Understanding College Rankings

US News and World Report, Forbes, The Princeton Review and Newsweek put out annual reports on US College Rankings. Each of these companies uses far different methodologies to decide these US College Rankings.

US News and World Report:

The schools were designated National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges.

Graduation rate accounts for 7.5 percent of the final score.

High school counselor’s rankings are calculated at between 15 and 22.5 percent.

Undergraduate academic reputation is weighted at 22.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges based on peer ratings.

Graduation and Freshman retention rates count for 20 percent for the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

Faculty resources account for 20 percent.

Student selectivity is 15 percent.

Financial resources is 10 percent

Graduation rate performance is 7.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges only.

Alumni giving rate accounts for 5 percent

US News and World Report US College Rankings are finally determined by ‘grading on a curve’ with the top school in each category getting a score of 100 and the rest of the schools listed in descending order with the scores rounded to the nearest whole number.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-colleges/2010/08/17/how-us-news-calculates-the-college-rankings.html?PageNr=1

Forbes: Draws on a number of sources to determine US College Rankings

First factor: Student Satisfaction is weighted at 27.5%
Second Factor is Postgraduate Success weighted at 30%
Third factor is Student Debt weighted at 17.5%

Fourth Factor is the Four-year Graduation Rate weighted at 17.5%
Fifth Factor is Competitive Awards weighted at 7.5%

The 600 colleges then were ranked in descending order based on the weight of the scores.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/01/best-colleges-methodology-opinions-colleges-10-ccap.html
The Princeton Review US College Rankings methodology is not mathematical but is more subjective.

The 373 colleges are based on the consider opinions of students parents educators and the staff of the Princeton review; with 99.5 percent of the opinions collected from an on line survey of students and interviews with the colleges’ staffs. These interviews were conducted in person by the Princeton review staff.

Source: http://www.princetonreview.com/faqs-college-rankings.aspx

The Newsweek/Kaplan US College Rankings is based on a metadata approach:

The school must be listed in either Fiske’s Guide to Colleges, the Princeton Review’s, and U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges.

The school must have high academic standards with at least the 75th percentile SAT score (critical reading and math) for the incoming freshman class of 1,150 or higher

The school must offer a wide range of different degrees.

SAT or ACT scores, percent admitted were given a “2” weighting. Student-to-faculty ratio and retention rate received a “1”. Endowments, a .5 weighting. Dining, housing, facilities and climate, each had a “.25” weighting.

Source: http://education.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/newsweek-college-rankings-methodology. html

US News and World Report has the most rigorous and scientific US College Ranking system while the Princeton Review has the most subjective. It is far to say that all of these systems have pros and cons, but the fairest and most objective that still captures student inputs is Forbes’ combined approach to US Collage Rankings.


A Short Critique of Marx

Marx’s definition of value is ridiculous.

All the work in the world will not add value to something that no one needs or wants. In classical liberal economic theory that is best delineated in Principles of Economics by Carl Menger, publish in 1871.  Menger states, in short: Finished goods acquire their value because of their ability to satisfy first people’s needs and then their wants. People may eat an apple grown by a farmer, which satisfies their need for food. But some people at sometimes will also want a fancy dessert, therefore a cook will “add value” to the apple by making it into a fancy apple tart.  But the value of the apple tart is only equal to that which someone is willing to pay to fulfill that want.  The cook may take a day to make a tart, but the value is no more that what it would take for a better cook who took less than an hour produce an equally tasty dessert.  The extra time and labor add nothing to the value of the dessert. Please note that Principles of Economics was published after the first Volume of “Das Kapital” but before the posthumous publishing of the 3rd volume.  So in just a 3 short years, the scientific theory of economics had already advanced beyond Marx’s tortured critique of Value. Source: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Menger.html

Karl Marx’s writings have become so influential; (I had one professor at the University of Missouri that called him “the horizon of all philosophy that followed”) that sometimes it is difficult to recall that Marx himself had philosophical antecedents, primarily Hegel. For Hegel the thesis-antithesis-synthesis paradigm is the basic idea structure and is a continuous never ending cycle. For Marx the thesis-antithesis-synthesis arises from economic and material conditions and does reach a conclusion.

For example in the Middle Ages the Feudal Lords where the “thesis”, in that they held total economic, political and military power, where as the serfs were the antithesis, holding no such power and the synthesis was the rise of urban centers of trade and commerce. The cities’ leadership, that is to say the burghers or bourgeois became the new starting point or new thesis. The urban elite antitheses were the trade guilds with the new synthesis being enterprise capitalism. With enterprise capitalism as the new thesis, the antitheses were the workers or proletariat, with the new synthesis being classless communism, which would end the cycle, or “end history”.

There no problem with the dialectic when it comes to ideas. The combining, or synthesis, of ideas is considered one of the higher order mental skills according to Bloom’s taxonomy. But in the material world, the dialectic paradigm is much more problematical.

Two points will illustrate the above point:

One, the first communist revolution took place in the most backward, non-industrialized country in Europe, Russia. According to Marx, the first revolution should have taken place in Great Britain, since it was the most advanced state, the one closest to achieving the so called synthesis.

Two, the revolution was avoided by taking ideas from Marxism, such as Trade Unionism and grafting it on to enterprise capitalism.   Creating a climate where workers shared in the “surplus” created by their work, thru better wages, better working conditions and even profit sharing!

Neither of which were predicted by Marxist theory.

Organizing Coupons

Organizing and arranging your coupons is easy and will save you a lot of time at the store. Using coupons can also save you lots of money shopping, so don’t be afraid to clip and save.

The first rule of organizing your coupons is to get something in which to organize them. Your local dollar store will have small, hand sized expanding multi-pocket folders. A kid’s pencil holder will do as well or even a used man’s wallet.

Some home economist suggest that you only use coupons for items that you know you need and will use. It is not cost effective if you use a one dollar coupon on an eight dollar item, then never use or consume the item.

Now think about how you shop. Do you go the same way in and through the store the same way every time? Most people do, even if they don’t realize it. However you do it, the best way to organize your coupons is the way you shop. So for example, if you go to the bakery goods first, then put those coupons at the front. Most grocery stores organize shelving by association, so for example, the coffee is near the sugar and breakfast cereals. Bread is usually near the peanut butter and jelly and so on. So collate your coupons the same way.

So think of it this way: You buy bread first, followed by canned goods, cereal, coffee, juice, frozen foods, meat and milk last. So your coupons should be, front to back, arranged the same way. Once you get you item, put the associated coupon in your basket, so you don’t forget any of them at the end when you check out.

Or you can arrange your coupons by the sale items in your local store flyer. Some shoppers are only interested in the weekly sales; those kinds of shoppers should organize coupons physically in or on the sale flyer. What that does is match the assembled coupons right with the sale item. They can also use the folded sale flyer as a pouch to keep the coupons to use. Taking the coupon out of the flyer as they place the item in the shopping cart and putting the coupon right on top or next to the item, again so the coupons are not forgotten at check out time.

However a shopper chooses to organize their coupons it should be easy for them and help them remember to use the coupons and save that all important dollar.

Best Brands of Kitchen Knives

Knives are an essential part of any kitchen for either the professional chef, or merely the person that wants to cook a meal at home. Getting the right set of knives can ultimately save you money and time. There are many good knife brands at a variety of prices:

For $50 to $100 Dollars:

Victorinox Fibrox 3-Piece Chef’s Knife Set: For a reasonable $70.00 dollars you get a four-inch paring knife, an eight-inch slicer and ten-inch chef’s knife of high carbon steel. This set is made in Switzerland by the same company that makes the famous Swiss Army knives.

Pure Komachi 2 Series 9-Piece Set with Block: Costing a little less than $90 dollars you get a nine piece knife set that includes an eight-inch chef’s knife, an eight-inch bread, six and 1/2-inch Santoku, four-inch tomato/cheese, and 4-inch citrus knives. Also a three and 1/2-inch paring, six-inch utility, and five and 3/4-inch sandwich knives, with a clear acrylic storage block; The knives are uniquely colored to help stop cross contamination of food.

For $100 to $300 Dollars:

Messermeister San Moritz 3-Piece Starter Set: At a nice $159.00 dollars this set is Forged from High Carbon No-Stain molybdenum Vanadium Tool Steel includes damage resistant Polyoxymethaline handle. This set includes an eight-inch Chef’s Knife, eight-inch Utility Knife, and three and ½ inch Paring Knife. Also includes a lifetime warranty and free lifetime sharpening and reconditioning.

For $300 to $500 Dollars:

Global 5-Piece Kitchen Starter Knife Set: Costing $300 dollars this set features an eight-inch chef’s knife, an eight and quarter inch carving knife, eight and 3/4 inch serrated bread knife, five and half inch utility knife and a four-inch paring knife. Blades are made of high-tech molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel with Stainless-steel handles molded for comfort and dimpled for safe grip. This set does not include a block for storage.

Shun Classic 7-Piece Block Set: At $499.99 this is a premium set of knives, but are well worth the cost. Shun knives are top of the line. This set features: an eight-inch chef’s knife, a nine-inch bread knife, a three and 1/2-inch paring knife, six-inch utility knife, sharpening steel, and Taskmaster shears, in a nice 11-slot bamboo block. The knives are high-carbon stainless-steel blades with 16 layers of stainless alloy. They are made in Japan and come with a lifetime warranty.

Top 10 Rarest US Coins

Number Ten: The 1943 “Bronze” Penny.  World War Two caused rationing in most areas of American life. The US mint was not exempted from these shortages.  During the war most pennies were made from a brass alloy instead of the usual copper.  Some, however, were struck from bronze, a copper alloy.  The bronze pennies are very rare and worth, if you will “a pretty penny”.

Number Nine: The 1776 Silver Continental Dollar.  Soon after declaring independence, Congress decided to mint the first “American” Money. With a design supposedly from Ben Franklin which features 13 interlocking rings for the 13 colonies and a Latin phrase meaning “Mind your own business” a few dozen still exist in pewter, and the silver is ever rarer.

Number Eight: The 1866 “DuPont” Silver Dollar.  This coin was struck without the words “In God We Trust” on it. This silver dollar is indeed one of a kind.

Number Seven: Is a three way tie between the 1870-S Half-Dime, 1870-S Silver Dollar and 1870-S Gold $3 coins. These coins were struck in the Old San Francisco Mint before it was closed and a new one was built.  Very few coins were made in 1870 and many of them were embedded in the new mint’s cornerstone.

Number Six:  The 1974 Aluminum Penny.  In the early 1970’s there was a spike in the price of copper. Because of that, the US mint made test models of pennies with alternate materials; including this aluminum model that was sent to a number of VIPs but never returned to the mint.

Number five: The 1861 Confederate States Half-Dollar. Struck from the small supply of silver taken when the New Orleans mint was seized by the Confederate states. Most of these never circulated and only became know after the war when they showed up in private hands as collector items.

Number Four: The 1804 (1834) Draped Bust Dollar. Struck thirty years after the original molds were retired in 1804. They were only eight ever made.  Each in now valued at over one million dollars.

Number three: The Brasher Gold Doubloon. Issued by the state of New York in 1787 and 1788 when it was still legal for states to issue currency.  Only seven of these coins are known to still exist.

Number two: the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel.  The “Liberty Head” model was officially retired in 1912.  Only five of these nickels were struck and went to one man, who soon started a rumor about the nickels existing driving up their value.

Number One: The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle.  In 1933 President Roosevelt ordered all gold coins returned to the mint. About a dozen coins never made it back or were later taken by mint employees. This is one such coin.  It is currently valued at seven million dollars.

Different Types of Precious Metals

Precious metals are any one of a number of relatively uncommon and valuable metals. They are used in jewelry, in coins and sometimes as specie or monetary metals.  The three primary precious metals: silver, gold at platinum. Another very valuable metal is palladium.

Silver: Chemical symbol: Ag, Atomic number: 47,  Atomic mass: 107.9.

Silver is the least valuable of the precious metals, current priced at just under $30 dollars American an ounce in bullion form.  Silver has a long history of use, being one of the first metal utilized by humankind.  Slightly harder than gold, silver is still very malleable.  Silver has a very high heat and electrical conductivity, making it valuable for electronics and industry. However, unlike gold, silver will tarnish.  Silver is often mixed with copper to produce sterling silver and to give it enough hardness to maintain shape.

Gold:  Chemical symbol: Au, Atomic number: 79, Atomic mass: 197.0

Gold is the most popular jewelry metal in the world, being used in over 90% of wedding bands and engagement rings.  The use in wedding jewelry may be because gold does not tarnish.  Gold, in its pure form, is the softest of metals. One ounce of gold can be flattened into a thin sheet that may cover 100 square meters of area.  Because of this, gold is often mixed or alloyed with other metals to make it harder and to hold shape.  Typically, gold is alloyed with silver and copper in various percentages to produce the different colors and carat content.  Gold is currently selling for around $1,400 dollars American an ounce.

Platinum: Chemical symbol: Pt, Atomic number: 78, Atomic mass: 195.1

Platinum is the most expensive of the precious metals, currently valued at around $1,700 dollars American an ounce.  Platinum is used in jewelry, but much less than gold or silver. It is used extensively in industry as a catalyst and it does not rust unless it is exposed to bases.

Palladium: Chemical symbol: Pd, Atomic number: 46, Atomic mass: 106.4

Palladium is the least well known of the precious metals. It is one of the platinum group of metals and has similar properties to platinum.  Palladium is often used as a chemical catalyst. For example, it is used in catalytic converters on automobiles.  When used in jewelry, palladium is most often alloyed with gold to produce an expensive version of white gold.  Currently, palladium sells for just under $760 dollars American an ounce.

Best Retirement Savings Plans to Consider

There are a variety of retirement savings and investment plans available today.

If you work for a company that offers a 401(k) retirement plan then you should consider it strongly as your first choice for retirement savings. A company 401(k) plan has several advantages over other kinds of retirement savings.  First, the contribution amount is deducted straight from your paycheck, meaning once the plan is started you need take no more action to save the money. Second, the contribution is made pre-tax, which means that the amount of the contribution is not counted as income, reducing your tax burden. Third, you pay no taxes on the plans earnings until they are withdrawn. Lastly, many employers will match a certain amount of the contributions. For example, if you contribute five percent of your pay, then your employer may match that contribution. This is essential a five percent pay increase to you and also doubles your retirement saving amount.

The other types of retirement saving accounts you should consider are Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs. There are two kinds of IRAs:  the traditional or regular IRA and the Roth IRA, named after Senator William Roth who proposed the idea.

With traditional IRAs contributions are made pre-tax, which lowers your tax liability in the year you make the contribution, but taxes must be paid on the earnings at the time of withdrawal.  Also there are income limits and other restriction on being able to have a traditional IRA. For example you may not deduct the contribution amount if you have an employer sponsored retirement plan, or 401 (k) and/or have an adjusted gross income over a certain amount: $56,000 to $66,000 for single filers and $89,000 to $109,000 for joint filers in 2010.  Also there are contribution limits with a regular IRA, in 2010 you could contribute a maximum $5000 dollars and an additional $1000 “catch up” money, if you are over 50 years old.

A Roth IRA is very similar to the regular IRA.  The contribution limits are the same ($5000 for those under 50, $6000 for those over 50).  However, any contribution to a Roth IRA is not pre-tax and so is taxed at the current rate. The advantage of the Roth IRA over a traditional IRA is that earnings are tax free at the time of withdrawal.  Also, the income limits to contribute to a Roth are higher than they are to contribute to a regular IRA.  Single filers may earn up to $105,000 to qualify for the full contribution; and up to $167,000 for joint filers to qualify for the full contribution.

Please remember it is never too late or too early to start saving for retirement and the three plans above are very good vehicles for saving for retirement.