PA Governor Corbett Won’t Support Budget w/out Ready to Succeed Scholarships

Steve Esack of the Allentown Morning Call reports that House Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature are proposing a “bare-bones $28.6 billion ‘budget scenario'” for 2014-15. The plan is a response to a projected $1.3 billion budget shortfall faced by the Commonwealth by the end of the next budget cycle.

Among other things the House GOP proposal includes

Five percent cuts in all state departments — with the exception of reductions to basic education, special education, preschools, state-funded universities and the state’s college loan program.

According to Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, Governor Corbett

does not support a bare-bones budget that removes proposals he made in February to spend $400 million more for public education, create a $25 million college scholarship for middle class students and $5.4 million more to reduce the waiting list for disabled adults to find community-based homes.

CSCubed applauds the House GOP plan’s preservation of existing funding for education. However, with college tuition and student debt both undergoing dramatic increases we stand with Governor Corbett’s proposals to raise education funding. We are particularly supportive of the $25 million Ready to Succeed Scholarship (RTSS) program. RTSS has been CSCubed’s #1 priority for the past two years. For more information on RTSS please click here.

Reforming the Expected Family Contribution

by Marissa Daniels-Benditt  

In today’s world, earning a college diploma is considered the key to success. However, when the cost of college is too high and you’re swimming in debt after you graduate you don’t feel so successful. According to the New York Times, There may be a way to fix this.

A majority of Americans turn to the government for financial aid which is based off of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC formula uses the financial information a student provides on his or her FASFA to calculate the how much aid they are entitled to.

Believe it or not, the way to cut college costs is by eliminating Congress’ power over the EFC formula. Congress is trying to make the EFC more realistic but there are already so many problems with it that it is unable to be fixed. The New York Times article says that the EFC should be cut by 75 percent and by doing so it would force colleges to construct finanical aid packages without the “artificial price supports of inflated contribution numbers—and make paying for college less agonizing.”  

Do you think this could be a way to lower college costs? If this is a plausible way, do you think that it would pass? 

Keep in mind, lobbying expenditures by colleges, universities and other higher-education organizations have totaled more than a half-billion dollars over the past five years. Making them the 8th highest interest group attempting to influence Congress!

Bill Aims to Eliminate Upfront College Costs

by Elizabeth Cohen

A bill introduced in Washington’s legislature proposes that students do not have to worry about paying their college tuition right away. Rather, after leaving school, they would pay a percentage of their income for up to a 25 year period. The “Pay It Forward” program can help a wide variety of people with different incomes afford college.  17 other states have introduced similar legislation. However critics of this program believe we should stick to the programs that already exist, like grants, and add money to those instead of trying to fund brand new programs. Still there are good points listed in the bill such as if a person’s income changes then the amount they pay per month would change as well. This bill would bring many changes to a student’s ability to pay for a college education.

A Rare Finding: A Positive Outlook on a Liberal Arts Degree

by Samantha Decapua

In recent years, college students have been shying away from majoring in liberal arts. Once a popular and sought after major, liberal arts is now nothing more than a “black sheep” among other degrees. Although it is hard to imagine there was a time, long long ago, where people went to college with the sole purpose of becoming a well-rounded individual, this was astonishingly very common. Now people pursue higher education not to gain worldly knowledge, but to get a good job with a decent starting pay. Ever since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a decline in liberal arts and an increase in disciplines pertaining to specialized skills.

The potency of a liberal arts degree has been greatly undervalued recently. Many aspiring students believe that they cannot do anything with this degree and that it will be nothing more than a useless piece of paper. But contrary to popular belief, employers look for the adaptability that comes with a liberal arts degree. According to Edgar Bronfman former CEO of the Seagram Corporation, “a liberal arts degree is the most important factor in forming individuals into interesting and interested people who can determine their own paths through the future.” He goes on to explain how young business leaders’ minds need the elasticity and expandability that this degree sparks. Being able to think critically and clearly gives people the power to look beyond what is presented before them. Although Bronfman advises that students simply get a liberal arts degree, this move should be well-considered. However, maybe it is time that higher education is no longer viewed as a return on investment monetarily, but culturally instead.

The Honeymoon’s Over: Why MOOC’s Will Never Replace Classrooms

by Michael Pacitti

Over the past few years, massive open online courses, or “MOOC’s” have seen a large increase in enrollment. Since 2010, enrollment has increased by 29% in all online courses while the enrollment in traditional colleges and universities has been in decline. The increase is due in large part to the easily-accessible content that higher education businesses like edX and Coursera have provided (combined they have 6 million registered users). Despite these growing numbers, it appears as if the bandwagon is slowing down.

Even though MOOC’s are in the earliest stages of development and implementation, they have already begun to show a lack of positive results. A Columbia University study found that “nearly twice as many students dropped out than their counterparts who took the same courses in conventional classrooms. The online students also got lower grades and were less likely to ultimately graduate.” With negative results already showing this early in the process, MOOC’s may end up being a passing fad.

Trying to replace the classroom learning experience with a computer screen is a mistake. Technological advances are meant to enhance the learning experience, not overtake it. Staring at a computer screen and watching someone give a lecture is not the same experience as sitting in a room and being able to interact with the teacher right then and there. Although it may seem more efficient to simply archive class lectures and ask students to watch them it takes away from the feeling that a student has invested in their education. This is not to say that MOOC’s do not have their benefits- the fact that it has spurred a discussion in the higher education community on reform is a great bonus. However, the notion that MOOC’s can effectively replace the experience in a classroom is just not practical.

A 21st Century Model for Higher Education?

by Zachary Hill

While many higher education institutions are struggling with budgets due to economic uncertainty, Liberty University is undertaking a $400 million spending spree over four years. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is currently building high-rise dorms, an expanded football stadium, and a library in which books will be retrieved by robots. How is this relatively unknown school able to afford such costly renovations?

A private, non-profit college, Liberty University offers a competitive tuition rate of $20,768 and has an endowment over $1 billion. While enrolling only 13,000 on-campus students, the university’s online program boasts 92,500 students. This online division accounts for 66% of the university’s revenue, but it only requires 44% of expenses. The surplus is used for appealing campus upgrades. In addition, the only faculty members who earn tenure are law faculty. These factors and excellent customer service are earning praise from financial analysts and interest from students across the globe.

Liberty University also claims to offer a quality education. Offering a Christian heritage, it is ranked by Young America’s Foundation as one the nation’s top 10 conservative colleges. It offers a 25-to-1 student-faculty ratio and a multitude of degree and certificate programs.

In today’s increasingly technological society, is Liberty University the new model for colleges across the nation? Are massive online programs the solution to financial difficulties in higher education? A senior analyst from Moody’s Investors Service, a credit-rating agency, observes that Liberty is “continuing to see robust revenue growth, a stark contrast in what we’re seeing in a majority of our universities.”  Liberty University’s innovative financial structure deserves greater attention from other colleges.

Who Takes MOOCs & Why?

A new survey of 1800 students taking Massive Open Online Courses shows an interesting profile of the average person taking a MOOC. According to a summary in the Wall Street Journal (click here for article) the clientele of these courses

are not your typical college kids. These are older people, many with advanced degrees. They participate in online courses because they are curious about the subject matter, and they are motivated, in part, by the courses’ being free of charge.


The survey found that of the highly-engaged students, those who completed several MOOCs, 55% have a master’s degree or higher. Age-wise, 74% of the highly engaged students are between 24 and 53 years old. And 63% of them are female.

According to another story about the survey posted on PR Newswire (click here for article)

The study found that course topic is the main motivator for enrollment among 35 percent of MOOC participants, followed by personal or professional development (24 percent) and the fact that MOOCs are free (16 percent). Among those who didn’t complete, 29 percent said the main reason was the learning experience didn’t match their expectations, and the same number said they were too busy to finish.

The survey found active engagement among the students in the MOOCs.

Surprisingly, MOOCs are converting fence sitters into active participants during the course.  About 72 percent of participants reported engaging in course discussions, compared to only 60 percent who expected to do so at the outset.

The study also suggests that engagement with other students in course discussions is particularly important in the virtual environment. About 24 percent of those who completed their courses reported being highly engaged in course discussions with fellow participants, compared to only 3 percent of those who failed to complete.

No link to the actual survey was available at the time of this post.