The Edge Our college admission blog

Bloomfield College

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 6, 2015

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Bloomfield.  Bloom field.  A blooming field.  The word “Bloomfield” brings such nice images to mind!

Bloomfield

 

Today, however, I intend to write not about fields in bloom (beautiful though they may be) but rather on the topic of Bloomfield College – welcome to the next installment of our 3026 Series!

This college first appeared on my radar screen when I saw on Twitter that the school has become ZeeMee‘s first partner in New Jersey. Remember that post about ZeeMee? They’re the organization that helps you to “bring your application to life” – definitely worth checking out! All of this is to say that after reading about Bloomfield College’s new partnership with ZeeMee, I decided that the time was ripe to learn more about them.

In landing on their admissions page, it was immediately apparent that their ZeeMee partnership is already blooming (I couldn’t resist!), as there is an optional video essay component to the application: “Showcase your unique story and skills! Share your personal story with us through our optional video essay application supplement. Upload a video (3 minute maximum) to zeemee.com and send the link to admission@bloomfield.edu. Video submissions will be reviewed for admission evaluation and scholarship opportunities.” Cool!

Along these lines, know also that the school has rolling admissions, that there exists a great deal of flexibility in terms of start dates (i.e. new students can opt to begin their studies in the fall, spring, or summer semester), and that the college also has in place what is known as “instant decision days” – really! You simply make an appointment to go into the Admissions Office, bring along all of the requested documentation (e.g. a completed application, high school transcript, test scores, and recommendation letters), attend your meeting, and you’ll then be given a decision as to whether you’ve been admitted or not! If you take this admissions route, you’ll also have your $40 application fee waived, saving you both time and money.

The Fall 2014 acceptance rate at Bloomfield College was 63.4%, which is not at all out-of-the ordinary. Remember, as is pointed out in this post by the NACAC, “nearly half of all four-year colleges and universities in the US accept 75% or more of their applicants. Only 3% of colleges have an acceptance rate of less than 25%.” However, though this one statistic may be rather ordinary, there are other interesting things of note about Bloomfield College:

  • Of the approximately 2,000 students enrolled, 36% are male and 64% are female.
  • With a 20% share of the degrees awarded, Visual & Performing Arts stands out as being the most popular area of study at Bloomfield. Along these lines, the college’s new Center for Technology + Creativity will be completed in time for the start of the Fall 2016 semester and “will combine cutting-edge computer and other electronic technology with multiple areas of the arts, including music, video and game development.” Click here to learn more!
  • The school is very commuter student-friendly. As is written on their website, “We provide study areas, lounges, and refreshments and snacks for commuter students. Commuter meal plans are available. Our Commuter Breakfast Program brings together students and administrators for discussions on topics of interest.”
  • On the other hand, if you live on-campus, you can take part in the college’s TRUE Program, which supports first year and transfer students. The program involves personal coaching and is designed to “encourage and assist students in making healthy decisions as well as instill educational, professional, and social growth.”

In short, beyond its great name (which brings to my mind images of the Netherlands in springtime!), there is a lot going on at Bloomfield College. To learn more about the school, check out its College Scorecard profile by clicking here. Before you know it, you may find yourself sending your zeemee link off to Bloomfield College’s admissions office!

The Coalition Roller Coaster

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 4, 2015

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In earlier posts (for instance, here and here), this blog has honed in on the newly-formed Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. Remember those 80+ schools that are “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree”? The Coalition’s goals are certainly admirable – I don’t think anyone would dispute that. However, since its formation, The Coalition has found itself on a bit of a roller coaster ride, including as the recipient of some harsh criticism at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference in San Diego last month.

Roller Coaster

 

Since early October, their project has proven to be a dynamic, ever-changing, work-in-progress. For instance, the original roll-out date for The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016. “That was in early October”, you may be thinking. “What has happened since then?” An excellent question!

One of the themes that seems to keep rearing from the dark depths of the college counseling waters is the notion that starting the college admissions process when students are only 9th graders is simply too early in a teen’s high school career, and that it will only serve to create even more stress and angst for teens and their families. As one college counseling association stated in a letter to The Coalition, “Based on all adolescent development models, starting to ‘collect items’ and for parents to ‘obsess’ in the 9th grade will most likely produce significant concern/anxiety over the college process at a time when all of our students’ focus should be on the growth of their personal and academic selves.” The Coalition, on the other hand, has made it clear that “the purpose of familiarizing students with the process at an early age should minimize stress during the actual application process and provide a counseling resource for low-income applicants.” Who is right?

Another recent development is that Georgetown University declined to join The Coalition due to their belief that it “makes applying to colleges more complicated and less helpful to low-income students.”  What?! The Coalition’s website, in contrast, states, “The Coalition is developing a platform of tools to help reduce these barriers (to attending college and completing a college degree) and make progress in leveling the playing field for students from all backgrounds.” Who is right?

And so the roller coaster ride continues, and it may take some time before we’re able to determine whether statements from The Coalition or its critics prove more in-line with reality. But don’t despair! I leave you on a hopeful note, namely that the very fact that we’re thinking about these issues and having these conversations is a good thing. As this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education (aptly entitled, “Why The Debate Over A New Admissions Process Matters”) states, “In a field defined by age-old rituals, The Coalition has, at the very least, inspired a conversation about how the experience of applying to college could be different.”

The Coalition is confident that the changes it proposes will lead to hugely positive developments in the world of college admissions. Others aren’t so sure. Who is right? Will this roller coaster ride end with its riders feeling energized and proud of what they’ve accomplished or queasy and full of regret for having embarked in the first place?

Curious to learn more?  Click here!

Demystifying The Higher Education Maze

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 19, 2015

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Another Monday is upon us and I thought I’d start this week off by bringing to your attention a recently-developed, online course recommendation system called Degree Compass, the hope for which is, in the words of its creator, the demystification of the higher education maze.
maze

As is pointed out in this article from The Washington Post, “Degree Compass uses grades, test scores and enrollment data to rank courses, suggest majors and help students progress through their programs.”  And what, you may ask, is the big deal about this?  Well, if you’ve been a devoted reader of this blog, you know that though getting into college is a tremendous milestone, it’s not enough – graduating from college is of prime importance!  For this reason, you should always take schools’ graduation rates into account when deciding where to apply.  Some schools do a far better job than others of supporting students, academically and otherwise, throughout their undergraduate studies!

Degree Compass is potentially a very important component of this support system, meant to help students to graduate, and not only on time but with a personally-relevant degree in-hand. Developed in 2011 by Dr. Tristan Denley, the system (inspired by the model used at companies such as Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon) provides students with personalized course and major recommendations and, as is pointed out in this EDUCAUSE Review , also “provides a variety of reports that help the institution optimize course schedules and offer targeted support to at-risk students.”  Know also that the recommendations are not based on course popularity, but rather on enrollment data, on the courses the student needs to complete in order to graduate, and on those courses in which the student is likely to academically thrive.  In a nutshell, Degree Compass allows for in-person academic advising based on hard data (e.g. a student’s grades to-date, along with data on past students’ grades, and information from the transcripts of thousands of the student’s current peers), and so far it’s proved to be effective.

Degree Compass was first implemented at Austin Peay State University and is now being used by a number of schools in Tennessee.  In terms of effectiveness, the aforementioned article from The Washington Post informs us that “since schools adopted Degree Compass in 2011 and 2012, retention and graduation rates have increased, with significant improvement among African American students. Graduation rates improved 7.7% at the University of Memphis and 8.2% at Austin Peay, compared with a 4.4 percent increase statewide.”  To learn more about the Degree Compass system and its outcomes to-date, click here and here.

It was Denley who said that Degree Compass “neither restricts nor prescribes (student) choices, but instead empowers choice by creating an information source with a larger than human viewpoint and supported by data from previous choice patterns.”  Empowering student choice and helping to demystify the higher education maze are both admirable goals, and I believe that, should Degree Compass’ implementation become more widespread, it could really help to boost graduation rates across the country.  Stay tuned!

The Tuition Reset

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 15, 2015

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This CNBC video clip begins with a rather depressing piece of information: “Here’s an equation for today’s college students – The education that they’re paying for is twelve times more expensive than it was just a generation ago.”  Ugh.  However, in a world of ever-increasing tuition costs, know that there have recently been two notable exceptions.  They come in the form of New York’s Utica College and Pennsylvania’s Rosemont College.  Both of these schools are slashing their tuition rates by more than 40% starting in the 2016-2017 academic year!

scissorsThe reporter in the aforementioned video clip, after dropping her sigh-inducing intro, goes on to interview Dr. Todd Hutton, President of Utica College, and Dr. Sharon Hirsh, President of Rosemont College – and our spirits are soon revived! The interview, in a nutshell, goes a little something like this:

Reporter: How do you actually cut 40%?  What’s the math?

TH:  The math is you reduce your tuition and you reduce your discount rate, but the key is you need to guarantee students and families savings.  On average, next year’s freshmen will save $6,900 in tuition & fees and $8,000 with room and board.

Reporter:  Todd mentioned the idea that Utica College is going to cut its discounts and I believe Rosemont’s doing the same thing.  What does that mean?  That the sticker price isn’t necessarily what people were already paying?

SH: That’s it exactly.  We realized that we, among so many other colleges, were going according to a model that was raising the sticker price at the same time that we had to raise discounts.  So we’ve gone from a high sticker price/high discount rate to a lower sticker price/low discount rate, and at the same time we also decided that we wanted to actually realize savings for our students, so we’ve actually cut the cost as well.


At this point you may be asking yourself, by how much have the costs actually been cut?  Well…

Utica College’s tuition & fees for 2015-2016 are $34,466.  The 2016-2017 equivalent?  $19,996.

Rosemont College’s tuition & fees for 2015-2016 are $32,620.  The 2016-2017 equivalent?  $18,500.

Definitely an impressive reduction – but do keep in mind that net price (a college’s tuition & fees/sticker price minus grants, scholarships, and education tax benefits) is still the most crucial piece of information to have in-hand when trying to determine if a college is affordable or not.  Utica and Rosemont will soon have lower sticker prices, but of greatest interest is to determine what impact these changes will have on their respective net prices!

According to both colleges, however, even with lower discounts available, students will save money compared to what they currently pay.  As for me, even with this net price disclaimer in mind, I still see the “tuition reset” (how the colleges refer to their reduction in sticker price) as a good thing. Both Utica and Rosemont point to transparency as being a crucial motivating factor in hitting the tuition reset button, with the sticker price more accurately reflecting the cost of the education, and this, in turn, can help to demystify the shrouded world of college financing!

To read more about these tuition resets, click here for Utica College’s take on the initiative (“A bold move for tomorrow!”) and here to read more about Rosemont College’s take on things (“Oh yes, we did!”).  The tuition reset move taken by these two small colleges is admirable in that we see people not only talking about the issue of affordability but actually taking action to help address it.  Go forth, Rosemont!  Carry on, Utica!  For what it’s worth, this blogger commends you.

A Work In Progress

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 8, 2015

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Do you remember the post I wrote eight days ago called “Admissions Revamped“?  It was about the 80+ schools that make up The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and how they’re “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.”  And do you remember how I wrote bullet points highlighting what you need to know about The Coalition? One of those important points was, “Know that the portfolio feature and interactive tools will be rolled out in January and that the application system will be ready to go in the summer of 2016.” Well, dear readers, though that was indeed the case eight days ago (back when the “college locker” was still called “the portfolio“), circumstances have now changed – and I, of course, want to keep you in-the-know!  While the new application system is still on-track to be released in the summer of 2016, the release of The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016.  Why?

It turns out that there is a LOT of criticism about this new initiative to revamp admissions.  My earlier post touched on the fact that in order for colleges to be eligible for membership in The Coalition, they have to meet specified requirements, such as graduating at least 70% of their students within six years.  However, the reality is that many colleges that serve a disproportionately high number of disadvantaged students (those who the work of The Coalition is supposed to most benefit – think first generation students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those lacking guidance in the admissions process, and those facing other barriers to enrolling in and graduating from college) don’t, in fact, meet the membership requirements – and why not?  Well, because they’re serving high numbers of disadvantaged students!  You can see how this creates difficulties…

hardsituation

 

Further, some critics are skeptical of the motives behind the new initiative (e.g. that The Coalition’s members are simply out to find even more applicants for their schools).  Another concern expressed by college counselors is that all of this is moving forward too quickly, and that a January 2016 release date is just too soon.  The Coalition, while denying sketchy motives, has listened to these concerns about the proposed time line and adjusted their plans accordingly.  As The Coalition’s Board of Directors wrote in a recent e-mail to college counselors, the delay will “allow for more time to engage and answer questions, and for counselors to be closer to finishing their work with the current senior class.”  Furthermore, members of The Coalition’s board haven’t hesitated in putting on the table the fact that the initiative is an undertaking prone to change.  Just last week, at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference, Audrey Smith (one of the aforementioned board members), said, “We are a work in progress.  We see this as an iterative process and we will be adjusting based on the feedback that we receive from all quarters.”  In other words, stay tuned!

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