High school students model the price of higher education, determine if college is worth it

High school students model the price of higher education, determine if college is worth it

Winning teams get scholarships that could help offset costs

March 25, 2015

Philadelphia, PA--President Obama has an ambitious goal of increasing America’s college degree attainment rate by 20% within the next five years, thus returning the United States to No. 1 in the world in 25-34 year olds who have completed a postsecondary education. Whether or not this happens depends on many factors, prime among them the price of a college education.

“Higher education has never been more important, but it's also never been more expensive,” the president said recently, talking about college access and affordability. Ever since his State of the Union address in late January, which called for higher education cost reform, this has been a topic of intense debate in political and media circles.

High school students, the group perhaps most affected by Obama’s plan and its ramifications, had the opportunity recently to weigh in on the topic as competitors in Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, an annual applied math contest that gives participants the opportunity to use mathematical modeling to come up with solutions to relevant everyday   issues. This year, more than 6,000 students from across the country were asked to provide cost-benefit analyses of higher education. The problem was especially relevant since participants will be making their own decisions about college in the next few months to a year.

“Students may not realize that the choices they make now can have a significant impact on their future in terms of both financial security and quality of life,” said Quinnipiac University’s Karen Bliss, an M3 Challenge judge who is also on the contest’s problem development committee. “This year’s Challenge problem gets to the heart of quantifying those choices and using mathematical modeling as a predictive tool.”

Using publicly available data on college tuition rates, scholarships, and financing costs, participants created math models and wrote algorithms to determine the costs actually paid by individuals of various socioeconomic backgrounds. They accounted for the impact of President Obama’s recent free two-year community college proposal in their models, and contrasted potential financial outcomes for those pursuing STEM vs. non-STEM degrees. They also factored in aspects that would influence one’s overall quality of life after graduation.

“Choosing a college major, and ultimately planning for one's future well-being  depends on a variety of individual preferences,” said Katie Fowler of Clarkson University, an M3 Challenge judge and problem development committee member. “One of the amazing aspects of the mathematical models developed for this question is their flexibility to adapt to those personal preferences.  These models can provide sound advice for different types of students.”

Of the initial 1,128 submissions, 201 papers advanced to the second round of judging that took place  this past weekend in Philadelphia, where judges identified 65 teams that will receive a share of the $125,000 in scholarship prizes offered by The Moody's Foundation, the contest sponsor.

The top six awards, ranging from $2,500 to $20,000, will go to the Finalist teams representing the following high schools, listed here in alphabetical order:

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Elk River High School, Elk River, Minnesota

Maggie Walker Governors School, Richmond, Virginia

NC School of Science and Mathematics, Durham, North Carolina (2 teams)

South County High School, Lorton, Virginia

Staples High School, Westport, Connecticut

The above teams will square off against one another on Monday, April 27, in the final phase of judging at Moody’s Corporation headquarters in Manhattan where they will present their findings to a panel of professional applied mathematician judges to determine the final rank order.

Six additional teams, whose papers underwent in-depth discussion by judges but missed making it into the top six, will be recognized with Semi-Finalist Team Prizes of $1,500 each:

Fort Mill High School, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Hamilton High School, Chandler, Arizona

High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey

Holmdel High School, Holmdel, New Jersey

Lebanon High School, Lebanon, Ohio

Yorkville High School, Yorkville, Illinois

Teams representing the following 53 schools will be awarded Honorable Mention Team Prizes of $1,000 each for noteworthy solutions:

Academic Magnet High School, North Charleston, South Carolina

Adlai E Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Baylor School, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington High School, Bloomington, Illinois

Brookfield East High School, Brookfield, Wisconsin

Burrell High School, Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania

Centerville High School, Centerville, Ohio

Charter School of Wilmington, Wilmington, Delaware

Conifer High School, Conifer, Colorado

Council Rock High School, South, Holland, Pennsylvania

DeKalb High School, Waterloo, Indiana

Dulaney High School,Timonium, Maryland

Eastview High School, Apple Valley, Minnesota

Grapevine High School, Grapevine, Texas

Haddonfield Memorial High School, Haddonfield, New Jersey

Harrison High School, Harrison, New York

Herricks High School, New Hyde Park, New York

High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey

Holmdel High School, Holmdel, New Jersey

Homestead High School, Mequon, Wisconsin

Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora, Illinois

Immaculata High School, Somerville, New Jersey

Marple Newtown High School, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

Middlesex County Academy, Edison, New Jersey

Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland

Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland

Nashoba Regional High School, Bolton, Massachusetts

Needham High School, Needham, Massachusetts

New Canaan High School, New Canaan, Connecticut

New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope, Pennsylvania

Niles North High School, Skokie, Illinois

Niskayuna High School, Niskayuna, New York

Northwestern Lehigh High School, New Tripoli, Pennsylvania

Pine View School, Osprey, Florida

Pocono Mountain East High, Swiftwater, Pennsylvania

Ridgefield High School, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Salida High School, Salida, Colorado

Springboro High School, Springboro, Ohio

Stanton College Preparatory, Jacksonville, Florida

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, Houston, Texas

The Taft School, Watertown, Connecticut

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia

Troy High School, Troy, Michigan

Union County Magnet High School, Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Wayne Hills High School, Wayne, New Jersey

Wayzata High School, Plymouth, Minnesota

West Ottawa High School, Holland, Michigan

White Bear Lake Area High School, White Bear Lake, Minnesota

William G. Enloe High School, Raleigh, North Carolina

Winchester High School, Winchester, Massachusetts

Winchester High School, Winchester, Massachusetts


About the Sponsor

The Moody's Foundation, a charitable organization established by Moody's Corporation, is committed to supporting education, in particular the study of mathematics, finance and economics. The Foundation also funds specific initiatives in the areas of global economic development, microfinance, civic, health and human services as well as arts and cultural programs. The Foundation supports programs located in select metropolitan areas in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.

Moody's is an essential component of the global capital markets, providing credit ratings, research, tools and analysis that contribute to transparent and integrated financial markets. Moody's Corporation (NYSE: MCO) is the parent company of Moody's Investors Service, which provides credit ratings and research covering debt instruments and securities, and Moody's Analytics, which offers leading-edge software, advisory services and research for credit and economic analysis and financial risk management. The Corporation, which reported revenue of $3.0 billion in 2013, employs approximately 8,400 people worldwide and maintains a presence in 31 countries. Further information is available at www.moodys.com.

About the Organizer

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at http://www.siam.org.


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