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Community College Students: Avoid These Student Loan Challenges!

June 27, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you're going to pay for your college education can be intimidating. No one wants to pay off student loans for the rest of their lives, full-tuition scholarships are rare and federal student aid seldom covers all college costs, so considering a community college to curb the financial strains is smart! But attending a community college doesn't necessarily dismiss the likelihood of defaulting on your student loans: According to the most recent cumulative default rates, the percentage of two-year public school students who default is 18.7 percent and 13.2 percent for students at two-year private and nonprofit institutions – that's more than double their four-year counterparts! If you're a community college student, check out U.S. News and World Report's three tips you can follow to avoid defaulting on your student loans.

  • Think before you borrow. Just like your other obligations, a student loan is a commitment. You are responsible for repaying it whether you complete your education or not. By thinking before you borrow, you can help ensure the former comes true.
  • Maximize your federal financial aid. Contrary to popular belief, financial aid is available for community college students. And while you should think before you borrow, you can be less reluctant if you go with federal loans.
  • Stay in school. Maximizing federal financial aid can help community college students in an additional way: It can keep them in school if they run out money. Taking out student loans without going on to complete your program of study can lead to big repayment problems. So whether your goal is a formal credential from a community college or to eventually transfer to a four-year institution, it’s important to stay on target so you don’t end up with debt but no diploma.

Can you think of any tips to add to this list? If so, please share them in our comments section. For more information on the pros and cons of attending a community college, head over to Scholarships.com College Prep section.

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California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

October 11, 2013

California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and you don’t think a traditional four-year university is for you, attending a community college does have its perks. Whether you’re interested in completing your general courses or testing the waters with a major that you're not absolutely set on, community colleges offer students the luxury of figuring out their educational path for a fraction of the cost...or at least they used to: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow a handful of community colleges to charge inflated prices for in-demand courses. Let’s say it all together now: Booooooo!

The higher costs – $200 per unit instead of $46 – would only affect the shorter summer and winter sessions. Supporters insist that the pilot program would prevent more students from being shut out of courses they need to graduate but critics said that lower-income students would be denied the opportunity to obtain course credits essential to their educational success. "The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," said Vincent Stewart, the community college system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, after the California Legislature approved the measure. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track, is patently unfair."

Even with the rate per unit almost quintupled, the overall cost of studying at a community college is still considerably less when compared to traditional options but is it fair to charge more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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College Official Accused of Offering Scholarships for Sex

February 24, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Securing the funds needed to attend college can be challenging. Luckily for the majority of students, they can rely on financial aid experts for guidance. Regrettably, not all students are so fortunate: An Idaho community college administrator stands accused of offering scholarships to students in exchange for sex.

Idaho police arrested Joseph Bekken, 36, the head of financial aid for North Idaho College, on suspicion of procurement of prostitution and other charges in connection with ads he posted on Craigslist offering "grant money" in exchanges for sexual favors from students who attended the two-year college in Coeur d'Alene, according to authorities. Bekken told police no federal funds were involved in his propositions and that he had not been involved with any other students. In a statement Wednesday, NIC President Joe Dunlap said the college "has worked alongside law enforcement from the very beginning of the investigation. I am grateful for the knowledge and training of our staff, which resulted in a swift and decisive response to this incident." Bekken also faces charges of bribery and using a computer in a scheme to defraud. (For the full story, head over to Reuters.)

What do you think Bekken’s penalty should be for using his position to solicit students for sex? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to conduct a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com, where you’ll be matched with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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Tennessee Governor Proposes Free Community College

February 4, 2014

Tennessee Governor Proposes Free Community College

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. That is unless you're from Tennessee, where the governor has proposed free community college for all high school graduates. That’s right: All high school graduates in the state would have the option to attend a community or technical college for two years for free!

On Monday, Gov. William E. Haslam proposed using money from the Tennessee Education Lottery to fund an endowment that would cover all tuition and fees to two-year institutions for all graduating high school seniors. The proposal forms the centerpiece of his effort to increase the number of college graduates in Tennessee. "We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee," Haslam said. "Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors." In addition to the Tennessee Promise proposal, the governor laid out several other educational polices, including an expansion of a program meant to reduce the need for remedial math courses and a program to encourage high school students to take dual-enrollment courses. (For more on this story, click here.)

With the cost of a college education still on the rise, what do you think of Haslam’s proposal? Should all states that participate in the lottery consider this option? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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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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Obamas Free College Proposal Raises Questions

January 20, 2015

by Ben Archer

Sure, anything Obama proposes is going to have detractors across the aisle politically. Perhaps due in part to his recent and seemingly more and more frequent use of executive action or just plain old typical partisanship, our president can scarcely do anything these days without intense scrutiny. Naturally, among the chief concerns of Obama’s opponents on the matter is the increase in taxes that would be necessitated by such action. But let’s discuss the other aspect of offering "free" college for all first.

Some people (perhaps none more than those who had to work before, during and/or after attending college to pay for the education and experience they received) may feel as though it would be beneficial for anybody who attends college, community or otherwise, to have some "skin in the game". Certainly, there is a certain psychological aspect to consider; the potential subconscious assignment of value to things that are "free" vs. the ones for which one has worked and saved to attain, isn’t there? Definitely a point worth discussing and possible consideration when discussing the cost of college. Naturally, not all prospective beneficiaries of the "free college" plan would respond in the same way. Certainly, there are many who would take full advantage of such a program and benefit greatly from the opportunity, but would they comprise a large enough portion of the qualifying applicants to the program for it to be viable and sustainable?

Of course, there is also the debate about funding of such a plan. We all know that there is no "free" college or anything else in this world, so who ends up paying for the college education that the students in question would receive through such a plan? Should the taxpayers at large, whether they have kids or not, have already paid for their children to attend college, etc. be required to pay for other people and their children to attend college? Is this the only or, more importantly, the best solution to the problem of the rising cost of post-secondary education? Does anybody have a better idea?

Of course, at first glance, the idea of providing everyone with the opportunity for a free post-secondary education is very appealing to those who can't afford college. This would be, at the very least, a "leg-up" for those who don't have the money to pay for college; a chance to prove to themselves and perhaps to a school to which they might later transfer, that they possess the dedication and aptitude to earn a degree. But with the country still in tremendous debt and many college grads being forced to take jobs that don't require a college degree at all, is this a practical solution? Would students who were not paying take the opportunity for granted due to the lack of having invested any of their own money in the endeavor? Is this a solution that will actually accomplish the goal of providing education to those who need but cannot afford it? There are still many questions yet to be answered and, as always, we would love to offer our comments section for you to annotate and contribute to this debate.

So, what do you think? Should community college be free? Do you think students will do as well in such a situation as they would if they were required to pay tuition? How would you propose supporting such a program? C'mon, speak up and tell us your thoughts!

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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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More Students, Fewer Resources: For Community Colleges Popularity Comes at a Price

January 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're planning to enroll in a community college sometime in 2009, be sure to plan ahead.  While in the past, late registration may have resulted in students not getting a class or two they wanted, increased interest in two year schools may produce an even more pronounced effect.  Community colleges across the country are receiving more applications and admitting more students for the 2008-2009 academic year than ever before, with some institutions reporting percentage growths in the double digits.  Many schools are seeing enrollment increases so dramatic that they lack the money and space to adequately accommodate the students turning up on their doorsteps.

Community colleges and four-year state colleges are contending with state budget cuts, declining endowments, and less fruitful fundraising efforts in the face of the worst economic situation in decades.  Meanwhile, the cash-strapped and the frugal are flocking to the least expensive educational options available, which are community colleges.  Community colleges are also seeing an uptick in nontraditional students, as the unemployed return to school for job training and certification to get back to work.  All of this adds up to a situation where more students need seats in classes, college services, and student financial aid than ever before, yet fewer resources are available to accommodate these needs.

While schools are doing their best to find space, add courses and sections, and increase campus-based aid where possible, budgetary difficulties are an unfortunate reality.  The economic stimulus bill currently in the works in Congress may help relieve some of this stress, but students should still be aware of potential snags in their college plans.  If you plan to enroll in a community college this summer or fall, here are some steps to take:

  1. Research costs and payment options now.  Do a scholarship search.  Many scholarships are available to community college students and some are awarded specifically to students at these institutions.
  2. Apply for admission and financial aid as early as possible.  While most community colleges have rolling admission, students who wait until the last minute to get in may find classes full and aid exhausted.
  3. Whether you're a new or returning student, register for classes as soon as you can and be sure to pay your bill on time, or early if possible.  If you get dropped or prevented from registering due to late payment, there's no guarantee a seat will still be there when you get your finances in place.
  4. Complete the FAFSA soon, even if you're not sure if or when you'll start college in 2009. FAFSA applications are up this year, as are most varieties of financial aid applications.  This could mean a lengthier processing time, both at the Department of Education and in your college's financial aid office.  The FAFSA is worth doing--many community college students don't apply for aid, even though they qualify.  Applying is free and having one on file can't hurt, even if you don't go to school right away.
  5. If your employer helps with tuition, find out beforehand whether they pay up front or reimburse you after the fact.  The earlier you know whether you need to come up with money on your own or the more warning they have before they need to pay, the better your chances are of being able to register on time.

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The Changing Face of Community Colleges

April 7, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

For current and future college students, April is a time for big, and potentially painful, decisions. Right now prospective college students are beginning to sort through their acceptance letters and financial aid offers and current students are starting to think about how to pay for school next year.  If the financial picture is much bleaker than you'd hoped, but you're hesitant to commit to the two-year school as a money-saving option, here's some information you may not have known about the community college experience.

Just like four-year schools, different community colleges offer vastly different experiences, and in fact, depending on your major and location, you can potentially get many of the things four-year schools offer for much less money.  For example, did you know that some community colleges offer on-campus housing, and others offer a selection of four-year degrees?  Other community colleges have articulation agreements with area universities, as well, so you can spend two years paying next to nothing for credits that can potentially transfer to some of the most expensive and prestigious schools in your area.

These programs can be a great deal, since community college tuition tends to be much lower than private colleges, or even four-year state colleges and universities.  With on-campus housing, international student classmates, innovative educational programs, numerous online courses, and challenging coursework, the right community college can start to feel a lot more like the "traditional" college experience, but at a fraction of the price.

So how do you find community colleges with sweet deals like fancy apartments or four-year nursing degrees? Just do a little research.  Start with a college search in your area and see what's available. You could land the educational deal of a lifetime.

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Gates Foundation Launches Community College Grant Program

June 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced new grants to help states and community colleges improve remedial education and college completion.  The grants, totaling $16.5 million, were awarded to five states and fifteen community colleges and represent the second wave in an effort the foundation began in 2004.

As college costs continue to rise, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to community colleges as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional four-year university.  Greater emphasis on higher education, such as President Obama's earlier urging for every American to receive some amount of post-secondary education, have also brought community colleges into focus.  In addition to being affordable and local, community colleges often focus on career-oriented education, which can help the unemployed or those who are looking for better job security quickly and effectively pick up skills and certification to achieve career goals.

Despite the benefits of a community college education, many students who enroll struggle to finish.  As many as 60 percent of community college students may need remedial courses, including up to 90 percent of low-income and minority students at these institutions, and students requiring remediation are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to successfully completing requirements to earn a degree. Grants from the Gates Foundation aim to help colleges continue to address this problem, building on the success of previous Gates-funded programs that saw the number of students successfully moving to college-level coursework rise by 16 to 20 percent.

Students will benefit from this grant money through increased access to support services, such as tutoring and academic advising, that can help them meet their college goals.  Improved remedial education, a federal focus on community colleges as vital educational institutions, and new state efforts to smooth the process of transferring from two-year to four-year state colleges all have the potential to help a greater number of Americans attain a higher education, and to do so at a lower cost.

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