Student Loans: Up in Smoke!

June 5th, 2014

Smoke

Imagine you had a fairy godmother or godfather for that matter who with the wave of a wand erases all your debt to creditors, in this case, your student loan debt? Well, students at the Universidad Del Mar, a private for-profit tuition based institution, in Chile had their wish come true last month. Their entire debt history was expunged, wiped off the ledgers, erased, zapped, deleted, you name it, by a fairy godfather of sorts; an artist by the name of Papas Fritas, or Fried Potatoes.

Papasfritas
The man himself, Francisco Tapias, aka Papas Fritas

The visual artist managed to sweet talk his way into the vaults of the University under the guise of an art project, gathered all the documents concerning student loans worth about $500,000,000.00 and set fire to them, leaving absolutely not a scrap of paper to trace back to a single student!

This is what $500,000.000.00 worth of student loans looks like when burnt into ashes:

burnt_documents

He then compiled the ashes into a Volkswagen van creating a mobile art project and is traveling around the country to the people’s delight. (I start smiling every time I think of what this genius of an artist has accomplished. Bravo!) Whether we call what Papas Fritas did as art or a prank, is debatable. I prefer calling it an artistic prank. Kembrew McLeod, the author of a new book Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World,” explains this the best. “If reduced to a mathematical formula, the art of pranking can be expressed as Performance Art + Satire x Media = Prank,” he writes. “Put simply, pranks are playful critiques performed within the public sphere and amplified by media.” (Though I’m digressing a bit here, check out the review on McLeod’s book in Slate’s online blog: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/05/kembrew_mcleod_s_pranksters_reviewed.html)

volksvan

A few words about the Universidad Del Mar; a notorious money-laundering establishment that was stripped of its accreditation and shut down by the Chilean government last year leaving thousands of students in a lurch but still responsible to pay back their loans. The University was founded in 1989 and was later discovered that it bought its accreditation through bribes and siphoned monies from tuitions into private real estate dealings. Though it had hired professors with post-graduate degrees, its focus was not on strengthening its academic programs as evidenced by its abysmal ranking as 51st out of 53 universities in the country.

Back in 2011 Chilean students began protesting against for-profit universities and demanded the government to strengthen the state universities instead. These students brought to light moneymaking schemes by the for-profit institutions and succeeded in arrests of leaders of the universities and the closures of several of these institutions. In 2013, the students at the Universidad Del Mar caught on to the shenanigans at their institution and took over the university and occupied its main buildings. They too succeeded in having the university closed and its leaders arrested.

protests
Students protesting the Universidad Del Mar

protest2
Days after the Universidad Del Mar was forced shut

The final blow to the now defunct Universidad Del Mar is most definitely Papas Fritas who took matters into his hands by lighting a match to the bogus loans that were left for the students to pay regardless of the demise of the university. According to lawyers in Chile “only by formally testifying in court and acknowledging the debt would students now be forced to pay.” Can’t see that one happening!

To learn more about Papas Fritas and his art installation check out this link:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/23/chile-student-loan-debts-fried-potatoes?CMP=fb_gu

To read more on the 2013 Chilean student protests against Universidad Del Mar check out this link: http://digitaljournal.com/article/349396


The Frustrated Evaluator
www.acei1.com

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Chinese student challenge: How to support them in succeeding in the U.S. educational system

May 29th, 2014

CGACC

On May 20, 2014, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI) and Sid Krommenhoek, Founder of Zinch, presented a webinar hosted by CGACC on China and the challenges Chinese students pose for U.S. colleges and universities.

According to the 2013 Educational Exchange Data from the Institute for International Education (IIE) Open Doors, in the 2012/13 academic year, 235,597 students from China were studying in the United States; a 21% increases from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S.

The reasons for this boost in numbers can be linked to China’s growing middle-class affluence, especially when concentrated on a single child and the country’s higher education system not being able to meet the demands of its people. We can also attribute this upsurge to budget cuts at U.S. universities giving rise to the need for institutions to increase reviewed by recruiting abroad and the easing of the stringent student-vise policies that were implement immediately after 9/11.

It is difficult to predict if the huge percentage increases we’ve witnessed in Chinese undergraduate enrollment will continue but at least in the short-term China continues to represent the largest market of undergraduate international students heading to the U.S. One of the single biggest problems concerning Chinese students is the prevalence of document fraud in the application and evaluation process and the uncertainty of the quality of their prior education.

In the webinar, Sid Krommenhoek spoke extensively about China’s state-run education system being overrun by bribery and cronyism. It’s not unusual for parents to bribe school officials to get their children into elite schools, retain agents who will falsify recommendation letters, financial statements, academic transcripts and other documents needed to satisfy admission requirements to a U.S. college or university. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert offered helpful tips for admissions counselors and credential evaluators to consider when dealing with transcripts and degrees from China.

The audio and presentation slides of this webinar which Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert of ACEI and Sid Krommenhoek attended are available for free at this link:

http://goo.gl/W1yCWr

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Russian Rock: Then and Now

May 23rd, 2014

I was Music Director of KCRW and host of Morning Becomes Eclectic during the 1980s and we did regular programs featuring the latest in Soviet-era Russian pop and rock music. Back then, the Cold War was alive and well, with Reagan and Brezhnev regularly rattling their swords. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny once told me that as a kid in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, he played near missile silos with ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) aimed at the city then called Leningrad (now re-Christened St. Petersburg). During the mid 1980s, Pat spent a month in St. Petersburg, playing free shows for all people, not just politburo big-wigs or people with connections. He thought about his new friends and admirers–and about those ICBM’s. Such was the Cold War. It all ended in 1991, just when I was leaving KCRW to take a job at a record company.

Red_Wave_album_cover
1986 LP featuring: Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, Strange Games. Material had to be smuggled out of the USSR and released in the US.

A journalist from Riga, Latvia, named Sergei Zamascikov was a regular guest host, bringing with him the latest LPs from The Soviet Union. He worked for the Voice of America in LA, and was the go-to man for news or commentary on Russia. He got our first call when the Soviet Union was falling apart, with Gorbachev in his dacha and Boris Yeltsin on the tank. Sergei also arranged for flamboyand Russian writer Yevgeny Yevtushenko to read his famous poem Babi Yar at KCRW back then. The Soviet writer showed up, looking dashing in a shiny silver suit.

Together we played music by two of the biggest groups: DDT and Aquarium. Rock music, like jazz, is always viewed with suspicion by dictatorships: both are creative vehicles of free expression. DDT once even played live on Morning Becomes Eclectic. And the famous Russian group Aquarium, like DDT, would get banned and only be available on pirate cassettes, underground recordings that were much sought after by young people there. In 1986, the LP Red Wave was released in the US because a producer smuggled recorded material from the USSR of underground bands Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, and Strange Games.

There was a recent article in the New York Times is about Boris Grebenshikov, who is back in the news. Boris Grebenshikov founded the group Aquarium in Leningrad in 1972. The Kremlin’s radio station is now using one of Aquarium’s underground 1980s ballads: “Love in The Time of War” to promote its official policy toward Ukraine and Crimea. Grebenshikov is not happy seeing his song used as government propaganda. When he wrote it, it pointedly criticized Soviet ideology and tactics during the cold war. Now the Russian establishment is embracing Aquarium’s songs, something neither he nor the band ever wanted. It was a passionate anti-war song!

Here is the band Aquarium performing on the David Letterman show back in the 80s:

Here is more Aquarium footage of them performing in the USSR before an adoring crowd:

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

toms

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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25 Interesting Facts About Hungary

May 15th, 2014

Several years ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Budapest to attend the EAIE Conference. The Soviet Union had recently collapsed and its satellite states and neighboring countries, such as Hungary, had abandoned their socialist regimes and embracing democracy and western European trends. Hungary was one of the first communist-era countries to oppose the Soviet regime during the Cold War, notably with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1989, Hungary was the first communist-block country to open its borders with Western Europe.

Budapest, from what I’ve been told by relatives living in Vienna, was always a fun destination to visit for a weekend even during its communist period. Many Austrians would travel to Budapest for day trips to visit its farmer’s markets, shop, and dine at its restaurants and cafes where prices were low and quality exceptional. I was staying, along with several other EAIE conference attendees, at the famous Hotel Gellért across the Danube, known for its spa and hot springs.

Here are a few interesting facts about this old country with a very rich history:

1. Hungary is a land-locked country in Central Europe sharing its borders with Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The population of Hungary is 9,919,128.

2. Its capital city is Budapest with a population of 1.709 million (2011).
hungary

3. Hungary was once part of the Celtic world, then the Roman Empire. Following the fall of Rome, the Huns settled in the plains of Pannonia and gave their name to Hungary.

4. Founded in 897, Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe (before France and Germany became separate entities, and before the unification of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.)

5. Around 1000 CE, the Kingdom of Hungary was one of the largest states in Europe, bigger than France. Later, it became one of the two “eagle heads” of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

6. Hungarian language is known as Magyar and is the direct descendent of the language spoken by the Huns. It is not an Indo-European language and has only two related languages in Europe (Finnish and Estonian).

7. Around two-thirds of the Hungarian people are Roman Catholic, about a quarter are Calvinist. The rest of the population is either belongs to the Lutheran, Jewish, Greek Orthodox.

8. The country fell under communist rule following World War II.

9. The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix was the first Formula One race to take place behind the Iron Curtain.

10. Communism in Hungary ended 1989 and the country became a parliamentary republic. It joined NATO in 1999 and the EU five years later.

11. Inventions by Hungarians in Hungary include the noiseless match (by János Irinyi), Rubik’s cube (by Erno Rubik), and the krypton electric bulb (Imre Bródy).
rubikscube
Erno Rubik

12. Remember, earlier I’d mentioned the spa and the hot springs at the Hotel Gellért? Hungary has one of the most important thermal spring cultures in Europe. The country boasts no less than 1,500 spas, typically featuring Roman, Greek and Turkish architecture.
Gellert
Gellért Hotel

Gellertspa
Spa at the Hotel Gellért

13. Hungary has a long tradition of classical music with famous composers like Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and Franz Liszt.

14. As of 2007, 13 Hungarians had received a Nobel Prize (this is more than Japan, China, India, Australia or Spain) in every category except peace.

15. Spends 4.9% of GDP (2010) on Education.

16. Literacy of total population is 99%.

17. Hungarians won gold medals at every summer Olympics except Antwerp 1920 and Los Angeles 1984 when they did not compete.

18. According to 2013 OECD figures: “As in other Eastern European countries, upper secondary attainment in Hungary is traditionally high (82% for 25-64-year-olds, compared with an OECD average of 75%). This applies across all age groups: 87% of 25-34 year-olds and 75% of 55-64 year-olds hold an upper secondary qualification against an OECD average of 82% and 64%, respectively.

19. Hungary has, together with Sweden and the US, the lowest completion rate at tertiary level among OECD countries: in 2011, only 53% of students graduated from the program they entered, in comparison with the OECD average of 68%.

20. Basic education lasts for eight years divided into two stages of four years each. Secondary education is provided in academic secondary schools (gimnázium) or vocational secondary schools (szakközépiskola).

21. Hungarian higher education has a dual system with colleges and universities. Some colleges are associated with universities and operate as college faculties within universities. A university can also offer college level courses. The duration of training at college level is minimum 3 years, maximum 4 years; the duration of education at university level is minimum 4 years, maximum 5 years (with the exception of medical universities where it is 6 years). According to the binary pattern, colleges and universities grant Főiskolai Oklevél (College-level Degree) and universities grant Egyetemi Oklevél (University-level Degree). Universities organize three-year PhD courses, specialized further education courses (with a normal duration of one to three years) and various continuous education courses.

22. The University of Pécs, the oldest university of Hungary, was founded in 1367.
PecsUniversity
University of Pécs

23. Hungary is also reputed to host cultural events like Sziget Festival or Budapest Spring Festival. The Sziget Festival is the Hungarian for “Island” and is one of the largest music and cultural festivals in Europe. It is held every August in northern Budapest, Hungary, on Óbudai-sziget (“Old Buda Island”), a leafy 108-hectare (266-acre) island on the Danube. The Budapest Spring Festival is one of the country’s oldest festivals and takes place each year in March and attract artists and musicians from around the world.
Sziget
Sziget Festival, Budapest

Budapest Spring Festival
Budapest Spring Festival

24. Did you know there are cowboys in Hungary? I was happily surprised to be taken to a ranch where cowboys, or csikos as they are called in the region showed off their prowess on horseback. Horsemanship in Hungary has a long history, going back to the Magyars, the first Hungarians. They rode from central Asia to settle in present day Hungary. The tradition is best seen on the Great Plain (Puszta), a vast flat plain reminiscent of the American Old West. 
Hungarian_horse

25. And no post on Hungary is complete, without mention of its famously delicious and flavorful Gulyásleves (gulyás is herdsman, leves is soup in Hungarian); a Hungarian soup, made of beef, vegetables, ground paprika and other spices. It originates from a dish cooked by the cattlemen (gulyás also means herdsman) who tended their herds in the Great Hungarian Plain, known as the Alföld or Puszta in Hungarian. Élvez (enjoy)!
soup

Sources:

http://www.ymtvacations.com/travel-blog/hungarian-cowboys-a-rich-cultural-traditions

http://eugo.gov.hu/key-facts-about-hungary/history

http://www.oecd.org/edu/Hungary_EAG2013%20Country%20Note.pdf

http://www.nefmi.gov.hu/letolt/english/education_in_hungary_080805.pdf

http://www.euroeducation.net/prof/hungarco.htm

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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US & IRAN: Opening Doors to Education

Facts about Iran Education General License G

May 8th, 2014

usa_iran

Did you know that despite the strained and hostile relations between the governments of the USA and Iran that thousands of Iranian students study in the U.S. each year? 



In fact, according to EducationUSA, “for the past several years, the number of Iranian students studying in American colleges and universities has steadily grown such that Iran is now 22nd among the top 25 places of origin for international students.” 



As per the non-profit Institute of International Education (IIE), we’ve seen an increase in the number of students from Iran enrolled at American universities reach 8,744. This is very small when compared to the numbers of Iranian students studying in the U.S. prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. At that time, the highest number in any year was 51,310. In fact, Iran was the largest source of foreign students in the US for nine straight years — from 1974-75 through 1982-83. After the revolution the number began to drop and bottomed out at 1,660 in the 1998-99 school year.

Earlier last month I participated in a conference all hosted by the US Department of State and Department of Treasury on Iran Education General License G. The absence of a presence of a U.S. embassy in Tehran and an Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C. lack of direct diplomatic relations, and imposition of economic sanctions have prevented the easy flow of students and scholars between the two countries. However, with the granting of General License G, both Iran and U.S. can begin engaging in education-related activities, though with some limitations. This is still an improvement and shows the thawing of thirty plus years of animosity between the two countries.

Here are some of the highlights of what activities are covered in General License G:

• Allow accredited U.S. colleges and universities to process applications and acceptance of payments for applications and tuition from students in Iran or individuals serving on their behalf ;

• Academic Exchange agreements between accredited U.S. graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions and Iranian universities;

• Allow for recruitment, hiring, or employment in a teaching capacity of individuals who ordinarily reside in Iran and are employed in a teaching capacity at an Iranian university;

• Providing of scholarships for Iranian students allowing them to attend accredited U.S. academic institutions;

• Export to Iran of certain additional educational services by U.S. to Iran in support of not-for-profit educational activities in Iran such as: combating illiteracy, increasing access to education, and assisting in educational reform projects;

• Provision for individuals who are ordinarily resident to enroll in certain on-line undergraduate courses (including Massive Open Online Courses, coursework not part of a degree seeking program, and fee-based courses) provided by U.S. academic institutions in the humanities, social sciences, law, business, or introductory undergraduate level science, technology, engineering, or math courses required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business;

• U.S. persons who are enrolled in U.S. academic institutions may participate in educational courses or engage in noncommercial academic research at Iranian universities at the undergraduate or graduate level in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business;

• U.S. persons, wherever located, are authorized to administer professional certificate examinations and university entrance examinations that are necessary or required for admission to accredited U.S. academic institutions, to individuals who are ordinarily resident in Iran.

In May 2011, the U.S. Department of State implemented new visa regulations allowing Iranian students to receive two-year, multiple entry visas. As noted on the website of EducationUSA: “This allows Iranian students the opportunity to return home for “family events, to participate in internships, to travel outside the United States—and they won’t need to get a new visa every time.”

The above provisions are paraphrased from the actual General License G document. For more information, the link to the license is available at: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_glg.pdf.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Dispatches from the NAGAP Conference in San Diego, CA

May 2nd, 2014

Coronado_Bridge
Coronado Bridge, San Diego

The 27th annual conference of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP) http://www.nagap.org is being held in downtown San Diego at the Grand Manchester Hyatt Hotel.

NAGAP
Entrance to the exhibit hall

With our President and CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, we arrived in San Diego yesterday to a warm welcome where temperatures hovered in the low 90’s (Fahrenheit). San Diego’s downtown has undergone a huge facelift and now boasts luxury condominiums, four-star hotels and a wide range of restaurants.

Driving through the clean and orderly streets of downtown San Diego, Jasmin made the following observation: “This isn’t how I remember the downtown when I was an undergrad at the University of San Diego and it never was this hot when I lived here, but unusual shifts in our climate are occurring everywhere around the globe these days and San Diego is not immune.”

This is ACEI’s first NAGAP conference and we chose to have a presence with our booth in the exhibit hall. NAGAP is as its full name describes an association for individuals who are engaged in graduate admissions at U.S. colleges and universities, though there are attendees were Canadian institutions as well as several other parts of the world.

We met Gunay Ziyadova, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, School of Business at ADA University in Azerbaijan and even a student from Sofia University in Bulgaria who had studied fine arts and now intends to attend a U.S. college to study hotel and hospitality management.

NAGAP_2
Clayton Winston (ACEI) and Gunay Ziyadova (ADA University, Azerbaijan)

Jasmin who serves on the executive committee of TACEP (The Association of International Credential Evaluation Professionals) hosted a meeting with some members who are attending NAGAP, offering a quick update on the recent developments within the association.

While attending the awards luncheon we were fortunate to meet Guity Nadjafie who is the Director of Graduate Admissions at Concordia University in Quebec, Canada. While pining over the summer like weather we discussed Canada’s new policies on international education admissions and immigration. For example, international students who previously were able to take a leave of absence per term at the graduate level to concentrate on their research/thesis are no longer able to do so and must leave the country. However, the question remains, whether reentry will be possible or will the process require application for visas and admission; questions that remain to be answered. The recent mentioned policies could significantly affect the flow of international students applying to Canadian universities.

This has been very successful conference for us. We have met and made new contacts with several directors of graduate admissions at US universities who are interested in working with ACEI. We look forward to helping them and their international students with their credential evaluation need to qualify for graduate admissions.

Clayton

Clayton Winston
Director of Communications, ACEI
clayton@acei-global.org

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Easter Island’s Only Concert Pianist

April 24th, 2014

61958108_dsc_0023
Mahani Teave: Easter Island’s only classical pianist

I recently saw a BBC feature by a Santiago-based correspondent on a young woman named Mahani Teave who is Easter Island’s only classical pianist. These are the type of stories I find truly inspiring.

When you think of this remote and isolated South Pacific island, you normally think of moai, those huge stone figures whose origins and presence have mystified people for a long time. You don’t think about Chopin, Rachmaninov, or Bach.

easter_island

This young Easter Islander fell in love with the classics as a girl, and studied with the only teacher and on the only piano on the island. But the teacher left after a year, and the piano fell into disrepair and became unplayable. Her wishes and dreams were put on hold.

But Mahani had a persistent vision of her childhood’s music pursuits and took the whole family to Chile (2,300 miles away, the nearest landmass to Easter Island). There she could continue to study and play. She later studied music in the US and Germany, where she now lives. But living in Europe didn’t stop her from starting a music school on the island, complete with a grand piano.

She told the BBC, “Music is a really big part of the culture on the island. If there’s a guitar or a ukulele in the house, you can guarantee that everyone in the family, even the five-year-old kid, can play it.”

Here is a YouTube video of Mahani playing the beautiful Barcarole in F major by Chopin:

Here is another video shot on her home turf, Easter Island:

For you Spanish speakers, here’s an interview on Santiago TV:

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

http://tomschnabel.com/music-salon/

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