Monthly Archives: April 2016

Student Guide to Voting

The countdown to this year’s presidential election is on with just over a month to go before Election Day. And while exercising your right to vote is always important, most would agree that the stakes are particularly high this year in the U.S. But being a busy student, away from home, or even out of the country is no excuse for failing to follow through on your civic duty.  We know it may seem like a hassle, but the truth is that not only is voting easier than ever, it’s also well worth the effort.

Voting in Your State of Residence?

Just because you’re voting in your state of residence doesn’t mean you can automatically expect to walk into your local polling place, grab a ballot, flip a few levers, and call it a day.

For starters, most states don’t even allow walk-in registration. Not only that, but registration deadlines vary from state to state. For example, voters in Alaska must be registered by October 9th regardless of whether they’re doing so online, via mail or in person, while voters in Vermont have nearly a full month longer to register. Furthermore, how you plan to register is also a factor with some state deadlines for registration methods varying by as much as a month.

Looking for information on your specific state? Lucky for you, the New York Times has assembled a comprehensive guide of state-by-state deadlines, which also includes handy information about supporting materials you’ll need to register. (Usually, a driver’s license or other state-issued form of identification will suffice.)

Additionally, the U.S. government’s website Vote.gov is a terrific starting point for determining how to register in your state, while Vote.org is also a useful portal for streamlining the registration process.

Not sure if you’re registered? Check here to find out.

What Your Vote Could Mean for Higher Education

In this divisive and tumultuous election season, it feels difficult to discern the candidates’ plans on nearly every policy issue.  We know some of their opinions (and we certainly know their fighting styles)—but we’re not always quite sure how those views will translate into policy.  Today, we’re looking at the candidates’ plans for higher education—and their ramifications for both American and international students.

American Students

1. Loans and Debt

Hillary Clinton has plans to make debt-free college available to all Americans and has a vision for taking on student loan debt.  On her website, she outlines a plan for students of families who make less than $125,000 per year.  She says that by 2021, those families will pay no tuition at in-state four-year schools.  She also says that every student from a family making $85,000 or less will be able to go to an in-state four-year public university without paying tuition.  In Clinton’s New College Compact, she argues for free tuition at all community colleges.  Clinton will also start a $25 billion fund to support historically black colleges and universities, in addition to largely Hispanic-serving institutions and other minority-serving institutions.

Clinton also plans to offer a 3-month moratorium on student loan payments to all federal loan borrowers so that students can consolidate their loans, sign up for repayment programs, and figure out how to pay their monthly interest and fees.  She says that borrowers will be able to refinance loans at current rates and make it impossible for the federal government to profit from college student debt.  She claims that she will “crack down” on predatory schools, lenders, and bill collectors.

Donald Trump states that he’s “a tremendous believer in higher education” and wants to prioritize higher education opportunities for Americans. On his website, he says that he wants to “ensure that the opportunity to attend a two or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or a skill set through vocational and technical education, will be easier to access, pay for, and finish.”  He also says that he would fight proposals for debt-free and tuition-free public higher education.  He claims that he wants to move the government out of lending and restore that role to private banks. Trump argues that “local banks” should support “local students.”

Trump would also “consider” cutting the US Department of Education—and all of the services it provides.  While this affects many PreK-12 initiatives, it would also presumably affect the $29 billion in federal Pell Grants that help low-income students pay for college.  Trump’s party outlines its stance on higher education on pages 35-36 in its Republican Platform 2016 document.

2. STEM

Clinton’s technology plan will make an impact on both American and international students. Clinton’s College Compact will dedicate $10 billion in federal funding to allow students to participate in computer science and STEM programs, nanodegrees, computer coding, online learning, and other 21st century initiatives.  She will establish incentives for colleges and universities that will accept alternative learning programs as credits towards a degree.

Clinton will allow potential entrepreneurs in the tech sector to defer their student loan debt for up to three years while they start their own businesses.  She also proposes to offer loan forgiveness of up to $17,500 in student loan debt after five years for entrepreneurs working in distressed areas for the social good.

Trump also supports STEM initiatives for American graduates. On his website, he specifically states that a strong space program could encourage American children to pursue STEM in higher education, which would bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in investment to the country.

International Students

1. Visas

Clinton supports start-up visas, which would encourage international entrepreneurs to build their companies here—of course with some financial commitment from US investors.  She has specific incentives for attracting and retaining “top talent” from around the world who want to work in science and technology research and development.

Trump also has a stance on visas.  He wants to replace the J-1 visa with a program for inner city youth.  The J-1 visa currently­­ allows international students to work, study, and live in the US for a set amount of time.  If there’s no J-1 visa option for international students, American companies will not be able to hire international students.  Options for studying in an exchange program at a US school, working for a summer camp, au pairing, and interning would either be impossible or severely limited.

He also wants to impose restrictions on the H-1B visa, which is a permit that allows US employers to hire international professionals, so if you’re an international student who wants to stay in the US, or you recently graduated and want to work in the US, your chances of finding a job might be more difficult.

2. Immigration

Clinton’s policies support international students coming to the US to study and contribute to the global economy.  She says, in her campaign’s words, that she would “staple a green card to STEM masters and Ph.D. [students] from accredited institutions.”  This would allow international students who complete degrees in these fields to earn green cards.

Trump has a different view.  According to his website, he will “select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in the U.S. and their ability to be self-sufficient.”  He also wants to participate in “extreme vetting” and proposes to “temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.”

Your decision

You have the opportunity to learn more about the candidates, their views, and their policies by learning more about them. You also have the opportunity to make a decision that will affect higher education in the US and abroad. Making decisions that affect the domestic and global landscapes are up to you.  Use the information available to you to make the best decision possible.  To quote a famous fictitious diplomat from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Degrees for a Better Future

The future is liquid—shimmering at the edge of our minds, moving and changing—and literally water dependent.  When you think about what to study and why, remember this: no one on this planet is alone.  We’re all in it together.  Earn a degree in any of these areas and make a positive, lasting impact on the future.

1. Coastal and Marine Management

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the ocean—as is ninety-nine percent of the planet’s habitable space.  372,000 miles of this planet is coastline, and nearly 2.4 billion people live within 60 miles of a coast.  Our oceans and coasts are the cradle of all life. It’s no surprise then that a degree in Coastal and Marine Management can put you at the forefront of a local, regional, national, and international—technically and politically complicated—and ecologically critically field.  Check out the Coastal Ecology studies at the College of Coastal Georgia or the Master in Coastal and Marine Management in Iceland.

2. Humanities

Here’s what we know: STEM is vitally important for the future. Here’s the problem: STEM and the humanities have been pitted against each other.  Here’s what we need to do: remember that we don’t live in a vacuum—the world is not compartmentalized.  Neither are we.  Studying the humanities gives students essential skills for living—especially in a STEM-infused world.  Apple’s Steve Jobs once said “technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”  You know what he studied?  Zen Buddhism. Prefer a master’s degree? Try an MA in International Peace Studies or a Master of Arts in Peace and Justice. But you don’t need to focus on peace and conflict to impact the future. Do you want to change the world?  Work hard, study something you enjoy—and make a ripple, even a wave for generations to come.

3. Future Studies

While there are no crystal balls or tarot cards in future studies—also called futurology and foresight studies—there’s a definitive need for those who can study history to make predictions about the future across all disciplines, from science and technology to the humanities.  Even degrees like architectural engineering to robotics can give you a way into futurology.  The field began during WWII, when there was a global need to understand the possibilities and ramifications of then “present” actions on the future.  That need is even more present today with rapid globalization.  Futurists tend to fall in one of two camps—and everything in between.  On one side, there are the “doom and gloom” futurists who tend to focus on current, real-world problems without easy solutions: world hunger, overpopulation, depletion of non-renewable resources, pollution, to name a few.  As a counterbalance, there are the positive, visionary, evolutionary futurists who acknowledge the doom and gloom, but focus on the technological, societal, and human potentials and empowering people to understand that the future is a choice—and not necessarily and inevitably.  Which one will you choose? Consider a Master of Sustainable Futures or an MPhil in Future Studies.

4. Fintech

Bye-bye traditional banking and hello fintech.  A marriage of finance and technology gives us fintech, one of the hottest new fields out there. What is it and how can you change the world?  Fintech focuses on using technology to improve the efficiency of financial markets—investing, digital currency, credit scoring, cyber security, education lending to name a few.  If there’s a role for technology in finance, fintech will find it, and it’s not just in banks.  Global investment in the fintech sector has more than tripled over the last five years, reaching over $12 billion since 2014.  Study fintech and play a role in the shape of the economic and technological future.

5. Technology and Biomedical Engineering

Blend biology, medicine, engineering and computer science, and make yourself an indispensable player in the future of science and medicine.  Tackle modern research problems with a degree in Computer Simulation in Science or develop future-ready specialist knowledge with a Master of Electrical Engineering and IT. Or consider a Master of Science in Nanotechnology Engineering. With technology giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, IBM, and MIT making significant commitments to applying science and technology to medicine for the “eradication” of all disease, the future will certainly need bioinformatics experts, biotechnologists, and biomedical engineers who have the scientific, analytical, engineering, and computer skills to serve the common good and make the future for the future even better. Consider a Master from the Technical University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, a MSc in Bioinformatics in Malaysia or Portugal, or an M.S. in Biotechnology from The Catholic University of America.

 

Flexible Future

The business world is ever-changing and smart professionals know that they need to adapt to new trends, adopt new skills, and remain flexible in their career outlook in order to maintain their competitive edge.  For mid-career professionals looking to complement and enhance their existing expertise, earning an advanced degree can be an ideal way to remain relevant and maximize career potential. Of course, finding time for continuing education can be difficult – take for example those busy working professionals in the marketing and advertising industry. Online degrees are increasingly popular and can be an ideal way to complete a higher degree. But it can be difficult to identify legitimate, credible courses. So what should you look for in an online graduate program? Here are three key things to consider when finding the best degree for your needs.

1.    Consider your situation

Not all online degrees are created equal, so consider your life, responsibilities, and career goals when selecting a course. Some online degrees still include on-campus requirements, which may not be ideal for all students. And, according to Professor Geoff Smith, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Falmouth University, “the quality of technology available to today [means] there’s no reason why anyone should be excluded from accessing the best education on offer at the times and in the places that suit them.” Look for programs that offer options for flexibility and personalization. Ensure that you will have easy access to resources and adequate study support throughout the process.

2.    Compare value

Online degrees are more reputable than ever, but that doesn’t mean that every program or institution carries the same respect. When choosing an online graduate program, especially in the creative industries, consider the reputation and ranking of the university. Where your degree comes from will definitely matter to future employers. An online degree from a number one ranked creative university like Falmouth University will carry value that’s equivalent to that of an on-campus program. So make sure to choose a University with excellent credentials and a strong student support system.

Image courtesy of flexible.falmouth.ac.uk

3.    Check employability rates

Before enrolling, establish what type of degree will best improve your job prospects or enhance your career. Perhaps you’re looking to move up the career ladder within your field or are looking to move from marketing to advertising or vice versa? Look at industry requirements and talk with your mentors about the best study plan for developing your skills. It can be useful for professionals in marketing and advertising to gain more experience in both areas, so look for programs like the MA Advertising & Marketing at Falmouth University that allow students to build on existing experience and add to their knowledge in other areas. Then, consider the curriculum and employability of graduates from your favorite programs. You can approach universities’ alumni associations and confirm that they have a good reputation for graduate employment. Choose an institution like Falmouth University that customizes its curriculum and teaching to the market and has a 96.5 percent graduate employment rate, according to the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey.

One Example of a high-level online degree: Falmouth University’s MA Advertising & Marketing

If you’re looking for a top ranked program that will give you more insight into both the marketing or advertising industries but need the flexibility of an online degree, consider the MA Advertising & Marketing from Falmouth University. Falmouth is the UK’s No. 1 Arts University on the Sunday Times League Table 2015 & 2016 and has the sixth highest graduate employment rate in the UK, with Falmouth graduates working in a variety of industries and sectors, with global brands or running their own companies.

At Falmouth, there’s no distinction between on-campus and on-line students. The program looks for applications from accomplished professionals who want to enhance their careers, and all students have access to experienced staff who are industry practitioners, and the MA Advertising & Marketing is built around industry connections. According to Lotte Mahon, Module Leader and Lecturer, “the online course is a natural extension” of the university’s reputation as a leader in creative advertising. Students have a chance to learn from experts and brands from around the world and come away with “a solid understanding of the marketing and brand strategies” that are used in major corporations.

Advertising and marketing professionals know that the industry is always changing and that the key to success is a solid foundation upon which to build. The creators of Falmouth’s online MA Advertising & Marketing are “aware of the changes and challenges facing industry professionals and [the course] has been created to respond to those changes.” At Falmouth, students work with an international cohort of students from different cultures and backgrounds, which gives them a chance to prepare for the diversity and dynamics of a global marketplace. Falmouth’s graduates can build on core principles while investigating emerging opportunities and the degree’s responsive curriculum looks at the changes in the industry as they happen. This approach helps students prepare for the ever-changing market and the challenges of an ever evolving the digital age.

Changing Higher Education

Six years ago, the UN General Assembly designated October 20th as “World Statistics Day.”  As the science of learning from data, statistics plays an important role in how we wrangle massive quantities of information into meaningful insights — both within the world at large, and within microcosms of that world, including the higher education sphere. As big data gets, well, bigger, its impact on higher education is expected to continue to grow. Wondering how that will play out in higher education? Let’s take a closer look.

 

Leveraging Data into Smarter Admissions

While some colleges are small enough to have human eyes looking over each and every application, others have historically been at the mercy of factors like grades and standardized test scores. But were these elements an accurate reflection of student success in college? Not necessarily, according to industry insiders.

This is why many colleges and universities are using new types of data collection when trying to determine which students will ultimately succeed and graduate. One, in particular, which might come as a surprise? Social media. According to one report from PBS NewsHour, some colleges are turning to social media data as an indicator of whether students were likely to enroll and graduate based on factors ranging from how many friends they made in online communities for applicants to whether or not they uploaded many profile photos.

The ultimate goal? To reap the largest yield with the lowest risk. Statistics also come into play here, with one university chief data officer telling NewsHour that each applicant is assigned a numerical probability of enrollment to help guide the school’s recruiting spending. The benefits, admissions counselors insist, are dual fold: schools get the largest ROI, while admitted students are more likely to be a good fit, stay on, graduate, and reap the lifelong benefits of a college or graduate degree.

 

Leveraging Data into Student Success

High turnover rates are costly to universities, but they’re also costly to students. As Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Executive Director Harvey Weingarten told The Globe and Mail, “For students, leaving is a failure. There is a loss of confidence, there is a psychological cost of failure.” But the costs are far from just psychological. College dropouts also do worse than their peers across everything from lifetime earnings to health and wellness.

In refining the admissions process, predictive analytics based on demographic and behavioral data also supports increased graduation rates. This allows universities not just to admit more appropriate candidates, but to better support them once they’re enrolled. Said Weingarten, “You accepted a student into your institution because you believed they could succeed, they would grow, thrive and develop. When it doesn’t work, you have an obligation to figure out what went wrong here.”

In addition to allowing universities to more proactively help struggling students, it can also be used to help teachers do their jobs better. Because feedback happens more quickly, teachers can more immediately take teaching actions in order to ultimately provide richer learning experiences for students.

And these techniques are working. Take results seen at the U.S.’s largest public university, Arizona State. Two years after implementing a new adaptive learning platform designed to assess, remediate and re-assess student progress in math readiness, pass rates skyrocketed from 64 percent to 75 percent with 45 percent of students finishing early. Drop-out rates, meanwhile, decreased by 56 percent.

 

Keeping Big Data in Check

While the potential advantages of big data for universities and students alike are profound, experts are quick to warn of the potential dangers, too. And stolen data is just the beginning when it comes to safeguarding student interests — particularly in a world in which personal information — and the insights they lead to, thanks to big data — is just a few clicks away.

Posits Stanford News, “Consider, for example, what might happen if data show that students who fit a certain profile struggle in a core course. Could those students be prevented from taking the class or pushed down a different path just because the data say they should?”

Enter a coalition helmed by Stanford University and nonprofit education consulting firm Ithaka S+R aimed at protecting student through responsible use of big data and the implementation of a new standard of care. The group’s recommendation? That the opportunities represented by big data be accompanied by a code of ethics comprising four core responsibilities, including the recognition of the limitations of big data and data collection; transparency across the data’s collection and analysis process; the use of big data to improve teaching; and the harnessing of data-driven insights for the benefit of students.