Posts published in August, 2012

State Scholarships Divert Students From Private Colleges, But Lengthen Time to Degree.

A Massachusetts program meant to keep high-achievers close to home by providing scholarships to in-state public universities reduce students’ chances of graduating on time, according to a new study. While the program has kept more of these students enrolled in Massachusetts, the students’ probability of graduating on time was 40% lower than if they’d attended higher-quality private institutions. (Hechinger Report, 08/08/12)

Why College Students Should Consider An Internship

Guest blogger: Amber Shelton

Upon graduation every college student strives to do everything in their power to be the ideal candidate for their future employer. Good grades, recommendation letters, and internships are examples of accomplishments employers seek out but many people question how far each will take you. Internships can be a great resource for students and allow them stand out in front of their competition.

According to a survey conducted from November 11, 2011, to January 13, 2012 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) the number of internships is expected to increase by 8.5 percent in 2012 and the average wage rate for interns with a bachelor’s degree is $16.21, which is a 2.8 percent decrease from last year’s average of $16.68. The top three activities that encompass employers recruiting techniques include career fairs, on-campus recruiting, and on-campus information sessions. These engagements prove to be the most successful for hiring new interns. Not only do internships give students an edge in the job market but they also provide a number of other benefits including:

  • Build new skills: Internships give students the chance to not only learn new skills but also help them understand how to apply skills they’ve already learned in the classroom to workplace situations.
  • Network with colleagues: Meeting new people in an unfamiliar environment may seem scary at first but in the long run it will only benefit students. It is a great way to gain access to information regarding new jobs, especially ones that are unadvertised.
  • Obtain recommendations: Who wouldn’t like a letter of recommendation? Letters of recommendation will help future employers realize a candidates potential.
  • Decide if this is the right career path: It is easy to continue down a path in college without realizing what that career will look like once someone is actually in the workforce. Internships give students the opportunity to learn about an environment before making a commitment.
  • Get your foot in the door: If the intern decides that the company they are working for is the right place for them then they are already a step ahead of future hires. It can be an easy transition to hire on interns and it saves the company money by not having to train someone completely new. According to the NACE the overall percentage of interns turning into full-time hires has hit an all-time high at 58.6 percent between November 11, 2011 and January 13, 2012.

As an intern myself, I have developed many new skills and learned things about myself I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have connected with some awesome individuals and learned how the corporate world works. I wouldn’t take it back for anything and I highly recommend anyone contemplating doing an internship to go through with it. 

BIO: Amber Shelton is currently an intern at Trupanion, a pet insurance company based in Seattle. This will be her last year at the University of Washington and she looks forward to what doors her internship will open. 



Amber Shelton: Communication Department

t: (888) 738-7478 : x5876


Should Admissions Officers Screen Applicants Backgrounds More Thoroughly ?

Guest Blogger: Jane Smith

The college admissions process is definitely not simple. Most institutions receive thousands of applications at the beginning of every academic term, and they have to weed through each application to try to find the best possible students for admission. Admissions officers take into consideration a wide range of factors during the selection process. Things like grades, test scores, difficulty of courses, previous college experience, extracurricular activities, admissions essays, and future goals always factor largely into the decision, and admissions officers must check and double check this information.  One thing, though, that could completely re-define how a student is perceived by admissions and the rest of the college community is largely overlooked by admissions officers. The presence of criminal activity in an applicant’s past is something not typically verified by admissions officers, and this can make the difference between a student who adds a positive contribution to the campus environment and one who could pose a danger.

It may seem a little invasive to conduct background checks on potential college students, or require this information along with an application packet, but with ongoing occurrences of mass shootings and other violence on college campuses, the question as to whether background checks are necessary does not seem out of line.

Extreme violence on college campuses is most definitely on the rise and occurring in alarming numbers. According to a recent study, out of 272 recorded incidents of mass violence on college campuses from 1909 to 2008, 75 percent of those occurred after 1980, with huge jumps in the 1990s and 2000s. The majority of offenders in these crimes were men. But, unfortunately, as of late, data is beginning to show that violent incidents are in no way restricted to only male students. Instances of violence between or propagated by females is also on the rise.

What’s unfortunate for any student thinking of attending a college or university in the coming years is the fact that, even with clear data demonstrating an increase in on-campus violent crime, there seems to be no increase in screening for past criminal activity before admitting college freshmen.

Some of latest data indicates that only 4 percent of all U.S. college and universities do any form of criminal background checks on incoming students. Some schools require self-disclosure of past crimes, but 36 percent don’t even require that. Compare that with the fact that 21 percent of institutions in 2007 used social networking sites to screen applicants, and it seems like the priorities of admissions divisions are a little off.

With about one out of every 29 students enrolled in college having a previous criminal record, 10 percent of those being sexual abuse or assault convictions, an argument for higher security in college admissions can most definitely be made.

Is it time for every college and university to require background checks before admitting students, or does that take the issue too far? Regardless, the issue of safety on college campuses will continue to be a prevalent one as we enter the new millennium.

With knowledge of the best background check companies and tactics, Jane Smith provides vital information and tips throughout her blogs. Email her your thoughts or concerns at




New Controversial Book On Purposes Of College

Democracy, as we know it, is in danger. In recent decades we have seen many great discoveries, but we have also seen the steady demise of one of America’s most important democratic institutions: the college. A new book by Andrew Delbanco, matter-of-factly titled “College: What It Was, Is and Should Be” (Princeton University Press) delivers a story that is part nuanced history, part “State of the University” address, and part swan song. College, he says, is close to extinction. He ends his story with a plea for the future of the college: “Democracy depends on it.” The article is in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette via Gay Clyburn Of Canegie Foundation

Growning Number of “Reverse Transfers” From Universities To Community Colleges

Forks in the Road
Roughly 14% of first-time students who enrolled at a four-year institution in the fall of 2005 had transferred from a community college by 2011, according to a new study that sheds light on “reverse transfers.” Of the transfer group, about 17% eventually returned to their original four-year institution, while 28% went on to a different four-year. The other 55% either stuck it out at community colleges or dropped out.

Fascinating Papers on Controlling College Costs


Stretching the higher education dollar

Andrew P. Kelly and Kevin Carey | American Enterprise Institute


With skyrocketing college fees and dwindling state budgets, 11 new studies explore cutting higher education costs and their impacts on policymaking. These papers cover a lot of cost elements and ideas from stimulating authors.

WATCH LIVE: Stretching the higher education dollar

Federal Report Has Evidence Of Damaging For Profit Practices

Higher Ed Watch

Here’s why Senator Harkin’s report on the for-profit higher education industry is so important: It puts thousands of pages of internal company documents into the permanent record, providing crucial evidence that fraud and abuse have run rampant throughout the sector.

Read More

Students choosing lower priced colleges

Families have implemented more cost-saving strategies to cut college spending in the past academic year, choosing less expensive schools and finding more economical ways for students to attend. The Sallie Mae survey found that the average amount spent on college declined 5% in 2011-12. (Boston Globe, 07/16/12)

A Place For Placement Exams


By Guest Blogger Pamela Burdman

Research and innovation in college developmental (aka remedial) education is shaking up notions about how to determine whether students are “college ready.”

A new report, Where to Begin?, out today from Jobs for the Future (by yours truly) outlines an emerging narrative about how public colleges and universities can best serve students who are under-prepared for college.  The new narrative is leading to soul-searching about the proper role of placement exams.  While much of the discussion is occurring at community colleges, the issue has bearing for four-year universities as well.

Recent research shows how lengthy remedial sequences can constitute a barrier to graduation, underscoring the fact that placement tests are high-stakes exams (even though they are not always treated as such). This finding has captured the attention of college leaders, especially given that research has yet to show clearly whether remedial education as traditionally practiced improves student outcomes.  In fact, preliminary studies reveal that attempts to accelerate some students (those who score slightly below the cut-off for college-level courses) out of developmental education and into credit-bearing courses may be working.

The knowledge that students often don’t realize the importance of the tests until after they’ve taken them is also causing colleges to try new approaches.  Santa Monica College developed an online placement orientation to help students get ready for the tests, claiming that students who prepare for the exams are 18 to 36 percent more likely to avoid developmental courses.  Other colleges are offering refresher courses for students who don’t pass the placement exams. Cumberland County College in New Jersey found that more than 85 percent of students who took a six-hour refresher for $35 subsequently passed college-level English.

But perhaps the biggest stir has been caused by new research showing that placement exams are only weakly predictive of students’ success in math and English, and that high school grades do a better job (even though this has long been true for college admissions as research at the University of California has repeatedly shown).  After conducting their own research on the question, community college systems such as North Carolina’s and institutions such as Long Beach City College are responding to the news by considering the advantages of using grades and other measures in addition to test scores.

Besides multiple measures, another way that colleges are effectively downgrading the role of placement exams is through policies that require students to master only the math content needed for their intended major:  In Virginia, for example, humanities majors only need to complete or place out of five of the community college system’s nine math modules, leaving the science-oriented math requirements such as advanced algebra for students pursuing degrees in STEM.  According to some studies, less than a quarter of all majors require calculus-oriented math.

While they may be de-emphasizing placement tests, most college systems are nowhere close to abandoning them.  Even the Common Core assessments in development are not expected to replace the placement tests in most states,  though some states have signaled that the tests will be used to waive placement testing for students who score proficient.

But several systems are looking at ways to improve the tests.  At least four state community college systems (Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas) are saying goodbye to off-the-shelf tests in favor of new ones customized to their curriculum.  The same four states are also adding diagnostic capabilities to their test, either to help place students into instructional modules (Virginia, North Carolina) or to better target instruction after students are placed into developmental courses (Florida, Texas).

In a few years, researchers will be able to assess whether the new and improved tests (coupled with outreach to ensure students know to take the tests seriously) help colleges do a better job helping students earn a degree.


Pamela Burdman is a Chicago-based consultant working with foundations and nonprofits on efforts to improve college readiness and success.  She previously worked as a program officer for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  The report can be accessed at (