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by Emily

Are you addicted to the History Channel and HGTV? Do you love old buildings and local history? Do you want to learn more about or get involved in preservation efforts in your community? If you're a high school junior or senior and this describes you, be sure to check out this week's Scholarship of the Week, the American Planning Association High School Essay Contest.

Two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to high school students who come up with the best historic preservation plans for their communities. Your scholarship essay should be between 1200 and 1500 words and should closely follow the instructions provided on the APA scholarship website. Not only can you learn about your community, earn scholarship money, and explore a potential career, but if you win, you will also receive a stipend of up to $1,000 to travel to an APA conference sometime during your college career to learn more about community planning.

Prize: Two $5,000 grand prize scholarship awards

Eligibility: High school students who are U.S. residents and are juniors or seniors during the 2008-2009 school year.

Deadline: January 15, 2009

Required Materials: Completed online scholarship application, following the instructions outlined by the American Planning Association on their contest website.

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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by Emily

College students who receive generous scholarship opportunities are relieved of some of the financial burden of paying for school.  But to what extent does this benefit translate into other positive outcomes?  How, specifically, does winning scholarships help students achieve their college goalsFour studies being presented this week at the Association for the Study of Higher Education's annual conference seek to answer these questions.

Two studies focused on recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an extremely generous scholarship for minorities offered by Bill and Melinda Gates.  A third tracked recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise, the first in a series of large-scale full-tuition local scholarship programs, which provides scholarship funding to all qualifying Kalamazoo, Michigan residents who choose to attend one of Michigan's state colleges.  The fourth looks at University of Iowa applicants' responses to financial aid offers.

The study of University of Iowa students reinforces the idea that scholarship money steers students' college plans, especially among certain minority groups.  African American and Hispanic students were less likely to attend the university, presumably choosing a more affordable or more generous institution, if they did not receive the amount of financial assistance they had hoped for.  These results reinforce the importance of college affordability and will hopefully encourage universities to offer more generous awards to student populations they wish to attract.

While institutional financial aid influences students' college choices, so do other scholarships. Studies showed that Gates Millennium Scholars and Kalamazoo Promise recipients appear more inclined than their peers of similar backgrounds towards applying to and ultimately choosing colleges that are pricier or more competitive.

Gates Millennium Scholars are also more likely to graduate--matching graduation rates of higher-income students--as well as to graduate on time.  In fact, 90 percent of these students finished a four-year degree in four years, which is proving to be an increasingly rare accomplishment among students currently attending college.

In some ways, these studies reinforce things many students already knew.  Scholarships influence students' college choices.  Scholarship winners go to better schools, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to graduate sooner--and the studies suggest this because they won a scholarship, not just because they're smart and motivated.  Even if none of this is news to you, it should still be a powerful motivator for you to start your own scholarship search.  It does appear to be the formula for college success.


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by Emily

U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree.  Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school.  Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.

A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year.  While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.

Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college.  Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.

So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research.  You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree.  There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education.  Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.


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by Emily

The election is over, and while we're still waiting for some results to come in, such as the ultimate fate of Colorado's anti-affirmative action ballot measure, most races have been decided and commented on. Overall, higher education fared well yesterday, and Inside Higher Ed provides a breakdown of wins and losses for college-related measures, as welll as an in-depth discussion of the brand new affirmative action ban in Nebraska.

The biggest focus this morning has been on Barack Obama's presidential win. News sources across the country are already speculating on what he will and will not be able to accomplish once he takes office in January. While Obama had stated in his second debate with Senator McCain that he planned to make education a priority for his administration, concerns are being expressed over financial barriers to his proposals. As President, Obama would like to shore up the Federal Pell Grant program, eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) in favor of Direct Loans, and implement a $4,000 tax credit for families with students in college, among other goals. However, the economic crisis may make these goals difficult.

A more Democratic Congress also has ambitious plans that could affect higher education, including potentially revisiting a bill that would allow private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Democrats also are hoping to provide more money for job training programs to community colleges, as well as more support for and fewer restrictions on research conducted by universities. Congress also expects to revisit and revise No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration's ambitious, though largely unpopular, education bill.

Education policy makers will also change in January, with some seats in the House and Senate educational committees being vacated and a new Education Secretary coming in with the new president. How the results of the election will change the face of attending college and funding your education remains to be seen.


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by Emily

It's November 4th, and that means election day for everyone in the U.S. If you haven't already cast an early or an absentee ballot, here's yet another reminder to show up at the polls today.  Education has become a major concern due to economic instability, decreasing availability of student loans, and the rising costs of attending college.  Today you can make your opinion on education known, and not only in the Presidential and Congressional races.

Voters in eleven states will pick a new governor, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, new governors in five states will play an important role in setting educational policies in coming years.  Voters in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington can check out coverage of what's at stake in terms of education here

State referenda in thirteen states also have the potential to affect educational policy on issues ranging from school funding to affirmative action.  The Chronicle of Higher Education provides info on these referenda here, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education also addresses them here

If you're just starting down the road to a college education, the people elected today and the measures passed today will have a direct influence on the shape of your academic journey.  Your ability to fund your education, your experience at college, your ability to meet your college goals, and even your chances of getting into the college of your choice could change based on what happens today.  So if you can, read up on the issues and get out there and vote.


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by Emily

History is one of the most popular college majors, and for a good reason. Instead of reading up on interesting cultures and events during their free time, history majors can do so while earning credit hours. If history is your passion (or at least your major), you're in luck. This week's Scholarship of the Week is especially for you. Just concentrate on the past, and we'll take care of your future.

Students who apply for the Scholarships.com History Scholarship will have the chance to earn $1,000 towards their college education-and it couldn't be easier. Just write a 250-350 word scholarship essay in response to the following question (entries that fall outside of this word range will be disqualified): "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in history?"

Prize: $1000

Eligibility: U.S. citizen; registered Scholarships.com user (creating an account is simple and free of charge; after you have created an account, conduct a free scholarship search to view and apply for this award.); undergraduate student currently enrolled or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university in the coming academic year; applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors: Art History, History, Natural History

Deadline: December 31, 2008

Required Material: A 250-350 word response to the following question: "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in history?"

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship list.


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by Emily

Remember that provision in the Higher Education Act that was supposed to help keep tuition down by requiring states to maintain their level of funding for higher education?  Since state governments are required to balance their budgets each year, the act included a provision that allowed the Secretary of Education to waive this "Maintenance of Effort" requirement in the event of "a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of a State or State educational agency."

Yesterday, the National Governors Assocation sent a letter to Margaret Spellings arguing that the current economic situation qualifies as such a circumstance.  The letter cites the budgeting crisis over half the country currently faces, with a budget shortfall of more than $26 billion spread across 27 states and expected to grow.  States are forced to make tough choices to balance their budgets, and the choice of cutting funding to higher education is certainly among these.

If the Maintenance of Effort requirement is not waived, states that fail to maintain required levels of higher education spending will lose out on some federal grant money designed to help low-income students prepare for and attend college.  Either way, students struggling to pay for school may find themselves struggling more next year.  So keep plugging away at those scholarship applications!


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by Emily

Curious how colleges are weathering the recession?  Wondering just how different things are now than when your parents (or even your older siblings) went to college?  Reuters recently published a roundup of educational figures related to enrollment, endowments, student loans, and college costs.  Many of these statistics have already shown up elsewhere in the Scholarships.com blog. 

Tuition, fees, room, and board totaled $31,019 at private colleges, $16,758 for in-state students at state universities, and $24,955 for out-of-state public university students.  Two-thirds of students at four-year schools received some form of grants, averaging $3,600 at public schools and $9,300 at private schools. 

Federal student loans have become increasingly popular since the mid-1990s, with students borrowing a total of $77 billion to pay for school in 2007.  The class of 2007 carried 6 percent more debt than the class of 2006 upon graduation. 

Tuition and borrowing are likely to continue to increase, as endowments have taken a hit in the stock market and state support for higher education also continues to fall.  State funding covered 2/3 of public university budgets in 1998, but only covered half their budgets in 2007.  Tuition also accounts for a larger percentage of college budgets.  More students may also put their educational plans on hold due to increased difficulty finding money for college.


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Times Aren't Tough All Over

October 29, 2008

by Emily

In the current economy, the outlook can seem pretty bleak for those just starting down the path towards a college degree.  Declining private loan availability, tighter credit requirements, soaring tuition rates, less money being saved for college, and cuts in higher ed funding make going to college tougher now than it's been in the past.  Students leaving school also face a tougher hiring situation and steep student loan debt.  And those trying to remain in academia permanently face hiring freezes and fewer available tenure-track positions.

This is the situation in most of the country, but a few states rich in oil and natural gas are now experiencing a different reality.  Texas, Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota, among other mineral-rich states, are updating, expanding, and generally improving their education systems in the wake of budget surpluses.  This means hiring more faculty, building better facilities, adding degree programs, and possibly even halting the steady advance of tuition increases.  North Dakota is even considering providing its students with more grant and scholarship opportunitiesTexas universities, in particular, are upping their recruitment of high-quality faculty according to an article appearing today in The Chronicle of Higher Education

So, if you're still wide open about where you'd like to attend college and you don't mind extreme heat, extreme cold, or a fair amount of isolation, maybe you want to direct your college search towards a state with a booming economy.  Attending college in Alaska or North Dakota is certainly an unusual move, but if you're paying less for tuition and gaining access to rapidly expanding university resources and job opportunities, it could pay off in the end.

 Looking for other unconventional educational opportunities in the recession? You could also move to Detroit and win a newly-established Kid Rock Scholarship to attend Wayne State University.  Of course, there's always the option of spending more time on your financial aid and scholarship search so you can more easily afford a wider range of schools.  But where's the adventure in that?


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by Emily

Fewer students may have to worry about finding a new lender for their Stafford Loans next year, as more colleges are turning to federal Direct Loans for student loans.  A web-based poll of college financial aid administrators at schools participating in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) revealed that six percent of those surveyed are planning to make the switch to direct lending next year, with an additional 29 percent seriously considering it as an option.

This means that Direct Loans could very likely become the leading supplier of student loans in 2009.  Since direct loans are taken out from the government, rather than from a bank, the stability they provide is proving popular among student borrowers.  Already, the amount of money in the direct borrowing system has grown by 50 percent this year, whereas the amount in FFELP is up only 7 percent.  While most students have been able to find different lenders and continue borrowing what they need in student loans, attending college at a school that participates in direct lending can save students a bit of hassle in getting financial aid

While a move towards direct lending means that students at participating schools won't be able to cash in on incentives banks might offer during student loan repayment in the future, these options have become scarce in the last year due to the federal subsidy cuts and credit troubles banks have faced.  The disappearance of the FFELP's advantages coupled with the uncertainty and instability caused by the credit crisis will likely continue encouraging schools to turn to Direct Loans to service their Federal Stafford Loans.


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