Should college tuition be taxed?

From College News - NPR report discusses efforts by Pittsburgh mayor to induce a tax on tuition at colleges and universities.


If mo’ money means mo’ problems, then the recession has proved to us all that less money (or even no money at all) means a cavalcade of financial distress that even the hardest and most industrious of Americans are having a hard trouble navigating. This is especially true of college students. Not only are colleges’ loans and entitlements withering away like dust in the wind, students everywhere closing their eyes for a moment, then realizing that their financial moment is gone.

But if you think that tuition increases and student protests were indication enough that both students and administrators alike are at their wits end, just wait til you get a load of what Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is proposing.

the principle underneath the decision to tax students is a principle that we believe is incorrect.”

Councilwoman Tonya Payne, on the other hand, reportedly said that the tax was a good idea because she would “rather have a tax that students pay than taxes from a 70-year-old couple.” Similarly, Mayor Ravenstahl said that the tax is “fair-share” because students are using millions of dollars in city services when socializing, and not contributing enough to, as NPR put it, “the city coffers.”

By Mark Andrews


UC protesters stage sit in for final demonstration

From College News - University of California students still battling board of regents over tuition hikes.

At 2:30 p.m. Monday, approximately 150 University of California--Berkeley students and community members entered the lobby of the office of University President Mark Yudof, demanding to be heard.

According to the Daily Californian, UC-Berkeley students were so outraged by the arrests of their fellow students, 45 of whom were arrested after locking themselves on the second floor of Wheeler Hall Friday, that they took their protesting to an Oakland courthouse to fight for their fellow students. The group then decided to continue the four blocks to the Office of the President to speak to Yudof. 

However,Yudof was out of the office, so the protesters agreed to meet with other University officials instead. About half an hour after arriving, Nathan Brostrom, interim executive vice president for business operations, and Larry Pitts, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, met with the protesters.

The protesters participated in a question-and-answer session with Brostrom and Pitts for almost three hours concerning the University of California budget, financial aid programs for students, police actions during the Wheeler Hall occupation, and the role both student activism and administrative action should play in lobbying Sacramento for more funding for higher education.

In true UC-Berkeley form, the protesters and officials were able to work out a plan of action for next year. The officials said they would email Yudof the students’ requests.

Pitts said he thought better communication between administrators and students could result in a unified effort to lobby Sacramento.

“We very much appreciate this peaceful interchange,” he said, according to the Daily Californian

The protesting began last week due to UC-Berkeley school officials and regents stating that next year’s tuition would be raised by 32 percent, a significant increase for a state funded school. Students will be paying $2,500 more in undergraduate fees, bringing their totals to $16,000, after room and board is factored in.

A date for a formal meeting with President Yudof has not yet been set.

By Paige Maynard


UCLA protest of tuition hike results in arrests

From College News - 14 students are reportedly arrested for disrupting a Board of Regents meeting which approved a 32 percent fee increase.

According to KTTV Fox 11, on a day where hundreds of UCLA students protested a Board of Regents meeting where a 32 percent tuition fee was approved, 14 student protesters were arrested for being disruptive and for constituting an “unlawful assembly.”

UCLA’s student paper, The Daily Bruin, which earlier in the day had had streaming video of the regents meeting, reported that the first of the two undergraduate fee increases would take effect at the start of winter quarter, with the second set to take place at the start of the 2010 fall quarter.

The Bruin also noted that UCLA protesters were dragged away singing “We Shall Overcome"--a spiritual which was the rallying cry for many civil rights rallies in the 60s--in handcuffs. Twice. The protesters apparently got animated once the public comment section of the meeting began, with many students yelling “Who’s listening to us?” and “How do you sleep at night.” Student regents then attempted to calm down the students. While they listened, their protests remain unabated.

By Jon Graef


Private College Tuition and Fee Revenue to Drop This Year, 23 Presidents Paid Over One Million

From College News - The Moody survey results say that many schools are now facing weak future performances.


Almost one-third of America’s private colleges are gearing up for a drop in tuition and fees revenue this school year, a survey from Moody’s Investor’s Service said.

The findings, reported by The Wall Street Journal, say that apparently a lot of these schools are now facing weaker future operating performances from the significant drop in revenue.

This all also comes on the heels of recent news informing the public of the highest paid college presidents out there. The Wall Street Journal reported that credit raters have been downgrading certain school debt over 2009 but not in municipal or corporate debt.

The cost of many college’s tuition has had many critics. A lot think schools should try to save money, much like the rest of us are doing. Also, don’t forget, private schools’ rates are much higher than public ones since public schools are partially paid for by taxpayers, the article reported.

The author of the Moody’s report said, “The tuition-income drop may be due to colleges needing to have tuition discounts that have been more than usual years. What colleges did was increase tuition but also financial aid and scholarships.”

Also, in the midst of all these financial woes, 23 private college presidents made over one million last year, The New York Times reported. The highest was a female president, Shirley Ann Jackson, from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. Her pay was---are you ready---$1,598,247 in 2008. However, she is a physicist and former chairwoman of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and she’s also been at the school for 10 years.

Runner-up includes David J. Sargent, the president of Suffolk University in Boston. Last year he was the number one highest paid president, the Times said.  He earned $1,496,593.

Third place was Steadman Upham, president of the University of Tulsa. His earnings were also approximately $1.5 million dollars.

By Kate Oczypok


With College Board SAT scores now released, can students write better?

From College News - Has writing section, added in 2005, been a beneficial addition to the SAT or just another reason why the SAT's are unfair?


It’s the three letters that every high school junior or senior dreads to hear: SAT.  There is no way to get around these tests. If you do not have to take the SAT (the results of which were released by the College Board today) then you will undoubtedly have to take the ACT. If you have any hope of going to college you better sharpen your pencils because there is no way out of it. 

Having recently graduated college, I pity my younger cousins who still have to go through this grueling process: the tutors, the classes, the practice tests, it’s a never-ending process monitored by those people we like to call “parents.”

The SAT has changed somewhat from when I took it.  Lucky for me, or whatever way you want to look at it, I just missed the newly added writing section that was implemented in March 2005.

This section of the SAT includes a prompt that students will need to write a response to within a time frame of 25 minutes. The essay demonstrates that they can formulate a view on a particular issue.

This essay will count for 30 percent of a student’s writing score. Students are also given 35 minutes to complete a set of multiple-choice questions that focus on ones ability to identify sentences errors, and improve sentences and paragraphs. They are given 60 minutes for the writing section.

According to College Board, the short essay students are required to write, measures their ability to organize and express ideas clearly, develop and support the main idea, and use appropriate word choice and sentence structure.

The scores are then calculated by high school and college teachers who will give the essay a score from 1 to 6. Six is the highest score a student can receive.

The new SAT claims to help colleges makes better admissions and placement decisions. However, how necessary and fair is the writing section? According to College Board, in 2009, the most diverse group of seniors had taken the SAT on record. The number of minority students taking the SAT totaled to 612,666.

For most of these students, English is not their first language; in fact 25.2 percent of test takers are not native English speakers. Hispanic students are the largest and fastest growing minority to take the SAT.  Since the writing section focuses on grammar, how is it fair to judge and potentially deny someone admittance to a college if English is not their first language?

The admissions board may take into account affirmative action, in which case taking the SAT would be pointless because a student would not be judged on their ability like the test claims, but on their ethnicity. 

The other sections of the exam, math, science, and reading comprehension keep students on a more even playing level field. Although, students with a higher income tend to score better on these tests, it is not to say that someone who is a minority cannot score higher. Math and science are subjects that remain universal, and it is a better representation of a student’s intellect.

To play devils advocate: With all of the texting and Facebook chatting going on, students are losing their ability to write. The other day a friend, who is a teacher’s aid at a high school, told me that when she was grading papers, she could not believe the amount of people who used “u” in their paper instead of “you.”

She was even more shocked to see that students did not write complete sentences. Students lose their ability to write because when they do write, it’s on a more casual basis; formal writing is not as stressed as it used to be. If students were required to learn how to write properly in high school, and for the SATs, then it may just help them out when they get to college and in the real world.

Debates on standardized testing have been around a long time. The tests may never be 100 percent fair, or truly illustrate a student’s ability. But no matter the argument, high school seniors around the world will still have to take them. For the first time since I graduated in this economy, I am glad to be a college graduate because I will never have to fill out those little bubbles again.

By Juliette Geller


College tuition on the rise due to recession

From College News - Annual tuition and fees are raised over five percent, or to an average of around $7,000.


The recession means bad news for kids who are already struggling to pay college tuition. But there’s news that those students may have an even worse time paying that tuition. According to the Los Angeles Times, not only are students facing bigger bills because of the reduced state spending on higher education, but campus endowments are lessening greatly.

If you’re enrolled (or wish to enroll) in a four-year public college, the most severe budget problems cause annual tuition and fees to raise themselves over five percent to around $7,020 this fall, the Times reported.

If you’re in the more private realm, your school saw the value of their investments drop. Private college tuition didn’t climb as much though, mostly because a lot were afraid that if they raised their prices any more, families just simply wouldn’t be able to afford to go to their schools. The article reported tuition rose to around $26,000.

Many college officials though told students not to be scared about enrolling. Basically, there are always grants and scholarships. In fact, the Times said that two-thirds of all college students receive grant aid. This aid can reduce tuition bills by more than half, the College Board study said. Pretty crazy savings I’d say.

This College Board study said that 65 percent of us students who got their bachelor’s degrees in 2007-2008 graduated with student loan debt and the average amount was about $20,000.

As bad as that seems, there are some students who have it worse that others. California is the worst state for fee raises with fee increases by more than the national averages, the Times said. The University of California 10 campus group raised undergrad fees by 9.3 percent and is planning another increase that would put fees above $10,000 by next year.  So good luck to future students on paying those bills!

Until the economy gets back on its feet, it doesn’t look like any end is in sight for those affected by college tuition. The important thing is to not panic, because if you really want to attend college and are worried about the money, things will always work out. It wouldn’t hurt to maybe look into part-time job work. Also, start looking for college scholarships early. Trust me, the earlier the better on this stuff. With patience and plenty of organization, everything will fall into place eventually. Just be patient.

By Kate Oczypok


Michigan Rep proposes free college tuition for high school graduates

From College News - Plan calls for "super lotteries and a percentage of state casinos' gross" to fund free tuition.


Michigan State Representative Fred Durhal has proposed a plan that would pay college tuition for high school graduates, according to his Web site and The Detroit News. That’s right, free college tuition. Just don’t jump for joy yet, the plan does have a few requirements. (What, you thought it would be easy?)

Called the Michigan College Tuition Act, the proposal will use no taxpayer dollars. Instead, the act will be funded by four different methods. The state would create three annual “super” lotteries, a check-off box on the state’s income tax form and corporate and foundation donations or endowments.

Finally, all active Michigan casinos would contribute on percent of their total gross to the fund.

A Democrat, Durhal’s proposal goes on to call for a state “lockbox” that would restrict these funds from being used for Michigan’s general fund or budget. That measure would require an amendment from the state Legislature and a vote by residents.

Students aiming to qualify for the plan must graduate high school with at least a 2.5 GPA. Then they must be accepted to any of Michigan’s public or private vocational or technical schools, community colleges or universities.

Taken from the Michigan House Democrats Web site, the requirements don’t stop there.

Hopeful students must have lived in Michigan for at least five straight years prior to their graduation from high school. They also must take part in one full year of community service, which includes returning to their former high school to mentor an underachieving current senior student and assist that student in bringing their grades up to at least a 2.5 GPA.

Durhal pleaded his case for the plan, according to the Detroit News: “Although there are a number of fine institutions of higher education in our state, post-secondary education is often priced out of reach for the average student and is inaccessible for disadvantaged students. We need to make sure that anyone who wants to continue learning beyond high school can do so.”

Durhal continues: “Each year, our state spends more money to incarcerate nearly 50,000 prisoners than it spends on educating our residents. If Michigan is to become a destination for advanced technologies, emerging alternative energy industries, medical research and development and other high-tech fields, we must produce a highly educated workforce. My plan will help do that.”

Still ironing out the details, Durhal has formed a workgroup to help finish the proposal. He has yet to formally present it for approval. He is currently hopeful for bipartisan support of this new plan.

By Joe Anello allows for better college comparisons

From College News - Newcomer to the college comparison Web site community was created by trusted names, but needs to cool it with the acronyms.


As a college freshman, I didn’t know my college town had a downtown area (until I got lost there) or an ecological preserve (see previous parenthetical). When I looked at schools, I thought those scholarly review sites were irrelevant, and anyway it was a thrill having to learn everything on my own.

While I still think some comparison techniques are absurd, others (like CollegeBoard or the new CollegePortraits) are a great way to compare products before making a multi-thousand dollar commitment.

Let’s travel back to your SAT prep days with an equation: CollegePortraits is to CollegeBoard as Twitter is to Facebook. CollegePortraits is an up-and-comer that is smaller by design. Where CB is in charge of Advanced Placement courses, SATs, and college rankings in a million areas, CP is a collection of a few hundred college profiles.

A profile with CP includes the basic contact and location information along with several prominent links to pages of the school’s official Web site. Its main function is as a database of the information that students care about most when considering a college.

Student/Family Information profiles categories like student characteristics, costs of attendance, areas of study, student housing and campus safety. Student Experiences/Perceptions features experiences at the school and student satisfaction, among others.

The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) is the partnership of the over 300 institutions that take part in CollegePortraits. It’s purpose is to “demonstrate accountability and stewardship to the public” according to the College Portraits Web site, and it does so by seeking out surveys that detail perks of a school and student satisfaction.

One of the four surveys the VSA uses is the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). It legitimizes anecdotal accounts of a college by surveying freshman and seniors every Spring, and compiling statistics in key areas. For example, a CP profile can show the percent of seniors who would attend the same school if they started over again.

Besides student surveys, the VSA also provides an utterly useless standardized test “as a gauge of general education outcomes.”

The Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP) is intended to compare institutions’ teaching effectiveness. It tests critical thinking, reading, writing and mathematics, and was presumably created by a descendant of the first teacher to hang a “Reading, wRiting, and ‘Rithmetic” sign in a one-room schoolhouse.

College standardized testing is pointless because there are so few academic threads that run through all the majors at even a single liberal arts school. Perhaps a more relevant indicator of the success of a school’s graduates is…the success of a school’s graduates.

That kind of information is best gauged by speaking with an admissions counselor, or a new program in the testing stages at some schools called the “campus tour.”

By Jesse Eisemann


Tax credits to improve for college students

From College News - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows more parents and students to qualify.

There’s a new article out that says tax credits are improving for college students. According to Wallet Pop, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more parents and students are going to be able to qualify for the tax credit called the American Opportunity Credit for 2009 and 2010.

According to Wallet Pop, tax Credits increase as well from $1,800 to $2,500 on the new plan.

The article explains, with help from Turbo Tax vice president Bob Meighan, that “the American Opportunity Credit is an extension and expansion of the Hope Credit” and taxpayers could need certain tax software (hmm, wonder which one) to figure out what deductions are better.

Anyone paying $4,000 or more for a single year of college can qualify for the maximum American Opportunity annual benefit of $2,500 per student, the article reported.

Also, good news for everyone about to pack up their lives again for another round of moving into the dorms or a new apartment: the new tax credit names book and other required materials to the list of qualifying expenses.

Your higher education institution should have sent out (or will be sending out) a 1098T form listing college expense fees but things like books or materials may not be on there, so students should keep the receipts, the article said.

If you’re confused, here are the facts in a nutshell, according to Wallet Pop:

- The full credit is for individuals with modified adjusted gross incomes of $80,000 or less.
- It’s $160,000 or less if married couples are filing a joint tax return, the IRS said.
- Partial credit is given to single filers if they’re making $80,000-$90,000.
- Married couples can get partial credit if they’re making $160,000-$180,000.

If you come from a family with a small amount of income, the break is partially refundable even with low tax liability, the article reported. This lets your parents and you claim some credit.

Also, don’t forget to look up and understand the difference between credits and deductions. There are differences and a good place to read more about them is here.

By Kate Oczypok


U.S. colleges offer free options in exchange for work

From College News - Colleges have students work a certain amount of hours in exchange for free room and board or tuition.


When reading for student news, I came across a story from the Detroit Free Press, which reported on the increasing phenomenon known as--wait for it--free colleges. Seriously, sound the alarm to your parents. What great places to begin your careers for free!

The Free Press reports on Deep Springs College, a free college with a most interesting history. Founded in 1917, the college is entirely student-run--they help choose faculty, the courses, and they even help with admissions decisions.

According to the Free Press, total enrollment for undergrads is at a miniscule 26 students and they’re all guys. So if you’re sick of hanging around with your lady friends, Deep Springs is apparently the place to be.

The reason the student body is so small is that Deep Springs is two-year college that accepts only seven percent of its applicants, according to the Free Press.

As with most “free” things, though, there’s a catch: All Deep Springs students are required to visit a 50,000-acre working ranch near the school for 20 hours a week to work. Their reward? Free tuition and room and board, according to the Free Press.

Unusual as it may be, the approach seems to be working. One interesting statistic that the Free Press reports is that seventy percent of Deep Springs students get a PhD or law degree eventually, and most transfer to Ivy League colleges and universities after they do their two years time.

But Deep Springs, located in California, isn’t the only free college with this business model. Another state in the union, Kentucky, has two free colleges itself: Alice Lloyd and Berea.

Alice Lloyd has students that are required to work at least 10 hours per week. While tuition is free, room and board costs about $4,000 per year. There are approximately 600 students in the school, according to the Free Press

Berea College dates as far back as 1855, and was established as both the first co-ed and interracial college in the South, according to the Free Press. Interestingly enough, Berea reportedly accepts applicants only from low-income families, with those students then required to work a set number of hours per week.

And what about Berea’s enrollment? It’s one of the bigger “free” colleges, with 1,500 and over 75 clubs, organizations and honor societies.

By Kate Oczypok


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