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by Agnes Jasinski

I went to a flagship university. Almost everyone I knew came from a city or town I had heard of, because most were there for the same reasons I was - that home state tuition. Those few I met who came from neighboring states or even from as far away as one of the coasts were few and far between. Tuition was significantly higher for those students, making it difficult for many to justify private school costs at a public institution. Still, the school drew some semblance of an out-of-state population because of its research centers and reputation in certain fields of study.

An Inside Higher Education article today explores a tactic being used by flagship universities across the country to boost budgets and work toward replenishing nest eggs that had dwindled during a difficult economy. More and more state schools plan on working harder to increase out-of-state enrollment.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is hoping for a 15 percent boost in undergraduates outside of Massachusetts over the next decade. Rutgers University, where about 10 percent of the student population comes from outside New Jersey, wants to see its out-of-state numbers around 25 percent instead. In New York, the state's comptroller actually issued a report on the millions of dollars in lost revenue because of the State University of New York's low out-of-state enrollment numbers. The article points out that at state schools like the University of Vermont where out-of-state students outnumber in-state students, the demand for an in-state education is much lower.

So how will these schools lure more students from out-of-state, and get them to pay higher tuition costs? The first step is opening up more slots to out-of-state students. The president at the University of Colorado hopes the state lifts the cap on non-resident enrollment. And states like the University of California at Berkeley, a prestigious school that even Californian students must prove their academic worth to attend, will surely have less trouble finding out-of-state recruits based on reputation alone than lesser-known state institutions. Some state schools are looking into new merit-based scholarship programs targeting out-of-state students, but wouldn't that defeat the purpose of bringing more money into the school? The article suggests building relationships with out-of-state high schools, working alumni networks and even reaching out to top, non-resident students, to boost their out-of-state numbers.

Going to school in-state is still a good option to consider if you're worried about the cost of college. You can still be far enough away from your parents while enjoying home state tuition. Many state schools also reward students in other ways, including scholarships and grants for local freshmen, especially if you're pursuing a high-need field of study and plan on remaining in that state post-graduation. Conduct a college search on our site based on your own criteria to find the place that best fits your needs and has the qualities you find most important.


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by Agnes Jasinski

It's a few months into your freshman year, and the homesickness may be setting in. Or you've found yourself at war with your first college roommate, who sneaks snacks from your cupboard when you're hard at work studying in the library.

So much of what you learn before you head off to college is related to the more rigorous academics you'll be tackling, or all the paperwork you need to fill out to make sure your financial aid application is filed completely and on time. These things are very important, and you will be faced with new adult-like responsibilities once you're on that campus. But what about the things your guidance counselors don't tell you?

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book "The Naked Roommate, and 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College," has been making the rounds the last few weeks to inform college students - and their parents - that a few bumps in the road are normal. He describes the more realistic picture of the first one, even two, years of college as years of "discomfort," and that students will come across situations they may not have been prepared to encounter: that overly-rambunctious roommate that stays up late and keeps you awake, or the fact that you thought it'd be way easier to make friends on a campus of more than 20,000 students, all around your age.

Cohen suggests that getting through those difficult times will only make you stronger. The bad memories you may think you're collecting now will slowly become good memories, as one day we nearly guarantee you'll be talking about the "good old days" of attending college. The uneasiness you feel now will subside, and you'll start finding your niche. Take advantage of what college campuses have to offer, because chances are, there's something for every kind of student, no matter how diverse their interests. Some of Cohen's suggestions have included speaking up to disruptive or inappropriate roommates, taking care of yourself to avoid falling into a physical, mental or emotional slump, and forcing yourself to get our of your comfort zone somethings by joining a new student group or making connections with classmates.

Browse through our site for more tips on transitioning into that first year of a new college lifestyle and dealing with common roommate problems. Chances are the things you're experiencing are pretty universal, and easily remedied with a little faith that things will get better and giving yourself enough time to adapt to a new life on campus.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The topic of health care has dominated the news recently. Voices on both sides of the political spectrum have been trying to either stop the debate entirely or come up with ways to compromise on a complicated issue even legislators have become perplexed by. In a big push forward, the Senate Finance Committee voted "yes" yesterday to approve an overhaul of the country's health care system, signaling at least the first step toward potential medical reform.

But how will college students be affected in all this, if at all? An article in Inside Higher Education today looks at whether the proposals currently being considered will have an adverse affect on students and campus-based health care plans, which many students leave their parents' plans for. The article suggests that without any major changes, the bill up for debate ignores college health insurance plans altogether as it focuses instead on employer-based group plans and individual policies. Allowing students to remain on their parents' health insurance plans for a longer period of time could be an option under the proposal, although this would not address students whose parents have lost their jobs and health insurance, for example, and need an affordable plan to get them through their college careers.

Lookout Mountain Group, a nonpartisan group that researches the impacts of health care reform on students, released a statement last week that the proposals currently on the table did little in the way of making sure college students had access to affordable, quality health care plans. The group further warns that the cost of health care for students could actually increase if language isn't included in the bill that would address the lack of campus-based options. Jim Mitchell, the director of Student Health Services at Montana State University and spokesperson for the Lookout Mountain Group, said in a release that any health care proposals should strive to include college? and university?sponsored student health insurance/benefit plans under the bill's definition of "group insurance."

Worst case scenario, how would students' health care be affected if no changes were made? According to the Government Accountability Office, 71 percent of four-year private colleges, 82 percent of four-year public colleges, and 29 percent of two-year public colleges offer student health care plans. Best case scenario, legislators realize the oversight and work on including amendments that would not only maintain campus-based student health insurance plans, but expand health insurance offerings for college students, a population that definitely needs affordable options.

No matter what happens with the health care bill, consider your health insurance options before you get to college. Many insurance plans will allow full-time students to remain dependents under their parents' health care plans while those students are in college. If you choose to go this route, make sure you've notified your college; many schools that carry student health insurance plans automatically charge and enroll new undergraduates for their plans. (You may need to provide proof of your insurance in this situation, but that's for your own benefit. Trust us. You don't want to start college uninsured, and will be thankful for insurance when you get sick at college.) If you go with your college's plan, you'll probably pay less than you would for a private plan, and you'll need to be comfortable going to your school's clinic or health center for most of your minor ailments.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Most of you know what a college town looks like - a community dominated by the students, faculty and staff of the school that occupies the community there. While many students prefer to apply to the more insulated school environment that comes with a college town, others seek out educations in cities where there's more to the community than the college housed there. Something those students may not consider when filing their applications is whether that intended school has been a good neighbor or a stranger to that surrounding community.

A survey presented yesterday by Dr. Evan S. Dobelle, the president of Westfield State College, ranked 25 colleges based on just that. The survey, called "Saviors of Our Cities: A Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships", looked at schools' contributions to the towns and cities they're found in, and which had the best relationships with the residential and business communities in those locations. The top 25 schools were picked based on their positive impacts on their communities, including community service involvement. Another 100 schools were recognized on the survey's "Honor Roll" of friendly neighbors.

The best neighbors according to Dobelle's survey were the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California, tied for number one. Neither Westfield nor the two other schools Dobelle was once president at - Trinity College and the University of Hawaii - made the list. Dobelle, a researcher specializing in public/private partnerships, collected his data by sending the survey he composed to schools across the country for distribution in their communities. Some schools were then contacted for on-campus visits or interviews. The University of Pennsylvania was chosen based on its work with schools in West Philadelphia; the University of Southern California got high marks for working on a program that revitalized businesses in Los Angeles.

Other schools that ranked in the top 25 on Dobelle's list included Tulane University, Portland State University, and the University of Dayton. His specific criteria included real dollars invested, a quantifiable increase in positive recognition of the institution and the length of involvement with the community, among others. Dobelle first came up with the survey in 2006. As colleges are obviously closely linked to their communities in college towns, those schools weren't considered in the survey in favor of looking at urban universities' relationships with their towns and cities.

So what do you think? Should the "good neighbor" factor be included in a student's college search? Do you attend a particularly  neighborly institution? Let us know your thoughts.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Colleges may need to work harder to find cost-effective ways to promote diversity on their campuses, as schools' diversity departments that have enjoyed growth over the last few years have found they aren't immune to the economic crunch.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday described strategies being considered by colleges in order to preserve their existing diversity departments and to make as few changes to minority-based programming as possible. Some schools have had to scale back diversity efforts to protect other programs affected by reduced budgets. Financial aid budgets are understandably a top priority at many schools, which is critical for not only minority students but all low-income students relying on aid, but staffing and across-the-board cuts have not spared diversity departments. According to the article, some schools' diversity programs must now make do with less, a common refrain in not only higher education but everywhere over the last few years. Central Connecticut State University's diversity office is down to two employees, for example.

But more broad cuts at college campuses will undoubtedly affect minority students more than other groups. Caps in enrollment at the big state universities where minority students make up a large percentage of the student populations could change the makeup of those schools, as minority students often apply for financial aid and admission later than white students, according to the article. The California State University system, for example, where 55 percent of the student population is composed of minority students, has been forced to cut its enrollment numbers by about 35,000 students over the next two years. Other schools like Reed College have been forced to reject students who would require more financial aid than the college is able to afford, harming those less-affluent students who don't have the means to attend the more expensive or private schools without significant aid.

Numerous studies have looked at how colleges can expand opportunities for minorities, both in getting them enrolled in college and getting them to apply for financial aid to pay for college. And while colleges have been trying to compensate for cuts that may affect minority students more than others by coming up with new, more cost-effective programming targeting those student groups, it will take some time for colleges to get back to the level of funding they once enjoyed and replenish those departments most affected by by budget cuts.

For minority students concerned about changes on their college campuses, consider a free scholarship search. Scholarships for minorities, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so for those putting their college plans on hold because of finances, be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you’re eligible for.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Although community colleges nationwide have seen significant boosts in enrollment, a report released yesterday suggests many will be forced to put their educations on hold or find new sources of funding if their institutions continue blocking access to federal student loans.

The Project on Student Debt released the report, and despite their stance on promoting that students take on as low a student loan burden as possible, they say community college students are at risk for taking on riskier private student loans or watching their grades slip as they take on more work hours to cover gaps in funding because they aren't able to apply for and receive federal student loans. About one in 10 students in 31 states surveyed don't have access to federal student loans, and in some states, more than 20 percent of students can't get the federal loans. Minority students have less access to federal loans than other student groups, as the report found many minority students attending community colleges that don't participate in the federal student loan program.

Why have many community colleges moved away from offering federal student loans? In an uncertain economy, the answer is risk, according to the report. Defaults on student loans have begun to rise among not only community college students, but among all college students over the last few years. The report always says many community college administrators believe students shouldn't have to borrow to attend their schools. Tuition is lower, they say, and if students are saddled with large amounts of debt now, they could hurt their chances for qualifying for low interest rates and federal student loans if they were to transfer to a more expensive, four-year institution.

But some students do need the additional funding even at a low-cost option like a community college, especially in the current economic climate. According to survey results released by the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges last month, about half of the nation's community colleges are expecting budget cuts and midyear reductions in their state appropriations. Many administrators in that survey also reported that stimulus money provided by the Obama administration went toward meeting existing budget deficits, and that they would be forced to raise tuition rates substantially despite record enrollments to make up for a lack of state funding. (The average tuition increase among community colleges is expected to be about 5 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year.)

While you should always exhaust your options with grants and scholarships first, student loans are often a necessary evil, and we have plenty of tips on how to go about applying for them and making sure you're getting the best rate possible. Never rely on credit cards to fund your education, or you'll run the risk of getting into more debt than you can handle not only post-graduation, but while you're still in school. Browse through our site for more information on your student loan options.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The economy has made college admission totals difficult to predict. Many community colleges are seeing significant increases in the number of students applying to their schools, perhaps as a result of more adult students seeking to pick up new skills to make themselves more desirable in a tough job market. Some private colleges have faced declining enrollments as students look for more affordable options when considering which school they'll attend in the fall, while others that have maintained generous financial aid packages have experienced an increase in applicants.

Ithaca College can't complain about declining enrollment. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that the New York school has offered 31 students $10,000 each to defer their enrollment for one year. Ithaca's target for new freshman was between 1,700 to 1,750. They ended up with an incoming fall class of 2,027, or 20 percent more than expected. Sure, having a larger class is better than seeing significant decreases in enrollment, but enrolling more freshmen than the school can handle won't only affect the college's bottom line as they adjust this year, but the four years that large class will be moving through the ranks. The school will also be forced to enroll fewer students over the next few years, making it harder to recoup any losses in spending this fall.

According to the Chronicle, the college had to make several other adjustments to prevent a repeat situation and compensate for the extra funding they'll need to get through the next four years with a larger class:

  • Raising admissions selectivity for the fall of 2010 to bring in fewer applicants from the beginning.
  • Building a temporary, $2.5 million residence hall.
  • Reinstating early decision.
  • Providing reduced rates on room charges and paying cable bills for students housed in lounges.
  • Providing $2,000 in incentives for upperclassmen to urge them to move off campus.
  • Hiring additional instructors.
  • Allowing for additional financial aid funding.

The Chronicle suggests missing the admissions mark by this much is rare. Ithaca had been seeing declining admissions numbers up until this point, so they worked harder this year to boost enrollment. Ithaca also accepted 73 percent of its 2009 applicants, compared with 59 percent in 2008. Administrators at the school maintain a positive outlook, and say that while they did need to spend some to get the situation under control ($250,000 for those deferred enrollments alone), they plan to come out with a modest surplus.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Hispanic students are still significantly lagging behind other groups when it comes to college admission, retention and graduation rates, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center. The Pew study released today attempts to explain why those gaps remain, especially as a majority of Hispanic students report that they understand the value of a college education and are urged by their parents to pursue bachelor's degrees.

The numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, which date back to 2007 and were released last week, show that only about 19 percent of Hispanics report having attended some college or pursuing associate's degrees; only about 9 percent go on to complete their bachelor's. The national average for some college attendance or those completing associate's degrees is about 25 percent, with nearly 19 percent completing bachelor's degrees. About 26.5 percent of white students reported attending some college or completing associate's degrees; nearly 21 percent complete undergraduate degrees. Female Hispanic students seem to fare slightly better than the men.

The Pew Hispanic Center's study showed that although Hispanic students today are more likely to go to college than they were in 1970, perhaps due in part to the rapidly growing population, there is still a large disparity between those who say everyone should go to college and those who actually do. While nearly 90 percent of Hispanic students surveyed (ages 16-25) said that it was important to get a college degree to get ahead (compared to 82 percent of the general population that agreed with that statement), only about half said they had plans of their own to go to college. And among Hispanic immigrants, less than a third say they have plans to pursue a bachelor's degree.

So why the gap? About 74 percent of respondents in the Pew study said they had to cut their educations short because they had to support their families. Others said poor English skills hampered their ability to keep up with the rigors of college, and even high school. According to Latinosincollege.com, a website that aims to help more Hispanics graduate from four-year colleges, Hispanic students still have the highest high school dropout rate of any group.

Financial obstacles were a concern for about 40 percent of respondents in the Pew study who said they simply could not afford to go to college. While some of the other reasons may be hard to address and improve upon, financial aid and paying for college should not keep the collegebound from getting an education. Scholarships for minorities, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so for those putting their college plans on hold because of finances, be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you’re eligible for.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The Federal Reserve Board proposed new regulations last week that would prohibit creditors from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 without the consent of that applicant's parent or guardian, or proof that the consumer would be able to make the required payments on their own. Those rules would amend some of the provisions in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, a bill passed by Congress last May that, among other things, would hinder credit card companies from getting college students to sign up for offers at on-campus booths.

You know you've seen it before - the free T-shirt that you probably wouldn't wear, but was appealing anyway because it was free. All you had to do was sign up for a credit card. An article in The Chronicle for Higher Education when the bill was first moving through Congress described college students as the most targeted population when it comes to new customers for credit card companies.

Critics of the bill then said that college students, who take on a slew of new responsibilities once they get on campus, should be treated as adults. And during a time when students are more apt to use credit cards to pay for college expenses, they shouldn't meet obstacles when using their credit cards for college expenses. According to a recent survey by student lender Sallie Mae, 84 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card; 92 percent of those undergraduates use the cards toward college expenses. College students' average balances are more than $3,100.

So what's the bigger problem? Having access to credit to pay for college expenses, or preventing college students from accruing large sums of debt?

Credit cards should be used as the last line of defense, and ideally for emergencies only. There are many options out there for you to find money for college that have nothing to do with being faced with high interest rates and exorbitant fees. Do your research to apply for college scholarships and grants that would result in free money to cover your college expenses. Consider a part-time job on campus if you have the time and can balance work and college. And while not as desirable, investigate low-interest student loans to supplement your financial aid package.

If you need to use credit, make sure you're keeping within a manageable budget, and only charging as much as you'd be able to realistically pay off at the end of the month. The decisions you make now will matter post-graduation, and any decision involving opening a new line of credit should be approached with caution. Stick to one card if you need one, and if you find yourself in debt, pay off as much as you're able to each month until you're done. (Don't be using that card while you're trying to pay it off, though.) Browse through our site to see more tips on budgeting, how you can avoid mounds of credit card debt, and how to keep your credit card score healthy.

The new regulations would go into effect after Feb. 2010, but the public, credit card industry and others will have a chance to voice their opinions beforehand. Other rules proposed by the Board included:

  • Limiting high fees associated with subprime credit cards.
  • Prohibiting increases in a credit card interest rate during the first year after an account is opened, and increases in a rate that applies to an existing credit card balance.
  • Requiring creditors to obtain consumers' consents before charging fees for transactions that exceed their credit limits.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Chicago didn't win the Olympics, but something good has come out of the effort. This week's Scholarship of the Week comes from World Sport Chicago, which was created as the lasting legacy of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Bid to support the city's student athletes as they prepare to go to college. As part of the scholarship program, 56 students will be chosen to become World Sport Chicago Scholars and participate in Kaplan ACT Tutoring and a Chicago Scholars mentoring initiative. Of those 56, 16 student athletes will be chosen to receive renewable college scholarships worth up $10,000 annually.

World Sport Chicago was launched in September to help high school student athletes not only pay for college but be more prepared for the transition. The chosen scholars will get ACT prep help for the spring 2010 testing dates. The award is a good example of athletic scholarships that look at more than your abilities in your chosen sport.

Prize: 16 renewable college scholarships worth up to $10,000 annually.

Eligibility: High school juniors who live and study in Chicago and have participated in an Olympic/Paralympic sport for two seasons in the past three years. Athletes of all levels are encouraged to apply; the judges just want to see that you're committed to your sport, on whatever level you may be. Commitment to the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect on the playing field in school and in the community will be considered during the evaluation process. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or better and be willing to perform the duties of World Sport Chicago scholars, which includes promoting Olympic values in the community.

Deadline: November 30, 2009

Required Material: An online application from World Sport Chicago, which includes three short essays, two recommendations and an unofficial high school transcript. Scholarships must be applied to accredited four-year institutions. Preference may be given to student athletes with high financial need.

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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