October 24, 2008
So you've finally hit your senior year of college and you're anxiously awaiting the day when nobody will ever force you to write another 8-page paper about James Joyce or take another three-hour-long college exam. You're about to be on your own, earning real money and living the high life (Goodbye, roommates! Goodbye, budget diet!). All you have to do now, aside from completing those 21 required credits you need to cram into your spring semester, is find a job.
Survey says you'd better start looking now.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers polled 146 employers in a range of industries this month and calculated a projected hiring increase of just 1.3 percent for 2009. Anything under 6 percent is considered pretty bad news, according to an article on the subject appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Campus career centers are advocating that students who plan to graduate in May or August start their job hunt now, rather than waiting until closer to graduation. Another idea is to look into nonprofit organizations, government jobs, and other fields where demand remains steady in a recession. Of course, many of them offer lower pay than a college graduate might need to live comfortably while repaying student loans.
Of course, you could also go to graduate school. It's not too late to register to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), put together a personal statement and some letters of recommendation, and throw yourself into application process. Some master's programs accept applications into March or April, and possibly even later. Graduate students gain more knowledge and experience in their field, including valuable teaching and research skills, and can continue to rely on financial aid (including scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships) for two or more years while the economy hopefully stabilizes and job prospects improve.
October 23, 2008
The Project on Student Debt just published information on the average student loan debt load for students graduating college in 2007. The report shows that average student debt increased 6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while the average annual salary of college graduates increased by only 3 percent. The percentage of students borrowing remained the same at 59 percent nationally, though some individual states experienced double-digit increases, including North Dakota, which surged ahead 14 percent to capture the #2 spot for percentage of student borrowers, with 75 percent of its students taking out loans, following South Dakota's 81 percent.
While more North and South Dakotans borrow than residents of any other state, Iowans have the highest average debt load of $26,208, followed closely by New Hampshire's $25,211. States that fared well were Utah and Hawaii with the lowest average debt ($13,266 and $14,911 respectively) and Nevada and Utah with the lowest percentage of borrowers (40 and 42 percent). The report also contains information for individual private colleges and state universities for 2007, as well as a list of the schools with the highest and lowest levels of student debt.
So if you're still in the midst of your college search, you may want to check out the full report from the Project on Student Debt, complete with a state-by-state interactive map. If you're planning on attending college in a high-debt state, don't panic. Just devote a bit more time to finding money for college, such as doing a thorough scholarship search.
October 22, 2008
The results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities indicate that at least a few students at many private colleges and universities were unable to obtain enough private loan funding to pay their fall tuition. The survey also indicates that the credit crunch may have steered a number of students away from private schools.
More than 500 NAICU member schools responded to the survey, which asked questions about the availability of Stafford loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the availability of private student loans, and unanticipated enrollment shifts. Eighty-five percent of schools reported that they had lost at least one FFELP lender, but the vast majority had no difficulty replacing these lenders. Additionally, most colleges lost at least one private lender, with 27 percent of those schools reporting that students had some difficulty finding a replacement lender.
More than half of colleges surveyed reported they had at least some students who were unable to secure private loan funds for the current semester, and 45 percent of schools reported students changing their enrollment status due to financial concerns. Eighteen percent of colleges surveyed reported fewer returning students and 19 percent reported a smaller freshman class than anticipated. While most colleges reported no significant changes in enrollment, it appears some private college students (who are typically the most likely group to qualify for student loans) are being forced to alter their educational plans due to the current economic situation.
Three quarters of private colleges surveyed also reported increased financial need among their student populations. Coupled with the rise in FAFSA files across the board and preliminary reports of more demand for financial aid coming from state universities and community colleges, it appears competition is getting stiffer for need-based student financial aid. This is just one more reason for students to ramp up their scholarship search and find money for college as soon as possible.
October 21, 2008
Just in case you haven't heard enough reasons to kick your scholarship search into high gear, an article appearing last week in The Boston Globe reported that one third of parents have cut back on or altogether stopped saving for college. According to a study by Fidelity Investments, the current economic situation has left many parents less equipped to help their children pay for school.
The study found that parents have fewer resources to devote to students' college expenses due to drops in values of investments and home equity. To help make up this difference, 35 percent of parents reported plans to delay retirement in order to better help their college-aged children pay bills. Parents are also asking more of college students, with 55 percent expecting their kids to work part-time, 44 percent hoping their kids will live at home while attending college, and 37 percent encouraging their children to attend less expensive state colleges. Additionally, 62 percent of parents expect their children to take out student loans--a figure that makes sense coupled with the 16 percent increase in FAFSA applications reported earlier this year.
When coupled with anecdotal evidence, such as another Boston Globe piece highlighting Massachusettes families' increased interest in public universities for 2009, this study stresses the need for students to ramp up their efforts to find money for college. While federal student financial aid and private loans are being turned to more and more, college scholarships are still options for students industrious enough to find them. If you're already attending college or currently in the midst of the college application process and haven't yet started searching for scholarships, now is a good time to begin. Between now and February, a great number of scholarship opportunities will open up for applications, so the sooner you know what's out there, the better a chance you'll have of winning scholarships.
October 20, 2008
Do you have a great sense of humor? Do you just love writing essays? Are you "funny, quirky, and creative?" Can you talk about how great you are without coming off as pretentious? Do you really really deserve a scholarship? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Mental Floss $50,000 Tuition Giveaway scholarship essay contest, is for you.
Mental Floss Magazine has teamed up with Borders and Merriam-Webster to offer five $10,000 scholarships to students who will be enrolled full-time in the fall of 2009. All you have to do to enter (after you check your scholarship search results to see if you qualify, of course) is head on over to the contest website, fill out a short entry form, compose an essay of 750 words or less that explains why you deserve this scholarship more than anyone, and hit submit. The hardest part will be getting the tone just right, as the scholarship providers want something written in the style of their magazine (luckily, you can find some of their articles online). It would be a good idea to brush up on your scholarship essay-writing skills before you apply for scholarships like this one.
Five $10,000 grand prizes will be awarded. The first runner-up will receive a free dinner with a co-founder of Mental Floss Magazine or a $250 cash prize, and four other runners-up will receive a subscription to Mental Floss, a Mental Floss t-shirt, and a Merriam-Webster dictionary.
To be eligible to win, students must be attending college full-time at a two-year or four-year college or university in the U.S. or Canada in 2009. Entrants also must be legal residents of the United States or Canada (with the exception of Puerto Rico and Quebec) and must be 18 or older before August 15, 2009.
January 31, 2009
Completed online scholarship application and an essay of 750 words or less explaining why you should win this scholarship.
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.
October 17, 2008
While the U.S. Presidential debates have wrapped up for 2008, voters interested in hearing more about each candidate's plans for education policy have an opportunity to watch a debate between the candidates' educational advisors on Tuesday. The debate will take place at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City and will be webcast live by Education Week.
Due to the worsening economic situation in the United States, more and more families are having trouble finding money for college. Lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan Program and discontinuing private student loans have required some families to look elsewhere for financial aid, while lost income and tougher credit requirements have made it harder for other families to come up with the funds required to pay for school. While industrious students certainly can find college scholarships and grants, many voters would like to see schools and the federal government find ways to increase these sources of funding. Simplifying the financial aid application process and curbing the rising cost of tuition are other issues many would like to see the next administration tackle.
The quality of public education at the K-12 level also remains a concern for many voters. With more and more families viewing a college education as essential, adequate college preparation has become increasingly important. Yet many students require remedial education upon entering college, minorities are still are less likely to go to or finish college, and many voters are disenchanted with standardized testing and No Child Left Behind.
This debate will likely provide voters with more complete information on each campaign's education plans. If education policy is a major issue for you this election, consider tuning in to the webcast at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 21.
October 16, 2008
Despite the relatively small amount of time spent on issues of higher education in the presidential debates, a survey by the National Education Association shows that many voters, especially college students and their parents, consider college costs to be one of the main issues in the upcoming presidential election.
Thirty-four percent of college students and parents of college students polled consider college affordability the single most important issue of the 2008 election. 70 percent of parents and 65 percent of students said that it was important that the next president making it easier for families to pay for school. Additionally, the vast majority of those surveyed said that a college education is fast becoming a necessity, yet also espoused a belief that attending college is more of a financial burden now than it was 10 years ago.
Each candidate addressed educational policy directly in last night's debate, after touching on parts of their plans briefly in previous debates. Senator McCain's proposal for college affordability centers around shoring up the federal student loan system and making it easier for students to borrow what they need from the government, especially through the FFEL program. He also put an emphasis on expanding the role of community colleges in training displaced workers. Senator Obama, on the other hand, favors a $4,000 higher education tax credit for families to help with tuition costs, as well as efforts to improve college access and reduce students' student loan burdens, stressing the fact that many students alter their career goals due to debt.
October 15, 2008
Texas A&M, Boston University, and Vanderbilt University have all recently announced expanded financial aid programs to help lower-and-middle-class students deal with the rising cost of college education and the tough economic situation the country currently faces.
This news comes as many other colleges are announcing budget cuts and tuition hikes in order to break even in the face of declining state funding. Proposed cuts to higher education funding currently range from a one percent cut in Maryland to a reduction of funding by more than 14 percent in Nevada, according to a recent write-up in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Despite financial concerns, though, more and more schools are digging into their pockets to find additional scholarship and grant money for their students. Texas A&M will provide free tuition to all freshmen with a family income below $60,000 and a GPA above 2.5. Boston University plans to meet all financial need for every Boston public school graduate admitted to the university. Vanderbilt will replace all need-based student loans with grants for its students starting next fall, though it still needs to raise an additional $100 million to fully fund the program.
U.S. News and World Report provides more information on these new financial aid programs. You can find out more about these and other generous institutions by conducting a college search on Scholarships.com.
October 14, 2008
I remember sitting around in an English class one day, waiting for the professor to arrive, when one of my classmates mentioned the GRE (graduate record examination) test that we’d all recently taken to apply to graduate programs. She had been worried she wouldn’t even be able to get into English grad programs because of her abysmal standardized math test performance. Everyone chimed in with their GRE scores and application process anecdotes and I spoke up with, “I was surprised that I actually scored higher on the math than the verbal!” It was akin to announcing that I tortured small animals. The air went out of the room and I think some girls actually edged away from me.
This social stigma about math certainly doesn’t start with graduate students in English departments. Most students who excel at math, especially girls, have certainly felt it at one point or another. So while some previous research has suggested that girls just aren’t as good as boys at math, a new study published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society suggests something different. Combining two of the facts of life of high school—popularity is important to many girls and math just isn’t cool—the study proposes that girls don’t do as well at math in middle school and high school and don’t pursue math-heavy degrees as undergraduate students because of social pressure.
This conclusion comes from looking at the cultural backgrounds of some of the highest-performing college and high school students who participate in math competitions. Most of these students, especially the girls, came from cultures where math is prized as an important and useful skill and a source of prestige. These students or their parents tended to be from Asian or Eastern European countries, either sparing them from or giving them a social counterpoint to American beliefs about math. These countries produce a higher proportion of mathematically gifted women, as well as higher numbers of math superstars overall, suggesting that it’s not that girls aren’t good at math, but that girls in the U.S. are socialized to not make math a priority.
So, if you’re a high school math nerd, hang in there. At least one research team believes that you are good at math and you’re not a weirdo for being good at math. If you can stick with math into college, you’ll likely encounter a different attitude. And if the article in Friday’s New York Times is any indication, top colleges want mathematically-inclined students. They might even pony up some scholarship money to woo you.
October 13, 2008
Outstanding students attending college at a Datatel client college or university are eligible for this week's Scholarship of the Week. The Datatel Scholars Foundation offers three scholarship opportunities for undergraduate students and graduate students currently enrolled at least half-time at an institution serviced by Datatel (a list of eligible schools is available on the Datatel Scholars Foundation website). The foundation offers a general award worth up to $2,400, an award for veterans worth $1,700, and a $2,000 award for returning students who have not been enrolled in college for five years or more.
Applicants for all three awards need to submit an online application, an 800-1000 word scholarship essay, information about civic involvement, and two letters of recommendation. Students apply online, then have their applications reviewed by the Datatel scholarship committee at their institution. Schools nominate up to five students whose applications are then judged at the national level.
Datatel Scholars Foundation Scholarship: $1000-2400 depending on the cost of tuition at your institution.
Datatel Angelfire Scholarship: $1700
Datatel Russ Griffith Memorial Scholarship: $2000
Datatel Foundation Scholarship: any undergraduate or graduate student currently enrolled at least half-time at a Datatel client college.
Datatel Angelfire Scholarship: students attending a Datatel client college who have served in the military in a combat situation.
Datatel Russ Griffith Memorial Scholarship: students attending a Datatel client college who are returning to college after an absence of five years or more.
January 30, 2009
Completed scholarship application, available on the Datatel Scholars website, two letters of recommendation submitted online, an essay of 800-1000 words responding to the appropriate prompt for the scholarship for which you're applying, and information about your civic involvement.
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