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The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Bracketology 101

Math Prof Explains the Odds of a Perfect Bracket

March 9, 2012

Bracketology 101

by Alexis Mattera

March is one of my favorite months of the year: Not does it include the start of spring, my birthday and a seemingly endless amount of scholarship deadlines but it’s also chockfull of college basketball. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, pools are starting to form with all participants aiming for the same goal – the creation of a perfect bracket. What’s the likelihood you’ll be the one to achieve this feat? Pretty dang slim, says Jeff Bergen.

According to the DePaul University professor of mathematics, you technically could select the correct outcome of every single game but before you get too excited, the odds of picking that perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion. “You basically have no chance,” he says as he calculates, but does note that if you have a solid knowledge of NCAA tournament history, your odds increase to 1 in 128 billion. Score!

So to those planning brackets, be sure to have your favorite rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover or horseshoe handy...and just have fun! Remember, says Bergen, “When your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry: so is everybody else’s.” Will you be creating a NCAA tournament bracket this year? If so, how will you go about making your selections?


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IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

There have been strides taken to ease the financial burden of higher education but for every state that limits college credits to keep degree costs down or entire college system freezing its tuition, there’s another school increasing its fees and cutting benefits. The latter could soon happen in Illinois, as lawmakers are weighing whether to eliminate tuition discounts for the children of professors and other university employees.

The legislation would get rid of this prized benefit, which allows faculty and staff members who have been employed at public universities for at least seven years to receive half-price tuition for their children. More than 2,000 college students take advantage of this perk each year and advocates of the bill say the state cannot afford to continue to offer the discount because it costs the Land of Lincoln about $8 million annually. Bill sponsor State Rep. Luis Arroyo also questioned the lack of income cap on who can use the waivers (for example, a college president earning a six-figure salary could pay far less for their child to attend college than a lower-income family would) but university officials say the discount is an important tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty members.

Does the possible end to this tuition benefit impact you in any way? How are you covering the costs of your own college education?


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How and Why High Schoolers Should Find Summer Jobs, Internships and Volunteer Programs

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Baby, it may still be cold outside but summer is on its way – three glorious months to fill with projects, internships and mildly soul-numbing jobs. Hey, high schoolers, I'm talking to you: Colleges care what you do with that time, even if you'd rather just hang out and play water polo...or whatever kids do these days.

For most high schoolers, there are two kinds of summer experiences: you pay them (hang gliding in Costa Rica, French language lessons in France with French people) or they pay you (yeah, I worked at a bagel shop). They both have their places and their benefits so if you can get to some faraway place and have adventures, go for it; however, most people aren't in that financial bracket in high school. The good news is that a first job can be just as interesting an experience, whether it's at a fast food joint or selling t-shirts at the Jersey Shore. Check out your local museums and colleges to see if they have special internship programs for teens over the summer. The application process may be brutal but a competitive internship program looks great on your resume and the money in your pocket will be worth it. Working with those programs will also give you a chance to meet teens from other high schools or outside your normal social circle; remember, college is all about learning to get along with people totally different than you – now's a good time to start.

But don't forget secret option number three: No one pays you but you get to practice something you think you'd like to study or work in. It's like volunteering (except you go every day instead of when you feel like it) but you should think of it as a job, minus the monetary compensation. The summer before my senior year of high school, I called around and became a journalism intern at a small local paper. I pitched and wrote my own articles and even used the amazingly complex 9-megapixel digital SLR camera (hey, it was 2005). While I wasn't exactly producing Pulitzers, I got great articles for my portfolio and the experience of working as an adult. In this economy, everybody wants free labor and by finding a place to volunteer regularly, you may just find a career. Start your search early, though: These opportunities fill up fast!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Why Ungraded Skills Are Still Important

by Katie Askew

Some may think that grades are everything but fast forward a few years and picture yourself in the professional world. Your boss will quiz you but you won’t be graded A through F: This is where life skills will come in much handier than book smarts.

Sure, college admissions counselors will look at your GPA as a primary factor regarding your admissions fate but your GPA isn’t everything. There are many more important lessons you learn in high school that won’t be calculated into your GPA. Here are just a few:

So even if you don’t have a stellar GPA, high school still taught you important skills that aren’t graded but will help you throughout your life.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

by Alexis Mattera

Did you have to take out student loans in order to pay for all or part of your college education? Probably, as total student loan debt passed total credit card debt for the first time and is approaching the $1 trillion mark, but the bigger problem could be that college students who truly need to borrow are not doing so.

In a new analysis of student debt published in AEA’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner explain that overemphasis in news coverage of students drowning in debt is scaring people away from taking on healthy debt. They say that capital investment one takes on with a student loan is growing – males with college degrees make $600,000 more in their lifetimes than peers with only high school degrees – but just one in six full-time students at four-year colleges who are eligible for a student loan do not take one out. Why? The study cites rational self-control, short-sightedness and risk factors like the difficulty of predicting future earnings but also reveals that many loan-less students accrue debt by relying heavily on credit cards to cover educational expenses and half work more than 20 hours per week – a schedule that could hurt their chances of graduating on time or at all.

There’s much more to the study here but what’s your take on student loans? Is borrowing worth it if it's done responsibly or is it best to use loans as a last resort in funding your education?


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Romney on College Costs

GOP Candidate Offers Little Comfort to Current and Hopeful College Students

March 6, 2012

Romney on College Costs

by Alexis Mattera

If you want to go to college but can’t completely afford it, don’t expect Mitt Romney to help you bridge the financial gap.

During yesterday’s town hall meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, Romney made it clear that he would not promise to give students government money to cover higher ed costs. The advice he did offer regarding colleges was blunt – pick an affordable option, get scholarships, join the military and graduate early – and very different than the words of President Obama during his third State of the Union address, which discouraged tuition increases and aimed to double the amount of federal work-study jobs. Though this is a man who pushed for state-funded four-year tuition scholarships while serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s mantra is now firmly “don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on”...or protect you from it, for that matter: He supports the House Republican budget which would cut Pell Grants by at least 25 percent.

What do you think of Romney’s position regarding higher ed funding?


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Make Yourself More Marketable with an Extra Major or Minor

by Jessica Seals

When I was growing up, I was always told that attending college was a necessity if I wanted to be successful; however, I was not told that the economy in the future would be so unstable that competition for jobs would be tough. Now, students are looking for any way to make themselves more marketable to graduate/professional schools and employers and not only are they participating in student organizations, they’re picking up one, two or even three extra majors or minors.

During my freshman year, picking up an additional major or a minor never crossed my mind until I saw more of my fellow classmates doing so. Now when I mention that my major was political science and my minor was English, people automatically realize that I hope to attend law school in the future. They are even more impressed when they realize that I had a very high cumulative GPA for my major and minor. (Although it is impressive to have more than one major or minor, you can lose credibility if you take on the responsibility and your grades are barely average.) Having extra majors or minors allows you to explore more subjects while adding more diversity to your resume. Employers and admissions officials are always impressed with students who take classes across a wide variety of subjects instead of taking the bare minimum.

With the increasing competition for jobs and admission into post-graduate programs, it might be worth your while to look into an extra major or minor. It gives you a better chance of proving others that you can handle extra work and that they would not regret selecting you as a student or for a job.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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I Escaped High School...or Did I?

Dealing with Cliques in College

March 5, 2012

I Escaped High School...or Did I?

by Kayla Herrera

Through the awkward, frustrating years of high school, we all look ahead to college where the themes and mores of high school are nonexistent. Is this always the case, though? I’ve come to realize that it’s not at Michigan Tech.

I was pretty excited coming to this school – freshman year was a blast and I lived in the moment, just as you are supposed to do – but as I matured and progressed through my college career, I found a familiar pattern I had so strongly tried to escape. There are cliques here at Michigan Tech...and mighty odd cliques at that. I did not notice it until my fourth year but the group overtaking the university is the engineers, to whom the university caters with special events, opportunities and entire career fairs dedicated to them. Then, you have the Lit-Heads and the WMTU Kids, aka the literature buffs and radio station dedicatees. The Lit-Heads and WMTU Kids usually blend together, attending concerts and small literary gatherings. The Lit-Heads are elitists about literature in rebellion to the oppression they receive from the school and the engineers. They radicalized with the creation of the national literary magazine, Pank, which is even more superior and thus near impossible for the everyday writing student to get published in. The WMTU Kids run the local concerts and fight back against the conservative society here in the Upper Peninsula. With such a successful program, it’s a wonder why record labels and music enthusiasts aren’t up here recruiting them.

I have only noticed these trends because I find I don’t fit in any of these. I am on the outside and I see these groups as they are. Some of my friends are engineers, some are Lit-Heads and others are WMTU Kids and while I may not completely identify with any of them, I think it’s a good thing I am not intensely wound in any of these cliques. I am my own person, still strutting along in school to just make it out alive and with a decent job. Regardless of the high school scene around me, my heart is not in high school anymore and I intend to keep it that way: Never be afraid of who you are, even if you aren’t a part of anything but yourself.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs and is a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., Examiner.com and WHOA Magazine. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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