Stories making headlines in higher education

Stories making headlines in higher education

A More Sober UC Boulder; U of Delaware Opens Hotel; Book Review: College of the Overwhelmed; New Rules on Early Admission; Study Questions the Value of the SAT; Test Driving Content Management Systems; Report: Students Fail to Apply for Financial Aid; Health Website for College Women; Spa Management at UC Irvine
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The fall semester was only days old when the University of Colorado found itself, again, the center of negative attention. The tragic death of Lynn "Gordie" Bailey, a male freshman who participated in a fraternity hazing, forced UC to confront its reputation. (UC Boulder had the dubious honor last year of being The Princeton Review's No. 1 party school.)

Bailey died September 16, during rush week, in the Chi Psi fraternity house after a night of drinking. Pledges reportedly were taken into the surrounding mountains, told they couldn't leave until they drank four 1.75-liter bottles of whiskey and six 1.5 liter bottles of wine, and were later brought to a keg party at the frat house.

To its credit, UC Boulder was quick to address the situation, avoiding some of the confusing PR missteps that initially characterized its response to last year's sex assault/sports scandal.

First, Chi Psi's national office revoked the chapter's charter. UC officials also put an end to fall rushes for freshmen students, who must now wait until sophomore year. UC Boulder will also participate in a 28-member panel charged with studying campus alcohol abuse, formed by Colorado State University after a student death there.

Are these actions enough? Henry Wechsler, director of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Studies Program, has his doubts. Weschler says the rate of binge-drinking is not decreasing, but is staying very much the same, with 44 percent of college students reporting that they ingest successive drinks to get drunk.

UC Boulder, however, is on the right track by addressing the fraternities, he adds. "The Greek system is at the heart of the drinking culture. The schools have to crack down on them," says Wechsler. Binge drinking is prevalent at schools with large Greek systems and large athletic programs, he says.

The University of Delaware is soon to become the latest school with a full-service hotel on campus. But unlike other colleges and universities, which typically lease land to an outside company to build and manage the facility, UD is playing the role of entrepreneur.

UD has invested $9 million to build its 126-room hotel, another $3 million has been put up by Shaner Hotel Group, State College, Pa. Together they have formed a for-profit company called Blue Hen Hotel LLC, which is named after the university's mascot. Blue Hen, in turn, struck up a franchise agreement with Marriott International to run the new hotel as a Courtyard by Marriott. Both investors will profit if all goes well. UD will get 75 percent of the proceeds because of its majority investment.

The hotel will benefit from a built-in labor pool, since some of the staff will be made up of UD students enrolled in its school of hotel and restaurant management.

It's hoped that the hotel will boost business for UD's conference center, which recently underwent a $4.1 million renovation. While UD's Clayton Hall Conference Center generates an estimated $4.3 million in annual revenue, UD has lost conference business because there was no adjacent hotel, says Bill Sullivan, managing director of the hotel and conference center. Conference attendees had to travel two miles for the nearest overnight accommodations. The hotel and conference center will sit side by side on the north end of the school's Newark campus location.

UD's hotel is scheduled to open in November.

By Richard Kadison and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, Jossey-Bass, 2004, 304 pp., $24.95.

Recent studies have shown a high incidence in mental illness among college students and, just as alarming, a lack of understanding of this problem among administrators and parents. This book details the warning signs of mental health problems, and offers solutions for administrators and counselors who deal with these issues. But College of the Overwhelmed is perhaps most valuable for shedding light on the subject from a different perspective: that of the students themselves, who explain the pressures they experience and how they learn to cope.

--Tim Goral

The topic of early admissions never fails to get a reaction from admissions officers. Some rely on early admissions policies to snap up the brightest students, others criticize them for pressuring students to make hasty decisions.

To date, early admissions policies have come in two flavors, so to speak. The most common policy--early decision--forces a student to apply early to a first-choice school and obligates that student to attend if accepted. The other policy, early action, does not obligate a student to attend if accepted early. Critics have charged that early decision has favored wealthy students who have the financial cushion of accepting their first-choice offer, even if a financial aid package from a competitor might be better. Stanford, Harvard and Yale have already adopted some form of early action, but the details of their plans vary.

Now the National Association for College Admission Counseling has voted to adopt what it is calling a "single-choice, early action" policy, and is urging its 5,000 member colleges and universities to embrace it. This new policy will be similar in practice to early action, allowing students to apply early to a school, but not obligate them to attend, thus remaining open to better offers.

NACAC, however, hasn't yet worked out the full definition. That task has been handed to its Admissions Practices Committee, led by Pete Caruso, associate director of Admissions at Boston College. "It is important that we create a uniform definition," he says. The committee began its work after NACAC's conference in early October.

Bates College, known for its lax policy on SAT submissions, has released the results of a 20-year study examining the academic performance and graduation rates of about 7,000 SAT submitters and non-submitters.

The study found that the difference in graduation rates between the two groups is only one-tenth of a percent. The difference in overall GPAs was a mere five-hundredths of a GPA point and the career outcomes and majors proved to be similar.

The study also revealed that Bates' SAT policy, which was initiated in 1984, has drawn increased application rates from women, minorities, low-income students, and others who commonly worry about standardized testing. Since making testing optional, Bates has doubled its applicant pool. This suggests that eliminating standardized testing has helped to improve access to higher education for those students who face barriers. Currently, only one third of each class at Bates enters without submitting test scores.

Finding the right content management system to suit the special needs of your institution can be a hit or miss situation, but help is available. Before you settle on any particular system, visit opensourceCMS.com. It's like a "try before you buy" site for CMS.

CM systems are grouped on the site in categories including portals, weblogs, e-commerce, forums and so on. The e-learning category, for example, features systems from ATutor, Claroline, LogiCampus, Moodle, Segue, and Site@School. Users can log on and give each system a try without having to install anything on their own computer.

The site was launched in 2002 by Scott Goodwin, who was frustrated with his efforts to find CMS information. "After having so much trouble early on with CMSs, I figured there had to be a market for hosting and providing support, although limited, for these systems. Thus, opensourceCMS was born," Goodwin says. "It made perfect sense to me to place all the popular CMS programs under one roof in order to try them out."

We keep hearing that financial aid is plentiful and is available for those who want it. But a new study suggests that much of the money is going unused. According to the American Council on Education, half of all undergrads in 1999-2000 (the most recent data) who attended an IHE that participated in federal student aid programs failed to apply for financial aid. That's about 8 million students who missed out on getting available funds.

The report, titled "Missed Opportunities: Students Who Do Not Apply for Financial Aid," examined the rate at which undergrads failed to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Interestingly, the problem appears to be greatest in community colleges, which are currently being inundated with new students across the country. According to the report: "Two-thirds (67 percent) of the students attending community colleges did not complete a FAFSA in 1999-2000, while 42 percent of those attending four-year public institutions, and 33 percent of those at private not-for profit colleges and universities failed to fill out a FAFSA. By comparison, only 13 percent of students at private for-profit institutions failed to apply for financial aid."

Other findings:

Approximately 1.7 million non-filers came from low- and moderate-income families.

One-third of non-applicants were full-time students.

About 850,000 students who didn't file a FAFSA were likely eligible for a Pell Grant.

Missed deadlines resulted in more than half (55 percent) of students reducing their chances of getting aid.

"It is deeply troubling to think that almost two million low- and moderate-income students may have missed the opportunity to receive needed assistance simply because they failed to fill out a federal form that is available on the internet and in almost any high school or college financial aid office," said ACE President David Ward. "We all share some blame for this problem--colleges, high schools, parents, policy makers, and opinion leaders. If ever there was a time to advertise the availability of student aid, that time is now."

The full report is available as a PDF document online at www.acenet.edu/programs/policy/index.cfm.

Now there is a one-stop site for college women seeking information about body image, reproductive health, substance abuse prevention, mental health, and safety. The new site, www.4collegewomen.org, was created by Brandeis University students under the supervision of health expert Dr. Susan Blumenthal. "Susan felt there was a need for an easy to go to, credible site offering non-commercial health information," says Beverly Freeman, media relations specialist at Brandeis. Launched last August, the site seeks to help female students who face pressures that could lead to risky behavior, Freeman says. It is expected to be a resource for students at institutions nationwide. IHE's are encouraged to include the site's link in their student handbooks, student life websites, risk prevention materials, and in literature found in their health centers.

Higher education has always been pretty responsive to the needs of emerging industries. Now one school has turned its attention to the growing spa industry. The University of California Irvine's continuing education program, UCI Extension, has launched a "Spa and Hospitality Management" certificate program, the first of its kind on the West Coast. Just how big is the industry? Some 12,000 spas were operating in the United States in July 2004, says the International Spa Association, up more than 25 percent from 2002. The spa industry is the fourth largest leisure industry in the U.S. with revenues surpassing amusement and theme parks as well as motion picture box offices. But it's a highly competitive industry where client comfort often comes at the expense of profitability. That's where UCI Extension comes in.

"Managing and operating a spa is very complex. The management courses presented by UC Irvine Extension will help present and future spa owners and managers not only learn good business practices, but also to understand how the business of 'spa' can be a profitable and rewarding one," says Hannelore Leavy, founder and executive director of the Day Spa Association and the International Medical Spa Association, one of the program's sponsors.


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