College administrator admits to submitting false SAT scores to publications

A senior administrator at California’s Claremont McKenna College has confessed to submitting false SAT scores to publications such as U.S. News & World Report since 2005 to inflate the small, prestigious school’s ranking among the nation’s colleges and universities, the Huffington Post reports. President Pamela Gann told college staff members and students at the small, prestigious school about the falsified scores in an email Monday, according to the New York Times. Gann wrote that a “senior administrator” had taken sole responsibility for falsifying the scores, admitted doing so since 2005, and resigned his post. Gann said the critical reading and math scores reported to U.S. News and others “were generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each.”

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Opinion: Is college not for poor kids?

A few weeks ago, my colleague Paul Schwartzman introduced readers to a group of Prince George’s County residents known as “the Seat Pleasant 59.” They were promised in 1988, when they were in elementary school, that their tuition would be paid if they worked hard and got into college, says Jay Mathews, columnist for the Washington Post. More than two decades later, only 11 have four-year degrees, a consequence of many bad turns, most of them related to growing up in poverty. Some readers may conclude that most of these children were doomed from the start. Many lacked the parental support, teacher encouragement and personal resilience needed to take advantage of the offer from philanthropists Abe Pollin and Melvin Cohen. Is a tuition promise wasted on such children? That conclusion appalls educators in the region and across the country who have dedicated their lives to preparing disadvantaged students for college and helping them graduate…

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California community colleges prepare to ration their offerings

Now in his third year at Yuba College, a year he once hoped to spend in Chico or Davis, Robert Bond said every student he knows has struggled to get the classes they need, the Sacramento Bee reports.

“My first semester here, no math classes were open, so I couldn’t get a math class,” Bond, 20, lamented on the Yuba campus quad, decked in a sweat shirt and shorts on an unseasonably warm afternoon. “Basically it took me two years until I could get a math class, college-level Math 52. So I’m like way behind.”

Faced with state budget cuts since the recession – annual funding is now 12 percent below its 2008-09 high-water mark – community colleges have pared back course offerings. Yet demand remains sky high as costs at four-year universities shoot upward and unemployed Californians seek retraining. Community college leaders say it has become necessary to ration classroom seats like water in a drought. They plan to impose statewide rules that prioritize students working toward a degree, certificate or basic academic skills. To meet that end, students who make little progress or take classes for enrichment purposes will move to the back of the line…

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Computerized tutor helps students pass college-level math

Educators say immediate feedback in crucial to math lessons.

Erika Northcutt, 18, has not had a math class since she was a junior in high school, more than two years ago. The freshman at the University of Memphis was anxious enough about college calculus that she considered changing her major.

Nearly three weeks into the semester, her calculus homework scores are averaging 98 percent. She’s confident she can pass and plans to register for calculus 2.

“I think I can get an A, actually,” she says, relief shining in her eyes.

The secret is a computerized math tutorial system, MyMathLab by Pearson, which the university adopted in 2008.

It allows Northcutt and 39 other students in John Haddock’s 11:15 a.m. elementary calculus to dissect the problems, step by step.

If they get a step wrong, a prompt tells them they are off course. If that doesn’t help, they can click the “help me solve” button and the solution appears on the screen.

“The secret is immediate feedback. Because they’re not getting stuck, they’ll be able to do more problems,” Haddock says.

He figures his calculus students are doing two and a half times as many problems as they do in a lecture-based class.

Attendance is up, and class withdrawals are down. Those factors, combined with the reward of getting better grades, is changing who gets into science, technology, engineering, and math careers from the university.

Four years of university data show 65.2 percent of African-American students are passing the tutorial-based math classes, compared with 39.9 percent in traditional math courses.

In elementary calculus, 22.4 percent of African-American students drop out of traditional lecture classes. MyMathLab drops the number to 6.8 percent.

Haddock remembers when calculus classes were predominately white and male.

“No more,” he says.

“American students very often are not coming in to college with a strong background in math,” said Tom Nenon, vice provost for assessment and institutional research at the university. “Part of what we are trying to do is increase student success.”

Students pay about $140 for a login and online calculus textbook.

Haddock loads up the assignment bay before each lecture, specifying how many hours the queue will be open and how many tries students get at a problem before they lose points.

As the semester advances, he will reduce the number of attempts allowed.

“Part of the deal now is to get them acclimated and off to a good start,” he says.

He can quickly see how many problems students have completed, including how many they got correct.

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When college applicants plagiarize, Turnitin can spot them

College officials say Turnitin catches plagiarism more efficiently than people.

The student’s admissions essay for Boston University’s MBA program was about persevering in the business world. “I have worked for organizations in which the culture has been open and nurturing, and for others that have been elitist. In the latter case, arrogance becomes pervasive, straining external partnerships.”

Another applicant’s essay for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management was about his father. He “worked for organizations in which the culture has been open and nurturing, and for others that have been elitist. In the latter case, arrogance becomes pervasive, straining external partnerships.”

Sound familiar? The Boston University student’s essay was written in 2003 and had been posted at businessweek.com. The UCLA applicant was rejected this year—for plagiarism.

The detection of such wholesale cheating in college applications is on the rise, owing to the use of Turnitin for Admissions, an anti-plagiarism database service that compares student essays to an immense archive of other writings. The program is a version of the Turnitin software that already is popular as a plagiarism-detection tool in academic departments.

Around the country, more than 100 colleges and universities have adopted the admissions version of the software, mainly in graduate divisions, although Stanford University is among the dozen schools starting to use it for freshman applicants this year.

That growth highlights the search for authenticity in college admissions at a time when the internet offers huge amounts of tempting free material, increasing numbers of private coaches sell admissions advice, and online companies peddle pre-written essays.

In addition, the larger numbers of applications from overseas have raised concerns about cheating that might be difficult for U.S. schools to discover unaided.

“The more we can nip unethical behavior in the bud, the better,” said Andrew Ainslie, a senior associate dean at UCLA Anderson. “It seems to us nobody ought to be able to buy their way into a business school.”

In the school’s first review of essays from potential MBA candidates this year, Turnitin found significant plagiarism—beyond borrowing a phrase here and there—in a dozen of the 870 applications, Ainslie said. All 12 were rejected.

Turnitin—as in, “turn it in”—began in the 1990s and became a popular tool at high schools and colleges to help detect copying in academic term papers and research by scanning for similarities in phrases from among billions of web pages, books, and periodicals.

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Antioch College waiving tuition for students enrolling in next 3 years

Four years after Antioch College suspended operations due to financial problems, the private liberal arts institution in southwest Ohio is recharging its system by extending full scholarships to current students and anyone who applies over the next three years, CBS News reports. Based on the value of the current $26,500 yearly tuition, that makes each scholarship worth at least $106,000, according to CBS News. In addition, students who qualify for financial aid may pay less for room and board, which costs around $8,600 per year.

“We don’t want economics to be an impediment to a high-quality liberal arts education,” Antioch President Roosevelt said in announcement on the school’s website Tuesday.” By providing four year, full-tuition scholarships, we make attending Antioch College a realistic option for the best and brightest students, regardless of their family’s economic situation.”

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Canadian 2-year colleges show path to jobs

At the University of Manitoba, Angela Conrad felt it was taking forever to satisfy degree requirements with courses in women’s studies, Greek mythology and other subjects she considered impractical. All she really wanted was a job in marketing, the Washington Post reports.

“It takes people two years, sometimes three years, to finish” Manitoba’s mandatory general-studies track, Conrad said. “It made me think there had to be a learning style that was faster and more practical than that.”

Conrad, 23, found one at Toronto’s George Brown College, the Canadian equivalent of an American community college, where she transferred after giving up on a four-year university degree in favor of a two-year diploma…

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Vassar College applicants given false acceptance letters

Dozens of applicants to Vassar College were mistakenly told they had gotten into the school when they checked a website that had been set up for students applying for early decisions, the Associated Press reports. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school says 76 students logged onto the site after 4 p.m. Friday and saw letters saying they had been accepted when in fact they had not been. The school says it fixed the mistaken information by 4:30 p.m. and informed all the impacted applicants of the mistake by Friday evening. Another 46 students who logged on had been correctly told they were accepted…

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Extreme savers: College students embrace cheapskate mentality

Will Thomasen is like a lot of college guys with a big appetite, constantly eating pizza, coffee, bananas, hush puppies, sandwiches, mac ‘n cheese, you name it. The difference is that Thomasen doesn’t pay for any of it. The ultimate college cheapskate, Thomasen is on a mission to eat free for an entire year, Good Morning America reports.

“It is a little bit of, you know, seeing if I can live off the land, in the jungle of Chapel Hill,” the 21-year-old business major said.

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., where an unlimited meal plan runs $1,700 per semester, Thomasen says scavenging for food isn’t a gimmick, it just makes sense. Every day he checks a Facebook page that lists all of the events on campus offering free food. On the day ABC News visited in January, freshmen doled out doughnuts and coffee. A gesture of good will from the class of 2015 means a free breakfast for Thomasen…From lectures to study breaks, the campus is overflowing with events that have free grub, he explains. His system seems to be working. The last time Thomasen spent money on food was in August…

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Online colleges ‘wage war’ with student aid fraudsters

The University of Phoenix has identified more than 800 fraud rings.

Online programs at some colleges have stopped accepting student applications from states known as hotbeds for fraud rings that sign up students for courses, receive student loan payments, and disappear from the virtual classroom.

And some schools have created teams tasked with weeding out potential fraudsters who take millions in federally backed student loans every year, taking advantage of the relative anonymity of online classes.

Higher-education administrators from across the country gathered Jan. 27 for the annual Presidents’ Forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., where student aid fraud was discussed after the U.S. Department of Education (ED) warned colleges of the prevalence of fraud in a Dear Colleague letter released last fall.

ED’s inspector general suggested online colleges improve student verification before student aid is dispersed–sometimes several thousand dollars per disbursement. Suggestions included taking note of students who sign up for and take online courses from the same IP address, or register with the same physical address.

Campus officials whose colleges have been burned by student aid fraud rings said they have temporarily stopped accepting students from states known for large numbers of fake students who find their way into courses to collect an aid check.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a push to say we’re at war with these fraud rings,” said James Berg, chief ethics and compliance officer for the Apollo Group, which operates the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution with one of the country’s largest online programs. “We approach it that way. … [Online colleges] are all in this together. We’re all vulnerable to this.”

Widespread student aid fraud in online education could give ammunition to critics of web-based classes, said John Ebersole, president of the New York-based online school Excelsior College, which hosts the Presidents’ Forum.

“This provides fuel for those who criticize online learning, those who don’t understand and are skeptical of the value of online delivery,” Ebersole said. “These are issues that can take on a life of their own and discredit a form of education that we all believe in.”

Chris Bustamante, president of Rio Salado College in Arizona, said his community college won’t advertise or accept student applications from four states in the southeastern US.

Bustamante did not specify which states are included in the ban.

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