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Will Campuses Open in Fall 2021?

Let’s face it – a student’s life has changed considerably, ever since the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic has thrown everything in the wind, and restoring ‘normalcy’ seems a long way off. Now that Colleges have more or less finished with the Spring intake, Students are beginning to wonder what the Fall intake will look like. Will Campuses open out for in-person instruction? Or will they continue with online instruction as most Spring sessions are following?

Background

At the beginning of 2020, Educational Institutions worldwide began shutting their doors to regular offline classes. Schools and Teachers clamored to offer classes online, via their website or using Google Classrooms, Zoom, etc. While these online offerings had their advantages, they seemed to fail on many fronts and cast a shadow of gloom over digitized or digital education. In a recent survey, nearly 49% of students said that it is likely or very likely for the COVID-19 pandemic to impact their ability to complete bachelor’s degrees negatively. Some 56% said the same for their associate degree.

 

With human interaction at a low ebb, students faced unprecedented levels of anxiety, and depression, coupled with a sharp rise in suicidal tendencies as well. Teachers also had to deal with a steep learning curve to conduct their classes online, and Colleges faced mounting debt due to loss of income from tuition and other sources.

The Present

Fortunately for students and the rest of humanity, a global rollout of vaccinations gives hope for recovery in rapid succession. However, it is imperative to continue wearing masks and maintaining social distancing on campus until such inoculations have gathered steam and covered vulnerable people. As a matter of fact, Coronavirus transmissions could effectively reduce by some 96% by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and increasing COVID-19 tests.

 

With ever-increasing COVID-19 regulations and changing guidelines, many Universities have offered or decided to offer their Programs for the Spring intake in the online mode. Universities and faculty are not surefooted or convinced that the present scenario will change anytime soon, and getting students to follow what is often construed as draconian rules (COVID-19 regulations), will prove a formidable challenge. Students and college administrations always find themselves at loggerheads, with the former preferring to exercise their ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ and the latter battling to contain the virus’s spread while adhering to government regulations.

 

A relatively in-depth study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, titled “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States”, presents a grim picture. Students seem to have suffered or continue to suffer from mental health issues, including difficulty concentrating, disruptions in sleeping patterns, increased social isolation, concerns on academic performance, disruptions to eating patterns, depressive thoughts, and suicidal thoughts. No doubt, this is the reason why students are anxious about the fall intake!

The Future: Fall 2021

Increasingly, there is talk of Universities considering what is known as the ‘Hybrid Model’ or ‘Blended Model’ of education. This Hybrid Model strives to blend both in-person and remote instructional formats with certain checks and balances put in place. Students are expected to study course material outside of class, with only some 25% to 50% of the instructions, assignments, and discussions taking place online. In-class hours are used to reinforce learning, ask questions and interact with teachers. Colleges feel that such a system would ease the burden of educators and students while ensuring that the conducted Program meets set standards and goals. Apart from the Hybrid or Blended format of instruction, come Institutions are also considering other modes such as:

 

Fully Online Teaching
Simultaneous Teaching
Face-To-Face Web-Enabled Teaching
Emergency Teaching
MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses

 

Of course, much of all this hinges on how effective the present inoculation drive is and the availability of vaccines for the masses. With ever-changing rules, regulations, and guidelines, Universities are treading cautiously, often preferring to wait and watch before making their decisions.

 

All things considered, there is a more than fair chance that Colleges will open in the Fall for full on-campus Programs. But several factors that are ambiguous and obscure, at least in the present – such as a probable third wave of COVID-19, newer strains of the virus, and efficacy of vaccines, may very well play spoilsport and throw the proverbial spanner in the works. So, it may be wise to err on the side of assumption and speculate that most Colleges may continue with remote delivery of lessons wherever possible and restrict on-campus and in-person activity to only when necessary. Consequently, there will be a heavy dependency on broadband internet, wired or wireless, and upgrades or acquisitions of hardware as basic requirements. While many colleges soften the financial blow with free laptops for students, reliable and fast internet can be expensive and challenging in certain parts of the country.

 

In conclusion, it is advisable to exercise caution and be prepared for either online or offline Programs (or a blend of both) for the Fall. One thing is for sure, though – perhaps for the foreseeable future and beyond, some form of online/remote education may be here to stay. That could be the new norm one needs to be ready for.

 

Whatever happens in the Fall of 2021, online education has started long before this pandemic. And this pandemic only accelerated the shift towards online education. This is more so for Online Master’s programs. Students and professionals see the benefits of online degrees. Here at Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we strongly believe that online education is here to stay. That is why we compiled a list of the most affordable online master’s programs, financial resources for online graduate school students, and all the resources that they will need.

Biden Administration acts on Student Loans

After coming to power in Jan 2021, President Joe Biden announced the cancellation of $1 Billion student loans. Seventy-two thousand students qualified for their student loan cancellation. The move only applies to borrowers whose claims have been approved under the Borrower Defense to Repayment Act. Students are now wondering if they qualify for the cancellation under the same act. In this article, we will discuss that in detail.

Who Qualifies for the loan cancellation?

The following criteria should be met for students to qualify for the loan cancellation:

You are one of 72,000 student loan borrowers; per the borrower to defense act;

Your college or university misled or defrauded you, or your school closed permanently;

You applied for student loan cancellation under borrower defense to student loan repayment forgiveness;

You proved to the US Department of Education that your school misled or defrauded you or that your school closed permanently;

You suffered financial harm; and

You already got some student loan cancellations, but not all your student loans were canceled.

How to get one’s student loan canceled

If you are not part of the 72,000 student loan borrowers, but you have faced a similar experience with your college or university, you may be eligible to get your federal student loans canceled under the Borrower Defense to Repayment Act for student loan repayment forgiveness. Below we discuss how:

 

Complete the borrower defense to repayment application;

The student needs to prove monetary harm. Borrowing a student loan to attend the program in itself is insufficient to prove monetary harm. The US Department of Education will compare earnings of prior graduates from your academic program to the earnings of graduates of comparable programs to decide on monetary harm.

Providing all supporting documentation.

Sign the certification.

Eligibility for student loan cancellation

Below are some examples that could get you a student loan cancellation under the Borrower Defense to Repayment Act:

 

Your school mislead you to enroll;

Your school mislead you to continue to enroll;

Your school mislead you about admissions selectivity;

Your school mislead you about the school’s rankings;

Your school mislead you about transfer credit; or

Your school misleads you about job placement or potential earnings outcomes.

Non-eligibility for student loan cancellation

Below are some of the examples that could lead to one not getting one student loans canceled under the Borrower Defense To Repayment Act:

 

Disliked the school or program;

Unhappy with your academic performance or the grades received;

Unable to secure campus housing; or

Faculty members in your program departed the school.

 

Going through the above, If you realize that you do not qualify for the student loan cancellation, there are certainly other ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness. For example, you can get your student loan canceled through an income-driven repayment plan or public service loan forgiveness. Both these programs offer tax-free student loan cancellation. Public service loan forgiveness already included tax-free student loan cancellation. At the same time, the new stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, makes student loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment tax-free through December 31, 2025.

 

Normally, the cancellation of debt is treated like income to the borrower. It is as if someone gave the borrower money to pay off the debt. The borrower received an IRS Form 1099-C to report the canceled debt as income. The canceled debt is subject to income taxes, just like any other income.
Certain type of student loan forgiveness is tax-free. This would include:

 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness;

Teacher Loan Forgiveness;

Loan forgiveness programs for nurses, doctors, and veterinarians;

Loan forgiveness programs for public interest law;

Death and disability discharges;

Closed school discharges;

False certification discharges (e.g., identify theft); or

Unpaid refund discharges.

So will your student loan get canceled?

If your student loan has not been canceled yet under the Borrower Defense To Repayment Act, your student loan can still get canceled if there is wide-scale student loan cancellation. President Biden wants Congress to cancel $10,000 of student loans immediately, while some in Congress want President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 of student loans by executive order. But these discussions are still kind of on the floor of the Congress, and discussions are on. So, in reality, it is unclear if your student loan will be canceled. It is not to scare the students but give them more transparency as to what to expect if your student loan is not canceled. Congress may cancel student loans, but currently, Congress is more focused on pressuring President Biden on student loan cancellation rather than passing standalone legislation. In turn, President Biden has proposed three ways to cancel student loans, and Congress could work on that to pass other student loan forgiveness. Until that happens, however, it’s unclear if or when student loan cancellation will become law. So, in the mean-time, make sure you have a student loans game plan. Start with these three options, all of which have no fees:

 

Student loan refinancing

Income-driven repayment plans

Student loan forgiveness

What is the way forward?

The past year might have been the worst of our lives, but we cannot let one year decide the future of our education and our existence. We have to leave the past year behind and move ahead and look forward to the future. Online Masters Colleges (OMC) is one such platform that encourages you to take hold of yourself and invest in education for a brighter future. According to the Economic Value Of College Majors, a 2015 study by Georgetown University, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn an average annual salary of $61,000 throughout their career, while those with a graduate degree earn $78,000 annually. Hence a master’s degree is always desirable and has a hefty increase in returns on your investment. To help students make the right choices about their master’s degrees, OMC has created the best online master’s program rankings, most affordable online masters programs, along with prep guides for GRE, GMAT. And in the times that we are in, deciding the right way to finance your education is of paramount importance, leading to a significant return on your investment. Hence, here is a link to help you finance your master’s with the best financial aid guide.

What is March Madness?

With this being March, a lot of buzz is going on about March Madness on campuses which are still mostly virtual. Students across America are fascinated by their favorite players doing magic. But a lot of other folks wonder – What is March Madness? What is all this fuss about? This blog will focus on this phenomenon that occurs every March, explains what it is and why it is so important for students.

 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a body that regulates student-athletes across colleges and universities in North America. NCAA also organizes a men’s basketball tournament in March, also known as March Madness. It is a single-elimination tournament with 68 teams that compete in 7 rounds for the national championship. Get the up-to-date scores and standings on the NCAA site.

Why is it called March Madness?

The term was first used to refer to basketball by an Illinois High school official, Henry Porter, in 1939. But it did not find its way to the NCAA tournament until CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger, who used to be a sportswriter in Illinois, used it during coverage of the 1982 tournament. And it has stuck ever since. The very first edition of the tournament took place in 1939, and it consisted of just eight teams and saw Oregon beat Ohio State, 46 to 33. The tournament has been held every year since. And the field has expanded multiple times in the interim, reaching the modern size of 64 in 1985 and its fill current field of 68 in 2011. Now, the obvious question is, how did the teams get to be one of the 68? Well, there two avenues. First, an automatic bid. Division one Men’s Basketball is comprised of 353 teams. Each one of those belongs to 1 of 32 conferences. Each one of those conferences holds a postseason tournament. And if a team wins that tournament, they are automatically in the NCAA tournament, regardless of their regular-season performance. The second avenue is an at-large bid. The NCAA selection committee convenes in the final days of the regular season to decide which 36 teams that are not automatic qualifiers have the pedigree to earn an invitation to the tournament. There is no set formula to decide which teams are in these at-large bids. Instead, the committee looks at a combination of stats and rankings.
After all the 68 teams have been decided, the selection committee ranks all of them in seeding. The teams are split into four regions of 16 teams each, with each of those teams ranked from one through sixteen. That ranking is the team’s seed. To reward better teams, first-round match-ups are determined by pitting the top team in the region against the bottom team. Then the next highest versus the nest lowest, and so on. In theory, this means that one seed has the easiest opening match-up in the bracket. Upsets do happen, though. When a low seed goes on an unexpected run, we get what we call a Cinderella, one of the best parts of every tournament. But before any of that can happen, there is selection Sunday, the day when the selection field and the bracket are announced live on TV, signaling the official start of the madness. Then comes the beautiful chaos of the first round, 64 teams playing in 32 games on that Thursday and Friday. Over the next three weeks, the field is whittled down from the sweet sixteen to the ‘Elite Eight’, to the ‘Final Four’. And finally, to the championship.

Where to Watch March Madness?

So, where do you come in in all of this? Watching and competing. You can watch every single game of the tournament live, practically on any device with ‘March Madness Live’. And each game would be broadcast on either TBS, TNT, Tru TV, or CBS. Here is a link to live stream here if you want to keep a tab on games live.

March Madness Brackets

But there is a more active way to get involved as well. Every year millions of fans predict who they think will win every game of the tournament by filling up their march madness bracket and pitter it against their friends and family. But what we love so much about the tournament is its unpredictability, which makes it an extremely hard task. In the entire history of brackets, through millions and millions of entries every year, no one has ever filled out a perfect bracket. Could you be the first one ever to do it this year? Probably not. But that should not stop you from trying. After all, now you know everything you need to know about ‘March Madness’. Here is a complete schedule of the 2021 March Madness.

March Madness 2021

For the year 2021, it already feels like one of the dizziest NCAA tournaments in history with No. 15 Oral Roberts, No. 12 Oregon State, and No. 11 Syracuse already in the Sweet 16. And if one looks at the first week of the 2021 tournament, it has already seen the most upsets before the round of 16 ever in NCAA history. Games won by teams seeded five spots or lower than the favorite are defined as upsets by NCAA. 2021 NCAA has been quite a revelation, eight teams in the round of 16 represent eight different conferences. The record for most leagues represented in the round of 16 is 12, set quite a few years back in 2008. For the first time, in the year 2021, NCAA will host the entire tournament in one geographical location. The NCAA will host the entire tournament in one geographic location for the first time.

 

In January, the NCAA announced that the entire 2021 men’s basketball championship would be played in Indiana, with most of the tournament’s 67 games in Indianapolis. Selection Sunday was scheduled for March 14, and plans remain to have the Final Four on April 3 and 5. Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Only one game at a time will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium. Teams will practice at the Indiana Convention Center, with multiple courts set up inside the venue. All teams will be housed on dedicated hotel floors, with physically distanced meeting and dining rooms, as well as secure transportation to and from competition venues.

 

For the year 2021, the bracket will be handled differently too, the top four seeds will be handled the same, and so will the first four. But there will be changes as to how the rest of the bracket is completed. Teams will be placed in the bracket based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography. There will be 37 at-large selections (one more than normal) and 31 automatic qualifiers (one fewer than normal).

 

While this is exciting and fun to watch, students need to be aware of their career prospects. And not lose track of their objectives and higher educational goals. Here at Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we support and encourage students to enjoy March Madness. To help students make the right choices about their master’s degrees, we have created the best online masters program rankings, along with prep guides for GRE, GMAT, and the best financial aid guide.

Do students prefer Mac or Windows?

Mac or Windows for students?

It is a question that is one of the contentious issues in the student world. Some students prefer Mac, and some students prefer it. Both sides of the argument have merits. What should students prefer? What are the points supporting both sides of the argument? In this blog post, let us examine all aspects of this classic debate.

 

According to Jamf, 71% of students prefer Mac. It may very well be true, but Microsoft’s Surface, a Windows-based device, has made immense strides in competing with the Mac on college campuses. Also, the finding turned out to be quite contradictory as around 40% of students revealed that they already own a Mac, and 60% were using Windows at that time. Out of that, 60%, about 30% of students also claimed that they would prefer Mac over Windows anytime, but they are currently using Windows. So, the survey has a lot of nuance to it. What are the key factors that affect students’ decision to go with a Mac or a Windows device?

Key factors – Mac or Windows

1. The Brand Value

Many students prefer Mac or Windows for the world-class high-tech features, intelligent software, and other core specifications. Apart from all that, one of the most important factors is brand value. Many students perceive that Mac has a better brand value. On campuses, students consider carrying a Mac as ‘cool.’ The reasons are debatable. During the 2006 to 2009 period, Apple ran an advertising campaign called, Get a Mac aggressively. In the commercials, the Macbook owner is represented by a young adult wearing a sweat-shirt, and the Windows device owner is shown as an older gentleman with a suit and a tie. Whether this campaign led to the belief that student prefers Mac, is also debatable.

MacWindows

It’s a natural human tendency to choose something that has hit our emotional chord. We can resonate with the brand value since it taps into our inner instincts of enhancing our value by owning a specific brand product in the market. Brand value indeed turns out to be the most significant positive influencer among students to choose a Mac.

2. Cost of the devices

Many students who picked Windows over Mac did that because Mac costs a lot more than just a regular Windows device. Apple Inc is a luxury brand, and its products are not always in harmony with most of the students’ socio-economic conditions. Usually, students are functioning with limited funds. It’s not practically possible for students to afford Mac even if they desire to or are tempted to do so. In the survey, around 51% of students using Windows admitted that if costs were not an issue, they would have happily purchased Mac.

3. Compatibility

Compatibility is another factor that puts off so many students and their desire to own Mac. Mac requires individual specifications. In simple words, it is not easy to handle Mac. It comes up with its restrictions and limitations. Say – Network issues or device linkup issues in college labs or sharing information across networks or easy plugin devices, etc., can all become daunting tasks with a Mac.

4. Available software tools

This is a very crucial factor—the intended use of the device matters. Students into any education areas that require special tools such as Creative Writing, Media, Graphic designing, Animation, etc., may find it hard to find support for such tools on Mac. At the same time, most tools work on Windows devices. Certain tools work on Mac but won’t work on Windows.

5. Individual adaptability status

And the last factor is what platform students are comfortable with. Some students grow up with a windows device since school days and are most comfortable with it. They tend to go with Windows devices. Others grew up in a household where they use a Mac. Those students go with a Mac.

Understanding the Advantages & Disadvantages of Mac and Windows

MacBook’s are known for their superior performance overall. Their hardware is exceptionally streamlined, and their software is spectacularly brilliant, which genuinely makes it worth the hype and the price. Not just this, Mac devices are ultraportable and flexible so that you can seamlessly carry it along while traveling and tend to essential assignments quickly and effectively. Furthermore, Mac’s power backup is superb, making it a valuable addition for a student who has to run pillar to posts from long-winded sessions, lectures, coffee shops, internships offices, etc., without worrying about a charger.

 

However, the disadvantages are that the Macs do not support many peripheral devices available in the market. A lot of plug-and-play devices do not work with Mac because of the restrictive nature. Some folks consider this as a good thing in terms of security. But most others consider this as very inconvenient. The other main disadvantage is the price of the Mac. They are very expensive.

 

On the other hand, Windows-based devices offer a wide variety of software and tools. Any device with a USB and a device driver can be connected to Windows devices. Windows devices also come with several software tools. Most designers of software keep Windows in mind when they design software. Windows devices are the most widely used devices across the world. The price of windows devices is also reasonable.

 

There are many disadvantages of Windows devices too. The first and foremost disadvantage is the security aspect. Windows devices to prone to viruses unless strong anti-virus software is used. Because of the open nature of the platform, it opens up many vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

Whichever laptop students may prefer to pursue their higher education, students should always consider some key elements before buy. We laid those factors on our free laptops page. And to put it bluntly, students should not consider what they prefer, but they should consider what is required and best serves the purpose. Here at Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we support and encourage students to look into colleges that offer free laptops.

What’s a good GMAT score?

Getting an MBA can be a life-changing move as the research shows that MBA graduates have higher salaries. But many MBA aspirants have one question that perplexes them – what’s a good GMAT score? A good GMAT score is something that everyone aspires to help students join top-notch business schools to pursue their MBA degree. But the word ‘good’ is relative. What a good score for one university may not be enough for another university. In this blog, we will help you decide what is considered a good score on the GMAT.

What is GMAT, and why does the GMAT score matter?

First, let us examine what GMAT is. GMAT is a standardized test score which conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). GMAT score is a must for many schools that offer MBA degrees. Hence getting a good score on the GMAT is the key to joining a good school. It is essential to do homework before landing on a good score—being well aware of which MBA schools to target plays a pivotal role in making an informed decision. And you can plan for a good GMAT score by defining an acceptable GMAT score by those universities.

Let us dig deep into GMAT scores

The GMAT test format involves mainly four sections, and the test scores are between 200 to 800. According to GMAC, the GMAT average test score is 551.94, with two-thirds of test-takers scoring between 400 and 600. However, many top-notch schools consider a score of 600 to be too low. The average test score for students pursuing MBA programs at reputed universities like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, etc., is between 700-720. Many other universities are equally renowned, reputed, and respected and offer MBA with GMAT test scores less than 600. There are also different online MBA Programs.

 

Students’ GMAT test scores are usually compared with test scores with other students, called GMAT Percentile ranking. For example – A GMAT test percentile of 75% means that you have scored higher than 75% of others that took the test. And you scored lower than 25% of your peers. This mechanism provides a great benchmark for universities to see where the students stand compared to others. See the below table for GMAT percentile rankings provided by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) for three years.

GMATPercentile

Source

 

Conclusion

Considering all this, a good GMAT score can be defined as an acceptable score at the universities where you want to pursue your MBA Degree. But as a rule, students should attempt to score more than 620 to pursue an MBA at the Best MBA schools.

 

At Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we strongly believe in the importance of Masters Degrees and especially MBA degrees. And most MBA Degrees require a good GMAT score. That is why we have created the Best GMAT Prep Guide to help students get that good GMAT score. Students need to note that many universities do not require a GMAT score. Whichever universities you choose, we wish you the best of luck for your GMAT test, higher education, and overall career.