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Head Out of State for an In-State Price

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: Your dream school is beyond state boundaries but your college fund is more suited to a college closer to home. Don't fret: If you know what and where you want to study, you could score an impressive tuition break through a regional discount program. Here's the breakdown:

New England Regional Student Program: Students living in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont could be eligible for average savings of $7,000 per year through this program if they enroll in a degree program not available at public schools in their home state. One drawback – if majors are changed, recipients may no longer be eligible for the tuition break.

Academic Common Market: Southerners (aka those living in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia) follow the same guidelines as the NERSP but with some additional restrictions. For example, schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas only offer tuition reductions at the graduate level.

Western Undergraduate Exchange: Do you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington or Wyoming and want $7,500 per year in average college savings? WUE requirements vary from state to state and campus to campus but more than 26,000 residents took advantage of the program last year...so, interested students, apply early to ensure funding.

Midwest Student Exchange Program: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or Wisconsin can save an average of $4,274 per year on tuition without being restricted by majors. The catch is that schools (public and private this time) can limit what degree programs qualify for this discount.


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Fees Fatten College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

Take a look at your bills for next semester. If the costs seem a little higher than usual, don’t be quick to blame tuition. It could be fees plumping up your payments.

In an attempt to combat diminishing state funding, many public colleges have elected to raise student fees in lieu of increasing tuition. Though many schools have been quick to point out that the fee increases – $180 for repairs and maintenance (Indiana University-Bloomington), $150 for matriculation (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale) and a whopping $1,088 “special institutional fee” (public universities in Georgia), for example – are temporary to make up for budget shortfalls, it doesn’t change the fact that college students and their parents need to secure additional funding.

Not only are students questioning the rationale behind these various fee hikes but laws have been proposed to allow legislators to better examine how fees are justified and, later, spent – much like the Department of Education’s tuition report mandate from earlier this month. New Jersey legislators have proposed that state schools be required to detail on tuition bills how fees are allocated and, starting in August, state schools in North Dakota must publish an online breakdown of where the mandatory fees go.

Has your school increased its fees? If so, which ones? Are you happy to hear some states are taking steps to combat potentially unnecessary fee hikes?


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College Students Cut from Michigan Food Stamp Program

by Alexis Mattera

Some college students joke that tuition is so high, the only food they can afford is instant ramen. In Michigan, it’s no longer a laughing matter.

The Detroit News reported the state has removed roughly 30,000 college students from its food stamp program. Human Services Director Maura Corrigan revealed that while the cuts will save an estimated $75 million per year, they also represent an effort to “change the culture of the state's welfare department and slash tens of millions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse.” Corrigan suggested students get part-time jobs like she did while attending Marygrove College and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in the ‘60s and ‘70s but critics are quick to point out that state funding has shrunk and tuition has skyrocketed since then and Michigan's economic situation makes finding any kind of employment difficult. What do the students think? Obviously, they are none too pleased. "Students should be focusing on their education, not whether or not they'll be able to eat dinner or whether they can manage to find a job and balance it on top of their studies," said Kayla Neff, a Spanish and computer science major at Central Michigan University.

Do you think the cuts to Michigan's food stamp program will be beneficial or detrimental overall? Students, if you’ll be impacted by these changes, how do you plan to compensate for the loss of funding?


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Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

August 10, 2011

Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

by Alexis Mattera

A few months back, we wrote about helpful tips on maximizing merit aid, or aid based on a student’s attributes like academics, athletics and extracurriculars. For college applicants who aren’t deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA or EFC, merit aid can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford to attend. Students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards but with so many colleges and universities in the U.S., which ones are the best financial bets?

Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News, which has compiled a top 10 list of schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2009-10 academic year (the stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks). Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled?


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Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

Rising Costs Have Students Skimping on Textbooks

August 12, 2011

Tuition, Food, Books: Pick Two

by Alexis Mattera

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, you’ve probably heard the saying “Friends, school, sleep: Pick two.” If you haven’t, it means you won’t have time to do everything you want...and sometimes need. While there are students who can balance all three, they have another difficult decision to make at the beginning of each semester: tuition, food or books?

According to survey conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, seven out of 10 undergraduate students reported not buying one or more textbooks because the cost was too high. How high? The Government Accountability Office estimated textbooks cost a quarter of the average state college tuition (three-fourths at community colleges) and the U.S. PIRG revealed textbook prices have risen faster than overall inflation with a 22-percent uptick in the past four years. For students, this means some serious money management is in order. "Generally what we get from students is 'Yeah, it's only a few dollars, but it could be my dinner,'" said Jessica Bruning, a student at Iowa State University. "It adds up pretty quickly." The survey also revealed four out of five students said new editions prevented them from purchasing cheaper used books and half cited bundles or custom editions as the culprits for increased costs.

The good news – yes, there is some! – is that groups like Textbook Rebellion, Campus Progress and even individual professors are doing their part to keep textbook costs from negatively impacting students’ college experiences. "Better options are out there," said Nicole Allen, textbooks advocate for the Student PIRGs. "Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students." Have you had to choose between tuition, food or books? What are you doing to keep your college costs in check?


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Comparing and Saving on Textbooks Just Got Easier

by Alexis Mattera

If you think college textbooks have been in the news more than usual lately, you’re right: Classes are starting up again at many college campuses and students are looking for any ways they can to keep their college costs in check. When it comes to books, there are plenty of options to do so without skimping...but between work, interning and moving in, do you have the time to research each individual option to find the best deal? Yes, actually, you do.

The amount of textbook options available to students today is staggering – new, used, rent, digital, rent digital – but students trying to get the most bang for their educational buck now have some much-needed assistance, the Chronicle reports. For example, Amazon (which recently launched its own digital textbook rental service) has created Amazon Student, a free iPhone application designed to help students compare book prices on Amazon as a whole via barcode snapshots. There’s also BookSavr.com, a site formed by two Yalies in the vein of Kayak and Orbitz: The site shows prices from a variety of retailers – online, the campus bookstore and other physical booksellers close to the school's New Haven campus – all in one place.

Not to be outdone, nearly 100 campus bookstores have added research features to their sites through the Harvard graduate-created Verba. Similar to BookSavr.com, Verba displays prices for books at the store, on Amazon, on Half.com, through rental programs, etc. Some campus stores even include signs on each shelf reminding smartphone-wielding customers about the online comparison tool.

Have you had the opportunity to try any of these options when buying your textbooks? We’d love to hear firsthand feedback!


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College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of ways students and their parents can pay for college – at Scholarships.com, we’re familiar with nearly 3 million options – and many begin socking away funds early on. As admirable as this timely planning is, a new study shows it won’t come close to covering the ever-rising cost of higher education.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments has revealed that while 67 percent of parents surveyed have put money into some sort of college fund this year, current and expected savings project the typical American family will only be able to pay for 16 percent of college costs when the time comes. Why? Many factors contribute, like the less-than-stellar economy and existing student loan payments (more than half of parents with children under five still have outstanding balances) but perhaps the hardest-hitting element is the colleges' steep price tags: Over the past five years alone, college costs have jumped 26 percent.

This news may sound bleak but families are still finding ways to afford school without going into debt...or having their children graduate with a mountain of it. More parents are asking their kids to work part-time, commute to save on room and board, opt for state schools over private ones and take additional credits - all to keep costs in check. These are all excellent options to defray ballooning education costs but don’t forget scholarships and grants – aka free money for college! Just like saving, it’s important to start searching for scholarships early and often. No time’s better than the present – complete a free scholarship search today!


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The Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship Has Returned!

by Alexis Mattera

Believe it or not, a lot can be said in 140 characters...and if wielded correctly, those 140 characters could be worth $1,000 or a Kindle for college. You know what that means: Scholarships.com’s Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship is back!

With school starting up again, we know your academic and extracurricular calendars are filling up but that doesn’t mean your search for college funding should suffer. That’s why we made the Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship so easy: No lengthy essay, no pile of paperwork – just your thoughts, in real time. To enter, simply log on to Twitter (create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us, then @reply us (aka include @Scholarshipscom in your tweet) and explain what an extra $1,000 for college would mean to you as creatively and meaningfully as possible. Got that? Great...now start tweeting!

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: @reply us (aka include @Scholarshipscom in your tweet) answering the question “What would an extra $1,000 for college mean to you?” Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles!

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to a reasonable amount per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the September 30th deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which tweets are most deserving of the awards.

Starts: August 25th

Ends: September 30th

Number Available: 3

Amount: $1,000 for one first-prize winner; second- and third-prize winners will be awarded one Kindle each.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.


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Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

Will It Flourish or Falter Without Steve Jobs?

August 26, 2011

Apple’s Impact on Higher Ed

by Alexis Mattera

You may be pro-PC or a Linux lover but you have to give Steve Jobs some credit for not only the projects he’s helped spearhead during his time at Apple but also the personal emphasis he’s put on higher education initiatives. Now that Jobs has resigned as Apple’s CEO, many are wondering if and how the company will keep its collegiate focus.

Apple has been involved in higher education since the company’s early days with what’s now called the University Executive Forum, an advisory panel of top college officials who get early looks at products and a chance to influence design. For example, prior to the iPod’s debut, several schools experimented with the devices and their feedback prompted Apple to create iTunesU, a free service designed to store and stream audio and video files for university courses. The company also offers many incentives to college students, like sizeable discounts on computers and bonus iTunes gift cards...but will it all continue?

Despite new CEO Tim Cook’s responsiveness to and interest in higher ed, some college officials are concerned about what a Jobs-less Apple may mean. (Perhaps they're remembering when Apple forced Jobs out in 1985 and the company paid less attention to colleges.) Do you share in these concerns or do you think the culture Jobs has fostered will withstand the test of time?


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Clipping Coupons for College?

Groupon and NLU Offer Discount to Boost Student Interest

September 6, 2011

Clipping Coupons for College?

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you’re in the market for discounted feather extensions or oil changes, odds are pretty high there’s a Groupon for what you seek...but what about reduced-rate college tuition?

The Chicago Tribune reported National-Louis University is offering a Groupon today for 57-percent off a three-credit graduate-level introduction to teaching course at its Chicago campus. (Regular tuition for the course is $2,232 but Groupon will offer it for $950.) According to Groupon’s communications director Julie Mossler, this is the first time an academic university has used the website as an effort to boost student interest. "There are all kinds of factors in the K-12 world that are really discouraging teachers and people seeking teaching degrees," said Jocelyn Zivin, NLU’s vice president of marketing and communications. "We'd like (potential students) to understand what the realities are, whether you are committed to this profession...and see if you have what it takes."

Every little bit of tuition assistance does help these days but what do you think of NLU and Groupon’s deal? Is it something that you think other schools should consider offering as well?


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