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Despite Eligibility, Many Community College Students Don't Apply for Aid

Oct 7, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many community college students who appear to be eligible for federal student financial aid don't apply, according to a report released Monday by the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

The report indicated three major reasons for not applying for aid, with 20 percent of students reporting other reasons.  The main reasons students didn't apply for aid were:

  • They thought they were not eligible (39 percent)

  • They had sufficient funds to pay for college expenses (35 percent)

  • They found the FAFSA too complicated (6 percent)


Additionally, many community college students, including 28 percent of students with family incomes below $10,000 worked more than 30 hours a week.  The report cites previous research that has indicated that students who work more than 15-20 hours a week while attending college full-time see a negative impact on their academic performance.  This stresses the importance of these students learning of their financial aid eligibility, namely their increased Federal Pell Grant eligibility under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

This is just the latest report stressing the need for students attending community colleges, especially those planning to transfer to four-year schools to complete a bachelor's degree, to investigate financial aid options thoroughly.  With lower rates of degree completion, higher rates of student loan defaults, and lower likelihood of applying for college scholarships and grants, community college students can easily find themselves in an unnecessarily difficult financial situation.

Hard work, perseverence, and a commitment to exploring all options for financial aid can keep community college students on the path to success.  If you're attending or planning to attend a community college, start by completing the FAFSA on the web, conducting a scholarship search, and meeting with a financial aid advisor to minimize student loans, avoid working yourself to death, and find money for college.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship

Oct 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a means of promoting diversity and developing talent, Scholarships.com has created a new set of scholarship awards for high school students and undergraduate students. The Scholarships.com Area of Study College Scholarship competition consists of thirteen $1,000 prizes to be granted to students pursuing a college education in one of thirteen designated fields and 185 related majors.

Among them is the Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship, an award for students who are pursuing or planning to pursue a degree in a health-related field. To ensure that current and future medical students, nursing students, and others planning to use their education to promote health and wellness receive the funds they need to afford a quality education, we have created a scholarship opportunity especially for them.

If you’re interested in applying for the Scholarships.com College Health Scholarship, read the scholarship information below or check your scholarship search results to see if your major qualifies. Then complete the online scholarship application and submit an essay of 250 to 350 words 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 health care/medicine?”

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility: 
     
  1. Applicant must be a 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.
  2.  
  3. Applicant must be a US citizen.
  4.  
  5. Applicant must be a current undergraduate student or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university by fall 2009.
  6.  
  7. Applicant must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors:  
       
    • Allopathic
    •  
    • Ambulatory Health Care
    •  
    • Audiology
    •  
    • Biology
    •  
    • Biomedicine
    •  
    • Chemistry
    •  
    • Chiropractic
    •  
    • Dental Assistant
    •  
    • Dentistry
    •  
    • Family Practice
    •  
    • Forensics(Medical)
    •  
    • Genetics
    •  
    • Health Care Administration
    •  
    • Health Education
    •  
    • Internal Medicine
    •  
    • Maxillofacial Radiology
    •  
    • Medical Assistant
    •  
    • Medical Lab Technician
    •  
    • Medical Office Specialist
    •  
    • Medical Technologist
    •  
    • Medicine
    •  
    • Microbiology
    •  
    • Neural and Behavioral Science
    •  
    • Neurosciences
    •  
    • Nursing/Nurse Practitioner
    •  
    • Nutrition Studies
    •  
    • Obstetrics/Gynecology
    •  
    • Occupational Therapy
    •  
    • Oncology
    •  
    • Ophthalmology
    •  
    • Optics
    •  
    • Optometry
    •  
    • Oral Radiology
    •  
    • Orthopedics
    •  
    • Orthotics/Prosthetics
    •  
    • Osteopathic
    •  
    • Pediatrics
    •  
    • Pharmacology
    •  
    • Pharmacy Technician
    •  
    • Physical Fitness
    •  
    • Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation
    •  
    • Physician’s Assistant
    •  
    • Podiatry
    •  
    • Psychiatry
    •  
    • Psychology/Counseling
    •  
    • Public Health
    •  
    • Radiology
    •  
    • Respiratory Care
    •  
    • Science (Health)
    •  
    • Speech/Language Pathology
    •  
    • Sports Medicine
    •  
    • Therapeutic Health Technician
    •  
    • Veterinary
    •  
    • Vision Rehabilitation
    •  
      

  8.  
 Deadline:

November 30, 2008

Required Material:

A 250 to 350 word response to the following question: “What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in health care/medicine?”

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.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Worries About Economic Downturn Spread to Higher Ed

Oct 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

So far colleges and college students have been weathering the credit crunch and financial troubles on Wall Street fairly well.  Students have been able to get student loans and pay for school, and colleges have been able to raise money for projects and provide students with needed services and even additional scholarship money in many cases.  However, events of the past few weeks appear to be starting to take a toll on colleges and universities.

Earlier this week, many universities saw their investments held in the Commonfund, which was run by Wachovia, frozen after the bank announced that it would sell its operations to Citigroup this week.  Schools were initially given access to only 10 percent of Commonfund funds in order to prevent a run on the bank.  While the amount has increased and crisis has largely been averted for universities depending on this money for regular operating costs, there was initial concern this week that some schools might not be able to make payroll.

Boston University announced a freeze on future hiring and construction projects earlier this week, and the University of Memphis announced a voluntary buyout plan for 115 positions within the university.  Other colleges are beginning to struggle financially, as well, as they face the prospect of smaller donations and less state funding.  The economic downturn may lead to more staffing cuts, fewer resources available to students, higher tuition, and even smaller or fewer financial aid awards (especially in the case of scholarship awards that rely on alumni donations for funding each year).

While students typically flock to colleges and universities when they can't find employment, the impact of the economic downturn and the continued (though still entirely theoretical) threat of a lack of student loan or federal aid funding for students may cause some students to decide against attending college, or to make their decision based entirely on which option is cheapest.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, in addition to offering a thorough description of the impact of the economic downturn on higher education, also gives a list of prospective winners and losers if the situation continues to worsen.  The top of the list of losers?  Middle class families.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Spellings Announces Shorter FAFSA

Oct 2, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a speech delivered yesterday at Harvard University, U. S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that her department had managed to whittle the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) down to 27 questions.  The FAFSA is currently 120 questions long and described as Spellings as more complicated than an income tax form. A shorter FAFSA has been called for by Congress and advocated by virtually everyone aware of the form's existence.

Spellings stated in her speech that the length of the FAFSA may be preventing many families from filling it out, despite the fact that they might qualify for federal student financial aid. While part of this phenomenon is likely due to the prevalence of financial aid myths, the complicated nature of the FAFSA likely does play a role.  Although fafsa.ed.gov states that the form should take less than an hour to complete, even for first-time filers, the assessment has always seemed a bit overly optimistic to me. I remember my first encounter with the FAFSA taking hours, and while I ultimately submitted it, I definitely did so under duress and only after repeatedly begging my parents to fill it out for me.  An effort by the Education Department to make it simpler and less stressful to pay for school is definitely welcome.

While Spellings' speech didn't address whether this was the final incarnation of the FAFSA or when changes would debut (let's all cross our fingers for January), a shorter financial aid application is undoubtedly good news for students.  In the meantime, if you're struggling with applying for financial aid, check out some of the resources offered by Scholarships.com.  We have a breakdown of FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, some tips for completing the FAFSA, and detailed instructions for filling out the FAFSA on the Web.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Community Colleges: Could a Money-Saving Move Derail Your College Goals?

Oct 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

A working paper put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new data on the learning outcomes of students who enroll at a community college with the intent to transfer to a four year school. The paper, discussed in detail in an article in Inside Higher Ed, suggests that even accounting for differences in educational goals, students starting at community colleges are less likely to earn a bachelor's degree in nine years than students who start at a four-year college.

The study tracked students who enrolled in Ohio's colleges and universities in 1998 and used a survey of incoming students from that year to determine career and college goals. Researchers then looked at the learning outcomes of community college students who took the ACT or professed an interest in ultimately getting a bachelor's degree.  The results showed that these students were 14.5 percent less likely than their counterparts at four-year colleges and universities to graduate.

The article stresses the difficulty in comparing students at the two different types of colleges.  Community college students tend to be from lower-income backgrounds and are more likely to be minorities or adult students, which can all be factors in students' likelihood to earn a degree.  The study also doesn't account for whether the difference is simply due to changes in plans.  Many students choose the less expensive option of community college because they are unsure of their educational goals, so it's likely those goals might change and students might decide to walk away with an associate's degree.

More research still needs to be done, but students who are considering starting at a two-year college then transferring may want to keep these numbers in mind.  While the study shows that students who do successfully transfer to a four-year state college do just as well as students who start in one, the transfer process can be difficult and daunting.  Students have to navigate the application process, degree requirements, and other hurdles at two institutions, and there's not always a guarantee that a student's credits will successfully transfer.  This can dissuade less dedicated students and students with fewer resources, as can the higher cost of tuition at a four-year university. Community college students also may not be sure what to expect in college at the baccalaureate level and may feel unprepared.

If you plan to put in a year or two at a community college then transfer, do your research thoroughly and make sure you're making the right college choice.  You'll need to have a clear sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, and find out as much as possible about what will be involved in transferring as early as you can. Learn about financial aid options available to you as a transfer student and make sure your plan will really make your bachelor's degree cheaper. Finally, don't get discouraged and keep your eyes on the prize.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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More Colleges Turn To Direct Loans

Sep 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The U.S. Department of Education released a series of new statistical reports last week showing a dramatic increase in participation in the federal direct lending student loan program.  Motivated largely by the economic downturn and the credit crunch of the last year, 400 new colleges joined the federal direct lending program.  Overall, student borrowing through the program has increased by 50 percent in the last year.

The federal direct lending program provides students at participating schools with Stafford Loans directly, instead of going through the intermediary of a bank, as is done in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).  In previous years, borrowing through FFELP could land students with lower interest rates, as well as significant repayment incentives, but that has changed significantly since 2007 as a result of subsidy cuts and economic difficulties faced by FFELP lenders.  Since direct loans are serviced directly by the Education Department, they are largely exempt from the fallout of the credit crunch and are currently more appealing to many colleges.

There is good news for students at schools that continue to participate in FFELP, though.  Lenders are participating in the loan buyback program enacted as part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed earlier this year.  About 40 percent of the student loans in the bank system have been sold to the Education Department, with paperwork being completed on much of the remaining balance.  This move appears to have worked to allow lenders to fund loans for students, as the Education Department also reports that not a single student has had to participate in the federal "lender of last resort" program.

In other financial aid news, Congress recently approved $2.5 billion in Pell Grant funding, to help tide the program over through March 2009, at which point most spring semester grant awards should have been disbursed.  All of this news suggests that students are highly likely to be able to continue to find federal student financial aid for college, at least for the forseeable future.  Of course, finding scholarships and avoiding student loans is still a smart plan, but this news suggests that despite growing fears about the economy, federal financial aid will still be available to students who need it.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Independent Women's Forum College Essay Contest

Sep 29, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is an essay scholarship for all the opinionated female college students out there.  The Independent Women's Forum is sponsoring an essay contest open to any woman currently enrolled in a four-year college or university.  The essay prompt asks students to share their opinions on the cost-effectiveness of federal spending to combat the potential impact of global climate change.  A 750-word response could earn you up to $5,000 in scholarship money!

Prize: One first prize winner will receive $5,000.  Second and third prize winners will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.  Ten honorable mentions will each receive $250.

Eligibility: Female students of any age enrolled in a four-year college or university during the 2008-2009 school year.

Deadline: December 1, 2008.

Required Materials: Completed scholarship application, available on the Independent Women's Forum website, and an essay of no more than 750 words answering the question posted on the IWF Essay 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.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Pell Funding, Education Tax Credits Still Up in the Air As Congress Breaks for Election

Sep 26, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Congress will be in session only a few more days before breaking for the November election.  While a lot has already been accomplished this session in terms of educational spending, such as the passage and renewal of ECASLA and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, some education funding concerns still need to be addressed.  Primary among these is the education and research spending bill that will fund research and federal student financial aid programs for fiscal year 2009, which remains on the Congressional to do list.

When Congress reconvenes either in November or January, one of the most pressing financial issues they will have to contend with is finding the money to cover a projected $6 billion shortfall in the budget for the Federal Pell Grant program.  Lobbyists still worry that Congress may wind up having to cut the maximum grant award, as they did last year when the bill exceeded Bush's budgetary requests.  However, given the popularity of the program, such cuts are unlikely, especially after all of the attention financial aid has been receiving this election season.

Another issue Congress may contend with is whether to combine higher education tax credit programs, such as the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits into a single, partially refundable credit.  The idea has received widespread support and is expected to come up during the next Congressional session.

You can read more about the educational issues still on Congress's plate in today's Chronicle of Higher Education.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Survey Says Student Loans Steer Post-College Plans

Sep 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In the wake of the credit crisis of the past year, innumerable articles have been written about the impact on the student loan industry, as several student lending agencies have been forced to stop offering federal and private loans to students or at least scale back their operations considerably.  Credit requirements have gotten more stringent for students whose lenders are still in business, and taking out a student loan is an even more time-consuming and uncertain process now than ever.

At the same time, the economic downturn that's accompanied the credit crisis is highlighting the difficulty students are facing repaying all of these student loans--loans they're being told now that they're lucky to get.  Many students feel caught in a difficult position.  Do they take out student loans, go horribly in debt, but get to ultimately pursue a fulfilling degree and a potentially more fulfilling career?  Do they work full-time through school and take longer to get the degree and spend less time in their dream job? Or do they minimize debt by going to work sooner in a field that's easier to break into and requires less education?

According to the results of a survey published in the Boston Business Journal, that first option might not even be an option for many students.  An online poll of 336 recent college grads revealed that 47 percent said that their career pursuits were influenced by their need to make student loan payments, while 25 percent reported putting future education plans on hold in order to minimize debt.  While these numbers are the results of only one web survey, they still send a pretty clear message that avoiding student loans is a good idea when trying to pay your way through school.

Congress is advocating the wider adoption of college savings accounts, such as 529 plans, and more universities are retooling their financial aid packages to benefit more needy students and rely more heavily on scholarships than on student loans. Many of the nation's top colleges have made a commitment to helping all accepted students afford to attend, and other schools are offering larger scholarship awards to students who most need them, as well.  For example, Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia just launched the Starfish Initiative, where anonymous donations are used to cover the remaining tuition balances of deserving seniors who might otherwise need to take out a substantial private loan or leave college.

But institutional aid and college savings accounts aren't the only options available to students.  A vast number of scholarship opportunities are out there, and despite the scholarship myths you may have heard, you can fund a substantial portion of your college education with such sources.  So start your scholarship search early and be persistent.  While soaring college costs and a weak economy may make it harder to pay for school, they don't mean you have to stay home or be overwhelmed by debt.  Do your research and find out what resources are available to help fund your education.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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NACAC Addresses Standardized Testing, Early Decision

Sep 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) plans to address questions of early decision admission and the role of standardized testing in the admission process in panels during their annual conference this week.  In preparation, they have released the results of a survey showing that early decision admissions had begun to fall, as well as commentary on the state of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) in college admissions.

A special panel convened by NACAC released a statement suggesting that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT may play too prominent a role in college admissions.  While the report emphasizes that standardized tests can play an important role in the admissions process, especially in helping students choose which schools may be a good fit for them, it also declared the importance of avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to testing.  This position represents a shift from previous NACAC commissions' stances on standardized testing.

Another survey released this week by NACAC highlighted other shifts in college admissions, namely a slowing of the increase in early decision admissions as compared to previous years.  Many schools are giving students going through the college application process the option to make a binding committment to attend that college if accepted in a process known as early decision.  Critics argue that this puts poorer students who are unwilling to commit to attending a college without receiving their financial aid package at a distinct disadvantage in being considered for admission.  While many colleges still are embracing the idea, this shift in figures could show some hesitation on the part of admission offices or students regarding the still-controversial issue.

Additionally, the survey illustrated some doubt regarding a new practice of priority applications, which are sent to students based on a variety of criteria and are already partially completed.  Priority admission applications are sent by the school, rather than requested by the student, and are typically sent out based on prior contact with the admissions office, test scores, or geographic location.  Only 4% of these forms, which occasionally come with an application fee waiver, are sent to students based on economic status.

Other survey results showed that more students seem concerned with ensuring they make the right college choice, and that most students who apply to schools are given the opportunity to go to college.  An increasing number of students are applying to more than seven colleges, and that about the same number of students as the previous year applied to more than three schools.  Nationally, 68 percent of students who apply to colleges are admitted.  Online applications also continue to gain popularity.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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