GPSS President's blog

Financial Literacy

Here is an interesting article on financial aid and the Obama administration's effort to make sure students understand the true and full cost of their education.

My thoughts? While financial literacy is certainly important, and this action by the administration should be welcomed (even if it was mandated by legislation), helping people understand how much debt they will have to take on to earn a competitive-wage job does not do anything about the fact that the cost of higher education is unconscionably high and does not create market incentives for our citizens to be the most educated workforce in the world. While congress and pundits dicker over what corporate tax rate is necessary to incentivize companies to hire more people, should we not be thinking about what incentives are we creating for our citizens to be the best educated in the world?


New Era of Online Courses at UW

As many of you may have read recently in the New York Times and Seattle Times, UW will join Stanford, Penn, Michigan, Princeton and several other top tier Universities in offering free online courses. The Seattle Times reported, "The university has signed a contract to provide an online startup called Coursera with courses in math, computer science, computational finance and information security." The Seattle Times also reported that as of Tuesday, 2,500 students at UW have already signed up for the two courses currently available on that platform - Scientific Computing, taught by Prof. Nathan Kutz, and Information Security and Risk Management in Context, taught by Prof. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky. Both classes are undergraduate classes. While right now the courses being taught using the Coursera platform are free, many course offerings in the future are likely going to be fee-based and potentially quite expensive.

Part of the idea behind these course offerings is to expand UW's ability to provide quality educational experiences to people from around the world, many of whom cannot afford a more formal degree. While it appears the movement to online education is inevitable and provides some tremendous opportunities, it is important for students to remain vigilant about the quality of these courses. It is important that feedback loops that take into account the student experience are incorporated into curriculum development, pedagogical development around student-instructor interaction, and assessment methodology. Contact GPSS if you have any thoughts you would like to share with us on this issue!


Graduate Student Funding and Student Debt

At today's Board of Regents meeting, there were many issues discussed that impact graduate and professional students but I wanted to mention two:

1) Dean Baldasty (the Dean of UW's Graduate School) reported on the state of graduate student funding and student debt. It was encouraging to hear the Regents and the University Administration voice a commitment to make graduate student funding, especially fellowships, a priority in the upcoming multi-year fundraising campaign. While tuition may be difficult to control given the state's financial situation, I tried to raise awareness of the rising cost of living. Something that can and should be addressed during the next capital campaign.

2) The UW's webpage now hosts an online version of the Annual Report to Stakeholders. While that might not sound very interesting at first, its actually a great piece of propoganda way to learn more about UW. Honestly though, I think it has some fascinating information. Interested in UW's impact on our environment? Learn more about how much energy and water we use. Or how much greenhouse gasses we emmit. Not a tree hugger? Dig into UW's financials to learn more about where its funding comes from and where it spends that money. I mean who doesn't want to geek out on UW's Moody's credit rating or critique its expendable financial resources to operations ratio? Failed out of Math 125 as a freshman? Feel better about yourself, work with smaller numbers, and check out how awesome UW is compared to other schools according to various ranking systems

Still not entertained? Watch with great wonderment as Carl Sagan explains the 4th spatial dimension!



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