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Top Priority for Americans: Affordable College

by Suada Kolovic

A recent survey suggests more Americans believe that making higher education more affordable would be the most effective means of helping those who are struggling financially. The Public Agenda study, “Slip-Sliding Away: An Anxious Public Talks About Today’s Economy and the American Dream,” revealed reducing college costs was most important to the 1,004 Americans surveyed at 63 percent, beating out preserving social security (58 percent), cutting taxes (48 percent), reducing the deficit (40 percent), “providing financial help to people who owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth” (22 percent) and others as the best solution.

Why do Americans have so much faith in the higher education system? According to the study, “One reason for the faith in education may be the public’s perception of who’s struggling most in the current economy. Three-quarters of Americans say that people without college degrees are struggling a lot these days, compared to just half who say college graduates are struggling.” Of those respondents who identified themselves as “struggling a lot” financially, 77 percent said they were very worried about having trouble paying for their children’s college educations. In addition, nearly one-third of those who are employed (32 percent) said they were "very worried" about losing their job, while 45 percent said they were “very worried” about paying back debt.

With the economy slowly turning around, are you concerned about the cost of college? If you’re stressed about finding financial aid, you don’t have to be: Check out our free scholarship search and get matched with scholarships just for you today!


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Top Majors for College Class of 2011 Announced

by Suada Kolovic

Unfortunately, only two winners walked away with the $355 Mega Millions jackpot and if you weren’t one of them, instant fame and fortune may not be in the cards for you, but a lucrative career that is in high demand could be four short years away. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for possible majors and post-collegiate careers, looking at majors that are sought after may not be a bad place to start.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), organizations are most interested in hiring new college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in the business, engineering and computer science fields. Nearly 62 percent of the organizations participating in NACE’s Job Outlook 2011 survey said they plan to hire accounting graduates, followed by finance (57 percent) and electrical engineering (53.5 percent). Here are the top six degrees according to NACE’s findings:

  1. Accounting
  2. Finance
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Mechanical Engineering
  5. Computer Science
  6. Business Administration/Management

Each year, through the Job Outlook survey, NACE surveys its employer members about their hiring plans in order to project the job market for new college graduates. Do you agree with this list? Let us know what you think.


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Young Adults to Spend Less, Save More in 2011

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like a life of excess is so last year. According to a Chase Slate-U.S. News survey, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to say they want to save more, spend less, pay down debts and develop a budget in 2011 than older generations. In a national survey, 1,000 American adults were asked if they planned on changing their financial habits in 2011 and while 54 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said yes, only 27 percent of those aged 55 to 64 and 23 percent of senior citizens agreed with that sentiment.

So why the shift? According to David Weliver, founder of the Money Under 30 blog, the recession taught 20-somethings to create a financial safety net for themselves. "We're starting our adult lives knowing the importance of having savings to fall back on in the event of job loss, and that we cannot simply buy a home and ride its perpetually increasing value to retirement. We're more goal-oriented about our finances—because we have to be." The report also noted that young adults are more optimistic about their finances and the economy overall and more likely to use online money management tools to help them stay on track.

Did your list of New Year’s resolutions include changing your spending habits? Let us know what you’re doing to avoid debt.


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Yale Alum Donates $50 Million to School of Management

by Suada Kolovic

Giving back to your alma mater is a tradition deeply rooted in the inner workings of any university. Once your status has shifted from “student” to “alumni,” you can bet there is an expectation for you to give back. And while some go out of their way to avoid the financial strains of contributing, a Yale graduate recently pledged $50 million to the School of Management…and that ain’t chump change.

A member of Yale University’s Class of 1964 has given a $50 million gift to the Ivy League school towards construction of a new building at the School of Management. Edward P. Evans, the former chairman and CEO of the Macmillan publishing house, will fund a portion of the estimated $189 million construction costs. In honor of the gift – the largest in the School of Management’s history – the building will be named Edward P. Evans Hall.

According to the Associated Press, Yale President Richard Levin says the large losses in the university’s endowment during the recession have prompted the school to secure funding before new projects begin. School of Management Dean Sharon Oster said the university has raised all but some $25 million toward the campus plan and the campaign will continue for another six months. Officials say the new building is expected to open in 2013 and allow the graduate school to add 200 more students.


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Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

Northeastern Grad Starts Website to Help Make Payments

November 23, 2010

Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how to pay for a college education can be complicated, but what happens once you’ve graduated and your loans become so overbearing that even with a full-time job, monthly payment are implausible? A few weeks ago, we blogged that the average college student leaves school with $24,000 in debt, but what about the student who’s debt is about eight times that amount? Northeastern alum Kelli Space, 23, found herself in that exact predicament: With $200,000 in debt, Space was unable to pay her stifling student loans – her monthly payments to Sallie Mae are $891 and by next November that figure will nearly double – so she started a website, Two Hundred Thou, in order to solicit donations from the public.

The site is devoted to sharing her story about the naivety of an 18- year-old, who was the first in her family to attend college and her reliance on readers to foot the bill. Space explains, “At the moment, I like to think I have great things going for me! A job, an accommodating family, loyal friends, etc... but these loans are crippling my ability to enjoy these things – or pay rent. Can I live?” She goes on to explain that by donating to her cause, you’ll also be helping the country as a whole.

Two Hundred Thou also tracks Space’s progress and so far she’s raised $1,726.50, leaving a mere $198,273.50 to go. Space ends with the notion that once her student loans are paid off she’ll spend her money elsewhere, “probably single-handedly spurring the economy.” To think you’re just a click away from cleaning up the mess of a recent college graduate, while fixing the economy and helping the country as a whole – and at $200,000, that’s a bargain.

However, we should point out – before you lend a helping hand – that we really don’t know who this person is or even whether this story is embellished or even entirely fabricated. The domain is registered privately, hiding the identity of the registrant, and the email address is just a gmail account anybody could have created. Sure, maybe this is on the up-and-up, but there’s really no way of knowing. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a bunch of these sites spring-up if this idea gains traction and exposure.


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Pew Reports Students Borrowing More than Ever

by Suada Kolovic

On the heels of our latest post – a story about a Northeastern grad who accumulated $200,000 in student loans – the Pew Research Center released a report that members of the class of 2008 borrowed 50 percent more than their counterparts who graduated 12 years earlier. According to the report, increased borrowing by college students has been driven by three trends: more college students are borrowing, college students are borrowing more, and more college students are attending private for-profit schools. The report reveals that the number of undergraduates borrowing rose from 52 percent in 1996 to 60 percent in 2008 and among those who borrowed, the average undergraduate loan increased from $17,000 in 1996 to $23,000 in 2008. The rise in attendance at private, for-profit colleges also resulted in the increase of student borrowing; the report states, “Students who attend for-profit colleges are more likely than other students to borrow, and they typically borrow larger amounts.”

This isn’t the shock of the century by any means. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time in history, student-loan debt surpassed credit card debt. The figures are staggering: According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe $826.5 billion in revolving credit, while students owe an estimated $829.785 billion in loans. In fact, so many college graduates are plagued by massive amounts of debt that the Huffington Post has provided an outlet for college graduates to share their stories - almost as a cautionary tale – through an ongoing project, Majoring in Debt.

What do you think? With recent college graduates facing debt in the hundreds of thousands, what are you doing to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation?


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Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Our Tips on What to Bring While Sticking to a College Budget

November 25, 2010

Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?

by Suada Kolovic

Thanksgiving break, for many college students, is the first real trip home since the start of the fall semester. And after months of Ramen and cold pizza, a Thanksgiving feast may just be what the doctor ordered. But rather than just be on the receiving end of the delicious grub, we have a few simple suggestions on what you can bring to the table without breaking the bank:

  • Cranberry sauce. It doesn’t get any easier than this: Grab a can, mush it up and put in a decorative bowl or, if that’s more “cooking” than you initially planned on, visit your local deli for a more homemade version.
  • Bread. A fresh loaf of bread or dinner rolls are a great addition to any Thanksgiving table. To kick it up a notch, consider bringing along a special kind of butter such as almond, apple or pumpkin.
  • Veggies. You can’t go wrong with a veggie platter. While guests are anxiously waiting for dinner, they can munch on these healthy snacks. Most grocery stores offer premade veggie trays in the produce section, fancy platter and all.
  • Dessert. End a meal the right way, with a delectable dessert. Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, try out a simple recipe or check out your local bakery. Make sure you purchase your dessert early to beat the rush and to keep it festive, order pumpkin pie or soft gingersnaps.
  • Coffee. Sure, the hostess probably has a cabinet stocked with coffee, but bringing along a blend specific to Thanksgiving flavors is a great way to add to the meal as a whole. Steer clear of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks and visit a local café to find that perfect Thanksgiving blend.

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Rose Bowl Tickets Scalpers Beware

Wisconsin’s Badger-Herald is Taking (and Publishing) Names

December 7, 2010

Rose Bowl Tickets Scalpers Beware

by Suada Kolovic

On Sunday night, diehard Badger fans – as well as those looking to make a quick buck – lined up to purchase coveted Rose Bowl tickets. Unfortunately, within minutes the 5,800 tickets allotted to the university were completely sold out but to the surprise of many, dozens of tickets were listed shortly after the sale concluded on web sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Great…only the price had suddenly skyrocketed to as much as $400 apiece – a stark increase from the face value of $150. The Badger-Herald, the Wisconsin independent student newspaper, decided to take action and published the names of the Wisconsin students selling their tickets under the headline, “The Worst People on Campus.”

The opinion piece calls out those students looking to profit from their Rose Bowl tickets and below the list of names they wrote: “Truly, there is a special place in Hell for people who buy Rose Bowl tickets with the sole intention of profiting from them. It is entirely unfair to those who actually love this football team and were counting on a cheap face value ticket in order to make the trip to Pasadena an economic reality. We'll keep printing names of those we catch on Facebook marketplace. And feel free to send an e-mail to editor@badgerherald.com if you know of anybody whose name should be added to the list — particularly the 100 people who have already made a listing on Craigslist.”

Since being published, an Editor’s Note was added to the article asking those commenting on the story to be more respectful. It seems like this is a growing trend among college students – shaming one another publicly – but do you think public humiliation the only way to teach these students a lesson? My worry is that shaming is only the tip of the iceberg here: What if students seek out those selling tickets and things turn violent?


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What Ever Happened to Thou Shalt Not Steal?!

Iona College Nun Axed for Allegedly Stealing $1.2 Million

December 10, 2010

What Ever Happened to Thou Shalt Not Steal?!

by Suada Kolovic

Over the course of a decade, an Iona College nun known as Sister Susie allegedly embezzled more than $1.2 million from the Catholic college in Westchester County. Sister Marie E. Thornton, a former vice president of finance for Iona College and nun, allegedly diverted college funds for her own use by turning in phony vendor invoices for reimbursement and having the college pay credit-card bills for “personal expenses.”

Officials wouldn’t say where the funds went but, according to Talk of the Sound, a former men’s basketball coach at the school hinted that Thornton may have gambled away at least some of it. In October, the college’s president, Brother James Liguori, publicly acknowledged the loss of only $800,000 but insisted that it had “recovered a major amount.” And in a statement issued Thursday evening, Iona said they had taken swift action after discovering the missing funds a year and a half ago, had conducted a follow-up investigation and put preventative procedures in place to avoid similar fraud.

Thornton was released without bail after waiving indictment and pleading not guilty to a single felony count of theft involving a federally funded program, but if convicted Thornton could face up to 10 years in prison for her unholy scam. I guess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience don’t apply when you’re on a hot streak at the craps table.


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Ohio Program Rewards Higher GPA’s with Cash

by Suada Kolovic

Imagine a world where cold, hard cash was the incentive for doing well in school. A new study, that examined three Ohio community colleges, attempted to explore if paying students is the answer for an authentic effort in their education. The report, "Rewarding Progress, Reducing Debt: Early Results From Ohio's Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration for Low-Income Parents," showed that using financial aid strategically – providing low-income parents scholarships based on their performance – was “encouraging.” The program offered the low-income parents up to $1,800 for one academic year if they earned at least a “C” in 12 or more credits, or $900 for the same grade in six to 11 credits.

According to Lashawn K. Richburg-Hayes, deputy director of young adults and postsecondary education with MDRC, a nonprofit research organization based in New York, “the goal is to understand if performance-based scholarships can work for different populations, in different amounts." The result – of the students assigned to the scholarship group, 33 percent earned the full-time award and 41 percent received the part-time award in the first term. Thirty percent earned the full-time award and 31 percent the part-time award in the second term. The scholarships earned were then paid directly to the students, “allowing them to use the money for whatever expenses were most pressing”, said Reshma D. Patel, a research analyst with MDRC and a co-author of the report. Unlike scholarship funds that must be put towards tuition fees or books, the student has the freedom to use the cash as they see fit. “That flexibility was especially important for the program's target population, low-income parents, who could use the money for child-care or other living expenses,” Patel said.

So, future college attendees, do you think students would be more inclined to put in a wholehearted effort in their education if they were paid to do so?


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