Stories making headlines in the higher education.
It was a scene reminiscent of another era. More than 150 Yale University (Conn.) students marched outside the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in late February, while inside 15 students locked themselves inside an office for an eight-hour sit-in protesting the school's financial aid policies.
In the days that followed, Yale President Richard Levin announced sweeping changes in the university's financial aid program. Levin had already announced that changes were in the works for the program at an open forum two days before the protest, but some observers believe that media attention from the protest may have hastened his announcement.
"We wanted to signal that we're serious about access," Levin told reporters.
Yale will now match Harvard University's (Mass.) policy of reducing contributions from families that earn less than $60,000 per year. Last year Harvard decided to provide full aid to students with a family income under $40,000. Yale's undergraduate tuition, room, board and other fees, cost about $41,000 a year. About 40 percent of Yale undergraduates receive financial aid. Yale has guaranteed that it will not require contributions from families that earn less than $45,000 per year.
Other elite schools have made similar changes recently. For example:
The University of North Carolina no longer requires students from families of four earning $37,000 or less to take out any loans to cover school expenses.
Rice University (Texas) has a similar plan to UNC but sets the income level at $30,000.
For the last four years, Princeton University (N.J.) has offered grants rather than loans for its low-income students.
And, while it may not have had any bearing on Levin's announcement, recent news reports also show that Yale's application rates have dropped slightly. Applications decreased by 1.2 percent, from 19,675 applications last year to 19,430 applications this year. Both Princeton and Harvard, on the other hand, point to record increases in applications over the last year. Princeton received 16,077 applications, a 17 percent increase from last year, while Harvard received a record high of 22,717 applications, a 15 percent increase in applications. Both schools have attributed part of that increase to their financial aid programs.
In the aftermath of the recent hacking incident that involved six of the top business schools, many are questioning the security of online admissions tools. "These computer systems are not easy to hack into," assures Len Metheny, president and CEO of ApplyYourself, the company that provided the online admissions software to the affected schools. "The person who posted the hacking tips on BusinessWeek's site worked in the Internet security field and spent two weeks trying to identify the appropriate combination to get in," he says. While programmers at ApplyYourself fixed the security glitch within nine hours of BusinessWeek's posting, what's to prevent other computer-savvy applicants from doing this again?
"We have already put in modifications to prohibit that procedure. And since the incident, we have been undergoing comprehensive security and code revisions to make sure there are not other vulnerabilities," he says.
One advantage of the software is its ability to track and identify who logs on. This means that all students who tried to hack into the system can be identified. "It is surprising that the hacker did not think of these repercussions," Metheny says. "I wish I understood the motivation behind these applicants. It's obviously an anxious time for students."
While MIT's Sloan School of Management (MA) and Harvard Business School (MA) have decided to refuse admission to those who hacked into the system, Dartmouth College has decided to judge students on a case-by-case basis. At press time, it was unclear how Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University would handle the situation.
By Paul Fairbrook, Colman Publishers, 2004; 452 pp., $50
Paul Fairbrook knows food service. This former dean of The Culinary Institute of America also directed food service programs at a number of IHEs. Fairbrook draws on his 50 years of experience to show how a well-run campus catering service can not only boost a school's prestige in the public eye (read: potential donors), but can also provide a lucrative revenue source.
This book is as much an operations guide as it is a celebration of culinary ingenuity. Fairbrook examines catering programs at more than three dozen schools to compare menus, policies, performance evaluations, promotions, and more. It is a valuable reference for anyone connected to the business of campus food service. (Order from www.paulfairbrook.com.)
Following the footsteps of Duke University's (N.C.) and Georgia College and State University's experimental iPod projects, Drexel University (Pa.) will also begin distributing Apple's trendy music device. But unlike Duke who distributed it to its freshman class free of charge, or GCSU who merely loans the iPod to students, Drexel will only hand them out to the expected 30 to 50 freshmen who will enroll in the School of Education this fall. "It's a strategically and carefully focused small initiative," says William Lynch, director of Drexel's School of Education. "The content will be specifically oriented to our education students," he says.
The iPod will provide several educational functions for Drexel students, including advising and orientation information "which helps students become better acquainted with their new environment," he says. It will also serve as a medium for course content information, allowing students to hear lectures and expert interviews "from anywhere--in their car or while they're on a jog," Lynch adds. In addition, Drexel will encourage its upper-class students in the School of Education to come up with novel applications for the iPod via a contest in which the winner will take home an iPod.
While many IHEs have expressed concern that the recreational element of the iPod would be a distraction for students, Lynch believes it is an incentive.
"I think it's healthy that they would use it to access music. In fact, I hope they do. That will only drive access to the educational content. We want them to be able to access both so they won't have to consciously make a decision to carry the 'educational stuff' one day and not the other," he says.
Furthermore, students will be required to access information via their iPods to complete assignments. Lynch is already talking to administrators at other schools within Drexel about implementing the popular device. "It's part of the university's mission to examine how technology can be used to enhance the way we deliver learning," he says.
Threats of retaliation from the film and music industry for illegal file sharing took on a new gravity last month with the conviction of an 18-year-old University of Arizona student. This time, the charge was not about setting up a network or distributing pirated content, but of possession of stolen goods. Also, the case was tried in a state court rather than federal court as other cases have been.
"From the looks of things, it appears that the case was originally federal in nature and was later transferred to state by agreement with the defendant's counsel because of his age," says Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group.
The recording and motion picture industries have filed lawsuits against hundreds of individuals over the past few years, including numerous college students who allegedly used their university networks to swap files. Most of those cases have been settled with fines or are pending. This time, however, the charge resulted in a felony conviction.
"I think this is an aberration. This case seems unusual in the sense that he had so much material and was allegedly using it as part of a profit-making business," Schultz tells University Business. "Most students who trade copyrighted material aren't doing anything of that size or scope."
The student, Parvin Dhaliwal, was sentenced to three months in prison, three years' probation, and 200 hours of community service. He was also fined $5,400 and was ordered to take a course on copyright law at the university.
Schultz says he doesn't think such prosecutions will become commonplace, or increase an IHE's liability. "I don't see anything for universities or colleges to worry about directly," Schultz says. "Criminal aiding and abetting liability requires intentional and direct involvement in the crime. Simply providing the means to commit crimes is never enough to hold one responsible."
College websites have to stay cool--or is that "kewl"?--to appeal to a web-savvy demographic. Kettering University (Mich.) is capitalizing on the Flash movie craze with its short titled "School Daze." In its brief three minutes the animated movie tells high school sophomores and juniors about the college admissions process, while trying to convince them that Kettering is a better alternative than a liberal arts college or large state university.
Kettering paid higher ed marketing firm abeedle.com $10,000 to write, animate and narrate the movie, says Julie Ulseth, director of marketing. The clip has been sent to prospects through a series of e-mail marketing campaigns. A "forward to a friend" feature is included to promote viral marketing.
Kettering, formerly the General Motors Institute, is a cooperative higher ed institution that is heavily loaded with engineering and technology courses. Students are required to gain real-world working experience in the automotive engineering industry and related design and technology fields. It makes sense, then, that Kettering's movie includes many inside jokes and references that tech junkies and video game-players would recognize. These are the types of students Kettering is targeting.
The crude animation style is abeedle's homage to Flash movie "The End of the World." Other animation touches, like the use of 'net slang "WTF," or "what the f...," are sprinkled throughout. "All the base," a phrase appearing on a character's t-shirt, is a well-known reference to mangled Atari video game language.
Kettering began circulating the e-mail promotion in spring 2004. To date, more than 6,000 "unique visitors" have come to the admissions portion of the Kettering website because of the e-mail campaign, and an additional 1,000 "friends" have checked out the site, too. About 40 percent of these total 7,000 visitors have completed online profiles, allowing Kettering to send additional promotional material, says Ulseth.
To take a look, visit http://admissions.kettering.edu/schooldaze/index.cfm.
On campuses across America students are toiling away in media studies departments and TV studios, producing their own news shows, dating games and comedy sketches. Now there is a way for them to broadcast their efforts to a bigger audience.
The OPEN Student Television Network made its debut this spring with the mission of helping students share their work and learn from each other. The new student television station is a joint project of the Campus EAI Consortium and Internet2. The consortium (www.campuseai.org) is a non profit made up of member colleges and universities who share open source software and digital content. Internet2 is the high-speed bandwidth reserved for education and non-commercial purposes. Together they will keep OPEN operating.
All colleges and universities that use Internet2 will be able to broadcast OPEN. Viewers will access the archived student-produced TV shows via a "video on demand" format played through the Windows Media Player, which is available for download in Windows and Mac OS formats.
Colleges and universities participating in OPEN send their finished broadcasts to the consortium. Some are supplied via FTP files, others come on DVDs or tape, says Rich Griffin, senior technical leader of OPEN. The consortium converts the formats. Currently, 30 IHEs are participating, but Griffin expects the number to grow. "A lot of these shows are really good," he says. "It was a shame no one else could see them." Well, it was a shame until now. For more information about OPEN, visit www.ostn.tv.
Homeless women are making their way into the college classroom, thanks to the One Family Scholars program, which provides college scholarships for low-income and homeless women within the state of Massachusetts. Since the organization's inception in 2000, One Family has granted about 115 scholarships and will soon offer 100 more for the academic year of 2005-2006. Created by Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, "the idea behind the program was to end family homelessness and education is the key to doing that," says One Family's program manager Ann McArdle.
Currently, 12 scholars have completed academic programs. Five have received associate degrees or certificates; five more have earned bachelor's degrees; two hold master's degrees. McArdle says she hopes to improve retention rates in the future. "The criteria has gotten stricter over the years," she says. "We are looking for applicants who have a real academic plan because those are the ones who tend to be ready to succeed."
About 25 IHEs have already accepted scholars from the program. They include Smith College, Simmons College, Springfield College, Lesley University, Salem State College, University of Massachusetts, Harvard University and Northeastern University.
"As far as we know, this is the first program like this in the country," McArdle says. "We would love for other states to follow our lead."
Google must be really busy. According to a number of IHE administrators, despite many attempts to list their schools on Google's free University Search, they have yet to see their schools' names on the list.
The list features names of IHEs with links to their websites. After clicking on the school's name, you are taken to a page where you are then allowed to search within the school's website.
On the Google webpage describing the procedure, says Mark Mende, coordinator of electronic communications at St. Lawrence, "there is an insinuation that the more people who submit your school, the better."
Jennifer Canup, of the UTHSC-H's Office of Public Affairs, thinks the "instructions are very vague" on how to submit a school, and says, "Some campuses have even advertised to their students and faculty to submit their schools to Google," with no luck. Canup knows of more than 20 IHEs that cannot get listed.
Some are also beginning to question the value of being listed. "I'm not sure of the importance of being listed from a recruiting point of view," says Mende. St. Lawrence has 2,000 students enrolled this year.
"I couldn't say we're losing money or traffic," says Scott Crevier, web developer at St. Norbert College (Wis.), which also has 2,000 students, and has been continually submitting the school since February 2004. "We already get a lot of traffic."
But it is common knowledge that Google is a high-profile website, "and we're trying to make sure we're not excluded from the list," Crevier says.
It is not even clear if it is a matter of only small, or lesser-known IHEs being excluded from the list since The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, which includes a medical school, could not get listed either.
"If it's a popularity contest, they should make it clearer," says Mende. Google could not be reached for immediate comment.
For many students who are not heterosexual, funding their education can be a rocky road. One student said his parents refused to pay for his college education at Boston University (Mass.) when they first discovered he was gay.
That's where The Point Foundation steps in. The Foundation, which "provides a point in the right direction," offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. In exchange, all Point Scholars must maintain at least a 3.5 GPA and act as ambassadors for the Foundation.
Started by a group of people who had been disowned by their own families 30 years ago, according to Vance Lancaster, executive director of the foundation, the Foundation also provides scholarship recipients with mentors who can offer emotional support and career guidance. "A large number of families disown gay children, and a lot of students have been abandoned," he says.
Though not all scholarship recipients have been abandoned, many have been marginalized in some way, he says. But what recipients do have in common are high test scores and stellar GPAs. Many have also proven to be leaders in their communities, despite the many obstacles they have had to overcome.
This year, more than $500,000 has been invested in scholarship and mentoring programs for 25 students. But for the next academic year, the Foundation expects to expand the number of recipients to 40. Scholarship programs are being developed at IHEs across the country, including Georgetown University (D.C.) and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (Ill.).
The student at Boston University says that prior to receiving a Point Foundation scholarship, he had written numerous letters to IHEs, explaining that his parents would not support him because they are opposed to his sexual orientation. Now, his parents do help him financially, but "minimally," he says. He believes he would not be able to get through college without the help of the Foundation and its mentoring program.
Lancaster believes the Foundation is "helping to create a new generation of leaders." For more information, visit: www.thepointfoundation.org.