Article 43

 

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Microsoft Layoffs

Microsoft lays off 3,000, says more cuts possible

By Eric Lai, with Sharon Gaudin
Infoworld
May 11, 2009

Microsoft laid off 3,000 workers last week in the second wave of a major reduction announced in January. And in a memo to employees, CEO Steve Ballmer said more cuts are possible.

"As we move forward, we will continue to closely monitor the impact of the economic downturn on the company and if necessary, take further actions on our cost structure, including additional job eliminations,” Ballmer wrote.

IN JANUARY, Microsoft had disclosed plans to eliminate 5,000 positions, more than 5 percent of the 96,000 full-time workers it employed at the time. About 1,400 people were laid off then.

In an April 23 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft said it set aside $237 million for severance payments to 3,400 laid-off employees, “all of whom are expected to leave the Company by June 30, 2010.”

The filing also said that the company plans to hire 2,000 to 3,000 people over the next 18 months.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said sales of multiyear corporate licenses could be the key factor in a decision to make further cutbacks. “The company is laser-focused on cost containment for FY 2010, so if revenues are down, they’ll be looking to make cuts somewhere, and head count is the largest expense,” he added.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said the unusual layoff at Microsoft could be “a signal of how the economic crisis has impacted the tech industry,” since Microsoft has in the past grown “bigger and more powerful” during lean economic times.

However, over the long term, these layoffs “might actually be a good thing for Microsoft,” Olds said. “Over time, even the most successful and efficient company builds up a fat layer.”

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Posted by Elvis on 05/11/09 •
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Religious Intimidation

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The real art of spiritual being is not to transcend being human, it is to achieve understanding and harmony between all aspects of who we are.
- Annett Tate

What is both important and relevent is that each person live his/her own life without trying to dictate the lives of others; for each person to live in peace with the other; for each person to respect the views and beliefs of the other. Another persons false beliefs will not affect someone unless one is so insecure in ones own beliefs that one has to impose ones views on others, and tend to see all alternate views as a threat to ones own.
- Big Party International

Conventional wisdom holds that we are afraid of dying and that religion helps assuage those fears. Now, empirical evidence seems to show that reminders of our mortality cause us to lash out violently at those who threaten not only our lives, but also our belief systems.
- Beth Kephart

Religious bullying is a problem around the world
Vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up when a minority group doesn’t conform.

By Walter Rodgers
Christian Science Monitor
May 7, 2009

A friend, a Pakistani journalist, recently came out of the troubled Swat valley in northwest Pakistan and told a chilling tale. He said, “It is now halal [religiously sanctioned] to kill journalists.”

The tribal Muslim clerics in Swat, he said, have declared open season on reporters whose writings they disapprove of. My friend, a brave and devout Sunni Muslim, seemed quite shaken, having spent two weeks reporting under threat in Swat, an area once called the Switzerland of Pakistan. Several journalists have already been murdered for a perceived breach of theocratic codes.

Such violence is religious “correctness” in the extreme, but vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up whenever and wherever an individual or minority does not conform to the religious tenets of the majority.

In the United States, when Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota asked to be sworn in using the Koran, the personal attacks on him from the Christian right were just short of poisonous.

In areas such as the Balkans and Iraq, religious intimidation has taken the form of ethnic cleansing, forcibly coercing religious minorities to emigrate.

In the West Bank a decade ago, I witnessed Hamas activists taunting Christian women for wearing crosses around their necks. Though Palestinian officials deny religious coercion, the exodus of Christian Arabs from the West Bank suggests otherwise.

Another form of religious intimidation worms its way through US high schools. Teenagers complain of being verbally assaulted by “God squads,” whose members roam corridors demanding to know if their fellow students share their messianic religious visions and if not, why not?

Religious bullying is “a great concern,” says Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League. “It does happen a lot օ we believe it’s a pervasive problem.” Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union agrees: “It’s clear this problem is not going to go away soon.”

The ACLU is representing a group of anonymous students in Santa Rosa County, Fla., who allege that school officials created a coercive environment in promoting their personal religious beliefs in school and at school events. “The students are proceeding anonymously to avoid intimidation and threats of violence,” Mr. Mach said. Indeed, the list of complaints from those who are unwilling to go forward for fear of intimidation and possible violence “is far longer [than] the list of cases filed,” according to Art Spitzer, another ACLU attorney. He said it is easier to win these cases in the courts, but religionist partisans win in the schools because “there are no judges in the principals’ offices.”

A friend in a northern Virginia high school said religious hectoring by students is “very aggressive and sometimes involves physical threats.” He told of a young Jewish friend who is frequently told by other students that her religion is “wrong because you don’t believe in God.”

Judaism can be no less bullying, however, when it finds itself in the majority. Walk through Mea Shearim, an Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. If you are a nonobservant Jew, or worse, a gentile, you risk being cursed or stoned. I was spat upon eight years ago for merely walking through the area once (no, it wasn’t a Jewish holiday or Sabbath).

These incidents are rarely discussed because we fear giving offense. It’s disingenuous, however, to pretend they do not occur. Intimidation is intimidation, whether it’s found in Pakistan, Jerusalem, Florida, or northern Virginia.

Western civilization has become far too tolerant of religious intolerance that masquerades as freedom of religion. Young people today are taught not to be “judgmental,” but without making critical judgments, how can we curtail threats to individual liberty? And amid such intellectual tapioca learning itself becomes irrelevant.

Zoe Oldenburg, a scholar of a most horrific outbreak of religious violence, the Roman Catholic Church’s Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of the 13th century, wrote, “the essential value of any faith must be judged by the effect it produces in the lives of its devotees.”

Religion should have a humanizing effect on its adherents. Civilizing barbarians was an original aim of Islam. Christianity is supposed to cultivate charity for all mankind. The original idea of loving thy neighbor as thyself was first articulated in Jewish Scripture. Yet when religion loses sight of its potential civilizing leaven, it risks merely becoming tyranny in subtler guise.

Thomas Jefferson swore “eternal hostility toward every tyranny over the mind of man.” Today, however, political and religious leaders tend to snooze their way through the various manifestations of religious coercion and intimidation reminiscent of a darker medieval world.

Walter Rodgers, a former senior international correspondent for CNN, writes a biweekly column.

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Unemployment Still Growing

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… as America’s rulers are gaining vast wealth, they also are eliminating the remainder of America’s middle class.
- Peter Stern, America The Beautiful ain’t so pretty any more - November 28, 2007

The number of job seekers per job openings is now firmly in recessionary territory - at a higher level than during any month of the official 2001 recessionand it shows no signs of leveling off. There are now 5.4 million more job seekers than job openings in the United States, and that number is expected to increase as the downturn deepens. Millions of dedicated, productive American workers are experiencing the hardship and insecurity of unemployment with little hope of finding a job. The job openings data represent one more strong indicator of the need for a second stimulus package that is targeted directly at job creation.
- Heidi Shierholz, No Jobs - September 17, 2008

Another 539,000 jobs disappeared from the economy in April, and the unemployment rate jumped to 8.9 percent, its highest level in a quarter century.
- NY Times, US Jobless Rate Hits 8.9% - May 8, 2009

Male Unemployment Reaches 10% As Private Sector Employment Craters

By Heidi Shierholz with research assistance from Kathryn Edwards and Andrew Green
Economic Policy Institute
May 8, 2009

April marked the 16th month of the current recession, matching the longest since the Great Depression. The April 2009 employment data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that while the pace of job loss is exhibiting signs of slowinglosing 539,000 in April compared to an average of 707,000 per month in the first quarter - todays labor market is still shedding JOBS at a breathtaking pace. Furthermore, the small pockets of growth in the labor market in April were due to the hiring of temporary workers in preparation for the 2010 Census, as government employment increased by 72,000.The private sector, however, continued to crater. The private sector shed 611,000 jobs in April, along with an additional 69,000 private-sector jobs losses reported in revisions for March. The unemployment rate jumped up dramatically, from 8.under 5% to 8.9%, with male unemployment soaring to 10.0%.

Since the start of the recession, the economy as a whole has shed 5.7 million jobs, totaling 4.2% of total employment. But losses in the private sector alone have been much steeper, with a decline of 6.0 million jobs, or 5.2% of private employment. This rate of private-sector job loss was 50% faster than the 3.5% private employment loss over the 16 months of the 1981/82 recession.

Furthermore, over the last 16 months the population has continued to grow. To keep up with population growth, the economy must add approximately 127,000 jobs every month, which means 2 million jobs were needed just to match population growth. In other words, the economy is currently 7.8 million jobs below where it would need to be simply to maintain pre-recession employment rates. 

The index of aggregate weekly hours is a measure of the total number of hours worked in the economy and is thus a more comprehensive measure than employment because it captures both job loss and reductions in hours for the workers who kept their jobs. This index continues to fall at a stunning pace, evidence of the economy’s continued contraction. It fell 0.6% in April (an annualized rate of 6.9%), and has fallen a total of 7.0% since the start of the recession. By comparison, it fell a total of 5.8% over the 16 months of the 1981/82 recession.

Job losses continue to occur throughout the economy - the diffusion index shows that 71.8% of industries experienced employment declines in April (a modest improvement from the first quarter, when an average of 78.9% of industries experienced job declines each month).

Manufacturing and construction continue to see the biggest losses. Manufacturing saw a decline of 149,000 jobs, for a total drop since December 2007 of 1.6 million, or 11.8% of that sectors employment. Motor vehicles and parts continued to experience steep losses - 29,100 jobs in April for a total of 281,000 since the start of the recession (29.4% of employment in that sector). Construction (residential and nonresidential) saw a decline of 110,000 jobs in April, for a total of 1.2 million jobs lost in this recession (15.6% of employment).

The service sector also continues to experience declinesprivate services (excluding government) were down 341,000 jobs in April, for a total decline since December 2007 of 3.2 million jobs (3.4% of its total). Retail trade was down 46,700 in April and 744,000 since December 2007 (4.8% of employment in that sector). Automobile dealers lost an additional 9,300 jobs in April, despite indications that auto sales have shown some signs of stabilizing.

The financial activities sector continued to shrink (down 40,000 jobs in April and 5.2% since December 2007). Professional and business services also saw large losses (down 122,000 jobs in April and 7.4% since December 2007). Within professional and business services, temporary help services continued to see the steepest declines, down 62,500 jobs in April and 31.9% since the start of the recession.

As has been the case throughout the recession, health care once again added jobs (up 16,700 in April and 3.3% since the start of the recession). Government employment INCREASED dramatically in April by 72,000. Federal government employment made up almost all of the increase by adding 66,000 in April, mainly due to the hiring of temporary workers in preparation for the 2010 Census. State and local government employment remained essentially flat in April, increasing by 2,000 and 4,000, respectively, as declining revenues continued to put a strain on state and local government balance sheets.

Nominal (i.e., not inflation-adjusted) hourly wages have risen 3.2% over the last year, meaning that with price indices showing minimal growth, workers who remain employed are experiencing real wage increases. However, nominal hourly wage growth is slowing - in April it grew at an annual rate of 0.7%. Furthermore, due to reductions in hours, nominal weekly paychecks are growing more slowly: 1.3% over the last year, and only a 0.6% annualized growth rate in April.

The household survey also continues to present a bleak picture. In April, the unemployment rate rose from 8.5% to 8.9%, as 563,000 workers were added to the jobless rolls. There are now 13.7 million unemployed workers in this country, up 6.2 million from the start of the recession in December 2007. Since the start of the recession, the unemployment rate has increased by 4.0 percentage points, far surpassing the unemployment increase during the deep 1981/82 recession, when the unemployment rate increased by 3.6 percentage points.

The number of marginally attached workers remained essentially flat in April (dropped 4,000), but has increased from 1.3 million to 2.2 million since the start of the recession. These are workers who want a job, are available to work, but have not actively sought work in the last month (and so are not officially counted as among the unemployed). If these workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate in April would have crossed into double digits at 10.1%.

The number of people who want full-time jobs but have had to settle for part-time work declined by 139,000 in April, but has nearly doubled over the course of the recession, from 4.6 million in December 2007 to 8.9 million in April. The UNDEREMPLOYMENT rate, which includes not just unemployed workers but also marginally attached and involuntarily part-time workers, increased from 15.6% to 15.8%, so that now 24.8 million peoplenearly one out of every six workers - are either unemployed or underemployed.

Data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey show that the number of openings in the economy declined by over 30% from December 2007 to February 2009. As a result of the dramatic increase in the number of job seekers and the stark decline in job openings, jobless workers are getting stuck in unemployment for long periods. In April, 27.2% of unemployed workers had been jobless for at least six months, the highest share since the Great Depression.

Since the start of the recession, all major demographic groups have experienced large increases in unemployment. However, there remain significant differences between groups. Largely due to their disproportionate concentration in the hard-hit sectors of manufacturing and construction, men have lost much more ground during this recession than women - April unemployment was 10.0% for males and 7.6% for females (up 5.0 and 2.8 percentage points since the start of the recession). In April, unemployment was 15.0% among black workers, 11.3% among Hispanic workers, and 8.0% among white workers (increases of 6.1, 5.1, and 3.6 percentage points, respectively, since the start of the recession). By education category, the data show that workers with lower levels of schooling face much higher unemployment rates. For those with a college degree, the unemployment rate is 4.4%, which though only half the average unemployment, is still higher than at any time dating back to at least 1979 (last data available). Unemployment among those with only a high school diploma is 9.3%, up 4.7 percentage points since the start of the recession. Workers with less job experience are also particularly hard hit in this economy. Workers age 16-24 face an unemployment rate of 16.7%, 25-54 year olds are seeing 7.8%, and those OVER 54 are at 6.4% (up 5.1, 3.8, and 3.3 percentage points, respectively, in this recession).

The April employment report shows that the labor market is still deteriorating quickly. While the Recovery Act was a very important step towards pulling the U.S. economy out of its nosedive, it was only ever expected to create or preserve between three and four million jobs. Even while it was being debated, the labor market deteriorated so quickly that it was down roughly twice that many jobs before the Act could even effect. Without substantial additional stimulus, the economy will likely reach double-digit unemployment by the end of the year.

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The Trouble With Public Colleges

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Record applications. Soaring tuition. Tighter budgets. State U. may no longer be as great a deal or as easy a backup as it once was. Parents and kids, time to rethink your strategy.

By By Pat Regnier, Money Magazine
CNN MOney
May 10, 2009

At the 50,000-student University of Florida, only 50 or so undergrads major in geology. It’s not exactly an easy subject.

But Michael Perfit, the department’s chairman, says that thousands of UF’s liberal arts undergrads fulfill their science requirement with geology - and they do a lot more than sort rocks. Students learn about the patterns of the oceans, groundwater systems, and long-term changes in the earth’s atmosphere. Pretty key things in this era of climate change, especially in a coastal wetlands state like Florida.

But Perfit’s department may soon be unable to offer so many courses to non-majors. UF fears severe state budget cuts in May and has warned that it may have to lay off half the geology faculty.

The religion department is on the block for big cuts too. Ditto for lots of little things, like library journal subscriptions and a student art gallery. Peter Laumann, a UF senior active in a student group protesting the cuts, says some of his instructors have asked students to stop submitting papers by e-mail. That way the university doesn’t spend money printing them for grading.

How to save on student loans

Great public universities like Florida have long been both the financial and academic safety plan for high-performing college-bound seniors and their parents. But now, just when families most need low-cost, high-quality schools, State U. is under intense financial pressure.

Arizona State University is proposing a temporary $1,200 annual surcharge to get it through the recession. The University of Washington is bracing for a 26% cut in state money, bringing funding back to where it was a decade ago. Meanwhile, families searching for a bargain have deluged some of the better public schools with applications, making them even more selective. And tuitions across the country continue their steep rise.

Don’t get the wrong idea: Public colleges, especially the flagship “University of” campuses, are still among the best deals in higher ed. Their average resident tuition of $6,600, or even the $17,500 charged to nonresidents, still pales in comparison to the average $25,000 at the privates.

But these schools are facing a major fiscal crunch - and the challenges won’t end when the recession does. If you want to make sure your child gets into a great school, and that you can afford to pay the bill when she does, you’re going to have to rethink your game plan.

The schools’ hard knocks

Public higher ed varies dramatically by state. But at least one of these stories is probably unfolding where you live.

Less money for learning. Even before the recession, money was tight on many campuses. From 2000 to 2008, state aid to public colleges nationwide fell from $7,800 a student to just over $7,000, according to the group State Higher Education Executive Officers. (That number is inflation-adjusted for the rising price of running a college.)

The drop looks worse if you consider what happened for the competition. Top private universities, propped up by high tuitions, big endowments, and donations, were poaching some of the best faculty from flagship public schools, says Kathleen Sell, former chief budget officer for the University of Wisconsin system. Now top private schools spend almost twice as much per student on instruction as top publics.

At Florida, president Bernard Machen worries about a high student-to-faculty ratio and whether his students are challenged in class and learning to think critically. “We have some evidence that our kids are not,” says Machen.

Tuition (still) rising. At the University of Washington, students may see 14% hikes for each of the next two years. Most of a $620 in-state hike at State University of New York campuses won’t even go to students’ education - it will help the state balance its budget. “The state gave us big cuts, and then said, yes, you can raise tuition, and then took back 80% of that tuition increase,” says president Shirley Strum Kenny of SUNY at Stony Brook.

In those states (as well as in Florida), tuition increases will come from a low base - SUNY will still cost only about $5,000. But many other publics have already cracked five digits for in-state tuition.

Since 1997, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has increased in-state tuition at an annual rate of over 9%, in part to keep up with the faculty arms race as state aid per student fell. Annual tuition and mandatory fees have hit about $12,000. Room and board will put you at $20,000. Disclosure: This writer went to Illinois (and loved it) when it was cheap, without needing a single loan. That probably wouldn’t have been possible at today’s rates.

Tighter admissions. There’s a bumper crop of college-bound seniors these days, and now the economy has even more of them looking at publics. Binghamton University, a top campus in the SUNY system, had 34,000 applications for 2,800 spots - a record for the school - and accepted just 32%.

In California the admissions crunch has reached beyond the coveted Berkeley and UCLA campuses and into the Cal State schools, usually a safe bet for any resident in the top third of his or her high school class. This year San Jos State was forced by budget cuts to turn away more than 4,000 qualified applicants.

It used to be that just a handful of publics - the likes of Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan - counted as selective, says Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. But these days the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has an acceptance rate of just 52%, down from 82% is 1995. Florida, Texas at Austin, and UC-San Diego are even tougher.

Nassirian reckons that any state school that rejects 30% or more of its applicants is excluding kids who can do the work. Machen at Florida agrees. “We could take another whole cohort from our applicant pool and not significantly diminish the quality of our student body,” he says.
Why the crunch will continue

There is a basic supply-and-demand problem. The demand is self-explanatory: Despite the squeeze, the best state colleges still offer terrific academics (and often a great football team to boot). They give students the chance to rub shoulders with faculty and researchers on par or close to those at the Ivies, where the great minds are gated off from all but about 10% of a largely privileged, high-caliber applicant pool.

Stony Brook, for example, boasts the anthropologist Richard Leakey and the Grammy-winning Emerson String Quartet among its faculty. A kid has to study hard to go to a Stony Brook, a UC-San Diego, or a Wisconsin, but she doesn’t necessarily need a full-blown rsum at 17. Not quite yet.

The supply of rigorous research schools isn’t keeping up. Campuses can jam the dorms with more students, but that’s a mixed blessing if it means kids have to rely on adjunct professors and giant classes to make the numbers work. “Quantity has been maintained at the expense of quality,” says UC-Santa Barbara English professor Christopher Newfield, speaking of the University of California system.

Does college pay?

To make up for tight public funding, schools have brought in more private money. But research and philanthropy dollars come with strings, so they don’t usually mean smaller language labs and more poetry professors. That leaves colleges leaning ever more upon tuition, which is now 36% of public colleges’ revenue vs. 31% a decade ago, according to data from the state higher-ed officers.

Many advocates of state-supported colleges point to an ideological shift. When returning GIs and then the baby boomers piled into colleges, Americans thought of higher ed as a public good. Now it is mostly considered an individual benefit. The personal return on education certainly is large. Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz calculate that college grads earn 60% more than those who stop at high school.

“It isn’t every asset where you get [that return] without having a Madoff problem,” says Goldin. Given the value of what colleges sell, it makes sense that legislators pressed for money would ask the customers to pay more. At least if you see education as nothing but a product.

And the legislatures are pressed for money, especially now. Most states have to balance their budgets every year, and revenue is in the tank. Few politicians want to raise taxes. Meanwhile, the ever-growing cost of health-care programs like Medicaid is swallowing up budgets.

Politically, it doesn’t help that the students at the best state schools can look like a subsidized elite. Low-income students are underrepresented on many name-brand campuses. According to the Education Trust, only 22% of undergrads at flagship universities receive Pell Grants (available to low- and moderate-income families) vs. 35% at all colleges.

The past decade has been especially hard for less affluent people trying to get a college education. The regional and community colleges that serve many of them are hurting too, and need-based financial aid hasn’t kept pace with tuition. The cost of a public college, even after aid, now eats up 33% of a lower-middle-income family’s earnings, compared with 23% 10 years ago, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE). For upper-middle-class families, that figure has gone from 12% to 16%.

Given these pressures, states are likely to require higher-income families, at least, to pay more. One idea, called high tuition/high aid, is intended to get more dollars out of families who can spare them and direct more aid to those who can’t. Skeptics wonder if states will live up to the “high aid” part of the bargain. (And even with aid, tuition sticker shock could keep many qualified students away.)

In Wisconsin, the main Madison campus has proposed an explicit income test: By 2012, families earning more than $80,000 would pay a $1,000 annual tuition surcharge.

What’s a parent to do?

How you respond to these changes depends on how long you have before your child heads off to school.

If your child is young. The toughest problem is figuring out what the tab will look like more than a decade down the road. “We ought to be able to tell you, if you have a 6-year-old, how much it will cost to send him to a state university,” says Patrick Callan of NCPPHE. “In reality, who knows?” Tuition increases don’t move along any kind of predictable path (look at the numbers for all public schools in the chart, above right).

A potential hedge against this uncertainty is a state prepaid-tuition program. In most of them, the value of your investment in a prepaid will grow along with average in-state costs, and you’ll get that return even if your kid ultimately goes to Notre Dame.

Trouble is, most states don’t offer prepaid. And if yours does, you still need to research the plan carefully. Most charge a premium above the value of current tuition, which lowers your return, says Joseph Hurley of Savingforcollege.com. And with the stock market in the tank, some prepaids are financially weak. You are safest if the plan’s obligations are guaranteed by the state or the public university system.

In states without a prepaid plan, the only answer to unpredictable tuition is to build as big a savings cushion as you can in a conventional 529 savings plan. At a minimum, assume tuition costs will grow at about 7% a year, the average for resident tuition over the past decade.

If you have a kid in high school. State schools can no longer be considered “safe” schools. Over the coming years the demographic crunch will ease, but some top publics want to shrink their enrollments to improve their educational experience. (And maybe their rankings.) So encourage your child to take the hard science course with honors credits. If a course offers college credit, even better - it will be easier to graduate within four years.

At application time, high school counselors and college consultants advise casting a wide net beyond your state schools. After financial aid offers come in, a private school or an out-of-state public might be within reach, says private admission consultant Bari Norman.

This could be an especially good time to look across state lines. Tuition and fees alone at some public Big 10 schools run $20,000 to $25,000 for out-of-state students. That’s high, but it compares with around $35,000 for Boston University, in roughly the same ballpark in terms of prestige. And Minnesota and the SUNYs have nonresident prices that are competitive with resident tuitions in expensive states like Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Put your college kid to work

Nonresidents traditionally have a harder time getting into flagship campuses, but Nassirian at the registrars association says this year standards might be a little more forgiving. The schools need the higher tuitions the nonresidents pay. (If so, that also makes admissions a bit tougher in-state, an extra squeeze on families with more limited resources.)

Big is what publics do best, and some bright kids aren’t self-directed enough to find their way on a 30,000-plus campus. That will be especially true in this era of budget cuts.

So kick the tires when you visit the campus. Key questions to ask admissions officials (and any student you can buttonhole): Are the big lectures getting bigger? Has the college cut back on student advisers? Is it getting harder to get into essential courses and graduate in four years? Is the university relying more on part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants? And how is life for graduate teaching assistants? At Big State U., graduate TAs will always carry a lot of the teaching load, but you’ll want to know if those apprentice professors are under even more pressure now.

Finally, you can be reassuring as the fat and thin envelopes roll in. If your child goes to her second-choice college and does well, says Sell, most flagships are quite open to transfer students. Besides, as hard as this may be to see at age 17, life doesn’t really turn on being a Longhorn, Badger, or Gator.

“The real difference in America is not between people who go to Florida and those who go to Central Florida,” says Callan at the education policy center. “It’s between those who go to college and finish and those who don’t.” In these tough economic times, you can remind your child how lucky she is to be on the right side of that line.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/11/09 •
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