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More Students, Fewer Resources: For Community Colleges Popularity Comes at a Price

Jan 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're planning to enroll in a community college sometime in 2009, be sure to plan ahead.  While in the past, late registration may have resulted in students not getting a class or two they wanted, increased interest in two year schools may produce an even more pronounced effect.  Community colleges across the country are receiving more applications and admitting more students for the 2008-2009 academic year than ever before, with some institutions reporting percentage growths in the double digits.  Many schools are seeing enrollment increases so dramatic that they lack the money and space to adequately accommodate the students turning up on their doorsteps.

Community colleges and four-year state colleges are contending with state budget cuts, declining endowments, and less fruitful fundraising efforts in the face of the worst economic situation in decades.  Meanwhile, the cash-strapped and the frugal are flocking to the least expensive educational options available, which are community colleges.  Community colleges are also seeing an uptick in nontraditional students, as the unemployed return to school for job training and certification to get back to work.  All of this adds up to a situation where more students need seats in classes, college services, and student financial aid than ever before, yet fewer resources are available to accommodate these needs.

While schools are doing their best to find space, add courses and sections, and increase campus-based aid where possible, budgetary difficulties are an unfortunate reality.  The economic stimulus bill currently in the works in Congress may help relieve some of this stress, but students should still be aware of potential snags in their college plans.  If you plan to enroll in a community college this summer or fall, here are some steps to take:

  1. Research costs and payment options now.  Do a scholarship search.  Many scholarships are available to community college students and some are awarded specifically to students at these institutions.
  2. Apply for admission and financial aid as early as possible.  While most community colleges have rolling admission, students who wait until the last minute to get in may find classes full and aid exhausted.
  3. Whether you're a new or returning student, register for classes as soon as you can and be sure to pay your bill on time, or early if possible.  If you get dropped or prevented from registering due to late payment, there's no guarantee a seat will still be there when you get your finances in place.
  4. Complete the FAFSA soon, even if you're not sure if or when you'll start college in 2009. FAFSA applications are up this year, as are most varieties of financial aid applications.  This could mean a lengthier processing time, both at the Department of Education and in your college's financial aid office.  The FAFSA is worth doing--many community college students don't apply for aid, even though they qualify.  Applying is free and having one on file can't hurt, even if you don't go to school right away.
  5. If your employer helps with tuition, find out beforehand whether they pay up front or reimburse you after the fact.  The earlier you know whether you need to come up with money on your own or the more warning they have before they need to pay, the better your chances are of being able to register on time.

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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Paying Tuition on Time Getting Tougher in Recession

Jan 13, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While the focus for many students right now is planning for and paying for the next year of college, some students are still struggling with bills from the current or previous semester.  An e-mail survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers reports a perceived increase in unpaid tuition bills in the 2008-2009 academic year.  While being caught short on one semester's tuition can seem stressful enough, it can carry serious consequences for college students.

For students with the funds to easily cover tuition, either through family income, college savings plans, or financial aid awards, the figure on their bursar bill may be unpleasant, but it is soon forgotten.  However, carrying a bursar balance--in some cases, even a small one--can cut off your ability to register for classes, request transcripts, and even graduate, among other consequences.  Students who are unable to pay for a semester by the school's deadline may even find themselves dropped from their classes and kicked off campus.  These consequences can essentially derail your education, and many students who take a semester off from college to save money and pay off bills never go back to finish.

Luckily, as Kim Clark stresses in an article on the subject in U.S. News and World Report, universities are willing to work with students to keep them enrolled and get their bills paid, especially in the current economic climate.  Many schools are establishing or adding to emergency loan and grant funds to help students stay in school.  Federal student financial aid is also still available mid-term.  You can still complete the FAFSA for 2008-2009 anytime before June 30.  Even if you've already applied for the current year, talking to the financial aid office could still come through big time, especially if your circumstances have changed. Federal grants, as well as some campus-based programs may be available to students whose family contributions have significantly dipped.  While Clark's article emphasizes the surprising success networking and asking family for donations can bring, conducting a scholarship search may be a safer bet. Most importantly, be sure to stay in communication with your school. You may have to deal with three different offices on campus, but don't get discouraged.  The process may be more streamlined than you'd expect.  It is possible to stay enrolled regardless of the financial troubles you're facing.

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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More Students Interested in Community and Career College, Fewer in Graduate School

Dec 11, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're thinking of heading off to a community college next year to either pick up an associate's degree or save some money on your core credits for a bachelor's degree, expect company.  Similarly, if you're planning to attend a for-profit career college to up your chances of landing a decent job, you are definitely not alone.  During recessions, people typically flock to college, often choosing cheaper or quicker degree programs to help them get on their feet and be more competitive on the workforce.  Enrollment is up at career colleges and community colleges are expecting a similar increase.  While reduced state higher education funding and continued troubles in the private loan market are causing some problems at two-year and career colleges, both types of schools are expecting major increases in enrollment as more Americans deal with fallout from the faltering economy.  If you're heading off to college in 2009, you definitely want to take all of this into account.  Apply early for admission and financial aid, and register early for classes.  Several community colleges are also instituting programs to fill empty seats in classrooms with unemployed students, so if you typically wait until almost the start of the term to register for classes, you may have more trouble finding a seat than you have in the past.  While students enrolled in online degree universities won't have to compete for physical space, they may still notice some effects of increased enrollment.  With state universities and community colleges facing budget cuts and increased enrollment, you may face more competition for fewer resources as everyone searches for ways to save money.  One group of students may actually see less competition, though.  The number of students taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) this year is down, suggesting that fewer students may be planning to apply for graduate programs. Typically, like community college and career college applications, graduate school applications go up during recessions.  However, while MBA applications are up this year, many programs that require the GRE may see fewer prospective graduate students.  The effects of the credit crunch on student loans, the uncertainty of the economy and employment prospects, and the desire not to lose a source of income were all listed as possible reasons for this decrease in an article in Inside Higher Ed.

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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Online Enrollment Continues to Increase

Nov 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Enrollment in online courses continued to increase in 2007, according to a new study.  Nearly 4 million college students, over 20 percent of the total number of students attending college, took at least one online course in fall 2007, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year.  With all of the financial turmoil that 2008 has brought, the number of online students is likely to continue to increase, as online enrollment is seen as a cost-effective alternative to having to be on campus for class.

The majority of colleges and universities regard offering online courses or online degree programs as critical to their long-term goals.  Schools also reported a need to compete for online students.  Since physical proximity isn't a concern, students can take online classes through any school, meaning institutions need to do more to attract students to their distance-learning programs.

Some of this competition comes in the form of innovation.  After universities in Canada and Japan made online course material accessible via cell phones last year, Louisana's community colleges followed suit, unveiling a plan this week to centralize their distance learning programs on one website, allowing students to access and complete materials from any device with an internet connection.

As distance learning programs continue to become more popular among students and a greater priority among schools, budget-conscious students may want to look closely at taking some or all classes online.  Online courses allow greater flexibility for scheduling around employment or other obligations, save on commuting costs (and the money students spend gulping down cafeteria food, fast food, and expensive coffee while rushing between classes), and allow students to live where they want without worrying about having to get to school each day.  All of these things make it easier for you to pay your way through school as a distance learning student.  While online classes do require greater self-discipline and are offered in more limited quantities than in-person classes, they are still an option to consider when choosing a 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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Some Good Reasons to Attend College

Nov 6, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

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.

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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Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

Oct 27, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

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.

Prize:

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.

Eligibility:

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.

Deadline:

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.

Required Materials:

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.

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 Credit Crunch Has Affected Private Colleges

Oct 22, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

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.

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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Many College Freshmen Need Remedial Courses

Sep 16, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

As many as 29 percent of state university students and 43 percent of community college students require some amount of remedial education upon enrolling in college, according to the results of a study by the group Strong American Schools.  The report, entitled "Diploma to Nowhere" was released Monday, and addresses the financial costs of remedial education (as high as $2000-2500 per student), as well as the psychological impact on students.

The study stresses the necessity of appropriate college preparation for students, which includes taking challenging courses and learning study skills in high school.  The results clearly indicate that good grades and the basic college preparatory high school curriculum are not always an indicator that students are ready to tackle the challenges of attending college.  As many as four out of five students in remedial courses maintained a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher, showing that even those who did well in high school weren't prepared for the kind of work students should expect in college.

While the report encourages educational reform and high school curricula that more closely match college standards, change can be slow in coming.  High school students beginning the college search should be aware of the possibility of struggling in school or even having their stay in college prolonged by extra course requirements.  The earlier you start the college planning process, the better, so start pushing yourself as early as your freshman year.  Enroll in the most challenging courses possible, such as Advanced Placement or dual-credit classes, especially in areas like English and math, and avoid just coasting through your last year or two of high school.

More challenging coursework can lead to a lower GPA, but your impressive resume, your reputation as a hard worker, and your improved reading, writing, math, and study skills will likely make up for any difference in the long run.  Being more adept at math, science, and writing can also increase your chances of winning scholarships, as your skills outshine those of your competitors who took the easy way out.

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 Offer Financial Literacy Programs

Sep 4, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

For many students, the college experience can be a financial minefield.  Even if they manage to avoid the lure of blowing their financial aid check on a plasma TV or a brand new car, there are thousands of other potential pitfalls.  These include the credit card companies lining the main drag of campus offering free college t-shirts to anyone who signs up for their card; your first dorm or apartment to outfit and decorate; and then all of the opportunities for shopping, dining, and entertainment that a college town provides.  And we haven't even gotten to the actual act of paying tuition yet!  Even if your scholarship search was fruitful and you were able to find money for college, there's still the chance of overspending and winding up turning to less wise solutions to make it to the end of the term.

So how are students supposed to survive college without unnecessary credit card or student loan debt?  Many schools are offering money management courses and one-on-one financial counseling services to help students be more judicious with their college funds.  I can certainly think of some lessons I could've used as an undergrad, like "3 AM is not dinner time," its corollary, "espresso is not an adequate substitute for sleep," and of course, "you don't have to buy it just because it's on sale."  Being forced to budget out just how much that 10-block drive to class (plus the 15 minutes of circling the "good" parking lot for a spot) actually cost me that last year of school would've also been helpful.

Now students at numerous colleges in several states can choose to educate themselves and avoid learning similar life lessons the hard way.  Unfortunately, many of these programs go under-publicized and under-utilized, as budgeting honestly isn't fun, and many students may be afraid that setting a budget means giving up their college lifestyle, staying at home, and having to go on a budget diet.  However, the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that students can benefit immensely from financial literacy courses, and anecdotal evidence suggests these students take on less debt and have an easier time transitioning into the "real world" after graduation.  Courses are often offered to incoming freshmen or graduating seniors, with counseling services typically being made available to any students currently attending college.  If you're interested in finding out about how to stretch your college fund, student loans, or scholarship money further, check with your college to see if they offer any of these services.

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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College Living Expenses Can Add Up Quickly

Sep 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Don't forget about spending money when planning for college costs.  This advice comes from Alabama's Birmingham News, which spoke with some students, parents, and financial aid administrators in the state about dealing with expenses that fall outside of paying tuition and room and board.  However, Alabama students and families are by no means the only ones not sure how to deal with how much living at college will cost.

Financial aid offices typically figure a few thousand dollars into a student's cost of attendance estimate to cover such expenses as gas, car maintenance, toiletries, clothes, entertainment, and food and drinks not from the dining center, but actual experiences vary widely among students.  Some college students certainly choose the spartan lifestyle of staying in the dorm, using their meal plan, and biking around campus to attend free school-sponsored activities.  Others fail to resist the urge to splurge, doing their studying at the all night diner just a short drive from campus or swinging by the mall for some retail therapy and a movie after a particularly grueling week of class.  I was certainly in the latter category, despite my best intentions of being thrifty and only spending what I earned working at my work-study job (work-study, for those unfamiliar, is a campus-based aid program that is more easily used to cover living expenses than tuition).

But don't assume the worst and rush out to borrow an extra $10,000 to cover unforseen expenses.  Instead, practice some basic money management.  Take an honest look at your spending habits and how much you'll realistically want to scale them back to save money.  Then look at how much you can earn while in school without getting off-track for graduation, and start figuring out how to make up any differences between the two.  A summer job or an extra scholarship award or two could give you enough money to survive the next 9 months without having to resort to student loans to fix your car, get you home for Christmas, or feed you until you land a new job.  As a recent grad who looked to borrowing as the easy way out of tight financial situations, believe me, those little loan amounts add up.

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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