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2015 December 1

Are California public universities harder to get into now?

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:00
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No.

The Sacramento Bee has a very misleading headline for an article, AM Alert: Are California public universities harder to get into now?, in which the reporter claims that UC and CSU are harder to get into than in the past, based on the following statistics:

In 2013, for example, 21 percent of California high school graduates applied to at least one UC campus, compared to 17 percent in 1996. But the admissions rate stayed relatively flat during that time, with 14 percent of graduates accepted into the system.The contrast is even more stark at CSU, a much larger and less selective system long seen as the university to educate the masses. While about 27 percent of California high school graduates applied to CSU in 2000, and 20 percent were admitted, that figure had risen to 46 percent of graduates in 2013, with only 32 percent accepted.

But those statistics are saying the UC is remaining equally hard to get into (14% of high-school graduates being admitted) and CSU has gotten easier (32% of high-school graduates being admitted, rather than 20%).

The pressure for more students to attend college and the enormously rising cost of private college has made more students apply to college, so that the admissions process seems more competitive, but the public universities are admitting a greater fraction of Californian high-school students than in the past, so objectively, it is easier for Californians to get into public university than in the past.

Of course, paying for it is harder now, as the state continues its trend of disinvesting in post-secondary education, demanding, for example, that UC take 10,000 more students but paying only half the marginal cost of teaching the students.  I have no idea how UCSC is going to cope with its share of this demand, as we are already standing-room-only in many classrooms (to handle the current demand the fire marshal already gave permission to over-enroll classes by 10%, on the theory that 10% of students wouldn’t show up for class anyway—we can’t just push that any further ).

2015 September 29

What makes college alumni appreciate their college

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:26
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I’ve just been reading the Gallup-Purdue Index 2015 Reportwhich analyzes a survey of about 30,000 college graduates to figure out whether they felt college was worth the cost, and what college experiences lead to higher satisfaction. Here are a few highlights:

  • Recent graduates who strongly agree with any of three items measuring supportive relationships with professors or mentors are almost twice as likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost. These relationships hold even when controlling for personality characteristics and other variables such as student loan debt and employment status that could also be related to graduates’ perceptions that college was worth it. 
  • If recent graduates strongly agree that they had any of three experiential learning opportunities—an internship related to their studies, active involvement in extracurricular activities or a project that took a semester or more to complete—their odds that they strongly agree that their education was worth the cost increase by 1.5 times.
  • However, whether recent graduates participated in a research project with a professor or faculty member is unrelated to their opinion that their education was worth the investment. This finding suggests that it is important to assess the quality of faculty members’ interactions with students—and the benefits students derived from them—rather than simply tracking participation in such projects. 

I found the third point above particularly worrisome, as we don’t have ways for really checking the quality of the interactions in things like thesis projects—we count on the goodwill of the faculty involved to make the experience a good one. We are also short on internships, though most of the BSoE majors now have multi-quarter projects for the capstones.

The “three items measuring supportive relationships with professors” were

  • My professors at [University Name] cared about me as a person
  • I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals.
  • I had at least one professor at [University Name] who made me excited about learning.

The first and third of those are hard to do anything about institutionally, and even on an individual level there is no general way to be successful, but we could be doing more about mentoring. One suggestion they had that may be worth following up:

… programs such as those that recruit alumni as mentors do not need to be costly, but they can make a powerful difference in more effectively engaging both students and alumni.

They did note that modest amounts of debt (up to about $25,000) did not seem to reduce alumni satisfaction, but larger amounts of debt seriously reduced whether alumni thought their college experience was worth the price.  There wasn’t much difference between public and private, non-profit colleges, but the for-profit colleges were much less appreciated by alumni. Also in-state or out-of-state public university did not seem to result in different distributions of satisfaction with the value of the education (despite the fairly large difference in price), and research universities followed the same distribution as public and non-profit private colleges.  Only the for-profits stood out as distinctly different (possibly related to the high debt load—I didn’t see an analysis of the for-profits that controlled for debt—maybe there were too few low-debt students at the for-profits to be statistically significant).

 

 

2014 August 13

Explanations for first bill from UCSB

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:31
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In First bill from UCSB, I mentioned an e-mail I had sent to UCSB with queries about my first bill. I got a reply today, so I’ll post their answers (with the typos intact):

  1. Which meal plan did he sign up for?  The $5,202.94 price seems to be between the costs quoted on http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/rates for double room unlimited and double room 17 meals.  I assume that there is some variation from quarter to quarter on price, based on number of meal times, but the rates aren’t broken down by quarter and the bill doesn’t say which meal plan, so I’m not sure what we are paying for.To answer your question regarding the meal plan cost, I would recommend to look at his housing contract or he can contact the housing department at 805-893-5513 they will be able to answer this question in detail.

    My summary: “we have no idea what we’re charging you for—it’s not our department”.  I’d love to look at the housing contract, but I don’t believe they’ve sent it yet. Note that the bill comes before the statement of what the bill is for, and even direct inquiry doesn’t get the details.

  2. We requested a student health insurance waiver and appealed the rather arbitrary initial denial (which was an incomplete form e-mail that just complained about the Blue Shield phone number that we had provided).  When will we hear on the appeal of the waiver?  Do we need to pay now and get a credit when the appeal goes through?

    Once the health insurance appeal has been processed you or your student should receive an email of the decision within two weeks. If it has been more then you two weeks he my contact the student health insurance line directly at 805-893-2592.

    We’ll wait a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t tell me whether I need to pay and get reimbursed or simply not pay that portion.
  3. The link to  http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.htm  redirects to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.aspx which just has a pointer to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf  Why not just point to the right document on the bill without double indirection?

    No response, but none expected.
  4. The fees at http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf gives the campus total as  $4,620.05 but the bill is for $4,520.05  Where is the $100 discrepancy?He was require to send in $100.00 with his Intent to Registrar. The $100.00 payment is applied towards the first quarter tuition. That is why he is being charged $4520.05 instead of  $4620.05.

    OK, but standard business practice would be to record the deposit with the Statement of Intent to Register as a credit, rather than silently and mysteriously changing the fees.

  5. What is the unexplained “Contract Processing Fee – On” charge on the bill?  There is no mention of this on the document explaining the fees.The contract processing fee of $25.00 is for the housing contract.

    Hmm, there is no mention of the “contract processing fee” in the stated price of the dorm contracts. Secret, hidden fees should be illegal.  I expected the RHA student fees, but not an extra fee from the university for handling billing. Furthermore, the fee was on the bill for $50, not $25.  Does the billing office not even know the secret fees themselves?

  6. Is there an easy way to transfer money directly from the Scholarshare 529 plan to UCSB, or do I need to write a check and wait for Scholarshare to reimburse me?
    I will provide you a link with the 529 college saving plan instructions http://www.bfs.ucsb.edu/barc/general-information-students. If you wish to pay the balance out of pocket and then submit your request from the 529 college plan in order to get reimbursed, you may do so.The link says that the 529 plan needs to mail a paper check and gives the address.  The check must also include the student’s name and “PERM number”.  The Scholarshare web site does have instructions for sending checks directly to universities, so I could do that or pay the amount out of my current bank account and have Scholarshare reimburse me.  If I ask Scholarshare to send the check, I have no idea how long it will take them—we were warned at orientation that it could take weeks.  So it seems safest to send the check myself and get Scholarshare to reimburse me, as long as I don’t risk overdrawing my checking account.  I’ll wait a couple of weeks to see whether UCSB can process the waiver of the student health insurance correctly.
  7. We were told that the summer orientation charges would appear on the BARC bill, but I don’t see them.  Is there a revised bill coming?The orientation department has not charged the orientation fee yet. I would suggest to give it a bit more time and the charge should appear on the next billing statement.

    That seems reasonable, but why is orientation so far behind on their billing?  They should have known when the bills were going to be sent to freshmen and had their billing to the right department at least a week ahead of time.

    Note that there is no mention of when the “next billing statement” will be.

Overall, I remain unimpressed with the competence of the business side of the University of California.

2014 August 11

First bill from UCSB

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:43
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I got the first bill from BARC, the tuition billing system at UCSB.  I can see now why students give up on trying to understand what the university costs—the bill is rather confusing.

There were CA Res U/G Fees-New $4,520.05, Undergrad Health Ins-Fall $856.00, H&RS-Rm & Bd-Dorm $5,202.94, RHA Activ Fee $30.00, and Contract Processing Fee – On $50.00; for a total of $10,658.99 for Fall quarter.  Assuming no changes, that would come to just under $32k for the year.  With books and computer, the college expenses for the first year will be about $35k.

Only the “CA Res U/G Fees-New” had further details on what the charge consisted of, and that only through a doubly indirect web pointer.

After reading the bill, I had several questions that I asked via e-mail:

  1. Which meal plan did he sign up for?  The $5,202.94 price seems to be between the costs quoted on http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/rates for double room unlimited and double room 17 meals.  I assume that there is some variation from quarter to quarter on price, based on number of meal times, but the rates aren’t broken down by quarter and the bill doesn’t say which meal plan, so I’m not sure what we are paying for.
  2. We requested a student health insurance waiver and appealed the rather arbitrary initial denial (which was an incomplete form e-mail that just complained about the Blue Shield phone number that we had provided).  When will we hear on the appeal of the waiver?  Do we need to pay now and get a credit when the appeal goes through?
  3. The link to  http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.htm  redirects to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/feechart.aspx which just has a pointer to http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf  Why not just point to the right document on the bill without double indirection?
  4. The fees at http://registrar.sa.ucsb.edu/downloads/2014-15final.pdf gives the campus total as  $4,620.05 but the bill is for $4,520.05  Where is the $100 discrepancy?
  5. What is the unexplained “Contract Processing Fee – On” charge on the bill?  There is no mention of this on the document explaining the fees.
  6. Is there an easy way to transfer money directly from the Scholarshare 529 plan to UCSB, or do I need to write a check and wait for Scholarshare to reimburse me?
  7. We were told that the summer orientation charges would appear on the BARC bill, but I don’t see them.  Is there a revised bill coming?

The student health insurance is a particularly annoying charge, as we already have UC insurance for him through my employment at UCSC.  But they have cleverly handed over the processing of student health insurance waivers to Aetna, the company that sells the student health insurance, setting up a massive conflict of interest and ensuring that students seeking waivers will be maximally hassled.  Since the initial denial of the waiver came on a Sunday evening, I believe that Aetna processes them somewhere in Asia (where it would have been a Monday morning).  The sloppiness with which the form email was filled out (blanks not filled in and spelling errors) makes me dread ever having to deal with Aetna for the student health insurance—they’ve already established themselves in my mind as bureaucratically incompetent, and even competent health insurers are a nightmare to deal with.

2014 May 2

Holding colleges accountable

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:21
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Earlier this week I signed the petition: “Hold predatory career colleges accountable for abusing students and ripping off taxpayers“.

The purpose of the petition is to get the Federal Department of Education to hold colleges, particularly for-profit colleges, responsible for providing the education that they promise to students who take out massive loans. Although I worry a bit about over-regulation of colleges (politicians and regulators can too easily do serious damage by imposing ideology), the particular measures that are being proposed in this petition seem reasonable:

  • Providing financial relief for students in programs that lose eligibility. Schools with ineffective programs that lose eligibility for federal aid should be required to make whole the students who enrolled in the program. Providing full relief to all such students is not only fair, it also creates a greater incentive for schools to quickly improve their programs.
  • Limiting enrollment in poorly performing programs until they improve. Under the proposed regulation, poorly performing programs can increase the number of students they enroll, without limit, right up until the day the programs lose eligibility. Instead, the rule should impose enrollment caps until a program improves.
  • Closing loopholes and raising standards. The proposed regulation is too easy to game, and its standards are too low. For example, programs can pass the standards even when 99% of their students drop out with heavy debts that they cannot pay down. Unscrupulous schools can easily manipulate job placement rates or evade accountability by limiting program size. They can exclude the debt of graduates who enroll in a program for just one day, and can enroll students in online programs that lack the accreditation needed to be hired in the states where the students live. These types of loopholes need to be closed and the standards raised.
  • Protecting low-cost programs where most graduates don’t borrow. Low-cost programs where most graduates do not borrow at all – such as community colleges—should automatically meet the standards because, by definition, these programs do not consistently leave students with unaffordable debts. Burdening these programs with a complicated appeals process could prompt more schools to leave the federal student loan program and lead to the closure of effective, low-cost programs.

The “financial relief” part only makes sense if the failing colleges are paying back the money that they scammed out of the students, not if the Federal government is providing a backstop for them.

Keeping the low-cost community colleges free from the bureaucratic burdens imposed on the predatory colleges seems also like common sense (and so is unlikely to Federal bureaucrats).

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