. We can teach you how to get the financial aid you need. Your worries are over. In some instances the letters will mention “secrets colleges don’t want you to know”. Sometimes the letters will talk about millions of dollars in “unused” scholarships and financial aid; money just waiting to be found by and given to students who know the ropes (you!).

The letters are not always the same, but one element never varies. They invite you to come to a hotel function room or other reasonably large venue to learn more about financial aid and scholarships, at no cost. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

The meetings are run by well- practiced pitchmen who tell families that their organization has the special knowledge and experience required to shake the most money off of the financial aid and scholarship trees. Their job, and they do it all too well, is to sell you help which is readily available elsewhere (and at no cost).

After the group presentation, families are invited to meet individually with staff members sometimes called counselors. In the world of sales, these folks are called “one call closers”…folks trained to close the sale immediately. Their job is very well defined: to get families to sign a contract and write a check for up to $2,000 before returning to the scam-free zones that are their homes.

Don’t be the victim of financial aid con men (and women). There are lots of good websites offering free scholarship searches and financial aid advice. And, high school counselors and college financial aid counselors will gladly give you advice and answer your questions. There is no need to turn elsewhere.

Guest Blog: The All-Important Summer Before 12th Grade

July 2, 2008

The summer before 12th grade is a high school student’s “last” opportunity to do something to impress college admission officers before those college applications are due.

Why is this important? The student’s own high school resume can speak volumes louder than his/her college application. And when the summer before applying to college is a total wash-out in terms of college application points …

For example, it’s hard to convince a college admission officer that you’re passionate about being a social worker when you’ve spent the entire previous summer in Paris studying French or working at Starbucks – without doing any social work.

I understand you want to spend a summer in Paris or earning money for your car payments. And, yes, there is a way to demonstrate you are committed to your passion and still not give up your summer plans. As I talk about often at my education and careers website, what is required is some brainstorming and planning to create opportunities for yourself.

Here are examples to get you thinking about what you might do, even this summer if you’re about to enter 12th grade:

If you are spending the summer studying French in Paris

Your summer school course is eight weeks and you plan to stay in Paris another two weeks before coming home right before the school year starts. Instead, you realize Paris will always be there, and you change your plane ticket to come home immediately after summer school ends.

And you come home to an intensive two-week volunteer social work project that you have created by email and cell phone from Paris. This change in plans clearly demonstrates a passion for doing social work.

If you are spending the summer working at Starbucks

This is an easier situation because you will have some blocks of time during each week this summer to commit to social work activities. You will still have to create these opportunities for yourself in order to accommodate your work schedule. Be prepared when contacting potential volunteer places to emphasize that this is an unpaid opportunity for which you are looking.
Doing a good job

When you have obtained such an opportunity, make sure to do a good job because you will want to ask for a letter of recommendation BEFORE your social work volunteering is over. Once you have returned to school, it is easy for someone to forget about the good work you did. You want to have a person write a letter of recommendation when your good work is right in front of him/her.

If you plan accordingly, you can have your cake and eat it too in the summer before 12th grade.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller writes on college applications, internships, jobs and careers for teens and young people. Her website <http://www.flippingburgersandbeyond.com> offers valuable free information, including how to fill out a W-4, and a work sheet for developing a college application resume.

Big News on Legal Education

June 20, 2008

Northwestern University has become the third law school in the United States (after Southwestern and the University of Dayton) to offer a two-year law school degree. Although there was a fair amount of buzz, much of it critical, when Southwestern and Dayton adopted the two-year option, Northwestern’s high profile…it is generally considered a top ten law school…is generating seemingly unprecedented discussion about the future of legal education.

The first question in everyone’s mind; if one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools legitimizes a two- year law degree, can numerous other law schools be far behind?

But, there are many other questions as well.

Will the ABA weigh in on the validity of the new degree anytime soon? How will law firms, especially the high end firms which traditionally hire top Northwestern grads, respond to Northwestern’s new degree option? Will top students be willing to take the risk that the two-year degree option may limit their professional options?

Will students who elect a two year degree program be less likely to pass the bar exam?

There is wide disagreement on virtually all of these issues.

For years, students have described law school as follows:

First year; scare you to death, second year; work you to death, third year; bore you to death.

Have some legal educators come to agree with them?

Note: Remember, we offer you lots of information on colleges, online degree programs, scholarships, and related issues on our five websites.

HBCU to Abandon Open Admissions

May 13, 2008

Texas Southern University, an HBCU that has struggled with deferred maintenance issues, extremely high student attrition, and a former President who apparently misused funds, has a new President and appears to be heading in a somewhat new direction.  TSU, long an open admissions institution, will now institute standards which will make it a (minimally) selective institution.

According to Diverse, “TSU leaves the ranks of a handful of historically Black colleges and universities that continue to operate under open admissions policies, including Wiley College, Bluefield State College, Southern Arkansas Baptist College, University of the District of Columbia and Edward Waters College.”

 

Double Depositing; How low will you go?

May 9, 2008

OK, making a final college selection can be tough.  I’ll grant you that.  And, sometimes people will postpone difficult decisions…it’s classical avoidance behavior.

So, what can you do if you are faced with the decision of choosing between two or more colleges you really like?  The simple answer is, be the responsible adult you claim to be and make a decision.

Here’s what you don’t do…you don’t send enrollment deposits to more than one college.  It’s dishonest.  And, it’s not a victimless “crime”.   Here’s why. 

Every student who sends enrollment deposits to more than one college is reserving a place that is then not available to a student who may really want it, a student who may have to attend a college he/she does not like as much as a result.  

And, when a student sends in a deposit, many colleges “lock up” financial aid for him/her, aid which may not be freed up in time to be given to other students who need it. 

Then, there is the issue of housing.  A double deposited student often has a housing reservation, resulting in one fewer place in a residence hall for a student who needs it.

Any student who submits deposits to more than one college or university is hurting others.  There is no justification, and no other reasonable way to look at it.

College Still Admitting Students

May 1, 2008

If, for any reason, you are still looking for a college or university in which to enroll in the fall, you probably have more options than you think.  Beginning on May 6th,  you can go to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors website and find a list of colleges and universities with fall openings for freshmen and/or transfer students.   You can also find out which colleges and universities have space available in their residence halls, and which are still awarding financial aid.

Of course, not all colleges with openings will be listed on the NACAC site, so don’t assume that colleges not on the list are filled.  In fact, you have nothing to lose by contacting individual colleges to see if they might still consider your application.   Remember  that you can find college and university  telephone numbers  on the  Colleges, Scholarships, and  Online Degrees website.

Can For- Profit Colleges be Trusted?

March 13, 2008

Can for-profit colleges be trusted? Do they care about quality education or is profit their only concern? Are schools and colleges which are publicly held under so much pressure to drive up earnings and stock prices that they are willing to admit any prospective students who apply for admission?

Three past employees of Kaplan College have accused their former employers of offering admissions personnel illegal incentives to enroll students and of pressuring faculty to give students inflated grades in order to retain them. Kaplan has denied the allegations, and labeled the three…two of whom were fired…as disgruntled. Whether these particular allegations are truthful or not…that will be decide by the courts… there have been similar accusations, many upheld, against a number of for- profit schools and colleges.

The truth is, the for- profit education industry has been extremely profitable. The Kaplan schools and colleges, in addition to the tuition students pay out of pocket, receive approximately $500 million a year in federal financial aid dollars. The University of Phoenix, American International University, Keller Graduate School, and others also take in significant federal funds. There is nothing wrong with that, per se. Many students have attended these institutions, and others like them, and have been very satisfied.

However, it is extremely important that the appropriate government agencies carefully monitor all institutions which receive federal financial aid dollars to be certain that:

1. they offer sound educational programs.

2. they admit only students prepared to benefit from the programs they offer.

3. they hold faculty and students to appropriate academic standards.

To do otherwise is unfair to both students and taxpayers.

New Page Lists & Links to Historically Black Colleges

March 4, 2008

The Colleges, Scholarships, and Online Degrees website has just added a page which lists and links to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Anybody want to guess which state has the most HBCU’s?

It’s North Carolina, with 11.  Want to know which 3 states are tied for 2nd place with 8 HBCU’s?  Visit the new page and see for yourself.

Shakeup in For-Profit Education?

February 18, 2008

The most recent Sunday edition of The New York Times carried an interesting article written by Gretchen Morgenson entitled “The Insiders Are Selling, But Why”, about the fact that 13 Apollo Group insiders have recently sold 1.6 million shares of stock. In addition, the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, did no share repurchasing during the most recent quarter, in contrast with extensive repurchasing in the past. Apollo stock, Morgenson tells us, is down 14% from it’s peak, while Career Education Corporation and the Corinthian Colleges…two other major players in for-profit education, have seen their stock prices fall by 31% and 50% respectively.

It has since been announced that the Career Education Corporation will close several of its schools and colleges after allowing currently enrolled students to complete the programs in which they are now enrolled. McIntosh College in Dover, New Hapshire, founded in 1896, is among the institutions scheduled to close. Lehigh Valley College, and Gibbs schools and colleges in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are also scheduled to cease operating.

For many reasons, including significant enrollment growth, Apollo seems to be in better shape than most of its competitors. But, with recent changes and heightened government and consumer interest in the student lending industry, the nation’s current economic woes, the financial pressures being felt by lenders, and the number of high risk loans awarded to students at proprietary institutions, life in the for-profit education world may become more difficult for the schools, for investors, and for students.

Typically, for-profit schools offer limited scholarships. And, such schools attract a fair number of low income students who require financial aid to continue their education. Thus, if loans become more difficult or costly to obtain, it may well be proprietary schools and the students they serve who will be impacted most dramatically.

Nobody is predicting the demise of for-profit education. In fact, recent events may make some stocks in the sector a good value. But, when the insiders of the most successful corporation in the sector sell off massive holdings for relatively small profit and a major player closes long established schools after failing to find buyers for them, many questions arise.

Among those questions; is a major shakeup coming in the for-profit education sector? Will we see more closings (and perhaps displaced students)? Will there be mergers or will the larger chains acquire smaller chains and/or independents? Will the small independent hair dressing schools, massage schools, and business training schools be able to survive? Will more students turn to community colleges? If so, will 25% go on to four-year colleges as they do now?

Will students, who now find online degree programs increasingly attractive, turn to online colleges in even greater numbers?

It will be very interesting and very telling to watch the trends in the fairly immediate future (perhaps 12 months) and in the next few years.