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Community Colleges Forced to Become More Selective

July 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Open access may become a thing of the past at community colleges if they cannot find a way to accommodate a marked increase in applicants using their limited budgets.

A recent article in The New York Times described the tough spot community colleges were in. On the one hand, President Obama has expressed his desire to see an increase in five million community college graduates by 2020 via his American Graduation Initiative. On the other, an increase in visibility for the two-year schools has led to the colleges being stretched to their limits enrollment- and budget-wise.

The article opens with a student who was shut out of winter-term classes because he was assigned a late registration slot. By the time he was able to sign up for his next round of college classes, the ones he needed were full. Being unable to register for classes has led some students to delay completion of their programs. The article gives another example of a student at Mt. San Antonio College who has taken a dance class three times so far because she has been unable to register for any required courses that would get her on the path to transferring to a four-year university.

The problem is greater elsewhere; some schools have had to turn students away as classrooms are already packed with as many first-year students as they can hold. In California, a state that has had to introduce wait lists in its public university system, about 21,000 fewer students were admitted to community colleges there for the upcoming school year. According to the Times article, some districts had to reject half of those applicants interested in enrolling at the community colleges. The City University of New York and its six community colleges have also had to limit their enrollment numbers for the fall. The schools have introduced wait lists, but hundreds of students will probably not be allowed admittance into the state system.

Unfortunately, the situation won’t improve until community colleges return to the levels of funding they need to accommodate the influx of students. In states like California, both community colleges and four-year institutions have been struggling with cutting classes and consolidating programs to save some money in their budgets. Schools across the country hope to see more generous budgets come the next enrollment cycle.

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Study Lists Best Returns on Investments

MIT Provides Best Bang for Your Buck

June 30, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You’ve seen lists ranking the “greenest” colleges, those who are the most neighborly, and the schools most concerned about the social good. The latest list released this week from PayScale Inc. ranks colleges based on their Return on Investment (ROI), a calculation they came up with by considering the cost of college against the estimated median salary of a graduate from a particular school, 30 years down the line.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) topped the list of schools that will give you the best return on your money, based on PayScale’s calculations. According to the ranking, you’ll get about a 12.6 percent return on your investment at MIT, or nearly $1.7 million over 30 years. In second place was the California Institute of Technology, with Harvard University coming in third. Private colleges dominated the list, with the first public university, the University of California-Berkeley, not appearing until number 16. The worst deal seemed to be public out-of-state colleges where students must pay higher tuition rates than those attending colleges in their home states. Attending a public college on in-state tuition would then be a pretty good deal.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took the list with a grain of salt, describing the limitations of the ranking. The ranking did not consider the fact that few students actually pay the sticker price of college, with a majority receiving some kind scholarship or grant support. The report also only considered those who would graduate to receive paid salaries or hourly wages, leaving out students who may be doing quite well for themselves as architects or entrepreneurs, two project-based career paths. Finally, the data used to rank the schools was limited in itself, as the information was self-reported and did not include every school.

Still, it isn’t surprising that technology schools topped the rankings this time around. Engineering degrees in particular are consistently ranked among the top 10 highest-paying college majors. Don’t be discouraged if your intended college isn’t on this list or any list, though, or if your intended major isn’t going to lead to the big bucks. Your interest in a school, program, and field of study should be considered above all else. And if you’re new to the process of narrowing down your list of college options, browse through the resources we have on choosing the right school. It’s never too early to start researching!

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College Offers Tuition Discounts for Service

Marist College Rewards Big Brothers, Big Sisters

June 29, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As if you needed more reason to get some volunteer work under your belt, students at one New York college will be rewarded with generous tuition discounts if they are members of one of three local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters.

Starting this fall, Marist College will offer discounts of 25 percent to new undergraduates and graduates at the school who are members of any of the three Hudson Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters. Those students will also get a pass on any application fees. According to The New York Times article on the new initiative, the school decided to offer the discounts to encourage volunteerism in the community, especially among men. The dean of graduate and adult enrollment at the college is a Big Brother himself, according to the article.

While school administrators admit they will probably lose some revenue from the initiative, they are also hopeful that more students will be drawn to Marist with the introduction of the program. Tuition discounts will also apply to any family members of participants in Big Brothers Big Sisters, according to The New York Times, meaning a parent of a “little” brother would be eligible for the reduction in college costs as well.

Administrators at the college say they don’t know of similar programs at other schools, but that doesn’t mean you should quit volunteering if you’re not interested in Marist. Most colleges offer grant and scholarship opportunities for students involved in community college. Columbia College, for example, offers the $1,000 Boone County Endowed Scholarship to freshmen applicants who boast volunteer experience and certain academic requirements. Pacific Union College offers the $1,200 Christian Service Award to students involved in church or community service leadership.

If those scholarship totals seem low to you altruistic high school students, be aware that there are a number of generous community service scholarships out there to supplement the financial aid packages you’re offered from your intended college. Volunteer experience will also help you on your college applications, scholarship contests that aren’t specifically targeted at volunteers, and future employment. And if you’re pursuing a major in a high needs field, such as nursing or education, you may also be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, so make sure you do your homework when you’re determining how to pay for college.

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American Legion Baseball Scholarship

June 28, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Now that baseball season’s in full swing, it may be the perfect time for you baseball players out there to consider how to supplement your financial aid packages. Baseball scholarships are more common that many other sports scholarships, and the American Legion is one of the biggest providers of awards in the sport. If you’re on an American Legion team, make sure you’re aware of this week’s Scholarship of the Week—the American Legion Baseball Scholarship.

Although applicants must be nominated for this award by their team managers or coaches, it doesn’t hurt to know what you’re eligible for if you think you excel in not only the sport, but in the other qualities lauded by the Legion: leadership, service, discipline, and impressive academics. If you think you’d be a good candidate, consider talking to your team leaders to make sure they’re aware of the awards available and that you’re interested in getting your name out there for scholarship contention. If you’re not on an American Legion team but are decent on the diamond, know that there are numerous awards out there targeting baseball players.

Prize:

Award amounts vary, but the Legion awards more than $20,000 in scholarships annually. Scholarship awards also vary based on annual interest in the award.

Eligibility:

Qualified applicants must have graduated from high school and be on a 2010 roster of a team affiliated with an American Legion post.

Deadline:

July 15, 2010

Required Material:

Those interested in this scholarship must be nominated by any team manager or head coach of an American Legion-affiliated team. Players must then complete a scholarship application, which includes letters of recommendation and a certification form. The three letters of recommendation required as part of this scholarship application are an important part of the award process.

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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College Hopes New Fishing Scholarship Will Lure Applicants

June 25, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Gone fishin’ this weekend? That hobby could net you more than a delicious bass. You could be eligible for some scholarship money, as well.

An article in The New York Times this week took a look at two college freshman from Tennessee attending Bethel University who both received athletic scholarships for their talents in competitive bass fishing. According to the article, they were the first students in the country to receive award money for the sport, with another teammate, a female this time, joining them in the scholarship pool this week.

Administrators at the college said they wanted to introduce a scholarship for the sport based on the interest in bass fishing across the country—there are about 220 college bass-fishing clubs in the United States—and the potential to use that surge as a recruiting tool for Bethel. According to the article, administrators had to first recognize bass fishing as an official sport at the college, and then set aside the budget and personnel to lead the program. The awards given range from $1,000 to $4,000, and require that students be not only good at bass-fishing, but successful in their academic lives as well.

Bass fishing’s growth in popularity has led to a growth in college clubs devoted to the sport, along with recognition from state groups. The Illinois High School Athletic Association recognized the sport last year, with 225 schools currently competing in various tournaments. The University of Florida’s team has done so well that they’ve won thousands of dollars to keep the club afloat; the Florida team also passed $50,000 on to the university, which will be used for a scholarship fund for low-income students. If you're not all that interested in fishing but excel in another sport, the point of this story is that there's probably sports scholarship money out there for you.

In others sports news, budget concerns on the community college level have led a number of the two-year institutions to cut back on their athletic offerings. A recent article in Inside Higher Ed focuses on the situation in Mississippi, where the governor has suggested that the state’s community colleges should either shut down sports programs completely or target certain sports for elimination to improve the budget picture there. Three schools have already taken his advice, although the most expensive sports to offer, like football, have remained. According to the article, Mississippi is a football state, and eliminating even junior college football would affect enrollment at the schools. Currently, the NJCAA has 511 member institutions.

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Colleges Look for Ways to Cut Textbook Costs

June 24, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The cost of books and supplies may not seem like all that much when compared to the thousands of dollars you’re spending on tuition, fees, and room and board, but it’s still painful to drop $100 or more on a textbook you may not even use as often as your professors think. Recognizing your pain, colleges are looking for ways to reduce the costs of textbooks without sacrificing instruction.

At Rio Salado College in Arizona, administrators issued the rule that faculty members must choose one printed textbook for all sections of each course. At most colleges, professors and instructors are able to choose different books for different sections, leading to a rise in cost of those books because colleges aren’t able to purchase them in bulk. At Rio Salado, the school’s relationship with Pearson has allowed them to cut costs even more by promised the publisher it would be the school’s sole supplier. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, those decisions have allowed the college to retail textbooks for about half of what they would have charged under the old system. This kind of standardization wouldn’t work at all colleges, according to the article. Many professors use books they’ve authored, or customized texts based on what they’d like to highlight in their sections.

Elsewhere, campus bookstores have joined the textbook rental trend to respond to students going online to rent print copies of the requisite texts. Even though many students are able to recoup some of the cost of their books by selling them back at the end of the semester, putting down hundreds of dollars up front for a stack of books isn’t easy for anyone, especially a new freshman. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently, colleges had been hesitant about offering the service until now because of high start-up costs and lack of profits, and the fact that rental programs often require professors to keep the same edition of a book for at least four to six semesters. Storage can also be an issue, especially in a survey course that enrolls hundreds of students. Others say e-books will be the way of the future, with more textbook providers going digital and college campuses and bookstores following suit. Many students are already renting digital textbooks to peruse on their iPads and Kindles, according to The Chronicle article. Does your college offer a unique alternative to the traditional campus bookstore textbook purchases?

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Penn State Seeks Answer to Students Who Plagiarize

June 23, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

An obvious increase in the number of students who submitted plagiarized essays as part of their applications to Pennsylvania State University’s business school this year has forced the college to go public about their use of plagiarism detection software.

An article in Inside Higher Ed today described how admissions officials at the college discovered they may have a problem, and how bold students have been getting when it comes to turning in essays lifted from Internet sites and elsewhere. Essay answers on the topic of “principled leadership” as part of the college’s M.B.A. program application led admissions officials to discover at least 30 essays that “borrowed” from outside sources without the proper attribution. According to the article, a number of students plagiarized the same article on the term, lifted from a business school association’s newsletter.

In the article, the school’s admissions director says students have surprisingly only gotten worse at plagiarizing. One year, she said she looked over an application that included an essay lifted in its entirety from another source. The applicant didn’t even change fonts before sending in their essay.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a number of schools across the country already use software to detect plagiarism when evaluating students’ college applications. (The article mentions that it’s typically used by graduate and professional schools that often have multiple essay requirements.) But Penn State is the first to be so vocal about it. Faking one’s way into college has been a popular topic lately, thanks to the efforts of former Ivy League student Adam Wheeler, who faked his way into Harvard University and was able to nearly transfer to Stanford University before his deception was finally discovered.

Plagiarism software is more commonly used in the classroom by professors and instructors on high school and college campuses. Being found out typically means at least a failing grade on an assignment, and depending on the school’s policy, may mean expulsion as well. So, there’s only one way to avoid getting yourself into trouble. Don’t do it, even if you’re struggling in an essay-heavy course. Don’t try buying term papers online, either, as that won’t keep you from being detected by the software. (You didn’t think you were the first one to use that paper, did you?) If you’re concerned about attributions or references, talk to your instructor about properly citing sources. And if you need help on where to start with your application essay, check out our tips on how to do so.

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Legislators Ask for Analysis of For-Profit Colleges

June 22, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

For-profit colleges have been the talk of the town in Washington over the last week, with legislators concerned by their rapid growth and what they consider a resulting lack of oversight. 

Yesterday, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for a federal review of for-profit colleges, their recruitment strategies, and the value of what they provide students. In the letter they sent to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers were especially concerned about the fact that the for-profit sector accounts for less than 10 percent of total enrollments but about 25 percent of federal financial aid disbursements. According to an article in The New York Times this week, for-profit colleges collected $26.5 billion in federal funding last year, compared to $4.6 billion in 2000.

The letter came just after the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal that for-profit colleges be more forthright about students’ potential loan debt relative to their incomes, even going so far as to propose limiting federal aid to those colleges with the most uneven debt-income ratios. The for-profit colleges themselves have said that they would be comfortable with disclosing graduation- and job-placement rates and median debt levels, but that limiting federal aid would certainly force many of them into insolvency.

One case in Illinois serves as a cautionary tale, and an example of what is so troubling to legislators. The Illinois State Board of Education has launched an investigation of the Illinois School of Health Careers’ patient care technician program in Chicago after a group of students decided to file a class-action lawsuit against the institution. The students say they were misled into thinking that they would be able to take the state’s certified nursing assistant exams upon completion of the program. In fact, the program lacks the proper approvals from the Illinois Department of Public Health, leaving students with student loan debt and instruction in a field they say offers few, if any, job prospects.

Supporters of for-profit colleges say the schools are important in serving a population looking to learn a particular trade or get out into the workforce more quickly. Republican lawmakers on the other side of the issue have said Congress should be more concerned about looking for ways to monitor the bad eggs among the bunch and not be so skeptical of an entire industry, according to The New York Times article. Representatives for the Career College Association have said accredited institutions that focus on career-preparedness are critical in meeting President Obama’s goal of getting the United States on top in terms of higher education by 2020.

Most for-profit schools don’t report the kinds of dissatisfaction felt by those students at the Chicago school described above and are a good option for many students, especially those seeking flexible alternatives. The key is quality control. If you’re interested in a career college or an online degree university, do your own research. Make sure your intended school is accredited, as this means it meets a set of standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. Make sure the college you’ll be paying for—and may be paying for years down the line, even after graduation—is not only legitimate but worth paying for.

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Barona Sustainable Environment Scholarship

Scholarship of the Week Open to "Green" Majors

June 21, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The health of the environment is on many people’s minds these days as the BP spill continues to stream oil into the Gulf. If your interest in Earth’s natural resources goes so far as to determine your chosen field of study, this week’s Scholarship of the Week could be for you. The Barona Sustainable Environment Scholarship from the Barona Band of Mission Indians and Barona Resort and Casino is open to California students majoring in horticulture studies, turf grass management, natural resources management, and the environmental sciences.

If you don’t quite fit the criteria for this one but are entering college with an environmental streak, make sure you explore other green scholarships. Scholarship money isn’t only awarded to students coming to college looking to major in a “green” field of study, but to those interested in other environmentally-friendly activities, such as community service or advocacy work related to the environment.

Prize:

Four finalists will receive a $1,000 scholarship; one out of those four will be chosen for an additional $1,000 following a series of personal interviews.

Eligibility:

This award is open to students majoring in horticulture studies, turf grass management, natural resources management, and the environmental sciences. Students must be attending accredited colleges or universities in Southern California full-time, have completed at least 30 semester units, and boast GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

Deadline:

July 15, 2010

Required Material:

Students interested in this scholarship must complete applications from the scholarship provider and submit transcripts from all colleges attended, two letters of recommendation, one character reference letter, and a copy of their last two federal tax returns or most recent financial aid forms. The application will ask for brief essays on educational and professional career goal and objectives and other questions based on the applicant’s chosen field of study.

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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Study Suggests Colleges Should Consider Smartphone Use

June 18, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new study from Ball State University shows further proof that students’ reliance on mobile devices is here to stay, with more students using their smart phones over their computers to access the Internet and communicate with one another than ever before.

Smart phone use has doubled over the last year, according to the study, with nearly half of phone-owning students boasting the devices. Text messaging has become students’ main form of communication, with 97 percent of students surveyed using that method to communicate, compared to 30 percent using e-mail. The study took into account 11 different surveys of mobile device usage since 2005, with 5,500 college students participating.

The study suggests that while it should be easier to reach students now with these smart phones in hand, it also makes it easier for them to multi-task and lead more hectic lifestyles. An increase in students owning more sophisticated devices has also led colleges to reconsider how to both use advancing technologies in the classroom and limiting devices where they may serve as more of a distraction. Cell phone use is still typically prohibited in the classroom, although colleges have been working to integrate other technologies into students’ curricula. Seton Hill University saw so much potential in the new iPad that they announced they would give one to all incoming students. Elsewhere, professors are embracing social networking sites like Twitter as a way to make their instruction more relevant.

Laptops in the classroom in particular have been a topic of discussion since they began cropping up on desks, assisting students in note-taking during lectures. Some professors argue that while some students use their computers appropriately, others spend entire periods surfing the Internet or perusing their Facebook pages. An article in Slate this spring looked at measures some colleges have taken to keep students tuned in to class discussion, which often means disconnecting them from wireless access. The University of Chicago’s Law School shut off Internet access in classrooms several years ago along with several other law schools, where discussion is an integral piece of the educational experience. A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that those who used laptops in the classroom scored 11 percent lower on their first exam than those who took notes the old-fashioned way.

What do you think? Would mobile devices in the classroom be helpful or harmful? What about laptops? What kinds of regulations regarding technology already exist on your campus?

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