By Kim Clark, Money Magazine
(Money Magazine) - Two things about higher education have become clear. First, your children need it more than ever to stay competitive - and so might you, if you need to upgrade for a fast-changing job market. Second, the model colleges use to deliver that education is broken. Rising tuition, high student debt, and stingier funding for public colleges are making it more difficult for families to keep up.
So it's hard not to get excited about this: Right now, for the unbeatable price of $0, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Anant Agarwal is teaching a class on circuits and electronics to thousands of people online - no MIT application required. Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, and other top schools have also started open courses for everyone.
The academic world is buzzing with the notion that this could change, well, everything. "We are at a pivotal moment," says former Princeton president William Bowen. "Two forces are combining: extraordinary technological progress with economic need."
True, it's a long way (and many spinning "video loading" icons) from here to a day when students can put together respected degrees with Ivy simulations.
While logging in is free and easy, getting official credit for what you learn still isn't. Online courses have bugs, including raucous student discussion boards and clumsy grading systems, and for many they are an inferior substitute for real classrooms. Yet there's promise here for adults who want a new career skill, for traditional students looking for learning aids, and for anyone hoping to speed the path to a degree. More change is coming.
Here's what you and your kids should know to make the most of it.
You can really sit in on courses with MIT profs
Agarwal's course is known in education jargon as a MOOC, or massive open online course. Web courses and online degrees have been around for years. As the name implies, MOOCs are different for their size (with tens of thousands of students at a time), their free price tag, and, frankly, the cachet of the schools that started them.
By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney
(CNN) - A survey out Tuesday found that 41% of college graduates from the last two years are stuck in jobs that don't require a degree.
The lack of job options in their chosen fields are weighing grads down, as nearly half of the recent graduates believe they would fare better in the job market if they'd pursued a different major.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they would need additional training in order to start their chosen career, with 42% saying they expect to go to graduate school. That's a sharp change in thinking from those still in school: A separate survey by Accenture found that only 18% of the class of 2013 expects to need graduate school.
It will likely be much higher, as job prospects are grim for the class of 2013. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 7.6%, and recent graduates fare even worse, according to the Labor Department.
Editor’s Note: Michael Lomax, Ph.D, is president and CEO of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low-income students. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans and a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
It was on this day in 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.
Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and became the nation’s first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically black college and university.
Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” the almost universally recognized motto of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.
UNCF makes those aspirations real for nearly 60,000 students each year by providing financial support for 38 private historically black colleges and universities and awarding 13,000 scholarships to students at 900 colleges and universities.
Like Lincoln University, these historically black colleges and universities began when African-Americans had few other higher education options. Much has changed since then. Today, a college education is not a “good-to-have” but a “must-have,” the basic requirement for almost every fast-growing and good-paying job and career path.
By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Dartmouth College canceled classes Wednesday after a student protest sparked a threatening backlash on a campus online forum, according to a college spokesman.
On Friday, current Dartmouth students interrupted a welcome show for recently admitted students by chanting about aspects of student life they found troubling, such as issues around homophobia and sexual assault on campus. The welcome show was designed to highlight why the prospective students should attend Dartmouth, college spokesman Justin Anderson said.
The decision to cancel classes was prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts that targeted the students who protested at the welcome show, a letter sent to Dartmouth students and faculty said.
The online postings appeared on BoredAtBaker.com, a Dartmouth-exclusive forum where students post about happenings on campus, according to student Dani Valdes, 22. The website has since been shut down.
Comments on the website included derogatory, homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks directed at the student protesters. Threats of violence and sexual assault also appeared. Although student protesters expected campus-wide reaction, they say were not anticipating the level of hostility they experienced.
(CNN) - Two years of rescue efforts could not save them. So, Tuesday, Auburn University cut down two iconic trees that a disappointed fan of its intrastate rival poisoned after his team lost a game to Auburn.
The landmark live oaks, used for celebrations by fans, who rolled them with toilet paper after big victories, were more than 130 years old. On Tuesday, they were coming down branch by branch from the campus gathering place, Toomer's Corner.
Local television news cameras broadcast the removal live.
"While it is sad, it will do nothing to change the spirit of Auburn," Auburn junior Carlee Clark told CNN iReport Tuesday, as the trees came down. "I think I speak for students and alumni alike when I say that I count it a privilege to be a part of this family, and the presence or absence of two trees could never alter that."
In 2010, both the Auburn Tigers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football teams were nationally ranked.
On November 26, Auburn, playing at UA in Tuscaloosa for the annual Iron Bowl, came back from a huge deficit to squeak past the Tide by a point, beating its tough sibling 28-27 on its home field.
Revenge for a loss
Tide fan Harvey Updyke didn't like losing and did something about it, which he confessed anonymously two months later on a UA sports radio show. He called in as "Al from Dadeville."
"Let me tell you what I did the weekend after the Iron Bowl. I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away," the caller said. "And I poisoned the two Toomer's trees."
He ended the call with "Roll Damn Tide," a battle cry for the University of Alabama.
(CNN) - Cherie Blair, a lawyer and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said her mother and grandmother left school at age 14, and never completed their educations. It was different for Blair and her sister, and the opportunities need to continue to spread, she said.
She's now chancellor of the Asian University For Women in Bangladesh, which has 3,000 students from several countries.
"When you hear the stories of the individual girls, the sacrifices they have to make..." she said. "So may of the girls say to me, 'I realize that by coming here and studying, you know, I'll never get married. Because, you know, I've given up that choice.'"
By Christopher Connell, The Hechinger Report, CNNMoney
CNNMoney - Arianna Suarez's first job after emigrating from Cuba as a teenager was as a cashier at a Walmart in Hialeah, Florida, Thanks in part to college-level classes that Walmart offers online, she has risen through the ranks to store manager and is now on her way toward earning a college degree.
From ethics to inventory management, the classes covered the skills Suarez needs to help run a round-the-clock, multi-million dollar retail operation with scores of employees. Even better, she has earned dozens of credits that she can put toward a bachelor's degree.
A growing number of Fortune 500 companies, like Walmart, have grown tired of waiting for colleges and universities to produce the skilled workers they need and have started offering their own classes instead. And as an added bonus for employees: Many of these courses - from Starbucks' Barista Basics to Jiffy Lube's finance fundamentals - are eligible for college credit.
"What companies like is just-in-time learning that gives somebody a skill they need at the time they need it," says Mark Allen, a Pepperdine University business professor and author of The Next Generation of Corporate Universities. "What traditional universities do to a large extent is just-in-case learning."
In Seattle, Starbucks workers take courses called Barista Basics and Barista 101. They can earn one and a half credits from City University of Seattle for each of the company's two barista classes, and three credits apiece for higher-level management courses.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
Editor's note: Elizabeth Landau is a writer and producer for CNN.com. She is a 2006 graduate of Princeton University.
(CNN) - When I told my mother that my senior thesis proposal had been accepted, that I would travel overseas to study the legacy of medieval Judaism in Spain, her main question was: “Where is this all going?”
For a 21-year-old, it’s often not clear where anything is going. I wasn’t entirely sure myself. In today’s tough job market, it may be hard for students - or parents - to rationalize working on an extensive academic research project over the course of the senior year of college, especially in the liberal arts.
But this is the season when some students are deciding whether to pursue one, and the seniors are submitting them. So, parents, listen up: A senior thesis is something that you should motivate your college student to do, even if the subject doesn’t lead to an obvious career path.
Outside of graduate studies or academia, most people will never again choose a topic that they want to research deeply for months, and write about what they discovered. As long as there’s an academic supervisor, reading and writing involved, the process can help with job and life skills.
(CNN) - By now, most college applicants are another step closer to making their decision: They've gotten admission or rejection letters, and financial aid offers. But they shouldn't make any decisions on that initial aid offer, said Jordan Goldman, CEO of the college resource site Unigo.com. Now's the time to do another sweep for scholarships and grant, to ask about additional aid and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, he said.
"More and more, people need to be really scrappy about paying for college," Goldman said. "They can't look at the financial aid offer they get as the be all and end all. They need to look at that as a starting place."
Did you negotiate on college financial aid? Share your story in the comments or tweet us @CNNSchools.
As college applicants are receiving their admission and rejection letters, Fareed Zakaria says it's time for colleges and universities to rethink their missions - and admissions. The higher education system is the "envy of the world," he writes in Time. "But there are broad changes taking place at American universities that are moving them away from an emphasis on merit and achievement and toward offering a privileged experience for an already privileged group." The problem is detailed in the new book "Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality," and in conversations with higher education officials, Zakaria says, and it's hurting state universities around the country.