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Obama Signs Student Loan Deal

by Kevin Ladd

There has been a lot of talk around student loan rates over the last few months, or even the last year or two, depending on how closely you've been listening. With the rising cost of higher education and the harsh reality that most students will need to take out loans to finance at least a portion of their education, federal student loan rates are a concern for many of us. Recently, President Obama signed a student loan deal to bring rates back down from the 6.8% to which they doubled on July 1st, when Congress failed to act before the deadline. Basically, the legislation is connecting student loan interest rates to the financial markets. This offers lower rates this fall because the government can borrow money relatively cheaply at this time and is far better than the 6.8% it has been for the last several weeks.

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by Suada Kolovic

With the cost of a college education continuing to skyrocket, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become increasingly popular. If you’re not familiar with MOOCs, they provide students with the opportunity to study high quality courses online with prestigious universities – we’re talking Harvard, Yale and Stanford – for free. Well, at least, that used to be the case: Udacity, one of the three MOOC providers, said on Wednesday that it would no longer give the opportunity to earn free, “non-identity-verified” certificates.

On the bright side, students will still be able to view Udacity’s online-course materials without paying but those looking to earn a certificate to prove they've mastered the material will have to pay for it. The policy change, effective May 16th, is to help employers take MOOCs more seriously, Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun said in a blog post. “Discontinuing the ‘free’ certificates has been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made,” wrote Thrun. “We know that many of our hardworking students can’t afford to pay for classes. At the same time, we cannot hope that our certificates will ever carry great value if we don’t make this change.” Currently, Udacity offers two types of courses: full and free. (The “full” courses cost $150 per month and include personalized support, project-based assignments, job-placement services and the coveted verified certificate while the free courses only include access to the online course material.) “We keep working hard to bring you the best learning experience. Sometimes it means making tough choices – this was one – to maximize the learning outcome for our students,” he said. “I can’t wait to see more employers seek you out for the skills you develop on Udacity.” (For more on this story, click here.)

Do you agree with Udacity’s policy change? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.


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College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors heading to college in the fall, listen up: The average cost at the nation’s four-year public universities rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decades (yay!) but the slowdown in tuition increases have been offset by reductions in federal grant aid (boo!).

According to a new report from the College Board, public colleges have raised tuition prices so sharply in recent years not to gouge students but to bank on the increased state aid. And although the increase is moderate, "this does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid. "It does seem that the [upward tuition] spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating." Unfortunately, students continue to suffer from the constant cycle of rising costs and serious college debt. Shrinking state aid for public colleges and universities has translated into the cost of public schools to jump $1,770 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The amount of government aid received last year fell $6,646 for every full-time student at those institutions while just five years ago, each student received $9,111 in today’s dollars. (For more on this report, click here.)

If college is in your forecast, what do you make of the report’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.


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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

by Suada Kolovic

With fall semester in full swing, high school seniors are mere months away from deciding where they’ll spend the next four (or more) years. And while there are multiple factors to consider when making such a major decision, most would argue that prestigious universities and high-earning salaries are intrinsically tied...or are they?

According to a recent study by College Measure, students who earn associate degrees and occupational certificates often earn more in their first year out of college than those with traditional four-year college degrees. Examining schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the study found that short-term credentials such as two-year degrees and technical certificates were worth more than bachelor’s degrees in a graduate’s early years. College Measures President Mark Schneider said, “The findings challenge some conventional wisdom, showing for example that what you study matters more than where you study. Higher education is one of the most important investments people make. The right choices can lead to good careers and good wages while the wrong ones can leave graduates with mountains of debt and poor prospects for ever paying off student loans.” (For more on this study, click here.)

It’s important to remember that the study focuses on short-term gains as opposed to long-term/lifelong earnings. It’d be interesting for College Measure to reexamine their findings over the next few years but what do you think of its current report? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!


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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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GWU Admits Considering Financial Need in Admissions

by Suada Kolovic

With so much riding on whether or not you get in, applying for college can cause even the most confident students some serious anxiety. And with so many factors to consider like high school rankings, SAT/ACT scores, GPAs and community service hours, it’s important to understand that more often than not, colleges are also factoring in a student’s ability to pay...even when they say they’re not. Insert outrage here.

Just last Friday, George Washington University’s website claimed to evaluate applicants without considering their financial need (also known as a need-blind admissions approach) but now they’re clarifying that policy: It now reads that while applications are first reviewed without consideration of need, “at the point of finalizing admissions decisions, we must balance a student’s financial resources with the university’s aid budget. This practice of being need-aware allows us to meet as much need of as many students as possible.” Why the sudden transparency, GWU? Turns out that the school’s new senior associate provost for enrollment management’s recent interview with The GW Hatchet revealed that she characterized the university’s policy as need-aware as opposed to need-blind. The problem? By being need-aware for years and suggesting otherwise, the university appears to not only have violated the Statement of Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admission Counseling but encouraged low-income students to apply (and pay a hefty application fee!) on the false pretense that the university was need-blind. (For more on this story, click here.)

The ability to pay for college has long been a major factor when it comes to gaining admission but to blatantly advertise otherwise is undeniably uncool. What do you think of GWU’s current predicament? Should the university face serious repercussions? Let us know in the comments section.


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Top Colleges with the Highest Rate of Student Internships

by Suada Kolovic

Five years after the financial crisis, recent college graduates (and folks in general!) still find themselves struggling with a stagnant job market. And with the slow pace of job growth looming, internships are a great way to for students to boast their resumes, gain experience in their fields of study and become more viable candidates once the economy does improve. Plus, according to a survey of more than 1,000 employers, 56.5-percent made full-time offers to their interns just last year. So if you're looking for a college that makes internship participation a priority, check out U.S. News and World Report's top colleges with the highest rate of undergraduates graduating with internship experience below:


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University of Iowa Slashes Law School Tuition

by Suada Kolovic

‘Tis the season for discount digging. With the holidays just a mere two weeks away, many people have gift-giving on the brain so it should come as no surprise that everyone’s on the hunt for rock-bottom prices. And whether you’re in the market for a new textured wrap sweater (who isn’t?!), the latest Apple gadget or even a shiny new law degree, you’re in luck! Yup, that’s right future litigators: Law school is officially on sale in Iowa.

The University of Iowa College of Law has approved a 16.4-percent tuition cut for both in-state and out-of-state students. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Iowa residents will pay $21,965 in tuition – a $4,309 reduction – while nonresidents will see tuition fall by $7,750 to $39,500. Why the discount? Turns out that despite being ranked 26th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, enrollment for the law school has steadily declined since 2010. Law Dean Gail Agrawal admits that the tuition reduction is intended, in part, to help the law school compete for applicants and students who are increasingly concerned with cost and debt loads. “We want to take a leading role in the evolving face of legal education and ensure our place as a best value proposition among the top public law schools,” she said. Keep in mind that the University of Iowa isn’t the only law school bargain out there: The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, the University of Akron School of Law, the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law have all announced tuition cuts in the past year.

Law school hopefuls, is discounted tuition enough for you to consider a school despite the current weak legal market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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Scholarship Displacement Explained

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way – for free! – and while financing your higher education solely from scholarships is an amazing feat, there is a factor to consider: scholarship displacement.

If you don’t know what scholarship displacement is, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, winning a scholarship may not be the end-all be-all when it comes to paying for school because they can complicate the financial aid package offered by your intended university. Why? When a student wins a scholarship, the college may reduce the student’s need-based financial aid package to compensate. For example, say a university offers a student a $15,000 grant and an additional $15,000 loan to cover the cost of attending. If the student were then to win a scholarship for $15,000, the college could retract its $15,000 grant. Colleges call this an over-award and the scholarship providers call it displacement.

Although this may seem discouraging, it shouldn’t dissuade you from applying to scholarships altogether. Instead, do your homework, speak with your admissions counselor and know where your intended college stands when it comes to their scholarship policies. If you’re brining a lot of scholarship dollars to the table, you have options. Every college is different and has their own guidelines when it comes to outside scholarships. If one university doesn’t allow you to put those scholarship dollars to other costs – loans, books, room and board, etc. – enroll at one that does. You could also enlist the help of the scholarship sponsor: Some scholarship providers may have a lot of clout with the college, especially if their scholars make up millions of dollars of funding to the college.

If you have any additional questions about scholarship displacement, don’t hesitate to ask us!


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