The digital revolution has forever changed how students obtain a higher education. According to U.S. News & World Report, more students are enrolled in at least one online college class than ever before. Then, consider these numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics: In fall 2012, the largest U.S. university campus by enrollment was Arizona State University, which clocked in at 60,169 students. Now compare this to the 380,232 students enrolled in the primarily online University of Phoenix, or the 70,011 enrolled in the all-online Kaplan University.

What’s it all mean for traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities? Is online learning poised to become the new norm?

Online Learning Goes Mainstream

It's doubtful the virtual classroom will replace the physical classroom anytime soon, but the evidence does suggest that distance education will become the predominant form of education in the future. What’s abundantly clear is that traditional universities are offering more online classes in an effort to compete with distance education universities.

For example, in fall 2012 the educational powerhouses MIT and Harvard launched edX, a venture that offers free online courses to anybody with an Internet connection, with the goal of creating an online community attended by millions. Though these particular types of classes, known as massive open online courses (MOOCs), offer no credit toward a degree, they are surging in popularity, and the two institutions expect other respected universities to join in this venture. Similarly, Stanford has Udacity, and Princeton, Yale and Carnegie Mellon are following suit with their own MOOCs. Add to this the number of the nation’s top programs that can be found online, and it’s evident higher education is experiencing a revolution.

The Pros of Getting an Online Education

So what does online education have going for it?

Improves accessibility. Online education makes it easier for everyone to get the same quality of education, whereas attending traditional college isn’t always possible to those from certain geographical areas or walks of life. Disabled students may find access to a higher education is easier than attending college on a traditional campus, and people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to college due to work and family obligations can now study on their own time from the comfort of home.

It’s usually cheaper. There are many factors that come into play as far as which is more expensive, online school or brick-and-mortar colleges, including whether a student chooses to go to a public or private institution, in-state or out-of-state, and the amount of financial aid granted. One thing is for certain – the costs associated with attending a traditional college (room and board, commuting costs) are greater than attending college online.

The Cons of Online Learning

There are drawbacks to online learning, as well.

Lack of widespread respect. When it comes to hiring graduates who earned their degrees online, it's really a crapshoot as to whether the hiring manager will view that degree as valid. Skepticism still exists, especially when it comes to the matter of accreditation.

Lack of “real world” experience. Students are in a more isolated learning environment online. Many cite the inability to exchange ideas with peers and educators face to face as a detraction.

Will State Schools Join the Frenzy?

The prized concept of a free marketplace is playing to the advantage of distance education students. While online schools have high enrollment numbers, state schools are in the position of being able to offer the flexibility distance education provides while still offering degrees held in high esteem by businesses and companies across America. Most states prize education and funnel taxpayer money to their state schools in an effort to reduce the financial burden on students. In cases where a student is pursuing a degree based on a cost perspective, state schools can often be much more affordable.

Online universities are certainly expected to gain more momentum, as people are increasingly interested in going to college exclusively online. How dramatically this will affect higher education as it exists today remains to be seen.


For more than 30 years, prospective college students and parents alike have looked to the U.S. News & World Report college and university rankings to gauge the top institutions of higher learning. Now the publisher has gone beyond ranking prominent brick-and-mortar programs with its 2013 listings of best online education programs.

Online education is growing in popularity and numbers. Across the board, college administrators and online education companies are reporting increased enrollment numbers for online courses – in fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported a nearly 25 percent increase in online enrollment over the past four years. For many students, online education provides a less costly alternative to getting that valued degree the traditional way.

The evolution of Web-based learning has provided prospective students with many resources to evaluate whether online education is right for them. Highlights from the rankings can be found at the end of this article; additional education resources from Collegeonline.org can be utilized to determine if a Web-based education is the right fit for you. In addition to understanding the opportunities for learning through online education, students will also discover the opportunities for their careers and their futures.

Why Study Online?

After choosing an area of study, which is widely regarded as the most major decision facing students, degree-seekers should understand what will be required of them in online learning. There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration; an online education offers more specialized programs, flexible schedules and lower tuition rates, but chief among its drawbacks is the isolated nature of studying and learning and the physical distance from faculty and peers. These are aspects that some consider the most crucial element of the traditional, liberal arts-style of education found on American campuses.

Take Into Consideration…

The quality of the program. Despite popular belief, many online programs have the same caliber of teaching as their on-campus counterparts. In essence, professors are doing two jobs: teaching in-person classes and online sessions. Whether or not that instruction comes across as effectively over the Internet as it does in person depends largely on the program, the technology and the student.

Access to teachers. Obviously, there is a physical distance between students and professors with online learning, but many programs offer videoconferencing opportunities with professors and regular email contact. Online education boosters tend to downplay the concern for physical closeness as an relic of a bygone era.

The student’s lifestyle needs. Just like taking a campus tour at a traditional college or university, online learners should look into the programs they are considering to determine the most appropriate fit to their needs and life circumstances. For instance, a working parent who goes back to school for career advancement might put a high priority on having a flexible schedule, whereas a recent high school graduate working two jobs to make ends meet may put a higher priority on low tuition rates. Invest time looking into a number of different offerings to find the program that best meets your needs.

The technological and material requirements. Just as most traditional college courses have required readings and textbooks, online programs usually require students have a reliable computer with two-way videoconference capability, Web access and good writing and organizational software. Students should inquire about specific technological requirements to ensure they aren't left scrambling to connect on their first day of classes.

What’s Next?

Demand for a quality education has enabled the evolution of online learning. States like California are moving ahead with pilot online education programs that may set new precedents for learning on a budget. In addition, there are many Web-based programs offering accreditation.

Here are the top five online undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as ranked by U.S New & World Report:

Best Online Bachelor's Programs

  1. Pace University (New York)
  2. Daytona State College (Florida)
  3. St. John's University (New York)
  4. Westfield State University (Massachusetts)
  5. Graceland University (Iowa)
  6. Lawrence Technological University (Michigan)
  7. Colorado State University/Global Campus
  8. Brandman University (California)
  9. Bellevue University (Nebraska)
  10. Regent University (Virginia)

Best Online Graduate Programs

Business

  • Washington State University
  • Arizona State University (Carey)
  • Indiana University/Bloomington (Kelley)
  • University of Florida (Hough)
  • California State University/Fullerton (Mihaylo)

Education

  • St. John’s University (New York)
  • Auburn University (Alabama)
  • South Dakota State University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • University of South Carolina

Engineering

  • University of Southern California (Viterbi)
  • Pennsylvania State University/World Campus
  • Columbia University (Fu Foundation) (New York)
  • Purdue University/West Lafayette (Indiana)
  • University of Michigan/Ann Arbor

Info Tech

  • University of Southern California
  • Sam Houston State University (Texas)
  • Virginia Tech
  • University of Bridgeport (Connecticut)
  • Pennsylvania State University/World Campus

Nursing

  • Ferris State University (Michigan)
  • Lamar University (Texas)
  • University of Michigan/Flint
  • Clarkson College (Nebraska)
  • Graceland University (Missouri)

The rankings are based on several factors, including graduation rates, indebtedness of new graduates, support services offered to students, faculty credentials and student engagement.

Students should do their research before committing to anything; it’s important to sift through the common facts and misconceptions to determine if an online college education is the right fit for you.


Choosing a major is often the biggest decision a young man or woman attending college has to make. It can be a daunting experience trying to bring together academic and/or professional interests into one overriding choice of study for the next several years. What’s the best way to go about choosing a major? Better yet, does choosing a major still matter?

In an age of 17-yr. old Internet wunderkinds and business opportunities afforded to many by the ease of the Internet, some are hesitant to even advising investing in a $100,000 or more college education. After all, what’s the return? Is college still worth it?

Selecting a college (and later a major) is a huge responsibility for a prospective college student. It’s an emotional and personal decision that involves economic factors, parental controls, levels of SAT tutoring and SAT scores, geographic considerations, and levels of personal ability. Students with opportunities for scholarship opportunities also have distinct decisions to make on a college choice and college major.

Picking a major is as challenging to some as picking one’s first job. Scholarships.com suggests ways that students can take different factors into consideration in trying to come up with a marketable yet intellectually stimulation major. Here are a few with pointers included.

What type of career can you see yourself in?

Many young people can get over-idealistic in a future career. It’s important to weigh the type of career you see yourself in, with the future economic prospects of entering into that profession.

What type of work do you enjoy?

What are you good at? What type of work-related activities gets you excited? Do you like to create videos for you and your friends? Perhaps consider a major in video animation. Are you the kind of guy who likes to tinker on metal works? Then you might have an engineering bent within.

Which subjects did you enjoy studying the most in high school?

If you excelled at math and science classes in high school, you might want to consider a major in a science or number-related major. Many finance and business majors are excited about the use of numbers in practical applications. A glance at SAT or ACT scores in the different grading categories will provide a reasonable assessment.

What type of skills do you have?

This one’s important, because if you have marketable skills that can be applied in either a P/T job or internship opportunity, you’ll have a lot more knowledge and experience than your peers. And, more importantly, future employers love to see how college students spent their free time. Students who show a good work ethic often have a better chance of getting good jobs down the road.

Parents will have a say in all these options and factors as well. Which environment you are raised, what occupations your parents have, how much family income is available for college study and more are all crucial elements in choosing a college and later a college major. Most parents want their children to be earning money in their future work, so choosing the major with the best prospects for future income potential is a very important part of the college major decision.

Every year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) looks at what type of college students are being hired. According to the 2013 study, hiring increases are on the rise in these particular fields: pharmaceutical manufacturing; computer and electronics manufacturing; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; management consulting; and professional services.

Additionally, NACE surveys colleges to see which types of bachelor’s degrees are in demand. Below is the list of what types of college majors are in demand by employers. The 2013 list was compiled from nearly 200 college career centers at public and private institutions across the United States during summer 2012.

  1. Finance

  2. Computer & Information Science
  3. Accounting

  4. Business Administration/Management
  5. Mechanical Engineering
  6. Management Information Systems
  7. Electrical Engineering
  8. Computer Engineering
  9. Marketing/Marketing Management
  10. Economics

Some experts suggest that young students are having to work harder at getting the type of job they really want. The recession of the last few years brought some graduates back to reality that jobs just weren’t plentiful after college. And now they are hustling, taking part-time jobs or freelance gigs to get a foot in the door in their chosen area of work interest.

One recruiter of college and graduate talent mentioned that graduates are working now realize they need to demonstrate not only skills and ability to get the job, but also ‘hunger’ and ‘passion’ in the interview room. Students who graduate with high GPAs but no internships and limited social skills will be at a disadvantage to other more outgoing students who are easy to get along with and have shows good experience at related internships.

Perhaps the last word should come from the valued US News & World Report Education site, which suggests 5 ways to pick the right college major. One expert is quoted as saying that choosing a major is “an artful balance of synthesizing interests, skills and personality strengths, while acquiring experience outside of the classroom that will lead to a more informed major choice.” Sound about right! Here are its top five tips:

1) Wait until a few years into college to choose a major: students need time to see what appeals to them, and interests can change in the first year or two of college.

2) But don’t wait too long! College is expensive and there will be a go or no-go point from whomever is paying for your college education.

3) Be curious about a prospective major: Ask counselors to help, seek out assessment tools if you have some indecision about your major.

4) Follow your passion: It’s important not to just grab the gold ring, but really pursue what you’d like to do within a major.

5) Some majors need early commitment: If you’re pursuing degrees and majors in medicine, engineering, nursing and more, you’ll have to declare your major early.

Be alert to the possibilities of college majors, how they are viewed in the professional world and seek out inputs from a range of informed sources. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to a bright future.


To become an elite fashion designer in the highly competitive fashion industry, student designers need to rely on more than just raw talent and creative brilliance.

Students who are embarking on their education and career in fashion can build upon sketching skills and drawing concepts by studying the following textbooks:

“Fashion Design Essentials: 100 Principles of Fashion Design” by Jay Calderin

Students applying to top fashion design schools can refer to the Fashion Design Essentials to prep for their career in fashion. Jay Calderin’s “Fashion Design Essentials: 100 Principles of Fashion Design” is an excellent resource for inspiration and indispensable information. Calderin, a fashion industry expert at Boston’s School of Fashion Design, offers a plethora of content for young, talented designers who are just starting out. Examiner.com’s book review from Renee Mallett recommends this book as a valuable resource for timeless fashion advice and images that professionals can even use as a guide during any stage in their career.

Designers can expect the book to offer the following:

  • Easy to understand concepts with beautiful imagery
  • Photos of historic, iconic fashions
  • Tips for great fashion using basic wardrobe staples
  • Insight for creating a fashion identity and styling prowess
  • Fashion theories acquired by an esteemed expert whose designs have been embraced by Vogue and Elle magazines

“Fashion Design: Process, Innovation and Practice (2nd Edition)” by Kathryn McKelvey and Janine Munslow

Fashion experts Kathryn McKelvey and Janine Munslow at Northumbria University offer “Fashion Design: Process, Innovation and Practice” as an analytical textbook that focuses on logical processes for achieving commercial success. A student embarking in the competitive world of fashion design will learn about design projects, portfolios and problem-solving approaches.

Students can strive to meet market needs through exercises and learning about:

  • Versatility development and experimentation
  • Computer-aided design
  • Employment opportunities

Kathryn McKelvey, a Northumbrian University Reader, illustrator and designer, has professional experience in drawing and visual communication as well as fashion research and industry forecasting. Janine Munslow runs design label partnership Guerilla Farm with international wholesale and fashion outlets.

“9 Heads: A Guide to Drawing Fashion (3rd Edition)” by Nancy Riegelman

“9 Heads” refines the sketching skills of a novice designer by offering developed thinking and viewpoints. The textbook focuses on black and white drawings and outlines the expectations of an end product and how to achieve design excellence. Nancy Riegelman has taught drawing at top institutions, including the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), and she’s also head of the Art Center College’s new fashion and fashion illustration department. With her brilliant talent and extensive years of experience, Riegelman offers fashion newcomers a new style of finished drawing. Coincided with her “Colors for Modern Fashion,” Riegelman’s key points include more rendered garment fabrics and drawing elements in modern fashion.

The revised textbook also offers information for:

  • Men’s and children’s fashions
  • Fabric shows and identification
  • Hair, face and hand drawings
  • Modern garment flats and croquis
  • Technical and apparel design

Amazon.com reviewers recommend “9 Heads” for its easy-to-understand instructions, comprehensiveness and inspirational ideas.

“The instructions and the ’9 heads’ theory (nine heads make up the human body) are very simple and easy to understand. I love that she uses the ‘box’ method to help you draw faces. I have never been an artist and this book helped me to draw some fabulous fashion sketches.”

“This book is great because it helps you understand how to draw details like buttons, zippers and ruffles. My students find inspiration for new ideas here. The best part of the book is all the flats. I also like how comprehensive the book is. It covers children’s, men’s and women’s wear.”

“Colors for Modern Fashion (CFMF)” by Nancy Riegelman

Riegelman’s “CFMF” fosters innovative ideas with expert skills and techniques. The textbook focuses on drawing methods using colored markers, photo sequences and textural explanations. “CFMF” serves as a modern garment drawing guide that incorporates technique applications and photos.

Students can also rely on “CFMF” for:

  • Covering color and design theory
  • Illustrating concepts with fashion examples
  • Explaining how a wide range of fabrics are used in modern design
  • Inspiring future fashion designers of all skill sets and abilities

Amazon.com customer reviewers and fans of Riegelman describe the book as great and very helpful.

“The illustrations are marvelous. The techniques she discusses are easy to understand and use…This is definitely a must have for all illustrators and for people who love to draw.”

“Words cannot describe the amount of inspiration and resourceful information that ‘Colors of Modern Fashion’ holds…Apparently, the rest of the world has caught on [to] this great book because I have seen it throughout my travels in London, Paris, New York, and LA.”

“Fashion Sketchbook (6th Edition)” by Bina Abling

Bina Abling, a previous instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design, offers “Fashion Sketchbook” for emerging design students. Her sketchbook unveils the fashion drawing process with colorful images and updated instructional text. She easily conveys ideas using simple drawing lessons and easy-to-follow directions.

“Fashion Sketchbook’s” book description tells readers to expect the following subject matters in detail:

  • Men, women and children drawings
  • Figure poses
  • Accessory sketches and garment details
  • Flats and specs preparation
  • Lessons on diverse drawing skills
  • Showroom and runway photos from Women’s Wear Daily

Drawing instructors and fashion lovers refer to “Fashion Sketchbook” as “the ONLY book you will ever need as a designer. This is the Bible of fashion illustration.”

“This is the authority on illustrating for fashion. Abling’s attention to detail and artistic ability make her a perfect tutor on the topic, and every explanation is clear.”

“This is an excellent and comprehensive book for all fashion design students who wish to learn the art of fashion illustration or for anyone who desires to perfect their skills.”

“Fashion Design Course: Principles, Practice, and Techniques: The Practical Guide for Aspiring Fashion Designers” by Steven Faerm

BFA Director of Fashion Design at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City, Steven Faerm invites the next generation of professional fashion designers into the glamorous fashion design industry with his “Fashion Design Course.” Faerm introduces the content of his book with design principles, a look at the fashion industry’s history and the industry’s most influential designers.

Through tutorials, exercises and more than 450 color illustrations, Faerm offers step-by-step design instruction for:

  • Sportswear
  • Tailored business garments
  • Denim
  • Active wear
  • Cocktail and evening wear
  • Children’s and men’s clothing
  • Accessories

Aspiring fashion designers will also gain expert insight on how to create a portfolio and collection, including advice from industry leaders.

Amazon.com customers who have purchased “Fashion Design Course” highly rate the textbook with the following reviews:

“If you read fashion magazines then you are going to enjoy this book tremendously. FULL COLOR, straight to the point, concise, yet powerful information. It is a book that gives you inspiration and shows you how to think and plan like a fashion designer.”

“As an aspiring designer who’s still in school, I found this book to be a comprehensive book on the study of fashion design. The author’s prolific use of illustrations and photos to visually depict the concepts — and they’re from students! — is very helpful in making sure the reader understands what the author’s talking about.”


About two weeks ago, we posted on the CampusBooks.com Facebook page a link to an infographic titled “Revealing the Business of eBooks.” The visual was created in conjunction between Aptara, a multi-channel digital-content provider heavily involved with in educational publications, and Publishers Weekly, the publishing (and to some extent, bookselling) industry’s leading trade magazine.

The infographic was based upon “The 4th Annual ebook Survey of Publishers” (registration required), which “represents the Consumer, Professional, Education, and Corporate publishing sectors” and was “designed to document the evolving impact of digital media on traditional content publishing and production.” Important results from the survey include:

  • 31% of eBook publishers produce enhanced eBooks, though only 12% correlate the enhancements with a positive impact on sales.
  • Amazon.com is the most popular sales channel, used by 68% of eBook publishers. Apple's iBookstore comes in second at 58%.
  • Amazon is also the most lucrative eBook sales channel. Publishers' own websites come in a distant second place for generating the most eBook sales.
  • 4 out of 5 publishers now produce eBooks, a 30% increase in three years.

The survey was completed in April 2012 and the infographic posted on  Aptara’s site on October 4, 2012. Interestingly enough, just two days before on October 2, in remarks addressed to the National Press Club, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a speedy departure from printed textbooks in favor of embracing digital ones. In a bold statement, Duncan said, “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” citing a need to not only keep up with the times but also with other countries such as South Korea, whose students outperform those of the U.S. and which has set a goal to use entirely digital textbooks and learning solutions by 2015.* “The world is changing,” Duncan said. “This has to be where we go as a country.”

But is it and do we? And is this really the way to do so? Don’t get us wrong, we think digital books have definite advantages and we love enhanced learning solutions that take eBooks from PDFs read on the screen to collaborative experiential environments with all sorts of interaction and quizzes and links and live help. But we see this as more of a complement to print books and reading on the page rather than a replacement. And we’re not alone.

In “Long Live Paper,” his op-ed piece for the New York Times, Tufts University Assistant Professor Justin B. Hollander argues that “While e-readers and multimedia may seem appealing, the idea of replacing an effective learning platform with a widely hyped but still unproven one is extremely dangerous.” Professor Hollander then likens moving entirely to digital books and away from print to “when cars began to fill America's driveways, and new highways were laid across the land, the first thing cities did was encourage the dismantling of our train systems. Streetcar lines were torn up. A result, for many cities, was to rip apart the urban core and run highways through it, which only accelerated the flow of residents, commerce and investment to the suburbs. But in recent years, new streetcar lines have been built or old systems extended . . . They are casting aside a newer technology in favor of an older one.”

Hollander bolsters his stance by citing examples of how CDs replaced phonographs, digital cameras replaced Polaroids, and cars replaced bicycles and walking . . . only for record players, instant and retro-photography, and bikes to all make comebacks and be hotter today than ever. Sure, people often cite that while CDs may sound crisper, digital cameras have a higher resolution, and cars are faster, there is an emotional and sensory experience that they all lack and that one finds in the older technology they replaced. Something about us just loves putting the needle to the record, shaking a Polaroid to see it develop, and pedaling to create our own motion. And the same is true of the pleasures of holding a bound book made of cloth and paper as you turn pages printed with ink.

Hollander says, “In other words, we shouldn't jump at a new technology simply because it has advantages; only time and study will reveal its disadvantages and show the value of what we've left behind. Which brings us back to paper. With strength and durability that could last thousands of years, paper can preserve information without the troubles we find when our most cherished knowledge is stuck on an unreadable floppy disk or lost deep in the ‘cloud.’” He then elaborates, “Paper textbooks can be stored and easily referenced on a shelf. Data are as easy to retrieve from paper as reaching across your desk for a textbook. They are easy to read and don't require a battery or plug. Though the iPad and e-readers have increasingly better screen clarity, the idea that every time a person reads a book, newspaper or magazine in the near future they will require an energy source is frightening.”

So says Professor Hollander and so agrees John D. Williams, president and CEO of Domtar, one of North America's largest producers of business, office, printing, and publishing papers. Williams describes his work as “promoting a reasonable balance of ‘pixels and print.'” And as one might expect from a paper-guy, Williams is in no hurry for digital learning solutions to replace printed textbooks and he's got the goods to back up his stance. He cites the following (and more) in “Textbooks Should Soon Be Obsolete? Not So Fast, Here’s Why,” his op-ed for the Charlotte Observer:

  • Cambridge University researchers studied the efficacy of learning on screen compared with paper, and concluded that paper is a better tool for fully assimilating information. They based this conclusion on a number of factors ranging from the ease and speed of visually locating content on a printed page compared with a screen, to the distractions of reading online, and the functionality of a screen-based document compared to a printed version (e.g. note taking, document sharing).
  • A recent Kindle DX pilot project, sponsored by Amazon at seven U.S. universities, yielded interesting findings. At the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, 75 to 80 percent of participating MBA students said they would not recommend the Kindle for in-class learning. Michael Koenig, Darden's director of MBA operations, explained that the students felt the eReader was too rigid for use in the fast-paced classroom environment, noting that you can't move between pages, documents, charts and graphs simply or easily enough compared with the paper alternatives.

So it seems that Education Secretary Duncan is correct in his belief that digital textbooks and enhanced learning solutions are very important, but rather as a complement rather than a replacement to print textbooks and reading on the page. Also worth noting is that investing in technology alone is not what will help U.S. students match test scores of South Korean students. That will take a much-larger and broader-scope investment in teachers, curriculum development, parental involvement in student success, and basic school facilities. It’s not about technology so much as it is about total learning and teaching students how to think and solve and continue learning beyond the book, the computer, and the classroom. In the meantime, let’s not deny those students the benefits and pleasures of flipping the pages of a captivating work of English literature or referring to diagrams in a chemistry textbook spread across the desk, beaming bright how elements interact without  needing plugged into an outlet.

*Correction: In its story, The Associated Press reported that South Korea had set a goal to make all of its textbooks digital by 2015. In June, South Korea modified the plan to exclude some grades and to allow paper textbooks to be used alongside digital books while paper books are phased out.


Twenty years ago around this time, I left the gritty urban landscape of Baltimore City for the significantly smaller (and infinitely more small-townish) Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin (famous for dairy products, the anthropologist upon whom Indiana Jones is based, turtle-shaped Native American burial mounds, a giant Hormel Chili can, and the Mindset List).

I was an English major and studied with some incredibly smart people as my professors (in and out of the English department) and fellow students with whom I am still close (thank you, Facebook). My advisor at Beloit was Professor Tom McBride. To this day we remain in touch, which means that the minute that the [in]famous Mindset List hits print and pixel, I hear about it and read what Tom and his Beloit cohort Ron Nief have listed as the historicultural background and collective mentality for the year’s incoming freshman.

I graduated from Beloit in 1996, before there was a Mindset List (and accompanying book). Undoubtedly had there been a list for my class, those alumni twenty years my senior would have felt exactly as I feel now when I read the Mindset List — old, very old, and also fortunate, very fortunate to have gone to college and to have done so at a place I loved and that stays with me in the form of still-quirky people, skills and interests and curiosities, and of course the annual Mindset List. That said, enjoy learning about where the class of 2016 is coming from in terms of headspace, and try not to feel too old while doing so. Oh, and take heart, at least we had bound encyclopedias and tan M&Ms.

–Lena


Back-to-school time can be one of the most expensive times of year, especially if you are starting or heading back to college. With books, bags, computers, software and clothing needs, school expenses could run into the hundreds each year. While you have to buy what you have to buy, a few tips can help you keep your back-to-school spending at the low end of the spectrum.

Go for Quality

Everyone does it. It comes time to shop for a necessity, and we start comparing the price tags on items instead of the items themselves. This may seem like the smart thing, and it is if you're just trying to save money upfront. Keep in mind, though, that an upfront savings may cost you down the road.

When you're shopping for your school items, whether books, equipment or clothes, price should be only one factor. Quality is important as well. The $5 t-shirt isn't a smart buy over the $20 t-shirt if it falls apart the first time you wash it.

Be a Smart Buyer

The trick to buying safely online is to stick to well-known vendors, who have respectable business practices. Youth is a good time to take your chances at things, but not in online buying. Online retailers are a common place for credit card number theft, so it's best to stick with vendors with whom you are familiar.

If you'll be doing a lot of online buying, or using your debit or credit cards freely around campus, consider adding identity theft protection, like that available from Lifelock, to your back-to-school purchases. This reputable security company can help protect your identity in the rare instance that someone makes an attempt to steal your information. It's like insurance for your finances, and gives you one less thing to worry about.

Still, though, you should always be aware of where and when you use your credit or debit cards. Spring break, for instance, is a good time to carry cash and a single credit card and leave the rest at home, because tourist destinations are hotspots for card number thieves The best method of dealing with identity theft is to prevent it.

Rent Your Textbooks

Yes, rent your text books. Many students won’t use their text books after they finish the class they are taking that requires the necessary text, so why bother buying the text book just to have to sell the used edition at a lower price than you purchased it? Whatever you do, stay away from the college bookstore. All items run considerably higher in the on-campus bookstore, because the school knows they have captive consumers. If you take good care of your textbooks, you don’t have a habit of dog-earring your book, loosing supplemental materials that go with your textbook (like CD-ROMs, keycodes, etc.), if you like your savings up front (80 percent off of the price of new books, and if you care about recycling and doing something good for our planet overall then renting textbooks might be the option for you.

Find Out What Your Roommate Is Bringing

If you are heading off to a joint living situation, as most college students are, save money on your back-to-school purchases by finding out what your roommate is bringing. Then, you can coordinate. If one of you is bringing a microwave, the other can bring the refrigerator. Generally speaking, dorm rooms are small, so duplicate objects can be more in the way than useful.

If you're a first-timer heading off to your freshman year of college, your university generally provides you with the contact information of your roommate ahead of time, so you'll still be able to make a plan.

Watch for Tax-Free Shopping Days

Several states have one or two days a year during which you can make qualifying back-to-school purchases without paying sales tax. During this time, you can buy not only items that are directly school-related, like notebooks, pens, backpacks, and computer equipment, but you can generally buy clothing and shoes tax-free as well.

There's no way around it. Going back to school is rarely cheap. By keeping an eye out for the best deals, renting your textbooks, buying lasting items and protecting yourself financially can ensure that it doesn't wipe you out completely. If your wallet does start to look a little thin, maybe look into a job opportunity as a member of a reputable security company; LifeLock currently has many open positions available on their team that are entry level and managerial. Plus, it never hurts to have some work experience on your resume.


At CampusBooks.com, we believe that the key to that smart shopping comes from the power of information and options. Part of our commitment to that business ideal involves passing along what we believe to be too-good-to-miss deals and offers. Right now, one of those comes in the form of Amazon Student, which normally carries a price tag of $79 but for a limited time is free for a six-month period (after that, you can keep it for a fee or cancel without hassle).

So what is Amazon Student and why would you be crazy not to take advantage of this six months of free awesomeness? Well, it’s basically Amazon Prime plus even more goodies that are exclusively for students. Now what’s Amazon Prime? It’s a suite of benefits and bonuses that includes:

  • Free two-day shipping on millions of items (um, and not just textbooks)
  • Free release-date delivery on video, games, books, DVDs, and more)
  • Instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows via Amazon Instant Video
  • Freebies for Kindle

I’ll be totally honest and say that I was an early adopter of Amazon Prime when it first came out a few years ago and I have never looked back. I am not a student so I pay full price, which is $79 per year, which is well worth it for my household as we order tons of stuff from Amazon. I can’t imagine living without my expedited delivery, same-day new releases (seriously, a courier comes and drops off the item just as it becomes available in stores), and streaming movies and entire seasons of TV shows. It’s totally worth the annual cost and I recommend it to everyone at full price . . . but six months free? And with even more benefits just for students? I wish that I could get that deal and I envy you guys for being able to get in on it. That said, do not pass this deal up, get Amazon Student ASAP.


Some further news that the economy is slowly but surely taking a turn for the better: Jobs are growing and entry-level positions are coming back fast and the demographic reaping the greatest benefit is that of those ages 20-24 with four-year college degrees!

If you’re graduating this spring, word on the street is not to take a summer vacation until after you secure employment. Yep, that’s how competitive it is. Other advice from experts: don’t say no to foot-in-the-door positions, contact everyone and anyone you or your family knows and who might have a lead, be prepared to work hard and be creative. More on College Grads Can Expect More Hiring for Entry-Level Spots.


When technology is new or in the early stages, the price is high, often prohibitively so. But other factors come into play, factors such as longevity, scalability, flexibility, advanced features not found elsewhere, and even design. Since Apple announced iBooks2 with an emphasis on academic titles and classrooms, there’s been no shortage of debate about what it would take for the iPad to replace the print textbook. Well, it depends how much emphasis one puts on the tangible and intangible, the short term and the long. Discovery has come up with their assessment and given us a nice visual to help translate costs. Right now, at least according to their assessment, it seems difficult to justify iPads as a cost-realistic textbook replacement — no matter how rich in features.