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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Private College Tuition Rises at Lowest Rate in 37 Years

With families facing one of the worst economic crises in the nation's history, private, nonprofit colleges and universities have responded with the smallest average increase in tuition and fees in 37 years, according to the final results of a membership survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The 4.3 percent increase for 2009-10 is the smallest since 1972-73, when average tuition and fees at private institutions rose by the same rate. The increase is slightly higher than the 2008 Consumer Price Index of 3.8 percent. NAICU's figure is based on responses from 350 private, nonprofit colleges and universities.

The average increase in institutional student aid budgets for 2009-10 at these colleges is 9 percent. (This is the first year that NAICU has collected student aid figures from its member institutions as part of the annual tuition survey.)

Over the past 10 years, the average annual increase in tuition and fees at private colleges has been 6 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the increase in institutionally provided student aid at private, nonprofit colleges has more than tripled the increase in list price, 250 percent versus 72 percent, respectively.

In response to the economic downturn, numerous private, nonprofit institutions have announced innovative affordability measures for 2009-10.

These include:

• Accelerated degree programs
• Public university tuition matches
• Job and four-year graduation guarantees
• Programs that replace loans with grants
• And tuition freezes and cuts, among others.

Campus examples are posted on the NAICU(National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities) Web site.

"To an unprecedented degree, students and families are concerned about affording the college of their choice," said NAICU President David L. Warren. "Private colleges are committed to maintaining access for students from all backgrounds-especially in tough times.

"Private college and university budgets have been hit by dropping endowments, a reduction in charitable giving, and growing student financial need," Warren said. "Nevertheless, they have made extraordinary efforts to keep students' out-of-pocket costs as low as possible while protecting academic quality.

"Freezes and cuts in other campus budget areas-construction and renovation, salaries and benefits, and travel and other staff expenses, to name a few-have allowed institutions to use those savings to temper tuition increases and keep student aid available," said Warren.

NAICU's annual survey collects percent increases, but not dollar amounts. According to the College Board, the average published tuition and fees at private four-year colleges and universities in 2008-09 were $25,143. The College Board also reports that, on average, full-time students at private institutions received about $10,200 of grants and tax benefits that same year. Because of student aid, nine out of 10 full time, dependent students at four-year private, nonprofit colleges and universities pay less than list price, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

For Colleges Needing Cash, Summer’s No Longer a Quiet Season

New York Times
June 21, 2009

Time was you could hurl a Frisbee clear across a college green in summer and be assured that you would not bop anyone on the head. If not exactly a ghost town, the typical campus was strangely still from June to August, offering administrators an opportunity to regroup and recharge.

But in recent years, empty campuses have been recognized as potential cash cows, and colleges have tried to fill those once-sleepy weeks with enrichment workshops, for-credit courses, day camps, conferences, private parties and film shoots. That is especially true this summer, as financially battered schools seek to wring all the value they can from venerable halls and shiny athletic centers.

At the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, administrators offered discounts of up to 20 percent on tuition for summer courses, advertising heavily in local media. The college also reeled in two new summer camps, a general-interest day camp and a wrestling camp, that will pay for the privilege of using the facilities.

“The overall landscape now is one in which you’ve got to become leaner and meaner and more competitive, and that means trying to find more sources of revenue,” said Tim Kelly, a college spokesman. “Summer is an important piece of the puzzle.”

There is a marketing upside, too, in maintaining a busy campus in summer, administrators say. On campus tours, prospective students and their parents respond better to a vibrant environment. And a high school student who takes, say, a three-week screenwriting workshop might remember that institution when applying to college.

But while colleges may be working harder to derive revenue from campuses this summer, some are running headlong into the weakened economy. For years, Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has held or run more than 20 athletic, cultural and academic programs and camps in summer. This year, a half-dozen have folded, citing falling enrollments.

In a usual year, Vassar would reap $400,000 to $500,000 from all the summer activity, but this year the yield will range from $300,000 to $350,000. “That’s a reality we’re all facing,” said Susan DeKrey, a college spokeswoman. “Families and individuals are looking at what they can afford to spend on extra things.”

Some colleges are using the economic downturn as a sort of muse, developing summer workshops geared specifically to downsized workers. Hofstra University on Long Island, for instance, created a class on résumé-writing and interviewing skills.

Hofstra also sought to deflect any economic impact on its sports camps by dispatching coaches, armed with brochures, to high school sporting events. “It was much more intensive this year,” Rich Guardino, vice president for business development at Hofstra, said of the marketing campaign. “We had an early-registration discount and offered some payment plans, which we haven’t done in the past.”

Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., pitched its summer-session graduate courses to those switching fields or bolstering résumés. “We’ve emphasized our summer school a lot more as a way to catch up, get ahead, stay on track,” said Mary Anne Nagy, vice president for student services at Monmouth. “In times of recession, higher education can actually benefit because people are retooling.”

It’s working: enrollment in graduate courses has jumped 20 percent this summer over last. Summer courses are just the tip of the ivory tower at Monmouth, however. This weekend alone, the university leased parts of the campus to a bridal-wear catalog for a photo shoot, a local hospital for an annual carnival and a father-son basketball clinic.

Several outside camps, including one devoted to cheerleading and another to yearbooks, as well as the college’s own sports camps, are returning this summer. Also back is a Police Explorer training program, a boot camp for teenagers, as Ms. Nagy put it. (“The high school students in the police camp also learn that we have a criminal justice program,” she said.)

But the university is most excited about two new revenue sources. An international school nurses conference will bring more than 100 nurses in late July, from as far away as Japan, along with about $30,000 in income. And Fort Monmouth, the nearby Army post, is renting some 30 university-owned apartments for its interns, for an additional $50,000.

All told, the university expects to make $600,000 to $800,000 from outside groups this summer. “If we didn’t have that revenue, then we couldn’t do certain things and we might not be able to keep tuition down,” Ms. Nagy said.

Some colleges have layered on new programs for high school students, tapping into the interest in constructing college résumés. Purchase College in Westchester County already had visual arts and jazz institutes for teenagers, with two- and four-week sessions. It now boasts several more: programs in photography, filmmaking, journalism, theater and Shakespeare.

“Any college worth its salt is constantly looking for new program development,” said Christine L. Persico, dean of the School of Liberal Studies and Continuing Education. “But the need for revenue is greater than ever, so the pressure might be a little bit more.”

Four years ago, Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester received orders from its board of trustees to make more hay of summer. Like Purchase College, it created workshops for high school students. But being residential in nature, the three-week programs have attracted teenagers from around the country for instruction in writing, visual arts and screenwriting.

One, called Summer in the City, involves faculty-led excursions to New York City, with the focus on history one week, scientific research the next and architecture the third. “We’re in the third year of most of them, and from the first year to the second we doubled,” said Micheal W. Rengers, the college’s vice president for operations. “This year we’re holding our own.”

As Sarah Lawrence waits for the economy to rebound, administrators are grateful when something falls from the sky, as happened recently when a new sports camp was looking for a venue. “We’ll make just around $50,000,” Mr. Rengers said of the deal for a six-week session.

The single biggest tenant at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., is a seven-week sports camp that pays more than $300,000. But the other uses — a summer institute for gifted children, an adult theater camp, a music festival and a swim program — add up. It certainly did not hurt that last week HBO shot scenes for a Martin Scorsese series in the college’s signature 1888 building, Reid Castle. (Ka-ching: $25,000.)

“If you add up all our summer programs, it’s probably in the $750,000 range,” said Greg Palmer, the college’s vice president of operations. “It’s not an incredible amount of money, and I’m sure a lot of bigger colleges do a lot more. But our endowment has taken a hit like most schools’, and for us it’s very important.”


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

For Colleges, Small Cuts Add Up to Big Savings

June 18
New York Times

College life may look different in the not-so-distant future: Students squinting out dirtier windows, faculty offices with full wastebaskets and no phones, sporting events in which opponents never meet, and paper course catalogs existing only as artifacts of the wasteful old days.

While colleges and universities slashed their spending this year with wrenching layoffs, hiring freezes and halts in construction projects, they whittled away at costs with smaller, quirkier economies, too:

¶At the University of Washington, the communications department faculty did away with their landlines. (“Phones were our biggest line item,” said David Domke, the department chairman. “We’ve still got landlines in common areas and for staff, but we’re saving about $1,100 a month by getting rid of faculty phones.”)

¶At Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., the women’s swim team held a “virtual swim meet” with Bryn Mawr College, in Pennsylvania, about 112 miles away. Each team swam in its home pool, then compared times to determine the winners. (“We probably saved $900 on bus travel,” said William G. Durden, Dickinson’s president.)

¶At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the traditional bus tour of the state for new faculty members was suspended this year. (“In a recession, people don’t want to see 100 faculty members traveling around and staying in hotels,” said Holden Thorp, the chancellor.)

Across the country, colleges have come up with a host of ideas that, taken together, stand as higher education’s household hints for living on a budget.

Campus life is getting a bit dirtier as housekeeping standards are relaxed. Oberlin College in Ohio saved $22,300 by scaling back on window washing, and Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., is power washing its sidewalks and windows once a year instead of twice. Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., is having office trash picked up weekly instead of daily, a change that eliminated three custodian jobs.

And in a move that directly involves academics, Carleton, which recently eased teachers’ course loads to five per teacher from six, now plans to return to six courses to save money.

After years of boom times that led to competition among colleges to provide more luxurious dorm rooms and student centers, some perks of campus life have gone by the wayside. Dickinson, for example, is saving $150,000 by cutting back on free laundry service for students and an additional $75,000 by eliminating free ESPN and HBO in student rooms.

Whittier College in California cut one day of its new-student orientation, saving $50,000. Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., put a cap on students’ free printing in libraries and labs, limiting them to $60 worth of free printing per semester. Next year, students will be limited to $50 per semester.

Most widespread, most proudly announced — and, it seems, most likely to have nicknames — are cost-cutting programs that help sustainability. Hundreds of colleges and universities are turning down their thermostats to save on heating, in programs like “Chill-Out” at Davidson College in North Carolina.

Cafeterias, too, are saving money, cutting food waste and reducing hot-water and detergent costs by eliminating trays. When Whittier began “Trayless Tuesdays” last fall, lunchtime food waste dropped to 4.6 ounces per student from 7.4 ounces — and the college saved almost $30,000 a semester after going fully trayless in the spring.

Many colleges are reducing their use of paper by putting admissions brochures, course catalogs and phone directories online instead of on paper.

Colleges are also installing low-flow shower heads and energy-saving light bulbs and holding contests to see which dorm can most reduce its electricity costs.

At Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., the contest resulted in almost $3,000 saved as students competed in turning off lights and unplugging chargers and printers. Students in participating dorms got 25 percent of the savings, $730, for pizza parties and other programs.

Davidson saved more than $10,000 by switching from bottled water to tap at most college events.

Many colleges are rebuilding computers instead of buying new ones, limiting the purchase and use of campus vehicles and scheduling more videoconferences and less travel.

Room phones and voicemail systems are fading away now that the vast majority of students depend on their cellphones. Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, Iowa, estimates that it saved $40,000 by not replacing old voicemail equipment.

Rhodes College in Memphis economizes — and gives students work experience — by hiring students in 25 professional staff positions, saving $725,000 a year. And the College of Wooster in Ohio is trying to hold on to financially struggling students, and their tuition dollars, by offering minimum-wage summer jobs in its “WooCorps,” which has almost 200 students painting rooms, landscaping and growing vegetables this summer. WooCorps students will get an extra $1,000 in their financial aid packages — and help the college complete more maintenance projects than usual.

Many colleges are cutting food-service options, too. Wooster shuttered one of its two dining halls, and Oberlin reduced the operating hours at its cafe.

Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., is no longer serving breakfast at trustees’ meetings; instead, it will give trustees passes to the cafeteria. Faculty members there will now have planning sessions over brown-bag lunches instead of dinner at the president’s house.

To some, little cuts are more energizing than irritating.

“We found a way of saving money that doesn’t hurt the student experience, and I think everybody’s happy,” said Mr. Domke of the University of Washington. “With cellphones and e-mail, everyone can get hold of us. People think it’s funny that we’re the communications department and we cut phones. But it’s just a symbol, an old technology.”

He paused before continuing, “I’ve suggested to geography that they may want to get rid of their globes.”


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bryn Mawr Goes "Test Flexible"

June 4, 2009

Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania has adopted a new standardized testing policy, that will take effect for students applying this fall.

Bryn Mawr's new "test flexible" policy follows similar to standardized test policies recently announced by Hamilton, New York University and Colby College.

Under Bryn Mawr's new "test flexible" policy, students will be able to select the standardized tests they feel best characterizes their academic ability.

The New Testing Policy for 2010

Students wishing to enroll at Bryn Mawr for the fall 2010 semester will now be able to submit results from:

The SAT Reasoning Test and a combination of two different SAT Subject Tests and/or two AP tests or
The ACT or
A combination of three SAT Subject Tests and/or AP tests in the following areas:
English, history or languages and
Math or science and
One subject of the student’s choice but in a subject different from the other two (only one non-English language may be submitted)

From the Bryn Mawr website:

Bryn Mawr College, hard on the heels of an admissions year bringing a record number of applications, has completed a review of what enables success in its highly selective undergraduate college. Finding that subject-oriented tests are often more informative than other standardized tests at Bryn Mawr, it has opened more options for tests submitted with applications.

“Our new ‘test flexible’ policy will allow Bryn Mawr applicants to select the standardized tests that they believe best represent their academic potential,” stated Jenny Rickard, Bryn Mawr dean of admissions and financial aid. “Let me emphasize, these tests are just one of the many factors we look at as part of our holistic evaluation process and that’s not going to change. A student’s course selection and performance in high school will continue to be the most important academic information in an application.”

The policy sets a new precedent for the use of Advanced Placement (AP) tests in the admissions process at Bryn Mawr and allows for an option that focuses exclusively on subject mastery.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Ten Items to Research Before Ever Committing to a College

The Times Herald
May 28, 2009

High school juniors will begin to look at colleges soon and some of the key factors that these students will look at in their college search is the looks and size of the campus; the quality of campus life; the honors and study-abroad programs; fraternities and sororities; and the sports programs. However, before the student makes a commitment to any college, here are ten other areas to consider:

1. The number of course requirements

Course requirements vary widely from school to school. You don’t want to find yourself mired in courses that don’t interest you, while you’re unable to take electives in the areas that do interest you.

2. The flexibility of course requirements

Schools that require specific courses can put you in a bind if you’d rather take more advanced courses, or if you need to take more remedial courses, to fulfill that requirement. Be sure to check that the school allows a choice of course levels to satisfy the various requirements. Also, keep in mind that many top professors avoid teaching required courses that route hundreds of students through the course.

3. The availability of your college major

Never assume that your college of choice offers every possible major, especially if you have a very specialized major in mind. It’s critical to check the list of majors at each college. At certain colleges, some majors are not open to all students, especially those majors that require talent or training (music or art), or those majors that are extremely popular (psychology or journalism).

4. Availability of your desired classes

In the past few years; college enrollments have risen, but the faculty size has not grown commensurately. As a result, there may be very long wait lists for some classes and shortages in first-year classes for students who did not register on the first possible date. Be sure to check the availability of your desired courses before sending in your acceptance letter to the college.

5. Availability of professors

At many state universities, a significant number of instructors are graduate students. It’s important to know how much of your instruction, especially in the first years of college, will be designated to graduate student teachers. It’s ok if a regular professor gives the lectures and the grad student leads discussion sections; however, the real issue arises at schools where grad students are allowed to teach entire courses on their own.

6. The student/faculty ratio

If you attend a school with 10 to 20 students per faculty member, you’re likely to get a lot of individual attention from the faculty. Once the number of students per faculty member goes above 20, you may not get much hand-holding from a professor.

7. Graduation percentage rate

A school with a graduation rate over 80 percent is good and a graduation rate of 60 to 80 percent is quite normal; however, a school whose gradation rate is under 60 percent is not good. Also check out the average time a student takes to receive a degree. You may want to avoid schools whose students take an average of six to seven years to graduate.

8. Quality of the career placement

Very few students even think to ask about the career placement department, but this should be a key item on your checklist assuming the student would like to graduate with a job. Students should ask questions such as, what job placement services are provided by the placement office, what percentage of graduates will be employed prior to graduation, and which companies and organizations recruit your graduates?

9. Are computer classes required?

To save money, some colleges use computer programs for course instruction, or have their lectures posted online, rather than use live instructors. It’s the new do-it-yourself method of instruction, which may not be the best learning experience for the student.

10. The total cost of college

If you plan to attend college then you should know up front what the total cost of college will be to get a degree. The student should also research any opportunities to receive financial aid to help offset that total cost. You will need to find the answers to questions such as, how does the college financially reward a good student, what forms are used by the college to determine financial aid eligibility, what non-need or merit grants and scholarships are available from the college, and what is the average debt incurred by each student upon graduation?

How can a student get this much needed information from the various colleges? Check out the college guides and the college web sites themselves. Ask admissions officers, students,~and recent graduates of the schools. Send e-mails to the appropriate college contacts. Regardless of how you get this information, it~is very important in order to make the best possible college choice and get the most out of your college experience.


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