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From Hollywood to Harvard: Celebrities and College

March 1, 2012

From Hollywood to Harvard: Celebrities and College

by Angela Andaloro

When we think of celebrities, we think of polished perfection on the red carpet, wild escapades and overall lives of luxury. What we don’t really think of are celebrities sitting in lecture halls, doing lab work or writing research papers but the mentions of celebrities enrolling in college have increased greatly within the last 10 years. While it’s always positive for someone to continue their education and improve themselves, are celebrities really doing that?

Recently, many young actors and actresses have begun attending college. It seems, however, that their college careers aren’t being taken very seriously – by themselves or others. One such celebrity is Emma Roberts. Roberts began attending Sarah Lawrence College this past fall but after just one semester, she has deferred her studies due to work commitments. Even while she was in school, Roberts was known to miss class, once admitting at a fashion show, “I ditched class to come to this show, and that's probably bad.” How easy would withdrawing from school mid-semester be for a regular college student? What would the limitations be? It’s unlikely these factors existed for Roberts.

Do the Hollywood elite get special treatment in the world of higher education? It certainly seems like it. Perhaps the most interesting case of celebrity favoritism is that involving James Franco and his NYU attendance. A professor at the university claims he was fired, in part because he gave Franco a D in his class after missing 12 of the 14 sessions. The professor’s accusations were shocking, with claims including Franco bribing professors by hiring them to write, direct and even appear in his films. He told the New York Post that “The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco” despite his ridiculous superstar behavior.

Not all celebrities treat their college careers as cavalierly. Natalie Portman is one celebrity who put has always put her education first, not attending the premiere of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" to study for her high school finals and, later, pausing her career to attend Harvard. She once said, “I don’t care if it ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Perhaps young Hollywood should follow her example and do the same: She has a college degree AND an Oscar, after all.

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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Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

March 2, 2012

Standardized Testing vs. GPA: Which Better Indicates College Success?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Recently, The New York Times revealed that two studies have shown that many community colleges wrongly place students in remedial classes. The main reason why this happens is because students are placed according to their standardized test scores, rather than their cumulative GPAs – in other words, students are forced to pay for classes they don't receive college credit for and, if not for one less-than-hoped-for standardized test score, wouldn't even have to take otherwise! Consequently, students forced to take these remedial classes may experience lower self-esteem than their peers, fail to graduate on time and have to work significantly harder (both at work and at school) to afford these additional classes. In short, having to take unnecessary remedial classes has the potential to make college much more difficult than it needs to be.

All of these problems could be alleviated if community colleges (and state and private universities, for that matter) placed students based on their cumulative high school GPAs. After all, GPA is determined by years of hard work, whereas standardized tests are based on (at most) several months of preparation. And while we obviously can't use the excuse, "I don't test well" every time our test scores leave something to be desired, we should also keep in mind that one test does not (and should not) determine our academic futures.

If you or someone you know is having to take unnecessary remedial classes (e.g., you earned a B in high school calculus but didn't do as well on the standardized test), don't be afraid to talk to someone in admissions about your concerns. While changes rarely go into effect right away, faculty will listen if more students question the emphasis on standardized tests over cumulative GPA. Just make sure you're polite and discuss your concerns logically and calmly!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Romney on College Costs

GOP Candidate Offers Little Comfort to Current and Hopeful College Students

March 6, 2012

Romney on College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

If you want to go to college but can’t completely afford it, don’t expect Mitt Romney to help you bridge the financial gap.

During yesterday’s town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney made it clear that he would not promise to give students government money to cover higher ed costs. The advice he did offer regarding colleges was blunt – pick an affordable option, get scholarships, join the military and graduate early – and very different than the words of President Obama during his third State of the Union address, which discouraged tuition increases and aimed to double the amount of federal work-study jobs. Though this is a man who pushed for state-funded four-year tuition scholarships while serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s mantra is now firmly “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on”...or protect you from it, for that matter: He supports the House Republican budget which would cut Pell Grants by at least 25 percent.

What do you think of Romney’s position regarding higher ed funding?

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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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