Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Issue of NY Times' Education Life

The Sunday, April 20, 2008 edition of The New York Times contained another issue of the special section entitled, “Education Life.” This is a tabloid-styled section about all things collegiate, including entrance and admissions information, college life on campus, and statistics regarding attendance and other factors. The section is a must-read for the college bound and their parents.

The tabloid begins with two short pieces of interest. The first is about how students who send in a picture with their application often fare better than those who do not. The photos help admissions officials put a face to the name and statistics on the application materials. The second short piece is on the typographical errors found in a typical high school student’s application packet. Having proofread several students’ essays and application materials this year, I am often appalled at the errors that slip by. One student misspelled San Francisco on her envelope. Another forgot to include the college name in the address, labeling her envelope with “Admissions Committee, 1234 Mockingbird Lane, Somewhere, California 90001. I had to pull her back in and question what university she was sending her application to as there were several in that particular city.

Another piece detailed the mistakes that can result in the scoring and reporting of test results such as the SAT and ACT, exams students must take to qualify for college admissions. As I tell my students, double and triple check everything. Computers and human beings make mistakes.

The Data section consists of raw numbers that often indicate a larger message. This edition, the Data focuses on endowments. The list includes public and private universities and how much they have in their endowment funds. The numbers are often astounding.

Many of my students not only know what they want to major in, they have also selected subjects in which to minor. Minors are secondary areas of study that students might select. These areas are included in fine print on their diplomas, and can account for extra time and money spent during the undergraduate years. Minors require additional classes beyond major coursework. Michelle Slatalla writes a column called “Guidance Counselor” where she examines the importance of minors and why a student may, or may not want to select one.

The cover story for this issue is about the college financial aid system. David Leonhardt walks us through the revamped system and discusses such topics as grants and loans, so-called free tuition, and selected financial aid policies at several colleges. Michael M. Grynbaum follows up with a sidebar article called “Keeping The Lid On: Five Answers to the High Cost of Higher Education.” The one sentence that stuck out at me? “Beginning next fall, many prestigious institutions will replace loans in their financial aid packages with grants, allowing students to graduate debt free.” Where were these new rules when I was in school? Karen W. Arenson examines the finances at a specific university, Princeton. Thus the examination of the current state of financial aid and tuition is complete.

Charles McGrath reviews three books he groups under the title of “Growing Up For Dummies,” security at campuses one year after the Virginia Tech shootings is scrutinized, and a pop quiz focusing on the Internet and its impact as media round out a very full issue.

The final essay discusses test scores—SAT, ACT, AP—and their impact on students, parents, and egos. “Education Life” can be accessed online at www.nytimes.com/edlife.