Posts published in April, 2015

Why a New College Ranking System Matters

BY Joel Deal

Over the past decade, a few major players have come to dominate the college rankings landscape. Most families are now aware of annual reports issued by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and the Daily Beast.

Unfortunately, when it comes to affordability, these rankings tell us less than the whole story. By ignoring important factors that contribute to the real-world cost of college (e.g. loan default rates), popular sites are skewing the picture for low-income students.

 In response, our team at College Affordability Guide (CAG) decided to create a new rankings formula for affordability – one that would include previously hidden factors. Can students earn credits outside of class? Do they graduate? Can they pay back their loans? These “opportunity” costs, we realized, may be just as important as financial payments.  Eligibility Metrics

 We began our project by narrowing the field. Schools had to meet 4 key criteria to be considered for inclusion in a state or degree subject area:


  1. Average Net Price: An average net price, per year, of $15,000 (or less) for students receiving financial aid and whose annual family income is no more than $48,000.
  2. Credit Flexibility: The level of flexibility offered for earning credits (e.g. credit for prior learning, weekends/evenings, MOOCs, etc.).
  3. Loan Default Rate: A Cohort Default Rate of 13.7% or less.
  4. Success Rates: A combined graduation rate + transfer-out rate of 50% or more.

We reasoned these factors were critical in determining whether a college should be classified as affordable. By capping the annual family income for the average net price, we also avoided schools that use a significant portion of their financial aid to win over higher income students applying to competing institutions.

Data Analysis

 Initially, we analyzed 10,000,000+ data points from 5,000+ degree-granting U.S. colleges and universities. Data were drawn from:


  • Sources operated by the federal government (e.g. IPEDS database, the Office of Postsecondary Education, etc.)
  • Competency-based education sources such as the College Board and – i.e. sources that told us which means of earning college credits outside of class, such as CLEP and DSST, schools accepted
  • Information on university and college websites, as well as conversations over the phone

Less than 10% of the 5000+ schools we inspected made it into our final rankings.

Ranking Calculations

Once we had determined which group of schools to consider for a state or degree subject area, each individual college or university was scored and ranked:


  • First, we calculated which percentile a school fell into, out of all the Title IV-eligible colleges and universities in the country, for each of our metrics (e.g. average net price).
  • Then we combined those percentile scores and translated them into two grades, “Getting In” and “Getting Out”, plus an overall net score.
  • Finally, we trimmed our lists to only show U.S. schools that our algorithm placed in the top 25% of all schools for affordability.

On the site, we display our rankings by both state and subject area (e.g. Engineering, Nursing, etc.

 “So what?” we’ve heard some people ask. “Will a new ranking algorithm really make that much of a difference?” For those with a comfortable income, the answer is no. But if you’re returning to school or a student in a family that’s just scraping by, the answer is most definitely yes.

Conventional rankings hide the true costs of attending university. As college becomes more and more expensive, we owe it to low-income students to ensure they get into an affordable school and get out with a quality degree. The College Affordability Guide is intended to do just that.

Joe Deal, Founder, Degree Prospects /

Finial Aid Bait And Switch: Give It To Freshmen And Then Take It Away

Financial Aid

College ‘bait and switch?’

Higher education institutions typically offer more financial aid to first-year students and their parents as a kind of leveraging, and once the student has been recruited the financial aid declines. However, coupled with rising tuition rates, front-loading leaves many upperclassmen facing the difficult choice of going deep into debt to stay in school, transferring or dropping out. (Hechinger Report, April 20)

Writing Strategies: Ways To Cope With Your Tasks Four Times Faster

By Jessica Elmore

 Factors that influence speed of writing are as follows: manner of writing and time-management. If you know much about these two things, then you know how to fasten your writing process.

A century ago the only way to note anything was handwriting. But you are lucky enough to live in a digital era where options to record information you need seem to be countless.

So what can be improved in the writing techniques you use and usual way you manage your time? Let’s dwell on the tricks, which are sure to help you work faster and more productively.

Change your manner of writing

  • Handwriting vs computer writing

Tastes differ, you know. What’s better for you: to write by hand or use computer instead? If you tried only one method out of these two, it’s high time to test the other one. It’s been proven by any person who regularly uses computer, typing speed rises time and time again.

  • Take notes reasonably

Don’t put everything down, use keywords with short but meaningful explanation. If you write only keywords, perhaps you won’t be able to recollect what your professor was talking about at the moment.

  • Use symbols

If you have good drawing skills it’s only an advantage for you. Though you don’t obligatory need to possess them. During lectures and seminars when you’re in a hurry to note everything, all means are good – writing, drawing…

For example: is it faster to write “man equals man” or “man = man”? Of course, this example might seem to be rather simple, but you do understand how it works.

  • Acquire shorthand writing skill

You can attend courses of shorthand writing or just find a suitable video course online teaching this technique. In a few words, it’s a system of symbols and abbreviations designed for writing faster, which proved to be efficient.

Develop time-management skills to write faster

  • Research in advance

Take the time for gathering information and only then get to work. When all material you need is at hand, you don’t waste time on sitting in a library or searching the Internet.

  • Write a plan

It will take you only half an hour or less to create a draft of your plan. Think over all your ideas thoroughly and write them down. State what you are going to do step by step. Define how much time it is going to take you to fulfill each planned item. You can better your plan in the course of work, but try not to get sidetracked from your plan – it steals time.

  • Use timer

Define which time limit is comfortable for you – 15, 20 or 30 minutes. The main idea is to write non-stop. Switch on your timer and don’t pay attention to it until it lets you know you need to take a break. Write without pauses and as fast as possible.

  • Eliminate distractions

You know how many things may distract your attention – social media, friends, texting, Skype messages… These are time thieves. If you’re really eager to be through with your writing tasks, you’ll need to learn to work without interruptions and ignore them!

  • Quantity first, quality later

Forget about editing your text for a while. It’s going to be the last thing do. Write without rereading, write as more as possible keeping in mind that you’ll have to delete or rearrange some passages when proofreading. But it will be then – now write and forget about the Backspace key, text font, etc. You’ll have time to polish your writing later on.

  • Make sure your writing is unique

No doubt, that writing fast you might lose track of what should be cited and quoted. Then, why not switch to automatic plagiarism checkers functioning online, like Unplag, Plag Control, etc.? They do not need installing additional software. The speed of checking is quite fast, which means that you won’t waste much time.

Hopefully, all of the above prompts will turn to be of great help for you. Still if there are some tricks you’d like to share, feel free to write them below in the comments.

Jessica Elmore is a young writer and blogger at keen on the latest trends in education, blogging and marketing

How to Write Professor-Friendly Essays


By the time students hit their senior year in college, most of them can write an essay in their sleep. In fact, many of them actually do that. After a while essay writing can become automatic as students focus on hitting the right highlights on a topic and let everything else fall by the wayside. Practice makes perfect. Or it is just the experience that leads students to knowing what professors expect to see in the essays and giving them what they want. Of course, there is no universal template that can solve your college essay trouble forever. That would be a) too easy and b) will annihilate the whole meaning of essay writing which lays in development of skills and creativity. In fact, students who focus on content and forget about style, formatting and other details risk to sabotage their grade and send their essay right to the back of the grading curve.

Some professors may disagree, but there are some rules, or secrets, or whatever we will call them, that can melt any professor’s heart and get you a high grade for essay. While instructors naturally value quality content, they are also looking for tell-tale signs that students craft each essay carefully and adhere to the style and formatting standards.

Rule 1. Be Attentive to Guidelines

To understand what professors expect from your essay assignment it is worth to learn more about essay revision and grading process. Since class sizes and teaching styles can vary widely, it’s nearly impossible to know how many essays the average student writes over the course of their academic life. It’s reasonable to assume a single student writes well over 100 essays by the time they leave university. Their professors, on the other hand, will have graded thousands that year and will have thousands more to go. Therefore professors try to provide clear guidelines that will make grading process easier. Students are expected to follow these guidelines and show they value professor’s time and efforts.

Rule 2. Get Rid of Extra Text

With so many essays submitted, how can professors be expected to keep up? Even if they skim-read most of the essays, the time involved in processing such amount of papers is staggering. A recent Reddit discussion revealed that professors and their staff (usually TAs) do in fact read through every essay. One TA reported that he had gone through more than 2,000 essays a semester with the help of only two other TAs. So what do these graders look for? Usually instructors skim read student writing to grasp the adherence to guidelines and understanding of topic.

In fact, many professors agree that skim reading gives the ability to establish a grade while closer inspection determines the difference between a B and a B+. Therefore, it is a good idea to structure your essay so the key points are visible when skim reading and are clear enough and get the message across. Get rid of extra words and phrases, use clear constructions and stick to the point. Striking the right balance between the quality of your content and your style is often the key to a good grade.

Rule 3. Formatting Is Important!

Essay writing is not about formatting, of course, but it influences the first impression of your paper. If you think that if your essay has original idea and witty language constructions, nobody cares about the font size and margins – you are wrong. Teachers pay much attention to formatting when grading essays as it is an academic work and in case you are not assigned with the creative writing which allows more or less freedom you should stick to the standards. You’d better double check and ensure your essay formatting adheres to the guidelines put forth at the beginning of your class or to the standards set by the Modern Language Association (MLA). The example of basic essay formatting guidelines:


  • One-inch page margins on all sides
  • Double-spaced paragraphs
  • Header placed one-half inch from the top of each page. This header should include the author’s last name and page number
  • Single spaced list of the author’s name and the name of the professor, course title and the date of the paper on the first or title page
  • References, notes or works cited page which begins on a separate page at the end of the paper

Note that students who manipulate font size or kerning in order to hit the page minimum risk to end up with poor grade and get to professor’s ‘blacklist’ even if the content of essay is impecable.

Rule 4. Mind Your Style

 First and foremost, professors want to see the correct essay style and structure depending on the topic and essay type students have to tackle. This is the first thing professors notice so nailing it gets you off on the right foot. In many cases, the style meant to be used in the essay is laid out in the directions or has been established beforehand. If you’ve lost the original assignment or haven’t paid much attention to the guidelines, it may be possible to figure out which essay style and structure should be used based on characteristic features of essay type assigned. Here is a short prompt for you to differentiate between essay types.

Narrative essays are written in the first person and are meant to tell a story, typically your own one. Essay questions that want a narrative response will ask the student directly about their own experience. For example, typical narrative essay topic may sound like ‘The way your childhood influenced your approach to higher education’, ‘What was your most painful relationships lesson’ and other similar topics.


  • Descriptive essays are just what they sound like – papers aim to describe a person, place or concept in details. Descriptive essay questions may vary, focusing on specific concepts such as describing the best study practices, or giving information on well-known personality as well as describing some procedures such as protecting your identity online. In each case you should keep in mind that a descriptive essay has to give the most detailed picture of the notion described.


  • Expository essays lay out the facts in a balanced way. The assignment for expository essays may contain cue phrases such as ‘compare and contrast’, ‘describe the cause and effect relationship’ or ‘track the evolution of‘. Expository questions won’t ask you to take a side on an issue, simply to lay out each point of view or how cultural attitudes have changed on an issue over the years.


  • Persuasive essays may also be known as argumentative essays. In this type of essay you should leave emotions out and base your arguments or views on the solid facts. Persuasive essay assignments will require writing about  hotly charged topics such as gun rights, domestic spying or societal issues such as homelessness and civil rights.


Rule 5. Use Proper Language

Professors and staff grading essays are looking for signs that students understand the subject and are familiar enough with it to draw their own conclusions. Professors want to know students can speak clearly about the topic, substantiate any claims they make with relevant facts from current research or literature and apply that knowledge to create detailed arguments about the topic or cast an eye to the future. Achieving that level of clarity and eloquence means producing a well-written paper.  An effective way to achieve that is by making smart use of language. The following list set phrases may come in handy:


  • There have been dissenters to the view that …
  • It might be (convincingly) argued that
  • There are five main arguments that can be advanced to support …
  • Although there has been relatively little research on [your topic], anecdotal evidence supports …
  • The data appears / appear to suggest that
  • On these grounds, we can argue that

These phrases can help steer and solidify your writing, but they should never be used to the point of excess. Using clichés and trite phrases throughout your essay won’t show an understanding of the material – it will show an ability to parrot what you’ve read or seen before.

Rule 6. Never Skip the Revision

Before you hit ‘Save’ and print the final version, check your essay thoroughly to make sure you’ve covered all the basics. Professors hate when you break the guidelines or submit the writing that reminds more of a draft than the polished final version of academic essay. The more time and efforts you spend on revision the less is your risk to miss out something important. It is a good idea for the students to find essay revision checklists on educational sites like Using such checklists a student will revise essay like a professor and will be sure that nothing important is missed out.

Writing a successful essay means balancing between meaning and format, adherence to strict guidelines and revealing creativity, proving your understanding of a topic and ability to defend your point of view. Students should try to impress the professors during the initial essay skim and show that they did their best to meet the guidelines. That will boost the chance to get a good grade and create a positive image of a diligent student.

Author’s Info

Tracy Collins is a writing instructor, education enthusiast and the author of the site Essay Universe on academic essay writing.













Simple Tips on How College Students Get Motivated


 By Oksana Sbitneva

Have you ever sat down surrounded by a bunch of books and stared at them until you fall asleep? You know there’s no time to put off the studying process but you just have neither will nor energy to read at least some words? You feel tired and emotionally exhausted and the material you have to search (and study as well) seems to be a really high mountain to climb? Or, who knows, maybe it’s the weather that puts you in a nostalgic mood and all you want is to get thickly muffled in a rug with a cup of herbal tea? Hopefully these simple ideas will help you to get motivated and get all those tasks done within the deadline.

Set Special Goals…the Realistic Ones!

If you start feeling slightly nervous when the question is about the amount of work you have to get done, make sure to set some realistic goals. Let’s say, you have got 11 000 words to write for your research paper. Divide the task into more manageable parts. Make certain to set an individual deadline for every segment of work. It is highly important to remember that while A+ is awesome, all you’re in need of is a pass! Just accept that one can’t do everything and try to work out what is really possible.

If you feel like this is not going to work out, do not hesitate to get help! Approach your college tutor for some professional learning guidance. What is more, there is always online assistance available for every student! Various Exact Science, Art, rush essays writing services representatives are ready to provide you with a helping hand. And make sure to ask for help sooner rather than later for the reason that there is always a certain deadline assigned with every task you get.

Please Yourself with Little Awards

It’s amazing how positive the effect of gratification can be! If you need to get urgently motivated to study, make sure to set a specific goal and think about the most suitable prize that you will get once the goal is completed. The technique is pretty simple but you will be astonished by its effectiveness! Through rewarding yourself, whenever the set goal is reached, your brain is diving into the positive emotions. This, in turn, makes you realize that a good effort results in a great reward.

Dance Your Inspiration Out

Music is a great way to wake your inspiration and motivation up, as well as bring some positive emotions down the way. If picked wisely, any song get you absolutely motivated to deal with the studying and provide you with the feeling that you can actually do anything.  Of course music is one of the simplest techniques to get motivation. However, you should be careful when choosing the right song. While some people can work listening to some good old ballads, the others prefer AC/DC or Marilyn Manson as the right background tune. Give preference to the songs that you find inspiring and motivating. They will 100% energize your whole body and ensure that impossible is nothing!

Nothing Lasts For Ever…Remember That!

There are many students that are overburden with the school and college tasks and feel like there will be no light at the end of the tunnel. They are about to throw in the towel in regards to the college. If you’re one of them, keep reminding yourself that it won’t last till the end of your days and all you have to do is to keep going.

Author’s bio:

Oksana is a  student of English literature department and a freelance journalist. As a current student she is interested in trends in education and she would like to share her experience with community.

You may contact Oksana via e-mail:

My Nominee For Best Book of Year on Universities

Arizona State announced today a credit bearing freshman year entirely on line. This is one of the many innovations by ASU President Michael Crowe

See also:

But you need to read his book to get the full story on his innovative ideas and actions

Designing the New American University by Michael Crow and William B. Dabars

Arizona State University President Michael Crow and William Dabars, who is a senior research fellow at the New American University, examine the future evolution of the American research university by highlighting an institutional model committed to academic excellence, inclusiveness of a broad demographic, and maximum societal impact. This book is a guide to building the colleges and universities we need for the 21st century.


Tools and Resources for Students to Stay Organized in College


By Jane Hurst

As a college student, chances are that you have a lot going on in your life, and there are always things that you seem to forget to do. What you need are tools and resources to help you get better organized, and stay that way. Here are some of our top choices for organizational tools for college students.

  • Pocket – Use Pocket to keep track of your personal learning network (PLN). Bookmark articles so you can reference them later, add tags to articles to make them easy to find, and more. This lets you read the articles you want to read when you actually have the time to read them.
  • Quizlet – This free app is great for students who need help in their studies. In fact, over 20 million students are using this app to compile flashcards that will help them with their exams, and with their studies in general. Set things up so the cards come up in a certain order, or make them random to really test your knowledge.
  • Sunrise – This is an alternative to the calendar apps you are using now, or if you aren’t already using one, the best one for you to check out. The interface is crisp and clean, and it will integrate with many platforms, including iCloud, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Calendar. It will also connect with LinkedIn, Facebook, and many other apps.
  • Khan Academy – Here you will find free video libraries, as well as assessments and interactive challenges for students. This is also a great site for parents, teachers, and coaches to use so they can keep track of what students are actually learning.
  • Black Mold Removal – A lot of dorms are located in older buildings, and it’s not uncommon for these buildings to have sick building syndrome. Mold is one of the causes, which is bad for your health. It can lead to illness and breathing problems, which are going to make it more difficult for you to study and get good grades. To get rid of mold in your dorm, contact this service.
  • Voxer – This awesome walkie-talkie app is great because it allows you to connect with colleagues or your PLN so you can share information quickly and easily.
  • Coursera – This app lets you find free online courses from some of the best universities in the world. You will find a huge range of topics, from biology to math to computer science to humanities and a whole lot more. Whether you want to pad your resume, make a career move, or simply want to expand your knowledge, this is a great tool to use to help you find the courses you want.
  • Common Core – This tool offers the Common Core State Standards app from MasteryConnect that lets you see standards from your mobile devices. Enter keywords and search the standards, or tap the screen to jump between various study areas and grades. This is the official website of CCSS, and it makes it really easy to find information when you want it, without having to wade through a bunch of paperwork because you’ve printed out articles to read later on.
  • UDACITY – This comes from Stanford University, when they offered the free class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”. There was so much interest in this class that UDACITY was created to provide courseware that is even more open.
  • Remember the Milk – This tool will ensure that you never forget to complete a task again. This app can be synced with your calendar and email, and you can use the prioritizing function to schedule your important tasks to be done. You will need to have an Internet connection to use this app, but it is free and available for all mobile platforms.


Jane Hurst has been working in education for over 5 years as a teacher. She loves sharing her knowledge with students, is fascinated about edtech and loves reading, a lot.

High costs, uncertain benefits: What do Americans without a college degree think about postsecondary education?

Andrew P. Kelly, AEI

Read Online Printable Copy


Key points

  • Many adults without a college degree aspire to some higher credential, but most overestimate the cost of higher education, which could deter them from furthering their education.
  • Many adults without a degree in our survey were uncertain as to the wage returns to different postsecondary pathways. Those who did offer estimates tend to see the bachelor’s degree as the most valuable credential and certificates as the least valuable.
  • Adults without a postsecondary degree do not always see the value in returning to school, and efforts to encourage education and training should clarify the benefits to various postsecondary pathways.

Read this publication online

View a printable copy


Should Community Colleges Offer 4 Year Degrees? : Am Overview Of The Issues And Status

 From ECS In Denver

Community colleges expanded role into awarding bachelor’s degrees

Traditionally the domain of four-year institutions, a growing number of states now allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees as one strategy to meet workforce demands, address affordability and increase access to educational opportunities.

The expanded role of community colleges into the bachelor’s degree arena is not without controversy. Concerns center on the historically distinct missions of the two postsecondary sectors, competition with four-year institutions, duplication of programs and quality of the bachelor’s degrees conferred by community colleges, among others.

A new policy analysis from the Education Commission of the States examines state policies that allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees, summarizes arguments for and against these policies, and offers key policy considerations related to community college bachelors degree programs.

“As more states consider allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees to support workforce needs and education goals, they will have to weigh the pros and cons of this policy strategy,” said Mary Fulton, a policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States. “We identified several core elements included in these policies and also presented fundamental questions for state leaders to take into account.”

Some important takeaways from this report:

  • Twenty-three states allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees; in most states, however, only a few institutions offer the programs.
  • Community college bachelor’s degree programs are designed to meet local workforce needs and expand access to four-year degrees to a broad range of students.
  • States typically place limits on the type and number of bachelor’s degrees that community colleges can offer to avoid program duplication and competition with nearby four-year institutions.

For questions, contact ECS Director of Communications Amy Skinner at or (303) 299.3609


  • ECS’ Blueprint for College Readiness and accompanying 50-state database reviews important policy approaches designed to increase the number of U.S. students who earn a postsecondary degree or certification.
  • Listen to the first installment of the ECS Blueprint webinar series – Transfer Policies: Students on the Move


New Longitudinal Study Of 10th Grade Postsecondary Attainment

America’s Tenth Graders Postsecondary Degree Attainment is Focus of New NCES Longitudinal Dataset and First Look Report

This First Look introduces new data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, collected in 2012-2013 from postsecondary transcripts of students who were sophomores in 2002.The analyses presented in this First Look examine students’ educational attainment; coursetaking and major choice; degree completion; and credit accrual.

Findings of particular interest include: eighty-four percent of spring 2002 high school sophomores had at least some postsecondary enrollment as of the 2012-13 academic year.

Among those who did not attend a 4-year institution, 12 percent attained an associate’s degree, 16 percent attained an undergraduate certificate, and 71 percent did not earn a postsecondary credential.

Among those who did attend a 4-year institution, 59 percent attained a bachelor’s degree (or higher), 8 percent attained an associate’s degree, 3 percent attained an undergraduate certificate, and 31 percent did not earn a postsecondary credential.

To view the full report please visit