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Four Degrees That are Better to Earn at a Community College

December 9, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to earning a college degree, attending a four-year university may not be the surest route to a successful career: Depending on what you're interested in pursuing, a two-year or technical certificate can offer a better return on your investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in fields such as health care, manufacturing and information technology offer median earnings of up to $55,000 or more for graduates with associate degrees. Interested in the specifics? Check our U.S. News & World Report’s four degrees that are better to earn at a community college below:

  • Engineering technology: High-tech employers are looking for specific skills rather than degrees. This is especially the case in manufacturing, where employers have a hard time filling open positions, says Jason Premo, founder of the South Carolina-based aerospace manufacturing company Adex Machining Technologies. The median salary for aerospace engineering technicians ranges from $55,000-$75,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; with additional on-the-job training, that figure could rise significantly, Premo says.
  • Radiation technology and medical imaging: Radiation therapist, nuclear medicine technologist and diagnostic medical sonographer are three high-paying positions a student can take on with a two-year degree. In 2012, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists earned median salaries of $77,560 and $70,180, respectively, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Plumbing and heating: A college degree isn't required to become a plumber or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technician. Instead, students become apprentices, where they receive on-the-job training (with a salary!) and take classes in math and science that cover topics relevant to the field, such as hydraulics and mechanical drafting. Apprentice programs are either offered directly via a union or through a community or technical college. The programs are typically tuition-free and trainees earn technical certifications and professional licenses required to work in the field.
  • Dental hygiene: Bachelor’s and associate degrees in dental hygiene are both considered entry-level requirements for a career in the field but an associate degree is by far the more common route. The median salary for hygienists in 2012 was $70,210, according to BLS, which also estimated that job openings in the field will increase by 33 percent over the next few years.

Are you considering a two-year degree or technical certificate as opposed to a bachelor’s degree? If so, are you pursuing any of the careers listed above? Share your thoughts in our comments section. For more on the pros and cons of community college, head over to our College Prep section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your education.

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10 Universities Where Most Classes Are Small

December 16, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The transition from high school to college is most evident to students when they realize they’ll no longer be coddled in cozy classes of 20 students or fewer. Lecture halls with 300-plus students are the norm at most major universities, where classes tend to be impersonal, relationships with professors are typically nonexistent and students feel more like numbers than people. So for those who prefer a learning environment that provides back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors, U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of universities with the highest percentage of small classes.

According to the data, several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked universities with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Check out the top 10 universities with the smallest class sizes below. (For more information on this survey, click here.)

How important is class size to you? Are large lectures deal breakers in your book? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile for a list of scholarships that are personalized to you! Whether you’re studying at a university or community college, we’ll help you find the financial aid you need to pay for school. Start your search today!

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Is Earning a College Degree Worth It? Study Finds Modest Return for Some

February 10, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

It wasn't too long ago that the majority of Americans agreed that one had to pursue a college degree in order to succeed in the workforce. Unfortunately for millennials, the rate of success after obtaining said degree is no longer so intrinsically tied: According to reports, millions of college students don't graduate, suffer a mismatch between education and employment and are left with massive amounts of debt.

New research suggests that earning a college degree is no longer the surest ticket to the middle class. "'Ticket' implies a college degree is something you can just cash in," said Alan Benson, assistant business professor at the University of Minnesota. "But it doesn’t work that way. A college degree is more of a stepping stone, one ingredient to consider when you’re cooking up your career...It’s not always the best investment for everyone." Benson, along with MIT’s Frank Levy and business analyst Raimudo Esteva, co-authored a new paper examining the value of public university options in California. They found that factors like how long it takes to complete a degree and whether students even make it to graduation can significantly diminish the value of pursuing higher education. Unsurprisingly, the study also found that students who take out loans and don’t graduate on time incur much more debt. All in all, Benson concluded that the investment of a college education is generally better for those who graduate – on time – from a school with healthier resources. (For more on their research, click here.)

Do you think that a college degree is necessary for gainful employment and upward mobility? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

January 6, 2015

by Alexis Mattera

Though it's a day off from school and work, New Year's Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year's resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2013 for the 2014-2015 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

For more information on FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, head over to our Federal Aid section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your college education.

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President Obama Proposes Free Community College

January 13, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

When considering the true cost of a college education, students must remember to factor in not only tuition but mandatory fees, room and board, books, supplies and living expenses. Unless, of course, you’re considering a community college: President Obama recently proposed free community college for all high school graduates for two years! Score!

The concept, according to administration officials, is not to target low-income students explicitly: Anyone will be provided the option of two years of tuition as long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend school at least half-time. In effect, community college would be universal the way high school is. "Two years of college should be free and should be universal and should be of high quality for responsible students, just like high school is today," said Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education, the third-highest ranking official at the U.S. Department of Education. If the initiative is adopted nationally, officials estimate nine million people across the county could each save about $3,800 in college costs.

It's important to note that the President's proposal would involve the federal government and states combining to pay the entire cost of tuition for two years at a community college for any American who wanted it. And relying on taxpayers is where the program is likely to run into objections from Republicans in Congress: The administration estimates the program would cost about $6 billion a year. (For more on this story, click here.)

With the cost of a college education still on the rise, what do you think of President Obama’s proposal? Share your thoughts in the comments section. For more on the pros and cons of community college, head over to our College Prep section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your education.

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Obama Hears Our Plea, Drops Proposal to Raise Taxes on 529 Savings Plans

February 3, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

After widespread criticism from both parties, the Obama administration decided to scrap its proposal to raise taxes on college savings accounts. Just last week, we blogged about President Obama's proposal to "roll back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Luckily, that's no longer the case.

According to The New York Times, the decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded the proposal be withdrawn from the president's budget, "for the sake of middle-class families." Interestingly enough, top Democrats, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, pressed for the repeal. Administration officials initially defended the plan as an attempt to redirect tax benefits that they said largely benefit wealthy families toward tax credits that help poorer families. The administration will keep its plan to expand other higher education tax breaks, a White House official told The Times. (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the administration scrapping its proposal? Are you relieved? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, where you’ll get matched with financial aid that is unique to you!

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Top 10 Least Expensive Colleges to Earn Your Degree

February 6, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

It seems as though students are willing to do just about anything to save money while in college, from working multiple low-paying jobs to sticking to an Ramen-noodle-only diet to applying early and often for college scholarships. But what if there was a more direct route to affordable education...like selecting a school that won't cost you $200,000 to attend.

According to USA Today, your best bet is Berea College in Kentucky. With the average annual price tag clocking in at $2,382, students pay $10,257 total for four years. We should mention that 100 percent of the student population receives financial aid and that students also participate in a labor program in order to keep costs low. In order to determine the figures, they multiplied the average net cost most students pay (including average amounts of financial aid) by the average length of time to graduate. The resulting number is the average price most students will end up paying. Interested in other affordable higher education options? Check out USA Today's top 10 least expensive colleges to earn your degree below:

Did any of your top choices make the list? If not, would you consider a college based on its affordability? Let us know in the comments section. And don’t forget that even affordable college tuition can still be expensive! Try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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Facebook to Offer Suicide Prevention Resources

February 26, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Since 2011, Facebook has had a way for users to report potentially suicidal posts...just not the easiest way. Until now, it required users to upload links and screenshots to the official Facebook suicide prevention page before receiving any type of help. Starting Wednesday, Facebook will simplify the process and begin rolling out suicide prevention resources that are built directly into posts.

For the project, Facebook worked with suicide prevention organizations Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org. According to a Facebook post written by product manager Rob Boyle and Safety Specialist Nicole Staubli, a trained team will review reports of posts that appear to be suicidal and, if necessary, send the poster notifications with suicide prevention resources, such as a connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline. They also will contact the person reporting the posts, providing them with options to call or message the potentially suicidal friend or to also seek the advice of a trained professional. The new reporting feature is currently available for approximately 50 percent of Facebook users in the U.S. and will roll out to the rest of the country in the next few months, according to a spokesperson for Facebook.

What do you think of Facebook’s efforts to help suicide prevention? Do you think other social media sites should follow suit? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Cleveland Law School Offers “Risk-Free” J.D. Program

March 25, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The decision to pursue a law degree is not one that should not be taken lightly. Analyzing your hopes and needs prior to applying will help you decide whether it’s worth your time, effort and money. It’s also crucial to examine the possible downsides: crippling student debt, high unemployment rates and declining starting salaries. At this point, if you’re still interested in studying law, you might want to consider a law school that’s offering the country’s first “risk-free” juris doctor program.

Following a recent trend among law schools to attract prospective students, the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University announced that beginning this spring, a student who decides to not continue law school after successfully completing their first year of studies can graduate with a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) degree without taking any additional courses. And although students with this degree will not be permitted to sit for the bar exam, this approach will provide students with a foundation in law without preparing them to practice. “The new opportunity removes at least some of the financial and personal risk inherent in a large educational undertaking and comes at a time when people appreciate more guarantees,” said Craig M. Boise, Cleveland-Marshall’s dean. He added, “For these students, the first year of law school might have seemed like a waste and a hard-to-explain item on their resumes. Now they can leave with a master’s degree that we believe will be attractive to employers.” (For more on this story, click here.)

Law school hopefuls, does the “risk-free” J.D. program at CSU’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law help quell your anxieties given the weak legal job market? Do you think this program (which is essentially one-third the cost and time of a traditional law program) would be viable or not? Let us know in the comments section.

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Congrats! Or Not…

With False Acceptance Emails on the Rise, Be Sure to Double Check Your Admissions Decision

March 26, 2014

by Mike Sheffey

Imagine receiving an email from your dream college or university congratulating you on your acceptance. It's a great feeling, right? Now imagine receiving a follow-up email from that same school stating that admissions decision you waited so long to hear was sent in error. Worst. Day. Ever.

This unfortunate scenario has been a reality for many students, as the number of colleges sending out acceptance emails by mistake has increased in recent years. Gone are the days where you could determine your post-secondary fate by the size of the envelope in your mailbox; now, admissions decisions are often released first electronically but the system is far from foolproof. Technology isn't all it’s cracked up to be sometimes and people aren't perfect...but when you're dealing with students' futures, these mistakes should never happen.

For the colleges that have been messing up: GET IT TOGETHER! These emails are nothing more than an added comfort so if you can't get it right, don't do it at all. This isn't a small error: It's a life-changing one. As a center for higher learning, you need to care about your future students a little more. If you can spellcheck an email, you can also check to see who it's going to.

So students, if you've received an electronic admissions decision, just double check before starting the celebration. Look elsewhere online, email somebody or call the school directly as soon as possible. The last thing you want is a false sense of relief. Once you're sure, however, go crazy – getting into college is a big deal and should be treated as such!

Mike Sheffey is a senior 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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