MONEY College

This Is College Students’ Biggest Worry

20s woman pulling cash out of wallet
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Here’s what really keeps the kids up at night.

It’s not frat parties or fear of flunking. The biggest worry college kids have today is money, a new survey reports. According to Ohio State University, 70% of nearly 19,000 students surveyed said they’re stressed about their finances. Six in 10 were worried about tuition costs, and half stressed about having enough to cover day-to-day expenses.

Feeling cash-strapped has real-world consequences for these kids: About a third said money worries led them to neglect their schoolwork, and nearly the same number cut back on their class load because they were worried about their debts. The survey finds that 16% actually suspended their studies for financial reasons, and nearly as many had to transfer to a cheaper school.

Rising student debt is a big culprit behind all this stress, with just under two thirds of students carrying student loans. One in five students surveyed owed more than $30,000 in student debt at the time of the survey, and the same number expect to owe $50,000 or more by the time they graduate.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average student borrower who graduated from a public or nonprofit college in 2013 (the most recent year available) owed $28,400 in student loan debt.

And it’s not just students feeling the anxiety. Another recent survey, this one conducted by CreditCards.com, finds that money worries keep nearly two-thirds of Americans up at night, a higher percentage than the 56% who suffered from finance-related insomnia before the recession. Although saving for retirement was the top worry across all age brackets in the CreditCards.com study, the second-biggest monster in the closet was the cost of education. About a third of all respondents — and half of those in the 18-to-29 age bracket — say they wind up counting tuition bills instead of sheep.

Despite students’ money worries, about three-quarters still believe that college is a good investment. They’re correct to think so: Research continues to show a significant wage premium for degree-holders over the lifespan of their career, and job seekers with college degrees also find jobs faster than those without, but how quickly a degree pays off increasingly depends on a new grad’s choice of major.

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, students who graduate with STEM or business degrees earn an average $3.4 million more in lifetime wages than those with degrees in the fields of childhood education, social work, and art.

TIME Education

Here’s What I Learned From the Near-Death of a Small College

It's not just this school

If there is one thing I learned during my two years as vice president at the American Council on Education, it’s this: US higher education is truly blessed with a huge diversity of institutions, large, small, public, private, urban, rural, specialized, liberal arts, comprehensive and research-intensive.

If there’s one thing I learned during my two years on the faculty at Mills College in Oakland, California, it’s this: women’s colleges are unique, they are empowering, and we need them in our higher education ecosystem.

If there’s one thing I learned while earning an MBA, it’s this: numbers usually don’t lie and there comes a time when you need to face reality. (Well, that’s two things.)

So it’s from this context I observe the near death experience of Sweet Briar College. I appreciate the value of small liberal arts institutions and note with sadness the decline in number of women’s colleges for decades.

I also know that, from a purely financial and marketing perspective, it will be difficult for Sweet Briar to increase enrollment and manage expenses, essentially reversing direction after announcing closure. I also know that Sweet Briar is not the only one, and many other colleges are likely to confront challenges similar to Sweet Briar’s.

Tough road ahead

Sweet Briar in Virginia was founded as a women’s college in 1901 with a mission to “unite classical and modern ideals of education and, in the words of its founder, prepare young women ‘to be useful members of society.’”

However, hit hard by enrollment declines beginning with the 2008 economic downturn, in March 2015, Sweet Briar’s board voted to close the college at the end of the 2015 academic year. A group of alumnae mounted an effort to save the institution. Earlier this month, a court agreed to a negotiated settlement that would keep Sweet Briar open another year.

I — and so many others — wish them well. However, based on their numbers as described by past board members last month, the going will be tough.

Enrollment has declined from 611 in 2010 to 561 in 2015. Their four-year graduation rate slipped from 70% in 1996 to 54% in 2014.

At the same time, Sweet Briar’s average discounted tuition rate for first-year students increased from 48.9% in 2010 to 61.9% in 2015. And the spending of their endowment exceeded the recommended 5% per year.

I predict Sweet Briar will have an extremely difficult time coming back from the brink.

On top of their financial challenges, Sweet Briar will confront difficult morale issues as faculty and staff begin to look for other more secure positions elsewhere.

It’s not just Sweet Briar

Many other small institutions are confronting financial challenges not unlike Sweet Briar’s.

According to Bloomberg, Moody’s, which rates more than 500 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities for credit quality, “downgraded an average of 28 institutions annually in the five years through 2013. This is more than double the average of 12 in the prior five-year period.”

With heightened public scrutiny on the value of a college degree, greater consumerism on the part of students, and more downward pressure on tuition increases, US higher education confronts a major adjustment. It is likely we will see even more closures and mergers in the future.

Women’s colleges confront a double whammy: dealing with financial challenges as well as questions about the relevance of single-gender institutions. Women’s colleges are down from 230 in 1960 to 47 in 2015.

Given this environment, how difficult will it be for universities and colleges to attract students, especially in times of failing financial health? Will prospective students and families ask questions about the financial health of an institution before enrolling? Such information is now available to them from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources.

As it is, tuition costs are rising. Affordability is the number one issue we face in higher education today. There has been a 33% increase in tuition costs in the ten years from 2003 to 2013 across all institutions.

There are other issues as well: Currently only 59% of first-time full-time students who begin a four-year degree graduate within six years. And even those often carry a high burden of debt. As of 2013, 69% of students graduated with loan debt.

But, at the same time, universities are binging on expansion. Some of this may be strategically necessary (like replacing decrepit academic buildings or establishing new relevant degree programs), but much may not be.

In efforts to attract students with a broad program array and popular amenities, we may be sacrificing the one thing that helps students most: graduating on time affordably.

The way forward

Fortunately, boards and administrators have options as long as they face reality quickly. They need to gather the right data, act decisively, and confront difficult decisions to avoid closure.

We know that the four things that can lead to financial sustainability are clear focus on core mission; reducing administrative cost; selling non-core assets; and investing in innovative models.

Women’s colleges can adapt and are adapting to new realities, like Alverno College in Milwaukee, that converted a long-standing classroom-based weekend program for nontraditional working students to a blended hybrid format to meet today’s need for greater flexibility.

Based on my own experience leading major organizational transformations, Sweet Briar’s leadership will need to move quickly and decisively to forge their future. Gaining commitment from all stakeholders to work together to “row in the same direction” will be essential. Balancing the need to face reality and telling the truth about that reality while also painting a picture of a positive future will make the difference.

We can’t put our heads in the sand, ignore the numbers, maintain the status quo, and hope things will be fine. For those of us who care about higher education and our students, we need to step up.The Conversation

Cathy Sandeen is Chancellor at University of Wisconsin Colleges and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Courts

Family Sues After Student Dies During Fraternity Hike

Joshua Castaneda, Martha Castaneda, Maria Castaneda
Damian Dovarganes—AP Family members of late Armando Villa. Left to right: Joshua Castaneda, his mother Martha Castaneda, and aunt, Maria Castaneda react as California State University, Northridge, CSUN president Dr. Dianne Harrison, not seen, reads a statement regarding Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity activities that lead to the death of CSUN student Armando Villa, during a news conference at the CSUN campus in Northridge, Calif., on Sept. 5, 2014.

Armando Villa's family filed a lawsuit against California State University

(LOS ANGELES) — The family of a California college student who died during a grueling fraternity hike sued the organization and the school on Wednesday, saying the young man’s death was senseless and easily preventable.

Armando Villa, who attended California State University, Northridge, died a year ago Wednesday after the 19-year-old collapsed during an 18-mile hike organized by Pi Kappa Phi. The group was hiking in hot temperatures with little water and inadequate shoes, a school investigation found.

The investigation concluded that hazing was to blame.

Villa’s mother and stepfather filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the university, school administrators and the fraternity, alleging negligence and hazing. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages.

“We’re just looking for a little closure and justice,” Villa’s mother, Betty Serrato, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They’ve ruined a life and broken a family.”

The lawsuit alleges that fraternity members forced pledges to go on the dangerous hike without adequate supplies as a last ritual before they could become full-fledged members. The lawsuit says the university had a duty to oversee fraternity activities and should have been aware of and stopped any hazing that was happening.

The national fraternity’s CEO, Mark Timmes, declined to comment on the lawsuit, except to reiterate that the organization closed its chapter at the school after Villa’s death.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with Armando’s family and all those affected by his passing,” Timmes said in a statement.

The university declined to comment on the litigation, but said in a statement that any claim that the school “was in any way responsible for the tragic death of Armando Villa is untrue.”

The school cited its investigation and said it banned the fraternity from ever operating on campus again.

“The death of Armando was a tragedy and our hearts continue to go out to his family and friends,” the statement said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department opened a criminal investigation after Villa’s death, though results haven’t been released, including a coroner’s report.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Biddle, who investigated the case, said he has turned it over to the district attorney’s office to consider whether charges should be filed. A district attorney’s spokesman said the case was under review.

“We want the truth. We still want to know what happened out there,” Serrato said. “We deserve that much at least.”

In September, university President Dianne Harrison condemned hazing while addressing Villa’s death.

“Hazing is stupid, senseless, dangerous and against the law in California,” Harrison said. “It is a vestige of a toxic way of thinking in which it was somehow OK to degrade, humiliate and potentially harm others.”

Harrison is among those named in the lawsuit. She didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

TIME Education

Here’s the Best Time to Visit College Campuses

friends-studying-outdoor
Getty Images

Know what you want before the visit

There is no doubt that visiting a prospective college or university is one of the best ways to experience the culture of a particular school. By the end of their junior year of high school, most students have compiled a short list of colleges that interest them. The schools on that list will have a mixture of criteria that they do or do not meet: ideal location, reasonable cost, academic rigor, courses of study, etc. Choosing among these colleges often comes down to how a place “feels,” but if you cannot visit them during the school year, what can you do? Should you visit college campuses in the summer?

What can all campus visits teach you?

No matter the season in which you visit, a campus tour allows you to explore the buildings and grounds of a given school, as well as its surrounding community. Perhaps an urban college appeals to you in theory, but you realize on your campus tour that you miss the open green spaces and quiet of a rural setting. Conversely, your claustrophobia may worsen when you see that your prospective home for the next four years consists of the campus, one or two restaurants, and endless miles of farm and forest.

Even if you are comparing colleges in similar settings, you may find that the neighborhoods near each campus significantly impact the atmosphere of a school. For example, I attended the University of Washington and Ohio State University. Both are large state schools located in mid-sized cities. Both have beautiful campuses. But the University of Washington is surrounded by independent coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and used book stores. Ohio State University, in contrast, is bordered primarily by chain restaurants. This was an obvious difference to me, but other students may not have noticed. If you plan to live off-campus, a campus tour – at any time of year – can help you gauge a city or town’s student neighborhoods.

A campus tour will also include visits to campus buildings. Are these buildings well maintained? Do you like the feeling of ancient wisdom that seeps from the stones of 19th century construction, or are you more at home with modern buildings? This is a small but crucial consideration, as the buildings you live among can have an impact on how you experience your community.

What are the disadvantages of touring during the summer?

The answer to this question will vary from college to college. Some schools may seem abandoned during the summer months, while others may be quite busy. In both cases, you will not glimpse the campus at its liveliest times. You may not realize that you will be swimming through throngs of students during class breaks at a large college, or that you will continually see the same dozen people at a small school. You also may not be able to sit in on a college class or two.

In addition, you may struggle to assess how students truly treat one another. Are people on campus friendly and welcoming during the winter months too? Do they seem disinterested in strangers only because it is oppressively humid out? The student ambassadors and tour guides that you meet during a campus visit are typically hired because they are friendly and outgoing – which means they may or may not be representative of the student body as a whole. The summer student population may be equally as unrepresentative due to its smaller sample size.

So what should you do?

Whenever possible, visit prospective schools during the academic year. Remember that an in-person assessment of a campus can be invaluable to your final decision. If you are only able to visit colleges in the summer, you will need to consider the goals you would like each campus tour to achieve.

If visiting all the schools on your list is prohibitively expensive, do not immediately discount the possibility of a campus tour. You may be able to prioritize which colleges to go to – for example, say you have five schools on your short list. One of them seems ideal for you academically, and its rural location differentiates it from the other colleges. Visiting that one outlier will help you learn whether the setting is a positive or negative factor. Or perhaps you would like to major in a field like life sciences or visual art, where laboratory quality or studio space can have a profound impact on your education. Several of your target schools may make virtual tours available online, but one or two may not. Investigating the colleges or universities without online tours can be a very good use of your visitation budget.

Ultimately, visiting campuses during the traditional academic school year or during the summer is a highly personal decision. It will depend on cost and your overall touring goals. If summer is the best or only time that you can visit colleges and universities, there is truly no substitute for walking across campus and imagining yourself coming back next fall – and happily belonging there.

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

More from Varsity Tutors:

MONEY College

The Right Way to Borrow for Your Kid’s College

mother embracing daughter moving off to college
Xi Xin Xing—Shutterstock

Follow these 3 rules.

With the August start of the school season right around the corner, parents of college-bound kids may have one more financial hurdle to clear: finding a loan to fill the gap between the savings you’ve earmarked for college, your child’s financial aid and student loans, and the big bill that’s coming up fast.

The most popular options are federal parent PLUS loans, private student loans, and a home-equity line of credit. The best one for you comes down to several factors, including how long you need to pay off the loan and your credit history. Here’s how to weigh your choices.

For Flexibility, Pick a PLUS

A federal parent PLUS loan has, well, pluses and minuses. The current interest rate, 6.8%, is high compared to other options, and you’ll owe an origination fee of more than 4%. If you plan to retire the debt in less than a year, the more than $400 you’d pay to take out a $10,000 loan would essentially raise your rate to 11%.

Still, the application process is simple, and the credit requirements are looser than for other loans—your income and credit score aren’t factors. You can take up to 30 years to pay back the loan (though 10 years is standard), and you automatically qualify for repayment breaks if you run into a financial hardship, like a lost job.

For a Low Rate, Go Private

With a private student loan from a bank or credit union, you can beat a PLUS loan’s high rate and avoid origination fees. Traditionally your student takes out this loan, with you as a co-signer. But increasingly many banks, including Wells Fargo and Citizens, are offering private loans directly to parents. Lender SoFi has a borrowing program for parents of students attending one of 2,200 schools.

Variable rates on private loans run from 3% to more than 10%, depending on your creditworthiness, while fixed rates range from 4.5% to double digits. You can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest a year on your taxes, as long as your income is below the cap ($160,000 for a married couple filing jointly in 2015).

For Ready Cash, Tap Your Home

Another way to get a low rate is to borrow against your home equity. On average you’ll pay a 4.75% variable rate on a HELOC today, reports Bankrate.com, and just a few hundred dollars upfront.

Trouble is, you’ll pay more for your HELOC once the Federal Reserve starts hiking interest rates. That makes them best if you can pay off the loan quickly. Or lock in. With many lenders, you can convert the outstanding portion of your HELOC to a fixed loan (rates average 6%), leaving the rest of your line available for future costs.

Finally, trust your instincts. “What keeps parents up at night varies,” says Leonard Wright, a California certified public accountant and personal financial specialist. “For some a HELOC takes away the peace of mind of having a paid-off or nearly paid-off home loan. For others there’s peace of mind in having the guaranteed options for payment breaks from a federal loan.”

TIME Education

See How the First SAT Compared to Today’s Test

SAT
John Nordell—Getty Images A student pauses while taking a sample SAT in 2005

June 23, 1926: The first SAT is administered

The math section required little knowledge beyond basic arithmetic, and the test itself took just over an hour and a half, but the first SAT wasn’t any easier than the one tormenting high school seniors in our era.

On this day, June 23, in 1926, when the first batch of college applicants struggled through the Scholastic Aptitude Test, they were given 97 minutes to answer 315 questions—meaning that to complete the test, they’d have to answer about three questions per minute. No one was expected to finish the entire thing.

While the time pressure was more intense than in today’s test—which provides a luxurious three hours and 45 minutes to answer 170 questions and write an essay—it did streamline the process for applicants to the nation’s top colleges, who’d previously had to take a different essay-based test for each college they applied to. “Up until that time, if you wanted to apply to Harvard, you did that totally differently than how you applied to Yale versus how you applied to Princeton,” an official with the College Board, which produces and administers the SAT, told Smithsonian Magazine in 2013.

Just as the test itself has stood the test of time, so has controversy surrounding it. Although the SAT was adapted from the IQ test used by the U.S. Army during World War I, per the New York Times, and intended to measure innate intelligence—regardless of class or race—it has been plagued by accusations of elitism throughout much of its nearly 90-year history. This original iteration in particular served a highly select demographic: Of the 8,040 college candidates who took the first test, 60% were male, according to a PBS Frontline special on the SAT. Most of the men were applying to Yale; most of the women were hoping to get into Smith.

To matriculate along with the upper crust of 1920s high school society, you’d have to demonstrate knowledge in a number of areas, including:

Arithmetic: “If a package containing twenty cigarettes costs fifteen cents, how many cigarettes can be bought for ninety cents?”

Classification (Instructions: Each group contains six words. Three of these are related to each other in some definite way. Indicate which three are MOST CLOSELY RELATED): Group 1. anemia, tuberculosis, sickness, diphtheria, typhoid, doctor.

Group 2. Keats, Petrarch, Schopenhauer, Franklin, Byron, Mendel.

Analogies: 1. Beacon is to helmsman as wisdom is to 1) ruler, 2) tooth, 3) sagacity, 4) wizard, 5) grief.

2. Thorn is to flesh as vice is to 1) voice, 2) crime, 3) virtue, 4) evil, 5) society.

Paragraph Reading (In each paragraph, one word has been substituted for another word and spoils the meaning of the paragraph. Find this word and cross it out): “We were informed that the lady of his heart, when living, received the addresses of several who made love to her, and did not only give each of them discouragement, but made everyone that she conversed with believe that she regarded him with an eye of kindness.”

How well you do will be your own best guess: According to the Washington Post, which published the full test online last year, the answer key has been lost to the ages.

Read a 1950 article about the test, here in TIME’s archives: Cure for Chaos

MONEY College

How Can I Make Sure My Ex Pays Her Share of Our Kids’ College Costs?

split cake and cake toppers
Jeffrey Hamilton—Getty Images

Failure to take immediate action is risky.

Q. I’ve had an ugly divorce and I think my wife will refuse to pay her part of college costs for our kids. The oldest kid starts in September, and I can’t afford to pay the whole thing. I’m also not sure I want to go through another fight and go back to court. Plus, I can’t really afford an attorney again. What are my options?

A. What you need to do is act quickly.

Failure to take immediate action may be interpreted by the court, in the future, as you having waived your right — and your child’s right — to seek financial contribution from your ex-wife toward the satisfaction of your child’s college costs and expenses, said Kenneth White, a divorce attorney with Shane and White in Edison, N.J..

White said for starters, he makes it a point never to convince anyone that they need an attorney to appear in Family Court, and nearly 50% of those who appear before the court in New Jersey do it without an attorney. (And while this is specific to New Jersey, no matter where you live, it’s important to find out what the rules and deadlines are so that you can advocate for your child.)

Whether to hire an attorney or not often rests upon just how comfortable the non-attorney individual is appearing before a judge, coupled with how competent that individual is. However, you often only get one chance to correctly present an issue before the Family Court, he said.

“After the fact, if you did something wrong or otherwise failed to raise a specific point it will be 10 times harder and more costly for an attorney to try to undo something you did wrong and that attorney, after the fact, may not be able to undo something done wrong,” White said.

So back to acting quickly.

Specifically, White said, there is case law in New Jersey allows a judge to deny an application by one party against his/her ex-spouse for contribution toward the satisfaction of their child’s college costs and expenses if that application is made after the actual costs and expenses were incurred.

“Therefore, it is essential that you file your application with the court to compel your ex-wife to contribute to the satisfaction of your child’s college costs and expenses before the same are incurred — this fall,” White said.

He said another reason to file your application sooner rather than later is that it will likely protect you from many additional defenses that your ex-wife could raise.

“For example, she will be unable to claim that she was unaware and otherwise kept in the dark about your child’s intentions, such as wanting to attend college and where, and perhaps that she was denied an opportunity to have a say in the matter,” he said.

Moving sooner will allow everyone involved — your ex-spouse, you and your child — to look at all the relevant financial considerations, such as if it’s practical for your child to attend his/her first choice of college, he said.

Unlike divorce litigation that can take a year or perhaps longer depending upon what county your case was heard in, White said a post-judgment application to address an issue such as satisfaction of college costs and expenses may be filed, argued and resolved by the court in as quick as a 24-day cycle. Post-judgment motions must be filed 24 days before the return date, i.e. the date the judge is to have a hearing regarding the issue. Therefore, White said, you shouldn’t be intimidated by the potential of additional litigation because it will not be as complex as your entire divorce was.

“Unfortunately, absent confirming an amicable resolution directly with your ex-wife, your only option is to file an application with the court as soon as possible,” he said. “Alternatively, you — and more importantly, your child — may lose the opportunity to have your child secure a college education that he/she may be entitled to.”

So you should consider consulting with an attorney who can review all the circumstances of your case and offer you an opinion, even if it’s just a consultation.

More from Credit.com:

TIME Education

The Next Great American Scientists Will Not Graduate From Harvard

beaker-liquid-lab
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Small classes, intense mentoring, and hands-on research make liberal arts colleges scientific breeding grounds

In response to billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson’s recently announced commitment of $400 million to support the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, the journalist Malcolm Gladwell summed up many people’s reactions in a single facetious tweet: “It came down to helping the poor or giving the world’s richest university $400 mil it doesn’t need. Wise choice John.”

That reaction is understandable—and wrong. This gift should be saluted, not derided.

If history is a guide, both cutting-edge science and Harvard University may be better long-term investments in “helping the poor” than almost any other philanthropic alternative.

The lifting effect on all humanity of research that successfully addresses intractable societal challenges of disease, nutrition, climate change, and poverty cannot be underestimated. With government and industry research dollars shrinking or plateauing, America’s competitive success in science and technology depends more than ever upon the excellence of our great research universities. And 21st-century science facilities and research do not come cheaply.

Those who decry “the rich get richer” phenomena of big-time philanthropy miss the point. The follow-up to magnificent gifts such as this, after applause, should be to ask who will produce the human capital to make use of the opportunities the gift will facilitate. Where will the future scientists who achieve the breakthroughs at Harvard, Stanford, and other research centers begin their careers as undergraduates?

One answer to that question: Small liberal arts colleges, which already provide a disproportionate share of the “seed corn” of students for graduate and post-graduate science. This includes not just national schools such as Amherst and Swarthmore, but lesser known (and much less well-funded) regional institutions such as Augsburg, Lawrence, and the 155-year-old private school where I was president, North Central College.

These schools have a remarkable record of inspiring careers in science that lead to important breakthroughs at the National Institutes of Health and the top research universities, and to numerous Nobel Prizes. In a recent 20-year span, according to former Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, of the 70 Americans who received their undergraduate education in this country and won Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics, and medicine, 16—more than one in five—attended liberal arts colleges.

Former Howard Hughes Medical Institute President Tom Cech, himself a graduate of tiny Grinnell College and a Nobel Laureate, has noted that despite offering no doctoral programs of their own, “liberal arts colleges as a group produce about twice as many eventual science Ph.D.’s per graduate as do baccalaureate institutions in general.” And while private research universities such as Princeton, Stanford and Chicago are “more selective than any of the liberal arts colleges,” Cech has said, “their efficiency of production of Ph.D.’s, while excellent, lags behind that of the top liberal arts colleges.”

In a memorable speech to college presidents a few years ago, Tilghman, who is a molecular biologist, posed what she referred to as “the $64,000 question”: Why are liberal arts colleges so successful in producing this result?

The answer to her question is to be found in both the character of liberal arts education and the location of these small colleges. Many talented American students like to go to smaller colleges near home. Much to the consternation of academic elitists and economists who cannot understand why all the “smart” students don’t choose to attend the most selective universities as undergraduates, much of American higher education is regional. Many top students remain reluctant to go far away or to big universities—and, historically, it has been these students whom liberal arts colleges have nurtured and inspired and provoked into careers in science. A glance at the biographies of the Nobel Laureates referenced by Tilghman suggests how important proximity to these regional institutions has been to their growth and success.

But there’s a harder and more important question for the United States and the world that needs to be addressed. Will this seed corn of science—produced by small classes, intense mentoring experiences, and hands-on research opportunities at small liberal arts colleges—be there in the years to come?

Even though cutting-edge science facilities and opportunities on liberal arts college campuses are smaller in scale than major universities, they still don’t come cheaply! The more regional the institution, the more likely it is that it lacks the funding base that goes with national prestige and visibility.

There is an immense opportunity here for philanthropists who care as much about the future of American science as John Paulson. Why not establish a data-driven challenge grant program inviting liberal arts colleges struggling with the cost of upgrading their science facilities and programs to re-engage this vital element of their historic mission and societal role?

The great research universities such as Harvard would be the first beneficiaries of the seed corn that results from such a program. And eventually, thanks to the discoveries that would follow, the beneficiaries would include everyone.

Harold R. Wilde is president emeritus of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

5 Things I Learned From Writing Other People’s College Essays for Money

laptop
Getty Images

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"I didn’t charge enough"

xojane

The year 2009 was a year of big changes for me. I graduated with my M.A. in Professional Writing. My husband and I moved across the country from Georgia to California. And the economy fell off a cliff.

I know what you’re thinking. Someone with a degree in “Professional Writing” should probably expect to have a hard time finding a job regardless of what’s happening in the economy, but I swear I thought this out.

Graduate school gave me tangible skills with classes in document design and editing. I had a great experience and you should all shake your heads sadly and learn from my choices.

I wasn’t worried because I have had a job since I was 15. So what if nobody’s hiring? Convenience store, call center, restaurant, doesn’t matter. I’ve worked them all and I have no shame.

After a few weeks I realized just how competitive the job market actually is in Los Angeles. Restaurants asked for head shots with my application. My master’s degree made every retail store give me the side eye. I was suddenly unqualified and overqualified for everything.

Aside from being underemployed, I quickly learned that LA is a super expensive city. Like $7 for a domestic draft beer expensive. My part-time job and unpaid internship kept me firmly at home watching television and eating ramen noodles every night while interest added up on my student loans.

My husband suggested that maybe I could make some money offering college students help with their college essays. Sure! After 19 years of school, I was definitely qualified to help someone with their homework.

I put together a Craigslist ad detailing my credentials and the responses started rolling in. But instead of “Could you edit my paper?” I was getting “Hey, just do my assignment” or “Could you take my online class?” Well, beggars can’t be choosers, so from 2009 to 2013 I wrote dozens of papers and took several online classes. Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1. People who buy papers come from every walk of life.

It’s easy to assume that all students who buy papers are 20-somethings using mom and dad’s money so they can spend more time being hungover. Sure, there are plenty of those, and those are the ones who were the most demanding and difficult to work with. 20 pages by tomorrow? I’m not a wizard, kid.

But aside from the ne’er do wells, there were non-traditional students who were having a rough time balancing work, family, and a full class load. These students often expressed a lot of guilt, and I have a lot of sympathy for the pressure they were under.

Finally, there were those who were simply overwhelmed and unable to do college level work. Students who bought papers from me went to community college, online programs, USC, and UCLA.

2. I didn’t charge enough.

I loved school, and I even had fun doing a lot of the assignments. Who has two thumbs and had a great time researching a paper about the religious symbolism in the movie Groundhog Day? This gal.

But I also cared too much. I got the same worried knot in the pit of my stomach every time an assignment was due, and I stressed over the work as if I were the one getting the grade. If I had to do it over again I would realize that $75 for a four-page paper that required research and MLA formatting was practically giving it away.

3. You probably won’t get caught.

In the beginning, I would tell students that it would be a good idea to take the paper I wrote and put it in their own words. You’d think it would be a glaring issue for a student who’s had trouble the entire semester to turn in an “A” paper that doesn’t sound like anything else they’ve written. You’d be wrong.

I know a handful of adjunct professors, and as long as the paper is original (meaning chunks of the writing isn’t being recycled from other papers or online sources) they often don’t have the time or support of the administration to accuse someone of plagiarism. I would also add that they don’t get paid enough to weed out people buying papers, but that’s another essay.

4. You really are only cheating yourself.

Do I feel guilty? A little, but mostly for the other students who are working hard and giving it “the old college try” and getting lumped in with people who are buying assignments. It’s not fair, but life isn’t fair.

People who avoid work in college will find other ways to get through life and it will either catch up with them, or they will have to spend the rest of their lives trying to find people to do their work.

5. We should really stop herding people into college.

I can’t tell you how many students couldn’t compose a simple email that told me what their assignment was and when it was due. Red flag right? Not for “for profit” colleges it isn’t. You got a pulse and qualify for student loans? You’re in!

These students lack basic skills and aren’t ready for college, but that doesn’t stop schools from signing them up for thousands of dollars in student debt. These institutions have much lower graduation rates than the national average and students from for-profit colleges are much more likely to default on their student loans. It’s still a tough economy out there and most of these folks will end up in the same position I was in 2009 — but without the skills to do other people’s homework for cash.

Beth Seaver wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

How to Make the Most of Summer College Courses

students-group-outdoor
Getty Images

Seek out unusual electives

There is something magical about college campuses during the summer months. The physical space is unchanged from the traditional academic year, but a feeling of quiet possibility infiltrates the empty lawns and unused classrooms. There are, of course, a hardy few who brave the summer term, and perhaps you are among them. If so, here are several basic considerations to help you maximize your summer college courses:

Remember that the summer term is compressed

Most American schools utilize the semester system, where each class you take is typically 15 weeks in length. Summer classes, however, are much shorter – often just four or six weeks long. This compressed schedule is ideal for introductory courses, so if you need to complete a prerequisite class or a general education requirement, the summer term can be an excellent opportunity to do so. For those courses that develop a theme over a period of weeks, and that benefit from in-depth discussion and writing, a shortened summer semester can sometimes be harmful.

Ultimately, learning takes time and practice. Before you register for a class, consider the course content, and decide whether you can master it at an accelerated pace. Remember that one effect of this compressed schedule is that falling behind in class becomes even more problematic. For example, in the summer microbiology courses that I teach, we still meet twice per week, but we cover 18 chapters of the textbook in 16 class sessions, rather than in 26. Begin studying on the first day of the semester, and stay current with your homework and reading.

Also be aware that this shortened schedule makes multitasking more difficult. Take a college where 15 semester hours is normally a full course load. During the summer, a 15-hour load might mean meeting for 22 hours, with all the extra work that entails outside of the classroom. My advice? Take a lighter course load during the summer.

Research possible instructors

Many summer classes are taught by adjuncts on short-term contracts. Most adjuncts love to teach, and they typically know their subjects very well. However, some adjuncts are hired mere days before the semester begins, and they are forced to make do with just a textbook and a copy of last summer’s syllabus. Before you enroll in a course, check the department website to see if the instructor is a full or associate professor. If the instructor is listed as an adjunct – or not listed at all – it is perfectly acceptable to contact the department office to ask about a teacher’s credentials and whether they have taught that class (or one like it) before. You may find that an adjunct with experience teaching a given course is the best possible scenario. Tenured professors are sometimes promoted based on research and publication record, with teaching performance a lesser consideration. Adjuncts, on the other hand, live and die by their abilities in the classroom.

Consider your long-term needs

Most departments schedule their core requirements in a way that encourages students to take them in a certain sequence. You will generally benefit most by following this sequence. If you are pursuing a double major, or if you are interested in a rarely-taught special topics course, summer may be your chance to complete an essential class. To be clear, courses offered in the summer are usually compressed versions of core requirements, but by taking a core requirement during the summer, you may be able to resolve a conflict with a rarely taught or specialized class during the regular school year.

Summer is also an excellent time to repeat a course (if necessary). If you did not do well on your first attempt, you may find that the summer section is taught by a different instructor with a teaching style that better suits your learning needs. The smaller class size, and your familiarity with the material, may also help you improve. Either way, the summer semester can be an important step in graduating on time.

Seek out unusual electives

One of the best uses of the summer semester is taking unusual courses that do not otherwise fit into your schedule. In biology, for example, the summer is an excellent time for classes focusing on ecology and field work. Multi-day expeditions do not work well during the regular school year because they interfere with other academic obligations. The summer session is also a great time for short courses in unusual settings, such as an art class in Rome, a literature course at the University of Oxford, or a science class in Hawaii.

You may find that the best use of your summer is to rest, or to complete an internship, or to work to save money for the regular academic school year. But if you do decide to take summer courses, a little planning can go a long way in maximizing your college experience.

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

More from Varsity Tutors:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com