College Board Apologizes for T-Shirt at AP Grading Event

The College Board has issued a statement on behalf of itself and the Educational Testing Service, apologizing for a T-shirt that was made and sold by high school and college teachers who gathered in June to grade Advancement Placement exams in world history. Those who grade the exams have a tradition of creating a T-shirt, but this year's version offended many Asian Americans who were at the event. The T-shirt plays off of the Chinese Communist revolution in ways that struck critics as offensive. (There was a question about it on the AP exam.)

Hyphen Magazine published images of the T-shirt.

"It is unacceptable that one of the AP Exam Readers created a T-shirt that mocked historical events that were the cause of great pain and suffering, and promulgated racist stereotypes that further marginalize a racial minority," said the College Board statement.

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ALEC May Push $10,000 Degrees

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a group known by its acronym ALEC that drafts model state legislation that is frequently used by conservative legislators, has its eye on higher education. Draft legislation that will be considered at ALEC's annual meeting would require all public four-year institutions to offer a $10,000 degree and would require that 10 percent of all degrees be awarded through this model. The legislation specifies that states could achieve these savings through online and competency education.


Hofstra Goes Test-Optional on Admissions

Hofstra University has announced that, starting with the class admitted to enroll in the fall of 2015, applicants will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores. "[W]e have concluded that standardized tests are not the most important predictors of academic success at Hofstra," said a statement from the university. "Rather, our studies show that the best predictor of success in college is a student’s high school academic record and the performance of day-to-day work in the classroom. For these reasons the high school transcript will continue to be the primary focus of our application review, with or without standardized test scores."


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New Way Top MBA Programs Evaluate Applicants

For many years, some colleges have used "demonstrated interest" -- measures of how committed an applicant is to a college -- to make some admissions and financial aid decisions. Now some top M.B.A. programs are doing the same thing, using software to track how many admissions information sessions applicants attend or how many times they have emailed the admissions office, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. With this trend, the article noted, "antsy MBA candidates who flood admissions offices with e-mails may have unwittingly given themselves a better shot at acceptance."


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Education Department apologizes for 'Bridesmaid' tweet that offends many

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Education Department apologizes after image it posted on Twitter -- designed to encourage FAFSA completion -- angered many.

Essay argues that colleges are better with old-style dormitories than apartment-like facilities

Apartment-style dorm rooms are the Hot New Thing at some colleges nowadays. Single rooms instead of doubles or even quads, exterior doors instead of crowded hallways, private bathrooms instead of gang showers and those icky shared toilets, even mini-kitchens instead of the noisy dining hall – all have an undeniable appeal for incoming freshmen looking to maximize the more adult features of undergraduate life.

Many contemporary students grew up with their own bedrooms, and perhaps even their own bathrooms, and may recoil from sharing their personal spaces with that mysterious stranger, the roommate or hallmate. So colleges and universities, particularly sensitive to the preferences of full-pay students, are starting to move away from traditional long-hallway dorms to more individualized rooms, some with generous amenities. Prospective students seem to love the idea.

They shouldn’t. Apartment-style dorms can be deadly for a student’s long-term success in college, isolating newcomers at exactly the moment when they most need to be reaching out and making friends. Early connections, made when students are most available for meeting new people, are a crucial first step to the community integration that scholars have long known is crucial to student retention and success. When my former student and current doctoral student Chris Takacs and I followed nearly 100 students throughout college and afterward in researching our book How College Works, we found that “high contact” settings such as traditional dorms – featuring long hallways, shared rooms and common bathrooms, where students have no choice but to meet lots of peers – are the single best device for helping new students to solve their biggest problem: finding friends. And dorms are especially valuable for students who are shy, unusually nervous about coming to college, or otherwise feel excluded. Finding one buddy to pal around with is all that’s needed to ensure a positive first-year experience.

Of course dorms aren’t the only place that students make friends. Extracurricular groups that convene frequently and include a couple dozen members are a great source of potential companions (smaller groups don’t work as well). Greek letter societies, sports teams, campus newspapers, and larger musical ensembles serve the purpose. At the college we studied, the choir -- with over 70 members, a dynamic director, rigorous auditions, and frequent rehearsals and performances -- offered a marvelous opportunity for its members to form close bonds, which in turn helped them become, in our network analysis, some of the most socially connected students at the college. 

Still, dormitories are different: they are open to everyone. You don’t need any special talent or athletic ability or an outgoing personality to live in a dorm and thus benefit from meeting a variety of peers. Dorms aren’t exclusive. After that first year, a student will likely have made friends and found his or her niche, but until then, broad exposure seems to be the best pathway to success. 

So how can admissions and student affairs staff convince incoming students to live in those overcrowded rooms and share their showers with people they may not even like?  And how can college presidents be convinced not to engage in the housing arms race of catering to the students who seem to favor luxury and privacy over the group experience? Apartments are appealing, after all, and colleges need the money that full-pay students will pony up for their own little pad.

Try anything. Tell students the odds are they will have a more successful and happy first year at college in this kind of dorm. If you have any money, recarpet the long hallways, improve the shared bathrooms, and upgrade the dorm rooms in that big old building. Try to keep the showers clean. If the rooms can’t be quads, at least make them doubles; if they are singles, at least keep the common bathrooms. Point out that you charge less for the old-fashioned dorm rooms.

Tell prospective students that they’ll meet more people in a dorm; give dorm residents priority in getting sophomore housing. Focus your programming efforts on the early part of the first year, when students are socially available – and often looking for friends. Remember, when more students have repeated, obligatory exposure to a sizable group of other students, more of them will find the one or two buddies who see them through their first year.

Ten years ago this August my wife and I drove our youngest daughter Rebecca down to New York City, to help her move into a freshman dorm at Fordham University. We arrived amid a sea of parents, siblings, RAs, and energetic young women hauling those loaded duffel bags and laundry baskets up big institutional stairwells to the fourth floor. The scene at the top was unforgettable: scores of people, crowded into a long hallway, with 20 rooms – all quads, bunk beds stacked up – lined down a long hallway, girls laughing and talking, helping each other out, and making introductions all around. A young faculty couple with a baby lived in an apartment at the end of the hall, and a priest had a room on the floor below. It was a scene of gentle pandemonium.

Becca stood there, her mouth hanging open in amazement, not yet realizing that four of her best friends in life would come from that hallway. My wife and I, both professors, smiled at each other. “This,” we thought, “will be great.”

It was.

Daniel F. Chambliss is Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hamilton College. He is the author, with Christopher G. Takacs, of How College Works (Harvard University Press).

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Test-optional policies fail to increase low-income enrollment, study finds

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Think that not requiring SAT scores will boost enrollment of underrepresented minority and low-income students? Think again, a new study says.

Northwestern Law Expels Felon, Who Then Sues

Northwestern University's law school this spring expelled a student -- months from graduation -- who is a felon who has been convicted for falsely impersonating a lawyer, The Chicago Tribune reported. The student who was kicked out then sued the university, although a settlement appears to have been reached. Northwestern faulted the student for failing to disclose his past, and said that he was an "undesirable" candidate to become a lawyer. The would-be lawyer disputes the charges from his past, but he also argues that Northwestern never asked him about his criminal history.



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Hampshire becomes only competitive college in the country that won't look at SAT, ACT scores

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Hampshire becomes only competitive college in the country that will not look at SAT or ACT scores.

Debate Over Meme About Students at Tsinghua U.

Educators and others in China are debating a popular meme in which female students at a Tsinghua University, a leading Chinese institution, post photographs of themselves before and after they enrolled, The South China Morning Post reported. The "after" photographs generally show the women appearing more attractive and with lighter skin. And this has led to people saying that the theme of the meme is, “Off to Tsinghua to become white, rich and beautiful.” The meme has appeared on the university's admissions blog, prompting criticism that it is all a promotional campaign from the university. The university replied to the criticism on its blog, saying: “After an unforgettable experience at Tsinghua, changes in one’s appearance and attitude are not all that shocking. Character building is the most important.”


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