Monday, December 01, 2008

Top Universities Liberalize Financial Aid Policies

The outrageous cost of higher education in America just got knocked down a few notches.

In tow with Stanford University, both Yale and Harvard have recently announced plans to make tuition at their institutions much more affordable for Americans with low and middle incomes.

At Stanford, students whose parents make less than $60K per year will soon pay no tuition and nothing for room and board, while those those whose families earn up to $100K per year still still pay zip for tuition.

Under the new plans, the average student attending Yale will pay half what he or she paid before. Students at Harvard with less than $60K in annual parental income will now pay zero to attend (though work study will be required), and parents with incomes up to $180K will pay only 10% of their combined incomes for each child in attendance.

Other major universities nation-wide are following suit, increasing aid to middle and low income families and substituting grants for student loans so students can graduate without having to shoulder a crushing debt burden.

On Planet Earth in 2008, access to higher education divides countries that "have" from those that "have not." While other developed nations offer a free college education to any citizen who can cut the mustard academically, here in the U.S. the unmanageably high cost of college has been shutting off economic and cultural advancement to large segments of our population for some time, now.

It's about time this untenable situation was addressed and remedied. Let's hope the recent trend toward making higher education affordable for all qualified students in America continues and accelerates. Fixing this problem is clearly a matter of national economic competitiveness, and therefore, ultimately, a matter of national security.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Test Dates: 2009-2010

Having a clear test preparation plan is crucial in achieving success on major standardized tests like the SAT, SAT Subjects Tests, ACT, PSAT, SSAT, and HSPT.

Testing dates scheduled during the 2009-2010 school year have now been released for most of these tests.

As soon as possible, select the test dates that work best from the list below, and arrange your plans accordingly.

For further information about a particular test, click the "more information" link provided at the end of the appropriate list of dates, below.

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ACT Dates: 2009-2010

9/12/09

10/24/09

12/12/09

2/6/10

4/10/10

6/12/10

See the ACT web site for registration details (plan to register at least one month in advance).

Click here for more information.

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HSPT Dates: 2009-2010

Test dates vary. The most common dates are in the spring and fall.

Contact high school admissions departments to confirm test and registration dates.

Click here for more information.

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PSAT Dates: 2009-2010

10/14/09 or 10/17/09

(10/13/10 or 10/16/10)

Contact the student's high school to confirm test and registration dates (plan to register at least one month in advance).

Click here for more information.

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SAT Dates: 2009-2010

10/10/09

11/7/09

12/5/09

1/23/10

3/13/10

5/1/10

6/5/10

See the College Board web site for registration details (plan to register at least one month in advance).

Click here for more information.

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SAT Subject Test Dates: 2009-2010

10/10/09

11/7/09

12/5/09

1/23/10

5/1/10

6/5/10

See the College Board web site for registration details (plan to register at least one month in advance).

Click here for more information.

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SSAT Dates: 2009-2010

10/17/09

11/14/09

12/12/09

1/9/10

2/6/10

3/6/10

4/17/10

6/12/10

See the SSAT web site for registration details (plan to register at least one month in advance).

Click here for more information.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Are Private Student Loans Too Risky?

Apparently, not all student loans are created equal.

Increasingly popular, highly marketed private student loans now make up a very large part of educational debt taken on by parents and students across the country each year. Unfortunately, these private student loans may have serious drawbacks and carry additional risks not associated with federal student loans, reported the USA Today's Sandra Block in a recent article on the subject.

These days, it seems that college costs are putting the word "higher" in "higher education," and deep educational debt is fast becoming a real concern for many American families. Although it's a truism that a college education is the single best way to ensure prosperity in our culture, many graduates could find themselves under the thumb of a crushing educational debt burden unless they're able to quickly cash in on their expensive university educations and find gainful employment. Those who cannot may come to regret their decision to opt for many of the private student loans so common today, which, though plentiful and easy to obtain, are often much less affordable, flexible, and forgiving than standard federal loans.

The question of how best to finance the costs of college is of urgent importance to more and more people each year, and if you would like more information about the potential dangers of private loans, I highly recommend Ms. Block's article on the subject.
Click here to read the entire article.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Princeton Review's Best Colleges

Any serious college search should include a look at what students themselves are saying about the various aspects of campus life at schools across the nation.

The folks at the Princeton Review have done their homework, and have put together a well-sorted list of what they say are the best 361 colleges in America (selected according to carefully compiled student feedback data).

The Princeton Review “Best Colleges” study is always an important piece of research to review before making important college decisions or while considering which schools to target for admission, since it is based on the opinions of a huge sample of students currently attending the most popular colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Factors included in the rankings include: quality of professors and class discussions, diversity of student populations, party scene vs. “stone cold sober” environments, political leanings, social and cultural life, happiest students, extracurriculars, etc.

Search categories include: academics, politics, demographics, quality of life, etc.

Click here to go to the Princeton Review's list of the "Best 361 Colleges in America" (get the most current edition available).

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Chat-Speak Takes Over The World

Am I showing my age? Really, young people today ...

Like Mary Kolesnikova in her opinion piece for the L.A. Times, I regard the invasion of chat-speak into our culture as more than a bit annoying:
Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a person LOLing and crying – but I am definitely weeping. The cause for my earth-shattering depression is an April 25 Pew Research Center study that polled 12- to 17-year-olds on their attitudes about writing. A heart-stopping 38% said they let chat-speak – such as LOL (for "laughing out loud"), ROFL ("rolling on the floor laughing"), BRB ("be right back"), TTYL ("talk to ya later") – slip into essays and homework.

Read Kolesnikova's entire piece here.

But honestly, much of the angst I feel about this is probably just my own resistance to change.

Chat-speak is the abbreviated form of English made popular by text messaging in which, due to the inefficiency of thumb-keyboards, less is definitely more when it comes to aggregate character counts.

Here are few examples for the uninitiated:

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ASAP - As Soon As Possible
BBL - Be Back Later
BRB - Be Right Back
BTW - By The Way
CU - see you
CUL8R - see you Later
EZ - Easy
F2F - Face to Face
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
FWIW - For What It’s Worth
FYI - For Your Information
GG - Good Game
GTG - Got To Go
HTH - Hope That Helps
IAC - In Any Case
IIRC - If I Remember Correctly
J/K - Just Kidding
IMHO - In My Humble Opinion
IMNSHO - In My Not-So-Humble Opinion
IMO - In My Opinion
LOL - Laughing Out Loud
NBD - No Big Deal
NRN - No Reply Necessary
OMG - Oh My God
OTOH - On The Other Hand
ROFL - Rolling On the Floor Laughing
THX - Thanks
TTYL8R - Talk To You Later

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Certainly, technological adaptations mustn't be allowed to replace or ruin students' use of and mastery over standard written English. However, I have found that habitually abreviating words does in fact make text entry into hand-held devices like my Treo 650 PDA phone a whole lot faster and easier.

Times change. Technology advances. The march of progress continues.

IMHO it's really NBD.

GTG. CUL8R!

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NYC Bribes Students To Improve Academic Performance

Parents paying little Johnny or Suzie for each "A" on their report cards is a tried and true motivational strategy well known within America's more affluent families.

But when New York City herself gets into the act, it's natural to wonder if this practice has gone just a bit too far. Under a new system, high school students getting high scores on advanced placement exams could earn thousands of dollars in prize money!

From an article in the New York Times:
The city is expanding the use of cash rewards for students who take standardized tests with a $1 million effort financed by philanthropists who will pay students who do well on Advanced Placement exams.

High school students who get a top score, a five, on the exams will earn $1,000. A score of four will be worth $750, while a three will earn $500.

What do I think?

America has, in so many ways, devolved in recent decades into a culture of middling results and expectations based on the luxury of denial that affluence affords. Nowhere is this more evident than in our schools. In my opinion, the sorry state of education in our nation is so dire and desperate that we should do whatever works, whatever it takes, to turn things around. And if this means local governments colluding with private benefactors to bribe students into working harder on academics, so be it!

Relying on greed to motivate kids to do their work is a pretty miserable thing to have to do, and the need to do so says it all regarding the sad state of affairs in early 21st century America. Sure, learning for its own sake and for that of personal development and character building should be the norm. But this truly is an emergency, and we truly do need to find a way to climb out of the whole into which we've dug ourselves. Remembering that "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride," it's far too late for us to categorically say "no" to anything that might work to reverse our national slide into horrifying mediocrity.

If bribing students gets them to work harder and achieve more, and taxpayer money isn't involved ... I say that's fine, for now.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

M.I.T. For Free

A movement has recently begun within universities all over the world to make their course content available to anyone on Earth with an internet connection – for free! No fees, no application, no restrictions. Just knowledge, freely available to any and all. M.I.T. initiated the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement in 2002, and now, 120 other universities from all over the world have followed suit, publishing the complete content of all or part of their course catalog.

College students, curious "self learners," and professors from countries as diverse as Dubai, France, Morocco, and New Zealand are benefiting from the free availability of the very best university level course material. From schools as prestigious as M.I.T., Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo, Hanoi Medical University, and Harvard Law School, published OCW content includes class syllabi, lectures in audio and/or video form, homework, notes, illustrations, etc. – literally all course material that can be transmitted electronically.

M.I.T. soon plans to have its entire course list (all 1,800 classes) freely available online. The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore plans to offer half of its courses as OCW by the end of this year (40 of it's 200 classes are already available), and others are following suit.

The amazing generosity of these institutions of higher learning is simply stunning, and aside from realizing their commitment to the free availability of knowledge also serves to inspire true hope, sincere gratitude, and genuine pride in many.

Here's how one Parisian student put it:

"The MIT OCW program is a generous and far-sighted initiative that will do more to change the world for the better than a thousand Iraq-style invasions," the MIT site quotes Leigh Pascoe, a self-learner in Paris, as saying. "It does much to restore my faith in the enlightenment of the American people and their great experiment in democracy. This program should be emulated by every university worthy of the name."

While OCW materials don't come close to replacing on-campus classes at the world's best universities, where interaction among students and professors, commented homework, lab assignments, etc., will always ensure plenty of demand for "the real thing," the possibilities for independent study by individuals from around the world who seek to begin or supplement various academic pursuits are seemingly endless.

Bravo, M.I.T. – and thank you!

Click here to read an excellent article on this subject in the Christian Science Monitor Online.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What's Finland Doing Right?


An article in BBC News tells of the extraordinary success of Finland's academic establishment.

Based on tests comparing 15-year-old students in 2006, the rankings released by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) showed the Scandinavian nation in the top five for reading and math, and in the number one slot for science achievement.

Coming up fast in Finland's rear view mirror are competitors from Asia such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

From the BBC News article:

The latest findings also show the extent of global competition in education - with the northern European countries now challenged by and overtaken by Asian rivals, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

South Korea has continued to strengthen its position - after a remarkable rise in achievement against international competitors.

In the 1960s, the OECD says South Korea's national wealth was similar to Afghanistan's.

But a sustained drive in education has seen it rise to the upper ranks in international education leagues - both in subject scores and in completion rates in secondary school.

As with Finland, there has been an emphasis in South Korea on education as a key to economic success and the "knowledge economy."

Where did the U.S. rank? In the middle of the "below average" range for mathematics, lagging behind Spain, Hungary, and Azerbaijan (a test administration error precluded a reading result for the U.S.).

A Washington Post article elaborates further on American students' poor performance on this important international assessment.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Which Majors Net Highest First Year Pay?

An article on MSN's careerbuilder.com web site is a great resource for those money-minded college students pondering the important question of which major to select.

Listed are the "Top 10 Starting Salaries by College Major," along with brief descriptions of career paths open to graduates with academic emphases in those fields.

Apparently, things have recently been looking up for those with the right specialization listed on their university diploma.

From the article:

Whether you're a recent grad who's been living in your parents' basement since Commencement Day or in the midst of your college career trying to figure out what you should major in, there's good news coming your way.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), members of the class of 2007 can expect to earn bigger starting salaries as they enter the workforce than their predecessors. Results show that the average starting salary has increased across many disciplines since last year, the result of increased competition among employers for employees fresh out of college. Furthermore, hiring managers expect this trend to continue for years to come.

Which college major led to the highest entry-level salary in 2007 (according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers)?

Chemical Engineering: $59,361.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Elvis of Classical Music?

This young conductor is poised to change the history of music.

Slated to take over as director of the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009, Gustavo Dudamel knows how to communicate the essence and beauty of western classical music in a way no one seems to have seen in decades. He may, in fact, be the one who rescues classical music from increasing cultural irrelevance and puts it back at center stage on radios, ipods, and stages everywhere, where it belongs.

Dudamel was saved by music and the Venezuelan System (a government-sponsored initiative to train poor children to become accomplished musicians as an alternative to impoverishment and criminal street life). Who knows how many other game-changing individuals are waiting for a chance to fulfill basic survival needs so they can share rare and powerful talents with humanity?

Say what you want about Venezuelan socialism; Duhamel's magic is one of its fruits.

If you have a few minutes, give yourself a gift and watch the video piece on Dudamel produced by 60 Minutes. See another excellent Duhamel interview here.

Gustavo reveals, through his genius and passion, the creative artist within each of us. He reminds us, shows us, through music, that this is it! This is what it is to be human. This is what the struggle is for. This is why it all matters.

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thought Boxes (OTTFFSSEN)

Sometimes, it helps to be a first grader.

The human mind is truly amazing, no doubt about it. Still, it can get in its own way, as the following puzzle illustrates.

A bright first grader would find the following puzzle easier to solve than a bright well-schooled adult, given what the first grader has probably studied so far in school.

See if you can solve it (remember ... think like a first grader!):

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Find the next three letters in this sequence:

O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, N, ...

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(Click here to go to Part 2.)

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Best Education News Sites

Although the internet is vast and the information it contains plentiful and diverse, I've found relatively few sites that do a very good job of gathering and presenting news stories on educational topics.

Below is an annotated list of my favorite education news sites.

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Yahoo! News Full Coverage: Education

Breaking stories, feature articles, and op-ed pieces covering a wide range of educational topics and concerns:

http://news.yahoo.com/fc/US/Education

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Newsweek Education

An excellent site offering a very interesting selection of featured news stories about all aspects of education and learning:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8573372/site/newsweek/

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New York Times Education News

A good list of recent articles covering national and local NYC issues in education:

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/education/

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National Science Teachers Association

A sizable collection of articles focusing mainly on matters of higher education:

http://newsite.nsta.org/educationnews/&category_ID=194

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mathematical Mind Reading Revisited

Here’s another mathemagic trick you can learn that will astound your friends, neighbors, children, or parents (referred to as your “victims,” below) – and perhaps instill in them a new-found respect for and interest in the entertainment value of basic algebra.

For example:

"Pick any number, and you must remember this number (the victim thinks whatever, maybe 2, or 7 – but you think "x").

Multiply by 4. (Victim thinks: 8 or 28, you think 4x.)

Add 5. (Victim: 13 or 33, you: 4x + 5.)

Add 6. (Victim: 19 or 39, you: 4x + 11.)

Subtract 3. (Victim: 16 or 36, you: 4x + 8; notice both parts of “4x + 8” divide evenly by 4.)

Divide by 4. (Victim: 4 or 9, you: 1x + 2 or simply x + 2; notice that you've now returned to "x," the original number.)

Now ... SUBTRACT YOUR ORIGINAL NUMBER. (The “x” is taken away! victim: 2 or 2, you: 2.)

You now know exactly what your victim is thinking! So, now, you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide to your heart's content, knowing with absolute certainty that you are accurately “reading” your victim’s mind. Finally, at the end of your list of instructions, announce with great fanfare (rubbing your temples, etc.) what number the victim is thinking of ... and notice with wry smile the dropped jaw and blank stare of amazement.

Note: to avoid mistakes that could spoil your performance, first hand your victim a calculator to use, and be sure that your first two instructions are to multiply and/or add; this way you'll avoid the possibility of your victims having to struggle with troublesome negative numbers.

This trick is especially effective with a group of victims (say, an entire classroom of fellow students, or the guests at a dinner party) all following your instructions simultaneously. No matter what numbers the various victims think of initially, as soon as you give the "subtract the original number" instruction, the variable is eliminated, and you are ALL now thinking of the same number, no matter what. VERY impressive! That's the beauty of algebra: that you can work with unknown numbers just as you do with known numbers, because numbers are numbers, whether known or unknown, and always obey the same rules.

With practice, entirely new routines similar to the example above can be improvised on the spot, at will, several times in a row if necessary, to convince your victim of your uncanny psychic powers. You can then, if you wish, show your victims (preferably with pencil and paper handy) how easy it is to perform the trick using basic algebra.

Suggestions:

• First practice this trick by yourself several times, using paper and pencil, playing the roles of victim and mind reader, until you're very confident that you can easily and correctly perform it.

• It’s a good idea to give your victim a calculator to work with (so they don’t make mistakes – which will make you look bad).

• Make your second instruction an addition command, to avoid having to work with negative numbers.

• It's helpful to obfuscate the trick involved by instructing victims to "add the numbers of fingers in your left hand" or "divide by the number of A's in America" instead of merely saying "add 5" or "divide by 2."

Have fun!

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Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.