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Pell Maximum Maintained, Eligibility Tightened

December 16, 2011

Pell Maximum Maintained, Eligibility Tightened

by Alexis Mattera

The Federal Pell Grant program as we know it has been in jeopardy in recent years but an agreement reached last night will keep its funding intact. While college students will still receive the maximum award amount per year, the number of eligible recipients is a quite different (and unfortunate) story.

The Chronicle reported congressional leaders agreed on a spending bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by 1 percent, thereby maintaining the maximum Pell Grant amount of $5,550. To make this $300 million increase possible, however, eligibility for the award has been restricted. Under the bill, Pell Grant funding will only be available to each student for six years instead of nine, high school diplomas or GEDs will be required (no more ability-to-benefit tests) and the income cap for receiving an "automatic zero" expected family contribution will be lowered from $30,000 to $23,000. The interest subsidy on undergraduate student loans during the six-month grace period after a student graduates would also temporarily end.

Yes, the changes are significant but they are far less severe than an earlier bill which would have lowered the income cap to $15,000 and reduced the amount of income working students could exclude when applying for financial aid – changes that would have negatively impacted thousands of college students, especially those attending community colleges. We want to know what you think about the news. Is there a way to maintain federal funding without decreasing eligibility or do you think this bill is the best option?

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MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

December 21, 2011

MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Let’s be honest, few do but if you’re interested in testing the waters, MIT will soon offer free online certification courses to outside students who complete them!

How will the interactive e-learning venture, known as MITx, work? Here’s the breakdown: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students currently enrolled at MIT as well as external learners like high school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, interact with teachers and other students globally, experience stimulated labs, participate in quizzes and take tests. Still have your doubts? MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif assures interested students, "This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT," he said. "An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

One slight catch is that although MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a “modest” fee for the certificates. (The exact amount is still undecided.) The first course will begin around spring of 2012 but MIT has yet to announce the course. Does this opportunity spark your interest? Should other prestigious institutions – Harvard, Stanford, Brown, etc. – offer similar initiatives? Let us know what you think.

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And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

U.S. News Lists Schools with Lowest Average Debt for 2010 Grads

December 28, 2011

And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

by Alexis Mattera

If you are a recent college graduate, those student loans you haven’t thought about in four or more years are about to come calling...and collecting. While some students’ debt tallies are quite large, the amounts owed by others are much more manageable.

U.S. News & World Report has reported that the average amount of student loan debt (defined as money loaned to students from colleges, financial institutions and the government, not including parent loans) for a 2010 college graduate was about $25,000 but this number truly varies depending on what school a student calls his or her alma mater: For example, 2010 graduates of Alice Lloyd College have an average total indebtedness of only $3,108 and those from Princeton owe just $4,385, due in large part to more grants, scholarships and work study that do not require repayment. Here are all of the schools that made the top 10 and the average amount of student loan debt 2010 graduates incurred:

Does this information have you reevaluating your college plans or financial aid choices?

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Ohio to Eliminate Remedial Funding in Higher Ed by 2020

December 29, 2011

Ohio to Eliminate Remedial Funding in Higher Ed by 2020

by Alexis Mattera

Many colleges across the country offer remedial courses for students in subjects like math, English and science to better prepare them for the curriculum ahead but as budgets continue to tighten, administrators in Ohio are looking to cut funding for these classes completely.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the annual cost for remedial classes in American higher education hovers around $3.6 billion. Though states like Florida, Missouri and South Carolina are making strides to restrict remedial funding to more reasonable levels, Ohio has vowed to eliminate the approximately $130 million it spends annually by 2020. How is this going to happen? Schools appear to be approaching the issue in different ways: University System of Ohio Chancellor Jim Petro is calling for better assessments in grade 10 to ensure enough time for extra help before attending college, the University of Toledo is changing its recruitment tactics by improving outreach to private schools and even guaranteeing scholarships as early as eighth grade to secure better prepared students, and Wright State University is working with nearby community colleges to standardize a remedial education curriculum – a move associate provost Thomas Sudkamp says will best serve students when remediation funding is phased out.

Do you think Ohio’s plan is a step in the right direction or is remedial education funding an integral part of success in college?

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Is College Still Worthwhile?

December 30, 2011

Is College Still Worthwhile?

by Alexis Mattera

There’s been much debate about the true value of a college degree. This isn’t surprising given rising tuition costs and lower employment rates but a new study by a 2011 Trinity College graduate reveals spending the time and money to obtain a college degree is still very much worthwhile.

That graduate – Sarah Millar – came to this conclusion by examining data from government and private sources as well as her own personal experience as a college student. She found that although college costs have climbed an average of 6.4 percent each year since 1981 and annual income has only risen 0.4 percent in that time, the average take-home pay of college graduates is $38,950 versus $21,500 of students who only graduated high school. Unemployment rates of the two groups are also in favor or college degree holders – as of last month, 4.4 percent to 9.6 percent – and earnings of college grads exceed high school grads by more than $1 million over 40 years. Millar does note that all colleges and majors are not created equal, though, as average starting salaries of recent grads in specific fields of study from well-known or prestigious schools are more than those from state universities or smaller private colleges.

Check out more information from the study here then tell us: What do you think of Millar’s findings?

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2011: The College Edition

January 3, 2012

2011: The College Edition

by Angela Andaloro

There are lots of 2011 recap lists circulating the Internet but the one you are about to read comes from a different perspective: a college student's! There were many interesting events that occurred this year that involved colleges – here’s to the lessons we’ve learned this year...and the lessons ahead of us!

Occupy Wall Street: This nationwide protest had great appeal to college students, who have expressed their frustrations at rising tuition costs and the amount of debt students are accruing. Students participated in walkouts in November to express their unity with the movement and also faced off with police. (I’m sure no one will forget the UC Davis pepper spraying photo and its viral impact any time soon.)

Controversy: Controversy has swept colleges by storm in the latter half of this year with scandals occurring at both Penn State and Syracuse University. While these stories raised many concerns amongst parents and students, it also increased the sense of community and unity amongst the students at these schools and beyond. This was illustrated best by a building on the Penn State campus sporting an adaptation of their classic “We are Penn State!” chant: Following the controversy surrounding the football program, the building now reads “We are still Penn State!” showing that despite recent incidents, students are still proud to be Nittany Lions.

Achievements: College students around the country - including you! - have been accomplishing great things all year long. Whether it was passing a tough class, being awarded a scholarship or scoring an amazing internship, the things you’ve achieved this year contributed to the overall scope of college life in 2011. Surely, your accomplishments will continue on and play a role in making 2012 a happy, healthy, successful year for us all.

Have something to add? Let us know which events were important on your campus this year!

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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Study: E-Textbooks Saved Majority of Students Only $1

January 5, 2012

Study: E-Textbooks Saved Majority of Students Only $1

by Suada Kolovic

Despite students’ early enthusiasm toward e-books as a cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks, a new study finds that for the most part, the total savings was just $1. With publishers saving a great deal of money by not having to print textbooks and ship them out, why aren’t those savings being passed on to students?

The study, conducted over four semesters at Daytona State College, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. According to the study’s authors, the $1-dollar difference was attributed to “publisher pricing decisions” and the fact that students who opted to rent e-textbooks could not sell their materials back once the semester ended. But pricing wasn’t the only hiccup: E-books have proven to be unreliable in some classroom settings. For instance, wireless networks in classrooms where several students were using e-textbooks at once sometimes became overwhelmed and translated into no e-book access for the entire class. (For more on the study, click here.)

Even with these glitches, do you think e-textbooks in every classroom in the near future are inevitable? What steps can colleges and universities take in order to ensure publishers set up fair pricing for e-textbooks and that the students using them will have better in-class access to the materials?

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An App for Apps

Matchbox Streamlines Admissions Processes

January 11, 2012

An App for Apps

by Alexis Mattera

As soon as high school students drop their college applications in the mail or send them hurtling through cyberspace, they breathe sighs of relief thinking the hardest part of the application process is over. Not so much for college admissions officers, whose challenges are just beginning: They must review each and every transcript, essay, standardized test score and extracurricular to select the right mix of students to attend their institutions. It can take a lot of resources – there are quite literally thousands of applications to evaluate – so it’s about time an app was created to streamline the process.

Matchbox has developed an iPad app to speed up the review of college applications without compromising the savvy judgment admissions officers are known for. Founder and CEO Stephen Marcus created the first incarnation of the Matchbox app as a member of the admissions committee at the MIT Sloan School of Management. At that time, Marcus said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to read one application but with the Matchbox app, that same process is two to three times faster. "I'm able to save a lot of time when I'm reading applications now," said Jennifer Barba, associate director of admissions at the Sloan School. "Before I would have to write out all of that evidence on the handwritten scorecard. Now I can just tap it with my finger, highlight it, assign a category, and it's done."

Do you think this kind of technology is good or bad for the college application evaluation process? Let us know why in the comments or via Facebook and Twitter!

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University System of Georgia to Consolidate Campuses

January 12, 2012

University System of Georgia to Consolidate Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

When quality and quantity go head to head, it’s the former that usually prevails. Given the University System of Georgia’s latest announcement, it appears such is the case in higher education as well.

The system’s board of regents recently approved a plan to consolidate eight of the 35 state colleges and universitiesGainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University; Middle Georgia College and Macon State College; Waycross College and South Georgia College; and Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University – into four schools. Spokesman John Millsaps revealed that though the consolidations were brought about by the fledgling economy, the plan was devised with the students in mind: Combining the schools will provide greater access to more classes, degree programs, educators and resources and remove bureaucratic hurdles like transferring credits between institutions.

Are you attending or considering attending one of the institutions to be consolidated? If so, how does this news impact your college career?

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Harvard Alum Donates $150 Million for Student Aid

March 6, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy still in a slump, debt-ridden college students aren't alone in their financial struggles. Colleges and universities nationwide – who've had a fair share in creating insurmountable amounts of debt for the majority of students – have struggled to attract potential donors as concerns about unstable markets remain. Harvard University, however, may be the exception: An alumnus who started trading stock options from his dorm room almost 25 years ago recently donated $150 million to his alma mater for financial aid.

Hedge fund manager and Citadel Investment Group founder Kenneth Griffin’s donation (Harvard’s largest-ever gift specifically devoted to financial aid) is expected to help as many as 800 undergraduates annually. With tuition, room and board at Harvard University hovering at about $56,000, you'd assume that only students from affluent families could afford the outstanding price tag. The reality: Sixty percent of undergraduates receive financial aid from the school and pay on average just $12,000 a year. Families making up to $65,000 a year pay nothing, while those with incomes up to $150,000 pay between zero and 10 percent of their income. Griffin said he hopes to donate more to Harvard in the coming years and called for his peers to consider doing the same. "At Harvard, we've had not decades of commitment for our alumni, but centuries. It's time for my generation to step up," he said.

What do you think of Griffin's donation to Harvard – a school that already has an endowment of $32.3 billion – and not those in need directly? Is this a step in the right direction or not?

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