Popular Majors at Selective Versus Nonselective Colleges

by Honolulu Mother

We have argued before about the value of majors that don’t directly tie in to a well-paid job. A recent 538 article notes that students at selective colleges are the ones more likely to be going into, say, social sciences or performing arts, while their peers at less selective colleges focus more on technical or directly job-related fields:

Students At Most Colleges Don’t Pick ‘Useless’ Majors

The article suggests that it could be that the selective school undergraduates assume they’re going on to graduate school so the undergraduate major matters less, or it could be that they expect their college name and network to open doors even where their major isn’t pre-professional. I would note also that more selective schools may not even have the pre-professional majors. Have you noticed this effect, and if so do you have thoughts on what causes it?

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Paying for college

by Sheep Farmer

High school seniors are excited about college acceptances, and their parents are worrying about how they are going to finance the next four years. DD will be attending an Expensive Private College (EPC) starting in August. Luckily, she was awarded a merit scholarship that cuts tuition in half. Both sets of grandparents have generously contributed to a 529. I plan to pay the rest out of pocket. We have talked to her about working during the school year, but I told her that she could wait until after the first semester before deciding whether or not that is something that she wants to pursue. What are others doing to finance their children’s education, especially ones that will be attending EPCs? Have any of your kids considered the ROTC route? Are you going to encourage them to work during the school year? Are you willing to pay the full fare for an EPC?

Where the 1% attend college

by MooshiMooshi

Here is an utterly fascinating collection of data charts, showing where the types of colleges that the 1% attend vs the schools that the bottom 60% attend. It isn’t surprising that elite private schools do not enroll many of the bottom 60%. Near the bottom is a great chart showing the colleges with the highest mobility rates – the schools that propel students from lower income families into a higher income category, The chart shows the top 10, but you can type in the name of any school and get its position. My own employer came in at 75, which is not bad at all considering there are at least over 1000 schools on this list. We also have less than 1% enrollment of one-percenters, and 48% from the lower 60%.

The question that must be asked: why isn’t more charitable giving directed to the schools that are most successful at propelling lower income students into higher income categories? Charitable giving to universities is dominated by money going to the elites, which do not function well as engines of mobility. I think this idea of mobility as a measure of success needs to be more publicized, and donors who care about education should be encouraged to give to the schools that are already doing a good job at mobility.

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

Opinions? Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?

College Confidential (Totebag Version)

by Louise

Totebaggers with older kids, what is the criteria for getting into a college that people would recognize ? I am not talking of Highly Selective Schools but maybe a tier below ?

Also, if you have experience with HSS, please share that. Some Totebaggers have left the decision on where to apply, how hard to work to their kids, others may have offered tips or made suggestions.

Still others have inside experience as readers of applications, college administrators and professors. I would love to hear your views on this edition of The Totebag College Confidential.

Are athletic fees too high?

by Finn

A recent discussion delved into possible reasons college is getting so expensive. One factor we didn’t consider is the increasing cost to students of supporting increasing intercollegiate athletic budgets.

Sports At Any Cost

Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back

On the other hand:

NBC Accounts for $100 Million for Notre Dame Financial Aid

With fees supporting athletic departments running to hundreds of dollars per year, for many students that can mean additional thousands of additional dollars of college debt. For those relying on Pell Grants, it could mean millions of our tax dollars supporting athletic departments, many of which spend millions of dollars on coaches’ salaries alone.

What do you think? Are athletic fees excessively burdensome to students, especially those scraping through by borrowing and/or part time work and/or taking semesters off to work? Should there be limits on government spending supporting athletic departments?

 

Would you ban your college age kids from a major?

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post clickbait, I mean article, discusses parents who forbid their college student offspring from choosing a liberal arts major.

Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

I assume the parents in question are paying for college. Would you ever place specific subjects off-limits as a field of study for your college-aged offspring? And if so, what subjects?

To me it seems inappropriate and controlling. But, I’m not paying for college yet so ask me again when one of mine announces s/he has discovered a grade-free program of study in Video Gaming as Narrative that involves playing as many games as possible and then discussing them at informal seminars to be held Friday nights over a keg.

Out of state students

Both MooshiMooshi and Rhode sent in posts for this topic.

by MooshiMooshi

Are cuts to public state universities forcing kids to go out of state?

This article, from the NYTimes, contends that increasingly, this is the case. The article discusses reasons why some states are sending so many students out of state, and the second article shows the data, state by state.

Public Colleges Chase Out-of-State Students, and Tuition

How Cuts to Public Universities Have Driven Students Out of State

In my experience, some states have traditionally sent lots of students out of state – CT and MA come to mind immediately. Even back in the 80’s, it was assumed in CT that many students would leave. Both states had relatively underfunded flagship public universities at the time, and little tradition of widespread public university education. The best students always went private. But other states, like CA, had a long standing tradition of public higher education. In the state where I graduated HS, very few students went out of state, and that appears to still be the case. But CA is now sending a lot of students out. And Illinois???

How is your state doing according to the data? If your state is sending a lot of kids out of state, do you agree with the reasons given? Do most students in your state go to public universities or do many go to private schools? And do you think we should continue to have state based public higher education systems? Or should everything thing be national, or even private?

* * * * * *

by Rhode

This article describes how public college students migrate. Did you follow the pattern of your home state? What about your kids?

The interesting backbone to this article is the reduction of state aid to public colleges. How does this affect you? Are your children’s colleges choices or how far the budget will stretch affected?

The broader question I have is what do you think about the reduction of state aid to public colleges?

At least in RI, the aid from the state is supposed to subsidize RI student costs, so that way our state public colleges are very affordable. In an odd twist, the cost to keep the lights on is the cost of out-of-state tuition, so the state aid basically fills the gap between “what the state thinks RI students should pay” and “what it actually costs to run the college”. I’ve never agreed with the model – it’s a catch-22. The college needs to recruit out-of-state students to keep the lights on, so the state thinks that the college doesn’t care about in-state needs, and then reduces aid, forcing tuition to increase across the board. If the college focuses on drawing in-state students, then programs may be cut because the college doesn’t have enough out-of-state tuition to keep the lights on.

What about your state? Is funding to public colleges decreasing? Do you think it’s important for states to fund public institutions? What about the federal government? Should more aid be given to reduce tuition costs across the board?

Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Institutions collect startling amounts of information on students. Do the students have a right to know how it’s being used, and should they be able to opt out?

As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education

[The linked article is behind a paywall, but here’s a PDF that will stay posted for a limited time.]

20160710.As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education (1)

University of Adjuncts

by Honolulu Mother

Gawker recently ran a series on the plight of the growing class of full-time-adjunct professors who, more and more, are doing the actual teaching in U.S. colleges and universities. You can see the whole series here:

Your Professors Are in the Struggle and They’re Not Winning Yet

Executive summary: it’s a terrible career path, and adjuncts don’t have the time or institutional support to be available to students outside of class the same way tenure-track professors are.

One obvious takeaway is that getting a PhD with plans to become a professor is highly inadvisable in this academic environment. But this trend may be concerning to Totebaggers for other reasons. For instance, as a parent of kids coming up on college age, I find it striking that the amount an individual college student pays per credit is similar to the amount the adjunct teaching the entire class is being paid per credit. That math seems wrong. And college students are going to find it more difficult to come up with references for first employment or grad school applications if the people teaching their classes are as likely as not to be gone the next year or the year after.

Is this a trend you’ve been following, and what are your thoughts on it?

Overinvestment in College Lending

by WCE

College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers

I was intrigued by this article, because both of my babysitters hoped to “go to college to improve themselves” but in my opinion, would have been more suited for a vocational program or apprenticeship.

I think that government continues to loan money to people who are poor risks (housing followed by education) because government is unwilling or unable to discern who is a worthy borrower without appearing racist or classist. Lending laws affecting banks and private lenders may or may not have similar effects, depending on how they are written and enforced. Lending money requires judging people and that’s hard for both social and policy reasons. Repayment depends in part on family/cultural background and not just on individual, statistical creditworthiness, which makes judgement even more complicated in a society where credit decisions are based solely on individual (or possibly married couple) attributes.

Agree or disagree? What do you think about a European-style approach to higher education, where slots are more subsidized but limited to applicants with higher demonstrated academic aptitude?

Excerpt:

The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates.

The government financed a large share of these educations through grants, low-interest loans and loan guarantees. Total outstanding student debt—almost all guaranteed or made directly by the federal government—has quadrupled since 2000 to $1.2 trillion today. The government also spent tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits for students.

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin compares the 7 million student-loan borrowers in default—and millions of others who appear on the same path—to homeowners who found themselves underwater and headed toward foreclosure after the housing crash.

“We needed individual households to stabilize property values and help revive communities,” she said. “We want to stabilize this generation of student borrowers and revive their prospects for the future. I think students are essential to our future economic growth and contributions to productivity.”…

The Obama administration faced criticism that it was too slow to help ailing homeowners during the foreclosure crisis, which impeded the economy from recovering more quickly from the recession. The administration is determined to avoid similar criticism with student-loan borrowers.

It has already put forth an array of programs to help borrowers, including slashing monthly bills by tying payments to incomes, and forgiving some of their debt. But this time they face a different challenge: How to get borrowers to pay anything—even a penny—for an asset they never received.

College tours

by Sheep Farmer

DD and I recently spent a cold and windy Saturday touring UVA. The tour and information session are both led by UVA students. I was disappointed with both, especially considering the reputation of UVA. We first went to a general information session. The UVA two students leading the presentation were frequently not able to answer basic questions posed by the parents (and almost all the questions came from the parents). We then went on a walking tour of the campus which was led by a different student. Instead of giving us new information, he just basically repeated what was said in the earlier talk. What new information he did give focused on the social aspects of the college. The guide spent ten minutes talking about the tradition of streaking across the lawn. Personally, I would much rather have heard him talk more about academics and less about silly college pranks.

This was only our third college tour, so I am definitely not an expert on the subject . The tour that has impressed me the most was at WPI. The session was led by staff from both the admission and financial aid offices. They were able to answer every question from the audience. I liked the fact that they gave information concerning average starting salaries for their graduates, what percentage have jobs already lined up by graduation, etc. I realize that UVA is much larger and has many more majors than WPI, but UVA still could have managed to give us some of this same information.

For those of you who have already been on college tours, what schools impressed both you and your kids the most?

Advice for ‘your “average” excellent student’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Truthful advice about getting into top colleges, for your “average” excellent student

… Your excellent student, (especially if a white girl, or Asian), in a good school district, with excellent test scores, grades, and a range of ECs is very, very unlikely to get into any school with an acceptance rate under 20%. UNLESS the kid is, or does, something exceptional, or is hooked.

That’s one CollegeConfidential parent’s opinion after going through the college application process with her daughter this year.  I suggest you read through the discussion if you’re interested in this topic.

Many families have unrealistic expectations for their “average” excellent kids.

In our town (and all over the Northeast, I suspect), a smart, hard working white or asian girl with good/great stats is a dime a dozen. Actually, I think the same is applies to the boys as well.

We have a number of young men and women who are still shell shocked that they did not get into certain schools. It was all so predictable, and unfortunate that their parents did not “get it”. I know of one mother who is embarrassed her daughter was only accepted to UVA. It’s heartbreaking.

Not all Totebaggers aspire to have their children attend tippy-top colleges.  Some just want their children to be academically qualified for the most selective schools so as to be eligible for merit scholarships elsewhere.  Other Totebaggers would be happy with their children attending your average state school.

Your thoughts?

Effects of increasing international student populations on college campuses

by WCE

I have friends who are STEM academic advisers at OSU and UIUC. My OSU friend confirmed the accuracy of this article. When I was in graduate school, my department was ~75% international students. I think people can learn the fundamentals of engineering in the U.S. with a limited grasp of English, but I’m not sure that other disciplines, especially language-intensive ones, are suitable for people with limited English proficiency. I was surprised to see how high the percentage of international students at Mt Holyoke and Bryn Mawr is (28%) and I wonder if the education there is affected. One of my acquaintances left his engineering professorship in part over how repeated cheating by international students was handled by the local university.

Do you think a US college education will continue to be valuable? Do you share my concern about students with limited English requiring slower instruction in language-intensive disciplines?

On a recent Monday, 22-year-old [Shao] woke up in the apartment he shares with three Chinese friends. He walked to an engineering class at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he sat with Chinese students. Then, he hit the gym with a Chinese pal before studying in the library until late into the night. He recalls uttering two fragments in English all day. The longest was at Chipotle, where he ordered a burrito: “Double chicken, black beans, lettuce and hot sauce.”

At first glance, a huge wave of Chinese students entering American higher education seems beneficial for both sides. International students, in particular from China, are clamoring for American credentials, while U.S. schools want their tuition dollars, which can run two to three times the rate paid by in-state students. On the ground, American campuses are struggling to absorb the rapid and growing influx—a dynamic confirmed by interviews with dozens of students, college professors and counselors.

Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses

Preparing to leave the nest

by Finn

Like several other regulars, I have a kid that will be leaving the nest for college soon.

As that day approaches, I realize that there are some things I should do before he leaves. Some fall into the category of things to teach, while others are tasks to be done in the remaining time. Among them:

-Take him to open a checking account, and teach him how to use it and to safeguard his checks.
-Walk him through a credit card application, and teach him how it works, and how to use it (e.g., always pay the balance, and never use it to buy something that will lead to a balance you can’t pay).
-Get a new phone and plan. We want him to have unlimited talk and text, because we want to have those channels to him wide open.
-Teach him to drive, and make sure he gets his license.
-Take him bike riding, both to sharpen his skills, and to teach him how to ride in traffic.
-Have him sign a health care directive/proxy and a HIPAA form, and keep copies on his, DW’s, and my phones.
-Have him do laundry. I’ve already taught him how to use the washer, but give him practice.
-Teach him how to use a non-solar dryer.
-Teach him basic cooking, and have him prepare some meals for the family.

Of course, in a lot of cases, ‘teach him’ can mean, ‘direct him to learn.’ I’m reminded of a story from a dad who was looking forward to teaching his son how to shave, only to have the son learn how from a YouTube video.

What’s on your list? How do you plan to prepare your kids before they fly the nest?

Self-study SAT prep?

by Honolulu Mother

The author of this Vox article was charging $650/hour and up and still turning away clients, so he eventually made his lesson plans and materials available for self-study. He found that the self-study students did better than those paying for in-person instruction.

I made $1,000 an hour as an SAT tutor. My students did better without me.

Have you ever considered hiring an SAT tutor for one of your kids, or for yourself back in the day? Or do you think self-study is a better bet?

BTW, I can see that this article is partly a promotion for his expensive test prep software, and I don’t mean to suggest that his is the only effective self-study alternative. Free alternatives such as Khan, or simply taking practice tests and then carefully going over the answers both right and wrong, are more what I was thinking of.

(Sorry Mémé and others whose kids are much older or younger, not to mention those of you without kids — this one’s going to be tedious for you.)

College gender ratios

by Finn

As college looms closer and closer (and for those with toddlers, it’s sooner than you think), there are many factors to consider as our kids narrow down their choices.

One possible factor is sex assault, and the impact of gender ratios on that:

What a massive sexual assault survey found at 27 top U.S. universities

Unequal Gender Ratios at Colleges Are Driving Hookup Culture

Hookup culture isn’t the real problem facing singles today. It’s math.

Is this something you are, or will, consider, or encourage your kids to consider, as they make their college choices?

One takeaway for me is to be glad that DD liked Caltech and, at least at this point, has that on her lists of colleges she might want to attend.

WCE and I have discussed here some of the benefits to females of majoring in engineering, and this is another benefit, which we haven’t discussed previously.

College rankings

by LauraFromBaltimore

This article follows up on a recent discussion we had:

College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution

The article and accompanying graphic seem to do a decent job of discussing the different ways to measure the value of a college degree, including the pros and cons of each. Personally, I like the “value added” approach they discuss (the revised Brookings approach in the article), because it tries to take away the impact of a number of factors that seem to be self-selecting (and I’m sure it’s, ahem, entirely coincidental that my own alma mater looks a lot better under that analysis than under the College Scorecard approach). But this crew seems to enjoy nothing more than data analysis and college education, so — discuss!

Cutting The Cost Of College

by MooshiMooshi

Everyone loves to discuss the high costs of university education, and everyone seems to have an opinion as to how to get those costs down. This article looks in some depth at the effort to deal with significant funding cuts at U Wisconsin Eau Claire, which is a classic directional state U, and one with a pretty good reputation. The son of one of my best friends went there, and had a lot of good things to say.

There are some points of interest in this article. First of all, the funding cuts forced the administration to look closely at some of their processes, which really made no sense in some cases. Layers of administrative approvals to get catering? That is the kind of thing that just adds to everyone’s workload. As I have noted before, a lot of times universities end up with lots of bureaucracy, added costs, and added workload (usually dumped on faculty and lower level administrators) because there are no real chains of command. Everyone in the various administrative offices are all doing their own thing. The one-stop student services office is also a great idea. I have never understood why universities make students run from office to office to get things done. So there is a silver lining to these cuts – forcing the school to weed out and streamline offices and processes.

However, the centralized advising is a huge mistake in my opinion. And each advisor will have 300 students? In a school with a 30% 4 year graduation rate? Seriously? My department is actually trying to wrest advising away from the central advising process, largely because we think it will improve retention. The centralized advisors make so many mistakes, mistakes that actually cause students to have to spend more time here.

And of course they will end up with fewer course sections, which will also make it harder for students to get finished on time.

It is interesting that they used alums to help identify inefficiencies, instead of hiring consultants. I assume the alums were volunteering their time? That is actually a really interesting idea – instead of hitting up alums for money, ask for time instead.

Struggling to Stay True to Wisconsin’s Ideals

As usual, the comments on the article are interesting too. Do you have anything to add? How would you approach drastic cuts at a school like this if you were the president?

Who Goes To College?

by MBT

Here is a chance to test your knowledge based on years of discussions on this site. The NY Times wants you to draw a graph showing the relationship between family income and college enrollment. The article links to a couple of other similar studies plotting relationships of various markers of achievement to family income. How accurate is your graph?

You Draw It: How Family Income
Predicts Children’s College Chances

How Are You Paying For College?

by Grace aka costofcollege

As the deadline for high school seniors to choose a college approaches, the challenge of how to pay is has been a recent topic of discussion for many families.  Totebaggers are savers and unlikely to qualify for much need-based financial aid, so this timeline may not be relevant to many readers here.  But it does show some generalized steps along the path to saving and paying for college while giving us a starting point for discussion.

20150412.COCPlanningTimelineB

Before High School

Start saving for college ASAP:  This is the relatively uncomplicated part.  Although we can’t predict the costs of college over a child’s lifetime, it almost always makes sense to begin saving early on.  Even if MOOCs or other innovations make higher education more affordable in the future, there’s usually not much of a risk in saving too much since there are options for dealing with “left-over money in your 529 plan”.  Still, it makes sense to look at all the pros and cons of 529 plans.

Before Junior Year of High School

  • NMS potential:  If your child tends to score in the 95%ile of standardized tests, he may have a shot at earning a National Merit Scholarship.  A little test prep can make the difference in qualifying for significant merit financial aid.
  • Base Income Year (BIY): If there is a chance your family may qualify for need-based financial aid, you should explore ways to minimize income during the BIY, which is the 12-month period that begins January 1 during your child’s junior year.  Since the BIY is used as a snapshot for determining financial need, you may want to avoid selling stocks or property that will create large capital gains, refrain from converting to a Roth IRA, and defer bonus or other income if possible.

Junior Year of High School

  • Create list of schools:  Get serious and make a realistic list that includes academic and financial safeties.
  • Can we afford it? 1-2-3:  Determine affordability by using the 1-2-3 Method or something similar.

Senior Year of High School

Senior year is the busiest time for families as they handle the many details of the college application process, including final determination of how they will be paying.  Some important acronyms:

The two main forms used in determining financial aid eligibility are the FAFSA and PROFILE.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. It is a form submitted to the government that collects the financial information needed to decide eligibility for federal FA. It’s also used by many colleges to determine institutional aid.
PROFILE is the financial aid application service offered by the College Board, used by about 400 colleges to learn if students qualify for non-federal student aid. There is a fee to submit a PROFILE, whereby the FAFSA is free.

The SAR (Student Aid Report) is a summary of your FAFSA responses and provides “some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid”.

What’s your approach in planning on how to pay for college?  Do you feel well prepared, or a bit nervous about how you’ll handle the costs?  If your kids are older, tell us what you learned.  Share your wisdom and ask your questions.

(A version of this post previously appeared in Cost of College.)

Sweet Briar College Is Closing

by SWVA Mom

This article touches on some typical Totebag topics: STEM vs. liberal arts, rural vs. urban, having a variety of choices to find the right college fit, and the soaring cost of higher education.

Shocking Decision at Sweet Briar

This story caught my eye because I worked on a design & construction project at Sweet Briar many years ago. The campus is so beautiful – I hope someone will find a new purpose for the property. Another small, historically women’s college in Virginia was purchased by the Mormon Church several years ago and seems to be thriving, and a well-known Evangelical Christian university in Virginia has been growing both its online presence (recently hit 100,000 enrollment) and its campus ($400 million construction program), so maybe a church will step in and make a go of it.