MOOCs Replacing SATs? I’m a Kevin Carey fan!

I’m loving the buzz around Kevin Carey, the director of the education policy program at New America. I first heard him interviewed through the weekly podcast that New America published on March 5th. He challenges the traditional college model and says that U.S. higher education is ripe for disruption. It’s a must listen for folks who are thinking about the future of higher education and how it might evolve in the next decade. (I also loved that I could listen to this podcast from SoundCloud directly from a Tweet, where I initially found the podcast, very cool).

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Carey continues to challenge the idea that 16, 17 year olds learn best from the traditional brick and mortar universities, where they sit in classrooms and learn from lectures. I particularly like his argument that MOOCs and other new assessment tools will level the application playing field and challenge what is now an outdated admissions system that most highly selective institutions still rely on to craft their newly admitted classes.

He points out that the factors used in applications, from GPAs, Testing, and Essays can all be “gamed,” and that they aren’t necessary accurate predictors of how a student will perform in college. I’m not sure that I agree with that opinion, since highly selective schools are prone to graduating higher rates of students and having them go on to succeed professionally, but I agree with his argument that more factors can show whether or not a high school student is ready for college level work.

Carey’s explanation that “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes,” makes sense, but I wonder if the students who are able to succeed in these MOOCs will be the same demographics of students who already have a leg up, with educated parents, excellent high schools and internal motivation. I love MOOCs, and I’ve presented on them through my current position with the Department of State, but I also know that they have a 2% completion rate on average, and the majority of MOOC students already have a BA degree. Of course, you see the amazing article here and there about the Mongolian 15 year old genius who took MIT MOOCs and ultimately enrolled at the prestigious institute (Carey also uses him as the ultimate poster child for what can go right in a MOOC fueled world!) …but those examples seem, well exceptional. If I’m a low income student coming from an under-resourced high school, am I going to have the tools/environment it takes to complete a MOOC course? I guess it all depends on motivation, because some of those types of students also aim for the Ivy League.

Expanded educational access through technology is definitely a positive trend, and I’m excited to read further analysis by Carey on the future of admissions.

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The Most Generous Schools for International Financial Aid

I remember sitting in on international committee day at our admissions office. The stakes were high, the school admitted less than 8 % of the applicants who applied (and that was four years ago…now the numbers are more like less than 5%!). The most stressful day; however, was the day of “international financial aid committee,” because so few were going to be considered for admission. These students literally had to walk on water. We all sat down with every member of the admissions office who read international files around the table, and post-it notes were prepared to indicate which countries on a world map hung on a wall would have successful students.

Since the university I worked for was not “need blind” for international students, when I read application files, I had to right off the bat divide up the students who were elite enough to pay (one pile) with the students who couldn’t (the other pile). Getting out of the international student financial aid pile was something short of a miracle…those stats were less than 2% some years.

While it is incredibly difficult to be awarded financial aid as an international school at the majority of universities in the U.S., it does happen. Today I want to showcase and applaud the schools that are the most generous to international students in terms of aid. Read the article carefully, as U.S. News and World Report explains the that some schools are need based while others are merit based. This could be good news for international students who would be considered middle class, who are excellent students, but wouldn’t qualify for full tuition at some of the “need based” financial aid institutions. These families may be able to afford some of the tuition but certainly not the hefty price tag of $50,000 USD a year.

If you are academically talented, have great test scores, and think you are competitive in a highly selective applicant pool, try applying to these schools with high endowments that invest in international diversity:

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Being Poor at America’s Rich Colleges

“… while poor kids are underrepresented on elite campuses, the wealthiest kids are overrepresented. At Harvard, 45.6% of undergraduates come from families with incomes above $200,000 — in other words, incomes in the top 3.8% of all American households.” 

For all the lip service to being schools that are open and welcoming to all students, many institutions like Harvard are still recruiting, admitting, and educating the nation’s wealthiest students.

Forbes author Maggie McGrath tackles a challenging topic in this article that examines the experiences of middle and lower-income students who find themselves in some of the privileged worlds of American higher education. They have the brains, motivation and toughness to succeed, but sometimes their backgrounds set them apart from their wealthy peers. I remember when I was a student at Dartmouth, wealth wasn’t always in your face, but if you thought about the fact that only about 50% of students receive financial aid, it meant that the other half of the students had families that could pay the $53,000+ a year with cold hard cash. I think there was even a discount for families that could pay the entire tuition in a lump sum. My parents were certainly not in that category.

While I applaud elite, highly selective universities and colleges for opening up their doors to low income, first generation students in order to diversify their campuses, it’s not enough just to admit the students. Faculty members are not always adept to deal with students from different backgrounds, making assumptions of students and families that can be harmful. There must be support systems in place for these students who are at times out of their comfort zone, especially in campuses were talking about wealth, money, and family background can be taboo. It’s great that schools like Stanford have invested in creating offices where students can learn about others and share experiences that they don’t feel completely isolated on a campus that seeps wealth and everyone has a seemingly carefree attitude. Many students from low income backgrounds have faced challenges in high school and beyond, but had mentors or community based organizations that supported them to be admitted to their highly selective schools. Universities need to ensure that the support continues throughout the undergraduate years to ensure that students don’t drop out. One of the best ways is to create mentoring networks of students from similar backgrounds: 1) to show that there is a community of students like them, and 2) to teach younger students how to navigate semi-adulthood while succeeding academically.

“… take it from someone who’s still navigating this often tricky terrain. Harvard’s Christian Ramirez remembers feeling alone as a low-income student at an Ivy League institution at first, but slowly realizing there were many other students like him and it was okay to ask one of them, or an administrator, for help.” 

 Did you face isolation as a student because it was taboo discuss money on your campus? Write to asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com to share your story!Widener-Pic

 

 

 

History of the Admissions Application

Today I’m sharing and interesting piece from the NYT that chronicles the history of the college application.

While I think the Common Application (with a whopping 517 colleges and universities participating) cuts down the anxiety of having to fill out multiple forms to apply to schools, I do remember my former admissions dean complaining that the ease of applying drives up applications from students who may not be competitive for that school. This year, the application is fraught with controversy, as the article mentions, because of technical errors and glitches. What you don’t want is hundreds of thousands of stressed out high school students and their parents complaining about glitches in the system that can delay or cancel an application! Good luck to the schools out there dealing with that…! Thanks to the NYT for the graphic below:

It’s the one month countdown for the Jan 1 deadline for most Regular Decision schools! Good luck!  Image

International Students Day 11/13 — Huge Virtual College Fair!

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The State Department, EducationUSA, and CollegeWeekLive are hosting a virtual college fair on 11/13! Sign up here: http://international.collegeweeklive.com/custom-signup/Education-USA/signup.html?refcode=INT_EDUSA_Post_Facebook Participating schools include UCLA, U of Arizona, and Amherst! All amazing schools!

Next week is International Education Week!

Woo hoo!!

Not to Add Fuel to the Asian Stereotype Fire…Fascinating BBC Article on Education Craze in Asia

This article about what lengths parents will go to Asia to support their students popped up on my twitter feed from the BBC, and I wanted to share it because the fact that so many Chinese students want to study in the U.S. shows two things:

1) The higher education system in the U.S. is still one of the strongest resources that America has to offer

2) There exists a perception that the Chinese education systems still lack the power to prepare individuals for success in the globalized context. I think this will change, given the university partnerships that so many U.S. schools are willing to forge with Chinese institutions, but there is still a huge benefit for international students who study in the U.S.

Some incredible stats from the article:

  • Last year an estimated 40,000 Chinese students travelled to Hong Kong to take the US college admissions exam, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SATS), which is not offered in mainland China.
  • Chinese education company, New Oriental Education, organises SAT trips to Hong Kong for $1,000 (£627) on average, and parents spend up to $8,000 (£5,020) on tutoring.
  • It does not stop there. Nearly 87% of Chinese parents said they were willing to fund study abroad.
  • 70% of Korean household expenditure, according to estimates by the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul, goes toward private education, to get an educational edge over other families.

Thinking of our American high school students competing with that firepower from Asia…wow.

Any thoughts you’d like to share? Comment below or email me asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com

Photo Credit: Reuters

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NYU and ETS Support Dis-aggregation of AAPI in Admissions — Great Report with Case Studies

I’m grateful to my friends and former colleagues who send me AAPI/Admissions related articles. Today’s update is an important one — albeit it’s a little outdated since it came out this past summer — but is JAM packed with great arguments on why admissions offices / testing organizations/ higher education in general needs to see AAPIs as separate and independent groups. I’ve argued before that clumping all AAPIs makes no sense when they have historical/immigration/income/educational attainment differences (just to name a few).

This article from Inside HigherEd gives a succinct summary of the full report. I am really impressed that Educational Testing Services, home of the GRE and TOEFL, supported this research. I have to call out the College Board SAT Test and ACT Test for stubbornly using “Asian American Pacific Islander” as one group to ID students. I think the years when I was working at Stanford, even ASIANS FROM ASIA (ie, international students) were clumped in to that data. How stupid is that? Let’s hope further research will encourage organizations to be more sophisticated about our populations.

Below are two graphs with the differences in Median Household Income for Asian American Sub-groups, and their educational attainment in the next graph. Thanks to the NYU CARE report for the data.

As always if you have comments or questions, email me at asian.am.education[at]gmail[dot]com

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