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December 7, 2017

Grade Inflation is Real…

…and how it will affect your child’s college admissions is alarming.

We all hear about grade inflation – when teachers give A’s to average students – and we look the other way, especially when our kids benefit from them, right?  I’ve heard about teachers giving students a full-letter grade bump just for showing up to take the standardized tests at school each year. Others give students 10 points for bringing in snacks or class supplies.  What’s worst of all are teachers who offer so much extra credit that students don’t do their work or study for tests because they know that one way or another, they can pull their terrible grades up to A’s by the end of the semester.  None of this builds character or prepares students for college.

Grade inflation hurts the students.

Yup!  Because so many schools are inflating grades – especially in white, affluent schools—colleges can’t rely on grade point averages (GPAs) to assess whether or not the students will be successful in their colleges.  So when colleges can’t rely on the students’ grades, they revert to the SATs and ACTs.  After all, college-bound students take the exact same test in a proctored classroom on the same day across the country.  If we’re comparing apples to apples, this may seem more reliable than GPAs.

But SATs and ACTs don’t determine which students will be our next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.  Testing reading comprehension, grammar, math and science skills in a timed, multiple-choice format does not weed out students who would do poorly in college. Instead, students who do well on standardized tests today are those who can afford private SAT/ACT tutoring and spend years preparing for these tests.

Both the inflated GPA at wealthy white schools and high SAT/ACT scores due to expensive prep programs give these affluent students an unfair advantage.  They aren’t better equipped to succeed in college; they’re simply able to afford to attend schools that give away A’s and spend many hours under the expensive supervision of SAT/ACT coaches.

The good news is that college admissions officers receive school profiles that list GPAs and demographics so they know which schools inflate grades.  And colleges that require personal statements, essays, letters of recommendation and interviews use an eclectic approach to selecting their incoming classes.  When a student stands out because they’ve done a project or something remarkable, colleges notice.

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December 7, 2017

Tips on Borrowing Money for your Kid’s College Degree

So you got your kid into college – and it’s a great college – and the financial reality smacks you in the head when you get your first college bill.  Yikes!  Unless you have the funds to pay for your child’s college safely tucked away under your mattress, you’re going to need money fast.

Be careful when looking at loans.  They’re not all the same and the rules have changed.  Check out many options before signing any contracts.  I read this great article in Money Magazine (August 2017).

Federal Plus Loans (fixed APR: 8%)
Plus loans are the easiest to get – even with bad credit (except bankruptcy).  Be careful how much you actually borrow because it’s easy to take more than you really need and then set yourself up for difficulty in repaying the loan later.

Private Loans (fixed APR: starting at 5.4% and up)
Private loan lenders seek clients with good credit history.  So if you have excellent credit, you’ll probably get a great deal at a low APR.  But if your credit is less than stellar, you may end up paying upwards of 12%!  Yikes!

Home Equity (fixed APR: starting at 5.4% and up)
By using your home (that you own) as collateral, you can qualify for good loans at low APR.  But, be careful of hidden costs – make sure your quotes include all costs such as appraisal fees.  Because your home is probably one of your biggest investments, make sure you have enough funds to cover your retirement, kids’ weddings, and other expenses in the future.

Remember, education loans are almost impossible to escape – even in bankruptcy – so only borrow what you actually need.

December 7, 2017

Why Do Colleges Keep Their Admissions Protocol Secret?

As a college advisor, I wonder why selective colleges like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford keep “trade secrets” about how they choose their freshmen class each year. Students and parents strive to see the formula that colleges use to determine who gets in and who doesn’t.

In the book, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton? author Jerome Karabel exposed how the Ivy League was more interested in sustaining aristocracy than shaping young minds. They routinely rejected women, Jews, blacks, and others, and they even changed admissions criteria so their legacy and elite students would get in before the super bright Jews and Asians.

Sadly, it’s still going on today.  Princeton just filed a “reverse Freedom of Information Act” lawsuit against the Dept. of Education and the Office of Civil Rights to prevent their “trade secrets” on admissions decisions from becoming public information. Hmm. I wonder what they’re hiding?

Every year, I see amazing students get passed up by legacy students (students whose parents attended the same colleges and donated lots of money) with substandard grades, average SAT/ACT scores, and no projects.  If colleges were transparent about admissions decisions, I believe that more students would be admitted based on merit and not family name, wealth, and ethnicity.

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December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Success!

Our TEDxMeritAcademy debut at the Rio Theatre was a huge success!

With 9 dynamic speakers, 1 music video, and 2 TED pre-recorded speakers, we introduced innovative solutions to climate change, overpopulation, and plastic up-cycling, as well as exploring black holes in the universe and contemplating racism in America.

We’ll post our TEDx videos soon to share these ideas worth spreading!

December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Video: Nicole D’Arcy & Anna Krawisc’s “Ode to Advanced Directives”

To offer both comic relief and valuable medical advice, Nicole D’Arcy and Anna Krawisc – along with the Stanford Video Department – perform a music video.

Come see this today, Monday, August 14th at 7:00 pm at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.  Get your tickets at TEDxMeritAcademy.com or at the door.

December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker David Vasquez

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet David Vasquez, one of our speakers!

“What if there actually IS an energy ‘magic bullet’?”

David Vasquez is going to challenge the cliched notion in the energy world that “there are no ‘magic bullets’. There’s a breakthrough energy technology from an engineer-scientist-inventor in Arizona named Roy McAlister.  He’s developed a new liquid fuel for both motor vehicles and power plants called METROL that is typically made from garbage and sewage and is  not only clean, safe, affordable, unlimited in supply, and 100% clean, but actually  cleans the air around it.  The implications for both climate change, environment, and world economic prosperity in general are profound.

About David Vasquez:
David Vasquez is a college instructor, book author, computer-graphic specialist, and filmmaker who is focused on renewable energy and sustainable urban design.  He has a doctorate degree mixing cognitive science with science education and he wrote a book about next-generation solar-hydrogen railway-systiems. His professional role has been as VISUALIZER of outside-the-box environmental solutions. He uses this craft both (a) as an independent consultant to public planning agencies in the SF Bay Area, and (b) to educate graduate students in a Landscape Design Dept. (Academy of Art University, SF) about how to create emotionally-engaging promotional images of proposed public projects.

December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Pascal Costa

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Pascal Costa, one of our speakers!

“How to stop overpopulation before we reach 10 billion people on Earth”

Overpopulation is a huge problem. We have too many people, and because of our immense growth experienced in the last century, we are experiencing new problems. Because of overpopulation, we have recklessly produced dirty energy and destroyed fertile land to meet the needs of our ever-expanding population. Forests have been decimated in order to make room for farmland and to produce lumber. We have exploited natural resources such as soil, water minerals, oil, and coal because we have grown dependent on them. As a result of our growing numbers and exploitation of natural resources, we have caused the extinction of 130 mammal species, and have endangered 250 species. Today, about 1000 species are now threatened. Through overpopulation, we have increased pollution, consumption, and the deterioration of land. There’s a simple way to reduce the world’s population and I’ll share my idea with you.

About Pascal Costa:
Pascal Costa founded Preventing OverPopulation, a non-profit organization that educates child-bearing people about how their decisions to have children directly affect the world.  She has presented her project at the Earth Day Santa Cruz festival and she was interviewed on Earth Watch Radio. Pascal recently graduated from high school and plans to continue to advocate for population control in college.

December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Tim Niemier

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Tim Niemier, one of our speakers!

“How can we stop the flow of plastic pollution into our oceans?”

We need healthy oceans, but we can’t give up our plastic. Maybe there’s a way that we can have healthy oceans and still use plastic. If we create value for recycled plastic as a new resource, we can prevent it from harming our life-sustaining oceans. Tim will discuss a clever way of combining great worldwide designs with an inexpensive local recycling process that can stop the flow of plastics into our oceans.

About Tim Niemier:
Tim’s goal in life is to put “A billion butts in boats in healthy water.” He is the founder and designer/entrepreneur who introduced the sit-on- top Ocean Kayak to the world. These kayaks revolutionized all paddle sports because it made kayaking water-friendly. Bringing millions of people into the water makes them appreciate the delicate balance of our eco systems. Tim was 100% responsible for all post-consumer waste and pioneered product stewardship in the water-sport industry and other endeavors.  He also continues to lead many environmental organizations with creative and sustainable innovations. Tim enjoys finding solutions to cleaning the ocean using resource management and recycling.

December 7, 2017

TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Joe Jordan

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Joe Jordan, one of our speakers!

The Sky’s the Limit:  Pathways to SOLUTIONS”

The gigantic numbers making up humanity, face huge problems like never before.  Solving our way out of this mess will require revolutions in both technical prowess and in morality, fairness and compassion with which we treat one another.  It is time for the “sleeping giant” of the MANY, to wake up, take heart, and lead.   Here we highlight promising actions that we all can DO to save some semblance of a caring civilization and a hospitable natural environment.  “Magic communications”, re-inventing the media from the ground up, can enhance awareness & intelligence as our species grows some wisdom.

About Joe Jordan:
Joe Jordan did atmospheric and space research at NASA/Ames and the SETI Institute (Mountain View) for decades, studying the two largely unrelated problems of stratospheric ozone depletion and tropospheric climate change. Since then he’s been working on solutions, involving education and training (for a new “green workforce”, etc.), and media outreach.  He has long been on the Board of Directors of Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, and was the key driver steering that organization toward its present multi-million-dollar enterprise of promoting and implementing energy and water efficiency throughout California. He initiated the large installations of solar-electric (“PV”) systems on several of the Santa Cruz City Schools, as well as the very first PV systems ever to be located on public buildings in that town. Joe is currently co-hosting a new radio-show/podcast-series/social-media-enterprise called “Planet Watch” on KSCO.

December 7, 2017

TEDx MeritAcademy Speaker Martin Gaskell

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Martin Gaskell, one of our speakers!

“Supermassive black holes: the most powerful objects in the universe”

Have you ever wondered whether black holes exist?  And if so, how do astronomers study them?  What would it be like to be close to a black hole?  UCSC astrophysicist Dr. Martin Gaskell has spent his career studying what happens around supermassive black holes in the centers of distant galaxies.  He explains in simple, everyday language recent progress in understanding what is going on around these extraordinary objects as they eat up matter around them.

About Martin Gaskell:
Martin Gaskell is a researcher in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCSC. He has over four decades of experience working on issues related to supermassive black holes (including a Ph.D.), a couple of hundred publications, and many research grants. He was a finalist for five years in a row for top teaching award at the University of Nebraska. Martin also engages in many popular talks to the public.