Feature Stories Campus Events

Musgrave: The Rule of Three

by Monica Musgrave

It’s no secret that college is expensive. It’s also no secret that progress towards cheaper education is slow. However, the solution might lie in something a bit unconventional: three-year degrees. With the option of three-year degrees, the obvious benefit goes toward the families and students now only having to pay three years’ worth of tuition as opposed to four. This could mean up to $65,480 in savings for a family (assuming no financial aid is given).

The only problem? There isn’t just one problem.

While many of the arguments against widespread availability of three-year degrees in colleges center on the colleges themselves, it’s important to start with the main beneficiary: the student. It is argued that students in the three-year track would lose some of the college experience. They might not be able to engage in activities as much as they would like because their time on campus is shortened and mired in school work. However, this argument ignores the fact that three years is plenty of time to become engaged in campus life. Current Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth, a beneficiary of a three-year degree, was able to be “president of fraternity, published fiction, took music lessons, held down more than one job, and sought to excel in classes” (De Vise). And President Roth is no exception. For students, the realization that they’re only there for three years is motivation to take full advantage of all their school has to offer.

But what if widespread three-year degree programs encourage parents to place more pressure on their student(s)? To ask this, however, would just be ignoring the fact that students already receive pressure from their parents, no matter how loving and understanding they may be. But what if the student decides he or she doesn’t want to complete the three-year track anymore, or if someone who wasn’t originally in the three-year program wants to jump in? Well, for the student that wishes to leave the program, it would be no more complicated than that: leave. For the student that wishes to jump into the program, while it would be more difficult catching up on credits, it is not impossible. College students already do this, deciding they want to graduate a semester or a year early, spending their summers earning extra credits to accomplish this goal.

But won’t employers find three-year degree students less desirable, since they’re younger and less experienced? While yes, the students are younger, an employer can see that a student who graduates in three years is driven and a hard worker. Besides, the student still graduates with the same degree that requires the same credits as their four-year competitor. Furthermore, the student could easily opt into completing an internship for course credit, a program that many schools already offer, giving them experience their future employer might want.

Okay… but won’t this give more benefits to the more well-off students that come into college with AP or IB credit? Yes, there’s no denying that students from higher income backgrounds are likely to have an easier time with the three-year degree given their already accrued credits. However, those same students from more affluent backgrounds

are also the students least likely to take this route. Given the main motivation for graduating early is financial, those more well off are less likely to be taken with the idea of getting their degree in three years. Regardless, three-year degrees will benefit low-income students immensely and be an incredible motivator for these students to attend college now that it is more affordable.

Okay, but what about the eight credits (32 credits ÷ 4 years = 8 credits/year) that three-year students get essentially for free? Well, with the implementation of MOOCs, such an issue can be avoided at low cost to the student, as low as $25 per course. In the sample pathway, the student is taking 11 credits online, more than compensating the eight-credit loss. A school could even require a mandatory number of online courses to be taken by the student to ensure no loss. But wouldn’t the MOOCs the student would take be subpar? Well, given the fact that many MOOCs come from high-caliber universities like MIT, Harvard, and UC Berkeley, no. The schools could create a catalogue of approved MOOCs the student could take for satisfactory credit. This would help maintain education to the level that the college desires.

Okay, so there’s nothing but benefits for the students involved, but what about the college? These students are only paying for three years of education and getting four years’ worth. Doesn’t that mean that the college will lose money? Yes, but only if colleges keep the same model they have now. Instead, students could have the option to apply to the three-year degree program at the college within their regular application. In the beginning, schools could accept a number of students equivalent to 12.5% of the total class size into the three-year program. To help offset the decrease of students in the final fourth year, the college could then to accept a number of students equivalent to 10% of the total class size into the regular four-year group. These numbers are hypothetical of course, and could easily be adapted and personalized for each college. By using three-year degrees as a selling point to increase class size, these institutions are able to make up the difference from the new students’ tuition.

But wait… doesn’t that mean that the talent pool of the college would go down? No, actually. Even at Ivy Leagues’ admissions desks, there is an overabundance of talent. Even former dean of admission at both Stanford and Princeton, Fred Hargadon, said that what admissions does is “precision guesswork” (O’Connor). In fact, once the outliers are removed from the application pool (either underqualified or overqualified), that still leaves anywhere from 60% to 80% of applications where a student is qualified to get in. From there, SAT scores and GPAs have negligible differences, and only personal essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars are left as evaluators (Ollove). One of the reasons why they don’t get in is because the schools lack the space. But once the implementation of three-year degree programs is put in place, an effort to increase class size is able to be made. In short, there’s no scarcity of qualified applicants, even at the highest level.

Okay, but what about the increase in the size of the student body? Won’t that put a strain on the school? While yes, this may be true, the college can adapt the numbers in any way they wish to fit their school better. Moreover, bringing in more students will bring in more alumni. Alumni that can donate in the future, maybe even to aid the three-year program. Finally, the implementation of three-year degrees would only increase accessibility for the school, increasing its status in the eyes of everyone: peer institutions, potential students, parents, ranking systems, etc.

All in all, three-year programs really aren’t as difficult to implement as they initially seem.

Monica Musgrave, of the Class of 2018, is from Clayton, N.C.

Works Cited

De Vise, Daniel. “Wesleyan President: A Degree in ‘Three Marvelous Years’.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 May 2012. Web. 20 May 2015.

Figueroa, Rafael S. “A College Counselor’s View of Affirmative Action.” The Chronicle of Higher Education: Head Count. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 May 2015.

Goldman, Leah. “The 10 Most Expensive Colleges In America.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 May 2015.

O’Connor, Patrick. “Why Harvard Doesn’t Take Every Straight A Student.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 22 May 2015.

Ollove, Michael. “Picking between Students on a Whim and a Prayer.” The Baltimore Sun: College Park. The Baltimore Sun, 04 Mar. 2001. Web. 22 May 2015.

“Three-Year Option.” Wesleyan University Academics. Wesleyan University, n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

Bearden: Why State Schools Should Offer Three-Year Programs

by Caroline Bearden

When a person thinks of college, they imagine the best four years of their life, the years where they learned about what interested them and their social life was more than fulfilling. But what if those four years could be three years, saving families money and allowing a student to jump into the labor force more quickly? The time is now to implement change in the way we think about college, and state schools are where these three-year programs should start.

You might be thinking, why should the state schools pilot these three-year programs as opposed to smaller liberal arts colleges? The answer is that with big state schools, more students would be able to enroll in a three-year program, so experts would be able to better evaluate the success of a three-year system. Furthermore, state schools often require fewer core classes than small liberal arts colleges, allowing freshmen to get started with classes towards their intended major more quickly. This allows students to fast track their learning and enables them to take all of their required classes for their major in a shorter amount of time.

Summer sessions would be a requirement in order to earn enough credits to graduate in a three-year program, but these sessions are relatively inexpensive for students and families. According to Wesleyan president Michael Roth, even with summer session expenses, families save nearly twenty percent in these three-year programs. That is a significant amount of money, especially for families of lower socioeconomic status. For these families struggling to decide whether or not they can send their child to college, these savings in a three-year program would enable more families to pay for their child’s education. While a student does sacrifice a few weeks in their summer vacation to go to school, the savings more than make up for it.

Many people believe that four years of college is important for a young adult to grow and finish maturing. Some people might think three years is just too short a time span for a student to be ready to go out into the real world. However I am inclined to think the opposite is true. The first two years of college is the time that students grow the most, transitioning fully from high school adolescence into young adult life. It is incredibly difficult to tell a junior and senior student apart on a campus based on how they comport themselves, while it is easy to tell a freshman apart from an upperclassman. In a three-year program, students would grow even more quickly in their characters, as they would be forced to balance more responsibilities in a faster paced educational system. They would be just as ready and capable to go off to their first job as a traditional college senior.

A three-year program would not be for everyone. Students applying to these programs would have to have a fairly concrete idea of what they want to study or a career they want to pursue, as there would be little time to change majors and graduate in three years. The students who would benefit most would also come into college with some AP credit to account for foundation or distribution requirements. These programs would most immediately benefit students of lower socioeconomic families that are in the top of their class but just can’t afford to go to college. But there would be benefits too for the campuses as these programs would bring diversity to schools, allowing for a more fulfilling and dynamic undergraduate experience.

These three-year programs, starting in state schools, would help solve the problem of accessibility of higher education as well as the expense without sacrificing quality. The labor market would also benefit greatly from gaining more qualified applicants more quickly, spurring on the economy at a faster rate. These three-year programs are a first step in solving some of the big issues with higher education, while still leaving the traditional four-year college in tact for the families who are still willing to pay full price for that forth year.

Caroline Bearden, of the Class of 2016, is from Summit, N.J.

Price: Reaching Out to Low-Income Families Before The Application Process

by Hayley Price

The question of how to increase economic diversity in schools circles the minds of numerous politicians, educators and admissions officers today. Low-income students stand behind high-income students when it comes to the types of schools they attend. People apply to college in hopes of social mobility and advantages in their future, but these outcomes tend to benefit the wealthy more than those less well off. Trends show that low-income students apply to less selective colleges, actually attend a college less often, and if they attend less graduate than higher-income families. Politicians should focus efforts and money on creating services to change these issues. If low-income students had the information and assistance, they would apply and attend schools that fit their academic and economic needs. In my opinions these low-income students need the information ahead of time and before they begin the application process.

Many low-income families are falling through the cracks when it comes to information about college. Often students have parents that did not attend college and may attend schools with poor or no college counselors. With such little guidance these disadvantaged students often find themselves lost and alone when it comes time to apply for college. With extensive financial aid packets, SATs, essays, and thousands of colleges it is no wonder the numbers show less low-income students applying to college. If these students simply were taught the availability of aid to assist them when paying for all these processes of application, the number of low-income applicants would rise drastically. Not only that, but if students had information packets and counselors to walk them step-by-step through each process that must be done to apply to schools more of these students would apply to college.

If the students decide to apply to college they often go to the less selective colleges. Students at under matched schools may be less prepared after completion because their schooling did not challenge them and therefore did not prepare them for the job market. If better college counselors were placed in low-income schools students could receive better information about colleges that would prepare them for the future job market as well as meet their financial needs. The daunting sticker price of colleges deters numerous students from applying to prestigious institution, but many of those big name schools are the ones that have large financial aid packets and may prepare them more for finding a fulfilling career. Some students also just do not know what a liberal arts college is for example. Some students lack basic information about schools and therefore do not even attempt to apply to what they do not know. Schools need to target low-income families and send information packets on the extent of financial aid and the future that may lie ahead after attending a more selective school. If these students simply had the information about college they would be much more likely to apply to selective colleges.

The final issue facing low-income students revolves around graduation rates. Statistics show low-income students are less likely to graduate than their wealthier peers. This may be for a variety reasons including: not enough money to complete school, boredom if the school is not challenging enough, dropping out to get a job, or not fitting in. Many of these problems would not occur if the students simply had proper education about different institutions ahead of time. Information packets about financial aid, difficulty, basic school atmosphere and activities on campus could help these students pick a college more tailored to their needs. Once again, college counselors with better knowledge about financial aid could help these students pick a school they could afford to attend for four years. Finally, if students saw trends about how attending college, and specifically a college that fits their academic needs, would help their career path in the long run, students would see the benefit of going to school and staying to finish the degree.

Statistics prove that families in bottom quintiles need college degrees more than those in the higher quintiles. Children at the top are much more likely to stay at the top, but lower groups need the college degree to have a shot at social mobility. Low-income families are in a vicious cycle of needing the degree more, but either not having the means to pay for school, not attending school or the right school, or not graduating and often leaving with more debt. These issues need to be addressed to allow social mobility in our country, and I believe the first step is to tackle students in high school who have yet to apply and supply them with the information and faculty to allow them to reach these goals.

Hayley Price, of the Class of 2018, is from Atlanta, Ga.

Nedell: You're Only in College Once

by Kendra Nedell

The ability to cut college costs would be appealing to every student and parent. Going to school for three years instead of four could save families thousands, especially at smaller liberal arts schools. This sounds so great, but it might just be too good to be true, especially for everyone. Cutting a year off of college would save money for those students who are even able to get everything done in three years, but it could easily limit the exploration of other important areas that one takes part in during their college career.

First off, it is hard to give up a year of college. Your forth year cumulates your time as a student for some and is one more year without true “real world” responsibilities. Everyone loves being in college with their friends and wants to drag out this time for as long as possible. Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, is correct in saying that giving up your last year is a decision you have to be willing to make; you have to decide if saving the money is worth loosing a year of college. For many it is, and for others it probably isn’t. However, for those families who do need that money, it would probably be worth it.

These are the families who need to guarantee that their students are prepared to rush through college. Yet these are the students who are often least prepared during high school. One component that would help a three-year completion is entering college with many credits from AP and IB exams. Many students from poorer backgrounds do not always attend high schools where they can take an abundant number of these exams or if they are offered, the teachers might not prepare them as well as a student at a higher achieving preparatory school.

These students may also have to work during summers to earn money that they would not be able to earn if they were required to take summer classes. Yes, it would be cheaper to take a summer class and save a years worth of tuition, but those scouring for funds might need that little bit of extra income in the present even if it will just go straight back into education. Even for those students who don’t require the extra summer income, the summer job experience would be lost. A majority of students begin with internships over their summer years, especially sophomore through senior years of college. These often turn into jobs where the student impresses the employer who then asks them to continue working at their company. Without these summer options, students could lack some of the experience they really should have before entering this “real world” after college.

For any student looking into completing college in three years, they must weigh their losses. If one must overload every semester and spend every day in class and in the library after those classes commence, there will not be significant time for anything else. Not only would this cut down on social lives and time with friends, but it would also limit their ability to participate in numerous clubs, athletics, Greek life, student councils, and any other external interests. Roth almost appears as a superhuman from this point of view, as he pursued music, employment, Greek life, and even publishing. This honestly just isn’t possible for most people to do while still committing themselves to their academics and focusing on completing everything in three years. These external activities are huge in developing a person, as college is often seen as the time when young people mature into adults and find their true passions and interests. If these components are removed from one’s college experience, what impacts will that have on their self-development?

Not only will a three-year college track be challenging for most students, but the schools will also have to figure out how to manage it. It isn’t as easy as just letting students overload, come in with many credits, and do online programs. Many higher education institutions have strict rules about what external classes they give credit for and how many credits students can bring from high school. A more rigid three-year program would have to be developed. Even with this, they would still have to figure out if the students would pay for three semesters. If an undergraduate takes the required amount of credits at their school in three years instead of four, why are they only paying for three years if they are still using the resources it would take to do it in four years? These are all questions that schools would have to look at if they thought about moving towards three-year options.

Cutting college costs sounds perfect for families struggling to pay for four years, or even those who could substantially benefit from saving the extra money. However, it is a question of importance as well as a question of practicality. Is it worth giving up extracurricular activities and possibly summers in order to cut off a year of college? Are students able to come in with enough credits and get enough credits fast enough to complete school in three years? It comes down to a student-by-student and family-by-family basis. If the answer to both of these questions is yes, than it makes complete sense to finish school in three years. However, this will likely be very difficult for those students who need it most.

Kendra Nedell, of the Class of 2018, is from Spotsylvania, Va.

Parker: Online Education Will Supplement, Not Supplant Traditional Colleges

by Matthew Parker

In today’s discussion revolving around higher education, online courses are beginning to dominate the conversation. Whether you are a supporter or a detractor, the fact remains that online education is changing the landscape of college education. Online classes are more flexible, more accessible, and most importantly, they are cheaper. Many people believe that MOOC’s, which are servicing upwards of 100,000 students at one time, and other forms of online education, will eventually replace the traditional four-year college as we know it today. Well as of now, even though the MOOC’s may start with huge numbers, only about 7% of people on average complete the MOOC, according to one study. Also, very few of these MOOC’s actually offer credit for completion, and the one’s that do are not free. So will these MOOC’s and other forms of online education eventually supplant the traditional four-year college? Well, from the results of MOOC’s so far and for other reasons, I believe that online education will not carry the serious consequences that many expect. While some lower-tier institutions may eventually close their doors if prices continue to climb and the online education system is fine-tuned, the traditional college landscape on a whole will remain relatively unscathed.

There are many reasons as to why I believe that the traditional four-year college, as we have come to know them, will remain intact. First, there is already a huge market of untapped students in the category of those that graduate from high school but do not go on to college. For the 2014-2015 school year, there will be around 3.3 million high school graduates, but as of last year, only 65.9% of high school graduates go on to college. That means there will be around 1,125,300 eighteen year-olds that finish high school, but will not go on to college. The main reason for this is the cost of college, so these students would benefit greatly from a cheaper alternative to higher education. If the goal of online education is to make college more accessible and more affordable, online education could reach out to millions of potential students without having a negative effect on the traditional four-year college.

The second reason that online education will not be able to replace traditional four-year colleges is that there are certain limitations that online education will not be able to fix regardless of how many improvements are made to the system. Students that are pre-med will not able to do labs, dissections, etc. without hands on experience with other lab partners while under the watch of a professor. A pre-law student will not be able to participate in moot court or mock trial from his laptop. An engineering major would be hard pressed to collaborate with partners, design a bridge, and then actually create the bridge with their partners. Invaluable experiences such as these would be lost behind a screen, giving four-year colleges a huge advantage over online education that quite simply can’t be mitigated.

Another reason that online education will not fully supplant the traditional four-year college is a little more difficult to define, but nonetheless is vital to the success of students: independent growth. The four-year residential college experience makes the student become more and more independent as the years go on. Many people move off campus after a year or two and begin to learn how to live on their own. Budgeting and time management become vital to a college student’s success, not just in college, but also in the workforce, and these sort of lessons can not be learned in front of a computer. That eighteen year old high school graduate pursuing online education would most likely have to spend his or her next four years or so at home, and then finally upon graduating, would either be sent out into the real world with no prior experience of living alone, or be a 24 year old still living with his or her parents. I think both children and parents would agree that is not an ideal route. Traditional four-year colleges allow for an eighteen year old to naturally mature, and grow more independent as they take on more and more responsibilities.

The final reason that four-year residential college will continue to exist, even with the threat of online education, is an abstract concept that can be extremely difficult to define or quantify: the college experience. The college experience consists of social experiences, friendships, networking, college amenities, athletics, and more. These things all contribute to the personal enhancement of self that online education will never be able to replicate. The college experience can be anything from conversations in the dining hall with people on your floor on the differing views you all have on the role of government, to playing in your conference championship game, to going on a weekend camping trip through your school’s outing club. Some argue that the hefty prices colleges carry far outweigh the benefits of such experiences, and in a way they may be right. The 31 year old single mom may not care about those things, she just wants to go back to college to get her bachelor’s degree because she knows the earning potential with a college degree is a lot more than only having her high school diploma. In that case online education may be an ideal fit. For the average eighteen year old though, with their physical and mental prime ahead of them, the experiences and opportunities afforded to them through a four-year residential college make it an incredibly desirable option. Even with the prospect of student debt, the earning potential with a college degree coupled with “college experience” will forever make the traditional four-year institution the primary vessel of higher education.

While online education continues to grow, there are still far too many flaws and shortcomings to make it a potential threat to the traditional four-year college. Some of these shortcomings will be made up in an unknown amount of time, but others will continue to persist. Colleges will incorporate online components to their curriculum in order to reduce costs and be more accessible, making the prospect of a complete takeover by online education that more implausible. There are still too many things that one can get out of a traditional four-year college that will always make it a far more desirable option than online education.

Matthew Parker, of the Class of 2018, is from Owings, Md.

Boyd: Online Education — Present and Future

by Annie B. Boyd

Many people think that the answer to fixing the cost, quality and access crises in higher education is the use of online courses. Massive Open Online Courses or “MOOCs” have been increasing in availability and popularity. Even the most prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford have experimented with them. But until technology improves, MOOCs can only improve the cost and access of higher education while sacrificing quality or they can keep quality and improve access somewhat while still keeping cost relatively high. This is why online courses should only presently be used in addition to traditional, face-to-face classrooms.

The idea behind a MOOC is that students all over the world can be taught by the most elite professors whenever is convenient for them. This sounds great on paper but MOOCs remove lots of elements of quality that are brought by a classroom setting. First, there is no interaction between professor and student or between students. While there would not be a lot of this interaction in a large lecture class anyway, it is also difficult or sometimes impossible to even ask the professor questions about the material. While I have never taken a MOOC, I took an online course on a smaller scale this past semester. INTR is a course required for many majors at Washington and Lee University. It is a computer literacy class done online by watching videos and then taking tests. I found it difficult to even get help from the professor in charge of this. There are usually about seven sections offered with around 30 students in each. With 210 students, it was very difficult for the professor to be able to answer any questions. Even during testing periods, which were with individual sections, it was frustrating to try to ask questions because of the amount of students. I could not imagine being confused and needing to ask a question in a MOOC. Another problem with MOOCs that sacrifices quality is the form of assessment. In most cases, there are only multiple choice quizzes or tests. While these are sometimes appropriate for some subjects, they are usually not the most challenging or effective way to test students. Especially today, as schools are moving away from memorization of facts and toward application of knowledge, multiple choice is an outdated form of testing. In order to have more comprehensive assessments, classes would need to be smaller and more faculty would need to be hired which would raise the cost and lower the access.

At least for the next few years, the best place for online classes in higher education is alongside traditional classroom learning. Websites like Kahn Academy can improve students learning experience but cannot replace the classroom setting. Additionally, smaller online courses can be helpful for students who need to take classes that their school does not offer. Small online classes can be more interactive through the use of Skype and can have effective forms of assessment since the professor does not have as many students. This is definitely helpful; it just does not help lower costs as classes have to be small so there need to be more faculty. It does, however broaden the access somewhat since students are able to take the courses they need regardless of if their school offers them.

In the future when online courses can offer high quality learning, personalized interaction and effective assessment, they will become a well-recognized form of higher education. With initiatives like Project Minerva, traditional, residential campuses with classroom learning will become a minority in higher education. Technology is being developed that will allow professors to get real-time feedback from their MOOCs that captures student reactions via their webcams. There will be more efficient ways than Skype for large groups of people to communicate which will facilitate a more interactive experience for a large group of people. As online education becomes more credible, colleges will be able to move away from residential settings and follow something like Project Minerva’s model, allowing costs to be cut as campuses will not be traditional and have residential dorms and other expensive buildings and centers but will be able to be more fluid.

While online courses might not be the most effective or respected way of learning in higher education right now. They certainly will start to be. With technological advances, I think society will undergo a cultural shift. The most elite and oldest of the traditional universities will continue to exist for a long time. But, lesser universities will have to shift to non-traditional methods to keep cost down and to continue to attract students.

Annie B. Boyd, of the Class of 2018, is from Martinsville, Va.

Case: All About The Experience

by Elizabeth Case

As years pass by, computers get smaller, cell phones get faster, and cars get more automatic. It is no secret that our world is developing new technology with one goal in mind: to make whatever needs to be modified more efficient. With an increase in efficiency comes an increase in reliance on technology—as technology does more and more for us, we have less and less to do for ourselves. Since new technology has helped to make our lives easier, we try to implement it whenever we can: in business, in communication, and even in education. In April 2015, Arizona State University announced that by Fall 2016, freshmen will be able to complete their entire first year of college online. Although other universities may not be making as drastic of changes, they are certainly searching for ways in which students can fulfill some of their required courses online. At a glance, this increase in efficiency may appear beneficial to both students and faculty; however, when you look closer, you realize that this adjustment would cause students to miss out on many key learning experiences throughout their college careers.

When a student takes courses online, he or she misses out on what Andrew Delbanco calls “lateral learning” in his book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. In an intimate classroom setting, students and professors can interact with each other and explore the materials that they read. During these interactions, they form new hypotheses and discoveries, as well as arrive at new questions. In an online course, this is not possible. A live class is composed of a unique array of students with different backgrounds and perspectives. This allows students to question not only the professor’s but also each other’s ideas and opinions, resulting in a conversation and conclusion distinct to a given class. A professor can give two separate classes the same readings and ask them the same questions, but the conversations will never be identical. This experience unique to a real classroom setting can clearly never occur in an online course, thus putting students who take classes online at a disadvantage. A main component of the so-called “college experience” is learning not only from your professor, but also from your peers—an aspect unattainable in online courses.

To me, one of the biggest dissimilarities (if not the biggest) between high school and college is living on your own. In high school we have curfews, chores, and other sets of rules. Our parents more or less control our lives, giving us relatively little independence. However, once we unpack all of our belongings in our dorm room and send our parents on their way, we have a newfound independence that we have never had before. No one forces you to wake up in the morning to go to class. No one tells you that you cannot go out to a party on a given night. No one is there to bring you to the doctor when you’re sick. From this experience, students learn how to mature and take care of themselves, while still having their college or university at hand if they need anything. College is one step closer to the real world. Those who take online classes do not have the advantage of easing their way into the working world. They would be overwhelmed by the vast differences between living at home with Mom and Dad and living alone in the working world. Not only this, but students taking online courses would also miss out on maturing and becoming an adult. College students generally have to deal with their own healthcare, classes, bank accounts, travelling, and rent, skills that are valuable in the real world. Doing all of this on their own would not simple overwhelm online students, but probably be impossible for them, making their important first years at work extremely strenuous.

In our busy world, it is easy to confuse fast for efficient. Just because something takes a shorter time, does not mean it is better; in fact, too often processes are rushed and people make mistakes. One of the main arguments for MOOCS (massive online classes) is that students can take classes and earn credits whenever they want, allowing them to fulfill their course requirements quickly. I believe that there is a reason that college has historically lasted four years. Each year, a student matures a great deal; the difference between a freshman and senior in college as far as maturity goes is drastic. Attempting to speed up the college experience could be very harmful to students, as they do not have the opportunity to fully mature and learn from their mistakes. Furthermore, taking online classes to cut a year or even a semester off of college is not necessarily efficient. As discussed in Nathan Heller’s article “Laptop U,” the grading and feedback methods of MOOCS are shaky at best, meaning that the class may not be as valuable to a student as sitting in a classroom and waiting an extra four months to graduate.

On one hand, there is no harm in taking one or maybe two online courses in order to fulfill general requirements. On the other hand, online classes start to become dangerous when students use them to complete a whole year’s worth of courses. We get much more out of a classroom setting in which students and professors have lively conversations about the existence of free will than we get out of sitting in front of our computers listening to a voice explain what the mockingbird symbolizes in To Kill A Mockingbird. Students are not able to form their own opinions and ideas with online courses, a talent nearly priceless in the real world. In addition, a high school student needs a fair amount of time to mature before tackling the working world all by his or her self; college is the perfect place for a student to do that. Although it appears that higher education is on track to be completely online, this cannot be the case, because the college experience would be lost, degrading the value of college itself tremendously.

Elizabeth Case, of the Class of 2018, is from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Sands: More Money, More Problems

by Maggie Sands

1,000,000,000,000. It’s a number we’ve all heard in the media: student debt in the United States has surpassed one trillion dollars. As the cost of college—even that of the net price—continues to rise, schools are giving more institutional grants; but, at the same time, low-income and middle class families are forced to take out more loans to pay for higher education. However, the problem is not so much in the amount of debt students have, but instead in how this debt is repaid. There is an inevitable connection in which as the number of government loans increase, the number of defaults on those loans also increases. Since the cost of college does not seem to be decreasing any time soon, reform measures should be focused on student repayment of federal loans in order to decrease the number of defaults.

One of the upcoming reforms to tackle what some may consider a student loan crisis is the proposal of income-based repayment. In this method of expunging student loan debt, students are given ten years after they graduate to repay their debt as a certain percentage of their income each month. On the surface, it seems as if a crisis has been averted—in a month, a person will never be asked to pay an amount that they do not possess because it is always a percentage of their earnings. And what if someone can’t pay off his or her loan in ten years? Those who complete their payment before the ten years end continue to pay to make up for those who can’t. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Two major aspects of this proposal that I believe require consideration include the decision to set a concrete timeline for repayment as well as the method’s effect of students’ choice of major.

In the current proposal, a strict amount of time (10 years) is outlined as the period in which students must pay back their loan debt. Since repayment is based on a percentage of income, graduates who make larger amounts of money may repay their debt before the ten years is over, and low-income graduates may not be able to pay off their debt in ten years. The proposed solution to this issue is that even after full debt is repaid, previous debt-holders must continue to pay a percentage of their income for the entire ten years in order to make up for the lost repayment by low-income graduates. However, high-income graduates would likely not approve of paying for someone else’s debt if they have already paid their own. If people dislike the idea of paying for someone else’s education debt, it could be suggested that loan debt is still paid back based on income percentages but without a strict deadline. But in this case, low-income graduates could be in debt for the rest of their lives. Both of these options have pros and cons, and while this is an ideologically charged issue with disagreements in opinion from either side of the aisle, the greatest questions that this issue raises is that of education as a societal good.

Early in American history, it was believed that education was essential for the political health of the country. However, today that topic is debated. Some argue that it is important to have an educated public—we do, after all, mandate education until a certain age and have public schools funded by taxpayers’ money. Although free education ends with high school, the government does provide federal aid and loans to students for higher education. In one respect, if taxpayers already pay for education across the country, how different it is for previously indebted graduates to continue to pay off someone else’s debt? At the same time, some people find education to be a private benefit as it is about the discovery and production of new information, with the goal to make one’s mind an interesting place to live for a lifetime. If this is the case, then people would argue that the sacrifice they make for their education is purely their own, and they should be responsible for compensating for any borrowed money. Because the issue of education as a public good is so contested, it is difficult to determine whether others are responsible for paying for the debt of others.

Additionally, when considering the prospect of income-based repayment, there is the potential for an adverse effect on students choosing majors. There is argument today that students going into college are too career-driven and aren’t enjoying higher education for the experience and love of learning that used to convince students to attend college. Decades ago, students chose majors that fit their passions and took classes that genuinely interested them. However, today that is not the case. There are articles all over the internet with headlines such as “Highest Paying College Majors” and “To Make the Most Money, Major in This”, suggesting that students’ top priority is to graduate with a high-paying job. If income-based repayment includes a strict amount of time in which graduates pay back their debt, students may gradually begin to more frequently choose majors because they are passionate about them rather than for the salary they will grant them after graduation because there is less pressure to pay off the entirety of their student loan debt. However, this could result in less high-paying careers and therefore less extra money to offset the cost of low-income graduate debt at the end of the ten years. On the other hand, if graduates are given a lifetime to pay off debt but they must pay it themselves, it would further influence students to pick high-paying majors in order to pay off debt as quickly as possible and reduce the chance that they default on their loan. While it would eliminate passion from major selection, it would hold every student accountable for the debt that they accrue.

There are pros and cons to both the idea of a fixed period for income-based repayment as well as lifetime repayment in terms of major selection and education as a societal good. It raises the question of whether education benefits an entire society, and therefore whether others should aid in paying back a single students’ loan debt. Additionally, this issue questions whether our society is moving to be completely career-driven going into college and whether or not passion should play a role in choosing a major. Income-based repayment has the potential to become a successful reform for settlement of student loan debt, but there are many factors to consider before it can be implemented on a large scale.

Maggie Sands, of the Class of 2018, is from Glen Arm, Md.

Hoskin: Social Class Distinction and College Success

by Hannah Hoskin

As tuition continues to rise at public and private universities across America, the striking similarity between social class distinction and the hierarchy of higher education is more apparent than ever. The current structure of college and higher education systems reflects the issues surrounding inequality of income throughout the nation; the most prestigious universities possess the largest percentages of students from privileged families and some of the smallest percentages of students from low-income families. Performance on the SAT and ACT influence this trend to a certain extent, but test scores do not fully explain the controversial hierarchy associated with college acceptance, attendance, and retention. The wealthy have numerous unfair advantages over low-income families, such as ability to afford extracurricular activities, SAT/ACT and AP test prep, and better access to information about colleges. Students from low-income families are also plagued with more problems when trying to attend college such as financial aid issues and family obligations, leading to lower graduation rates. Income inequality and social class are substantial issues that will greatly affect the future of higher education in America if changes in the higher education system are not made.

Students from high-income families have a significant advantage over students from low-income families regarding ease of being admitted to top colleges and earning four-year degrees. Children from privileged families have the opportunities to participate in copious numbers of extracurricular activities, leading to more decorative and impressive resumes. Wealthy families are able to pay lofty sums of money to ensure that their children receive the best possible SAT, ACT, and AP test preparation and tutoring. Additionally, if wealthy parents are not satisfied with the caliber of the public school system their children attend, they can afford to send their children to high caliber, college preparatory private schools. Students from low-income families most likely reside in areas with ill-equipped public school systems and therefore do not receive the same quality of education as wealthier students. Public schools in poor areas do not offer as many AP courses as public schools in wealthy areas or private schools, further inhibiting poor students from succeeding and getting into good colleges. Despite setbacks such as these, some poor students achieve high grades and excellent SAT and ACT scores. However, College Board president David Coleman reports that over half of the students from low-income families who score in the top ten percent on the SAT and ACT don’t even apply to the most prestigious institutions in the nation. The influence of social class distinction and growing up in economically disadvantaged environments can negatively influence poor students, blinding them to all of the opportunities they have in the higher education setting.

The lack of admission of students from poor families into good colleges only composes a part of the issue of the future of higher education in America. Graduation and retention rates are more telling with regards to the relationship between socioeconomic status and the higher education hierarchy. Students from low-income families are significantly less likely to earn a four-year degree by age 24 than students from well-off families; even poor students who score between 1200 and 1600 (on SAT 1600 scale) on the SAT are forty percent less likely to earn a degree than students from wealthy families. This astounding graduation gap is the result of a number of issues, including ill preparation for the rigor of college, financial aid issues, and family obligations. Students from economically disadvantaged communities do not experience the same rigor of academic work in high school as students from wealthy backgrounds; when poor students actually get to college and begin taking classes, they can be discouraged by failure and lack of preparation. The decreased amount of government funding for college costs can leave disadvantaged students struggling under massive student loans and enormous amounts of debt. Students from low-income families are also more likely to be forced to return home due to family obligations; oftentimes the student must return to work due to inability of the parents or guardians to make ends meet on their own and support the family.

Though increasing numbers of students are choosing to attend college as time progresses, the higher education system is becoming more sorted by class. The future of higher education in America is riddled with uncertainty and a drastic number of issues regarding decreasing opportunities for students from low-income families. The increase in tuition coupled with decrease in federal financial aid leaves poor students either unable to attend college at all or struggling under tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Students from low-income families face significantly more problems when trying to get into and complete college, while the wealthy have the advantage of extracurricular activities, SAT/ACT and AP test prep, and better access to college information. There are and will continue to be substantial issues relating to the future of higher education in America surrounding social class distinction and college opportunities for students from poor families, especially if the higher education system continues to operate in the same manner it is today.

Hannah Hoskin, of the Class of 2018, is from Berkeley Lake, Ga.

Harrigan: Four Years, Four Cities, One Platform

by Ravenel Harrigan

The future of higher education has been expanded from the traditional classroom setting to teacher lectures online to live online platforms. Each model caters to students’ education in various ways, but Minerva, an online platform university, is a new form of education worth looking into further. It is different than the typical university, in which there is no campus with a dining hall, gym or library. There are administrative offices and a dorm in which all students live together allowing for constant lateral learning. Students are required to supply themselves with an Apple laptop in order to take part of Minerva’s seminars on the platform. Since the professor is actually present on the platform, not just a recorded video, it keeps students attentive since they are continually watched. Minerva is a model worth considering because of the active learning through group exercises, ability to obtain an educational experience in four cities over four years, and the freshmen “habits of mind” and “foundational concepts” courses.

Minerva takes group work to a new level. Although the students are not physically present with one another, the professor can easily group students together by a click of a button, which makes all students vanish from the screen except the ones in your group. This cuts back on wasted class time of students trying to pair themselves and the shuffling of desks. All Minerva courses are small, seminar based classes, allowing groups to work together intimately, rather than at a big university that has large classes and minimal group discussions. Since the classes are seminars, not lectures, this keeps students attentive and constantly intermingling with one another. Lectures are easy to teach, but hard to learn from because there is little discussion or participation to keep one’s attention. I agree with Minerva’s model of not having lecture classes, especially because it is only catering to one type of learner. The various ways the teachers can manipulate the screen from giving a short quiz to grouping students within a second to open discussions on the platform allows multiple ways of understanding concepts.

Unlike most other universities, freshmen 101 courses do not exist, but instead the “habits of mind” and “foundational concepts” are the first-year classes. During a regular freshmen 101 class, the majority of material has either been previously taught in high school or useless knowledge for the future. By eliminating 101’s it allows the curriculum to start from the basis of the “habits of mind” and “foundational concepts” courses, which are the core for all logical thinking (Wood). These classes develop critical thinking in all fields. For example, in the sciences, since there are no labs, instead of conducting an experiment, the students would acquire a deep understanding for why a constant or control is necessary for an experiment. Instead of going through the motions and checking the box, students develop a base of knowledge that is helpful beyond a single lab class. These skills will help them throughout the future. Therefore when choosing between Minerva’s five majors—arts and humanities, social sciences, computational sciences, natural science and business—the students have a deeper understanding about each subject beyond the surface. Additionally, professors will try to pair students of different majors together, giving one another new perspectives and different points of view on a topic. This expands their horizons by broadening their knowledge outside of the core classes.

Students at Minerva become their own community despite not having a campus since they live together in one dorm for four years in four different cities around the world. Not only do the students learn on the platform about foreign sites, but also they learn by experiencing these places. It is not studying from afar like a normal curriculum, but immersing oneself into the culture. Students learn how to interact with multiple types of people, which enable them to communicate with various cultures. This way of learning and experiencing at the same time expands ones perspective on life. Living in another country is very different than visiting one. Students have to put themselves out there and figure out their daily routines and possibly a new language. Minerva has a dorm in San Francisco, and hopes to expand to campuses in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, New York and London, giving students a vast international experience, unlike other institutions that only stay in one central area.

Minerva is a model not worth considering for everyone, however, but it offers a unique experience for others who find this type of education just right. Many students might be opposed to this since it is not the “typical” college experience at a traditional university, although others might be intrigued by the idea of an online platform in various countries. If I could do college twice, I would definitely consider Minerva or something similar for my second go round of college. The major draw for me would be the intense cultural experience the students receive every year while learning in a new form. However I believe this model should be considered for further expansion, because there could be some difficulties. Even though Minerva advertises on being cheaper since they take out most aspects of a regular university, once calculating flights to foreign places every year and living expenses there is a high probability that it is equally as expensive as many other institutions. Another problem Minerva might face is how they have no library, gym or dining area for all students to use. Despite these issues, it still offers a very unique college experience.

Minerva’s educational design of using an online platform to teach students is one worth considering. The concept of living in four different places over four years is beneficial to the student’s growth. It gives them the ability to interact with people in various cultures and backgrounds. Through group work on the platform and one dorm for all students, it creates a community despite not having a real campus. Minerva allows students the freedom they want, but also while receiving an educational experience in various places.

Ravenel Harrigan, of the Class of 2018, is from Richmond, Va.