Posts published in July, 2015
Thoughts on Remaking College In A New Postsecondary Ecology
Published in orgtheory.net
Academic chatter often assumes research universities are the prototypical higher ed organization, even though only 23% of students are enrolled in such universities (RU/VH or RU/H). By comparison, more than a third are enrolled in community colleges, and nearly 10% in for-profit institutions.
At the level of public attention, focus gets even narrower. A New York Times search gets 310 hits for “community college,” versus nearly 13,000 for “Harvard.” Recently historian David Perry surveyed two months of NYT op-eds containing the word “professor” and found
zero by community college or lower-status teaching school profs, zero by branch campus public profs, and a handful by top liberal arts schools (Smith, Dickinson) or lower-tier R1 publics (Colorado State, South Carolina).
And of course nothing gets our collective hearts aflutter like a good old fashioned spat over whether the Ivy League is an awful, awful place.
So kudos to Michael Kirst and Mitchell Stevens for noticing that the world of higher ed is bigger than that.Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education, published a couple of months ago by Stanford UP, focuses on the institutions that are underappreciated by the media and scholars: comprehensive colleges, community colleges, for-profit colleges. By bringing together a diverse group of academics — several of whom take an explicitly organizational approach — to focus on broad-access institutions, they have done the field a real service.
The essays cover a range of ground and approaches. Several, including an orienting one by W. Richard Scott, conceptualize higher ed as an ecology or field. I’ll just highlight a couple I particularly enjoyed here.
In “The Classification of Organizational Forms: Theory and Application to the Field of Higher Education,” Martin Ruef and Manish Nag use topic models based on IPEDS data to generate new sets of categories for U.S. postsecondary institutions. From mission statements, for example, they infer not only two distinct clusters of liberal arts schools and two of community colleges, but several additional types of institutions — globally-oriented colleges, Christian colleges, medical tech schools, student-oriented universities — that might otherwise go unnoticed. Like other good work that identifies patterns from texts, it prompts a rethinking of cultural identity beyond assumed categories.
Regina Deil-Amen makes a significant contribution just by hammering home how atypical the “typical” college student really is. Nearly three-quarters of first-year undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges or for-profit institutions. 53% are not enrolled full-time. Only 13% live on campus. 13 percent! Her quotes of interviews with lower-income and Latino students, who are dealing with family stresses and financial struggles, are telling:
My family has a lot of financial problems, so that’s another stress that I’m constantly dealing with. I have to call them like, ‘Mom, are you gonna be able to pay rent this month?’…I’ve actually used some of my loans to help them pay their rent this year. (p. 146)
These firsthand accounts reinforce how inaccurate the picture of a dependent 18-year-old striking out on her own for the first time actually is.
I also enjoyed Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s reflection on measuring college performance, where they emphasize that they
have vehemently argued against the desirability of an externally imposed accountability schema. We are deeply skeptical of increased centralized regulation of this character—fearing that the unintended consequences would far outweigh any benefits—and have instead called for institutions themselves to assume enhance responsibility for monitoring and improving student outcomes. (p. 170)
I’m not sure they know how to measure college quality either, but it’s a thoughtful piece.
Higher ed really is a diverse organizational ecology, and it’s going to take a lot of work to map out the whole landscape. But I’m very glad that people like Kirst and Stevens are moving us in that direction.
Obama Scraps Plan to Rate Colleges
By Larry Gordon : Los Angeles Times
Nearly two years ago, President Obama proposed a federal system to rate the nation’s colleges and universities, one that would provide families with an objective and unified tool to compare schools and for taxpayers to determine whether the massive investments in scholarships and other government spending on higher education are worthwhile.
After repeated delays and many consultations with skeptical college leaders, the ratings system was recently scrapped.
White House officials say that pushback from the higher education industry and congressional Republicans did not lead to the retreat. Instead, they say they could not develop a ratings system that worked well enough to help high school seniors, parents and counselors.
Ted Mitchell, U.S. undersecretary of education, said attempts to bundle many measurements of colleges’ performance into a single score backfired, making the effort “less transparent.”
The department, he said, wanted to avoid “a black box that would be hard for consumers to penetrate and understand and that actually would not be an advance on the state of the art.”
Plus, the supposed simplicity of a single score “would belie a lot of complexity students and families need to understand. And it would mask some very big differences among institutions,” said Mitchell, past president of Occidental College and of the state Board of Education.
Last year, the administration had suggested that it would assign colleges to broad categories such as high performing, average or low, with some recognition for schools that enroll large numbers of low-income students.
Now, the education department is creating a new website that will enable families to research and compare the records and outcomes of colleges and make their own judgments without being offered a composite score.
That system is expected to be ready by the fall and will expand on the existing federal College Navigator and the College Scorecard, which together provide statistics on such factors as graduation rate, average debt payments, crime on campus and ethnic enrollment.
Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, an Oakland-based organization that promotes broader education opportunities and reduced student debt, said she hopes the new tool “provides consumers better information to help make college decisions and focuses colleges’ attention on what they can do to improve affordability and outcomes.”
Asher, who opposed a single score rating, said the new website should include detailed data about average debt load after graduation and the graduation rates of low-income Pell Grant recipients, items previous proposals lacked.
Early on, one of the arguments against a single scoring system was that it might unfairly pit, say, a Cal State Dominguez Hills, where many students start in remedial classes, against an Ivy League school such as Princeton, or an engineering school that produces highly-paid techies against one that mainly trains social workers and police officers.
Administration officials had promised that its system would account for those differences and avoid unbalanced competition. In addition, some opponents predicted the ratings would have been faulty since important data are not easily available, such as the graduation rates of transfer students.
Opposition from colleges and higher education groups probably was a secondary consideration in the decision to abandon the ratings plan, said Terry W. Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs. Despite so much work on the project, the administration “simply concluded there wasn’t a way to do this well or even reasonably well. So it was better not to attempt it,” he said. Hartle, whose group also opposed the idea, said that White House officials should be applauded for realizing that a ratings system could not be implemented “without misleading students, harming institutions, creating perverse incentives or embarrassing themselves.”
Michael V. Reilly, executive director of the American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said many colleges were surprised yet relieved that the federal ratings are off the table. He surmised that the White House could not find a formula that was both easy to comprehend and did not penalize schools that serve low-income students.
In addition, with the clock ticking on the Obama presidency, officials may have wanted to avoid a battle in Congress when other education issues are more pressing, such as financial aid and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. “I think the administration was running out of time on this,” Reilly said.
The plan attracted opposition from a past member of the Obama administration: UC President Janet Napolitano, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. In December 2013, she said she was “deeply skeptical” about a ratings system that would contain many exceptions.
Last week, she praised White House efforts to improve higher education and, while noting her opinion about the ratings, said in a statement that UC will work with federal officials to provide students and families “key data they can use to inform their decisions.”
Top 9 Fantastic iPad Apps for ESL Students
By KEITY ADRIAN
When you’re talking about learning a language in the U.S., you’re generally talking about ESL which refers to “English as a second language” or the study or use of English by speakers with different native languages.
Learning a new language seems quite tough but lucky for the students of today as technology has made it a lot simpler and easier. Many schools are now making plans to increase the availability and use of technology in classrooms in order to engage students in learning English language digitally.
Students should realize that smart phones, iPads and tablets aren’t just for playing games. They are also a great tool for learning and practicing English. Today, there are millions of smartphone and iPad applications available for almost anything, ranging from apps for productivity to apps that help you manage your finances, and of course, apps for developing good English language skills.
The Apple’s app store offers thousands of iPad apps for learners of any level, especially for ESL students. So, if you are also an ESL student who wants to learn English or improve his or her English language skills, these apps will be helpful for you:
- 1. Word BINGO
Word Bingo is basically a word game that allows learners to play with a word list. This game is an interesting way to learn new words. In this game, you have the option to play in three different modes, moving from lower to higher levels of difficulty as you go through the list of words.
- 2. Berlitz My English Coach For iPad
Berlitz is a famous name in English language learning. Berlitz has created the “My English Coach for iPad” app for all levels of students featuring various questions, answers, phrases, and history and geography lessons in order to strengthen English language skills.
- 3. Sentence Builder
This is one of the most popular iPad apps available for English language learners. It is the best app for students of elementary school who want to tackle grammar and vocabulary challenges efficiently. This amazing app features connector words that allow students to build grammatically correct sentences based on pictures and videos. This awesome app is recommended by the expert staff of Dissertationpoint.co.uk
- 4. Speech Tutor
The Speech Tutor app is exclusively designed for students to help them learn proper sounds and pronunciation of English words. In this app, a person is shown from two different angels, front view and side view, producing sounds from both angles. This can be viewed at three different speeds and can be paused in the middle. This app is extremely useful for students who face problems with their speech.
- 5. Wordbook XL
Wordbook XL is an English dictionary and thesaurus for iPad. It is a fairly resourceful app that contains audio, synonyms, etymologies, bookmarking, anagrams and reference-saving for the ease of students.
- 6. ESL Express
Usually, students are confused with words that have similar sounds but different meanings. This app is made for the ease of students who are frequently confused with such words. Through this app, students can learn many pairs of words that sound similar but have different meanings in English language.
- 7. Intro to letters
This app is really helpful for young (elementary level) students. It uses the simplest and the most effective ways of learning the English language. It uses flashcards and puzzles by which students can browse through all the alphabets of the English language. This application helps understand the meaning and use of each alphabet.
- 8. Kidioms
Kidioms is an app designed for students who face trouble with finding the meaning of common phrases and idioms. The app features a digital notebook in which you will be introduced to an idiom. You will then be given an example with a graphic. In order to reinforce the concepts, this app even includes games for practice. It’s a perfect app which meets the needs of every ESL student, and helps them acquire vital knowledge.
- 9. Preposition Builder
In this app, students are shown an image for which they have to complete a sentence by dragging some prepositions. Whatever preposition the student selects for completing the sentence, the image represents the sentence they have created. The purpose of this app is to teach students how different prepositions can alter the overall meaning of a particular sentence.
So, if you are tech-savvy and love trying out something new, then these great apps are perfect for you.
Keity Adrian is a nature loving spirit and a well-wisher of students around the globe, pursuing a career in Teaching and doing a part-time job to feed her wallet. She’s also passionate a blogger with decent interest in topics like education, college life, etc.
The Mid Level Skills Employee Supply Gap
By Melissa Burns
Ask the average person which professions are most in demand and you’re likely to hear answers like “computer programmer” or “data analyst.” While these are certainly growing fields with a high demand for trained workers, they aren’t the professions with the biggest gaps between available jobs and capable applicants. The skilled trades – occupations such as electrician, boiler operator, HVAC technician are in increasingly high demand, and as the current workforce ages, the gap between the need for employees and the availability of a trained labor force continues to grow.
The skilled trades have a disproportionate number of employees over the age of 45 – but in addition to this general trend, there are also areas where especially severe shortages exist. In many northeastern states, as much as 60 percent of the skilled labor workforce is in the over-45 age bracket. Compounding the problem further is the fact that the physical demands of these jobs prevent many people employed in them from postponing retirement. In other words, whereas some workers’ personal preference or need for additional income might naturally lead them to compensate for the lack of an influx of younger labor, the physical toll of these jobs precludes that option.
The labor gap that exists in many trade industries belies the trend in American high schools over the last several generations to push virtually all students toward continuing education in a four year college degree program. This shift was made with the belief that a bachelor’s degree would better equip every student to pursue secure employment in a well-paying job. However, this push may have been misguided; while rapid advancements in technology have changed the shape of the labor market in many industries, the need for skilled carpenters or welders is likely to continue – or increase – well into the future. Additionally, many workers are better suited to these trades than to a four-year college education. In some cases, students may even come out ahead financially by pursuing a training program or two-year degree and then entering the job market as opposed to finishing four years of college, often by way of student loans that send graduates out into the workforce already saddled with significant debt.
It is estimated that over a half million skilled jobs in manufacturing go unfilled because there simply aren’t enough workers with the training to perform them. If this trend continues, it may have significant economic consequences. As manufacturing output increases and the available skilled labor market remains stagnant, opportunities for economic growth are being missed. Some employers are attempting to remedy this by taking steps to reverse the trend that has prevailed for the last few decades: they are turning their focus toward longevity, training new workers in the hopes that they will remain in the industry for the bulk of their careers, if not for life.
In addition to providing training and taking steps to reduce employee turnover, industry leaders are also looking for ways to beef up the image of skilled labor professions. These jobs provide opportunities for stable careers at several times the minimum wage. If the industry can successfully reshape perceptions of these jobs as viable, stable, middle class careers – and respectable jobs that perform an essential function in the country’s economy – it is hoped that more workers will be attracted to the opportunities these trades have to offer.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact Melissa: email@example.com
– See more at: https://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=4723#sthash.ZStCAAOQ.dpuf
For- Profit Postsecondary Is Going Through A Course Correction
Reshaping the For-Profit
The large for-profit college chain isn’t dead.
Stop the funeral dirges — or celebratory hymns, depending on where you fall on the political spectrum.
Yes, Corinthian Colleges hit bust. Yes, ITT Education Services is facing serious scrutiny from state and federal agencies that may yet shut down the chain. Yes, the new federal gainful employment rule will have an effect on the sector. And certainly enrollment numbers at many for-profit institutions are dropping. But the industry’s heralded doom is an exaggeration.
If anything, experts say it’s a course correction amid a climate of intense scrutiny and increased regulation.
The decline is undoubtedly happening. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, for-profit student enrollment is down 4.9 percent compared to last spring. The enrollment decreases are playing a large part in driving down revenues and stock prices.
“It’s shrinking. Has been shrinking. Will continue to shrink. Things are getting less worse, but stabilization is a ways off,” said Jeff Silber, an education financial analyst with BMO Capital Markets.
But the demand for for-profit institutions is still there, even as enrollments fall from their peak in 2010, said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) — the for-profit sector’s primary trade group. In 2012, approximately 3.5 million students attended for-profit institutions. That figure is lower than the 4 million students who were enrolled in 2010, but still higher than the 2.6 million figure in 2007, Gunderson said.
Yet the massive changes in the sector have even shaken up APSCU, which is shifting to focus less on large for-profit chains and more on the nonprofit education sector as a few high-profile members leave the association. (See related article about its future.)
For-profit colleges have been around for at least 100 years in some form or another, but the current-day institutions are unique in that they’ve been providing degrees rather than the certifications granted by truck-driving or beauty schools, said Kevin Kinser, chair of the department of educational administration and policy studies at the State University of New York at Albany and an expert on for-profit higher education.
“What we might see is not the demise or complete collapse of publicly traded institutions, but a different focus for them,” he said. “A niche focus for them … a shift from degree granting to service providers. Maybe they have a higher education institution as part of the portfolio, but the portfolio is in the education service realm.”
Both Capella and Strayer Universities have managed to buck the trend of losing money and students by focusing on approaches experts say will keep the industry alive in the future. For instance, Capella has specialized in graduate degree programs for a long time, which has made them one of the more respected providers in the industry. Strayer found success in part through its partnerships with corporate clients.
“Predictions of the demise of the major publicly traded for-profit universities, colleges and education providers would be premature,” said Gary Rhoades, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. “But it is clear that a combination of consumer skepticism, competition from not-for-profit colleges and universities, and consumer protection actions by federal and state governments have reduced, not just market share, but also the image of for-profit higher education.”
If anything, the for-profit sector appears to be in the bust period of its regular boom-and-bust cycle. The last time the industry was in this level of turmoil was 25 years ago, when the government instituted tougher regulations and the sector readjusted, Kinser said. For-profits increased their enrollments dramatically in the 1980s and concerns arose around students defaulting and the amount of aid going to those colleges. So the federal government stepped in to regulate just how much federal money could go to for-profit institutions, among other things, he said — although many of those regulations were rolled back in the 2000s under the George W. Bush administration.
But the current bust cycle is more noticeable now than in the late 1980s and early 1990s because of how much larger the sector has grown. For-profits grew to take up about 10 to 13 percent of the education marketplace and also began offering more degrees, Kinser said.
“For-profits up until the 1990s were still predominantly non-degree-granting institutions … then we saw the transformation of the for-profit sector into the degree-granting sector and that’s why it became so prominent. It touched on what most people think of as actual college,” he said.
New 50-state policy database includes 100 of the largest state-funded financial aid programs
7 Essential Strategies For Students To Create Outstanding Digital Resumes To Get Hired
By Jessica Mills
Young people are great with technology, so they should use it for investing in their professional future. College students lack working experience, as a consequence, they have to compensate with an amazing CV, an impeccable online presence and innovative ways of selling their skills.
Below, there are several online tools able to help you create appealing job applications. Don’t be afraid to use them!
Famous companies and powerful employers are present on this platform. It is a huge plus to have an account in here. Students can be visible to businesses in their academic field and they can make useful connections. Internships are a great career start and this is the perfect place to obtain them.
Stand out with an interactive resume containing images, presentations, videos and more. Also, you could use keywords inside the profile, so that companies should find you easier and faster.
In conclusion, students who are looking for well paid jobs must have a LinkedIn profile.
This website is working well with LinkedIn. Users can import data from LinkedIn to Inforg.am and create info graphics. Students can use this tool to emphasize their educational performance and to illustrate their academic activities. In this way, employers can see from one look how good you are!
The website also has other visual materials available. All these are meant to help users create visually attractive resumes.
No matter how many extracurricular activities have you participated too, they all must be presented in a commercial way. It is always indicated to invest in yourself by hiring professional writers to complete a flawless CV. After all, you just pay once and use the resume for countless times.
Papersgear works with experienced writers and editors who can improve a text in no time. They will make sure that every experience will be greatly valued inside the profile.
A dynamic resume says more than words. In here, employers can follow candidates in real time, as they add new academic, personal and professional activities. Thus, students can prove that they are constantly improving and struggling to achieve more goals.
Create a profile onabout.me and impress the companies you are aiming to work for.
This platform is perfect for those who don’t have time to learn how a certain website works. On Populr.me, everything can be done with the drag and drop method. Students just have to fill in online fields with personal and professional work related experience, educational achievements, impressive skills and hobbies, and so on.
The profile can be boosted with photos, videos and documents. Additionally, the website allows users to look at others’ profile. In this way, you can get inspired and check out the competition. The profile created in here can be shared via e-mail or social media.
Accredible platform is the right place to be for recent graduated students. They can easily create attractive presentations using the academic certificates owned. Then, these ones can be published online or exported to LinkedIn.
The website has a huge storage space and supports tons of details about a person. Profiles are free to contain text, videos, photos, and documents.
In the end, any online resume or talented students need a little (or more) marketing. It is important that companies and employers know that you exist. So useEnthuse.me to put your name out there.
Users just have to create a profile and add their educational and working experience. Then, the platform helps them pick the most relevant documents and samples of their activities.
Create online resumes and hunt the best jobs in the field!
Now you are probably asking this: Why do I have to struggle so hard to create dozens of online resumes and presentations, if I have worked hard and graduated from a good university? Because the sad reality is that the economy is not flourishing and there are tons of graduates looking for jobs. Just take a look at the hiring platforms. There are practically hundreds of applicants to one single opening. In these conditions, it is vital to stand out from the crowed and get noticed.
So start using every means of self promoting
Jessica Millis, experienced writer, editor and copywriter. She works as an educator (writing classes) at James Madison University and always tries to use innovations in the study process.
8 Ways International Students Can Muscle-Up Their Conversational Skills
By Rachelle Scott
Many international students are comfortable with reading or writing in a foreign language they have practiced in school for so long. This is mostly true for English, of course. However, when it comes to conversational skills such as speaking and listening, they are slightly anxious about how to communicate what they are saying or understand someone with a native fluent accent.
This is especially true if you have a strong foreign accent which native speakers would have trouble comprehending. International students often quote times when they have to spell out what they are saying to get their point across. This becomes even more troublesome when they can’t communicate a question they are trying to ask a professor in class.
Worry not! There are ways you can alleviate the stress from these social encounters by improving you conversational skills. My advice to foreign students who haven’t moved to their international college yet is to give the ToefliBT test (or IELTS if you are moving to British-dominant nation) first! Even if your University doesn’t require this from you, your performance on the test will allow you judge where you stand with your English writing, speaking, reading, and listening skills. The material you use to practice will also allow you to improve on language skills and give you a flavor of what your college environment will be like.
If you still feel you need to improve, here are 8 easy ways you can hone your English conversational skills before and after you arrive.
Before You Arrive:
1) Watch A LOT of T.V.: This is probably going to be your favorite method of studying a language! The best part about learning a language through T.V. shows and movies is that it never feels like “work” or “studying”. While watching movies and shows in the language you seek to improve, you need to closely listen to almost every dialogue an actor speaks. Listen carefully! If you feel there are words you misinterpret or have trouble understanding, write them down, and practice the correct pronunciation of those words. You can also turn on the subtitles in your language to aid understanding.
2) Translate Music: Another effective method to learn a language, and the slang, colloquial, or idiomatic expressions used in it are by listening to popular music in that language and translating it. Again, don’t just listen to music and the beats of the song, find the lyrics and follow every word the singer speaks. Pay attention to slang terms and expressions you haven’t heard before. Write them down and find out their meaning and use. Try to create new sentences of your own using them.
3) Practice, Practice, Practice:As theold adage goes, practice makes perfect, and this can’t be more accurate when it comes to learning a language. You can learn all you want, but it isn’t until you practice the language in real world situations that you actually improve on it. Find a friend who speaks English fluently and possibly better than you do. Ask them to help you out by speaking to you in English, listening to you, and telling you what you say wrong.
4) Find Additional Toefl/ IELTS Material: The material used on these tests is well-suited to the situation of an international studentwho will face an English-speaking academic environment. There is an abundance of material you can use to practice for these tests over the internet. The only problem is that not all of these sources are reliable or have content that is almost identical to that on the actual tests. Nevertheless, Youtube has tons of useful examples, practice tests, and sample conversations that should help.
After You Arrive:
5) Befriend Native Speakers: One of the best ways to improve on conversational language skills is to jump into the real situation and start conversing with native speakers! Don’t restrict yourself to friends with the same native language as yours. Immerse yourself in purely English-speaking social settings and learn as much as you can from them. Listen to them closely and politely ask them to elaborate something you haven’t properly understood. Also tell them that you are working on improving your English so if they catch anything you are saying or pronouncing wrong, it’s their job to correct you. Try not to get overwhelmed with the speed and quality of their speech. Trust that, in time, you will get the hang of it.
6) Tutor Other Students: It’s strange to think of this tip which seems to be the other way around. The trick is to tutor native English speaking students what you are best at – possibly Maths, Science, or another subject—while improving on your English conversational skills at the same time. You can find many platforms to do that like online forums or sites like Dissertation Corp. Tuition classes are usually taught in regular sessions, and therefore, will not require an immense motivation toconduct. Also, both you and the student you are teaching are getting something out of the exchange. Many international students practice this technique and make the most of it!
7) Take ESL / English Language Course: On the last resort, you can simply sign up for an English language course as soon as possible. If your University, after assessing your English, feels that you will need an ESL course for additional support, they will require you to take classes until you get better. You can take the initiative to sign up yourself for off-campus advanced English speaking courses yourself if that isn’t that case.
8) Install Apps that Help: The App markets are full of applications that help improve English skills. The dictionary should help you understand words that were never on your vocabulary list. Also make sure you download an application that has the speaker icon which enables you to listen to the correct pronunciation of that word. Idioms and Phrases is another helpful app that where you can look up idiomatic expressions and how to use them in a sentence.
Rachelle Scott loves to research about new ways technology can be implemented in education and how the two can revolutionize the sector. She also loves to blog on the topics related to Education, College, and more.
Here’s Why Getting a Credit Card Can Be a Smart Financial Move in College
By Melissa Burns
Many young people and their parents are skeptical about credit cards. Even if you’re already out of college, you may hesitate to open a credit card account; according to a recent survey from Bankrate.com, 63 percent of Millennials aged 18 to 29 don’t have any credit cards.
Thanks to the CARD Act of 2009, it’s no longer as easy as it once was for college students to obtain their own credit cards. Now, if you’re under 21, you need an older co-signer or proof of independent income in order to get a credit card in your own name.
But that doesn’t mean that a credit card can’t be a valuable financial tool if you’re a college student. Used responsibly, a credit card can help you begin building your credit history and establish good credit, and that’s important if you hope to succeed after graduation. Just make sure you understand how credit cards work, and how to use them so that they help, rather than harm, your financial future.
Why You Need Good Credit
When you’re in college, it can be hard to anticipate what you’re going to need and want five, 10, or 15 years into the future. If you’re like many young people, you’re probably not looking ahead to the day when you’ll want to take out a loan to buy your first new car, or a mortgage to buy your first home. You may not even believe that you’ll ever have enough money to do those things, or you may feel that you can just as easily put off building your credit history until after graduation.
But the sooner you start building credit, the longer your repayment history will be, and that will boost your credit score. You see, you don’t start out in life with good credit; you start out with no credit at all, and while that’s not as big of an obstacle as having bad credit, it’s still not going to help you much after you graduate. A good credit score can help you get the best interest rates on mortgages and car loans, or help you avoid paying a deposit when you sign up for utilities or get a cell phone.
But that’s not the only reason you need good credit. Many employers take credit history into account when deciding between multiple job candidates. A landlord or leasing agency may look at your credit history when deciding whether or not to rent you that sweet apartment you’ve got your eye on. You’ll even get better insurance rates and have an easier time renting a car or vacation home in the future.
How to Build Credit Using a Credit Card
If you’ve borrowed money to pay for college, your student loan payments will certainly appear on your credit report — after you start making them. In order to start building credit right away, you need a credit card as soon as possible; and remember, the longer your history of using credit responsibly, the better your credit history.
Many issuers offer student credit cards with low interest rates and low to nonexistent fees. To find the best credit card for your needs, use a website like CompareCards.com to find the best credit card for fair credit. Make sure you know the basics of how credit cards work, including:
- The APR, or Annual Percentage Rate, is the amount of interest you’ll pay for carrying a balance from one month to the next
- You can avoid paying any interest by paying the balance off in full each month
- Many cards charge an annual fee which you must pay in order to use the card, but most don’t
- Rewards programs can be a great way to earn cash back, points toward airline travel, and more
To avoid racking up more debt that you can pay back, never charge more to your credit card than you can afford to pay off each month. Charging more than 30 percent of your total credit limit can hurt your credit, because it suggests to lenders that you’re relying too much on credit to make ends meet. So, even if you must charge a big-ticket item and pay it off over several months, keep it below 30 percent of your maximum limit if you can. Avoid getting cash advances on your credit card; these advances typically come with high interest rates and hard-to-swallow fees, so if you need some extra cash in a hurry, it’s a better idea to ask Mom and Dad, or even borrow it from a friend.
You may be hesitant to get a credit card while you’re still in college, but credit cards can actually be valuable financial tools. Getting a credit card early on, and using it responsibly, can help you build up a longer borrowing history and establish a good credit score — and that will reap benefits for years to come once you’re out in the real world.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact Melissa: firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting low-income “first-generation” kids into college is hard. Getting them to graduate from college is harder.
Robert Pondisco, at Fordham Foundation
Shortly before ten o’clock on a recent warm summer morning, the grand old Apollo Theater on Harlem’s 125th Street filled up with the friends and families of the members of Democracy Prep Charter High School’s third-ever graduating class. The soon-to-be graduates milled about in the lobby, hugging each other and taking selfies in their bright golden robes and mortarboards before filing in, grinning, for their moment of glory.
I got to know each of these sixty-one students in my senior seminar class this year. It was a deeply satisfying year for the school and an extraordinary one for the students, each of Latino and African descent, and nearly all of modest means. Come September, every single one of them will attending colleges, including several institutions that would be the envy of parents and students at the elite private schools just a few blocks south of here. Ashlynn and Chris will be heading to Dartmouth; Hawa turned down Stanford to attend Yale; Tyisha will join the freshman class at Princeton. Other members of Democracy Prep’s Class of 2019 are bound for Emory, Smith, SUNY Albany, Boston College, and Brown, among many others.
Class of 2019 is not a typo. It has become nearly de rigueur for high-performing, “no-excuses” charter schools to add four years to the graduation date for each departing class. It marks the year departing scholars are scheduled to graduate from college, an endearing aspirational quirk and one last dose of high expectations before commencement. But there’s an uncomfortable truth that must be acknowledged even as we celebrate. At present, the odds are still against most low-income kids of color reappearing at another graduation ceremony four years hence. Or ever.
A sobering recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows just how long the odds are, even for those with college aspirations. Starting in 2002, researchers began tracking fifteen thousand U.S. high school sophomores from across the socioeconomic spectrum. At that time, roughly 70 percent of those tenth graders planned to go to college. That ranged from a high of 87 percent among students whose parents had the highest level of income and education to 58 percent of those whose parents were the least educated, poorest, and largely unskilled. Among this latter group of students, a mere 14 percent of the total—and only one in four of those who planned to as sophomores—had earned a college degree by 2014.
Many of us have aspirations that exceed our abilities. Thus, the most obvious explanation for this disparity would be that low-income children were unprepared or overconfident, or else lacked what it takes to succeed in college. But the study showed otherwise. Writing in the New York Times, Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy, and economics at the University of Michigan, notes that each student in the study took math and reading tests. Nearly three out of four of the highest-scoring students from the most affluent families completed a college degree as of 2014. But for low-income kids with the same achievement level, the college completion rate was only 41 percent. Even more telling: “A poor teenager with top scores and a rich teenager with mediocre scores are equally likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. In both groups, 41 percent receive a degree by their late twenties,” Dynarski observed. The American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew P. Kelly made a similar point in a paper last year for Fordham’s “Education for Upward Mobility” conference.
The report adds cold, hard data to what has long been known among education reformers and the high-achieving charter schools they champion: Getting low-income “first-generation” kids into college is hard. Getting them to graduate from college is harder.
For years, pioneering charter school networks like KIPP, YES Prep, and others won legions of admirers by ensuring that nearly every student they graduated went to college, usually the first in their families to do so. A 2011 report from KIPP itself, however, found that only 33 percent of their earliest cohorts of students had actually earned a college degree. On the one hand, that’s roughly four times higher than the rate for disadvantaged students as a whole. But it was far below KIPP’s own internal goals and a wake-up call for a reform movement that had long campaigned for college as an essential path to upward mobility.
Since then, KIPP and others have become increasingly focused on “college match.” This typically means partnering with colleges like Franklin & Marshall and Spellman College—which tend to feature high graduation rates both overall and for low-income students, generous financial aid, and diverse social environments—to make it more likely for “first-generation” kids to persist and succeed.
Perhaps even more critically, we are learning that maintaining close ties to alumni matters a lot. “Once in college, students submit course selections, financial aid documents, and most importantly, college transcripts to us so that we can academically advise and proactively address any issues that may come up,” says Jane Martínez Dowling, executive director of KIPP NYC Through College. For middle-class and affluent children, this kind of constant monitoring, advising, and problem-solving tends to be baked into their lives, whether through aggressive helicopter parenting or simply having friends and family members who’ve been to college and are neither awed by the process nor intimidated by pitfalls. My now-former students will benefit from this kind of post-graduation counseling—Democracy Prep, like KIPP and many others, keeps close tabs on alumni. So far, nearly nine out of ten remain enrolled—an encouraging figure, albeit from a cohort of fewer than 100 students.
The senior speaker that day, Fordham-bound Briana Mitchell, took justifiable pride in the accomplishment of her classmates, who have already beaten the odds simply by graduating and winning acceptance to college. “Who would have thought that these students are going to some of the top colleges and universities around the world?” she said, to enthusiastic shouts and applause. “Who would have thought that this could happen when all odds were against us?”
Graduation day is a time for celebration and excitement, not for doubts. But there can be no doubt that the hard work is not over for these kids. In many ways, it’s just begun.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in a slightly different form at U.S. News & World Report.