College

Choosing to Skip College

In the new issue of Philadelphia Magazine, Grace Jay-Benjamin recounts touring colleges with her parents, and deciding at her first stop at McGill University, that she actually didn’t want to go to college. Benjamin had attended Greenfield Elementary, which she says has one of the best reputations in the city, but when she complained about disliking school, her parents pulled her out to attend the Philadelphia School, where students called their teachers by their first names and did much of their learning during weekly field trips. Benjamin didn’t want to be stuck in an academic setting that didn’t feel right for her, (nor saddle herself with any kind of student debt). She also wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, and didn’t think college was the right way for her to figure that out.

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What Would You Do for $1000 an Hour?

In college, we spent a lot of time playing a fun game called “Would You Rather.” Like, “Would you rather have to vomit every third time you opened your mouth, or take a dump on your favorite professor’s desk chair?” Sometimes the questions went beyond bodily functions to money: “Would you rather steal $10,000 or have it given to you because a relative you loved died?”

Nowadays everyone just plays Cards Against Humanity.

Let’s be retro! Would you rather make $1000 an hour by shaving monkeys for use in labs, or by being Anthony Green, doing “guaranteed results” remote test-prep for Manhattan’s richest children and having to answer to their parents?

Green is one of the premier SAT and ACT tutors in New York. His company, Test Prep Authority, serves some of the richest kids in America. Using a student’s PSAT, the practice exam, as a benchmark, Green promises he can help raise scores an average of 430 points on the SAT (and 7.8 points on the ACT) — “higher than any other tutor, class, or program in the country,” according to his website. That promise seems to be enough for his well-heeled clientele. And for this very small but wealthy minority, money is truly no object. Green charges $1,500 for 90 minutes of one-on-one tutoring, and he insists on a minimum of 14 90-minute sessions, with very rare exceptions. What’s more, the sessions happen exclusively over Skype. Green’s pupils have never stepped foot inside of his eclectically decorated townhouse.

In the article, Green acknowledges that the system is broken, that the SAT is a “blatant class indicator” and “the entire system of standardized tests and higher education is completely ridiculous and ludicrous.” But as long as that system exists as a supposedly “objective” way of sorting students, he will help the most privileged succeed. AMERICA.

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No Progress on Poor Kids at Top Colleges

Despite effort, or the appearance of it, there has been no change in terms of getting high-achievers from low-income families to elite schools.

In 2006, at the 82 schools rated “most competitive” by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, 14 percent of American undergraduates came from the poorer half of the nation’s families, according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Georgetown University who analyzed data from federal surveys. That was unchanged from 1982. And at a narrower, more elite group of 28 private colleges and universities, including all eight Ivy League members, researchers at Vassar and Williams Colleges found that from 2001 to 2009, a period of major increases in financial aid at those schools, enrollment of students from the bottom 40 percent of family incomes increased from just 10 percent to 11 percent.

What does make a difference? Investments of money, which most schools either can’t or won’t prioritize, and investments of time, like sending admissions officers to schools that are off the beaten track. Also, perhaps most importantly, helping students understand that the sticker price at high-end colleges is not what most middle- and working-class families pay:

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Nail Polish That Might Save Your Life

Living with a kitchen of limited size, and also being on a budget, means having to be strategic. No single-utility items, a friend told me once, sternly. That was her policy. She refused to pay for any gadget – a bread-maker, a George Forman grill, a pineapple slicer — that did only one thing, because no number of delicious cuts of pineapple could make up for kitchen clutter. Appliances must multitask! Be useful, or begone.

I thought about that when I read this piece about nail polish that can detect date rape drugs.

Undercover Colors is currently raising cash to refine its prototype and pay executives. According to a securities filing, the four-person company, which recently appeared at the K50 Startup Showcase, just raised $100,000 from one investor, with $150,000 left to sell in the round. And it has additional cash from competition. The company won the Lulu eGames this spring, sponsored by N.C. State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, a contest challenging students to design working solutions to real-world problems.

Though the article raises some questions, like how could be it be savvy enough to detect roofies and also nontoxic, and how much would Smart, Potentially Life-Saving Nail Polish cost — too much for your average college student?, it’s an intriguing idea. Veronica Mars would approve, and so, I imagine, would my clutter-conscious friends.

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The Humanities Grad (A Poem)

I should have studied comp sci, I should have studied math. I should have picked a job track With a clear and guided path. I should have learned to program, I should have learned to code. Maybe then my earnings Would outweigh what I owed. Instead I studied Butler, Sontag and Foucault, And now all I’m “unpacking” Are bottles of cointreau.

 

Emma D. Miller vandalized lockers with rhyming poems in high school. Now she works at a film festival in Durham, NC. She tweets mostly about documentaries.

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Spending Three Years in College, Rather Than Four, to Save Money

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is now the president at Purdue University, and rather than raise tuition to make up for state cuts on college funding and rising administrative costs, he’s frozen tuition for the first time in 36 years and looking for ways to save (it should be noted that as governor, Daniels cut millions in state higher education funding, so he knows that to keep tuition from rising, he’ll have to find savings from the inside). Daniels has started by cutting the cost of student food by 10 percent and consolidating administrative jobs, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Daniels is also considering what students actually get out of college and encouraging departments to devise a program where students can graduate within three years, instead of four.

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“Choosing THE RIGHT School”: BS or Total BS?

We’ve been talking a lot about college on the Billfold lately, which brings up an important question: How do you know if you chose the right school? People in our society make a fetish about picking the place that’s right for you as though there’s only one correct answer, and as though “the place that will give you the most aid” or “the state school closest to home” isn’t the guiding principle behind the way a lot of us make this choice.

Universities seem to serve as kind of a “You complete me” soul-mate stand-in. And for maybe the same reason we talk about “the one” in a romantic context, we take for granted that “the right” college exists out there for everyone interested in higher education. Doesn’t that raise expectations to an unreasonable level? After all, how do you evaluate the choice once you’ve made it? 

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Concerning Eschewing Ivies and Raising Working-Class Heroes

On the heels of Ester’s exploration of trust fund kids (my position: don’t trust ‘em), I came upon this rather wide-ranging indictment of elite colleges and the admissions process in the New Republic: in short, the author avers, the Ivies squelch creativity, channel thinking and energy into a narrow set of endeavors, reinforce privilege, and perpetuate the illusion of a meritocracy: “This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead.”

And the cause (aside from, you know, how rich people always set stuff up to benefit themselves)?

Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools.

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In the Future, We Will All Understand Code

In a story for Mother Jones last month, Tasneem Raja asked, “Is Coding the New Literacy?” This wasn’t a “go to college and study STEM” argument, but rather, a discussion of whether understanding code in an increasingly digital world will just be as important as understanding how to read and write. Reading and writing, Raja points out, became more important in the 19th Century as written information from newspapers to store displays began to bombard people. Literacy rates soared, fostered “through religious campaigns, the nascent public school system, and the at-home labor of many mothers.” Everyone understood that reading and writing was important, though not everyone decided to become a writer. Could it be the same for code literacy? It’s not absurd to think that we may all understand code one day but not all grow up to be programmers.

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My No-Bullshit Hiring History: Kitchens, Concert Halls, Banks and More

In addition to handing out programs, I scheduled the other ushers and occasionally ran the sound booth. Perks included choice hours and the ability to wear colors. The highlight of this job was meeting Aretha Franklin backstage. She called me Stewart and asked me to bring her a hamburger.

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Leave Religion Off Your Resume, With One Big “Unless …”

Science, man. Always bringing us down. The ice caps are melting, the coral reefs are dying, restaurants are less safe than food trucks, everyone’s a little bit racist. The latest blow comes from UConn, where experts took some time off from cheering for their women’s basketball team to figure out whether resumes from job applications that list affiliations with campus religious groups get fewer responses than resumes that don’t. The short answer? Yes, with an “and.” (The “and” being that the effect held true for every religion tested, even a made-up faith, except one.)

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that applicants who included a religious reference in their applications were less likely to get responses than those who did not, an effect that held true across most faiths. … The study used Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, pagan and a made-up religion called Wallonian identities across different applications. All in all, résumés with a religion mentioned got 33% fewer responses than the completely secular ones.

There was one outlier — according to the report, résumés listing a Jewish affiliation received more responses than those listing other religions. “Not only did Jewish applicants not face discrimination but they also actually may have received preferential treatment by some employers — that is, they were more likely to receive an early, exclusive or solo response from employers, compared with all other religious groups combined,” the researchers wrote. “This suggests there is a subset of employers who show a preference for Jewish applicants.”

What’s going on here? Scientists don’t like to speculate — as bloggers, that’s our job — so they don’t draw any conclusions except, maybe, leave even your leadership role in your worship group off your resume if you want to get more calls. But we have some deeper thoughts.

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