Posts Tagged ‘The Chronicle’

Colleges Try to Find the Best Online Communication Tools

Colleges Try to Find Best Online Communication Tools

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Imagine that your university president has an important announcement about the graduation ceremony this Saturday – two days away. If you don’t get this message, you may not be able to walk across the stage! What is the best way for the president to contact all potential graduates? Should he or she send an email or a Facebook post? What about text messages? Or can he or she simply tweet it?

At many universities across the country, academic communication problems like these have called into question the best ways to reach the student population en masse. According to a recent article in The Chronicle, students are using such a wide variety of social media and online communication technologies that schools are having a hard time keeping up. Since the industry changes constantly, administrators find it difficult to choose the best means by which to reach all of their students quickly and effectively.

When you enrolled in school, you were given an email address. While this is typically the primary method of contact between you and your professors, what happens if an important email (about graduation, keeping with the above example) goes unnoticed or is sent to a spam folder? The article mentions administrators fear students only check university emails once per week, as opposed to checking Facebook multiple times per day. However, not every college student has Facebook. Amy Ratliff, program coordinator for cooperative education at the University of Alabama, says that she sends out campus emails in the evening to increase the likelihood that students will read them. She also is more selective about information she sends out so the school doesn’t bombard students with information. Does your school send out too many campus-wide emails? How often do you read them?

Some schools list important information in more than one place to increase the number of people who see it. However, students grow weary of stock paragraphs and impersonal posting. Boston University dean Kenneth Elmore posts all of his own blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates. While The Chronicle article doesn’t state whether or not he has more success with this method, students may follow him with greater loyalty or look to his posts for information because it’s not an automated, mass email. Do you follow your school or professors on Twitter or Facebook, or do you prefer to keep these social sites separate from school?

There are no easy answers in the age of online communication. Share your thoughts with your school! Student feedback is necessary for universities to improve.

In addition, if you have not yet declared a major, you may want to look into social media for higher education administration. It looks like your perspective could make a big difference!

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Financial Aid Award Letters Get a Makeover

Many students who have applied for financial aid from their college have had great difficulty deciphering their acceptance letters. This has less to do with a student’s understanding of their financial aid package, and more to do with inconsistent terms and jumbled mathematics used by institutions in their letters.

Good news! Financial aid letters are new and improved! They are officially on their way to becoming easy to read and understand. According to The Chronicle, the Obama administration has released what they are calling the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. This Shopping Sheet is a model acceptance letter for students receiving financial aid. The standardized information that will appear in the letter includes:

  • Total net cost of education
  • Median federal aid among all students at the institution
  • Average monthly payments for this median amount
  • The school’s loan-default rates
  • The school’s graduation rates
  • Any available grants, loans, or other financial aid options

Unfortunately, schools are not required to use the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet — yet. It is currently a voluntary letter template. There is a great deal of discussion as to whether or not schools should have to use this template. Some argue that each college should be able to design their own letter. Other schools, like Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, plan on utilizing the Shopping Sheet already this year.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, sheds some light on the future of the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. He says that it is his hope and expectation that many schools will follow the footsteps of Mount Holyoke. If there are schools that refuse to be clear and upfront about the cost of tuition with their students, what else might they have trouble communicating? It will speak well of schools to follow suit and present their students with concise information and financial aid options.

If you would like to keep up with this story, follow the actions of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota (@alfranken). He has introduced a bill to Congress that would make the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet mandatory for all colleges and universities. His bill is titled Understanding the True Cost of College Act.

What do you think? Should all schools be required to send the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to their applicants?

Do you have an experience with a jumbled acceptance letter or a deciphering success story? Share it here!

Find out more about financial aid and how to pay for school on Cappex!

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