Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Even for Cashiers, College Pays Off

I just noticed this article in the New York Times and thought it would be a nice addition to our college prep planning series on the blog. I've included it below but the summary is that people who have a college degree make more money. So...get a degree.

Even for Cashiers, College Pays Off
By ALMOST a century ago, the United States decided to make high school nearly universal. Around the same time, much of Europe decided that universal high school was a waste. Not everybody, European intellectuals argued, should go to high school.

It’s clear who made the right decision. The educated American masses helped create the American century, as the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have written. The new ranks of high school graduates made factories more efficient and new industries possible.

Today, we are having an updated version of the same debate. Television, newspapers and blogs are filled with the case against college for the masses: It saddles students with debt; it does not guarantee a good job; it isn’t necessary for many jobs. Not everybody, the skeptics say, should go to college.

The argument has the lure of counterintuition and does have grains of truth. Too many teenagers aren’t ready to do college-level work. Ultimately, though, the case against mass education is no better than it was a century ago.

The evidence is overwhelming that college is a better investment for most graduates than in the past. A new study even shows that a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers and cashiers. And, beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.

“Sending more young Americans to college is not a panacea,” says David Autor, an M.I.T. economist who studies the labor market. “Not sending them to college would be a disaster.”

The most unfortunate part of the case against college is that it encourages children, parents and schools to aim low. For those families on the fence — often deciding whether a student will be the first to attend — the skepticism becomes one more reason to stop at high school. Only about 33 percent of young adults get a four-year degree today, while another 10 percent receive a two-year degree.

So it’s important to dissect the anti-college argument, piece by piece. It obviously starts with money. Tuition numbers can be eye-popping, and student debt has increased significantly. But there are two main reasons college costs aren’t usually a problem for those who graduate.

First, many colleges are not very expensive, once financial aid is taken into account. Average net tuition and fees at public four-year colleges this past year were only about $2,000 (though Congress may soon cut federal financial aid).

Second, the returns from a degree have soared. Three decades ago, full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree made 40 percent more than those with only a high-school diploma. Last year, the gap reached 83 percent. College graduates, though hardly immune from the downturn, are also far less likely to be unemployed than non-graduates.

Skeptics like to point out that the income gap isn’t rising as fast as it once was, especially for college graduates who don’t get an advanced degree. But the gap remains enormous — and bigger than ever. Skipping college because the pace of gains has slowed is akin to skipping your heart medications because the pace of medical improvement isn’t what it used to be.

The Hamilton Project, a research group in Washington, has just finished a comparison of college with other investments. It found that college tuition in recent decades has delivered an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than 15 percent. For stocks, the historical return is 7 percent. For real estate, it’s less than 1 percent.

Another study being released this weekend — by Anthony Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose of Georgetown — breaks down the college premium by occupations and shows that college has big benefits even in many fields where a degree is not crucial.

Construction workers, police officers, plumbers, retail salespeople and secretaries, among others, make significantly more with a degree than without one. Why? Education helps people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with better-paying companies or open their own businesses.

This follows the pattern of the early 20th century, when blue- and white-collar workers alike benefited from having a high-school diploma.

When confronted with such data, skeptics sometimes reply that colleges are mostly a way station for smart people. But that’s not right either. Various natural experiments — like teenagers’ proximity to a campus, which affects whether they enroll — have shown that people do acquire skills in college.

Even a much-quoted recent study casting doubt on college education, by an N.Y.U. sociologist and two other researchers, was not so simple. It found that only 55 percent of freshmen and sophomores made statistically significant progress on an academic test. But the margin of error was large enough that many more may have made progress. Either way, the general skills that colleges teach, like discipline and persistence, may be more important than academics anyway.

None of this means colleges are perfect. Many have abysmal graduation rates. Yet the answer is to improve colleges, not abandon them. Given how much the economy changes, why would a high-school diploma forever satisfy most citizens’ educational needs?

Or think about it this way: People tend to be clear-eyed about this debate in their own lives. For instance, when researchers asked low-income teenagers how much more college graduates made than non-graduates, the teenagers made excellent estimates. And in a national survey, 94 percent of parents said they expected their child to go to college.

Then there are the skeptics themselves, the professors, journalists and others who say college is overrated. They, of course, have degrees and often spend tens of thousands of dollars sending their children to expensive colleges.

I don’t doubt that the skeptics are well meaning. But, in the end, their case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee. And that’s rarely good advice.

David Leonhardt is a columnist for the business section of The New York Times.

Monday, June 20, 2011

College Planning Tip of the Week: Tips for Transfers

Tips for Transfers

Whether you started out at a community college or you've suddenly decided that
it's time to transfer to UAF, the transfer process is a little different from your standard high school to college experience.

So I've asked around and below you'll find a few tips from our experts on how to make your transfer experience a breeze!

1. Complete your associate's degree. National research shows that community college students who finish their degree program complete the baccalaureate at a much higher rate than those students who transfer with simply a grab bag of credits.

  • Be sure to attend a school that is regionally accredited. Credits will not transfer from schools which are not accredited or from schools which are nationally accredited only!
2. Shop around. Examine all of the options available to you as a transfer student. Examine both public and private four-year institutions to decide what will be the best fit for you. The four-year institution that you had your heart set on in high school might not ultimately be the best choice for the subject you want to pursue.

3. Plan ahead. The earlier you begin to prepare for transfer, the better. Visit, collect transfer materials, and find out if there are any transfer agreements between where you are and UAF. The more information that you have, the easier it will be to make a decision.

  • Did you know that your Advanced Placement test scores can count as transfer credit? Plan ahead and have your scores sent directly to UAF!
4. Know what actually transfers. Make sure you are picking courses that are transferable. At UAF you can go to the UA Transfer Credit Resource Site to find out how transfer credit has been evaluated in the past. Also, here a link to the UA Table of Substitutions for Non-UA Institutions as an aid to choosing general education classes that should transfer easily to UAF --

  • Did you know that quarter credits convert to semester credits at UAF by multiplying by .667 (i.e., a 5 credit quarter class transfers to UAF as 3.335 semester credits).
  • Did you know that, in general, 100 and 200-level (lower division) courses are not equivalent to 300 or 400-level (upper division) courses?
  • Did you know that a 3 credit class does not equal a 5 credit class?
  • Did you know that a science class with a lab is not equal to a science class without a lab even if they are the same number of credits and the course descriptions match in every way but with the lab? Sign up for the lab sections!

5. Don't be shy. Meet regularly with advisors at the community college. Keep your advisor informed of your transfer plans, and as transfer approaches, set a time to meet with an admissions counselor at UAF. If you try to navigate this process without the help of advisors, you might not be able to maximize your community college courses.

6. Choose a major. Pick your major early, and seek advice about the best courses to take to meet requirements. By choosing your major early, you can take the prerequisites that you need for that program at the university. Well-planned course taking will help you finish your transfer program more efficiently, saving you time and money in the long run.

7. Get admitted. At UAF we evaluate your transfer credits after you have been admitted. So get that step out of the way early to give yourself enough time between getting admitted and getting advised.

8. Talk to us about Money. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you have not done so already. Apply for scholarships. We have scholarships available to transfer students but you can't get them unless you apply by Feb. 15! Make sure that you meet all of the deadlines for financial aid. Otherwise, you might miss out on assistance that is available to you.

9. Attend orientation. You might think that you do not need this because you already are a college student. But navigating the university is different. Take advantage of the opportunities that UAF's Orientation Program has created for transfer students.

10. Stay focused. This one is easy to forget. Whether it's your associate's or bachelor's degree we're talking about, finishing on time is not easy. But it can be done if you are focused and work hard. Keep your goal in mind even when you're working in your hardest class, which you don't much like. It will all pay off.

1 - 10 Source:

Types of transfer credit:
  • AP - Advanced Placement
  • CLEP - College Level Examination Program
  • Credit for Prior Learning
  • Military (Navy, Marine, Airforce, Army)
  • College credits
  • IB - International Baccalaureate
  • Certificates (may have been pre-approved for transfer by UAF's departments)
Please visit: for more details on transferring to UAF!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Capture the Flag

I have one UAF pennant left and it could be yours! To capture it simply browse the postings to this blog beginning in January of 2011. Find the answers to the following questions and send them to

Subject line: Admissions Counselor Blog Posting.
Include your name, address, and date of birth along with your correct answers.

All correct answers will be entered into a drawing for this pennant.

1. According to the blog: Money! You want it?, what three events take place in February each year?
2. What is a nanook?
3. What creature did the department of Fish and Game ask you not to taser in April?

On your mark, get set, go!

The drawing will take place next Monday at 12 noon! I will post the winning entrant here!

UAF Lower Campus Panaroma, June 7, 2011

The statue in the middle is Charles Bunnell. The buildings are: Signers' Hall (Admissions, registrar, business office, and other administration offices); the library, the Brooks Building, the Duckering Building, the Bunnell Building. In the center is the circle of flags (which represents has flags of the countries represented by students here at UAF.

The College Experience: College Roommates

The College Experience: College Roommates

If you are a newly admitted student planning to live on campus you might be asking yourself what it will be like to have a roommate and hoping that you'll get paired with someone that you like or at least can tolerate! Below are a few simple rules to follow for a successful roommate experience.

College Roommate Rules

Most college students who don’t live at home have one or more roommates, often assigned to them randomly by the college. This is the first time some students have lived with anyone other than their family. If you’re on your way to college, you might be wondering how well this works.

Many first-year students miss the privacy of their homes, of course. But most also find comfort in the company of others who are going through the same things they are — such as taking challenging courses and figuring out how to balance school and social life. Even roommates who have differences are often able to solve any problems they have by talking it out.

Living harmoniously with someone means respecting differences, sharing, being courteous, and accepting others for who they are. These are good life skills to learn. They may be the most important lessons you’ll learn in college outside the classroom.
Lifestyle Differences

Let’s hope this won’t be your experience:

11 p.m.: You've finished your schoolwork for the evening. You stack your books on your desk, fold and put away clothing, shut off the lights, slip into your neatly made bed, and drift off to sleep.

2 a.m.: You're jolted awake by bright lights and laughter. Could it be morning already? No such luck. Rather, it seems your party-loving roommate has arrived home and is just now starting to do homework. You watch in near-disbelief as your roommate gets online, cranks up some music, and starts singing loudly and dancing — discarding clothes and books on the floor. Noticing you, your roommate says “What’s up?” cheerfully and without a trace of guilt, apparently unaware that you were fast asleep.

You flop back onto your bed, put your pillow over your head and groan, "How am I ever going to get through the year?"

Scenes like this are not unusual at college. If you're a bookworm who goes to bed early and your roommate is a party animal who just gets going at midnight, sharing the same quarters may not be easy. But that doesn't mean the two of you can't get along.
The Talking Cure

Keeping lines of communication open is essential. If your college has given you contact information for your roommate, call or e-mail before college begins. Introduce yourself and find out more about the person you’ll be living with for the next year. Here are some other tips for getting off to a good start:

Discuss important issues and establish rules. If you make house rules, and communicate openly and often, you can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road. If you can't study with music on, then come to an agreement about quiet times. If your roommate likes to have lots of friends over and you like solitude, make a schedule for using the room that’s fair to both of you.

Be respectful. Successful roommate relationships are based on mutual respect. If your roommate doesn’t want to loan or borrow clothes, respect that choice. Your roommate should respect reasonable requests from you, too — for example, not to eat your food without asking.

Be willing to compromise. You and your roommate may not agree on everything, but you both have to compromise a little bit. For example, suppose one of you is a slob and the other is a neat freak. The untidy one should keep the shared areas of the room clean. And the neat one should overlook untidiness in the roommate’s area.

Be courteous. Courtesy is contagious. If you behave politely to your roommate, your roommate is likely to follow your lead. Wish your roommate luck on an exam. Ask if you can pick up something while you're running errands. And don't borrow anything without asking.
Good friendships often begin by sharing space with strangers. Who knows — maybe that loud, partying roommate you thought would drive you crazy will become your best friend.