Jun 29, 2015

Transfer students continue to head south

Liberty University
Transfer students are continuing their march south, according to data compiled by U.S. News and World Report, as large public universities in Florida, California and Texas dominated the list of most popular destinations for transfers last year. 

And from a practical standpoint, these are the schools that have capacity to accept and enroll huge numbers of transfer students.

For the record, there are many reasons students choose to move schools. Often money issues are involved. Or sometimes it’s a question of academics, majors or a simple desire to be closer to home. 

The National Student Clearinghouse reports that one-third of all students transfer at least once within five years, with the majority of transfers occurring in students’ second year.

And community college students make up a huge percentage of students moving from one institution to another.   

In fact, the National Student Clearinghouse also reports that in the 2013-14 academic year (most recent data available), 46 percent of students who completed degrees at four-year institutions were enrolled at a two-year institutions at some point in the previous ten years.

Even President Obama transferred across country during his college career.

Among the “ranked” colleges and universities providing U.S. News with transfer data, the University of Texas at Arlington topped the list with 8,760 students transferring in.  Other popular warm-weather destinations include the University of Central Florida and Florida International University, as well as various California State locations.

A quick review of local colleges and universities also suggests significant transfer movement at some larger institutions.  Liberty University (6482 transfers),
UMUC (3646), Old Dominion University (2105), George Mason University (2547), Virginia Commonwealth University (2095), the University of Maryland (2022) and Towson University (2299) enrolled the most transfer students.

According to even more recent Common Data Set information, fewer transfers were to be found at other local institutions including Johns Hopkins (45), the University of Richmond (48), and Georgetown University (148).

With more spots to fill, George Washington accepted 59 percent of its transfer applicants and enrolled 492 students, while James Madison University accepted 56 percent of its applicants and enrolled 677 students.

University of Virginia accepted 38 percent of those applying to transfer and enrolled 665, at the same time the College of William and Mary accepted 40 percent of its transfer applicants and enrolled 157.

With high retention and graduation rates, Washington and Lee University doesn’t have much of a transfer program.  Last year 59 students applied, 2 were admitted, and 2 enrolled.

On the other side of the spectrum, among the local colleges admitting the highest percent of transfer applicants were the
University of Mary Washington (73%), St. Mary’s College of Maryland (78%), Virginia Tech (52%), Goucher College (51%), and American University (67%).

The following is the
U.S. News list of four-year nonprofit universities enrolling the most transfer students:
  • University of  Texas—Arlington (8760)
  • Liberty University, VA (6482)
  • University of Central Florida (6447)
  • California State University-Northridge (5248)
  • California State University-Fullerton (4752)
  • California State University-Sacramento (4379)
  • University of South Florida (3859)
  • University of North Texas (3850)
  • San Jose State University, CA (3768)
  • San Francisco State University, CA (3766)
  • Texas State University (3740)
  • University of Maryland University College (3646)
  • San Diego State University, CA (3616)
  • Florida Atlantic University (3610)
  • University of Houston (3423)
Note that despite real interest in transfer data, the federal government doesn’t really keep track of these numbers outside of asking for a voluntary “transfer-out” rate, which may be found on College Navigator under “Retention and Graduation” rates.

Local transfer-out rates are provided by the Johns Hopkins University (2%), UVa (4%), College of William and Mary (7%), Washington and Lee University (8%), Randolph-Macon College (12%), McDaniel College (13%), Towson University (13%), University of Maryland College Park (14%), St. Mary’s College of Maryland (19%), George Mason University (21%), University of Mary Washington (23%), Old Dominion University (29%), and Roanoke College (33%). 

Jun 27, 2015

Virginia Private College Week is back for 2015

Washington and Lee University

The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) recently announced that Virginia Private College Week is back.  This year, the event will take place from Monday, July 27 through Saturday, August 1, 2015.

And this is your opportunity to ‘tour and save.’

Several years ago, CICV launched an incentive program designed to bring high school students and their families to Virginia’s private college campuses by giving away application fee waivers.

In a nutshell, if you visit three or more participating colleges during Virginia Private College Week, you will receive three application fee waivers.  This means NO application fees for three Virginia private colleges of your choice.

And hundreds of students take advantage of the offer each year as groups of families drive from campus to campus on summer vacations that double as traditional college tours.

It works this way:
  1. Decide which schools you want to visit. There are 23 from which to choose, and they are located in virtually every corner of scenic Virginia.
  2. Register for tours at each of the schools you plan to visit. Yes, register. It’s not required, but it really helps the schools plan for materials and tour guides. And it’s really VERY easy.
  3. Organize your travel plans. Transportation information and driving instructions are available on individual college websites. Note that this is not an organized bus tour.
  4. Make sure the admissions office knows you’re there—be sure to sign in.
  5. Complete your visit and the school will notify CICV electronically.
  6. After three visits, you will be sent three application fee waivers certified for use at any of the Virginia private colleges—not necessarily the ones you visited.
For example, if you visit Marymount, Shenandoah, and Lynchburg, you can use your application fee waivers at any of those three colleges or at Randolph-Macon, Washington & Lee and the University of Richmond. Your choice!

By the way, Virginia’s private institutions often get overshadowed by the Commonwealth’s strong public colleges and universities. But you really should take a closer look, as these schools offer wonderful opportunities for students with a variety of college criteria and interests. Much more information, including an interactive
listing of colleges by majors, may be found on the CICV website.

And as you’re considering Virginia private colleges, don’t forget about the
Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG). This wonderful program offers financial awards to Commonwealth students attending any of Virginia’s private colleges or universities. The sole eligibility requirement is that you live in Virginia. It’s really pretty sweet.

Also keep in mind that
Virginia529 College Savings Plans can be applied to tuition at Virginia private colleges.  All four savings programs offered by Virginia529—Virginia529 inVEST, Virginia529 prePAID, CollegeAmerica®, and CollegeWealth®—can be used at any of the colleges you visit during Virginia Private College Week.

Start making plans now.  If you have questions about the tour or the advantages of Virginia’s private colleges, you can call 540.586.0606 or visit the
CICV website.

Jun 25, 2015

Counselors react strongly to new ACT score reports

Counselors were surprised to learn earlier this week that ACT is getting more deeply involved in the admissions process by offering colleges the opportunity to purchase individualized reports assessing an applicant’s “chances of success” in various majors and freshman-level courses.

“This is just another reminder that the College Board and ACT are for-profit organizations, and though we would like to believe that they do, they do NOT always have the student’s best interests in mind,” said Natalie Gipson, a Maryland-based independent educational consultant (IEC).

Charlotte Klaar, of Klaar College Consulting agrees, “ACT’s white hat just got a bit gray.”

As part of a plan to provide more detailed information to colleges, particularly those participating in ACT Research Services, ACT will be determining “overall chances of success” in majors including education, business administration, liberal arts and engineering, as well as “specific course chances of success” in typical freshman classes.  For colleges paying for the service, these assessments will be provided on the score report form as indications of whether a student is likely to receive a “B” or better or a “C” or better in each of several specific majors and courses.

“Both the ACT and the SAT—or any testing service for that matter—should stay out of the business of interpreting predictive results in terms of college performance.  The organizations simply are not qualified to do this,” said Jaqueline Grazette, an educational consultant located in Annapolis.  “With the varying levels of instruction, assignments and curricular focus at over 4000 colleges in the United States, not to mention the unique work ethics of students that are not captured in either test, there is no way their predictions would be consistently accurate.”
Victoria Tillman Evans, an IEC in Washington, D.C., concurs, “The ACT is basically trying to assert, in an underhanded manner, that a student’s performance on a standardized test is a strong measure of their future success. As a strong supporter of the FairTest/Score Optional movement, I actually find this practice appalling.”
And Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, couldn’t agree more. “It is an increasingly slippery slope when test-takers (really their parents) pay ACT for the privilege of creating gobs of data which ACT can then massage and sell to colleges…Of course, there is no independent oversight body ensuring that ACT’s calculations are fair, valid or useful.”

Of particular concern to many counselors is the way in which ACT proposes to mine for data used to generate the “chances of success.”  According to information provided by ACT, a key metric will come from “student-reported information gathered as part of the registration process, including high school GPA and specific course grades earned.”

In other words, students registering for the ACT will be providing data that can potentially be used against them as candidates for admission at some schools.

“Those who provide the ‘inputs’ for this process have no idea how their test responses are being used, let alone the algorithms employed to translate ACT scores into projections of grades, retention, and graduation,” adds Schaeffer.

And IECs familiar with how applications and registration forms are completed are very suspect about the accuracy of the information ACT is using.

“What disturbs me the most about this is ACT, Inc., using student self-reported data, which is very unreliable. A college/university will not accept even a copy of an original transcript. Why would that same entity be willing to rely on a student’s ability to remember and correctly input vital data and then use it to help make a decision about admissions,” commented Ginny Wirzbicki, of Mentaur Learning Center.

Coming from a slightly different direction, Marilyn Aiches, in the San Francisco Bay Area, wonders about the usefulness of ACT’s focus on potential majors.  “Statistics show that about 70% of students change their majors at least one time. I find college is a time when students should explore their varied interests—not the day when they sit for an entrance exam.”

And adds Aiches, “Frankly, it isn’t anybody’s business what a student’s ‘chances for success’ are in a single field.  How many of us know doctors who are wonderful artists? Or engineers who read philosophy for fun? Pigeon holes are for pigeons.”

And many counselors question the fairness of generating a report, which a student neither sees nor can refute.

“For the ACT to provide information to colleges that students and high schools will likely never see seems patently unfair,” said an educational consultant in Pennsylvania. “What about the human factor? Does the college not have the potential to have any impact on a student’s eventual success?”

Others wonder about the legality of using information such as grades and GPA’s to form recommendations without specific permission from the student:  “Is it legal to provide colleges information to be used for admission without informed consent?  At least with teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, the student has the opportunity to formally designate whether he/she wants to see his/her recommendations.  This ACT assessment is similarly a ‘recommendation’ of sorts.”

Another IEC agrees.  “My general reaction is that the ACT must minimally inform students that this information is being shared with colleges and should specifically list the colleges that are currently paying for this service.”

And knowing how the information might be used, what do IECs advise?

“Personally, I would probably advise my students not to answer the questions ACT is using for its ‘research’,” said Victoria Tillman Evans.

Alison Parker, in Los Angeles, adds, “Now that I know, I will advise my students to leave it blank unless they have a perfect GPA.”

“…my advice will be to not complete the section,” agrees Charlotte Klaar.

Others concur, “I will urge my students who are taking the ACT (as so many of them will, in light of the new SAT) to not report any grades for high school courses.”

Others are more defiant.  “[This is] much sleazier than anything the College Board has ever done…Knowing this I will counsel all of my students, school based and private, to avoid the ACT like the plague.”

But at least one consultant has a more immediate concern.  “Do you know if a student can remove the optional info they provided to the ACT about grades, etc. when they registered?” 

That’s up to ACT.