Auld Lang Syne 2011

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2011 was a very interesting year for college admissions and higher education.  Both how we look at colleges and how colleges look as us (and how the government looks at both) continued to change.

Below are some of what I think are the more noteworthy topics in 2011 for ‘the rest of us’.  Please feel free to comment on these and add your own.  Thank you!

  • TUITION GOING DOWN – Several school have already announced that they will LOWER their sticker price for 2011-2012.  Higher Education is a world in which colleges hate to be first, but love to follow the hot trend.  Hopefully, this is the start of the next ‘hot trend’.
  • NET PRICE CALCULATORS AND IRS DATA RETRIEVAL TOOL FOR FAFSA – The Feds have provided two tools that – in theory – will make the collegiate search and the financial aid process a little easier.  Kudos for recognizing the public’s concern.  Let’s hope these work, although it’s too early in the game to really know.
  • COMMUNITY COLLEGE ENROLLMENT STABILIZING – After years of incredibly rapid growth, community college enrollment in the United States actually went down slightly in 2011.  I really was surprised, and I am very curious to see what 2012 brings.  For the last several years, a poor economy and a greater acceptance of community colleges (and their credits) has produced unprecedented growth.  I did not expect this to the year that it stopped.  State budget cuts played a part in that, but that begs the question – did students closed out of community college courses go elsewhere?  Or did they just not go?
  • PENN STATE – A horrific story.  And the end of the reign of arguably one of the five greatest icons in collegiate sport.  Saying that, I really don’t expect there to be any long-term “higher ed” ramifications from the Jerry Sandusky case.  But, it was one of the major national news stories of 2011 and a cautionary tale in terms of power and in terms of the athletic code of silence.  And it isn’t over.
  • FOR-PROFITS EVOLVING – For-Profit enrollment has leveled off, many schools have changed their admission/recruitment policies due to lawsuits and federal policy changes.  At the same time, 2011 was the umpteenth straight year that the non-profit schools have continued to take marketing (and educational) ideas from their for-profit brethren.  Take a look at who’s developing the online programming for ‘traditional’ institutions.  And, if you’re here in New Jersey, it’s hard to find a bus or billboard that isn’t covered by an ad for by a non-profit institution of higher learning.  20 years ago, those very same institutions scoffed at the for-profits for doing the very same.  In many ways, 2011 might be remembered as the year For-Profit Colleges became ‘mainstream’.
  • MORE HS SENIORS TAKING THE ACT VS. THE SAT – In the 2010-2011 school year, more HS seniors took the ACT than took the SAT.  Fans of Pepsi, Burger King and the Buffalo Bills of the early 90’s can celebrate.  Add to this the growing list of ‘test optional’ colleges, as well as the next bullet item, and it is clear that the world of standardized testing is in a state of flux – although where it is fluxing to is not quite clear.
  • LONG ISLAND SAT SCANDAL – A young ‘entrepreneur’ develops a ‘start-up’ that seems to meet a need for high school students.  Unfortunately, his ‘start-up’ is illegal as he is taking the SAT for other students.  As per my earlier blog post on the topic, it’s illegal, immoral and just stupid.  It is an unfortunately dramatic example of how misunderstood the role of the SAT and ACT are in college admissions and in collegiate success.  2 Saturday Mornings do NOT equal 4 years of classwork.  And (most) Colleges know this.
  • GAP YEARS – I continue to see more articles online regarding Gap Years, more families asking about them and more services available in relation to them.  I have to say that I’ve changed my stance on Gap Years over the past 15 months.  If used with foresight and a clear plan in place, they are a wonderful opportunity to be better prepared for college, to mature as a person and possibly gain some additional cash.  But, I still caution that taking a Gap Year “just because” is a recipe for disaster, a waste of time and probably a poor decision in terms of cost-effectiveness.
  • VALUE OF A BACHELOR’S DEGREE – In the past year,I have heard frequent and passionate arguments that the cost of higher education might just not be worth it.  I have never seen the value of college questioned to the extent it has been in 2011.  I can certainly argue that it’s still far better than the alternative and that some of what is perceived as higher ed’s shortcomings are really the ‘real world’s’ shortcomings (colleges can provide the tools, but the business community has to supply the jobs).  But I respect the concern, the anger and the frustration.  Colleges must continue to work on improving the applicability of their product without compromising the integrity of their educational offerings.  And try to slow the tide of collegiate inflation.  It’s not an easy task, but it is necessary.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.

Miles to Go Before We Sleep

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If you could determine the key issues that we should work on, in higher education and college admissions, what would they be?

I started thinking about my answer to that question.

And these are the eight items I decided to put on my “Miles to Go Before We Sleep” list.  (I’d love to hear yours.)

  • The College Fair needs to be re-done.  Just saying.  Forget the booths and the paper products.  Welcome to the world of social networking.  Use modern technology to create meaningful face-to-face conversations.  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down the blue and white drapes…)  Flash Mob Admissions, Coffeehouses, Speed Networking-style College Fairs, Foursquare check-ins, TED and 140 style workshops – move the relationships of on-the-road admissions folks and the families they interact with into the 21st century.
  • We need to better prepare for the incredible growth of autistic college students that is about to occur.  In terms of guidance, in terms of ethical admissions, in terms of services, in terms of price structure for those services, in terms of making sure that we are able to offer a meaningful college experience and not simply some ‘separate but equal’ type of college-lite nonsense.  Just like any other ‘hot topic’ (see Physical Therapy majors, Latinos and Lacrosse players), we are talking about human beings, not cash cows.
  • Somebody needs to write a ‘definitive’ guide on the LGBT College Search – best schools, best questions, issues for retention, how to find resources for counseling, networking, etc.
  • We need to stop treating the ACT and SAT as either a) the end-all, most important, almighty piece of the admission puzzle or b) a piece of worthless trash.  It is neither.  It is c) a moderately relevant piece of a much larger picture – aka this actual living, breathing person who is applying to college.
  • To blame colleges for the decline in income of their graduates makes no sense.  You can’t blame production for the sales department’s mistakes.  However, to blame colleges when their graduates can’t differentiate between to, too and two, you’re and your or loose and lose (and their and there) – that’s a different conversation.
  • We still don’t comprehend that the majority of college students in this country are NOT 18-21 years of age, living in a dorm room and taking a full-time course load.  Until we get past that, we are misplacing time, energy and money.
  • I want to see an ‘admissions trends’ article next year that doesn’t begin with quotes from Harvard or Princeton.  Just one.  It’s like telling me that burger sales in the U.S. are up or down based on how much ground beef was used at WD-50, in Manhattan.  (Great place, by the way.)
  • I want to see a ranking of the college rankings.  But only if it’s a parody.

I’m sure you have your own “Miles to Go Before We Sleep” items, and I would love to hear them.  PLEASE add your 2 cents by posting a comment or emailing me or commenting on Linkedin or Facebook or Google+ or Twitter (#MTGBWS?).  What do YOU think our ‘#MTGBWS steps need to be?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.