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Congress Plans to Double Stafford Loan Interest Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Recent reports suggest that student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time and will reach $1 trillion this year. The average college student leaves owing $25,000 in loans, putting them at risk of having to significantly delay moving on to different life stages such as buying a house, getting married and even having children. Curious as to how the government has responded in aiding and relieving students of insurmountable debt? By possibly doubling the interest rate of the most popular federally subsidized loans, of course.

On Tuesday, college students delivered more than 130,000 letters to congressional leaders at the Capitol to protest the increase. Unless Congress takes action, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, increasing the average debt by $2,800 for more than 7 million students receiving the loans, according to a spokesman for the Democratic members of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce. Why is Congress considering the increase when so many students are already in debt? In 2007, Congress voted to cut the Stafford interest rate, which in turn cost an estimated $7.2 billion from 2007 to 2012 and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, that burden was shouldered almost entirely by lenders and loan-guarantee agencies. "We all want to promote efforts that will reduce college costs, but the era of empty promises has to end," said John P. Kline Jr., a Republican from Minnesota who is the committee's chairman. "The interest rate hike students face is the result of a ticking time bomb set by Democrats five years ago," Mr. Kline said. "Simply calling for more of the same is a disservice to students and taxpayers." (For more on this story, click here.)

Soon-to-be college graduates, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?


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Billionaire Dropout Advocate to Teach at Stanford

by Suada Kolovic

In an interesting turn of events, Silicon Valley billionaire and college dropout advocate Peter Thiel will teach a course at Stanford. Apparently, taking a college course is still worthwhile…when he’s the professor.

The PayPal co-founder, whose 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship awarded a group of budding entrepreneurs $100,000 each to dropout and develop innovation companies, will teach a course called “Computer Science 183: Startup” at the university this spring. News has since spread like wildfire and the 250-student course is already oversubscribed, according to Reuters. But not everyone is convinced: Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center of Corporate Governance, said “It’s hypocritical, but I’m not surprised. The same people who go around bashing education are the most educated. What's he going to do? Tell students, 'When you graduate from my class, drop out right after that?'" Ironically, that idea isn’t too farfetched: Thiel told Reuters through a spokesman, “If I do my job right, this is the last class you’ll ever have to take.” (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of Thiel’s stance on earning a college degree? Is it wrong of Thiel to argue that the brightest young minds should venture out on their own and start companies rather than pursue a college degree when he himself holds both a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a law degree from Stanford? Let us know in the comments section.


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Get a College Degree - It’s Good for Your Health!

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to get a college education – better employment opportunities, higher earning potential, experiences that will last a lifetime, etc. – but you probably didn’t realize that it might be good for your health, too: A new study suggests that earning a bachelor’s degree before reaching the age of 25 is linked with having fewer symptoms of depression and having a higher self-rating of health, compared to people who don’t have college degree before 25.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, were based on data from 7,179 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979. The study suggests that people with college degrees are more likely to report regular exercising – 63 percent of college graduates reported participating in “vigorous exercise” once a week or more, compared with 37 percent of people in the same age group who only had a high school diploma. Study researcher Dr. Katrine Walsemann of the University of South Carolina said in a statement that the findings “provides preliminary evidence that the timing of education is associated with health advances current research on the importance of attaining at least a bachelor’s degree after the mid-20s.” (For more on the study, click here.)

What do you think of the study’s findings? Do you think obtaining a college degree has a direct correlation to an individual’s well-being or do you think everyone has the potential to develop bad habits regardless of their educational backgrounds?


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Private College Group Lists Steps Toward Enhancing Affordability

by Suada Kolovic

With a growing number of students questioning whether the cost of a college education has grown too high to be justified, the reality of students selecting non-traditional paths has finally garnered a response from colleges: According to a list published by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, private nonprofit colleges and universities are unveiling lots of affordability measures in the coming academic year including tuition cuts, freezes and guarantees, three-year degree programs, four-year graduation pledges, curricular changes to help students graduate on time, partnerships with community colleges, lower tuition increases and scholarship assistance. Check out some of the highlights below (and to see the full list, click here):

Baylor University - Waco, TX: In the upcoming academic year, Baylor will begin the pilot phase of the new Baylor at MCC Co-Enrollment Program with McLennan Community College. Students in the program will attend the first year or two at MCC then move on to graduate from Baylor.

Roosevelt University - Chicago, IL: Beginning this fall, Roosevelt and nearby community colleges will offer students the opportunity to complete associate degrees and matriculate to Roosevelt at a frozen tuition price point across four years.

Simmons College - Boston, MA: Simmons will start offering 3+1 programs this fall that will allow students to receive both bachelor's and master's degrees in just four years.

University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA: UPenn is increasing total undergraduate charges by 3.9 percent for 2012-13, the second lowest increase in 44 years. The school is also increasing its financial aid budget by 7.7 percent over 2011-12.

Wentworth Institute of Technology - Boston, MA: Wentworth will debut its first three-year baccalaureate degree program this fall.

The list will be updated regularly as more 2012-13 campus measures are announced, NAICU said. Does this information have you reevaluating your college and financial choices?


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UVA Students Go On Hunger Strike for Higher Wages

by Suada Kolovic

After a decade of dialogue with administration, marches, rallies and petitions, the Living Wage Campaign decided enough was enough: The student group that has pushed for higher pay for low-level employees at the University of Virginia (UVA) is entering the 11th day of a hunger strike with more than a dozen students continuing their protest.

Organizers are demanding UVA pay its employees at least $13 an hour with benefits and wages that are indexed to inflation. “Our university seeks to distinguish itself as a caring community and prides itself on traditions of honor and student self-governance. However, in our ‘caring community,’ hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25 an hour while six out of the top ten highest paid state employees in Virginia hold administrative positions at the university,” wrote Joseph Williams, a hunger striker and football player at UVA, on Michael Moore’s website. On Monday, protestors met with UVA President Teresa Sullivan and other officials but declared it unsuccessful and said they would remain on a hunger strike until their demands were met. University officials insist they have no say over how much contractors pay their employees. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the extreme strategies the protestors are taking? Do you support their efforts? Would you participate in a hunger strike for a cause you believed in?


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Handy Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids with SAT Stress

by Suada Kolovic

Upperclassmen across the country are stressed in every sense of the word. And it would come to no surprise that said students are currently walking around in oversized tees and sweats, with mangled hair and dark circles under their eyes, which can only mean one thing: The SATs are just around the corner. For years, the SATs have long been synonymous with intense anxiety and while that is considered the norm (unfortunately), U.S. News and World Report and psychologist Ben Bernstein, author of “Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test,” have complied a few handy tips for parents to help ease their kids’ stress:

  • Remain calm: It’s important that parents don’t get roped into their child’s nervousness, which Bernstein refers to as an “induced reaction.” He suggests that parents can help curb anxiety by staying calm themselves. Parents should remind their child to breathe and even suggest writing “breathe” as a reminder on their test booklet.
  • Be confident: Parents should listen for negative statements from their child, such as "I can't handle this," or "I'm not smart enough," says Bernstein. He suggests parents accept their kid's feelings but recommends saying something along the lines of, "'I know you feel that way right now, but I remember when you handled a really difficult situation. Do you remember that?'" In turn, he notes, "Of course the kid will remember that. They're forgetting that part of themselves, which has been successful."
  • Stay focused: Many students today simply have shorter attention spans than they did in previous generations. Why? Because they've become accustomed to the instant gratification of sending a text message or beating a video game level, says Bernstein. Parents can help their students focus by having them study continuously, without interruption, for several minutes at a time.

Do you find these tips helpful? Did your parents play such an active role in helping you stay calm and focused before you took the SATs? Let us know in the comments section.


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Friendship Pays Off in this Scholarship of the Week

The Scholarships.com "Tell a Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes Deadline is 3/31

February 27, 2012

Friendship Pays Off in this Scholarship of the Week

by Suada Kolovic

As a Scholarships.com member, you have free access to a customized scholarship search, detailed financial aid information, an organized college search, standardized test study guides and more. Like what you see? Spread the word about Scholarships.com to your friends through our “Tell A Friend” Scholarship and you'll have a chance to win money for college - $1,000 for you and $500 for one of your buddies! Just enter your email and password to obtain a personalized referral link. Then take that link and blog it, tweet it, email it, IM it or Facebook it and for every one of your friends who creates a profile on our site by clicking your link, you will be entered to win a $1,000 award. There’s no limit as to how many people you can send your link to and if you win, one of your friends will be chosen at random to win $500.

Remember, the more friends you refer, the more entries you’ll get until the March 31st deadline. For more information, visit our Tell A Friend page and for additional scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search.


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California Regulators Shut Down Medical Institute

School Falsely Claimed That it Was Accredited

February 17, 2012

California Regulators Shut Down Medical Institute

by Suada Kolovic

For some students, heading off to college for the next two, four or even six years isn’t the right option. And while college isn’t for everyone, an education should be. In order to stay competitive in the workforce, it’s important to realize that there are opportunities in the form of both trade and vocational schools for students who don’t see themselves on college campuses. But before you sign up for a program that offers training as a dental hygienist or ultrasound technician, verify that the institution is accredited or run the risk of obtaining a very expensive yet useless certificate or licensure. Think this doesn’t happen? Unfortunately, it does: The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has ordered the Institute of Medical Education to close its two campuses in San Jose and Oakland for falsely claiming accreditation.

According to the college’s website, the Institute of Medical Education is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The reality, said commission has not been a federally recognized accreditor since 2010. “Those things put students at enormous risk,” said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the bureau responsible for shuttering the schools. “These students have spent a lot of money and a lot of time for programs that may not allow them to sit for licensure examinations.” The institute had offered certificate programs in vocational nursing, medical assisting and other health-related fields for fees of up to $40,000 and state officials have urged students to apply to the state’s Student Tuition Recovery Fund, which reimburses students at schools that close.

Have you considered the possibility of going to a vocational school instead of a traditional four-year college?


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10 Most Expensive Public Schools for Out-of-State Students

by Suada Kolovic

For the budget-conscious high school senior, it seems like a no-brainer to apply to the local state school for the best shot at affordable tuition. But with the economy in a slump and funding cuts becoming the norm, public universities across the country are more interested in recruiting out-of-state students. Why? It’s pretty simple: On average, tuition and fees for students crossing state lines is more than double that of their in-state peers. So if you have your sights set on schools beyond your state’s boundaries, check out the 10 most expensive public schools for out-of-state students (figures do not including room and board, books and other miscellaneous costs):

  1. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor: $37, 265
  2. University of Virginia: $36,570
  3. University of California – Irvine: $35,780
  4. University of California – Davis: $35,672
  5. College of William and Mary (VA): $35, 409
  6. University of California – Santa Barbara: $35,386
  7. University of California – Santa Cruz: $35,211
  8. University of California – San Diego: $35,006
  9. University of California – Riverside: $34,729
  10. University of California – Berkeley: $34,645

Did your prospective college make the list and does this information alter your interest in the school? Is it fair for colleges facing financial woes to place the burden on the shoulders of incoming out-of-state students?


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Excelsior College Rolls Out $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree Program

by Suada Kolovic

With spring just around the corner, high school seniors across the country are anxiously awaiting word from colleges they’ve applied to. And while getting into your top choice school is all well and good, figuring out how you’re going to pay for it is pretty scary. If the cost of your college education is keeping you up at night, you might want to consider Excelsior College. Why? They just rolled out a program that guarantees a bachelor’s degree for $10,000!

This may seem like the opportunity of a lifetime but there are limitations to the price-guaranteed program. Students only have the option to earn a bachelor’s degree in the following areas: BA in Liberal Studies with an area of focus in Psychology or Sociology; BS in Liberal Studies with areas of focus in Administrative/Management Studies or Health Professional; and BS in Liberal Studies in Psychology or Sociology. If you’re interest, here’s how it works: Excelsior specializes in credit-by-examination, meaning that students may earn credit through a single comprehensive exam. In the past, students would have had to pay $370 per credit, which put an Excelsior degree at about $20,000. Not anymore! The new program has the faculty matching each end-of-course exam to one or more free online courses. "Excelsior has been a pioneer in credit by examination for more than 40 years," said Dr. John Ebersole, Excelsior’s president. "What makes this program truly innovative is its use of open education resources as a key source of study material for students. Not only do these free resources help keep student expenses down, they engage students in learning subject matter from some of the world’s leading colleges and universities." (For more on the story, click here.)

Would you consider applying to Excelsior? Are you a tad apprehensive about the academic merits of a self-guided curriculum? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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