February 1, 2008
Complaints about skyrocketing tuitions at four-year colleges and universities have been reverberated around the nation for quite some time—especially within the past year. Less attention has been paid to the financial difficulties at community colleges.
Even though four-year schools offer less expensive classes, they also possess fewer funds to offer students additional help in affording an education. Many universities have alumni who donate thousands, sometimes millions to their beloved alma maters. Some have accumulated endowments in excess of $1 billion. Such is rarely the case for community colleges.
According to an article published by the Associated Press, the financing problem is further compounded by the fact that community colleges are in dire need of funding for graduation rate improvement. While few four-year colleges and universities can brag about the high number of students who receive diplomas after enrolling, especially as far as undergraduate programs are concerned, rates are particularly poor at community colleges. These schools enroll 6.6 million students who seek credits or degrees (and a few more million who don’t), but many students don't accomplish their graduation or transfer goals before leaving.
The results of a Cal State Sacramento Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy study that tracked 520,407 community college students over a six-year period showed that only 24 percent of those seeking to graduate or earn a degree were able to do so in six years.
Community colleges find themselves in a difficult situation because they need funds to get students in and ones to get them out, with a degree. These schools receive financial aid based on the student population, so they go out of their way to make enrollment easy. Once students are in, including ones with outside jobs and those who registered late, they have trouble completing their education.
January 31, 2008
Each year, I heard complaints about the textbook policies of my old college economics teacher. He wrote the only textbook required for class and re-released it—in a nearly identical format—annually. As a result, previous students couldn’t make money by reselling their old books, and new students couldn’t buy used books at a discounted price.
If the House passes its proposed textbook bill, universities might be forced to curb this type of practice. The new bill would make it mandatory for colleges to release course supply information in catalogs thereby giving students the chance to consider class costs before signing up and the time to search for cheaper resources.
Publishers would also have to play a part in decreasing the supply prices. The bill proposed that publishers be forced to minimize textbook costs by cutting down on attached CDs and workbooks. They would also have to publicize the wholesale costs of books and to make known the previous versions costs. If the new versions were revised, the revisions would have to be summarized. With this information, students would be better equipped to decide whether a new textbook version was worth the price.
The book addendum, a part of the House’s new version of the Higher Education Act, was not a part of the corresponding version already approved by the Senate. If the House passes this bill, Senators will again have to approve the changes.
January 30, 2008
Students who sign up for classes don’t always know what they’re getting into. Boring teachers aside, the work may be both overwhelming and useless. If that's the case, it may be time to get out before it’s too late. Here are some things to remember before making the final decision.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst Dropping classes may be the best way to avoid unnecessary work or burnout, but it sure is a pain. It takes time, sometimes money, and it nearly always causes stress. That’s why it’s best to ask around before choosing classes. Find out if any of your friends have taken the class. Is it difficult? Is it interesting? Is the teacher effective in helping students develop critical skills?
Most importantly, figure out if the class coincides with your future goals and current interests. During high school, I signed up for an accounting class thinking it would provide me with practical insight into the business world. Though business was not in my future, I thought that everyone could benefit from some business basics. After a few weeks of scribbling numbers into a never-ending stream of credit and debit columns, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if this class would prepare me for something other than accounting. Turns out, it wouldn’t. It’s too bad I didn’t know that sooner.
Give Yourself a Reality Check Difficulty is a commonly cited reason for dropping classes, and it's a perfectly good reason. It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your schedule. When a class is just adding to your already full workload, rethink it. Being able to drop a class doesn’t make you a quitter; it makes you a realistic and mature decision maker, one that values their sanity and health.
Consider Class Importance Before dropping a class, be sure that you can afford to do so. If you’re in college, dropping a class may put you below full-time status subsequently decreasing your eligibility for a full financial aid package (both scholarships and federal student aid).
Dropping required college classes may also be troublesome. When students decide to get rid of a requisite, they may be forced to take on a heavier workload in future semesters. A heavier workload may in turn lead to scheduling difficulties caused by core courses that overlap in time.
Sometimes, a class may simply be unavoidable. Once again, be realistic when you judge. If you think you can do without the class, let it go. If you know that dropping the class will only lead to future troubles, just grin and bear it for a while.
Be Cost Conscious If you’re in high school, dropping a class will probably save you money (unless you're paying for AP classes ). Once you graduate high school, it’s a different story. Most colleges and universities fine students who drop their classes too late into the semester. That’s why it’s important for students to be aware of the costs involved in taking on classes and dropping them. If you plan to drop a class, do so before the fee deadline. If you’re worried about the costs of taking on additional classes, stick with the basics and take enrichment courses once you can afford them.
January 29, 2008
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush called on Congress to cut down on bill earmarking. Earmarks, often attached to spending bills at the last minute, have been used to designate money to benefit legislators' personal interests. Local and state projects that may not have otherwise been funded are often successfully snuck into an earmark and financed.
Sometimes used as “paybacks” for organizations that donate money to a legislator’s campaign, earmarks have received negative attention in the press. However, numerous colleges and universities have also been able to profit from them. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, $2 billion for research, construction and school projects was earmarked for colleges and universities in 2003. Criticizing the practice, President Bush stated that most earmarks don’t even make it to the floor of the House or Senate saying, “You didn’t vote them into law. I didn’t sign them into law.”
If earmarking is curbed, some schools may see a decline in their budgets, and will have to look elsewhere for additional funding. But because Mr. Bush was referring to the 2009 budget, legislators still have the option of bypassing a veto by delaying approval of the spending bill.
January 25, 2008
Your shot at winning the lottery is not particularly high, but playing is so easy that it’s simply irresistible. Though students should not hinge their entire financial futures on luck alone, lottery scholarships are a fun and easy way to supplement one's scholarship search. Plus, someone has to win. Maybe it'll be you. But before you go lottery crazy, familiarize yourself with the options, and get the facts on lottery scholarships and lottery-funded scholarships (there is a difference).
Lottery Scholarships: There are two kinds of lottery scholarships, ones that are state-sponsored and ones that are sponsored by outside providers, usually businesses. Company-funded lottery scholarships, also known as sweepstakes, pretty much embody what comes to mind when one hears the word “lottery”. Most people are eligible, and the application process is pretty easy; sometimes contact information is the only requirement. Unlike regular lotteries, you don’t have to pay to play. If paying is a requirement, don’t apply; more than enough charge-free awards are available.
Once the entries are in and the lottery deadline passes, the sponsoring company will choose an applicant at random—think computer generations rather than spinning spheres with name ballots. If you’re wearing your lucky socks on selection day, you just might win.
Lottery-Funded Scholarships: Another type of lottery scholarship is the state-sponsored, lottery-funded one. These scholarship prizes are paid for by the big, jackpot of $50 million, kinds of lotteries. A number of states have adopted programs wherein a portion of the revenues received from lottery tickets are used for education programs (both scholarships and school contributions). Not all states participate yet, but it’s quite possible that more will jump on the bandwagon. Tennessee, New Mexico, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia are among those sponsoring lottery-funded scholarship programs.
State eligibility requirements for lottery-funded scholarships vary greatly from state to state, with some states having stricter regulations than others. Usually, students who apply for lottery-funded state scholarships must at the very least attend a high school and college within the state of the program.
Students who apply for certain lottery-funded scholarships must also meet or exceed a particular GPA or standardized test score before applying. For example, only students with a GPA of at least 2.75 may apply for the merit-based Florida Bright Futures Scholarship.
Other states make financial need a requirement. This may partially ease the minds of people who have voiced concerns about lottery-funded scholarships taking from the poor and giving to the middle classes. According to professor of economics Mary O. Borg, a disproportionately large portion of lottery tickets are purchased by low-income customers. These winning are then redistributed largely to middle class students at the expense of the poor.
To find lottery and sweepstake scholarships you may be eligible to receive, conduct a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com. You can also check out our Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes contest for a chance to win $1,000 towards your college education!
January 24, 2008
Close your eyes and imagine it. You’re sitting in math class, struggling to keep your eyes open, calculating how many minutes are left in the day. Then you do some mental math to figure out what percentage of the day has already passed, the only math you plan to do that day.
That is until you're snapped out of you boredom-induced coma by a teacher who tells you that effort pays off, literally. Well it’s not a dream. Some students have been getting paid for good test scores, and the trend is slowly spreading. In a number of Texas schools, students have been receiving money for good scores on A.P. exams, and students in Baltimore will soon be expecting the same rewards.
Through the Advancement Placement Incentive Program (APIP), students can earn a few hundred dollars for scoring well on A.P. exams, between $100 and $500 for scores above a 3. One student earned $700 for the tests he took during his junior and senior years of high school.
According to a study put together by Cornell University’s C. Kirabo Jackson, 41 schools have taken part in the APIP program so far, and 61 schools plan to adopt it by 2008. The report shows that financial incentives have been an effective tool in getting students to work harder in their A.P. classes. Improvements of about 30% on ACT and SAT scores have also been attributed to APIP.
According to The Baltimore Sun, some Baltimore schools will soon take a similar approach to raising test scores. The Baltimore program will concentrate on improving graduate exams rather than A.P. tests, but the idea is the same; if you do well, you can earn money, up to $110. Like the APIP, the program will focus on assisting and rewarding students who attend low-income, inner-city schools.
Despite positive results and hopes for continued improvements, both programs have been criticized for their approach. Many feel that bribing students into doing well will take away from the purpose of learning and only teach them to expect payoffs for future efforts. More than the Texas program, the Baltimore version has also been criticized for using public funding to pay students. Unlike the Baltimore version, Texas will mostly use money collected from private donations.
January 23, 2008
Faced with government subsidy cuts and a major slump in the mortgage loan market, Sallie Mae has decided to get picky about who they lend their money to. For students, this may be either a scary setback or a much-needed lesson in wise financing. Most likely, it will be both.
Students who don’t receive sufficient financial aid from the government will soon find it more difficult to secure the funding they need to cover college expenses. This may force more students to opt for cheaper but not necessarily most desirable colleges and universities. If the problem becomes severe, a drop in the number of students who pursue a college education may be seen.
However, the rising number of student borrowers with overwhelming debt may make the news a benefit in disguise. Many students don’t realize the impact debt can have on their post-graduate lifestyles. Students who cannot quickly find high-salary jobs often find themselves either struggling to get by or sacrificing career goals for better-paid, less appealing jobs.
Because of Sallie Mae’s high standing in the business, their decision may be an early indication of what’s to come. Students who decide to take out loans frequently turn to Sallie Mae for help. The company manages almost $164 billion in student loans for 10 million borrowers and tops the list of most popular lenders. Troubles for Sallie Mae may portend ones for lesser-known student lenders.
This is not the first setback Sallie Mae has faced in the recent months. Over the past year, details of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal actions within the lending industry have placed Sallie Mae in hot waters. Along with a number of other lenders, Sallie Mae has been accused of paying college financial aid officials to place the lender’s name on preferred lender lists, lists students heavily rely on when making important and difficult borrowing decisions.
Luckily, loans are not a student’s only option. Those who cannot afford a postsecondary education and have not received enough government aid should take advantage of the numerous scholarship opportunities available to them. By conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com, students can gain access to information about more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion. Just about everyone can find awards they will be eligible to receive.
January 18, 2008
Tuition hikes and complaints about illegal behavior on the part of financial aid officials and student lenders have put the pressure on colleges to dip into their endowment funds. With new reports showing that endowment returns are on the rise, these pressures are likely to increase.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a recently released statement by Commonfund, an endowment manager for more than 1,900 colleges and nonprofit organizations, has shown that returns were averaging 16.9 percent in 2007, up from 10.6 percent the previous year.
Unlike one-time student scholarships, endowments are used to annually award money to college students. These funds are kept intact by investing the original donation and using the returns to provide students with yearly scholarships.
News of funding bounty is likely to prompt legislators to put additional pressure on schools with large endowment funds. Wealthy colleges, some of which are said to have accumulated endowments in excess of $1 billion, are being criticized for keeping their money locked up during a time when student debt is at an all-time high.
The problem with spending more, argue schools, is a strict endowment use policy. Many scholarship providers donate money on the condition that it be used only to assist a designated group of students. For example, a donor may choose to set up an endowment for the sole purpose of helping female students who play croquet, major in English and have a GPA above 3.5 (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch). Point being, schools are legally bound to award scholarships to students that meet particular requirements.
It's hard to argue with that, but perhaps legislators can do something about the whole "legally-bound" part.
January 17, 2008
It’s no secret that student lenders have had a rough ’07. After an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that student lenders had been forming illegal agreements with colleges that promoted their services, the spotlight was cast on negative aspects of student borrowing.
Even though newly established ethics codes are likely force the lending industry to clean up its act, students are not likely to have better borrowing experiences. The poor housing market has not only affected those looking for mortgages, but also those in need of student loans. To be eligible for loans and loan consolidations, students will soon need proof of greater savings and higher credit scores. According to a CNN report, even students who show promise may see their interests rates increase by an estimated 1 percent.
At the same time, the rewards they receive for paying on time are expected to decrease. After the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 minimized student lender subsidies offered by the government, numerous lenders minimized their student benefits. The savings students were used to receiving for good payment track records are expected to curtail or disappear altogether.
As always, students have other options. Debt can pose a heavy burden on college graduates, so loans should be used as a last resort. Instead, students can use scholarships to diminish the costs of a postsecondary education. By conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com, students will have access to a database containing information on more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants. Just about everyone can find awards they are eligible to receive.
January 16, 2008
An audit released by the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General on January 9, 2008 points to problems in financial aid disbursements. Based on audit results, over $1.5 billion in financial aid was awarded to students whose FAFSA responses were either questionable or made them ineligible for aid.
Stated problems included Pell grant overpayments, awards exceeding loan eligibility, citizenship questionability, lack of Selective Service registration and awards offered to students with drug convictions.
Over $812 million was said to be disbursed to 86,246 students who had not resolved their citizenship confirmation problems. More than $447 was offered to males not registered with the Selective Service and over $3 million to students convicted for drug-related matters.
Officials from the Federal Student Aid Department responded by stating that the, “Risk suggested by the report is overstated.” They also claimed the audit had not taken into account additional security measures the department used to minimize errors.
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