October 29, 2008
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 opportunities. Texas 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?
October 28, 2008
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.
October 27, 2008
Putting in a couple years at a community college can be a great way to save money while still working towards your goal of receiving a bachelor's degree. However, even though your first two years of school might be cheaper, transferring to a four-year college or university can quickly become expensive, especially if you're planning on attending a prestigious private college. Outstanding students transferring from community colleges do have options for financial aid, though. One of the most generous scholarship opportunities available is this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
Up to 50 students will receive awards of up to $30,000 a year for their junior and senior years of college. Award amounts will be calculated based on unmet financial need.
Students must be currently attending college at a two-year community college and planning to transfer to a four-year college or university in the fall of 2009. Students who have received an associate's degree since spring 2004 who are planning to go back to school full-time in 2009 are also eligible. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved sophomore status by December 31, 2008. Students previously nominated for a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship are not eligible. Students are nominated by a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation representative at their community college. Contact information for these representatives can be found on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website. Individual community colleges may have additional requirements for nominees.
Completed application packets must be submitted to the Jack Kent Cooke foundation by January 20, 2009, using the online submission system found on the scholarship website. Schools must finish their nomination forms and submit them by 3 PM on January 26, 2009.
Completed online scholarship application, including the student's financial information, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, parent financial information forms, and attached income tax forms for students and parents. Materials must be submitted online as PDF attachments or mailed to the address provided by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Students must be nominated by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation representative at their community college, who must complete and submit a nomination form.
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 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.
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.
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