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Three States Introduce Bold Changes to Public Education

November 14, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

For many high school students, graduation cannot come soon enough.  While admittedly, I was something of a nerd, going off to college was the single most anticipated event of my young life.  I couldn't wait for the academic challenges, the new people, and the more serious learning environment.  If someone came up to me when I was 16 and offered me the chance to start community college then, I would have definitely taken it.  So I am definitely a little jealous of students in New Hampshire who may soon get that chance.

New Hampshire is one of three states that have agreed to implement some of the policies outlined by the National Center on Education and the Economy's New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.  The commission released a report in 2006 calling for sweeping educational reforms to address America's slipping international standing in several measures of educational success and workforce preparation.  Utah and Massachusetts will also implement measures recommended to boost the performance of public schools, including raising teacher pay, giving teachers greater (in some cases, complete) control over schools, implementing more dynamic proficiency tests that provide a more accurate picture of students' abilities, and better monitoring and assisting students at risk of dropping out.  The policy New Hampshire is proposing will allow students the option of taking a test after 10th grade and either entering a community college or a college preparatory track if they pass, letting them prepare for college and gain college credits while still living at home, and keeping them from getting bored or coasting through the last two years of high school.

These are only a few of the suggestions found in the commission's report.  While there is some skepticism over how much change will actually take place, many states and schools are showing an eagerness for change. It's hoped that innovations in education will help make more students better prepared for attending college and entering the workforce.

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Online Enrollment Continues to Increase

November 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Enrollment in online courses continued to increase in 2007, according to a new study.  Nearly 4 million college students, over 20 percent of the total number of students attending college, took at least one online course in fall 2007, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year.  With all of the financial turmoil that 2008 has brought, the number of online students is likely to continue to increase, as online enrollment is seen as a cost-effective alternative to having to be on campus for class.

The majority of colleges and universities regard offering online courses or online degree programs as critical to their long-term goals.  Schools also reported a need to compete for online students.  Since physical proximity isn't a concern, students can take online classes through any school, meaning institutions need to do more to attract students to their distance-learning programs.

Some of this competition comes in the form of innovation.  After universities in Canada and Japan made online course material accessible via cell phones last year, Louisana's community colleges followed suit, unveiling a plan this week to centralize their distance learning programs on one website, allowing students to access and complete materials from any device with an internet connection.

As distance learning programs continue to become more popular among students and a greater priority among schools, budget-conscious students may want to look closely at taking some or all classes online.  Online courses allow greater flexibility for scheduling around employment or other obligations, save on commuting costs (and the money students spend gulping down cafeteria food, fast food, and expensive coffee while rushing between classes), and allow students to live where they want without worrying about having to get to school each day.  All of these things make it easier for you to pay your way through school as a distance learning student.  While online classes do require greater self-discipline and are offered in more limited quantities than in-person classes, they are still an option to consider when choosing a college.

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More Financial Ups and Downs for Schools and Students

November 12, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Colleges are continuing to face financial hardships due to the current global economic crisis.  Endowments have shrunken by an average of 30 percent this year, primarily in the last two months.  Numerous colleges and universities, both public and private, are cutting or freezing spending, and several institutions have been forced to implement hiring freezes, offer early retirement to employees, or lay off employees.  Even Harvard University has announced a more conservative approach to future spending.  An article appearing in the New York Times earlier this week shows some schools considering a move away from entirely need-blind admissions policies (which ignore students' ability to pay when determining who to admit) in order to ensure they receive enough tuition revenue to maintain their financial aid programs.

Meanwhile, families are in similarly rough shape.  Investments are in trouble, unemployment is up, and families are having trouble getting home equity loans or other lines of credit that they may have previously used to cover tuition529 plans have taken a hit, as well, and student loans have also tightened credit requirements.  All this means that students might face greater difficulty getting into and paying for school.

So that's the bad news.  Now for some good news: 

     
  • Congress has expanded the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA) to make it easier for banks to access enough funds to make loans.  The increases in unsubsidized Stafford Loan limits have also been renewed into the next academic year.  This could further shore up the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and make it easier for students to borrow what they need to pay for school.  A new economic stimulus package is in the works, as well, and part of the money involved may go to Federal Pell Grants.
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  • Despite financial difficulties, colleges are pledging to maintain or increase their spending on campus-based aid for their students.
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  • The Department of Education is planning to present its vision for simplifying and improving the federal student financial aid program.  One of the most notable aspects of the new plan is the proposal to shorten the FAFSA on the Web application.  Greater efforts to standardize federal aid among colleges are also being proposed.
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  • A new study indicates that what you get out of a college experience might be less dependent on where you go to college than on how you choose to approach your education.  Researchers found more variance among learning outcomes and student satisfaction within institutions than among them.  In fact, 90% of the difference in quality reported by students occurs among individual students attending college on the same campus.  So if you do find yourself having to take a pass on your dream college, a positive attitude can make your experience at your safety school just as rewarding.
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November is National Scholarship Month

November 11, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

November has been designated as National Scholarship Month for 2008.  The purpose of National Scholarship Month is to raise awareness of the scholarship opportunities available to high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students, as well as the numerous benefits of winning scholarships.

November is also an ideal month to start finding scholarships, if you haven't done so already.  Many scholarship competitions start or end in November, including our own College Health Scholarship (deadline: November 30) and our College History Scholarship (deadline: December 31).  By applying for scholarships now, you're sure to stay on top of those scholarship application deadlines.

Check out our article on National Scholarship Month, which highlights many of the reasons to apply for scholarships.  You might also want to browse the Scholarships category on our blog, where you'll find tons of information about scholarships and the benefits they provide.  Convinced that scholarships are worthwhile, but not convinced you can win?  Head over to our resources section, where you will find tons of advice on scholarship applications.  We dispel scholarship myths, show you how to detect scholarship scams, and even offer advice on how to write a scholarship-worthy essay--complete with tips from scholarship reviewers.

So, do you believe that you can win a scholarship? (Because you can!) Then celebrate National Scholarship Month with us and start your scholarship search today.  A scholarship search on Scholarships.com is fast, free, and easy, instantly generating a list of scholarship awards that are directly relevant to the information you provide in your profile.  We have scholarships in our database for all sorts of people!  Find out about athletic scholarships, green scholarships, unusual scholarships, corporate scholarships, women's scholarships, scholarships for minorities, and many more.  After all, with 2.7 million scholarships and grants to choose from, we're bound to have something that fits you.  And free money for college is always cause for celebration.

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American Planning Association High School Essay Contest

November 10, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Are you addicted to the History Channel and HGTV? Do you love old buildings and local history? Do you want to learn more about or get involved in preservation efforts in your community? If you're a high school junior or senior and this describes you, be sure to check out this week's Scholarship of the Week, the American Planning Association High School Essay Contest.

Two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to high school students who come up with the best historic preservation plans for their communities. Your scholarship essay should be between 1200 and 1500 words and should closely follow the instructions provided on the APA scholarship website. Not only can you learn about your community, earn scholarship money, and explore a potential career, but if you win, you will also receive a stipend of up to $1,000 to travel to an APA conference sometime during your college career to learn more about community planning.

Prize: Two $5,000 grand prize scholarship awards

Eligibility: High school students who are U.S. residents and are juniors or seniors during the 2008-2009 school year.

Deadline: January 15, 2009

Required Materials: Completed online scholarship application, following the instructions outlined by the American Planning Association on their contest website.

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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New Studies Show Benefits of Scholarships

November 7, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

College students who receive generous scholarship opportunities are relieved of some of the financial burden of paying for school.  But to what extent does this benefit translate into other positive outcomes?  How, specifically, does winning scholarships help students achieve their college goalsFour studies being presented this week at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference seek to answer these questions.

Two studies focused on recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an extremely generous scholarship for minorities offered by Bill and Melinda Gates.  A third tracked recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise, the first in a series of large-scale full-tuition local scholarship programs, which provides scholarship funding to all qualifying Kalamazoo, Michigan residents who choose to attend one of Michigan's state colleges.  The fourth looks at University of Iowa applicants' responses to financial aid offers.

The study of University of Iowa students reinforces the idea that scholarship money steers students' college plans, especially among certain minority groups.  African American and Hispanic students were less likely to attend the university, presumably choosing a more affordable or more generous institution, if they did not receive the amount of financial assistance they had hoped for.  These results reinforce the importance of college affordability and will hopefully encourage universities to offer more generous awards to student populations they wish to attract.

While institutional financial aid influences students' college choices, so do other scholarships. Studies showed that Gates Millennium Scholars and Kalamazoo Promise recipients appear more inclined than their peers of similar backgrounds towards applying to and ultimately choosing colleges that are pricier or more competitive.

Gates Millennium Scholars are also more likely to graduate--matching graduation rates of higher-income students--as well as to graduate on time.  In fact, 90 percent of these students finished a four-year degree in four years, which is proving to be an increasingly rare accomplishment among students currently attending college.

In some ways, these studies reinforce things many students already knew.  Scholarships influence students' college choices.  Scholarship winners go to better schools, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to graduate sooner--and the studies suggest this because they won a scholarship, not just because they're smart and motivated.  Even if none of this is news to you, it should still be a powerful motivator for you to start your own scholarship search.  It does appear to be the formula for college success.

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Some Good Reasons to Attend College

November 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree.  Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school.  Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.

A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year.  While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.

Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college.  Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.

So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research.  You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree.  There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education.  Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.

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Election Results and Higher Education

November 5, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The election is over, and while we're still waiting for some results to come in, such as the ultimate fate of Colorado's anti-affirmative action ballot measure, most races have been decided and commented on. Overall, higher education fared well yesterday, and Inside Higher Ed provides a breakdown of wins and losses for college-related measures, as welll as an in-depth discussion of the brand new affirmative action ban in Nebraska.

The biggest focus this morning has been on Barack Obama's presidential win. News sources across the country are already speculating on what he will and will not be able to accomplish once he takes office in January. While Obama had stated in his second debate with Senator McCain that he planned to make education a priority for his administration, concerns are being expressed over financial barriers to his proposals. As President, Obama would like to shore up the Federal Pell Grant program, eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) in favor of Direct Loans, and implement a $4,000 tax credit for families with students in college, among other goals. However, the economic crisis may make these goals difficult.

A more Democratic Congress also has ambitious plans that could affect higher education, including potentially revisiting a bill that would allow private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Democrats also are hoping to provide more money for job training programs to community colleges, as well as more support for and fewer restrictions on research conducted by universities. Congress also expects to revisit and revise No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration's ambitious, though largely unpopular, education bill.

Education policy makers will also change in January, with some seats in the House and Senate educational committees being vacated and a new Education Secretary coming in with the new president. How the results of the election will change the face of attending college and funding your education remains to be seen.

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Election Day Roundup: Education Issues at Stake in '08

November 4, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's November 4th, and that means election day for everyone in the U.S. If you haven't already cast an early or an absentee ballot, here's yet another reminder to show up at the polls today.  Education has become a major concern due to economic instability, decreasing availability of student loans, and the rising costs of attending college.  Today you can make your opinion on education known, and not only in the Presidential and Congressional races.

Voters in eleven states will pick a new governor, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, new governors in five states will play an important role in setting educational policies in coming years.  Voters in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington can check out coverage of what's at stake in terms of education here

State referenda in thirteen states also have the potential to affect educational policy on issues ranging from school funding to affirmative action.  The Chronicle of Higher Education provides info on these referenda here, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education also addresses them here

If you're just starting down the road to a college education, the people elected today and the measures passed today will have a direct influence on the shape of your academic journey.  Your ability to fund your education, your experience at college, your ability to meet your college goals, and even your chances of getting into the college of your choice could change based on what happens today.  So if you can, read up on the issues and get out there and vote.

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Scholarships.com College History Scholarship

November 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

History is one of the most popular college majors, and for a good reason. Instead of reading up on interesting cultures and events during their free time, history majors can do so while earning credit hours. If history is your passion (or at least your major), you're in luck. This week's Scholarship of the Week is especially for you. Just concentrate on the past, and we'll take care of your future.

Students who apply for the Scholarships.com History Scholarship will have the chance to earn $1,000 towards their college education-and it couldn't be easier. Just write a 250-350 word scholarship essay 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 history?"

Prize: $1000

Eligibility: U.S. citizen; 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.); undergraduate student currently enrolled or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university in the coming academic year; applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors: Art History, History, Natural History

Deadline: December 31, 2008

Required Material: A 250-350 word response to the following question: "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in history?"

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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