April 18, 2008
On Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at halting the mass leave of student lenders from the federal loan program. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 50 lenders have left the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program to date. The growing departure has left families fearing that students will have no one to turn to for financial assistance once their Pell Grants and savings run dry.
To lessen the plight of FFEL lenders and students who depend on them for financial assistance, the bill would allow the Secretary of Education to purchase loans student lenders were not able to sell to investors. By pouring money into the loan market, the Department of Education would enable student lenders to use their capital for issuing new loans rather than paying out the original ones.
The new bill also addressed the lender of last resort, an emergency plan wherein guaranty agencies would be forced to lend money to students who were turned away by other lenders. Under the new plan, the Department of Education would have permission to advance funding to the agencies if need should arise.
To make the transition from the FFEL to the lender of last resort loan program easier on students, loans would be petitioned for on a college by college basis rather than a student by student one. Based on previous outlines of the untested program, students in need of a lender of last resort loan would have had to seek permission from the Department of Education and prove that at least two lenders had turned them down before receiving money.
A bill similar to the House version was introduced but not yet addressed by the Senate. Before the ideas are implemented, both the House and the Senate will have to iron out differences and send the final version to the president for approval.
May 1, 2008
When doors to the new University of Central Florida College of Medicine open in 2009, they will open with a bang. In the hope of attracting the best and the brightest, medical practitioners and college representatives from the University of Central Florida have raised enough money to reimburse the first class for all four years of medical school. They will cover not only the tuition but also the fees and living expenses. With the Association of American Medical Colleges estimating the average debt of medical school graduates to be at about $139,000, the deal is sweet enough to cause a toothache.
“I think setting the bar high for the quality of the first class will set the stage for the caliber of every class that follows,” said Tavistock Group director and donor Rasesh Thakkar. Fundraisers have been in place since 2007 to make that happen. After tapping all possible resources, the school is expecting to admit a class of about 120 students which, based on a four-year plan, will receive a grant worth approximately $160,000.
Students interested in attending the school may begin applying in June of 2008. If accepted, they will automatically receive the award---no lengthy essay competitions, no laborious commitments, just money. “UCF stands for opportunity,” states the university website. When studies and internships leave little time for outside work, a full tuition scholarship is the epitome of such opportunity.
June 17, 2008
The government recognizes the dire financial circumstances of numerous undergraduate students, and slowly, steps are being taken to change things for the better. Three new federal grants have been created within the past two years, the maximum Pell Grant award has risen and interest rates on undergraduate Federal Stafford Loans will begin their gradual descent this fall. But…where does that leave graduate school students?
According the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees is expected to rise by 12% between 2006 and 2014, and many of these students will need financial aid. While certain aid does not apply to graduate school students, plenty of assistance is available to those who know where to look. Here are just a few options:
Federal Aid Unfortunately, graduate school students are not eligible to receive federal grants, but federal aid in the form of federal work study and low-rate student loans (Stafford and PLUS) are still an option. And while the recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act will not lower loan interest rates for graduate school students, those who borrowed before July 1, 2006 will see a substantial drop in their bill. Variable interest rates on federal loans will decrease from 7.22%to 4.21 % this year.
Scholarships and Grants Numerous scholarships and non-federal grants are not just available to graduate school students, they are restricted to them. Companies and organizations frequently offer aid to graduate school students who display an interest in work that aligns with their goals. After all, these scholars can be the future innovators of their industry. To find scholarships you may be eligible to receive based on your year in school or major of interest, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
Employer Assistance Students who commit to working for a certain employer may be lucky enough to receive full or partial compensation for an additional degree. This is often the case with hospital staff, educators and employees who could help their companies profit through new skills and certifications.
July 8, 2008
As if the application process was not enough, the ACT, SAT, GRE etc. not sufficiently stressful, some students must also worry about acing a college interview. Those who wish to enroll in certain undergraduate or graduate school programs may find that the interview is simply unavoidable. Because interviews cannot be proofread by an older sibling, students can use the following pointers to prepare themselves for the big day.
Location is Key. Before moving on to the content, finalize the basics. Confirm the address and time of the interview, and plan out the best way to reach your location. If possible, visit the meeting place beforehand. If not, at least arrive early. Realizing that the campus layout is confusing, the buildings ambiguously marked and the office hidden in a building labyrinth is not the optimal start to your interview. You need to arrive (outwardly) calm, (seemingly) confident and obviously on time.
Do Your Homework. Interviewers want to hear the following: you want to attend this school; you have a clear, original reason for wanting to pursue your degree, and you’re mature and ready to benefit their institution (as a current student and accomplished graduate). Be prepared to convince them of the aforementioned. Browse the school website, and be prepared to drop some names, numbers or facts. For example, let the interviewer know how the department’s A to B student teacher ratio was impressive, exactly what you had hoped to find, and how very much you would like to help professors C, D or E with their latest research project—it perfectly aligns with your career interests.
Leave a Lasting Impression. Having worked in an admission’s department and attended a board meeting where professors decided the future of incoming (or not incoming) students, I was surprised to see how seriously the interview process was taken. Yes, the board reviewed and heavily emphasized a student's course experience and GPA—over sub sandwiches—but it also paid attention to a student's presentation. Professors remarked about dress code, about how carefully a student considered his or her career goals and about formality. From this I learned that you should dress to impress; prepare specific, original details about current and future goals, and express how important your interview and goals are to you.
October 11, 2007
It’s been a long year for colleges across the nation. Aside from the student lender and college study abroad fiascos, investigators are looking more closely at the handling of endowments by colleges.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, many schools have accumulated large endowment funds, some in excess of $1 billion. This is tax-free money, and if investments are well-planned, interest will lead to annual gains.
Despite this, college tuition rates have soared across the country, and students are increasingly left with debts that sometimes mirror mortgages. A proposal that could allay this problem involves forcing schools with large endowments to spend about 5 percent of their money each year, or be subject to taxes. After all, endowments are meant to aid, not hoard.
But some schools say that this is not as easy as it may seem. People who donate often leave specific instructions for endowment spending. Money may be set aside, for example, for students who are financially needy and epileptic, or for those who conduct research in the hearing sciences.
Based on the written testimony of four higher education associations, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, proposed legislation is based on inaccurate college endowment information.
According to the testimony, an average of 80 percent of endowment assets were restricted at public institutions in 2006, and 55 percent were restricted at private ones. That, of course, still leaves plenty of unrestricted funds that could be used to greatly relieve student needs. This, by the way, is what higher education associations already claim to do.
The issue is a bit of a slippery slope. Endowments could diminish if expenditure choices were left up to college officials. Plus, available money doesn’t necessarily translate into swimming pools of cash for directors to dive into.
Then again, tuition is getting out of hand, and storing large amounts of money when students have little choice but to take out excessive loans seems a bit immoral. Perhaps additional information is needed on unrestricted money expenditures and on how much is needed to maintain interest that would keep funds afloat.
July 19, 2011
In life, keeping things in order, having a set schedule and planning ahead will truly save you time and keep you on track. In college, staying organized is even more important.
When making your shopping list for college, put a planner at the top. I have been using one since I was in elementary school and it has always helped me stay on top of my stuff. It came in handy most in college, though, and helped me to stay organized from the very beginning. The best kind to buy is one that has slots for individual days as well as a monthly calendar. This will allow you to keep track of all your classes, assignments, meetings, work schedules, extracurriculars and will prevent you from forgetting about something important. As soon as you get an assignment, write it down and remember to check your planner every day. You will have far fewer scheduling conflicts and will become adept at managing your time and keeping a healthy balance between work and play. You can also incorporate Post-its to keep track of tentative times and dates while keeping your schedule looking neat.
There are also other tools you can use like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar, which help sync media from different sources to keep track of all appointments. If you have a cell phone – and these days, who doesn’t? – use its alarm feature and tack a calendar up on your bulletin board as a backup (maybe even share it with your roommate and color coordinate your to-dos). Whatever your choice, make sure it’s something you are comfortable using and will remember to continuously check so that you don’t forget anything.
By staying organized all throughout college, you’ll be well-prepared to enter graduate school or the job market. College professors and potential employers appreciate organization: You will be a perfect TA candidate or employee if your superiors know they can depend on you. Be smart, be organized, be successful. It’s as simple as that!
Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.
December 8, 2009
For those planning on attending graduate school, the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, has long been a part of the admissions process that seems largely unrelated to their academic ambitions. The Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the test, has been planning and promising alterations for years. Friday, they announced their latest attempt, a plan that would eliminate some of the most onerous questions and revamp the scoring to more accurately reflect students' abilities.
The new GRE, which is set to be implemented in the fall of 2011, will keep the computer-adaptive testing format and the three sections (writing, quantitative, and verbal) of the current GRE, but will make some substantial changes to scoring, student responses, and the content of some sections. Possible GRE scores will change from a 200 to 800 range on the verbal and quantitative sections to a range of 130 to 170, a change which is meant to deemphasize minor differences in scores. The test will also become slightly longer, changing from 3.25 hours to 3.5 hours in length.
The biggest change to the test format will be the possibility to skip and return to questions. Currently, the computer-adaptive format presents test-takers questions they must answer before proceeding, giving them easier or harder questions based on their response to determine their score. The new format will adapt section-by-section, rather than question-by-question, hopefully giving a more accurate picture of test-takers' abilities. The ability to skip questions and return to them later is likely to improve students' concentration and scores as they no longer dwell on the questions they missed--a strategy for taking standardized tests that the GRE's current format makes difficult to practice.
Changes to the sections of the GRE will be more minor, but could still make a big difference to some test-takers. The writing section consists of two prompts, one asking for a logical analysis and one asking for an argumentative essay. It will remain largely unchanged in the new version of the test. The quantitative section asks multiple-choice math questions students are likely to have encountered in high school and college. ETS plans to add a calculator for this section. The verbal section will undergo the biggest changes, with questions on analogies and antonyms eliminated, as these have practically necessitated rote memorization of vocabulary words, largely defeating the purpose of the test.
Prospective graduate students in 2009 and 2010 will still be stuck with the current version of the GRE. Although some students may love analogies and obscure vocabulary words and be sad to see them go, students who have been struggling with elements of the current test may get some relief if they decide to apply for graduate school in 2011. Whether the GRE changes are actually implemented according to schedule remains to be seen, but so far, the revisions haven't been met with much opposition.
December 11, 2009
Everyone knows not to say "fire" in a crowded theater or "bomb" on an airplane. But what about saying "bomb" in a classroom? As a graduate teaching assistant at University of California-Davis learned last week, that might not be such a good idea either.
James Marchbanks, the teaching assistant in question, was arrested last week for making a terrorist threat, false imprisonment, and making a false bomb threat. Why? The graduate student referred to the course evaluations he was distributing to his introductory drama class as a bomb.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Marchbanks reportedly walked into class on the last day with his backpack on one shoulder and told the class, "I have a bomb, this is the last time I am ever going to see you. I am going to leave class before the bomb goes off but you are all going to stay here until it's done," then tossed a packet of course evaluations and pencils on the desk at the front of the class and ran out
The move was widely interpreted as a dramatic and lighthearted delivery of evaluation forms that he felt could potentially destroy his career. In fact, 13 students signed a letter to this effect. Unorthodox teaching methods, relaxed and informal attitudes, and extreme nervousness about their effectiveness as teachers are all pretty standard for graduate students, especially in the arts and humanities, so for many students in Marchbanks' Drama 10 class, his delivery of course evaluations probably seemed on the quirky end of ordinary.
However, a few students took his remarks seriously and decided to file a complaint, even when it became clear that he was alluding to the destructive power of negative evaluations, and not to a homemade explosive device. Campus police obtained a warrant for his arrest and a judge set bail at $150,000, a figure substantially higher than the Sacramento Bee calculated the charges should carry, and a price certainly well out of the reach of what a student receiving a graduate fellowship or assistantship could afford. It was eventually decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime and he was released, but only after he had spent four days in jail.
While few people are likely to argue that Marchbanks deserved jail time for his comments, it does raise questions about what's appropriate to say in a classroom. With multiple incidents of on-campus violence, including a graduate student's recent murder of a professor at the State University of New York-Binghamton, appearing in the media, many already stressed-out students may be more on edge than normal right now. Did students overreact? Do graduate students need to be more aware of their actions in the classroom as new teachers? What do you think?
July 20, 2009
Are you an graphic designer and t-shirt aficionado? Do you dream of one day having people across the world wearing something you created? Maybe you just really liked the screenprinting unit in high school art class. If you've ever seen someone wearing a cool t-shirt and thought to yourself, "I could make something like that," this week's Scholarship of the Week is for you.
The Threadless Scholarship gives college students a chance to not only see their t-shirt designs printed and distributed internationally, but to also win a $3,000 design scholarship. The best part? Winners are chosen weekly, so you have multiple chances at winning scholarships.
Prize: A $3,000 college scholarship plus a $500 Threadless gift certificate (or $200 in cash) and the chance to compete for other cash awards of up to $20,000.
Eligibility: Any undergraduate or graduate student currently enrolled at least part-time or pending enrollment in a college or university. This scholarship contest is open to students in the United States and other countries, regardless of major, GPA, or test scores.
Required Material: Register as an artist on the Threadless website and submit a t-shirt design. If your design is chosen for print, you can elect to receive a $3,000 scholarship in place of a $2,000 cash award. Artists can submit multiple t-shirt designs and will receive an award for each shirt that is printed.
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.
July 27, 2009
This week's Scholarship of the Week is a scholarship essay contest that offers a $10,000 reward to students who are actively engaged in fighting poverty. The In The River They Swim essay competition asks participants to reflect upon an experience living or working in a poor country or a poor region of a developed nation and tell a story about a personal journey they've had doing enterprise solutions to poverty.
What makes this competition unique is that it asks for students to go beyond the traditional response elicited by community service scholarships and other essay scholarships and to reflect on both successes and failures, as well as people encountered and lessons learned along the way. Rather than simply recounting experiences in a matter-of-fact way, a winning essay will tell a story in an engaging and illuminating manner. Most importantly, the essay should teach the reader something, and presents an opportunity to think both critically and creatively about your work, your attitudes, and your assumptions for a chance at a substantial cash prize and possible publication.
Eligibility: Anyone is eligible to participate, regardless of age, level of education, or area of study.
Deadline: September 1, 2009
Required Material: An essay of no more than 2000 words written in response to the contest prompt and submitted online. All essays must be accompanied by a 100-word abstract.
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 thisscholarship award will find it in their search results.
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