|Vol. 16 No. 7 March 2002
Looking Down Under for
a College Degree
WHERE IN THE WORLD can a student earn a respected undergraduate degree in three years? At less than one-half the cost of a private U.S. college? While participating in a fascinating, contemporary, high-tech culture? Australia, that's where; and that's where thousands of international students are heading each year to study in one of the 2,000 separate degree programs thriving in Australian universities.
AN OLYMPIC GOLD TOUCH
During the 2000 Summer Olympics, a billion television viewers and tens of thousands of tourists from around the world were charmed by the natural beauty and creative culture of contemporary Australia.
But the English-speaking nation, with a high standard of living, great quality of life and awesome natural resources, also has developed an advanced educational system that is aggressively reaching out to recruit overseas students from around the globe.
Currently, more than 70 nations are represented at many Australian "unis," as Aussies call them. In the words of Prime Minister John Howard, Australia wants to become an "Education Nation," a knowledge leader on the global stage.
Australia's universities are already on the World Wide Web with distance courses and are actively establishing campuses across Asia. Its university recruiters are aggressively looking for qualified students to bring to the great southern continent.
"The global education business has taken off," says Murray Laurance, managing director of Insearch, Ltd., which recruits overseas -students in Asia for the University of Technology in Sydney. "It's really amazing."
What study options are available for U.S. college-bound students who want to explore Australia?
To find out for our readers, CB editors journeyed to the "Land Down Under" to speak with university administrators, educators and students, and to look at the diversity of its programs. Here is some of what we found:
AUSTRALIA: THE EDUCATION NATION
Australia is the geographic size of the U.S., with a population of just 19 million. The world's only nation/continent is home to 40 universities, 38 of which are public institutions. These are spread out through 150 campuses, which support 2,000 different courses of study. All of Australia's capital cities and suburbs from Perth on the Atlantic West Coast to Sydney on the Pacific East Coast, plus the regional cities on the coastlines and the vast land in between, host university programs for 672,000 students.
Of those, only 210,000 come directly from high school into university. The rest are what Australian education calls "mature" students. Another 30,000 overseas students come from countries outside of Australia. Russia, Japan, China, Malaysia, India and many others in the Asian Pacific rim send their students overseas to Australian unis.
STUDY ABROAD OPTIONS
U.S. students have many options when considering study in Australia.
Semester Abroad. Perhaps the easiest is to enter a U.S. college or university and during either the sophomore or junior year, study for a semester or two in Australia through one of the scores of overseas study programs. Most U.S. students who currently come to Australia follow this path.
Three-year Option. However, other U.S. students who are seeking an education in a new country plus a new living experience, and for what could be considered a bargain both in terms of the tuition costs and the length of time of study, might be tempted by the Aussie three-year degree options.
For these degrees, students apply directly to an Australian university during the senior year of high school. If accepted, they could take their full university study in Australia right out of high school and finish in three years.
Four-year Honors Program. Australia also offers the Honors program, a four-year degree. Also, some pre-professional programs such as engineering require five years. Each degree option needs to be explored separately.
ADVANTAGES TO STUDY IN AUSTRALIA
After the initial jet lag, there is little "culture shock" for U.S. travelers.
Common Language. The greatest advantage for U.S. students heading into Australia is that they already speak the language. The typical student coming to Australia from the United States will find a language that is essentially the same as in their high schools. Accents are charmingly different, but pose no real barrier to academic or social progress.
Tuition Break. Also, tuition to many Australian schools is much less than at many U.S. universities and particularly private colleges. The Australian dollar is currently pegged at about half of the U.S. dollar on the money markets, which is a great advantage for American students. (All prices in Australian college guides will have $ signs that stand for Australian dollars.) So, while costs may seem high at first, the rate of exchange makes them generally less than in the U.S.
Tuition varies from field to field with $11,170 (Australian) on average for accounting in 2000, $24,900 (Australian) a year for veterinary -science. Add to that between $10,000 and $14,000 (Australian) per annum for travel and living expenses at these universities or -surrounding environs.
That totals about $25,000 Australian dollars. But divide the total by half for current U.S. value and the cost falls to about $12,500 U.S. a year, times three years instead of four.
Faster Completion. For example, the popular Bachelor of Business degree is a three-year program. Many Australian graduates are ready to go on to graduate school while U.S. students are still doing their undergraduate work. "It's certainly an advantage," says Dennis Meehan, Manager of International Marketing at UTS, the University of Technology, Sydney.
Work Experience Permitted. Also, overseas students can get work permits for 20 hours a week during the academic year and more work time during the break. Jobs are available.
"We encourage students who are over here for three years to get a job," says Meehan. "It's value added, to be able to say that you have not only studied, but worked in a foreign country. That's particularly true for students in international business."
A GOOD UNIVERSITIES GUIDE
The Sydney Morning Herald's The Good Universities Guide, 11th edition, by Dean Ashenden & Sandra Milligan (Hobsons Australia) lists the particulars about the various programs for all 40 of the nation's universities. It also ranks Australian universities based on its surveys. Its next update is July.
What are top "Prestige Schools" listed in the guide?
The University of Adelaide (www.adelaide .edu.au), Australian National University (www.anu.edu.au), University of Melbourne (www.unimelb.edu.au) and Monash University (www.monash. edu.au). Also listed as top schools are University of Queen-sland (www.uq.edu.au), University of Sydney (www.usyd.edu.au), University of New South Wales (www.unsw.edu.au) and the University of Western Australia (www.uwa.edu.au).
But most of the 32 other schools also run challenging, quality programs.
The Good Universities Guide also rates "entry flexibility" high among these schools: Australian Maritime College, Bond University, Charles Sturt University, Curtin University of Technology, National Institute of Dramatic Art, University of Notre Dame, Southern Cross University, University of Western Sydney and University of Wollongong offer flexible admissions.
Universities with the highest number of students from abroad include: Central Queensland University (www.cqu.edu.au), Charles Sturt University (www.csu.edu.au), Curtin University of Technology, (www. curtin.edu.au), Deakin University (www. deakin.edu.au), Melbourne, Monash, Queens-land University of Technology (www.qut.edu.au), RMIT University (www.rmit.edu.au), University of Sydney, University of South Australia (www. unisa.edu.au), University of South Queensland (www.usq.edu.au) and University of Western Sydney (www.uws.edu.au).
Who should a U.S. or overseas counselor or student contact about possible admission to an Australian uni? According to Meehan at UTS, "The contact point at any Australian university is the International Office or something with a similar name. All applications from overseas students go through this office. Students should contact them first and last."
At UTS (www.uts.edu.au) students can apply at any time during the year, but the Australian academic calendar runs from early March to December, with two in-take periods between semesters at most of the schools. Australia's summer break is during winter in the U.S. when Australians often travel.
An overseas student should apply four months in advance, because a student visa and travel arrangements also must be completed and housing confirmed.
VARYING DEGREES OF TOUGHNESS
The Good Universities Guide also lists information about the various academic programs, where they are offered and the varying degrees of "toughness" at getting in. Overall, accounting, for example, is a relatively easy field to enter (with some exceptions), while veterinary sciences is among the toughest.
"Generally, students in the top quarter of their high school classes, with good SATs and AP scores are likely to gain admission to Australia's highest profile schools," advises Murray Laurance of Insearch.
He notes that since government grants to universities have been cut in recent years, many Australian universities now rely upon full-paying overseas students. Thus, they recruit actively overseas, most prominently in Asia, but have recruiters around the world.
U.S. students will need to submit certified copies of their academic transcripts and test scores to the university's international office, advises UTS's Meehan.
REQUIREMENTS VARY PER DISCIPLINE
In Australia, entry into the specific pre-professional fields requires different requirements. Some are rigorous, others easier to gain entry.
In Australia, all high school students take high-stakes national tests with scores that determine whether they can enter into specific fields of study such as engineering or communications.
U.S. students will be judged against Australian students and expected to be academically capable.
WHERE TO GET STARTED.
Start an Australian college search by contacting the Australian Embassy in Washington DC at www.austemb.org. Other Australian consulates can be found in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. The Australian Embassy website is an astounding resource with maps identifying the location of an individual university and links to other educational organizations.
Also, visit an individual university on the web. Locate the International Student programs at those web sites for information on admissions as an overseas student.
High school students can find out more information about a study abroad program in Australia from a U.S. institution. College-bound students should make inquiries during their campus visit, or examine promotional materials from the college on study abroad programs.
ADDITIONAL WEB SITES
A copy of The Good Universities Guide can be ordered on-line with delivery in three to six days in the U.S. Approximate cost: A$47. That web address is www.thegoodguides.com.au. The info is available to members on-line (A$11, about $5 U.S.).
Every college has its own web page. Information on other Australia universities can be found at:
Australian National University in Canberra: www.anu.edu.au; Australian Catholic University of North Sydney: www.acu.edu.au; University of Canberra: www.canberra.edu.au; Macquarie University outside Sydney: www.mq.edu.au.
Also, Murray Laurence can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A New Freshman Profile
FOR THE LAST 30 years, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have surveyed the nation's freshmen as they enter college to find out their attitudes about school and society. Now researchers are looking more closely at how students experience their first year of college.
Their research report has just been released and is called, "Your First College Year," a follow-up survey taken in spring 2000 at the end of freshman year. Over 3,680 students and 50 colleges and universities were surveyed by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Here are some of the key findings that should be of interest to the college bound.
Hard on Health
The results showed that today's freshmen are experiencing physical and mental stress and are often not finding the educational experiences they hoped to find. Only 45 percent of them said they had "above average" mental health at the end of their first college year.
But that was a serious decline from the 52 percent who felt that way at the beginning of the school year. Students also recorded a 10 percent decrease in the quality of their physical health by the end of the year.
Depression is a major problem as well. In the fall, just 8 percent of students said they were depressed. By spring, 16 percent reported feeling depressed. Many students simply said they were "overwhelmed" by their college experience.
Study habits among these students were less than impressive: only 65 percent of students spent more than 15 hours studying each week. About 40 percent reported they were "bored by their classes." In the fall, about 30 percent of students were concerned with issues of racial harmony. But by spring, that number had increased to over 38 percent.
Students often experienced disappointment in their learning situation. Most students came to college seeking to learn through discussion, but instead encountered extensive lecturing. And 60 percent were interested in internships, but only about 5 percent had that experience by the end of the year.
That means college-bound high school students must take time to check to see if prospective schools actually have these opportunities for them and ask, "What type of internships are available? What percent of students participate in internships?"
Credit card debt was also a problem for almost 17 percent of the students, while 60 percent actually overspent their budgets. Meanwhile, more than 73 percent of the students aspired to be well off financially, and 66 percent aspired to be an authority in their field. But only 20 percent sought to influence the political structure.
For the full results of this UCLA freshman year experience survey at www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/yfcy.
THE COUNSELOR'S CORNER
A Counselor's Perspective
AS SOMEONE ASSOCIATED with college admissions for longer than my students have been alive, I have both thoughts on, and a reaction to, the current debate about "early" programs. The most recent national foray into this murky arena is an article in the January 28, Newsweek by Robert Samuelson. Each big news article brings the hope of clarity and the reality of added confusion.
My initial reaction to the January Newsweek piece? College admissions are a big business. Those lost in the ivory tower notion that it is all about education probably should "snap out of it." College admissions have become a buyer-seller relationship with a twist.
Up to the point of application, students and parents are buyers. Then the roles reverse. Students become the "sellers" and the colleges become the "buyers." "Caveat Emptor."
HIGHS AND LOWS
When Early Decision (requiring a binding commitment if accepted) works well, it works from both sides of the admissions desk. A truly focused student, with a clear notion of what constitutes a great student-college match, does the needed research, including visits, and is comfortable committing early to the "dream" school. Successful ED families use this approach.
But ED can be calamitous. Things that make the picture murky include: coaches, or anyone, encouraging athletes to apply early as an admissions strategy; student and parent notions that this is "the only way" the student can possibly get into his top-choice college; students grabbing the ED option without serious understanding of the process and/or without appropriate research; and differential aid packaging that makes the situation impossible-the word gapping comes to mind. The college selection process is a major purchase, much like the purchase of a house, and should get the same quality investigation.
WHAT COUNSELORS REALLY THINK
Do high school counselors in general like early programs? Almost universally, the answer is "No." (See Atlantic Monthly, September, 2001.) Do many of us appreciate and respect the position of our friends in the admissions office? "Yes." But, given the concept of college admissions as a business, consider ED from the following viewpoints:
Bond agencies, I suspect, are most interested in ratings that are generated, in part, by real or perceived selectivity issues. These are the guys who, when Wow U wants to add another expensive facility on campus, make doing so easier or more difficult;
College presidents and boards are driven by the notion that their institution be perceived as both competitive and desirable. What better way than through high early applicant rates?
Alums everywhere want their alma mater to be in demand, improving their rate of giving, and adding to the perceived value of their own educations;
Admissions offices want to bring in the interested best and brightest to their college campuses. They want happy, satisfied customers, something any successful business wants;
American society obsessed by ratings of all kinds, wants a way to quantify something that may not be so easily quantified.
NATIONAL FORUM NEEDED
The topic of "early" as it relates to college admissions begs for a national forum to address its eccentricities, values and future. At its worst, early admissions forces students through a fast funnel-tunnel and fails to produce the quality of introspection on a student's part that leads to a good match. It also can limit diversity on campus: those in most need of comparing aid packages are shut out of the early programs through fear of, or reality of, cost.
At its best, early admissions serves the colleges that truly get students who have university x as their first choice school. It can make the mystique and hype surrounding the selection process far more manageable, especially for those with strong college advising programs.
In reality, early admissions aren't going away. Students need to see it as more than an admissions strategy. It must be re-analyzed, clarified and redefined to serve both the universities who use it, and the students who select it as an admissions option. That won't happen without meaningful dialogue, involvement of the powerful admissions players and a public that demands a needed review.
WHAT SHOULD STUDENTS AND PARENTS DO?
Given that it may take everyone involved some time to sort out the needed new particulars, students and parents considering ED should:
Keep in mind that the decision to apply Early Decision, like any college search, takes work. The term "super-campus sleuth" comes to mind. This work must be done earlier than the regular college search. The paperwork must be a front burner concern too;
Begin research on schools early. If Juniors haven't started, they are behind;
Consider that with over 4,000 institutions of higher education to chose from, falling in love with the "only one" probably serves the college's interest more than the student's. (One of my first ED's at my current school, after her freshman year at college, told her mom: "This is a great place for me, but now I know it is a great place among many of the great places where I could have been happy.");
Remember that ED acceptance is binding. All other applications must be withdrawn. Therefore, the ability to compare aid packages, merit or need based, is removed from the student and family;
Know that a lot of change occurs from fall of senior year to graduation. Developmentally, it is a fascinating process to watch. ED programs really don't appreciate or reward that growth;
Visit the Harvard web site and read the piece written by Harvard's Director of Admissions, William Fitzsimmons.
Much has been written about the hyper-stressed senior. ED adds to the senior year pressure cooker.
Back to "Caveat Emptor."
ED isn't going away. It has both beneficial and unhealthy sides. Dialogue is essential and can bring us closer to consensus of where we ought to be. Change in this arena has profound consequences. It won't come easily.
Mary Ann Willis is college counselor at Bayside Academy in Daphne, Alabama, and a member of CB's Board of Advisors.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
College Crime Update. The U.S. Department of Education has released its most recent statistics (2000) on college crime. The greatest increase was for hate crimes which rose by 38 percent at the 6,269 schools in D.O.E.'s survey. Some observers said that statistical leap was due to more accurate reporting.
Drug and alcohol arrests increased over 10 percent nationwide. Murders were also up, with 16 in 2000, an increase of 5 over 1999.
Forcible sex offenses slightly decreased last year, while non-forcible sex offenses rose by nearly 2 percent. Burglaries, robberies and aggravated assaults rose marginally. Arson also grew by almost 10 percent.
But car thefts and weapon violations declined. The numbers for all of these categories were considerably higher when statistics for surrounding neighborhoods were considered.
To find the crime statistics for individual -colleges and universities of interest, go to: http://ope.ed.gov/security.
Millions Dream of Millions. About 75 percent of junior high and high school boys think they will become millionaires by age 40. But only 33 percent of girls think they'll make it to the promised land by the same age. These are the results of a new survey by Junior Achievement. Whether the gender disparity indicates a lack of hope or different desires on the part of the young women than to invest their lives in pursuit of gold, was not studied.
Expensive Children. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it now costs $165,630 to raise a child for 17 years. That is up $5,000 since 1999. About one-third of expenses go for housing. Another 17 percent is eaten up by food. The Ag department said costs have gone up 13 percent since 1960.
Black College Web Sites. Which black colleges have the best web sites? According to Howard University's Digital Learning Lab's Archimedes Project, which surveyed 103 historically black colleges, the honor falls to Tennessee State University and Spelman College. Find complete results at: http://data.dll.org/HBCUWebSiteRatings/October2001/default.asp.
Counseling Heavy Loads. Statistics from the American Counseling Association indicate that high school counseling workloads are getting heavier. The association says an ideal caseload is about 250 students for one counselor. But that number pales in the face of reality.
In California, for example, counselors face an unbelievable workload of 1,029 students for every one counselor. Minnesota has the second highest ratio with 880 students per counselor. Arizona ranks next with 776 students per counselor. Illinois has 698 students per counselor. Utah has 663 per counselor.
I.U. Soars. All the controversy surrounding Indiana University's former basketball coach Bob Knight two years ago didn't appear to hurt university admissions. Last year, 19,120 students applied to I.U., up from 18,698 the year before. This fall, applications were running a full 30 percent higher, in part because of Time magazine's profile of the school as one of its "colleges of the year." At cross-state rival Purdue, applications were running 10 percent ahead of last year. Both schools are presumed beneficiaries of the trend for students to stay closer to home, and perhaps out of the cities during this time of trouble.
DePaul Getting Tougher. DePaul University's "admit rate" is going down. That key barometer declined from 81 percent in 1997 to 72 percent in 2001, DePaul's associate vice president for enrollment management, Raymond Kennelly, told the school's newspaper, The DePaulia.
During that same period, applications increased by 65 percent, from 5,136 to 8,452. The university is projecting about 9,000 applications this year. About 1,900 students are expected to make up the first-year class in 2002. Many have been attracted by the university's aggressive building campaign, which includes a new multi-purpose student center, the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center, and a science building on its Lincoln Park campus in Chicago's trendy Near North Side.
Kennelly says DePaul seeks students who are not only academically prepared, but who demonstrate "character, leadership, compassion and an ability to contribute to the campus environment."
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