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by Agnes Jasinski

As if you didn’t already have a number of reasons why you should go to college, a report being released today projects that the United States will face a shortage of college-educated workers by 2018.

The report comes from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, and describes a shift since the 1970s on the kind of training required to land jobs in sectors that will continue to see rapid growth as the economy improves. An article on the report in Inside Higher Ed today analyzes the specifics of the report:

  • By 2018, the economy will face a shortage of 3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and a shortage of 4.7 million workers with postsecondary certificates. (By that time, there will be 22 million jobs for new workers with college degrees.)
  • In 1973, 28 percent of jobs required post-secondary education, compared to 63 percent projected by 2018.
  • In 1970, 26 percent of the middle class had some post-secondary education, compared to 61 percent today.
  • In 1970, 44 percent of the upper class had some postsecondary education, compared to 81 percent today.

While the data certainly suggests going to college is a good game plan for those worried about their job prospects, it may also mean a shift for colleges to offer more programs in the fields that will see much of the projected growth. According to the report, those industries include health-care, government, private and public education, and the business and financial services. Jobs in the technology sector may taper off, as technological advancements make it more possible for companies to do the work required with fewer employees.

Inside Higher Ed suggests that the data could have an impact on high school students who do not have a clear vision of what they’d like their future careers to be. Some may opt for a more career-oriented program at a two-year college if there is a promise of employment on the horizon. Some schools already offer students incentive programs if they enter into certain majors. At Lansing Community College, students are guaranteed jobs after they complete a program at the school that focuses on training in high-demand fields.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Open access may become a thing of the past at community colleges if they cannot find a way to accommodate a marked increase in applicants using their limited budgets.

A recent article in The New York Times described the tough spot community colleges were in. On the one hand, President Obama has expressed his desire to see an increase in five million community college graduates by 2020 via his American Graduation Initiative. On the other, an increase in visibility for the two-year schools has led to the colleges being stretched to their limits enrollment- and budget-wise.

The article opens with a student who was shut out of winter-term classes because he was assigned a late registration slot. By the time he was able to sign up for his next round of college classes, the ones he needed were full. Being unable to register for classes has led some students to delay completion of their programs. The article gives another example of a student at Mt. San Antonio College who has taken a dance class three times so far because she has been unable to register for any required courses that would get her on the path to transferring to a four-year university.

The problem is greater elsewhere; some schools have had to turn students away as classrooms are already packed with as many first-year students as they can hold. In California, a state that has had to introduce wait lists in its public university system, about 21,000 fewer students were admitted to community colleges there for the upcoming school year. According to the Times article, some districts had to reject half of those applicants interested in enrolling at the community colleges. The City University of New York and its six community colleges have also had to limit their enrollment numbers for the fall. The schools have introduced wait lists, but hundreds of students will probably not be allowed admittance into the state system.

Unfortunately, the situation won’t improve until community colleges return to the levels of funding they need to accommodate the influx of students. In states like California, both community colleges and four-year institutions have been struggling with cutting classes and consolidating programs to save some money in their budgets. Schools across the country hope to see more generous budgets come the next enrollment cycle.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A report released today details where colleges were spending their money in the years leading up to nationwide budget crises in higher education.

The report, “Trends in College Spending,” comes from the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability, and includes a database open to the public on exactly what institutions were spending their money on, and where their funding was coming from. As the data available includes spending information through 2008, when many colleges had not yet been feeling the worst of the recession, education analysts suggests it paints a fairly accurate picture of where administrators’ priorities lie when it comes to spending.

An article in Inside Higher Ed on the report today details the bad habits of institutions of higher education that may have contributed to current budget woes. Among those missteps:

  • Colleges spend too much money on administration, including administrative positions and outside accounting and legal positions. Harvard University was the biggest offender, where administrative costs rose by nearly 14 percent from 2007 to 2008.
  • Compared to funds allocated to administrators, colleges spend too little on instruction. While funding support grew by 20 percent for administrative support, funding for instruction grew by only 10 percent. According to the report, even in those years when revenues improved, the share of funding going toward instruction did not increase on levels comparable to that of funding set aside for administrative, non-academic costs.
  • Spending per student varies dramatically by school. Public research colleges spend about $35,000 per student, compared to about $10,000 per student per year at community colleges, which have seen rapid growth over the last few years. That suggests students at those public colleges are disproportionately subsidized, despite the fact that they typically come from more affluent households than those attending community colleges.
  • Colleges rely too much on cost-shifting. Rather than cutting spending in years when budgets were tight, schools raised tuition instead, a move that may not be sustainable in the long run.

As it was around 2008 when colleges began adapting to the worst of new pressures on their budgets, it’s important to consider that the data in this study considers only those years prior to those funding constraints. The following decade will probably look quite different, and priorities may have shifted since. There’s no question that the recession has had a toll on higher education, especially on schools that depend on state funding.

A recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures described that declining state support for institutions of higher education. Many states have begun to rely on federal stimulus funds to address or prevent major budget cuts across the board, with California hit particularly hard. The report also showed more of a reliance on tuition to cover costs, as state support and school endowments have decreased. Tuition, which increased by about 2 percent between 2008 and 2009, now accounts for about 37 percent of total education revenue. In comparison, about 25 percent of education revenue came from students’ tuition payments in 1984.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you thought the worst was over in terms of budget cuts and rising tuition and fees at colleges and universities across the country, think again. The latest projections from Moody’s Investors Service show that most institutions of higher education shouldn’t assume recoveries and relief from their states until at least 2013 and probably later.

In those states that have suffered the worst cuts, recovery may be even slower to kick in, as those are the same states that have had to cut spending in other areas as well. According to an article yesterday in The Chronicle of Higher Education, those states may first decide to increase spending in pensions, health care, and other services considered more essential than higher education. Only North Dakota, Texas and Alaska were listed by Moody’s as states where employment figures, a good projection of economic recovery, will return to stable levels before 2012.

Colleges may then be on their own for the next few years, leading to more cuts and creative cost cutting. (You may remember that students at Middlebury College make their own granola in the school’s bakery.) The economic picture is especially bleak for those states that have relief on federal stimulus funds to keep from making even deeper cuts. According to the Chronicle and Moody’s data, in 20 states, stimulus funds made up at least 5 percent of state support for public colleges in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. Three states have been particular reliant on stimulus funds – Colorado at 18 percent, Massachusetts at 12 percent and Arizona at 10 percent.

So what do these figures mean? For one, colleges need to figure out how to remain financially solvent with less state support. The Moody’s report also criticizes colleges for not doing more to make sure they won’t need to make deep cuts to their programs and faculties or, worse yet, close their doors. The latest school to do so is Wesley College, a small Mississippi college owned by the Congregational Methodist Church that was unable to find a way to cover about $2.7 million in debt. Southern Catholic College closed mid-semester due to a lack of funding, and may not raise those funds in time for fall. Nebraska’s Dana College will also close after the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools refused a buy-out of the college by a for-profit entity.


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Senate Approves Bill to Protect Against Lending Abuses

President Obama Expected to Sign off On Overhaul Legislation

July 16, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

The financial overhaul bill approved last night by the U.S. Senate won’t only increase government oversight to prevent another economic collapse. Students who use debit and credit cards or who have taken out or plan to take out private student loans will also benefit.

The bill includes the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent entity that will exist within the Federal Reserve to protect borrowers. What does this mean for students? The bureau will be there to protect students from abusive lending, and gives students a point of resolution if they feel they have issues with their private lenders, according to an article on the measure in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The bill also requires that debit and credit card companies lower the fees that colleges must pay when students use the cards. Currently, companies are charging “swipe fees” of 1 to 2 percent of transaction amounts, according to The Chronicle, putting quite a bit of pressure on struggling college bookstores. The legislation next goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign off on it. Also in the bill, the government will get more power to shut down companies that pose a threat to the country’s financial system. As the troubled economy has led to marked changes in higher education, including increases in tuition and fees, the introduction of wait lists at colleges that had never used them before, and, in worst-case scenarios, the shuttering of colleges, the bill could even give struggling schools some sense of hope.

Pell Grants could also see a boost if a spending bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee yesterday continues to move through Congress. According to another article in The Chronicle, the bill would raise spending on Pell Grants by $5.7 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, keeping the federal grants at the maximum levels of $5,550 per eligible student. The Federal Pell Grant, which is available to those students with the highest unmet financial need, has increased significantly over the years; students were able to receive $4,050 in the 2006-2007 academic year. The panel also approved an additional $1 billion for the National Institute of Health. According to The Chronicle, legislators hope that funding could go toward “translating basic research results into practical and available cures and treatments.”


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by Agnes Jasinski

A big selling point of attending a community college is the money you’ll save when compared to the tuition and fees at a public or private four-year college or university. If you’re one of the many students out there with plans to transfer to a four-year institution once your two years are up at the local community college, there are a few things you should know when you’re looking to transfer. The credits you collected at your two-year college may not all transfer to your intended four-year school.

A recent article in the Indianapolis Star took a look at the trouble students at Ivy Tech Community College have been having when looking to transfer to the state’s public colleges, namely Indiana and Purdue universities. What they’ve found is that the public colleges aren’t accepting credits for many of the core classes that make up four-year colleges’ general education requirements.

According to the Indianapolis Star, there are many reasons why credits may be difficult to transfer. For one, there are no across-the-board standards when it comes to what constitutes a first-year English course, for example. It is then up to the discretion of the four-year schools’ administrators to decide whether or not to accept those credits. Credits that don’t transfer must be repeated on the four-year college level, which means students may not be saving as much money as they thought and take longer to graduate than they had initially planned. As most two- and four-year colleges don’t have standard numbering systems when it comes to listing courses in the college catalogs, it may also be difficult for students to know which level English course they should take in the first place to make sure they’re taking transferable credits.

There is no easy way to make sure the community college classes you’re taking will transfer to the four-year university of your choice, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. We’ve come up with some tips to help.

  • If you know where you’d like to transfer early on, develop a relationship with administrators at that four-year college. The more you know about the kinds of college classes that do transfer, the more informed you’ll be when it comes to picking courses out of the catalog at your community college.
  • If you’re flexible about where you’d like to go when you’re ready to transfer, consider the partnerships many community colleges have with state universities. Many two-year schools have long histories as feeder schools, making it easier to transfer credits from one place to another.
  • Know who to talk to, both at the community college and four-year college level. Often, department heads are the ones who approve transfer credits or who know about the kinds of courses that would meet requirements.
  • If you’re denied transfer credit, petition. Many schools will reconsider transfer credit decisions if you give them more information about a particular course, such as evidence of assignments and exams or syllabi. Four-year colleges just want you to be ready to transfer, so show them that you are.

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by Agnes Jasinski

California has had it particularly bad during the economic crisis. The public school system there has tried to address millions of dollars in cuts using wait lists and more selective admissions processes in the state’s community colleges to avoid adding to the budget shortfalls. One California community college district, however, is taking a different approach. Several two-year schools in San Diego will be adding about 1,150 classes this fall, rather than following the example of other community colleges and their own district in the recent past, where cuts to course catalogs have become the norm.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed this week, the San Diego Community College District will be paying for the additional classes using rainy day funds and what’s left of their operating budget. While the school won’t be able to sustain that kind of funding indefinitely, administrators there are hopeful that the state will provide some funding over the next two years to support the extra offerings.

The state’s community college budget was cut by 8 percent overall over the last year; college classes at the schools were cut by more than 6 percent, according to Inside Higher Ed. This led to a more competitive community college system, which had up to that point catered students looking to return to school after a long absence or to build up their transcripts and save some money before transferring to a four-year college. This past year, about 10,000 students were turned away from the San Diego Community College District. Administrators there decided they were being less helpful to students than harmful, as some were forced to postpone their coursework because they were unable to get into required courses. The additional classes will be in the most high-demand subjects, according to the article.

Elsewhere, another college is taking a creative cost-cutting measure to recoup losses from their own budget crisis. Texas A&M University will be getting rid of toilet paper in residence hall bathrooms, a move administrators say will save the college $82,000. The college will still supply toilet paper in larger bathrooms in public areas and administrative offices, according to another recent Inside Higher Ed article. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience—and some students have already said they plan to lift toilet paper from wherever it’ll be on campus—budget cuts at the Texas school have also forced administrators to cut 500 faculty and staff positions, among a number of other amenities.


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by Agnes Jasinski

You’ve read all about how colleges have been coping with budget cuts over the last year or so. Wait lists. Hiring freezes and holds on infrastructure improvements. Short weeks.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill they hope will allow administrators at those institutions of higher education to breathe a little easier. The $26 billion they approved will go toward those same state budgets that have suffered in the economic crisis; while the funding isn’t specifically earmarked for state colleges, any funding the states receive at this point will allow those schools to avoid further cuts in an already-hurting higher education system. About $16 billion of that total will go toward Medicaid assistance.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than half of the country’s state lawmakers have been counting on varying amounts of emergency federal aid from Congress. While the expected totals aren’t as much as many had hoped—Maine had budgeted for $100 million, but will receive $77 million; Pennsylvania had budgeted for $850 million, but will receive about $600 million—the funding will help public university systems avoid further cuts. In Maine, administrators were preparing for cuts in the $8.4 million range, according to The Chronicle. While they had already reduced their budgets by $8 million over the previous year, the new funding will allow the state’s colleges to remain steady in the coming fiscal year.

Some states had already been preparing for massive cuts had the funding not come through. In Massachusetts, funding for public colleges there was already cut by 12 percent, a move lawmakers there must analyze now that some additional funding has come through. In Texas, a higher-education panel recently recommended that students take more of their learning off campus to save public institutions some money. According to another article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the proposal suggested students should complete at least 10 percent of their degrees via online courses and remote programming. The plan would affect undergraduates at all of the state’s public colleges. While this is still just a proposal, a push toward online learning isn’t a new idea. In Minnesota, higher education officials hope to have students earn 25 percent of all credits earned through the public college system through online coursework by 2015.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A college freshman goes through a wide range of emotions when it's time to leave home. Many are a little nervous, but mostly excited, with a laundry list of things to do before they're able to relax about their first round of courses. It's probably for the best then for parents to get back on the road and leave new freshmen to their orientations and campus exploring, right? For some parents, seeing their first son or daughter go to away to college has been harder than most.

A recent article in The New York Times took a look programs at colleges across the country that aim to make the transition easier for both incoming freshmen and their parents. According to the article, a formal “Parting Ceremony” at Morehouse College involves literally shutting the gate to the campus as the newly enrolled are left on one side, their parents on the other. At Colgate and Princeton universities, school officials are quick to remind parents that student-only activities start the afternoon or early evening of move-in day. At Grinnell College, a formal welcoming from the school’s president keeps parents on one side of the college gym, students on the other.

The article is one of several lately on “helicopter parents,” or moms and dads who can’t help but involve themselves in every aspect of their children’s lives. While moving day may be an important milestone for college students to share with their parents, especially if they’re the only child, it’s also important for parents to realize that this is their freshman’s first taste of independence. And they won’t learn how to be self-sufficient if mom and dad are hovering.

A recent article in The Chicago Tribune looked at how technology has made helicopter parenting even easier, leading with the story of a 19-year-old college sophomore who has a frequent texting relationship with her mother back home. Administrators say constant communication becomes a problem when parents start taking the lead on their children’s schedules and social lives. According to the Tribune article, some call to remind their sons and daughters about upcoming exams or other deadlines, and are the first point of contact when laundry issues or conflicts with other students and professors arise.

Having a close relationship with your parents is great, but it’s also important to use college as a period of self-discovery. Set up boundaries (do you really need to be Facebook friends with mom and dad?) and make sure that you’re taking advantage of your first stab at independence. And worse comes to worse, you can always study abroad.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Whether you’re a recent graduate or a college student looking for an internship or job while still in school, there are some universal things you should know about to remain competitive while you search, especially when it comes to the moments leading up to, during, and after an interview.

If you’ve landed an interview, we’re assuming you did a good job writing a persuasive cover letter and impressive resume. That first meeting with a potential employer, though, may require some preparation, and don’t think your work is done even after you feel like you nailed the interview. Below, we walk you through the before, during, and after of a typical job interview. Pay attention, and you could be the standout in that employer’s pool of applicants. And believe us, there’s always a pretty big pool competing for one position.

Before

Before you arrive to your interview it’s important to do your research not only about the company or organization you’re interviewing with, but on questions you could ask that would show you’ve done your homework. Don’t plan to ask things that are easily found in a Google search. Put together copies of everything you’ve already sent over to the employer, and bring additional materials that may be relevant to the job. If you haven’t already, Google yourself, and make sure any public profiles on social networking sites don’t include any inappropriate information or photos from the last frat party. Make sure you're using an appropriate email address. Conduct a mock interview or two if you’re able. Thanks to your research, you should have a good idea of the kinds of things the employer will ask and expect of a potential new hire.

During

Arrive on time, obviously, or even a few minutes early. Do not show-up too early, though. Being 15 or 20 minutes early is almost as bad as being more than a couple minutes late. Your interviewer may have a busy schedule and arriving too early might take away from their preparation time, as they are probably going over your resume prior to your arrival. Be professional, and no matter the job and how casual you think the environment will be, dress in business casual at the very least. (The motto “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have” has a point.) Once the interview begins, don’t let nerves get the best of you and badmouth your former boss/job, make inappropriate jokes/comments, or over-share with any irrelevant details about your personal life. Be confident, but don’t be cocky. Make sure to get in those questions you worked so hard to come up with in the days leading up to the interview, and leave the employer with a sense that you really want this position.

After

It doesn’t matter whether you think you aced or bombed the interview. You’ll need to follow-up with an email at the very least. If you haven’t heard from the employer for a while (make sure you ask when you should hear back from them), it is fine to check in. Likewise if you have any lingering questions that came up since the interview. But don’t be a bother. The employer will be in touch with you if you’re the one they want.


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