January 4, 2010
In addition to being a major source for all your middle-of-the-night shopping needs, Wal Mart also is a big player in higher education funding, through the Wal Mart Foundation. The foundation awards both grants for colleges and scholarships for high school students. Their most well-known scholarship is the Sam Walton Community Scholarship, an award for high school seniors who are active in their communities. This $3,000 scholarship is awarded to 2,500 students nationwide and is this week's Scholarship of the Week. Applications are evaluated on financial need, academic achievements and records, and school and community activities and leadership. If you need money for college and demonstrate strong leadership abilities, you may want to consider applying for this scholarship opportunity.
Prize: 2,500 scholarships of $3,000 will be awarded
Eligibility: Current high school seniors with a high school GPA of at least 2.5 who are planning to enroll at an accredited college or university. Must be a US citizen and have financial need.
Deadline: January 29, 2010
Required Material: A completed online scholarship application, available on the Sam Walton Community Scholarship website: Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.
December 31, 2009
A lot has happened in the last twelve months. We inaugurated a new President, weathered a recession, and obsessed over and forgot hundreds of minor crises and scandals. College students and recent graduates have marked all these events, and have very likely also noticed some pretty sweeping changes in their financial situations. Here are a few of the most memorable.
At the start of the year, President Obama encouraged more Americans to enroll in college, calling for the U.S. to again lead the world in college attendance by 2020.
The recession also motivated more students to go back to college, especially community colleges. Enrollments surged at two-year schools across the country. State colleges also saw increases in applications and enrollment. Along with this, financial aid applications were up in 2009, as were aid appeals.
Colleges and universities searched for creative ways to cope with the recession and the accompanying booms in enrollment and financial aid applications. Several community colleges added late night classes and many public and private colleges boosted their financial aid offerings to assist needy students.
Federal aid also underwent significant changes. Revisions to the Higher Education Act went into effect, as did new and renewed economic stimulus legislation. Pell Grants went up, as did Stafford Loan borrowing limits. The Income-Based Repayment plan premiered, guaranteeing college graduates affordable federal loan payments, and a new public service loan forgiveness program.
Veterans' benefits were reworked in 2009, as well, and the resulting backlog of applications had students waiting weeks or even months to receive the money they needed to pay their tuition and their bills. Once the bugs are worked out, though, veterans will see an expansion of their college benefits, and in the meantime, veterans were able to receive emergency payments to help them get by.
States also received much needed cash from the government to help them minimize cuts to education while they dealt with budget crises. However, several states had to make cuts to education budgets, including state aid and loan repayment programs. California made some of the most sweeping budget reductions and the state's university systems were forced to cap enrollment and hike tuition over 30%.
As we look toward 2010, more changes appear to be underway. Congress is (still) considering changes to federal loan programs and the creation of a consumer financial protection agency, and recently passed credit card legislation will soon go into effect. States and colleges are still struggling with fallout from the recession and may alter their financial aid offerings more in the next year.
December 30, 2009
For the most part, holiday festivities are over, but most college students, as well as some high school students, still have weeks left of their winter breaks. Gifts have been opened, food has been eaten, and relatives and old friends have been visited. As boredom and cabin fever set in, you may even find yourself longing for campus. But even going back to college comes with a catch: that giant spring semester tuition bill awaiting you when you return.
Here's a strategy to both combat boredom and tackle that tuition statement: use your winter break to apply for scholarships. Your brain is recovered enough from fall finals and the multi-day holiday food coma, but hasn't yet sunken into a daytime TV-induced daze. You're at home with your family and they're probably all too eager to help you find new ways to pay for college (your mom might even stop hinting about helping more around the house while you're home).
On top of the good timing in your life, it's also a good time in the award cycle for most scholarships. The majority of awards have scholarship application deadlines in the next few months, many of which are likely to fall right after a major test or right in the middle of that big spring break trip you're planning. To avoid dashing off a half-hearted scholarship application at the last minute when you don't have time, it's a good idea to start the application process now, submitting application early in the application period and showing your high level of interest in the award. Some scholarship contests cut off applications early if they've reached a maximum number of applicants, so that's another reason to apply earlier, rather than later.
In addition to a clear head, more time to work on your scholarship application, and the best chance of getting your application considered, you may also find you have more resources available to you in January than you will in April or May. You probably have friends or siblings, or possibly even a favorite English teacher from high school with enough free time to give feedback on your applications, and if you can contact teachers or professors, they can probably find time in the next few weeks to write you a glowing letter of recommendation. When you head back to campus, you might even be able to run your scholarship essay past the university writing center--typically traffic there is relatively sparse until the first paper of the semester is assigned. Even printing and mailing may be easier, as you either have a freshly reset campus printing budget or a little extra change in your pocket from break.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and start your scholarship search. By taking your time to write scholarship-worthy essays now, you can spend your spring semester kicking back and waiting for the scholarship money to arrive.
December 29, 2009
Even as many colleges cut course offerings in the wake of budget crises, "green" college majors are booming. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, more than 100 majors, minors, and certificates in programs related to energy and sustainability were created in 2009.
The growth has been partly attributed to employer demand, as more companies and individuals show an interest in pursuing greater environmental-friendliness and sustainability in their work. The Obama administration has been promoting green jobs and predicts a growth of 52% in energy and environmental-related occupations through 2016, compared to a projected 14% growth rate for other occupations. With added incentives at the state and federal level for going green, and the prospect of major environmental policy changes on the horizon, there's a growing demand for workers trained in a variety of fields that can contribute to these efforts.
Students, especially those whose plans have been changed by the current job market, are also increasingly interested in training for green careers, partially because it appears to be a growth industry. Beyond economic interest, a personal interest in sustainability is also driving demand. According to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute, protecting the environment was one of the issues with broadest support among college freshmen in 2008. In 2007, the College Sustainability Report Card was launched to help students choose eco-friendly colleges. Green scholarships also are increasingly popular college-funding options. Students at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can even earn up to $40,000 by taking time off before school to help the environment.
With all the growth in green education options, there is some skepticism. Critics have long accused corporations of "greenwashing," declaring things environmentally-friendly to tap into the green movement, without actually making a significant contribution to sustainability. A post on the Wallet Pop blog wonders whether colleges might be doing the same with their new green programs and encourages students to investigate whether the new green majors are truly new, and whether they're really able to prepare students for good, green jobs. It's good advice for students truly interested in both sustainability and employability-a thorough college search can ensure that you get a good education at a school that fits your needs and helps you meet your college goals.
December 18, 2009
If you're a student at a community college, you may have noticed campus has been a lot more cramped lately. Anecdotal reports of students flocking to community colleges have been steadily rolling in over the course of the last couple years. But now a study by the American Association of Community Colleges has numbers to back up these reports. It appears enrollment is up at community colleges nationwide, especially among full-time students.
Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9% over the same period. Enrollment increases are most pronounced in the Rocky Mountains region of the country, where overall enrollment has climbed 36% between 2007 and 2009. In most regions, full-time enrollment increases have significantly outdistanced increases in part-time enrollment. Considering the majority of community college students traditionally attend part-time, this represents a dramatic shift for schools and a greater drain on resources.
Several community college systems have had to cap enrollment, while many others have effectively done so, as they have more students interested in enrolling in classes than they can accommodate. Over 34 percent of respondents to the AACC survey reported that they believed some potential students had been turned away due to capacity issues. Some schools are adding "graveyard shift" sections of classes to try to find room for all of the students who are interested in taking classes. Others, including administrators interviewed by Inside Higher Ed, reported reshuffling administrative and classroom space to try to accommodate more students.
It appears this enrollment boom has not come at the expense of more costly private colleges. Several private schools are reporting that early enrollments for the most part are either flat or up, as compared to last year. Based on these and other reports, it appears college admissions and financial aid may be even more competitive this year than last. If you're planning to attend college next year, whether it's a community college, state college, or private college be sure to meet application deadlines for admission and financial aid, and apply well ahead of deadlines if possible. You may also want to look at broadening your college search and applying for a couple extra schools to maximize your chance of getting in and winning scholarships.
December 2, 2009
Although the economic downturn has changed some borrowing and spending habits, recent college graduates are more in debt than ever before. Average student loan debt has continued its steady rise, with graduating seniors holding an average of $23,200 in student loans in 2008. This information comes courtesy of a report by the Project on Student Debt on average debt for the college class of 2008, the latest in an annual series profiling the previous year's graduating class and the financial situations they face upon leaving school.
As debt rose for graduating seniors, so did unemployment, with the unemployment rate for workers age 20-24 (the typical age range for recent college graduates) now standing at 10.6 percent, the highest on record. This combination of factors is likely contributing to the rising student loan default rates we've seen in the last year.
The highest-debt states include the District of Columbia, whose class of 2008 held an average of $29,793 in student loans, Iowa ($28,174), and Connecticut ($26,138). Six other states also topped the $25,000 mark, compared to only two last year: Iowa and New Hampshire. Utah and Hawaii held onto their low-debt distinctions, once again being the two cheapest bets in higher education, at $13,041 and $15,156 respectively. Other low-debt states for 2008 included Kentucky, Wyoming, Arizona, Georgia, and California, though soaring tuition and reduced state funding may soon bump California off this list.
South Dakota, West Virginia, and Iowa had the highest portion of student borrowers in 2008, with 79 percent of graduating seniors in South Dakota taking out a student loan at least once in their college career. More than 70 percent of 2008 graduates in Minnesota and Pennsylvania also went into debt to fund their educations. Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah had the fewest students borrowing, with 37 percent of students in Hawaii, 40 percent of students in Nevada, and 41 percent of students in Utah graduating with debt in 2008.
In addition to describing trends state-by-state, the Project on Student Debt also looked at debt by college. An interactive state map offers not only pop-ups of the state's average debt and percentage of students borrowing, but also provides a link to a list of data by college, including the percentage of borrowers and the average debt for 2008 where available. The report, available on the Project on Student Debt website, also lists which colleges' graduates had the highest and lowest average amounts of debt.
This information can be especially useful to students currently involved in the college search or college application process. Schools whose students borrow less to complete college often have low tuition, generous scholarship opportunities, or other programs to keep costs down. If you're concerned about paying for school, this can be very appealing.
December 1, 2009
Dreading student loan payments? While it may seem counterintuitive, you might want to think about law school. Two law schools are now offering to pick up the tab on student loan repayment for their graduates who go into public service. The University of California at Berkeley School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center are both unveiling new student loan forgiveness programs to complement the federal public service loan forgiveness program.
Attorneys in public service professions typically earn much less than their colleagues who pursue more lucrative legal careers. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median income of all lawyers at just over $100,000, public interest lawyers can expect to start out making around $41,000 and many law students can expect to graduate with at least double that amount in debt. This can make pursuing a career in public service while living independently and avoiding default on debts nearly impossible. This is where loan forgiveness comes in.
Under the federal loan forgiveness program, college graduates who work in public service (a category with a surprisingly expansive definition-most governmental, non-profit, and education careers are covered) for ten years while making payments on their student loans through the federal Income Based Repayment plan will see their remaining debt forgiven. Income Based Repayment requires borrowers to pay no more than 15 percent of their discretionary income on their loans each year.
The programs at Georgetown and Berkeley take care of graduates' monthly loan payments for the ten years it takes to have their loans forgiven, provided they pursue legal careers in public service areas and earn below particular income thresholds. Berkeley grads qualify for some amount of help if they earn less than $100,000 per year, with their total loan costs covered if they make less than $65,000. Georgetown currently covers graduates earning less than $75,000 but plans to expand its program as funding allows. Until recently, Harvard University offered a plan that provided one free year of law school to students planning to work in public service, but that plan was rescinded due to economic hardships facing the university. However, other schools still offer financial assistance to students pursuing law degrees, especially ones that lead to careers in public service.
These programs still may not cover private loan debt that students amass while pursuing law degrees. However, law students are able to borrow more in federal loans, such as Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans, than undergraduates typically can. There are also a variety of law scholarships available to students who are interested in pursuing legal careers. If you're interested in public service, but not in law, there are other forms of financial assistance available, as well.
November 30, 2009
Want a shot at a top fellowship, like the Rhodes scholarship? There may soon be someone on your campus to point you in the right direction. Just like college advisors and career counseling services can help you apply to graduate school or find a job, many schools are hiring fellowship advisors to help students land these competitive awards for graduate study.
Fellowship advising, once found almost exclusively at Ivy League schools, has become a growing trend at unviersities nationwide, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fellowship advisors get in touch talented and ambitious students on their campuses and help motivate them to seek out and apply for prestigious fellowships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships. Since the common understanding of these programs is that they are exclusively for the best of the best, usually exceptional students at top-ranked universities, many students who could qualify and potentially win don't even think about applying.
Fellowship advisors typically look for students engaged in challenging coursework, research, and extracurricular activities, and encourage them to consider graduate study and fellowship funding. For many, the goal isn't so much to have students at their schools win these prizes, but to help outstanding students define their goals, push themselves, and get the most out of their educations. The process of preparing and competing for a prestigious fellowship can be a huge help to a student, even if he or she doesn't win the award.
High school students who are committed to seeking out all possible academic and scholarship opportunities may want to see if any of their prospective colleges have fellowship advising offices. Current college students, especially freshmen and sophomores, may also want to look into this, as many fellowship programs look at students' entire college careers, not just their last year or two.
Even if your school doesn't offer fellowship advising, you can still compete for, and potentially win, prestigious graduate student scholarships. As with your college scholarship search, seek out opportunities early, and know what's required to apply. Cultivate good relationships with your professors to land excellent letters of recommendation and seize every chance to participate in research projects and extracurricular activities. Even if you don't win the award you want, these activities can help you stand out in the job search and the graduate school application process.
November 24, 2009
It may not always seem like it, but going to college can actually make you happier. Perhaps not in the short term--there are finals, after all, and that general lack of money or personal space that comes with the college lifestyle--but in the long term, people who go to college consistently report being happier. They also claim to be healthier and more likely to make good choices. This comes on top of the financial benefits of receiving a degree, which include better job security, lower unemployment, and higher salaries.
In a working paper entitled, "How Large Are Returns to Schooling? Hint: Money Isn't Everything," available from the National Bureau of Economic Research, two researchers use data from General Social Surveys from 1972 to 2000 to gauge whether increased education has any correlation with increased happiness, job satisfaction, and other indicators of a better life. While it's difficult to show direct causation, their analysis did find a strong correlation between college education, especially receiving a bachelor's degree or higher, and many positives in life.
People with college degrees were more likely to report having satisfying jobs with a greater degree of autonomy, sense of accomplishment, and opportunity than other workers with similar backgrounds but less education. This can play into greater happiness, since work is such a big part of many people's sense of identity and fulfillment. Their research also backs up earlier reports that college graduates are less likely to face unemployment long-term or need to rely on public assistance, which can also correlate with higher self-esteem and a lower likelihood of depression.
Recipients of college degrees also make better decisions, likely due in part to the reasoning and research skills they gained in college. They report being healthier, possibly because of making positive decisions about their health, including both lifestyle choices and healthcare decisions. They also are less likely to get divorced, more likely to hold off on having children until they're financially and emotionally ready to do so, and may be more likely to develop better relationship and parenting skills than less educated counterparts. They also are likely to plan for the future, as opposed to living only for today. Finally, those who had more education were likely to be more trusting, believing that people are basically good, which can lead to more social participation. Having stronger friendships, stronger family ties, better health, plans for the future, and positive attitudes can all tie in easily to increased happiness.
Achieving any amount of post-secondary education can influence all of these figures, and even respondents who just finished high school were more likely to report positive results than respondents who did not. While increased education can correlate with less free time and more job-related stress, many people consider these acceptable trade-offs for overall improvements in quality of life. So if you're wondering, " why go to college?" you hopefully have some good reasons. If your question has now changed from "why" to "how," check out our free college search and scholarship search to get started on the path to a happier life.
November 23, 2009
The term "achievement" means much more than academic or athletic success, and there are scholarship opportunities that recognize this fact. High school students who have accomplished something significant in their school, workplace, or community--and not merely for a grade in school--are invited to apply for the AXA Achievement Scholarship, this week's Scholarship of the Week.
The AXA Foundation, in association with U.S. News and World Report and Scholarship America, seeks to reward high school students who are making a difference in their communities. Previous winners include students who have set up a food bank in their community, designed a curriculum to get kids interested in science, founded a nonprofit organization for young people that encourages community service and civic involvement. AXA scholarship winners are a diverse group wo have the following in common: ambition and drive; determination to set and reach goals; respect for self, family and community; and the ability to succeed in college.
Prize: 52 state winners: $10,000, 10 national winners: $15,000 (for a total of $25,000)
Eligibility: Current high school seniors who plan to enroll full-time in an accredited two-year or four-year college or university in the United States by fall 2010. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents.
Deadline: December 15, 2009
Required Material:Completed scholarship application, found on the AXA Achievement website, recommendation from an adult (not a family member) who can attest to the student's achievement, and high school transcripts. In the application students are asked to describe an outstanding non-academic achievement that they feel qualifies them for the scholarship.
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.
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