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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: higher ed

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July 28, 2014 at 9:03 AM

More for your money: UW-Bothell ranked best in the state

The UW Bothell campus. Photo by Jim Bates / The Seattle Times 2008.

The UW Bothell campus. Photo by Jim Bates / The Seattle Times 2008.

A new national ranking of college quality scrambles the usual rating of Washington state’s colleges and universities, making the University of Washington-Bothell the top-rated school in the state.

The ranking, by Money magazine, aims to tell students and parents which schools give the best value for the money, and looked at metrics such as the quality of the education, affordability and outcomes, which were based in part on how much graduates were making five years after they left school.

The UW-Bothell ranked above the main campus because it “dramatically outperforms its peers on graduation rates and alumni financial success indicators,” the magazine writes. Although UW-Bothell isn’t particularly selective, more than two-thirds of freshmen go on to graduate, and earn salaries averaging about $52,000 within five years of graduating.

In the survey, UW-Bothell came in 37th in the nation overall, earning an A- for value. The main UW campus in Seattle ranked 47th in the nation, getting a B+ for quality. The Seattle campus appeared to rank slightly lower than the UW-Bothell because the average annual salary within five years was slightly lower ($49,300) and the school is more selective.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, rankings, UW

July 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Free textbooks: New website helps profs find best e-books and videos

The OPEN Washington website

The OPEN Washington website

Building on several years of work with free textbook development, the state’s community college board has created a website that highlights the best available free- and low-cost textbooks and other educational resources from around the country.

The website is called OPEN Washington, and its aim is to help professors and college instructors find free or low-cost online textbooks, videos, curricula and other resources from a wide variety of sources.

It was created by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).

Along with everything else in higher education, textbooks have zoomed in price in recent years; some studies suggest that the average college student spends as much as $800 to $1,000 per academic year buying textbooks. And students are often stuck with books that they can’t sell back to the bookstore because versions change from year to year.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: e-textbooks, higher ed, textbooks

July 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Even the feds screw up FAFSA: Online glitch affects thousands

About 200,000 would-be college students, most of them low-income, may have received incorrect financial aid offers because of a recently-discovered glitch on the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, better known as the FAFSA.

The problem came to light earlier this month after colleges and universities began noticing lots of applicants with questionable salaries entered in the box marked “Income Earned from Work”. That is, salaries that looked puzzlingly high for students seeking financial aid.

Turns out that thousands of students — apparently trying to respond to the FAFSA with utmost accuracy — entered summer-job or after-school incomes down to the penny. But the form was supposed to accept only whole-dollar amounts.

The result? Incomes of $5,000.19 showed up as $500,019 — an enormous difference, and one that would almost certainly affect eligibility for financial aid.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: FAFSA, financial aid, higher ed

July 21, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Liberal-arts consortium knits together 5 small colleges

This summer, three small Northwest liberal arts colleges are teaching a course together as part of a five-college collaboration that could eventually help the schools deliver education more efficiently and provide stronger class offerings to their students.

It’s a move that reflects a growing national trend  among colleges to pool talent and resources.

The schools — including the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and  Whitman College in Walla Walla — established the consortium three years ago, and this summer will offer their first class, in local food systems.

The project is called the Northwest Five Consortium, and it also includes Lewis & Clark College and Reed College, both in Portland, and Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

The Whitman College campus in Walla Walla. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2009.

The Whitman College campus in Walla Walla. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2009.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, liberal arts

July 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Think the least educated drink most? Data might surprise you

Numbers can anchor free-floating impressions, but sometimes they offer unexpected revelations.

To wit: Those with a master’s degree spend five times the amount that high-school dropouts spend on alcohol — $748 versus $148 each year.

On the other hand, dropouts spend more than double what the highly-educated spend on tobacco — $323 compared to $143.

Screen shot of the "Degrees of Spending" infographic

Screen shot of the “Degrees of Spending” infographic

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Comments | More in News | Topics: demographics, higher ed

July 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Your voices: Students talk about experiences with for-profit colleges

Ashley Kyle of Everett said she found her pharmacy-tech teacher lacking and taught herself. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Ashley Kyle of Everett said she found her pharmacy-tech teacher lacking and taught herself. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Corrected version

Education Lab recently asked readers to share their experiences — positive or negative — with for-profit colleges and universities.

The request was tied to news that Corinthian Colleges, which operates a handful of Washington schools under the name Everest College, was under investigation from the U.S. Department of Education.

Since then, the two parties have reached an agreement that calls for Corinthian to put 85 of its campuses, including schools in Everett, Seattle, Bremerton, Tacoma, Renton and Vancouver, up for sale.

Several current and former students wrote to us saying Everest had misrepresented their chances of finding a job after graduation. One Everest student, Ashley Kyle, wrote in to say the school did little to help her prepare for the national pharmacy-technician exam. “They took advantage of me being really naive,” said Kyle, who will be paying $300 a month in student loans for the next 10 years.

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Comments | More in Opinion, Your voices | Topics: for-profit colleges, higher ed

July 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Chart: Here are the default rates for every college in the state

As The Times reported last week, six for-profit colleges in Western Washington are likely to close amid allegations that the schools prey on low-income students and falsify job-placement statistics. Corinthian Colleges, a California-based company that operates locally under the name Everest, also caught the attention of state and federal investigators because of its plummeting enrollment and high student-loan-default rate.

To go along with the story, we compiled a comprehensive, interactive chart that shows the three-year default rate and financial-aid breakdown between loans and grants for every public, private and for-profit college in Washington state.

Screen shot of a chart by Michael Mott. Follow the links below to access the database.

Screen shot of a chart by Michael Mott. Follow the link below to access the database.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: for-profit colleges, higher ed

July 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Mellon grant will boost humanities studies at UPS

Students read outside on a warm spring day at the University of Puget Sound. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times 2013.

Students read outside on a warm spring day at the University of Puget Sound. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times 2013.

Who says the humanities are dead? Last week, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a $600,000 grant to the University of Puget Sound for use in the school’s new humanities and honors-program initiatives.

UPS officials say they’ll use the grant to develop new classes and to explore new ways of learning.

With the grant, UPS will expand and restructure interdisciplinary classes in the humanities, arts, culture and technology. Classes will be taught across disciplines, and experiential learning will be expanded to involve hands-on projects or community activities.

The grant money will also allow UPS to involve more students in honors and humanities studies. The school will develop classes in film, video and new media, and the study of queer cultures will be included as integral to the study of humanities.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, humanities, University of Puget Sound

June 30, 2014 at 3:52 PM

Attend a for-profit college or university? Tell us about it

For-profit colleges and universities can an attractive option to students who want to pursue technical training in a specific field and are looking for the convenience of an online program or a campus that’s located close to home.

But for-profits, which include familiar brands such as the University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute, have also faced intense scrutiny over the high cost of tuition and the rate at which graduates default on their student loans.

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Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: Corinthian Colleges, for profit, higher ed

June 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

108 questions — or just 2? Maybe a shorter FAFSA could do the job

High-school seniors at Kent Meridian High School get help applying for scholarships and filling out the FAFSA. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times 2012.

High-school seniors at Kent Meridian High School get help applying for scholarships and filling out the FAFSA. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times 2012.

Like a research paper on the DNA sequence of fruit flies, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — commonly known as the FAFSA — is daunting enough that the name alone inspires dread.

Officially, the financial aid form is supposed to take less than an hour to complete. Yet its instructions are as dense as its acronym, and once the form is submitted there’s no easy way to know if you’ve made a mistake.

Researchers believe these problems are dissuading millions of potential college students, who blanch at the 108-question form and walk away. In 2007-08, for example, roughly 2 million eligible students did not complete the FAFSA application for Pell scholarships — missing out on college grants of up to $5,645, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

“Rather than promote access, student aid often creates a series of barriers — a gauntlet that the poorest students must run to get to college,” says a Congressional report from 2005.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: FAFSA, higher ed

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