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Debt-Ceiling Deal Spares Pell Grant Program

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you’ve taken residence under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about the debt ceiling crisis. Thankfully, the White House and Congress have reached a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and shrink the federal deficit which avoids many of higher education’s worst-case scenarios, namely cuts to Pell Grants, the end of subsidized student loans or a government default that would leave student financial aid and other funding for colleges in limbo.

Here’s the breakdown: The agreement would cut $1 trillion right away and create a committee to reduce the deficit by another $1.5 trillion by November. If approved in Congress, it will avert default on the nation’s debts and ensure that the government has enough money for federal benefits, including student aid. In layman’s terms, the bill would provide $17 billion for the Pell Grant program but the measure would only be temporary. Because House conservatives oppose tax increases, it is likely that the committee charged with reducing the deficit will favor spending cuts over revenues increase, putting Pell Grants and other student aid programs at risk for cuts in the near future.

Do you think slashing funds for higher education is problematic? Let us know what you think.


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Fake Nursing Schools Ripped Off Students, N.Y. Prosecutors Say

by Suada Kolovic

Student nurses beware. According to the Associated Press, a ring of bogus nursing schools in New York defrauded students out of a total of $6-million and in return gave them worthless certifications.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the five schools in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island ripped off students – mostly Caribbean immigrants. Prosecutors say some of the schools even coordinated with a nursing program in Jamaica to provide fraudulent documents. "These conspirators intentionally targeted people in pursuit of new opportunities, lining their pockets with others' hard-earned money," Schneiderman said in a statement.

Eleven people who owned or operated the schools were indicted and eight were arrested. According to an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn state Supreme Court, the defendants falsely claimed that students who completed the programs would be eligible to take the New York State Nursing Board Exam to become registered or licensed practical nurses. How much did the bogus nursing school cost unsuspecting students? Students paid $7,000 to $20,000 to take part in the program. The slight silver lining, the attorney general's office says four of the schools have been shut down and authorities are seeking to close the fifth.


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Amazon Launches Digital-Textbook Rental Service

by Suada Kolovic

Broke college students across the country have reason to rejoice: Amazon has unveiled an e-textbook-rental program which has the potential to save students up to 80 percent on textbooks!

The program will provide students with the opportunity to download temporary copies of textbooks from Amazon’s website for reading on a Kindle e-book reader, computer, tablet or smartphone running free Kindle software. The system allows customers to specify rental periods lasting anywhere from a month to a year. Students will have the option to purchase the e-book during or after a rental period, or extend a rental period in daily increments. Still not sold? Let’s use a real-life example: Intermediate Accounting retails at $197 in print and $109 as an e-book but with Amazon’s program, a student can rent the e-book for three months at the low price of $57!

And what about the students who scribble notes in the margins and saturate textbooks with fluorescent ink? Well, Amazon’s got that covered, too! Not only can students highlight and take notes in their digital textbooks but they’ll be able to refer to any margin notes and highlights made after the rental period is over. And with the cost of traditional print textbooks ranging in the thousands over the course of a college career, odds are rental programs like these will undoubtedly take off.


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College Students Lead in Internet Use and Tech Gadgets

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to Internet use, college students have high schoolers beat. According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, young adults – particularly undergraduate and graduate students – are more likely to use the Internet and own tech devices than the rest of the general population.

The study compiled data collected from Pew Internet Project surveys throughout 2010 and featured a sample size of nearly 10,000. The study found that nonstudents ages 18 to 24 were more active on social networks than were college students and sent updates more regularly on Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of educational background, however, it’s clear that young adults ages 18 to 24 were more likely to be Internet users, to engage in social media and own web-enabled devices like laptops and smartphones.

Community college students exhibited a slight edge in mobile Internet use, which Aaron W. Smith, a Pew senior research specialist, attributed to a trend among lower socioeconomic groups to use mobile phones as their primary mode of Internet access. Web-enabled mobile phones may also reflect the fact that nearly 100 percent of college students and 92 percent of nonstudents in the 18- to 24-year-old range were Internet users, compared to only 75 percent of adults using the Internet.


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And the Most Common College Grade is...

by Suada Kolovic

Contrary to popular belief, earning an A in college may not be as much of a challenge as it seems. According to a new study, 43 percent of all grades at four-year colleges and universities is an A while Ds and Fs are few and far between.

The study, published in Teachers College Record, was conducted by Stuart Rojstaczar, a retired professor of geology, civil engineering and the environment at Duke University, and Christopher Healy, an associate professor of computer science at Furman University. For the study, they collected historical data from 200 four-year colleges and universities and contemporary data from 135. They found that across the board college students earning A grades are widespread in every sector and region of the country. Private colleges tend to be more generous on grades than do public institutions and by comparing historical data, they found that there had been an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988 in the percentage of A grades awarded in higher education.

According to the authors, the abundance of A-level grades is a serious problem. "When A is ordinary, college grades cross a significant threshold. Over a period of roughly 50 years, with a slight reversal from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent," they write.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Do you think grade inflation is a serious problem on college campuses today?


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UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

UC Board Approves 9.6-Percent Increase

July 18, 2011

UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

by Suada Kolovic

With the start of the fall semester just weeks away, University of California students can look forward to yet another tuition hike – a 9.6-percent increase, to be exact. On Thursday, the Board of Regents passed a $1,068 hike on top of a previously approved 8-percent hike for 2011-2012 school year. The regents voted 14-4 in favor of the second increase to cope with the $650 million cut in state funding for next year.

Undergraduate and graduate tuition for California residents will increase to $12,192 a year, not including room and board or campus fees. Now sure, that may not seem like much for college tuition but that’s a $1,890 (or 18 percent) increase from the amount UC undergraduates paid the previous year and more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Leigh Mason, a fourth-year student and student government activist at UC San Diego, said the timing of the tuition increase so close to the fall term has families scrambling. “For a family and student to find that, means it's not only hard but for some impossible,” said Mason, of San Jose. “Why not go to each UC and cut some overhead before coming to us for more revenue?”

According to UC officials, financial aid and tax credits will cover the increased tuition for many families earning less than $80,000 a year and the tuition increases won’t be imposed this coming school year on many families earning less than $120,000 annually. What do you think of the timing of the tuition hike approval? Is it fair for families to face another increase in tuition so close to the start of the fall semester?


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Top 10 Most Successful College Entrepreneurs

by Suada Kolovic

College campuses have been the breeding grounds for some of the most successful business in the world. We’re talking Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo! to name a few. Check out who else made Huffington Post’s list of the most successful college entrepreneurs:

  • Mark Zuckerberg: In 2004, at the ripe age of 19, Zuckerberg created what would one day become the second most visited website in the world – Facebook.
  • Bill Gates: After taking a leave of absence from Harvard, Gates started creating processors and computer interfaces that are still used today. He then founded a little company you might have heard of (Microsoft).
  • Michael Dell: Dell was a pre-med student at the University of Texas, Austin in 1984 when he started a small business in his dorm upgrading computers. He went public in 1988 and eventually brought “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” to the masses.
  • Bo Peabody: As a student at Williams College, Peabody, Bretty Hershey and their economics professor designed one of the original social networks in 1992. Today, it is known as Tripod.com.
  • Jerry Yang and David Filo: Graduate students at Stanford University, Yang and Filo created Yahoo! as a way to help their Stanford friends locate cool websites.
  • Steve Wozniak: In 1975, Wozniak dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley to work with Steve Jobs on circuit board designs and operating systems. These projects eventually evolved into Apple.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin: In 1996, Page and Brin, who were PhD students at Stanford University at the time, left school to begin working on a new search technology founded on one idea that the order of websites listed on search engines would be based on relevance. From that idea, Google was born.
  • Marc Andreessen: While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Andreessen and Eric Bana began creating a user-friendly browser that integrated graphics and would work on a range of computers. They called it Mosaic, Andreessen eventually started his own software company, Mosaic Netscape.
  • Frederick W. Smith: As an undergrad at Yale, Smith wrote a paper outlining a delivery system that would work in a computer-dominated industry. After he graduated, Smith ran with the idea and founded Federal Express.
  • Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian: After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005, Huffman and Ohanian founded the popular social news website Reddit.
  • What do you think of the individuals that made the list? Any surprises? Do you think it’s problematic that not a single woman made the list?


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Ed Secretary Duncan: “DREAM Act Would Benefit Our Country”

by Suada Kolovic

From the get go, the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students, has faced an uphill battle. With it failing in the Senate last year and both sides expressing skepticism about the bill, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress yesterday that the Administration supports its passage.

According to Duncan, the students who could benefit if Congress approves the DREAM Act would fill 2.6 million jobs and would bring in $1.4 million more in revenue than it would cost over the next 10 years. Duncan also addressed several misconceptions about the DREAM Act: It does not create an amnesty program with an easy path to citizenship, it will not affect the availability of federal student loans or Pell Grants for citizens and it will not create incentives for an increase in undocumented immigration. “Simply put,” Duncan concluded, “educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country.”

Keep in mind that in order for undocumented students to qualify for the DREAM Act, they must prove they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school or received a GED, possess good moral character and been admitted to an institution of higher education or serve in the military. Do you hope the DREAM Act becomes a reality? Let us know what you think.


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SIU President’s Granddaughter Wins Full-Tuition Scholarship

by Suada Kolovic

A high school student with excellent grades, a top ACT score and a history of leadership has won full-merit scholarship to Southern Illinois University. No surprise there – she sure sounds like a worthy candidate – but the scholarship winner in question is Maddie Poshard, the granddaughter of the university’s president, Glenn Poshard.

Ms. Poshard was one of 24 students selected for the Presidential/Chancellor Scholarship, a taxpayer-funded scholarship worth about $80,000. More than 250 students applied for the award and 100 finalists were invited for campus interviews before the winners were chosen. "My first concerns began after finding out that I had received the scholarship," Poshard wrote in an email to the Chicago Tribune. "After the initial excitement I learned that not everyone would believe that I earned my scholarship fairly. My family and I discussed the potential consequences of accepting the scholarship, and then I decided the scholarship was the best way to set myself up for success in the future, no matter what criticisms may be said."

According to the Tribune, Mr. Poshard says he stayed out of the scholarship decision, but acknowledges that officials knew that Ms. Poshard was his granddaughter. University financial aid directors said that, in general, schools do not bar employees’ relatives from merit scholarships. Do you think nepotism played a role in Ms. Poshard’s scholarship win? Do you think it’s fair for a clearly bright student to have her credentials questioned because of who her grandfather is? Let us know what you think.


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Later Classes for Students Mean Sleep More, Booze and Lower Grades

by Suada Kolovic

Ah college, a sacred time in your adult life when waking up at noon is considered the norm, Ramen noodles as a diet staple are typical and your classes don’t start until 2 p.m. (Trust me, it’s the good life.) Unfortunately, night owls, there’s a downside: According to a recent study, college students whose classes start later in the day sleep more but they also consume more alcohol and have lower grade point averages.

The study, led by two psychologists at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y., surveyed 253 students about their sleep, class schedules, substance use and mood, among other things. It found that night owls were likely to get more sleep than early birds but were also more likely to binge drink and their grades were moderately lower. They found that students who had later classes tended to stay up later, were not as well rested and had more daytime sleepiness. “Later class start times seemed to change the choices students make: They sleep longer, and they drink more," said Pamela Thacher, co-lead author on the study which was presented at SLEEP 2011, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting in Minneapolis.

Do you agree with the study’s findings? Are you more likely to stay up late if you don’t have to wake up for an early class and does being up late translate into making poor decisions?


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