Mountain State University: A College Education?

Mountain State University is a private college. It is located on three city blocks in the heart of Beckley, West Virginia. You won't see the beautiful landscaping or students lounging around on the grass like you would at other colleges. MSU boasts no landscaping. All you will see are buildings surrounded by parking lots. Considering their lack of landscaping you would assume they would have ample parking spaces. That assumption is wrong. With over 6,000 students enrolled the 300 parking spaces available are not nearly enough for this campus. You must also take into consideration that if you plan on parking in these parking lots you have to have a MSU Parking permit. If you by some lucky chance manage to get one of the coveted parking spaces and you do not have a MSU parking permit then you are very likely to come from class and see your car on the back of a tow truck.

Yet this is only part of the problem associated with Mountain State University. The tuition is considerably higher then the neighboring public colleges. The reason for this is that MSU is a private college, therefore its tuition is not regulated by any agency. For a student, not living on campus, you can expect your tuition to be around $3,700 per semester. Compare that to a public college whose tuition is around $4,300 for both spring and fall semester. If you plan to live on campus you can expect to pay considerably more. It is actually cheaper to rent an apartment and go to school then to live on campus at MSU. Many of the professors and students live as much as 50 miles away from the school. Which if you choose to live that far away MSU does offer a wide variety of independent study courses. These courses can be completed with a proctor or over the web. in my opinion, it is better to take these independent study courses then to attend class. The professors at this college have so many students that it is nearly impossible to give any one student extra time for help on any of there class work. At this college if you have a problem understanding any of your class work be prepared to put out even more money for a tutor.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a college education and can afford to just throw away your college money then by all means enroll at Mountain State University. On the other hand, if you want to get a good education at a college that actually cares about its students, and not the money, then I would look elsewhere. Not only will you be saving a considerable amount of money, you will actually be learning something in the process.…

Continue reading

Back to Basics in the Public Education System

Today’s public education curriculum is much more complicated than it was fifty or even twenty-five years ago. Every year brings new things that educators feel are important enough to add to the curriculum. Teachers have to teach twice as much in the same amount of time. And our children are paying the price of not being able to focus on material long enough to do anything with it but remember it for the tests.

When was the last time educators and administrators combed through the curriculum as a whole and weeded out unnecessary lessons and combine concepts that naturally go together? Spelling, for example, no longer needs to place so prominently in this generation of spell check. Instead provide a list of vocabulary words and have students use them in sentences and stories. You’ll be teaching spelling, vocabulary and composition at the same time. Kids learn more from doing than being told anyway so it stands to reason that placing more emphasis on reading will spill over to grammar, spelling and word meanings as well as reading skills.

Alternatively schools need to stop teaching shortcuts where skills are necessary. It was a disappointing shock to me when I found out that my sons’ teachers not only allowed but encouraged them to use calculators when doing mathematics. How can they possibly learn advanced math when they are taught to let a calculator do the basics? Math skills build upon the previous skill so the basics here cannot be skipped.

Back to basics curriculum would put the emphasis on skills and knowledge that is most essential to living as a successful citizen in this society. Skills like basic math, algebra, reading, writing, basic science, world and U.S. history, personal finances, health, physical fitness, and computer skills would be included. By paring down the curriculum to what is essential for predictive adulthood; we can ensure that the majority of students graduate from high school with at least enough skills to succeed as adults. Note I said succeed, not merely get by in life.

Additionally it would be imperative with a back to basics curriculum to make sure to provide exposure to advanced material so any student with a passion – say aerodynamics or sociology – would be able to learn and gain knowledge and skills about that subject. Possibly a “Blank” period could be provided for the students to explore their own interests with the guidance of a teacher or a team of teachers.

This idea may not be perfectly ironed out but I believe it is a good start towards bringing authentic learning back into the public school classroom.…

Continue reading

Four Ideas on How to Plan for a Educational, Memorable Fourth of July Celebration

The fourth of July is definitely an important time of year. It celebrates the time when America was finally freed from the hands of the British after the Revolutionary War. No matter how boring the subject may be in a history book, the fourth of July was definitely one of the most important times in American history. Of course, most teenagers and young children won't want to hear this whole story from beginning to end, but there are different ways that we can make Independence Day a holiday worth celebrating. Here, I'm going to list a few ways you can make the fourth of July the day to remember.

Cookout – This is one of the most common ways to celebrate Independence Day. Combined with a few friends, family, and games, this idea can also turn out to be one of the most enjoyable. An interesting way to add some education to this idea would be to read out the story of the Declaration of Independence while everyone is eating.

A Trip to Washington D.C. – This one may be a bit more expensive than the others, but hey, it's summer vacation and this would be a fantastic idea to make learning about Independence Day a bit more enjoyable. Check out the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Go out for ice cream – This idea is relatively simple, and inexpensive. You don't have to go out for ice cream either; you could just buy some in advance and enjoy it on the porch or at the park. Here, you can just talk about why Independence Day is important to our lives, and what exactly happened on that day.

Visit relatives – There's nothing better than spending time with your fellow relatives, and to me, the more the merrier. You could go visit grandma's house or maybe a local aunt or uncle. Regardless of who you're visiting, it's no doubt that a day spend with relatives is a lot easier to remember than a day where everyone stays at home. You could have your child do a homework assignment a few days before the gathering on why the Fourth of July is important to American history, and have them present the assignment some time during the holiday.

I hope these ideas helped to spark some plans for a memorable, yet educational Independence Day experience. Happy Holidays!

 …

Continue reading

Funding Your Graduate Education with Assistantships

Funding your graduate education is very different from undergrad. Graduate assistantships allow students to exchange work for financing their education. In general, assistantships are available from well-funded departments in disciplines that produce scholarly work. Departments will attempt to admit only the number of graduate students that they can fund. Professional programs like architecture, law, business, and education are the exception. These departments will not attempt to fund everyone, since they award many more degrees than there are spots for assistants.

All assistantships pay for a portion of your tuition. You are required to work for a set number of hours per week for a set wage. Even though it may seem you are being underpaid in the wage area, a graduate assistant is receiving a large monetary benefit from the tuition waiver. Imagine a state university is offering $10,000 for 20 hours per week of work and full tuition remission. At the in-state tuition rate of $250 per credit hour, the tuition remission is worth approximately $6000. This is equal to a full-time salary of $32,000 per year-not exactly rich, but enough to live on.

There are many types of graduate assistantships. The most common are teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Assistantships may also be offered doing other types of work, such as running a dormitory or working in an administrative capacity with the department. Some assistantships provide health insurance or free health care. At many Universities, graduate assistants are represented by a union. The union will negotiate the minimum terms of all graduate assistants' renumeration.

A teaching assistant will take on responsibilities for teaching or administering a course. Masters-level students frequently will work for a professor who is teaching a large undergraduate course, and will take on grading, tutoring, and course material prep duties. Doctoral students will often take on the full responsibility for teaching a smaller undergraduate course or specialized graduate course. Teaching assistants are chosen based on their mastery of the course material and ability to communicate the knowledge. A drawback to being a teaching assistant is that it frequently takes time than the number of hours stated in the award. No overtime will be paid. Another drawback is that teaching responsibilities take away time that could be devoted to researching for your thesis or dissertation. However, teaching experience is invaluable when applying for faculty jobs after graduation.

Research assistantships are the most prized type of assistantship. Students holding one will perform research work with a professor on a grant. Assistants will be intensely involved in the process of performing the research work. They may perform literature reviews, lab tests, interviews, surveys, or computer work. Some grants will require extension or technical assistance work to real-world practitioners. At the end of the grant, many projects will be written up as reports or scholarly journal articles. This gives the assistant the opportunity to be published, which is essential during the job search phase. A smart graduate assistant will choose a thesis or dissertation topic that relates to the …

Continue reading

Election Highlights Education Reform

One of the issues President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agree on is education reform, although they have different opinions about what that reform should entail. Their positions reflect a stark contrast in their differing philosophies. They have different beliefs about the role the federal government should have in public schools across the United States. Here is an overview of three different arguments Romney and Obama make about education reform:

School Choice
One of the most pressing concerns of Romney, and the Republican party in general is that of school choice. Different methods of expressing that choice have been suggested, such as vouches and charter schools. At the basis of Romney's argument is the positive effects of competition in creating excelling schools, just as he believes that the competition makes the free-market system great.

Barack Obama has a different take on school choice, arguing that it ignores the underlying causes of the problems within schools, such as poverty and segregation. As an alternative, Obama has spear-headed the "Race to The Top," a federal program which encourages schools to develop innovations in education through monetary incentives.

School Loans

Obama and Romney have very different views on reforming the federal school loan programs. During Obama's first term, the federal government took over the management of school loans based on the idea that cutting out the middle man would translate into cost-savings. A major concern for the Obama administration is making higher education more affordable and not burdening recent graduates with a mountain of debt. Obama even points to his own struggles with paying off school loans as a motivating factor in reforming the loan programs.

In contrast, Romney has argued that the federal government shouldn't be too involved in the school loan programs based on the idea that the private sector can do a better job. His main argument is that the federal government's management of the loan programs will lead to less competition. He also opposes loan forgiveness for those entering the public section, which has been a main part of Obama's attempt to reform the school loan system.

Teacher Unions

According to Romney, teacher unions are one of the main barriers to true education reform. He argues against teacher tenure and argues for tying student performance to raises for teachers and getting rid of teachers whose students don't exhibit sufficient achievement on test scores and other standards.

Obama has argued for incentives, rather than penalties, to encourage student success. For example, schools who make significant improvements in test scores are given extra money, and teachers have the opportunity to earn incentive pay if their students succeed.…

Continue reading

Subsidizing Private Education

Douglas County school district, the third largest school district in Colorado, is considering private school vouchers allowing parents an option to send their children to a non-public school, including religious schools, using public funds.

Already struggling, Douglas County cut 168 teacher positions in 2010. It also cut a significant amount bus routes to the dismay of parents. Students who take the bus are now charged a $.50 per ride fee. And now the district wants to offer to pay (almost $5,000 per student per school year) for the option to go to private school. Why?

In short, supporters defend the issue by arguing that this will provide better education through competition and give low-income kids "options" for a good education.

The Douglas County 2010 Mini Annual Report, however, boasts that "In 2009, Douglas County students performed 12-21 percentage points above state CSAP averages in reading, math, writing and science. Not only did we exceed the state average in every grade and every subject tested, but we led the Denver area in reading, writing and mathematics."

Kids in Douglas County are getting a good education. In addition, parents can already send their kids to any school in Douglas County. Exceeding the state average in every grade and every subject, Douglas County already has pretty good options.

As for low-income students? In 2008 the median income in Douglas County was $100,493 while the median income for the state of Colorado was $57,184. Douglas County has the second lowest percentage of low-income students in the entire state of Colorado. Second only to Aspen.

Not only will the district, supported by public funds, pay the private schools nearly $5,000 per student per year, but the county will have to create an entire office to monitor the program. It also has to pay for an attorney to fight its political agenda. Money better spent invested in sports programs, music, teachers or… bus routes.

Many private schools cost more than $5,000 per year so the parents that cannot afford private school now won't be able to afford it with a voucher either. The only thing that this voucher program does in the case of Douglas County is take much-needed funds away from a successful program.…

Continue reading

Education: Leaving Out the Middle Class

From education at the preschool level to the University level we can see the struggles and shortcomings of education for the middle class. From preschool to the graduation of high school students normally attend schools in or near their communities. These communities will influence the quality of the school and the education and experience received.

Schools in affluent communities, funded usually by the community, and schools in poverty communities, usually funded by the government, grants and various programs, are able to offer more opposed to their middle-class counterpart schools whose surrounding community has little means for private funding but too much means for government funding or grants. This difference can be seen in the quality of the buildings themselves, the food offered, school supplies provided, books used and field trips/extracurriculars provided. This limits the quality and quantity of information for middle class students and limits experiences and skills that they could later draw on for decision making, career availability, scholarship opportunities, etc.

Disadvantages can also be seen for middle-class students at the university level. The lack of sports/extracurricular activities and the poorer quality equipment can hurt their acceptance chance into certain universities and their potential for scholarship opportunities often lost out on to their counterpart students. This last part is perhaps the most crippling part for a middle-class university student. Their families rarely have the means to pay for their college tuition and expenses but far too often are considered as making too much money to qualify them for any kind of meaningful financial aid. Most of these students will go to a mediocre school just for the cheaper costs. That withstanding, the majority of any middle-class student will most likely incur loan debts to pay for their educations.

Because even this money is rarely enough, most of these students will work at least one full time job in order to keep up with expenses. In this they will lose out on the college experience both from the lack of time for campus life and to full focus on the information being presented to them. Most middle class students will either graduate college but make less money than their counterparts due to the less accredited Universities attending or they will drop out either from failing grades because of the cut into their study/class time by their jobs or because they find themselves no longer able to incur the money they need to continue paying for their educations. This later case usually leaves middle class students without the University type income but with the University type debt.…

Continue reading