Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

I’ve noticed when I’m visiting a college campus with an eye for finding what students like, I’m looking through a lens different than when I’ve visited the campus while conducting business. I’ve been to Texas Tech a dozen times over the last twenty years but never saw it quite like on my last visit.

Texas Tech is located in Lubbock, home of Texas music icons such as Buddy Holly, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely, and sits at the bottom of the lower plains, only a few miles north of sliding off the caprock into West Texas. It’s home to grapes, combines, and the tallest buildings outside of downtown are grain silos. I’ve always felt as if Tech and Lubbock got the short end of the Texas geography stick. It’s flat, arid, and hot. And when the winds come sweeping down the plains, as happened while I was visiting, it’s time to take cover. Picture a red dirt-out or conjure dust-bowl days; I hope that doesn’t happen often. What Lubbock lacks in scenery it makes up for in grit. Lubbock sits in the middle of the Texas Panhandle. It’s 300 miles from Dallas, Santa Fe, Austin, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City. Students come from 50 states and more than 95 countries, and over 65% travel more than 300 miles to attend college there.

Slipping into an orientation meeting, I listened to a one-time student describe her campus as friendly and accommodating with activities and something for everyone.  I asked the admission’s rep what she had loved most about campus when she had been a student. She smiled. She said aside from all the friendly people, she loves the thousands of tulips planted for the spring. I hadn’t noticed the multi-colored flowers when rushing into orientation, but I did when I walked the campus. Beautiful!

Red-tiled roofs adorn art-deco buildings west of downtown. Picture wide walkways, tree-lined, and more greenery than the rest of the city, except that Lubbock boasts there are more than 75 parks and 262 days of sunshine. Tech even has a lazy river on campus. There are 550 student organizations, 18 resident halls, and 30+ dining venues. On the east side of campus, across from their Big 12 Football Stadium, are blocks of shops, eateries, and upscale living apartments/condos.

Assured admission is for top 10% with no minimum ACT or SAT. First quarter students need a 24 or 1180. Second quarter students need a 26 ACT or 1260, and third quarter students require a 27 or 1290. There’s a holistic review for student in fourth quarter or not meeting assured admission. http://www.depts.ttu.edu/admissions/admissions-finaid/first_freshmen/

Tech’s total enrollment is 35,859 and the student to faculty ratio is 22:1. There are twelve undergraduate fields of study, over 150 majors, and twelve pre-professional programs.

Cost of attending for Texas students as well as those from border counties in New Mexico and Oklahoma was $25,626/year for 2016-17. Tech gives other residents of OK and NM and cost break too; those students cost to attend was $26,525. Students outside of TX, NM, and OK paid $37,866 in 16-17. Tech has a host of scholarships that can be found www.scholarships.ttu.edu Non-resident students could qualify for Texas tuition and fees if they are awarded over $1000 in scholarships from Tech. That could be an affordable deal!

Students can apply at www.applytexas.org. Check for regular and priority deadlines. What did I like best about this visit to Texas Tech? The people were friendly and helpful. Parking was easy. They made me feel welcomed, glad I was there. I didn’t have an appointment, and by the time I’d parked after speaking with a guard, the admission’s staff knew who I was, and they were expecting me! That’s friendly security. I also like that Tech provides a great education at a reasonable price. Finally, among Texas’ leading research institutions, it feels less pretentious than other universities. It could be their grit, or that they are showing rather than telling.

 

West Texas A&M – A Charming Campus on Texas Plains

West Texas A&M – A Charming Campus on Texas Plains

I arrived in Canyon, at West Texas A&M University, after driving four hours from Trinidad, Colorado. I mention this because the mountains of Colorado and Northern New Mexico are certainly a manageable weekend trip, as is Palo Duro Canyon State Park less than twenty miles away. Palo Duro Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in size and a place of adventure and beauty mostly unknown to those outside of the area.

I had visited the campus twenty years earlier, when it was West Texas State University, and found the school had grown up. Approximately 9000 students attend WTAMU with 7100 being undergrads. Walking campus as the sun set, light filtered through trees and onto a golden buffalo statue in the middle of campus. As students stopped by the buffalo, I asked several about their experiences.

One girl was an international student from Africa who was studying dance. She loved the campus and her program and said that she felt as if she had found a family within her department. Another student told me she had applied to approximately ten other schools and WTAMU was the one place she didn’t plan on attending. She had high ACT scores and was accepted by what she felt were more prestigious colleges but decided on WTAMU because of the missionary work she had done with the Baptist Student group. She had attended high school in Canyon, TX, but lived on campus for the experience She felt as if she had found a family there. The third student I questioned came from the border area of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Both of her parents were graduates and she hadn’t considered any other institution.

Everyone mentioned the friendly campus, the ability to interact with teachers, small class size, and ease of moving between dorms and campus. Safety was also ranked highly by the women I talked to. Canyon’s population is around 14,000 and Amarillo is less than 30 miles north while Lubbock (think Texas Tech) is 100 miles south. That’s not considered far by Texas driving standards.ost

Yearly attendance for Texas residents is approximately $20,700.00 and for out-of-state students an affordable $21,700. Admission is rolling. Average ACT score is 18 to 23 and SAT score is 860 to 1080. Most popular majors are liberal arts, teaching, and business. Student/faculty ratio is 20 to 1. Acceptance rate is 67%.

Students most likely to benefit from West Texas A&M would be those seeking an affordable education without lots of pretense. Students would need to appreciate life in a small town and seek entertainment predominantly from the campus community. Cars would be needed to access parts of town as well as trips to the larger community of Amarillo, Lubbock, or to experience the natural beauty close to this Lower Plains town.

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

I’m always on the lookout for innovations in higher education, and with technology changing all aspects of life as we used to know it, higher education will continue changing. For instance, many students take classes online. Some may take a course or two online while attending college as others complete their whole degree without ever setting foot onto a brick and mortar campus. In fact, two of my current favorites are Western Governor’s University (totally online and competency-based) and Arizona State University’s pay if you pass freshman year program.

I’ve worked in higher education a long time and have my bias. I’ll admit it. One of them is for-profit colleges. Overall, I don’t care for their model. Really! I would never send anyone to one. Their first business principal is to make money for shareholders. And many, while providing education, don’t seem to be placing much emphasis on the learning that takes place or the well-being of the student. In fact, as the federal government started withholding financial aid, colleges started closing.

So here’s a conundrum. Non-profit colleges are raking in money too. Hopefully they’re reinvesting in students and services, but with ever-rising tuition, it feels like a gouge. That’s why I urge students and parents to become wise consumers of higher education. Figure out their goals so they are better able to make wise choices.

Now there seems to be a hybrid model of for-profit colleges – those that unabashedly make money while providing an educational experience. Several that leave me scratching my head are Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, and now Minerva Schools at KGI.

Let’s take them one at a time:

I’ve not really been a fan of University of Phoenix. Several friends have taught for them and the consensus was they paid low adjunct wages and students didn’t want to work as hard as the instructor thought they needed to for a grade. That said, they were one of the first out there filling the need of education that worked with adult schedules as opposed to traditional schools that wanted students to quit jobs to adhere to limited class offerings. Good thing that’s changed!

Now Grand Canyon University has a campus as well as online programs. Within their campus, they have Division II sports teams and are hoping to enter the WAC. That’s certainly not what one expects from a for-profit. They’re tuition for on-campus classes competes with non-profit colleges. They’re accredited. They make money via their online classes. But guess what? Non-profit colleges make money online too. Online is the latest cash cow. I know as I’ve paid out big bucks for online classes. I have a daily Google search on Grand Canyon because it’s one of my favorite places; I mean the real Grand Canyon – the hole in the ground. Consequently I receive notifications about GC University’s stock and growth projections. If they paid dividends, I might even invest as it seems to be poised for growth in 2017.

Minerva Schools at KGI looks like a new arena, a new concept – the world as the classroom. Students attend the first year at their San Fran campus and then travel to a new world city every semester with a small cohort of students. London, Berlin, Seoul, Buenos Aires – living in the culture and solving real-world issues via critical and creative thinking skills. Wow! Accredited! Detractors point to less than 2% acceptance rate in the first two classes and their saying they are a prestigious alternative to an Ivy League education. Saying it doesn’t make it so. I’m not even sure if they are for-profit or not-for-profit because their website say non-profit while reviews say they are for-profit.

Has the whole for-profit vs. non-profit argument run its course? I worked for a non-profit for 18 years, Let me tell you, there was a whole lot of talk about making money. For-profits often give tremendous amounts of money away too. Look at company foundations as an example. The lines feel as if they’re blurring in my mind.

Here’s the deal: I’m confused. I can’t make up my mind even though I read about colleges and college choices daily. Innovations in education or new wrinkle in scams? Sour grapes from tradition educators? And here’s a link to a news brief that came in on outcomes of student performance comparisons between for-profit school graduates vs. non-profit college graduates. http://www.educationdive.com/news/report-some-for-profit-students-outperform-peers-from-traditional-institut/433719/

I know for sure that higher education is one of many businesses that will continue to change as technology advances. Now, maybe more than ever, it’s up to students and parents to educate themselves on potential higher education choices. Start by deciding educational goals, needs, and affordability. The old adage, Buyer Beware, stays in play, whatever choices made.

 

Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.

 

Natchitoches, LA – Northwestern State University: A Town and University Worth Visiting

Natchitoches, LA – Northwestern State University: A Town and University Worth Visiting

Leaving Shreveport after celebrating an uncle’s 92nd birthday, I headed an hour south to Natchitoches, LA on a tip from one of the party attendees that Northwestern State University was a campus not to miss. I like to visit college campuses. I like to feel the vibes of a campus and see how the university interacts with the community. I am glad I went and plan to return to Natchitoches to spend time in what I found to be one of the most charming small towns I’ve visited. Natchitoches was voted #1 Best Southern Small Town by USA Today.

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Natchitoches is the oldest town within the Louisiana Purchase territory, established in 1714, and its intact downtown stretches out along the Cane River, reminding one of a stroll through New Orleans French Quarters. Complete with B&Bs, their Christmas celebration was in full swing; shops, a basilica, and even a French fort are within walking of both downtown and NSU. NSU grounds were first a catholic school and then became the state’s normal college – that’s an old name for teacher’s college. What I found intriguing about the grounds were the mix of old buildings with new. Some colleges don’t strive to have the new buildings mesh with the architectural style of the old, but NSU managed to finesse the process. Their team mascot for Division I sports is the Demons – a bit ironic considering the school’s beginnings.

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Admission for all students requires students to meet the Regent’s Core Curriculum, have a 2.35 high school GPA, and with these criteria met, no minimum ACT score is needed. Students must also need not more than one developmental course. They can have a 2.0 GPA with an ACT composite of 20. Out-of-State students can qualify for in-state tuition if students have a 2.75 GPA and a composite ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 990.

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NSU awards a variety of scholarships based upon standardized test scores (ACT/SAT) and high school GPA. Performance scholarships are also awarded by class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, and participation in extracurricular activities. Scholarships are awarded via completing the FAFSA. NSU is also a Louisiana Scholars’ College, a comprehensive interdisciplinary honors curriculum in liberal arts and sciences. Find out more at www.nsula.edu/scholars. There are multiple scholarship deadlines.

A Division I school, they compete in 14 sports. They have a new state-of-the-art wellness center. Dorms choices include on-campus apartment style residence halls and an on-campus apartment complex. Students under 21 are required to live on campus unless exempted, as are all students attending schools within the University of Louisiana system.

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Cost of attendance is approximately $3400 a semester. Out-of-state not qualifying for in-state tuition can expect to add $8800/semester. An affordable education for students and parents!

Want to know more? Check them out at www.nsula.edu. The woman who sent me to NSU knew what she was talking about when she said I should go check out the campus. If you’ve been to Natchitoches or attended NSU, please share your experiences.

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Kira Janene Holt writes an blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.

Coalition for Access, Affordability, & Success: A New College Application’s in Town

Coalition for Access, Affordability, & Success: A New College Application’s in Town

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Common applications for college aren’t new, but the Coalition’s Application is and it’s arrival is ushering in a new era of college applications. Colleges and universities must be members (that’s not new), but this membership focus is on sustained graduation rates, attendance affordability, and tools to help students navigate and store the materials the need for their applications.

From their member list site:

Members of the Coalition include a diverse group of public and private universities. Coalition schools provide substantial support to lower–resourced and underrepresented students, offer responsible student financial aid support, and demonstrate a commitment to student graduation. The Coalition has signed up over 90 schools so far, and more partners continue to join.

Who are members? If you visit their website http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/, you’ll find the most competitive colleges in the nation on the list. Additionally, you’ll find flagship public universities.

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The Coalition provides a Locker for students to upload and store materials they will need for their college applications. Students can open a Locker early in their high school career and add materials along their journey. There’s a collaboration space for teachers, counselors, and students to interact so that the student has help. There’s also a system in place so that counselors can invite and manage students as they navigate their college planning experience. What’s especially helpful are videos in place to help students, teachers, and counselors navigate their way through the system. Always helpful! Want to learn more? There’s even a FAQ site. http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/faq.html

The Coalition has its own set of essay prompts for students that the participating institutions have approved. One goal of the Coalition’s common application was to build an application system that is easy and intuitive for students. If colleges require additional information, it’s listed on the member’s site as well as the application. From their FAQ section:  The platform tools—the Locker, a Collaboration Space, and an Application Portal—seek to recast the process of applying to college as the culmination of students’ development over the course of their high school careers. The Coalition tools have been designed to help students craft their individual narrative incrementally and well in advance of filing an application.

Truth is I’m all for systems that make the college application process easier for students. It’s stressful enough without experiencing technology issues. Students are supposed to be able to interact with the system via tablets and smartphones as well as using an old-fashioned computer. This is especially helpful to students who may not have Internet access at home.

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As I was looking through their materials, what struck me was their commitment to leveling the college application field. They openly discuss fee waivers for college applications instead of it being something that students seek out from counselors – and requires knowledge that they can seek out waivers. The Coalition doesn’t limit college applications fee waivers to four as College Board started with the SAT.

While the Coalition doesn’t have a hard and fast definition for attendance affordability, they’re committed to seeing that colleges are providing financial aid awards that don’t burden the student with debt upon graduation. Translation – it’s not a scenario where a student is accepted to college but it’s going to COST big money.

I’m excited about what they are doing for students. How about you?