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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele — last modified Dec 21, 2023 10:19 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the college choices of donut hole students, "bro" colleges, the popular schools of the future, and banning religion.

The three most active threads yesterday were all ones that I've previously discussed and will, therefore, skip. Two of those were the thread about Trump being kicked off the Colorado ballot and the Gaza war. Neither a surprise. But, the third, about the bike lobby in DC, was a thread about which I originally wrote way back in September 2022. That thread never really slowed down and has continued to be active for well over a year. After those was a thread titled "where do highly academic $ donut hole students go?" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. By "donut hole students", the original posters means students whose families have enough money that they are not eligible for need-based financial aid but are not wealthy enough to easily afford elite colleges. As the original poster notes, several options exist for such students. They can attend cheaper in-state public universities, they can seek merit scholarships from less selective colleges, or they can endure the financial hardship required to cover the cost. The original poster asks which choice students tend to make. Several posters suggest that either in-state universities or "SLACs" with good merit aid. "SLACs" are either Small Liberal Arts Colleges or Selective Liberal Arts Colleges depending upon to whom you ask. Regardless of what you call them, many of these schools offer generous grant assistance that can bring their costs down to that of in-state public options. In-state schools that have honors programs are especially popular for academically gifted but financially-challenged students. Some posters reported experiences that contradicted conventional wisdom. For instance, it is generally assumed, and posted in this thread, that out-of-state universities are less generous with assistance. But, one poster reported that for her high-stats child, out-of-state flagship universities offered competitive aid packages. Another hurdle faced by "donut hole" students was also explained. The best shot for many students to be accepted by a highly-selective private school is through the Early Decision application process. However, because such schools require a commitment to attend, many less financially well-off students shy away in order to avoid a commitment when the money might not be there. This essentially eliminates an entire class of schools as options for such students. Much of this thread is also devoted to discussion of what level of wealth really represents the "donut hole" with considerable second-guessing of other posters' financial decisions. Several posters questioned why others didn't do a better job of saving for college.

Next was another thread from the "College and University Discussion" forum. This one was titled, "Suggestions for Greek-heavy, ‘bro’ liberal arts colleges?". The original poster's interest is explained in the thread's title. She is seeking recommendations for liberal arts colleges for a kid who wants Greek life and tends toward "bro" culture, generally the opposite of "woke" politically-correct schools. I assumed that this thread would immediately dissolve into a dispute about "bro" culture with many posters exhibiting negative views about such a thing. However, for the most part, posters simply stuck to offering recommendations. There was some dispute about whether some of the schools listed really satisfied the requirements of being "Greek-heavy" and having a "bro" culture, but even this was fairly polite. The thread is actually notable for the number of posts that complimented or agreed with earlier suggestions. There were a couple of posters who did take issue with "bro" culture, but they were few and mostly ignored. However, the very last post as I write this is one that may set off a good old fashioned barn burner of a fight. The poster that describes "bro" culture as a "toxic, macho male culture". That is likely to provoke some pushback. Earlier in the thread, posters had gone to great length to explain that their understanding of "bro" culture did not entail the negative characteristics that this poster attributes to the term. At any rate, many suggestions of schools have been offered so the original poster should have a good list with which to work.

The third thread for today's post was titled, "Which schools will continue to be the most sought after in the next decade? Which ones will hit a downward trajectory?" and also posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. That forum clearly dominated yesterday's most active list. The original poster speculates that the elite colleges of today will continue to be highly-sought destinations for the world's elite. The poster also guesses that the University of California system will increase in prestige as interest expands but the supply of enrollment slots stays the same. The original poster continued with a number of other categories of schools that she believes will also be among the most sought after in the future. There was some dispute over whether the US would remain a popular destination for international students with the suggestion that foreign universities might become more popular. But, most posters felt that the US universities would continue to be sought after. Several posters agreed that state flagship universities would see growth in demand and prestige. Another popular prediction is that southern schools would become more popular and that the Ivy League would lose prestige. Many of the responses were clearly affected by posters' personal biases and likely represent aspirations rather than realistic future developments. Or, as one poster put it, the thread demonstrates an "expression of what someone hopes will happen". The proponents of southern schools base their predictions on what appears to be a multi-step process. They argue that southern universities are attracting high-performing students from the north by offering generous financial aid and providing "fun" environments. They assume that these high-achieving students will increase the prestige of these schools and, as a result, they will become more highly sought-after in the future. Another trend described is for increased popularity of non-flagship state schools. Posters expect that these schools will attract strong students who can't get into flagships because of the increased competitiveness of those schools and, in the interest of saving money, those students will choose lower-ranked state schools. This, in turn, will cause the reputations of those schools to improve. Both of these predictions are heavily based on cost considerations. What may be missing from this analysis is the ability of the top schools of today to change the financial calculus in the event that they begin to see a drop off of interest. If elite schools see students turning them down for southern schools offering generous grants, those schools could simply offer money themselves.

The next most active thread was the one about Maury Elementary that I discussed some time ago and which has continually been among the most active threads. I heard yesterday that the thread had actually been the subject of discussion at a school meeting and some posts had nearly driven participants to tears. I don't know how accurate that report is, but the thread had turned fairly bitter and was increasing race-based. So, I thought it was a good time to lock the thread. The last thread that I will discuss today was posted in the "Religion" forum and titled, "America was founded on religious freedom; why do atheists want to ban organized religion?". DCUM, which was dubbed by the "Washington City Paper" as the "Mommy Fight Site" has always had its share of contention. Forums like the Political forum are clearly not for the faint of heart and, as the Maury thread shows, even the schools forums are capable of significant rancor. But, pound for pound, I don't think any forum can rival the religion forum for negativity, argumentativeness, and just plain meanness. The main issue is that the forum has a number of users who just seem to like to argue. They have little regard for the topic of the thread or the relevance of their posts. As long as they are engaged in a dispute, they are happy. This thread, for instance, is based on the false assumption that there is significant interest in the United States to ban religion. There isn't. There is, however, opposition to the growing influence of religion in public life, especially in the government. As posters point out, religious freedom should not mean that the freedom of those with different beliefs should be limited. The original poster, who is clearly one of those eager to engage in debate — posting at least 20 times — argues that many positive developments in the US were the result of the efforts of religious groups. The poster argues that the influence of religion is very positive and welcome. Basically, this thread is a giant dispute between posters insisting that they don't want to ban religion but, rather, religious people are treading on their rights and religious posters claiming that Christianity is under attack with atheists coming out of the woodwork trying to have it banned. A less useful thread you will be hard-pressed to identify.

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