Campuses look to ‘dark fiber’ for connectivity

Fiber is reliable in inclement weather, IT officials say.

Students and faculty members at Chicago’s Columbia College have to transfer data-heavy files the old-fashioned way: By foot.

The private campus with 12,000 students and 2,000 academic staff in the urban Chicago setting has struggled to bring high-capacity internet bandwidth to its 15 buildings in recent years, leaving students with large video files without a reliable way to share their work over eMail.

Columbia’s technology officials said Oct. 26 that the college would use “dark fiber,” high-speed fiber optic infrastructure already in place underneath Chicago’s streets, to boost the school’s web speeds and allow for enormous files to be easily moved from computer to computer.

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“No one should have to walk anything anywhere,” said Bernadette McMahon, associate vice president and chief information officer at Columbia, which is among the country’s largest art schools. “Our students deserve better. … The majority of our academic programs are digital in nature, and students need to be able to access and move large files over the network.”

Columbia, unlike campuses in sparsely populated rural areas, can’t lay its own fiber network without involving the city, because the web infrastructure would have to be built near and underneath city buildings and businesses.

Dark fiber – already used by schools like Northwestern University – is high-quality fiber optic wire lying dormant, or unlit, until a college or business wants to use it.

“Dark fiber gives us so many more options,” said Richard Piotrowski, Columbia College’s director of IT infrastructure. When the dark fiber network is made live in February, he said, IT officials will for the first time be able to control the network’s bandwidth from a central location.

Columbia’s current internet network is controlled from building to building, Piotrowski said.

And if inclement weather interrupts fiber optic service at a single Columbia campus building, he said, the outage won’t impact the other 14 buildings, as it has before officials considered dark fiber.

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Obama college loan plan aims at an old voting bloc

Obama will use his executive authority to provide student loan relief in two ways.

Seeking to shore up support among cash-strapped college graduates and students struggling with rising tuition costs, President Barack Obama is outlining a plan to allow millions of student loan recipients to lower their payments and consolidate their loans.

Outside of mortgages, student loans are the No. 1 source of household debt. Young voters were an important bloc in Obama’s 2008 campaign, and student loan debt is a common concern among Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Obama’s announcement, made Oct. 26 in Denver, came the same day a new report was released by the College Board. It shows average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, compared with a year ago.

Nationally, the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high.

The White House said Obama will use his executive authority to provide student loan relief in two ways.

First, he will accelerate a measure passed by Congress that reduces the maximum repayment on student loans from 15 percent of discretionary income annually to 10 percent.

The White House wants it to go into effect in 2012, instead of 2014. In addition, the White House says the remaining debt would be forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25. About 1.6 million borrowers could be affected.

Second, he will allow borrowers who have a loan from the Federal Family Education Loan Program and a direct loan from the government to consolidate them into one loan.

The consolidated loan would carry an interest rate of up to a half percentage point less than before. This could affect 5.8 million more borrowers.

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Officials target college financial aid letters

Financial aid letters don't always distinguish between grants and loans.

Financial aid award letters can be misleading.

In one common practice, for example, colleges highlight the total “out of pocket” cost for attending. The figure is intended to give students an estimate of how much they’d have to pay after outright awards, such as grants and scholarships are factored in.

But in calculating the “out of pocket” figure, some schools also reduce the total bill by the amount students would have to borrow even though loans accrue interest and ultimately push up a student’s costs.

The practices are troubling because families often use these aid letters to help determine which school to attend. The lack of clarity has also played a role in driving up the debt loads shouldered by graduates to record levels, federal officials say.

On Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education announced a plan to simplify the aid letters so that families can assess a school’s true cost and make comparisons more easily.

Officials are asking for feedback on a draft of the form, available at http://tinyurl.com/3ve57mt.

As it stands, the draft makes clear distinctions between scholarships and loans; it also includes key figures such as the estimated monthly payment and total debt upon graduation.

“The stakes have never been higher for students and their families to clearly understand the costs and risks of student loans,” said Raj Date, an official with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Having a simple, one-page financial aid shopping sheet would help students compare offers and choose the one that’s right for them.”

A final version of the form, expected in coming months, could also include the school’s graduation and loan defaults rates.

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Mold-plagued St. Mary’s College students to live on cruise ship

For 250 students displaced from their residence halls by an outbreak of mold, leaders of St. Mary’s College of Maryland have found an opulent solution: Put them on a cruise ship, the Washington Post reports. The Sea Voyager, a 286-foot-long vessel out of Wilmington, Del., will dock at historic St. Mary’s City on Friday to serve temporary duty as a floating dormitory for the public liberal arts school on a riverfront campus 70 miles from Washington. This voyage to nowhere will deliver the students from living conditions that can only be described as an unmitigated bummer…

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Finding a way to fund higher education

Taylor Reveley, the president of the College of William & Mary, has spent a lot of time thinking about college financing, and he knows some of his ideas are politically unpopular, Virginia Business reports. But that hasn’t stopped Reveley from proposing a striking new model for the 318-year-old school that that could help ignite a debate on the way Virginia funds higher education.  Since state funds are shrinking, he reasons, why not let the market determine college costs? Thirty years ago, state funding represented 43 percent of William & Mary’s operating budget. In 2000, it provided 28 percent.  Today, state money represents about 13 percent and is, in Reveley’s words, “heading south.” William & Mary’s situation mirrors problems at many public colleges and universities across Virginia for whom the state has become an increasingly unreliable financial partner…

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Guess what Michelle Rhee charged a school to speak

How much money do you think Michelle Rhee, former Washington D.C. schools superintendent who now runs an organization called StudentsFirst, charged a regional 11,000-student campus in the Kent State University public system to speak about school reform? Asks the Washington Post. Did you guess a few thousand dollars? Wrong. Ten thousand? Wrong. Twenty? In these tough economic times, when education budgets are being slashed, Rhee signed a contract (see below) with Kent State University at Stark to be paid $35,000 to speak to about 600 people, plus expenses of not more than $5,000 that the school was to provide, including: first-class airfare, a VIP hotel suite, meals and “all reasonable incidentals,” town car and driver for ride from Rhee’s home to the airport, airport to the hotel, hotel to the engagement “or any combination thereof.”

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College drug tests halted by judge

A Missouri college’s comprehensive drug-testing plan for students will stay on hold after a federal judge extended a temporary restraining order, the Associated Press reports. Linn State Technical College’s program calls for screening all first-year students and some returning students for cocaine, methamphetamines, oxycodone and eight other drugs. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last month challenging the constitutionality of the drug testing. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey in Jefferson City granted a temporary restraining order in September, and issued a ruling Tuesday that extends the restraining order through Nov. 8…

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Arizona State University Selects GoingOn to Help Transform Student Engagement & Enrich Online Academic Life

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Lindsey Mikal
Communications Strategy Group
303-433-7020
lmikal@csg-pr.com

Arizona State University Selects GoingOn to Help Transform Student Engagement & Enrich Online Academic Life

GoingOn Provides Platform for ASU to Create Innovative Academic Social Network

San Francisco, CA (October 25, 2011) – GoingOn Networks, Inc. announced today that Arizona State University (ASU) has selected the GoingOn Academic Engagement Network to help foster new levels of engagement and collaboration across its campuses. The GoingOn platform provides ASU with an integrated solution for deploying an academic social network where students, faculty and administrators can more easily collaborate and share information outside the confines of their online courses. ASU plans to first implement GoingOn to online students in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and online master’s level students at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The GoingOn platform is also being utilized to enhance participation and collaborations across several faculty and staff committees.

“Arizona State has been consistently recognized as the leader in delivering the most modern and complete online learning experience. It is truly an honor to be working with them,” said Jon Corshen, CEO of GoingOn Networks. “Today’s modern stream-based technologies make it faster and easier than ever to deliver intelligent information and provide rich online collaboration on a massive scale and a much smaller price. By implementing GoingOn, ASU is enabling students and faculty to interact outside the confines of their course and to share information and activities that are typically lost in a maze of portals and back-end systems. The result is a more engaged student body that experiences a more fulfilling and complete academic life. ”

By deploying the GoingOn Academic Engagement Network, ASU students who learn online will be able to better enjoy the full university experience, developing relationships with their peers not only through their coursework, but also in an interactive academic network. ASU selected GoingOn because it wanted a platform that creates a dynamic networking environment and cultivates community among its students, as well as faculty and staff. The GoingOn platform will allow online students to share information, resources and experiences in ways that are similar to what they would encounter in a campus environment.

Through GoingOn, ASU students and faculty can create and participate in dynamic online communities and can maintain their academic identity and network, while keeping it separate from their personal social networks. Additionally, the solution’s Virtual Commons features intelligent message streams that deliver content, connections and events that are tailored to their interests, activities and areas of study.

For more information about GoingOn or its Academic Engagement Network, visit www.GoingOn.com.

About GoingOn Networks, Inc.
GoingOn is an innovative academic social networking platform that enables students, faculty and administrators to more effectively connect, collaborate and learn. GoingOn offers the first fully integrated platform for higher education that enables institutions to build an internal academic network where students and faculty can more easily share resources, create online communities and curate their academic connections, while keeping them separate from their personal social networks. The GoingOn platform combines a powerful community-building environment with integrated academic networking features and a modern stream-based architecture that allows any type of information, activity or event to be easily published to communities, user groups or to a user’s personalized Virtual Commons. Delivered as an on-demand solution leveraging open source foundations and incorporating leading-edge social web technologies, the GoingOn platform can easily be integrated into existing LMS and SISs and deployed as a single community or an institution-wide network. For more information, please visit www.GoingOn.com.

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66% oppose forgiveness of student loans

Student loan debt may have topped $1 trillion this year, but according to a recent Rasmussen poll, a sizable majority of Americans would be opposed to the federal government forgiving these loans, the Huffington Post reports. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 21% of American Adults think the federal government should forgive the nearly $1 trillion in loans it made or guaranteed to help students pay for a college education. Sixty-six percent (66%) oppose the forgiveness of all student loans. Thirteen percent (13%) are undecided…

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President Barack Obama expected to make an announcement about college affordability

In his second presidential appearance in Colorado in a month, White House officials have confirmed that President Barack Obama will discuss student loans and make an announcement about college affordability on Auraria’s campus at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Huffington Post reports. While the president will spend tonight attending two fundraisers at the Pepsi Center, approximately 700 lined up for tickets on the Auraria campus to see President Obama Wednesday according to a Denver Post report. All 4,000 of the tickets being given out to college students were taken by 11 a.m. and several roads downtown are due to be closed Wednesday because of the event…

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