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Social Stigma Causes Poor Math Performance by U.S. Students, Study Suggests

October 14, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

I remember sitting around in an English class one day, waiting for the professor to arrive, when one of my classmates mentioned the GRE (graduate record examination) test that we’d all recently taken to apply to graduate programs. She had been worried she wouldn’t even be able to get into English grad programs because of her abysmal standardized math test performance. Everyone chimed in with their GRE scores and application process anecdotes and I spoke up with, “I was surprised that I actually scored higher on the math than the verbal!” It was akin to announcing that I tortured small animals. The air went out of the room and I think some girls actually edged away from me.

 

This social stigma about math certainly doesn’t start with graduate students in English departments. Most students who excel at math, especially girls, have certainly felt it at one point or another. So while some previous research has suggested that girls just aren’t as good as boys at math, a new study published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society suggests something different. Combining two of the facts of life of high school—popularity is important to many girls and math just isn’t cool—the study proposes that girls don’t do as well at math in middle school and high school and don’t pursue math-heavy degrees as undergraduate students because of social pressure.

 

This conclusion comes from looking at the cultural backgrounds of some of the highest-performing college and high school students who participate in math competitions. Most of these students, especially the girls, came from cultures where math is prized as an important and useful skill and a source of prestige. These students or their parents tended to be from Asian or Eastern European countries, either sparing them from or giving them a social counterpoint to American beliefs about math. These countries produce a higher proportion of mathematically gifted women, as well as higher numbers of math superstars overall, suggesting that it’s not that girls aren’t good at math, but that girls in the U.S. are socialized to not make math a priority.

 

So, if you’re a high school math nerd, hang in there. At least one research team believes that you are good at math and you’re not a weirdo for being good at math. If you can stick with math into college, you’ll likely encounter a different attitude. And if the article in Friday’s New York Times is any indication, top colleges want mathematically-inclined students. They might even pony up some scholarship money to woo you.

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Datatel Scholars Foundation Scholarship

October 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Outstanding students attending college at a Datatel client college or university are eligible for this week's Scholarship of the Week.  The Datatel Scholars Foundation offers three scholarship opportunities for undergraduate students and graduate students currently enrolled at least half-time at an institution serviced by Datatel (a list of eligible schools is available on the Datatel Scholars Foundation website).  The foundation offers a general award worth up to $2,400, an award for veterans worth $1,700, and a $2,000 award for returning students who have not been enrolled in college for five years or more.

Applicants for all three awards need to submit an online application, an 800-1000 word scholarship essay, information about civic involvement, and two letters of recommendation.  Students apply online, then have their applications reviewed by the Datatel scholarship committee at their institution.  Schools nominate up to five students whose applications are then judged at the national level.

Prize:

Datatel Scholars Foundation Scholarship: $1000-2400 depending on the cost of tuition at your institution.

Datatel Angelfire Scholarship: $1700

Datatel Russ Griffith Memorial Scholarship: $2000

Eligibility:

Datatel Foundation Scholarship: any undergraduate or graduate student currently enrolled at least half-time at a Datatel client college.

Datatel Angelfire Scholarship: students attending a Datatel client college who have served in the military in a combat situation.

Datatel Russ Griffith Memorial Scholarship: students attending a Datatel client college who are returning to college after an absence of five years or more.

Deadline:

January 30, 2009

Required Materials:

Completed scholarship application, available on the Datatel Scholars website, two letters of recommendation submitted online, an essay of 800-1000 words responding to the appropriate prompt for the scholarship for which you're applying, and information about your civic involvement.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.

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Report on Degree Completion and Race Raises Concerns

October 9, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

American higher education has just experienced something it hasn't seen since before World War II: a break in the constant increase of degree completion, including a decline in the percentage of minority students attaining a degree.  This has some higher education officials worried that colleges are not doing an adequate job of recruiting and retaining members of disadvantaged groups.

Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 are only slightly more likely to have attained an associate's degree or higher than Americans ages 30 and up, according to the report released today  by the American Council on Education.  The report, which is already receiving a fair amount of press coverage, including a thorough piece in Inside Higher Ed today, shows that overall degree attainment has held almost steady, with 34.9 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 holding degrees, compared to 34.3 percent of those over 30.

While more white and Asian American students have received an associate's degree or higher among the current generation, degree attainment has actually fallen for African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students.  Asian Americans continue to have the highest rate of degree attainment at 66.2 percent (up from 54.1 percent), while only 16 percent of Latinos in the younger age group have completed a degree (down from 17.8 percent of those 30 and over).  However, the current generation of black and Latino women have outperformed previous generations, which is part of an overall trend of women being more likely than men to attend college and complete a degree.

The report also shows that total enrollment of minorities in college has increased by 50 percent over the last ten years, with white enrollment increasing by 8 percent.  Like degree attainment, enrollment gains have been uneven, with 61 percent of Asian Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in college, compared to 44 percent of whites, 32 percent of African Americans, and 25 percent of Hispanics and American Indians.
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College Culture , College News



On Past and Future Tuition Increases

October 8, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

While a report released Tuesday by the Department of Education shows relatively low rates of tuition increase over the last two years, other data and expert opinions suggest that the same will not hold true next year.  Between the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 academic years, tuition at four-year public and private colleges for in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students showed increases of 3.4 to 6.7 percent, adjusted for inflation. 

Out-of-state tuition at public state universities stayed relatively low, increasing 3.4 percent to $13,630.  In-state tuition at public universities went up 5.3 percent over two years to $5,749.  Non-profit private universities saw a 6.7 percent tuition increase, bringing the total amount of tuition and fees to $19,337, while for-profit private universities increased tuition 5.2 percent to $14,782.

However, the economic downturn of 2008 is likely to spur much larger tuition increases as states lose tax revenue.  A report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government warns that state tax collections may fall sharply this year, with revenues from sales taxes, corporate income taxes, and fuel taxes already falling in the second quarter of 2008.  Some states are already cutting budgets to deal with potential revenue shortfalls and increasing inflation, and the trend is likely to spread. 

This could hurt higher education funding and force universities to increase tuition, especially since they also must contend with inflation, with providing financial aid to students in tougher financial situations, and with other potential drops in funding caused by the credit crunch.  Announcements of tuition increases likely won't happen for months, but for high school seniors and other students in the process of choosing a college, potential tuition hikes are definitely something to keep in mind during the college application process.
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Posted Under:

College Costs , College News



Despite Eligibility, Many Community College Students Don't Apply for Aid

October 7, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many community college students who appear to be eligible for federal student financial aid don't apply, according to a report released Monday by the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

The report indicated three major reasons for not applying for aid, with 20 percent of students reporting other reasons.  The main reasons students didn't apply for aid were:\r\n
    \r\n
  • They thought they were not eligible (39 percent)
  • \r\n
  • They had sufficient funds to pay for college expenses (35 percent)
  • \r\n
  • They found the FAFSA too complicated (6 percent)
  • \r\n
\r\nAdditionally, many community college students, including 28 percent of students with family incomes below $10,000 worked more than 30 hours a week.  The report cites previous research that has indicated that students who work more than 15-20 hours a week while attending college full-time see a negative impact on their academic performance.  This stresses the importance of these students learning of their financial aid eligibility, namely their increased Federal Pell Grant eligibility under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

This is just the latest report stressing the need for students attending community colleges, especially those planning to transfer to four-year schools to complete a bachelor's degree, to investigate financial aid options thoroughly.  With lower rates of degree completion, higher rates of student loan defaults, and lower likelihood of applying for college scholarships and grants, community college students can easily find themselves in an unnecessarily difficult financial situation.

Hard work, perseverence, and a commitment to exploring all options for financial aid can keep community college students on the path to success.  If you're attending or planning to attend a community college, start by completing the FAFSA on the web, conducting a scholarship search, and meeting with a financial aid advisor to minimize student loans, avoid working yourself to death, and find money for college.
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Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship

October 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a means of promoting diversity and developing talent, Scholarships.com has created a new set of scholarship awards for high school students and undergraduate students. The Scholarships.com Area of Study College Scholarship competition consists of thirteen $1,000 prizes to be granted to students pursuing a college education in one of thirteen designated fields and 185 related majors.

Among them is the Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship, an award for students who are pursuing or planning to pursue a degree in a health-related field. To ensure that current and future medical students, nursing students, and others planning to use their education to promote health and wellness receive the funds they need to afford a quality education, we have created a scholarship opportunity especially for them.

If you’re interested in applying for the Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship, read the scholarship information below or check your scholarship search results to see if your major qualifies. Then complete the online scholarship application and submit an essay of 250 to 350 words in response to the following question (entries that fall outside of this word range will be disqualified):

“What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in health care/medicine?”

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility: 
     
  1. Applicant must be a registered Scholarships.com user. Creating an account is simple and free of charge.  After you have created an account, conduct a free scholarship search to view and apply for this award.
  2.  
  3. Applicant must be a US citizen.
  4.  
  5. Applicant must be a current undergraduate student or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university by fall 2009.
  6.  
  7. Applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors:  
       
    • Allopathic
    •  
    • Ambulatory Health Care
    •  
    • Audiology
    •  
    • Biology
    •  
    • Biomedicine
    •  
    • Chemistry
    •  
    • Chiropractic
    •  
    • Dental Assistant
    •  
    • Dentistry
    •  
    • Family Practice
    •  
    • Forensics(Medical)
    •  
    • Genetics
    •  
    • Health Care Administration
    •  
    • Health Education
    •  
    • Internal Medicine
    •  
    • Maxillofacial Radiology
    •  
    • Medical Assistant
    •  
    • Medical Lab Technician
    •  
    • Medical Office Specialist
    •  
    • Medical Technologist
    •  
    • Medicine
    •  
    • Microbiology
    •  
    • Neural and Behavioral Science
    •  
    • Neurosciences
    •  
    • Nursing/Nurse Practitioner
    •  
    • Nutrition Studies
    •  
    • Obstetrics/Gynecology
    •  
    • Occupational Therapy
    •  
    • Oncology
    •  
    • Ophthalmology
    •  
    • Optics
    •  
    • Optometry
    •  
    • Oral Radiology
    •  
    • Orthopedics
    •  
    • Orthotics/Prosthetics
    •  
    • Osteopathic
    •  
    • Pediatrics
    •  
    • Pharmacology
    •  
    • Pharmacy Technician
    •  
    • Physical Fitness
    •  
    • Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation
    •  
    • Physician’s Assistant
    •  
    • Podiatry
    •  
    • Psychiatry
    •  
    • Psychology/Counseling
    •  
    • Public Health
    •  
    • Radiology
    •  
    • Respiratory Care
    •  
    • Science (Health)
    •  
    • Speech/Language Pathology
    •  
    • Sports Medicine
    •  
    • Therapeutic Health Technician
    •  
    • Veterinary
    •  
    • Vision Rehabilitation
    •  
      

  8.  
 Deadline:

November 30, 2008

Required Material:

A 250 to 350 word response to the following question: “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in health care/medicine?”

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship list.
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Worries About Economic Downturn Spread to Higher Ed

October 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

So far colleges and college students have been weathering the credit crunch and financial troubles on Wall Street fairly well.  Students have been able to get student loans and pay for school, and colleges have been able to raise money for projects and provide students with needed services and even additional scholarship money in many cases.  However, events of the past few weeks appear to be starting to take a toll on colleges and universities.

Earlier this week, many universities saw their investments held in the Commonfund, which was run by Wachovia, frozen after the bank announced that it would sell its operations to Citigroup this week.  Schools were initially given access to only 10 percent of Commonfund funds in order to prevent a run on the bank.  While the amount has increased and crisis has largely been averted for universities depending on this money for regular operating costs, there was initial concern this week that some schools might not be able to make payroll.

Boston University announced a freeze on future hiring and construction projects earlier this week, and the University of Memphis announced a voluntary buyout plan for 115 positions within the university.  Other colleges are beginning to struggle financially, as well, as they face the prospect of smaller donations and less state funding.  The economic downturn may lead to more staffing cuts, fewer resources available to students, higher tuition, and even smaller or fewer financial aid awards (especially in the case of scholarship awards that rely on alumni donations for funding each year).

While students typically flock to colleges and universities when they can't find employment, the impact of the economic downturn and the continued (though still entirely theoretical) threat of a lack of student loan or federal aid funding for students may cause some students to decide against attending college, or to make their decision based entirely on which option is cheapest.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, in addition to offering a thorough description of the impact of the economic downturn on higher education, also gives a list of prospective winners and losers if the situation continues to worsen.  The top of the list of losers?  Middle class families.
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Posted Under:

College Costs , College News



Spellings Announces Shorter FAFSA

October 2, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a speech delivered yesterday at Harvard University, U. S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that her department had managed to whittle the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) down to 27 questions.  The FAFSA is currently 120 questions long and described as Spellings as more complicated than an income tax form. A shorter FAFSA has been called for by Congress and advocated by virtually everyone aware of the form's existence.

Spellings stated in her speech that the length of the FAFSA may be preventing many families from filling it out, despite the fact that they might qualify for federal student financial aid. While part of this phenomenon is likely due to the prevalence of financial aid myths, the complicated nature of the FAFSA likely does play a role.  Although fafsa.ed.gov states that the form should take less than an hour to complete, even for first-time filers, the assessment has always seemed a bit overly optimistic to me. I remember my first encounter with the FAFSA taking hours, and while I ultimately submitted it, I definitely did so under duress and only after repeatedly begging my parents to fill it out for me.  An effort by the Education Department to make it simpler and less stressful to pay for school is definitely welcome.

While Spellings' speech didn't address whether this was the final incarnation of the FAFSA or when changes would debut (let's all cross our fingers for January), a shorter financial aid application is undoubtedly good news for students.  In the meantime, if you're struggling with applying for financial aid, check out some of the resources offered by Scholarships.com.  We have a breakdown of FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, some tips for completing the FAFSA, and detailed instructions for filling out the FAFSA on the Web.
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Community Colleges: Could a Money-Saving Move Derail Your College Goals?

October 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

A working paper put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new data on the learning outcomes of students who enroll at a community college with the intent to transfer to a four year school. The paper, discussed in detail in an article in Inside Higher Ed, suggests that even accounting for differences in educational goals, students starting at community colleges are less likely to earn a bachelor's degree in nine years than students who start at a four-year college.

The study tracked students who enrolled in Ohio's colleges and universities in 1998 and used a survey of incoming students from that year to determine career and college goals. Researchers then looked at the learning outcomes of community college students who took the ACT or professed an interest in ultimately getting a bachelor's degree.  The results showed that these students were 14.5 percent less likely than their counterparts at four-year colleges and universities to graduate.

The article stresses the difficulty in comparing students at the two different types of colleges.  Community college students tend to be from lower-income backgrounds and are more likely to be minorities or adult students, which can all be factors in students' likelihood to earn a degree.  The study also doesn't account for whether the difference is simply due to changes in plans.  Many students choose the less expensive option of community college because they are unsure of their educational goals, so it's likely those goals might change and students might decide to walk away with an associate's degree.

More research still needs to be done, but students who are considering starting at a two-year college then transferring may want to keep these numbers in mind.  While the study shows that students who do successfully transfer to a four-year state college do just as well as students who start in one, the transfer process can be difficult and daunting.  Students have to navigate the application process, degree requirements, and other hurdles at two institutions, and there's not always a guarantee that a student's credits will successfully transfer.  This can dissuade less dedicated students and students with fewer resources, as can the higher cost of tuition at a four-year university. Community college students also may not be sure what to expect in college at the baccalaureate level and may feel unprepared.

If you plan to put in a year or two at a community college then transfer, do your research thoroughly and make sure you're making the right college choice.  You'll need to have a clear sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, and find out as much as possible about what will be involved in transferring as early as you can. Learn about financial aid options available to you as a transfer student and make sure your plan will really make your bachelor's degree cheaper. Finally, don't get discouraged and keep your eyes on the prize.
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More Colleges Turn To Direct Loans

September 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The U.S. Department of Education released a series of new statistical reports last week showing a dramatic increase in participation in the federal direct lending student loan program.  Motivated largely by the economic downturn and the credit crunch of the last year, 400 new colleges joined the federal direct lending program.  Overall, student borrowing through the program has increased by 50 percent in the last year.

The federal direct lending program provides students at participating schools with Stafford Loans directly, instead of going through the intermediary of a bank, as is done in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).  In previous years, borrowing through FFELP could land students with lower interest rates, as well as significant repayment incentives, but that has changed significantly since 2007 as a result of subsidy cuts and economic difficulties faced by FFELP lenders.  Since direct loans are serviced directly by the Education Department, they are largely exempt from the fallout of the credit crunch and are currently more appealing to many colleges.

There is good news for students at schools that continue to participate in FFELP, though.  Lenders are participating in the loan buyback program enacted as part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed earlier this year.  About 40 percent of the student loans in the bank system have been sold to the Education Department, with paperwork being completed on much of the remaining balance.  This move appears to have worked to allow lenders to fund loans for students, as the Education Department also reports that not a single student has had to participate in the federal "lender of last resort" program.

In other financial aid news, Congress recently approved $2.5 billion in Pell Grant funding, to help tide the program over through March 2009, at which point most spring semester grant awards should have been disbursed.  All of this news suggests that students are highly likely to be able to continue to find federal student financial aid for college, at least for the forseeable future.  Of course, finding scholarships and avoiding student loans is still a smart plan, but this news suggests that despite growing fears about the economy, federal financial aid will still be available to students who need it.

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