Nov 30, 2009

Colleges and Universities Partner to Provide Yellow Ribbon Scholarships

Over 1100 colleges and universities have partnered with the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide financial aid benefits to veterans and some dependents through the Post-9/11 GI Bill “Yellow Ribbon” Program. Designed to support veterans seeking to enroll in either undergraduate or graduate studies at private or out-of-state institutions, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows the VA to enter into agreements with individual colleges and universities to fund tuition expenses exceeding the highest public in-state tuition rates already covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The college or university can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses and the VA will match the same amount as the institution.

To take advantage of this sweet deal, students must be entitled to the maximum VA benefit rate. In other words, they
  • served an aggregate period of active duty after September 10, 2001, of at least 36 months (a sliding scale of benefits is used for those serving less than 36 months);
  • were honorably discharged from active duty for a service connected disability and served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001;
  • are a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on a veteran’s service under the eligibility criteria listed above.

Institutions agree to provide contributions to eligible individuals who apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program on a first-come first-served basis and make contributions toward the program on behalf of the individual in the form of a grant or scholarship. Not only does the program apply to students attending a private institutions or graduate school, but it also works for students attending in an out-of-state status at partnering institutions.

Some local colleges and universities participating in the program include:


Division or School

Number of Students

School Contribution
per student/per year

American University



$13,782 Undergraduate
$8900 Graduate
$10,210 Doctoral

George Washington



$18,000 Undergraduate
$3800 Graduate
$2175 Doctoral

Georgetown University




William and Mary




Eastern Mennonite



$6000 Undergraduate
$2000 Graduate

George Mason University




Hampden-Sydney College




Hampton University




Liberty University




Mary Baldwin College




Marymount University




Roanoke College




University of Richmond




















Washington & Lee




Washington & Lee




College of Notre Dame




Goucher College




Hood College




Johns Hopkins University




Loyola University of MD




St. John’s College




St. John’s College




St. Mary’s College of MD




Washington College




*Except School of Continuing Education

A complete list of participating colleges and universities may be found on the Yellow Ribbon Program website. And kudos to Wingate University in North Carolina for including reference to the Yellow Ribbon Program in their admissions materials!

Nov 28, 2009

DC Colleges and Universities Increase Tuition by an Average of 3.2%

Four-year colleges and universities located within the District of Columbia increased tuition and fees by an average of 3.2 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year. Total costs, including room and board, rose by 4.1 percent. While the national Consumer Price Index (CPI) actually decreased by 2.1 percent last year, DC institutions posted increases close to national averages as computed by the College Board in its Annual Survey of Colleges 2009 and reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription may be required). Two DC universities, Georgetown and GW, joined an elite group of 28 US institutions exceeding $50K per year for tuition, fees, room and board.

Heading the list of university increases in tuition and fees were Howard University (7.1 percent), Catholic University (5.4 percent), and American University (5.1 percent). Although neither Gallaudet nor Southeastern raised tuition, Gallaudet did slightly increase room and board.


2009-10 Tuition and Fees

2008-09 Tuition and Fees

Percent Change

Room and Board

American University





Catholic University





Corcoran College of Art





Gallaudet University





George Washington





Georgetown University





Howard University





Southeastern University





Trinity Washington





University of DC





* $12,300 for nonresidents

In Virginia, private colleges and universities increased tuition by an average of 4.2 percent, while public institutions averaged a 5.7 percent increase for in-state students. George Mason University (6.8 percent), the University of Mary Washington (6.2 percent), and Old Dominion University (5.8 percent) posted the largest increases.

Public colleges and universities in Maryland were more tightly restricted by the State Legislature and limited average tuition increases to 1.75 percent for resident students. Private Maryland institutions, however, went up by an average of 4.7 percent, with Hood College (6 percent) and the College of Notre Dame (5.8 percent) posting among the highest percent increases.

While more modest than in previous years, the tuition increases are troubling for families trying to project college costs. Although many colleges have taken steps to bring spending more in line with anticipated income, the drain on the system is becoming apparent and future tuition rate increases are all but inevitable at most institutions. The question remains, however, as to the elasticity of college demand and what the market will bear during tough economic times.

Nov 27, 2009

Early Applications On the Rise At Many Colleges and Universities

Despite trends suggesting a move away from early admissions spearheaded by several name universities including UVA, Harvard, and Princeton, this year’s applicant pool appears determined to get a few decisions in hand before the start of the New Year. Neither the economic implications of applying early nor the organization necessary to get paperwork complete on time is deterring the Class of 2014 in a quest to get things nailed down sooner rather than later.

And the numbers are startling. Binding Early Decision (ED) applications to Duke University are up 32 percent, increasing from the previous record of 1589 in 2001 to more than 2000 applications by November 2nd of this year. Interestingly, most of the Duke applications are coming from California, New Jersey, Virginia, and from international students.

Locally, George Washington University saw ED I applicants rise by 24 percent, AU's early decision applications went up by 46 percent, and the College of William and Mary earlies increased by 13 percent. Rice University received 26 percent more ED applications, while ED applications to Grinnell College in Iowa rose by 10 percent, following a similar increase the year before. Bowdoin and NYU increased by 5 percent; Davidson and Stanford were up by 4 percent; Smith College rose by 6 percent; Dartmouth received 3 percent more ED applications; and Pomona went up by 2 percent.

Schools with non-binding Early Action (EA) policies also saw an increase in the number of applications received this year. Although relatively small in absolute numbers, Lawrence University's EA applications went up by 50 percent—possibly the result of a more aggressive recruitment campaign this fall. Notre Dame's EA applications increased by 13.5 percent while High Point's combined EA/ED pool rose by 32 percent over 2008.

Not every college experienced increases in ED or EA applications. Yale University’s numbers decreased by 5.2 percent from 2008’s record-breaking year. Haverford and Williams also received slightly fewer applications for early admissions.

Students prepared to apply early sometimes can benefit in the admissions race, as a number of colleges and universities appear to give advantage to applicants willing to commit early and/or get applications in the mail before the first of the year. To illustrate, US News and World Report compiled two lists, one where early action and the other where early decision applications really pay off—sometimes increasing odds by over 50 percent. For example, the ED acceptance rate at American University was 75.1 percent last year while the overall acceptance rate was only 52.9 percent. At GW, ED acceptance was 67 percent and overall was 37 percent, and William and Mary's 2009 ED acceptance at 53.9 percent clearly beats the 34.1 percent rate overall.

Not every student should apply early, especially when first semester senior year grades could be important factors in making a case for admission. Other students hold back out of a desire to compare financial aid packages. While financial aid concerns suggest a barrier for low-income students applying Early Decision, the ability to lock in a college within the first few months of senior year is one more advantage for students for whom money is no object.

Nov 25, 2009

Top US Professors Recognized for Extraordinary Performance in Undergraduate Education

WASHINGTON, DC—The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in collaboration with the Carnegie Foundation annually recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring through the U.S. Professors of the Year Award. Selection criteria include: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community, and profession; and support from colleagues as well as current and former undergraduate students.

This year, four college and university educators were honored:

  • Brian P. Coppola, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Tracey McKenzie, Collin College, Frisco, Texas
  • Richard L. Miller, University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • Robert C. Thomas, University of Montana Western

In addition to the national winners, state-level professors of the year were recognized in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Local winners included Joan B. Riley, Georgetown University (DC); Susan Bontems, Montgomery College (MD); and Kevin Hamed, Virginia Highlands Community College (VA).

Winners of these awards speak volumes about the institutions they represent. These are colleges and universities that value quality undergraduate teaching and mentoring. Note how the list of previous years’ institutional winners differs from other more “commercial” rating systems:



Doctoral & Research Universities

Master’s Universities and Colleges


U of Montana Western

University of Michigan

U of NebraskaKearney


Lewis & Clark College

Kansas State University

U of Central Oklahoma


Smith College

Kansas State University

LSU Shreveport


Reed College

UC Berkeley

Radford University


College of Wooster

University of Michigan

California State University


Williams College

U of Colorado-Boulder

Eastern Connecticut State


Hendrix College


Lynchburg College


Manchester College

University of Notre Dame

Santa Clara University


US Coast Guard Academy

U of Alabama

UNC Charlotte


College of the Holy Cross

Indiana University

University of Portland

For college applicants, it’s mostly a matter of what’s important to you. If excellence in teaching figures in the equation, look beyond artificial measures of prestige and investigate how well institutions deliver the goods.

Nov 23, 2009

Ten Reasons College Freshmen Look Forward To Coming Home for Thanksgiving

Many of those high school students who were stressing over essays and application deadlines this time last year are getting ready to celebrate their first Thanksgiving as college freshmen. While Mom’s home cooking and a miraculously clean bathroom rank high on the list of reasons why freshmen look forward to Thankgsgiving break, it might surprise some college applicants how much life changes and why home looks pretty good after a couple of months in a dorm.

For a little insight into the undergraduate living experience, here are 10 reasons college freshmen look forward to coming home for Thanksgiving:

10. At home, mashed potatoes and stuffing are not served with an ice cream scoop.
9. No one asks to borrow your favorite sweater, calculus book, a video, or iPod.
8. For at least four days, there is no need to wear flip flops in the shower or worry about who’s using your soap.
7. Laundry facilities may be available other than between 3 and 4 AM; quarters or other forms of payment are not required.
6. Access to a car may be within the realm of possibility.
5. A Student ID isn’t necessary to get in the house or access your bedroom.
4. No one in your family is likely to bang on your door after midnight and want to "talk."
3. Earplugs are not necessary to block out your roommate’s music, snoring, and/or video games.
2. You know it’s your hair in the drain.
1. And for better or worse, Thanksgiving dinner is not served on a tray.

Welcome home to all those fortunate enough to get there!

Photo from jolene's photostream on Flickr

Nov 21, 2009

Charta Squad Rap Video Could be the First SAT Advice To Go ‘Viral’

BROOKLYN—When Art Samuels, Director of College Guidance and Culture at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS), originally posted a link to the SAT rap music video “Relax” on the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) E-List little did he expect to create an international sensation. “This is a stressful time of year for counselors,” explained Samuels. “I just thought the video could lighten things up a little.” And it did.

Since the communication went out to college admissions professionals, the Charta Squad SAT video has been enjoyed by almost 14,000 visitors to YouTube—and the number is growing hourly as word spreads through the blogosphere as well as on college admissions websites such as Cappex, College Confidential, and the UVA Admissions Blog. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education included mention of the SAT rap video in a weekly news wrap-up. “The internet is an amazing thing,” commented Athena Apostolou, "Relax" co-producer and editor.

Shot in WCHS classrooms and hallways, the 4-minute video is based on 18 minutes of footage that was neither scripted nor rehearsed. “It sort of wrote itself,” according to Ms. Apostolou, who teaches art to students at WCHS. “We did it because we could really imagine how much the kids would enjoy it. What students wouldn’t want to see their teachers dancing around and singing?” Science teacher John Sullivan—who along with Art Samuels wrote the lyrics—added, “It was a ‘fun’ thing meant to demystify the SAT’s and get the kids to ‘relax.’”

In the past week, Samuels has been contacted by hundreds of counselors all over the country requesting permission to use the video or adapt it for their students. One email came from China asking for a written copy of the lyrics. “The kids never let it die,” according to Samuels. “I’m known around school as the ‘guy in the video.’” Even Samuels’s dentist got in on the act, “He asked for my autograph.”

Based on the enthusiastic response, Samuels definitely thinks the Charta Squad will come together for a sequel. "We accomplished our goals which were to get the kids excited about the SAT, have fun, and take away stress."

“At the end of the day, it’s all for the students,” said Ms. Apostolou. "That’s why we’re in the profession—to help our kids succeed.”

The photo is from Lisa Liang's photostream on

The University of Mary Washington Announces a Mid-year Tuition Increase

FREDERICKSBURG, VA—Responding to tight economic times, the University of Mary Washington (UMW) is announcing a mid-year tuition increase of $100 to help offset the school’s loss of nearly a third of its state support over the last three years. More than $6.6 million or 32 percent in state funds has been cut from the UMW budget since 2007.

The increase, which takes effect for the spring 2010 semester, is projected to generate about $435,000, and will be used to maintain the university’s academic program as well as provide for some additional need-based financial aid. UMW has already identified more than $2 million in reductions to its 2009-2010 spending plan, with over $1 million in savings realized by not filling vacant positions within the University. Other cuts affected departmental operating budgets and equipment purchases. “All areas of the university budget have been impacted, including, for the first time, teaching positions,” explained Richard V. Hurley, executive vice president.

In addition to the $100 increase for full-time students, part-time undergraduate students will pay an extra $8 per credit hour, and graduate students will pay an additional $12 per credit hour. This is the first time in seven years the university has had to raise tuition during an academic year to offset budget cuts.

Recent fee increases levied on students at the University of California Berkeley sparked a backlash of student protests. In Michigan, nearly 96,000 students are losing individual Promise grants totaling up to $4000 each, due to budget cuts enacted by the state legislature. While on a much smaller scale, the UMW move to increase tuition mid-year is troublesome and could be a harbinger of things to come at other Virginia public institutions.

Nov 20, 2009

Learn the FAFSA Drill: Get Ahead in the Financial Aid Game by Starting Now

Families can get way ahead in the financial aid game by going on the offensive early. Follow these five easy plays from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) playbook and position your team to maximize scholarship potential by learning the drill before game day:

1. Check out the FAFSA website ( Accept NO substitutes. And note—this is the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s not meant to be a pay to play game. Anyone charging for the privilege of providing you with a FAFSA form or a top-secret internet link is working a scam. Also, be aware that there are a number of FREE sources of assistance for completing the form if you need help when the time comes. In general, the FAFSA website is really pretty user-friendly, even if the color scheme is unfortunate.

2. Apply for your PIN(s): Do it NOW—today even. There’s really no reason not to. Students and parents both need FAFSA PIN numbers. They are free and very easy to get. Again, if anyone wants to charge you for requesting a FAFSA PIN, don’t fall for it. This is a service brought to you by your federal government.

3. ­Note deadlines: You really should complete the FAFSA as early in the New Year as humanly possible. Don’t use the June 30th deadline as your guide because states and individual colleges have way earlier due dates. You could easily miss out by waiting until March or April. Know that the FAFSA is flexible—you can use previous-year tax information to complete the form. Consider filing a first draft as a placeholder and then plan to go back and amend later.

5. Download the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet: Practice makes perfect, so why not give it a try? Thoughtful government officials even give you the choice of printing the form in color or black and white. All kidding aside, the worksheet will give you a heads up on the questions asked—in the order they are asked—as well as on the kinds of documents you will need to complete the real deal in January. FAFSA goes live January 1, 2010.

A FAFSA web “demonstration site” will be available in mid-December. By that time, you should be very comfortable with the playbook and ready for a practice run. Again, familiarity with the system will save time and improve your chances of scoring a goal early.

If you have questions concerning FAFSA on the Web, do not hesitate to contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-319-337-5665. When prompted to speak a menu option, say “Web site assistance.” You can also contact the Center by email at

Nov 19, 2009

US Students May Be Facing Increased Competition from International Applicants

The Common Application organization recently reported astonishing increases in utilization of their online application system so far this year. In addition to a 25 percent jump in applications over 2008, the number of students registered as potential applicants in the system also rose by 16 percent. But curiously, demographics show the number of US high school students projected to graduate in 2010 declining. So what’s going on?

While there may be several explanations for why more students are already applying to more colleges this year, one interesting possibility recently cropped up in statistics collected by the Institute of International Education. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required), the number of foreign students attending American colleges hit an all-time high last year, increasing by 8 percent over the previous year. Some 671,616 international students attended US institutions in 2008-09. Enrollment grew strongest at the undergraduate level with an 11 percent increase in foreign students matriculating in US colleges and universities.

While India continues to send the most students to the US, China increased undergraduate enrollments by 60 percent over the 2007-08 academic year and is projected to continue sending even more students in the coming years. Evidently, the availability of post-secondary educational opportunities in China has not kept pace with demand, and current exchange rates bring the cost of an American education within the means of many middleclass Chinese families.

So where are these students applying? It turns out that many of the schools favored by international students are those sought by US applicants. For example, the list of doctoral institutions with the greatest percentage of foreign students covers colleges recognizable as among the most selective in national rankings:


Percent International Students

nternational Enrollment

Columbia University, NY



Harvard University, MA



University of Southern California



University of Pennsylvania



University at Buffalo, NY



Boston University, MA



Purdue, IN






University of Michigan



New York University



International enrollments at baccalaureate institutions are more of a mixed bag:


Percent International Students

Total International Enrollment

Brigham Young University-Hawaii



Mount Holyoke College, MA



Dickinson State University, ND



Macalester College, MN



Grinnell College, IA



Associate-degree granting institutions are also experiencing an increase in international students, some of whom will eventually transfer to 4-year institutions. Locally, both Montgomery College and the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) are in the top ten nationally for total number of international students at 2242 (9%) and 1663 (4%) respectively.