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Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

March 7, 2012

Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

by Alexis Mattera

Did you have to take out student loans in order to pay for all or part of your college education? Probably, as total student loan debt passed total credit card debt for the first time and is approaching the $1 trillion mark, but the bigger problem could be that college students who truly need to borrow are not doing so.

In a new analysis of student debt published in AEA’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner explain that overemphasis in news coverage of students drowning in debt is scaring people away from taking on healthy debt. They say that capital investment one takes on with a student loan is growing – males with college degrees make $600,000 more in their lifetimes than peers with only high school degrees – but just one in six full-time students at four-year colleges who are eligible for a student loan do not take one out. Why? The study cites rational self-control, short-sightedness and risk factors like the difficulty of predicting future earnings but also reveals that many loan-less students accrue debt by relying heavily on credit cards to cover educational expenses and half work more than 20 hours per week – a schedule that could hurt their chances of graduating on time or at all.

There’s much more to the study here but what’s your take on student loans? Is borrowing worth it if it's done responsibly or is it best to use loans as a last resort in funding your education?

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IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

March 8, 2012

IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

There have been strides taken to ease the financial burden of higher education but for every state that limits college credits to keep degree costs down or entire college system freezing its tuition, there’s another school increasing its fees and cutting benefits. The latter could soon happen in Illinois, as lawmakers are weighing whether to eliminate tuition discounts for the children of professors and other university employees.

The legislation would get rid of this prized benefit, which allows faculty and staff members who have been employed at public universities for at least seven years to receive half-price tuition for their children. More than 2,000 college students take advantage of this perk each year and advocates of the bill say the state cannot afford to continue to offer the discount because it costs the Land of Lincoln about $8 million annually. Bill sponsor State Rep. Luis Arroyo also questioned the lack of income cap on who can use the waivers (for example, a college president earning a six-figure salary could pay far less for their child to attend college than a lower-income family would) but university officials say the discount is an important tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty members.

Does the possible end to this tuition benefit impact you in any way? How are you covering the costs of your own college education?

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How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

March 8, 2012

How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Baby, it may still be cold outside but summer is on its way – three glorious months to fill with projects, internships and mildly soul-numbing jobs. Hey, high schoolers, I'm talking to you: Colleges care what you do with that time, even if you'd rather just hang out and play water polo...or whatever kids do these days.

For most high schoolers, there are two kinds of summer experiences: you pay them (hang gliding in Costa Rica, French language lessons in France with French people) or they pay you (yeah, I worked at a bagel shop). They both have their places and their benefits so if you can get to some faraway place and have adventures, go for it; however, most people aren't in that financial bracket in high school. The good news is that a first job can be just as interesting an experience, whether it's at a fast food joint or selling t-shirts at the Jersey Shore. Check out your local museums and colleges to see if they have special internship programs for teens over the summer. The application process may be brutal but a competitive internship program looks great on your resume and the money in your pocket will be worth it. Working with those programs will also give you a chance to meet teens from other high schools or outside your normal social circle; remember, college is all about learning to get along with people totally different than you – now's a good time to start.

But don't forget secret option number three: No one pays you but you get to practice something you think you'd like to study or work in. It's like volunteering (except you go every day instead of when you feel like it) but you should think of it as a job, minus the monetary compensation. The summer before my senior year of high school, I called around and became a journalism intern at a small local paper. I pitched and wrote my own articles and even used the amazingly complex 9-megapixel digital SLR camera (hey, it was 2005). While I wasn't exactly producing Pulitzers, I got great articles for my portfolio and the experience of working as an adult. In this economy, everybody wants free labor and by finding a place to volunteer regularly, you may just find a career. Start your search early, though: These opportunities fill up fast!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.

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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who 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.

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Go Green with This Scholarship of the Week

Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship Deadline is March 31st

March 12, 2012

Go Green with This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

St. Patrick’s Day may only come once a year but going green is important every day! Whether it’s recycling cans, unplugging your computer when it’s not in use, opting for reusable water bottles or reading the online edition of your favorite newspaper, protecting the environment is something everyone should try to do in some way. Want to get started but don’t know how? You’re in luck: The Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship is giving you the opportunity to do just that and earn $1,000 for college at the same time.

The Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship is open to U.S. residents who are college bound (aka high school juniors and seniors who will begin attending college within the next two years) and any students currently enrolled at accredited institutions of higher education. To apply, simply fill out the entry form on Castle Ink’s website then post a YouTube video, tweet or create a Facebook wall post explaining how you reduce, reuse and recycle.

Applicants currently have a little over two weeks left to enter – the deadline has been extended to March 31st – so take this time share what you’re doing to make the environment a little (or a lot!) better. To learn more about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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The Truth About Tuition Rates

March 12, 2012

The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Congress Plans to Double Stafford Loan Interest Rates

March 14, 2012

Congress Plans to Double Stafford Loan Interest Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Recent reports suggest that student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time and will reach $1 trillion this year. The average college student leaves owing $25,000 in loans, putting them at risk of having to significantly delay moving on to different life stages such as buying a house, getting married and even having children. Curious as to how the government has responded in aiding and relieving students of insurmountable debt? By possibly doubling the interest rate of the most popular federally subsidized loans, of course.

On Tuesday, college students delivered more than 130,000 letters to congressional leaders at the Capitol to protest the increase. Unless Congress takes action, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, increasing the average debt by $2,800 for more than 7 million students receiving the loans, according to a spokesman for the Democratic members of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce. Why is Congress considering the increase when so many students are already in debt? In 2007, Congress voted to cut the Stafford interest rate, which in turn cost an estimated $7.2 billion from 2007 to 2012 and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, that burden was shouldered almost entirely by lenders and loan-guarantee agencies. "We all want to promote efforts that will reduce college costs, but the era of empty promises has to end," said John P. Kline Jr., a Republican from Minnesota who is the committee's chairman. "The interest rate hike students face is the result of a ticking time bomb set by Democrats five years ago," Mr. Kline said. "Simply calling for more of the same is a disservice to students and taxpayers." (For more on this story, click here.)

Soon-to-be college graduates, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?

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Stuff College Students Say

March 15, 2012

Stuff College Students Say

by Angela Andaloro

The college student population in the United States prides itself on its diversity. While no two students are alike, we have some similarities that bond us together and the common experiences and feelings related to college are the ones that we’ll never forget. Still, sometimes the stereotypes that come along with being a college student are just that: stereotypes. With that in mind, I bring you “Stuff College Students Say.”

  • “I’m so broke.” I can sympathize when this lament is shared over Ramen noodles late night in the dorms but when it’s tweeted from your iPhone 4S while you’re shopping for a new outfit for tonight’s house party, it’s a little harder to accept.
  • “I’m not going to class. It’s way too early.” I love to sleep in as much as the next person, but “early” is a relative term in college life. Remember high school, where you knew you had to be in class by 8 a.m., no excuses? That 12:30 p.m. lecture doesn’t seem so early anymore.
  • “Are you going to that event later?” I’d bet $5 that you can’t tell me what organization the event is for or what it’s about. You’ll be there though because there’s free food and free food tastes so much better than food you have to pay for.
  • “I’m going to take a nap.” Yes, you are...on the quad, in the student union, in the library, etc. Anywhere but your dorm, though, because you have class in an hour.
  • “I’ve got to register for classes.” After making sure that none of your classes start before noon and that the professors all check out on RateMyProfessors.com, then you might schedule an appointment with your adviser to make sure you graduate on time. Maybe. If you have time after your nap.

The great thing about us college students is that we have awesome senses of humor. We know that we can be a little ridiculous sometimes, but we can laugh at that ridiculousness. What kind of stuff are the students on your campus saying? Let us know in the comments!

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.

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Multiple Law Schools Could Face Litigation Over Job Placement Rates

March 15, 2012

Multiple Law Schools Could Face Litigation Over Job Placement Rates

by Suada Kolovic

With the cost of a college education rising relentlessly and our economy still downturned, students are faced with a tragic catch-22: either become saddled with overwhelming debt or forgo a college education and limit your career possibilities. But are those the only options? What if students could prosecute their alma maters because they were misled by high job placement rates? Well if you pursued law school, chances are your college will soon be in the midst of a similar situation.

According to reports, 20 more law schools have found themselves under fire regarding allegedly deceptive job placement rates. The eight firms held a news conference announcing that they were seeking to file class action lawsuits and predicted that “nearly every law school in the country” would soon face litigation. With the team promising to sue 20 to 25 schools every few months, several law schools have already started revising their employment data – data that reflects much lower percentages of students securing full-time positions and reveal that salary statistics were based on a small percentage of students who voluntarily reported their incomes. David Anziska, one of the lead lawyers, said the team hopes that the law schools would eventually enter into a “global settlement” under pressure from the courts, regulators and legislators.

What do you think of the lawsuit? Is it fair to target law schools during these trying economic times when almost all college graduates, regardless of their majors, are struggling to find employment? Let us know in the comments section.

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Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

Project Yellow Light’s Deadline is March 31st

March 19, 2012

Slow Down and Apply for This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Text messaging can come in handy when you are taking a short study break in a quiet library but when it happens behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, its convenience is replaced by danger. You’ve probably see people texting at traffic signals, on side streets and on the highway at 65 miles per hour but the action is dangerous and on its way to becoming illegal. Want to help bring about change regarding texting and driving? Slow down and take a look at our latest Scholarship of the Week, Project Yellow Light.

As a Project Yellow Light applicant, you have one clear mission in your video application: encourage other teens to develop and embrace safe driving habits – specifically, don’t text and drive. High school seniors who will complete graduation requirements by or before July 31st of this year must submit their 60-second videos via the Project Yellow Light website by March 31st. The first-place winner will receive a scholarship in the amount of $2,000, the second-place winner will receive $500 and the third-place winner will receive $200; in addition to a scholarship, the winning video will be turned into an Ad Council PSA and will be distributed nationally to 1,600 TV stations.

Interested in learning more about this scholarship opportunity? Visit Project Yellow Light’s official website and conduct a free scholarship search today!

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