How do you get "the most bang for your educational buck”?
In his State
of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama announced that the
White House has developed an online College
Scorecard to help students and parents assess a given college’s
affordability as well as its value.
The scorecard allows users to see the net
price, graduation rate, median student
loan, and loan default rate at a given college. It provides some context
for each number, rating it as low, medium, or high or comparing it to the
national average. In the future, it will also include employment data for recent
here to read more about it on Inside
For years, we at The Princeton Review have been
reporting on value in higher education through our “Best Value Colleges” lists and guidebook.
We also partner with USA TODAY to
produce an interactive
database of our “Best Values.” Click
here for more info.
Spring Arbor University in Michigan recently
announced that it will help its graduates to replay their student
loans if they cannot find a decent-paying job. Click
here to read more on the Huffington
Should students who take free online courses—commonly known
able to get college
credits for their work? Last fall, the American Council on Education sought to approach
an answer to this question by comparing MOOCs from the provider Coursera
to traditional college courses.
Its verdict? Five of Coursera’s MOOCs are similar
enough to traditional courses that colleges should provide
transfer credits to those who complete them.
(Note: while MOOCs are normally free, a student interested in
receiving transfer credits for one is required to pay a fee for a special
proctored final exam.)
Click here to
read more on the Chronicle of Higher
costs have risen
dramatically in recent decades, it’s understandable that current
students—and their parents—want to get their money’s worth. Today’s college
shoppers search for schools that can provide an excellent education and, at the
same time, minimize costs.
To augment this search, The Princeton Review’s annual “Best Value
Colleges” list, published in partnership with USA TODAY, identifies schools
with a commitment to both academic quality and affordability.
For the 2013 list—released today—we
analyzed more than 30 factors related to academics, cost, and financial
aid. We found 150 “Best Values” in higher education and identified the top
10 public and top 10 private colleges among them. (Click here for
more info on how we did it.) Our number one public college is the University of
Virginia; our number one private college is Swarthmore College.
Note: schools on the list with a high “sticker
price” offset costs with generous aid to students with financial
need. How much aid? Freshmen at the 75 the public schools in the book
received, on average, a grant
of $8,900. Freshmen
at the 75 private schools in the book received, on average, a grant of $32,500.
According to researchers
at Wabash College, the quality of education a given college offers is only
weakly related to the amount of money it spends; this holds true even when one
just looks at its overtly educational expenditures, such as faculty salaries.
These findings are surprising, and they have the potential
to shake up the world of higher education. Dollars spent per student has long been
regarded as a signal of a college’s academic quality (it accounts for 10
percent of a school’s annual U.S.
News ranking; further, it is
closely tied to a school’s class sizes and student-faculty ratio, which, together, account
for another 9 percent of thisranking).
What should a prospective college student’s main
take-away be? Don’t assume that a more-expensive college will provide you with a
better educational experience. Speak with a college’s current students about
and interactions with professors.
Also be sure to check out The Princeton Review’s “Professors Get High Marks”
and “Most Interesting Professors” lists.
Many self-motivated students—in particular, those who embrace
new technologies—have been taking advantage of massively
open online courses (a.k.a. MOOCs).
MOOCs represent an opportunity to gain college-level
knowledge without the high cost associated with most college courses.
However, they also have some drawbacks. Specifically, most do not directly
award college credits.
Also, as a rule, they have extremely
poor pass rates (with no real prerequisites for enrollment, and no financial
commitment, this makes sense).
But, hey—they’re free (or almostfree) and present
opportunities to be taught by prestigious professors to whom students might not
otherwise have access.
Finally, a group of leaders in the MOOC field recently
proposed a “Bill of Rights” for students in online courses. Specific
rights include knowledge of the provider’s business model, knowledge of how
one’s personal info would be used, and ownership of any work one might produce.
According to the
latest edition of an annual survey of college freshmen, economic issues loom
large in the minds of current students.
The survey, by the Higher
Education Research Institute, found that “the current economic
situation” was a factor in the college choice of 67 percent of freshmen.
Additionally, “making more money” and “being able to get a better job” were cited
by 75 and 88 percent of freshmen, respectively, as very important
factors in their decision to attend college. All are record-high marks.
These results make sense in light of the tepid economy and high
college costs; more and more, students are viewing the experience as an
investment in their future.
Click here to browse
the survey’s other results and here to read
more about it on the Chronicle of Higher
Starting next fall, Dartmouth College will no longer award credits
to incoming students with high scores on AP
exams. However, it will continue to grant advance standing to students who
enter with AP work in certain subjects. Click
here for more info.
While the Dartmouth website does not provide a rationale,
Hakan Tell, the chairperson of the faculty group behind the decision, recently
Higher Ed that the feeling at Dartmouth is that APs are “good
courses,” but “not the same as a Dartmouth credit.”
According to Tell, the decision was supported by the results
of an unpublished study. Few details of the study are publically
available, but, according to Inside
Higher Ed, it entailed administering a test based on the final exam
for Dartmouth’s Introductory Psychology course to over 100 incoming Dartmouth freshmen,
all of whom had previously earned a score of 5 on the AP Psychology exam. Ninety
percent of those students failed the Dartmouth exam, though it is unknown
whether they knew about it prior to their arrival on campus. (Even if they did,
however, a high score would seem unlikely after three months of summer vacation.)
Dartmouth is not the only elite
college to stop awarding credits for AP courses—e.g., Penn stopped doing so
in 2005. However,
the real issue isn’t the effect of eliminating credits for APs at residential
colleges such as Dartmouth and Penn. (At such schools students pay a flat tuition
per term—regardless of how many credits they take—and almost always attend for
four years regardless of the number of credits with which they enter.) Rather,
the issue is whether the decisions of such institutions will influence the
decisions of less-exclusive schools—places at which many students attend part time, often while working a
full-time job, and pay per credit. For students at such schools, earning three
or four credits through a $90 AP test represents a considerable savings.
However, in the eyes of colleges,
remedial courses are necessary to ensure that certain students are ready for
What can be done to ease the pain
of remedial coursework?
According to the New
York Times, San Jose State University has developed a novel plan. It has
teamed up with Udacity,
a provider of Massively
Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to offer a selection of its remedial and
introductory courses online for just $150 each. This low cost should help its students
to meet the prerequisites
for upper-level coursework without breaking the bank.
If San Jose State’s program is
successful—and other colleges adopt it—it could potentially boost graduation