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May 31, 2006

"Leapfrog model" proposes changes to undergraduate education

A new proposal aims to change undergraduate education, envisioning undergraduate students as creators and discoverers, rather than merely receivers, of knowledge, the MN Daily reports:

Imagine exams and lectures were replaced by laboratories where students research course material on their own instead of taking notes from a professor.

Imagine Psychology 1001 began by covering the most current issues in the field, and students worked backward to learn the history of the field.

Two members of the University community in the Comparative and International Development Education program are imagining those kinds of classes and are working to make them a reality.

Professor Arthur Harkins and doctoral candidate John Moravec released a fourth version of their memorandum "Building a 'Leapfrog' University: Renovating Undergraduate Education," on May 17.

Interest rates on student loans to rise sharply July 1

the Star Tribune reports:

Think prices are skyrocketing at the pump? Look at the price of student loans. The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that after years of historic lows, interest rates on student loans will climb 1.84 points in July to as much as 7.14 percent for federal Stafford student loans and 7.94 percent for PLUS loans, which parents take out for their children. That's atop a similar rate jump a year ago.

Parents and students can avoid the increase by consolidating loans at rates as low as 4.75 percent before the July 1 deadline. Until loans are consolidated, or combined into one payment, rates can rise or fall yearly. Just a year ago, some lucky borrowers locked in at 2.8 percent for life.

For borrowers, consolidating is the last chance to save money before the government changes its student-loan program to save money itself. The Deficit Reduction Act, signed by President Bush in February, will reduce government spending on student loans by roughly $22 billion.

Read the rest of the story.

May 30, 2006

Unpaid internships--one twentysomething's perspective

My younger sister has just arrived in New Orleans for the summer after her freshman year at Yale. She will be consuming daily snowballs, the local icy treat, to ward off the heat, volunteering to help clean up neighborhoods damaged by Hurricane Katrina and working part time, for pay, at both a literary festival and a local restaurant. Meanwhile, most of her friends from college are headed for the new standard summer experience: the unpaid internship.

Instead of starting out in the mailroom for a pittance, this generation reports for business upstairs without pay. A national survey by Vault, a career information Web site, found that 84 percent of college students in April planned to complete at least one internship before graduating. Also according to Vault, about half of all internships are unpaid.

I was an unpaid intern at a newspaper from March 2002, my senior year, until a few months after graduation. I took it for granted, as most students do, that working without pay was the best possible preparation for success; parents usually agree to subsidize their offspring's internships on this basis. But what if we're wrong?

What if the growth of unpaid internships is bad for the labor market and for individual careers?

Read the rest of this opinion piece from The New York Times.

What has been your family's experience with paid or unpaid internships? Post comments below.

Teach for America competitive for top graduates

From Inside Higher Ed:

Law school or Teach For America? Wrede Smith, a DePauw University political science major, weighed his options this spring as graduation loomed. Acceptance letters arrived from two of four law schools, and he received his invitation to enter the teaching corps in April.

In the end, Smith chose to enroll in the most competitive of his options — the one that accepts less than 20 percent of its applicants (hint: it has nothing to do with torts or criminal procedure).

Many students like Smith enter their final term in college facing the grad school vs. service program question. And if recent numbers from Teach For America are any indication, the latter option is faring just fine. A record 19,000 people – roughly a 10 percent jump from the previous year – applied this academic year to the program that places students from top colleges in classrooms in disadvantaged school districts for a two-year assignment. The program allows the students to begin teaching just months after graduation while they work toward their teaching certificate, instead of having to wait a year or more to get into the classroom.

Teach For America accepted about 3,300 students this spring — fewer than one in five of those who applied — and roughly 2,400 are expected to begin teaching in the fall, according to Todd McGovern, a Teach For America spokesman. The program, developed by a Princeton University alumna, Wendy Kopp, as her undergraduate senior thesis in 1989, has become a popular option for aspiring educators and those looking for a meaningful first job. It has also drawn its share of skepticism, as detractors question whether a beginning teacher with often just a few months of training can be effective in the most challenging and lowest-performing schools, and whether program participants are in it more to pad their resumes than to become teachers.

Read the rest of the story and other readers' comments.

May 24, 2006

Support for light rail connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul

U of M students and others voiced support for the proposed light rail transit (LRT) line which would connect downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, the Star Tribune reports:

While many people at a public hearing on the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line between St. Paul and Minneapolis urged its approval, some expressed concerns about its effects on local traffic and its speed.

"Public transportation [for students] is our life blood," said Emily Serafy Cox, president of the University of Minnesota Student Association.

She supports the rail line, but she and others said they hope designers stick with a tunnel where the line crosses the campus. Adding light rail would make the already congested area around University and Washington Avenues in Minneapolis more dangerous, she said.

Monday's hearing was the first of four this week on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Central Corridor line along University between the Twin Cities' downtowns. Construction of the $840 million, 11-mile light-rail line could begin in 2009 at the earliest. It would take two years to complete.

The proposed line would be a boon to future U of M students, as it will cross the East Bank campus, making it easier for students (especially those without cars) to get to both downtowns. It will also connect with the existing Hiawatha Line, giving students rail access to the airport and the Mall of America.

May 18, 2006

Author events at University Bookstore

Next Monday night, Augusten Burroughs, best-selling author of Running with Scissors and Dry, will read from and discuss his new work Possible Side Effects at the University Bookstore in Coffman Union. This and all other author events at the Bookstore are free and open to the public.

For more info, and to read about 2 other author events next week, visit the Bookstore's website.

May 17, 2006

Test preparation resource for students applying to graduate school

If your student will be taking a test like the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc. next year in preparation for application to a graduate or professional school, the University Counseling and Consulting Service offers a resource center that helps prepare students for exams.

Summer hours will be limited:

May 22-June 30
Monday 9:00 – 2:00
Tuesday 11:00 – 4:00
Wednesday Closed
Thursday Closed
Friday Closed

July 1- August 31
Monday 9:00-2:00
Tuesday 11:00 – 4:00
Wednesday 11:00 – 4:00
Thursday Closed
Friday Closed

May 12, 2006

Mark your calendars

for Parents Weekend, Fall 2006! Scheduled for September 29-30, this year we have not scheduled Parents Weekend to coincide with Homecoming (November 4).

Parents will be able to buy tickets to sit in the Parents Weekend section at the Minnesota-Michigan football game, which will be Saturday, September 30th, we believe in the evening (there's a Twins game Saturday at 11:10 a.m.). We also will be selling tickets at a special price to the Friday night Minnesota-Michigan volleyball game.

But Parents Weekend is about much more than athletics! We're still in the planning stages--as further information about Parents Weekend events is available, we'll post it here and on the parent web site. And, of course, all the information will be included in the fall newsletter, which will be mailed later this summer.

Transfer student on the rise

The Star Tribune examines why increasing numbers of undergraduates are transferring:

Nationally, the proportion of new college graduates with bachelor's degrees who have attended more than one four-year college increased from almost 37 percent in 1993 to 48 percent in 2000.

Why so much movement? Some experts say that students expect more of colleges than they once did, and that a generation of young people who are used to getting what they want expect the same in higher education. Others say students are choosing schools for the wrong reasons.

not just once, but often multiple times:

On the U's Twin Cities campus, the number of transfer students who are admitted has not changed significantly over the years, but the number of transfer applications has jumped 46 percent in the past five years. In fall 2005, almost one-third of the nearly 1,900 undergraduates who transferred into the U had attended two other colleges, and 13 percent had gone to three or more schools.

"Students are perhaps not moving in the kind of direction we want toward a degree," said Paula Brugge, associate director for transfer admissions on the Twin Cities campus. Students move for many reasons, she said, including lack of information, financial problems and poor self-discipline.

The New York Times also covered this story a couple of weeks ago.

May 10, 2006

2006 U of M Student Film Festival winners now online


Stadium supporters to rally tomorrow at the Capitol

Stadium supporters will rally on the steps of the State Capitol on Thursday, May 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. They will be joined by Tony Dungy, former Golden Gopher player and current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Read more about the University's efforts to build an on-campus stadium.

University's Great Conversations series available as podcasts

The University's Great Conversation series, which brings nationally and internationally renowned guest experts together with University faculty to discuss topics of broad public interest, has been challenging and entertaining Twin Cities audiences since 2002.

These conversations are also available for you to download from the CCE site and listen to on your computer or MP3 player at your convenience.

Here is a sampling of the discussions available:

-Renowned scholar Cornel West discussing Black Intellecutal History with faculty member John Wright
-CSPAN anchor Brian Lamb discussing The Media with faculty member Jane Kirtley
-Former Clinton adviser and CNN host Paul Begala discussing Inside Politics with former president Mark Yudof
-South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu discussing Human Rights with faculty member and Senior Vice President Robert Jones
-Author Richard Florida discussing Nurturing the Creative Class with President Robert Bruininks
-NIH doctor Vivian Pinn discussing Gender and Race in Medical Treatment with doctor and faculty member Anne Taylor

And if you live in the Twin Cities area, next week's conversation sounds interesting:

On Tuesday, May 16, Twin Cities audiences once again have the opportunity to participate with two innovative thinkers as they look through new lenses at the social forces reshaping retirement. The Great Conversations' season finale features the U's Phyllis Moen, professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the University's sociology department, and Marc Freedman, founder and president of Civic Ventures, a national nonprofit organization that works to expand the contributions of older Americans to society. "Social Forces Reshaping Retirement" will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank.

In the boom years following the end of World War II, increasing numbers of Americans began retiring. Cut off from work and much of society, these retirees assumed "roleless roles" with nothing really expected of them. People passed into retirement around age 65, with death often occurring soon after. In the 1950s, a transformation began, shifting the ideal of retirement into that of an "endless vacation."

Since then, medical advances and lifestyle changes continue to increase longevity, and retirees now can expect another 10, 20, 30, or more years of good health after they retire from their career jobs. "Older workers confronting retirement are better educated, healthier, and more energetic than ever in history," Moen says. "What has not changed is the fact that retirement largely remains a passage to the sidelines of society. Americans still view older people as dependent and requiring care. However, most older people are, and want to be, independent, but find it hard to fit in to our youth-oriented society."

Although many retirees want both leisure and the opportunity to make a contribution, they find they have no roadmap. "There is a lot of financial planning and less of the kinds of creative lifestyle and life planning I'd like to see," Moen explains. "It shouldn't be age-graded. Life planning should go on at all ages and stages. It could be something offered by employers, libraries, and universities. Institutions of higher education could make a real contribution by facilitating these 'second acts' of life."

Outstanding undergraduate advisers recognized

UMNews reports:

Combine all the choices at public universities with the ups and downs of student life, and it's no mystery why advising is critical to students'--and universities'--success. That's one of the reasons the University of Minnesota created the John Tate Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising in 1986 to honors its best advisers U-wide.

This year's four winners include two faculty and two professional staff members in fields from art to chemical engineering. Altogether they tote decades of advising experience. Students love them, and they love students.

"Every time I leave an appointment, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, with both feet on the ground and my head on my shoulders," a student wrote about one of the winners. Another was nominated by more than 100 undergraduates who signed a petition.

Ted Fitch, Kitty Jones, Alon McCormick, and Robert Silberman received their awards at a luncheon and ceremony April 28 at the Twin Cities campus. More than 130 advisers and well-wishers attended the event at the Radisson University Hotel sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

State senate passes two University bills

From UMNews:

The Minnesota State Senate on May 9 passed two key items of legislation for the University of Minnesota--a bill that would create a special bonding authority for biomedical sciences research facilities, and another bill that would fund an on-campus football stadium.

The bonding authority bill, authored by Sen. Richard Cohen (D-St. Paul), passed by a vote of 51-15. It would create the Minnesota Biomedical Sciences Research Facilities Authority, which would allow $330 million in state general obligation debt to go toward building five new research buildings at the U over the next decade. This would allow the University to add hundreds of scientists dedicated to research in the biomedical sciences, and will enable Minnesota to compete with other states that have passed similar initiatives, including California, New York, Wisconsin, and Arizona.

"Biomedical sciences research is critical to the economic future of our state," said President Bob Bruininks. "This legislation will help Minnesota get its competitive footing to build the Medtronics of tomorrow."

The Senate's stadium bill, authored by Sen. Larry Pogemiller (D-Minneapolis), passed by a vote of 34-32. The bill would allow the University to build a $248 million football stadium on the Twin Cities campus at the site of the Huron Avenue parking complex, just east of Mariucci Arena. The House approved a different version of the bill on April 6.

May 9, 2006

Majority of Americans find student loan debt too burdensome, poll finds

The Project on Student Debt, a non-profit group that studies access to higher education, released poll results suggesting that while Americans believe a college education is more important than ever, they are finding it increasingly difficult to afford:

Americans view a college education as more important then ever, even as it becomes less and less affordable. They see students graduating with more debt, and worry that paying off student loans is a serious problem for both middle-class and low-income families. They believe government should be doing more to help, and they support reforms to make loan payments more manageable.

The national public opinion survey was commissioned by the Project on Student Debt and conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint. Key findings include:

• Eighty percent of American adults feel a college education is more important today than it was 10 years ago. But 66% also say that affording college is more difficult now, and 70% expect it to be even harder in the future.
• Three in five adults (59%) and two in three college parents (63%) say college students today graduate with too much debt. Two-thirds of adults (66%) say it is hard to repay student loans.
• Sixty-four percent of adults say the federal government is doing too little to make higher education available and affordable.
• Sixty-one percent of adults and 77% of recent students favor a proposal to cap student loan payments at 10% of income, even if it involves some additional government spending.
• More than three-fourths of Americans (78%) support a refundable tax credit for student loan interest costs. That support, which crosses demographic and party lines, is strong despite possible costs of up to $2 billion per year.

The survey was conducted March 13–18, 2006, with 804 adults, plus oversamples of 251 recent students (18- to 29-year-olds who are enrolled in or have attended college) and 254 college parents (parents of current college students or recent graduates). Its margin of error is 3.5 percent for all adults, 4.7 percent for college parents, and 5.2 percent for recent students

Read more here.

May 8, 2006

"60 Minutes" puts the spotlight on Sallie Mae

From Inside Higher Ed:

Sallie Mae received the full “60 Minutes? treatment Sunday night, in a segment that highlighted criticism that the student loan giant profits on the backs of students and taxpayers.

The issues raised in the segment (some highlights of which are available on the CBS show’s Web site) wouldn’t surprise anyone who has kept an eye on student-loan debates over the last decade. But by focusing on individual borrowers, the show put human faces on the issues — and reached many millions more than the reports that policy analysts regularly release on loan policy.

The show gave several examples of borrowers who were shocked to find how much greater their loan repayments were than the sums they borrowed. Each of these borrowers also had various difficulties that the show portrayed Sallie Mae as being “unforgiving? in handling. One student found himself unemployed, another was diagnosed with an illness, and a third lost his home in an earthquake.

Sallie Mae was described as refusing to help these borrowers, one of whom helped create a Web site, Student Loan Justice, that criticizes the lending industry. One expert interviewed by Lesley Stahl described student borrowers as being “served up like turkeys at a Thanksgiving dinner.?

The show also made hay of the fact that the company’s chairman and former chief executive, Albert L. Lord, has been highly compensated and is building a personal golf course.

May 5, 2006

Florida legislation would require high schoolers to choose majors

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- The Florida Legislature gave final approval to a bill Thursday that requires high school students to declare a major, similar to college students.

The measure now goes to Governor Jeb Bush, who pushed the requirement as part of a sweeping education overhaul approved by the House 90-24. The Senate passed it earlier in the day 39-1.

"It's important because it'll make the high school experience more relevant for a broader range of students," Bush said. "This will give them a chance to pursue education where their interests lie. ... There still will be core curricula credits that they'll need to pass."

The bill also requires that high school students take a fourth year of math and that middle school students receive career planning instruction.

Read the whole AP story on What do you think about this idea?

College students vulnerable to identity theft

People aged 18 to 29 are the group most commonly victimized by identity theft. That was the surprising finding of a recent survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Thirty-one percent of the victims of identity theft fall into that age group.

Although college students may think they are unlikely victims—usually working part-time and owning few assets—they are actually attractive targets. Students are uniquely vulnerable to identity theft because of the public availability of their personal information, their easy access to credit--many receiving daily or weekly credit card solicitations in the mail--and their lack of attention to credit issues. The FTC survey found that almost ninety percent of the identity theft cases at universities occur without the victim realizing it for several months.

Identity thieves use the personal and financial information they gather about their unsuspecting victims to assume their identities and acquire credit in their name. Victims can eventually clear their names and credit histories, but it can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.

In some cases, thieves gain access to victims’ checking routing numbers from the bottom of their checks and withdraw money directly from their accounts.

So how can you help your student protect his or her reputation, credit history, and bank account? Here are a few suggestions you can discuss with your student:

• Make sure the door to your room or apartment is always locked.
• Do not give your credit or debit card numbers, your personal identification numbers (PINs), or passwords to anyone, even your roommates or close friends.
• When choosing a PIN, don’t use obvious numbers such as your birth date, last four digits of your social security number, address, or any consecutive numbers.
• Remove unnecessary personal information from your checks, such as middle name, phone number, social security number or driver’s license number.
• Do not give out personal or financial information over the phone or the internet unless you know with whom you’re doing business.
• Beware of “phishing,? e-mails that look like they come from your bank or other business institution and ask recipients to “verify? or disclose their banking information.
• Shred or tear into small pieces pre-approved credit offers that arrive in the mail before throwing them in the garbage or recycling bin.
• Monitor your banking, credit card and phone statements and report any unauthorized activity.
• Monitor your credit report. Consumers can receive a free copy of their report yearly from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Additionally, don’t let your student get in the habit of giving others access to his or her passwords and PINS. If you need access to your student’s University student records for financial or other reasons, ask the student to grant you guest access by logging in to One Stop and clicking on Parent/Guest Access rather than asking for the account’s password.

May 2, 2006

State Department official to discuss careers in diplomacy

The timing may not be the greatest--during finals week--but next Monday students will have an opportunity to hear a State Department employee talk about careers and internships overseas and in Washington DC:

Careers in the State Department Monday, May 8 3 to 4 p.m. Nicholson Hall, room 125

Learn about careers in the U.S. Department of State -- representing America abroad, participating in foreign policy formulation at home, and experiencing foreign cultures and languages first-hand. The session will include information about full-time careers and about internships overseas and in Washington DC. The presenter is Tony Benesch, Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. In a long career in the State Department, Benesch has served in numerous locations, including Brazil, Morocco, Egypt, and Washington DC.

Crime Alert posted by UMPD

In its entirety:

On Sunday night, 4/30/2006, a University of Minnesota student had parked his car in Dinkytown and was walking toward Sanford Hall when he was approached by two juvenile male suspects. The suspects struck the victim on the head with a rock and took his wallet before fleeing the area on foot.

Victim was able to continue walking to Sanford Hall, where emergency medical personnel and police were called to assist him. Victim was transported to the hospital by paramedics due to the nature of his injuries.

Suspects are described as two young males. Suspect one is a mixed-race male, stocky build, between the ages of 15 and 25 years who was wearing a blue Minnesota Timberwolves jersey at the time of the robbery. Suspect two is described as a black male between the ages of 15 and 25 years with a lean build, a black sweatshirt and dark pants with white shoes.

University police are investigating the incident further, and request that anyone who may have information, or could be a witness, contact investigators via 612-624-COPS (2677).

Relevant updates to this investigation will be posted on the internet at or sent out via

May 1, 2006

Health Careers Center allows students to explore possibilties

If your student is contemplating a career in the ever-expanding field of healthcare, you may want to encourage them to pay a visit (online or in-person) to the Health Careers Center.

The Center hosts information sessions and workshops, and its online resources allow students to explore career options, learn about volunteer and internship opportunities, and get information about appoying for health programs.

The Center will also be offering a new for-credit online course in health sciences orientation next fall.