New York (CNNMoney) - From paying for a designer dress to renting a fancy limo, teens (and their parents) are shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars this prom season.
On average, families expect to spend $1,139 on prom this year - up roughly 40% from 2011's $807 average and a slight increase from last year, according to a Visa survey.
Families in the Northeast expect to pay the most, an average of $1,528, while Midwestern families were the most frugal, at an average of $722, according to the survey of more than 1,000 parents of prom-aged teens.
With traditions like debutante balls falling out of fashion and young people getting married later in life, prom has grown in importance and people are willing to spend more on the big night, said Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist.
"Prom is the new wedding," Yarrow said. "I think that every society has to have a rite of passage into adulthood for young people, and prom has become that."
The increase in prom spending is also being driven by the popularity of photo-oriented sites like Facebook and Instagram, she said. Prom is "a post-able moment" which has heightened the pressure around appearances.
While parents still foot a majority of the bill, teens pay for about 41% of the costs, Visa's survey found.
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.
By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.
(CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?
I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.
But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.
Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.
Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.
I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) – As Quanesha Wallace remembers, it was around this time last year when the idea first came up at Wilcox County High School. It was nothing big, just chatter about prom, school, what comes next, what they'd change.
If things were different, someone said, we'd all go to the same prom.
For as long as anyone could remember, students in their South Georgia community went to separate proms, and homecoming dances, too. White students from Wilcox County attend one. Black students, another. They’re private events organized by parents and students, not the school district. Schools have long been desegregated, but in Wilcox County, the dances never changed.
The friends all agreed they'd go to an integrated prom, Quanesha said, and when they asked, others said, "Yeah, I'd go, too."
"We are all friends," Quanesha's friend, Stephanie Sinnot, told CNN affiliate WGXA-TV in Macon, Georgia. "That's just kind of not right that we can't go to prom together."
So now it's April, and prom is coming up, and these black and white friends, longtime pals who go to classes together and play sports together and hang out together, are going to prom together, too. For the first time, students are organizing an integrated dance, one that welcomes any of Wilcox County High's 400 students.
"This is going to be the biggest prom ever to come through Wilcox County," said Quanesha, one of the event's organizers.
The theme will be "Masquerade Ball in Paris." There will be an Eiffel Tower and Mardi Gras-style masks, dancing, flowers, catered food and a clubhouse in nearby Cordele. They're expecting gowns, ties, manicures, up-dos, sparkle. Quanesha has a date, although she hasn't decided on a dress.
"If you want to get fancy, get fancy," said Quanesha, 18. "If you don't, that's fine."
Attendees will vote on a king and queen but also cutest couple, best smile, best dressed. They'll do a recognition ceremony for a classmate who died. They'll start a new prom tradition: a unity toast.
By David J. Skorton, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David J. Skorton is president of Cornell University and professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College and in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell’s College of Engineering. A former president of the University of Iowa, he is a board-certified cardiologist, past chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum and life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
(CNN) - As college admissions notifications go out over the next several weeks, there is no doubt that the cost of college is a growing concern. Students and families are trying to figure out how to get the most out of the college experience and the best value for their investment.
The interactive College Scorecard that President Barack Obama announced in his 2013 State of the Union Address provides the average “net price” of attendance - that is, tuition minus the average amount of financial aid. (As the scorecard notes, it is important to get more specific cost information by using the financial aid calculator on each college’s website.)
Promised, but not yet available in the scorecard, is a summary of the kinds of jobs that students find once they graduate and how much they earn. This information may be of limited utility, however, because, as Harvard President Drew Faust has pointed out, the value of a college degree should not be judged solely on the first job acquired, but it should be “a passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change.”
How can students and families navigate these confusing and ever-changing waters? As a university president whose institution received nearly 40,000 applications for admission this year, as someone who is responsible to see the big picture - and as someone who has been through the college selection process with members of my own family - I know that a substantial part of college choice must belong to the student. It must encompass facts, but also the “feel” of the college and the fit with the student’s background, personality and interests.
So, students, here are some things, beyond the College Scorecard, to consider in deciding which colleges provide value for you.
By Nicole Saidi, CNN
(CNN) - Teachers and parents share a common purpose: educating children.
But differing beliefs, expectations and methods can make collaboration more challenging.
A 2011 story published on CNN.com by author and teacher Ron Clark, entitled "What teachers really want to tell parents," looked at reasons why educators give up on their field.
He asserted that negativity from parents places undue pressure on teachers and advised greater cooperation.
"We are educators, not nannies," Clark wrote. "We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it."
His opinion consistently resonated with readers over the next couple of years, which made it one of CNN's most-shared stories on Facebook. The story has been recommended more than 898,000 times.
Clark founded the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and was named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and a "Phenomenal Man" by Oprah Winfrey.
But even Clark's status as a leader in his field didn't fully explain why this story captivated people, so CNN revisited the idea with Facebook users last week by asking them to finish this sentence: "The one thing parents/teachers really need to know is _____."FULL STORY
(CNN) - The town of Waterbury, Connecticut, was buried beneath snow after the massive winter storm that blanketed the Northeast last weekend. By Monday, snow removal was underway, but the town's 32 schools still hadn't been touched.
That is, until hundreds of teens, parents and teachers showed up with shovels. The mayor said he'd pay $8.25 per hour to those who dug out the schools, and 500 came to help, including 300 teens, CNN affiliate WFSB reported - a turnout that surprised everyone.
By Christopher Brown and Vincent DiCaro, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christopher Brown is executive vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Vincent DiCaro is vice president of development and communication of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
(CNN) - There is no shortage of answers about how to improve our nation’s schools, including more charter schools, school vouchers, standardized testing, lower teacher-student ratios and performance-based hiring, pay and promotion of teachers.
However, what we find lacking in almost every debate about education reform is the role of families - especially fathers - and the support they can and should provide to ensure children’s educational success.
If parents, educators and reformers are to make a difference in improving children’s educational success, we must expand our definition of education reform. We must move beyond the myopic focus on education systems and implement tactics that include a more prominent place for parent involvement in schools.
The omission of “the father factor” is especially troubling in light of research released last month that examined family trends in 45 countries and how children’s educational success is affected by their parents. The “World Family Map” report by Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, found that even when controlling for income, children in middle- and high-income countries who live with two parents have better educational outcomes than children living with one or no parents.
Specifically, children in two-parent homes were more likely to stay on track in school and have higher literacy, both of which are critical to overall educational success.