August 8, 2008
Earlier this week, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick asked his state's wealthiest universities (such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to help bail out the Massachusetts Education Financing Authority (MEFA), which announced last week that it would not be able to provide loans to over 40,000 students this fall. However, as an article published today in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains, many parties regard this request as well-intentioned but highly problematic, mainly due to recent lawsuits and legislation regarding potential conflicts of interest in relationships between colleges and student loan providers. The Massachusetts state treasurer, who vetoed the governor's request to invest money in MEFA, stated that bailing out MEFA was not a good investment and could set a dangerous precedent for use of state funds. While several colleges said they would consider investing in MEFA to help them provide enough loans to be able to receive assistance from the federal government, none have yet said yes, and many express concerns about what people will think of their relationship with the lending agency once the economy recovers. When viewed in light of last year's preferred lender list scandal, such hesitation is understandable.
However, while both sides of this issue have adopted positions based on sound principles and the belief in doing what will ultimately be best for students, thousands of students are still left in a lurch when it comes to finding money for college. With the new Higher Education Act still sitting on President Bush's desk, and the school year fast approaching, many families, and not just ones in Massachusetts, may be struggling to find ways to pay for school. It's never too late to start applying for financial aid, though! Students who haven't yet done so should complete a FAFSA on the Web, which could potentially qualify you for federal grant programs. Once you've received your financial aid award letter, be sure to talk to your school's financial aid office, especially if you plan on receiving loans. Finally, students of all ages should also check out our free scholarship search, as there are scholarships being awarded year-round, and scholarship awards can be one of the best means of funding your education.
September 10, 2009
A new book is shedding light on graduation rates at state colleges, and also causing a stir with its findings and recommendations. The book, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities, was written by William G. Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, Michael S. McPherson, a former president of Macalester College, and Matthew M. Chingos, a graduate student at Harvard University. It shows many of the nation's top public schools are coming up short when it comes to graduating students in four years, especially low-income and minority students.
The book analyzes the four-year and six-year graduation rates of students at 21 flagship universities and 47 four-year public universities in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. Among the findings, the authors reveal that flagship universities, typically the most competitive and prestigious in their state university systems, graduate only 49 percent of their students in four years, with other state colleges having even less success. The six-year graduation rates for both sets of schools are better, but vary widely based on several factors discussed in the book.
Disparities by common demographic factors, namely race and socioeconomic status, were found in the research for the book, and were most pronounced among male students. However, the most striking differences come in terms of schools' selectivity. Some of these disparities include:
These results have many questioning the effectiveness of academic scholarships and other merit-based aid, especially in light of the University of Texas at Austin's recent decision to stop sponsoring the National Merit Scholarship Program. More so, though, they have experts, including the book's authors, wondering what is causing this disparity in graduation rates.
Price plays a huge role for students of low socioeconomic status, pushing them to attend the least expensive (and often least selective) schools or to opt out of four-year colleges entirely. Rising costs also could play a role in dropout rates among poorer students, so the availability of financial aid for all four years is crucial to graduation.
One of the biggest problems identified in the book is a phenomenon dubbed "under-matching." Highly qualified students are aiming low in the college application process, attending less selective schools with lower graduation rates when they could easily be accepted to and graduate from more selective schools with higher graduation rates. Students most likely to under-match are low socioeconomic status students whose parents did not attend or did not graduate from college. The higher a student's income and parents' level of education, the less likely the student is to under-match.
Based on this information, the authors suggest that schools focus their efforts on encouraging students to graduate in four years and to remain in school until they graduate. Keeping tuition low is a part of this, as are readjusting requirements to make graduating in four years more doable and, above all else, making it clear that students are expected to graduate in four years.
Graduation rates are gaining attention from other corners, as well. Washington Monthly included graduation rates in their recently released college rankings, and another study published this summer by the American Enterprise Institute compared graduation rates at colleges.The Education Department is also doing its part to make information on graduation rates available to students who complete the FAFSA on the Web.
December 10, 2009
As high school seniors put the finishing touches on their college applications and start gearing up for the financial aid application process, few are likely thinking about the prospect of leaving college before they finish a degree program. Yet many students will be faced with the prospect of taking time off from school or dropping out entirely. A growing body of research is addressing the question of why students leave college, and a new report has proposed some surprising answers. If you're planning to attend college or currently struggling to stay in college, it's definitely worth a read.
The survey was conducted by the research group Public Agenda, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. More than 600 adults between the ages of 22 and 30, some who have finished college and some who haven't, were surveyed about the challenges they faced in attending college. The report addresses four myths about college dropouts: that most students go to school full-time and only leave because they're bored or unwilling to work, that most students receive adequate financial support, that most students go through a "meticulous process" of choosing their college, and that students who don't graduate make their decision after knowing and weighing the pros and cons of attending or leaving school.
The realities that correspond to the first two myths are especially striking. According to the survey, most students who drop out do so because they cannot balance work and college and can't afford to stop working, and many of those students are going it alone financially, without help from relatives or financial aid.
A full 54 percent of respondents listed "I need to go to work and make money" as a major reason they left school, with 31 percent saying they couldn't afford tuition and fees. By contrast, only 21 percent left primarily because they needed a break, and only 10 percent found the classes too difficult. Students who didn't graduate had a harder time managing costs besides tuition and fees (36% agreed strongly) and balancing work and school (35% agreed strongly) than students who managed to graduate (23% and 26%, respectively). Most students who left school planned to return, but feared that work and family obligations would keep them from enrolling anytime soon.
Students who ultimately dropped out were less likely than students who graduated to have any kind of financial support, including student loans. The majority of those who did not graduate said they could not rely on help from parents or relatives (58%), a scholarship or other financial aid (69%), or a student loan (69%) to help pay for school. By contrast, 66% of those who did graduate had family financial support, 57% had scholarships or financial aid, and 49% had some sort of loan.
This survey is part of a growing body of research on the relationship between work and college success. The results suggest that students who are able to pay all their bills while in school, work less than 20 hours a week, and focus their attention on classes are more likely to do well in school and more likely to graduate. This is one of many reasons to think carefully about paying for school and investigate scholarship options early.
December 16, 2009
Are you looking for an affordable college option, but finding yourself less than interested in huge state colleges? You might want to look into attending a HBCU. A new study by the United Negro College Fund finds that, on average, historically black colleges and universities charge much less than their historically white counterparts. The study found that not only do HBCUs charge 31 percent less than comparable institutions, but that their tuition and fees also rose more slowly than similar colleges.
The report compares total tuition charges at UNCF's 39 member institutions with comparable institutions for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years. The average tuition and fees at the HBCUs was $20,648 for 2006-2007 and $21,518 for 2007-2008. In comparison, comparable institutions had total tuition and fees of $26,451 and $28,156 respectively. Their tuition charges also rose between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 at a rate more than double that of HBCUs ($870 to $1706). Five of the HBCUs surveyed did not raise tuition at all, whereas all comparable institutions charged some amount more.
UNCF analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Comparable schools were selected based on a variety of criteria, including Carnegie Classification, level of institution, degree granting status, and private or public status. However, as U.S. News' Kim Clark points out, the study did not take into account the net prices of these schools--the amount students can actually expect to pay. Many colleges and universities offer substantial scholarships and grants, especially private colleges where most students see significant discounts off the sticker price. There are a variety of institutional and UNCF-sponsored scholarships offered specifically to students at HBCUs, as well as a number of African American scholarships that can help make tuition more affordable for students at these schools.
With or without financial aid, choosing to attend college at a historically black college or university can result in substantial savings. There are other benefits to attending HBCUs, as well, especially for students who may need extra support. Since many HBCUs serve students from diverse and often disadvantaged backgrounds, they have systems in place to better support students who might otherwise struggle in college. HBCUs also tend to produce students more appreciative of diversity, so if that's important to you, you may find your home at one of these colleges. Regardless of what you ultimately decide, it can't hurt to diversify your college search. By learning about and visiting a variety of schools, you're more likely to find the one that fits you best.
June 3, 2008
July 25, 2008
Students in three states could be seeing major changes in their funding for college in the next two school years. Colorado students attending religious schools will now have access to additional state funds, based on a U. S. Court of Appeals ruling that overturned a state law limiting funding to students attending "pervasively sectarian" institutions. Colorado Christian University successfully appealed a state decision to deny its students access to state financial aid programs based on the university's emphasis on religion. Colorado also may be changing admissions and scholarship criteria at state universities. If Amendment 46, an anti-affirmative action initiative passes in November, the state will have to do away with all educational programs designed to benefit minorities specifically.
Additionally, faced with an inability to fund all of the students who qualify for TEXAS grants, the state of Texas is looking at increasing eligibility requirements to target grants at higher-performing students, instead of simply high-need students, according to a Dallas News article.
Meanwhile, private colleges and universities in Wisconsin plan to ask the state for a $4 million increase in aid to help students with the greatest financial need afford college in the 2009-2010 school year, a plan the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel backs.
July 22, 2008
The Department of Education Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance recently released a report entitled Early and Often showing the financial aid community what can be done to help students and families better prepare to pay for school. The report provided recommendations on what information students needed to know before deciding whether to attend college, when the students needed to know it, and how it could best be disseminated to students and their families, stressing four categories of knowledge that students need to make informed decisions about attending college.
Students need to understand:
The Early and Oftenreport states that this process needs to begin as early as the sixth grade to ensure that students and families have enough time to devise a strategy for getting into and paying for college.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, "Possessing timely and accurate information at each juncture of a student's college preparation timeline can dispel the hyperbole in the media and alleviate complexity, inform students of financing options, and ensure they make sound decisions."
The report asserts that "early information on the availability, eligibility, and variety of financial aid is essential to promote access and persistence. Every student should learn that funding an education requires a reliance on many sources: federal and state governments, institutions, private resources, and personal financial resources. Each of these sources can provide financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Delivering information on the differences between need-based aid and merit-based aid will help students better predict which aid options will be available for them. Understanding the intricacies among such options is vital to successfully financing higher education."
Working with the strategies suggested by the Department of Education, websites such as Scholarships.com already provide the public with a wealth of free resources regarding a variety of financial aid.
By browsing our website's Resources section, students can find information in all four of the Department of Education's vital categories, especially paying for college and applying for financial aid. Additionally, our scholarship search can fill an important role, even early in the college planning process. Students can fill out a profile and conduct a free search, gaining valuable information on which scholarships may be available to them. This will help students get a better idea of how they will be able to afford college.
The full Early and Often report is available on the Department of Education website.
December 5, 2008
December 9, 2008
Yesterday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that they had reached a settlement with the College Board regarding the preferred lender list controversy that has been unfolding since early 2007. The investigation revealed that the College Board had been offering discounts on its products to college financial aid offices that agreed to add their student loan service to a preferred lender list. Discounts of more than 20 percent off the College Board's proprietary software were given in exchange for placement on preferred lender lists. The College Board pulled out of private loans in 2007, but the investigations continued, culminating in yesterday's settlement, the latest of several with private student lenders.
The College Board has agreed to adhere to a code of conduct if it ever returns to the private lending market. The organization will be required to put $675,000 towards developing tools to help students and financial aid offices compare student loan offers. The College Board will also be required to distribute its new student loan calcualtors and "requests for proposals" (the forms that will allow for comparison among student loans) freely to schools for the next two financial aid cycles.
This news came as the Career College Assocation, an organization of private career-training institution administrators, released the results of a survey indicating the difficulty that students at two year, for-profit schools currently face finding money for college. More students are registering but not attending classes, and having trouble finding a private loan without a cosigner. The majority of schools report students needing to change lenders or facing higher interest rates. Some students are unable to procure a private loan at all, while others are contending with delayed loan disbursements. A number of these colleges have stepped in to offer institutional student loans, ranging from less than $1,000 to over $10,000, to students who are unable to meet the gap between their federal student financial aid and their cost of attendance.
December 11, 2008
If you're thinking of heading off to a community college next year to either pick up an associate's degree or save some money on your core credits for a bachelor's degree, expect company. Similarly, if you're planning to attend a for-profit career college to up your chances of landing a decent job, you are definitely not alone. During recessions, people typically flock to college, often choosing cheaper or quicker degree programs to help them get on their feet and be more competitive on the workforce. Enrollment is up at career colleges and community colleges are expecting a similar increase. While reduced state higher education funding and continued troubles in the private loan market are causing some problems at two-year and career colleges, both types of schools are expecting major increases in enrollment as more Americans deal with fallout from the faltering economy. If you're heading off to college in 2009, you definitely want to take all of this into account. Apply early for admission and financial aid, and register early for classes. Several community colleges are also instituting programs to fill empty seats in classrooms with unemployed students, so if you typically wait until almost the start of the term to register for classes, you may have more trouble finding a seat than you have in the past. While students enrolled in online degree universities won't have to compete for physical space, they may still notice some effects of increased enrollment. With state universities and community colleges facing budget cuts and increased enrollment, you may face more competition for fewer resources as everyone searches for ways to save money. One group of students may actually see less competition, though. The number of students taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) this year is down, suggesting that fewer students may be planning to apply for graduate programs. Typically, like community college and career college applications, graduate school applications go up during recessions. However, while MBA applications are up this year, many programs that require the GRE may see fewer prospective graduate students. The effects of the credit crunch on student loans, the uncertainty of the economy and employment prospects, and the desire not to lose a source of income were all listed as possible reasons for this decrease in an article in Inside Higher Ed.
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