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University of California Looks to Expand Online Education

May 12, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

In another attempt to address budget shortfalls due to a significant decrease in state funding for higher education in the state, the University of California system has proposed increasing their online offerings to get more students enrolled, thus bringing more revenue into the school.

The proposed pilot project would not only offer students more online class choices, but offer students a path toward complete online degrees. If the plan moves forward, administrators would start with offering the schools’ core, general education classes online, before moving on to classes further on in students’ fields of study. Those core classes are typically high enrollment anyway, composed predominantly of freshmen. Freshman Composition 1-2, for example, has an average annual enrollment of 31,585, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The real accomplishment, administrators say, would be leading students through a complete sequence of online courses in any major offered at the college.

Although it may take a while for the project to get off the ground—administrators will be putting out requests for proposals in the fall, with the earliest start date for the program suggested for 2011—it already has its supporters. According to another article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, those supporters feel the plan will not only make the school system a significant amount of money, something it desperately needs, but it would improve the school system’s reputation as an innovative force. More online classes would also give professors interested in teaching them more time for research, as they will be working remotely, thereby further solidifying the school system's role as a research institution.

The proposal also has its critics. Some worry that online education won’t meet the academic standards the schools’ in-class programs currently set, and that the school system’s reputation will actually be hurt by the move if freshmen fail to excel in the virtual classroom. According to The Chronicle, although online classes are commonplace, elite public universities haven’t exactly latched onto the idea of online degrees. Even those schools that offer their complete course materials online (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University, among many other examples), have been hesitant to express any interest in the online degree market.

The state system’s campuses currently enroll more than 25,000 students online each year as part of their graduate and extension programs, according to The Chronicle. This proposal would greatly expand the schools’ online courses to undergraduates, who have typically not been able to take for-credit classes online. (The University of California at Berkeley has been the exception, offering eight online summer classes to undergraduates.) What do you think? Would you skip the campus experience for a virtual one?

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Report Shows College Students Spending Less Time Studying

May 13, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown what many among the older generation may have been saying all along. College students today just don’t study as much as they did.

According to the paper, compared to their campus counterparts in 1961, the average full-time college student in 2003 spent at least 10 fewer hours per week on academic work (attending classes, studying, and completing assignments). The paper, titled The Falling Time Cost of College: Evidence from Half a Century of Time Use Date, included analysis from two California researchers of data from both 1961 and the more recent National Survey of Student Engagement. <

The paper showed that there has been a decline in the number of hours spent on academic work since that first study in the 1960s. Students in 1961 spent about 40 hours per week in class and studying; about 24 hours of that was spent hitting the books specifically. Students today spend about 27 hours per week on academic work; 13 hours of that was spent studying and working on homework.

So are college students just lazier? The research doesn’t really point to an answer, but they did describe which factors probably weren’t the behind the decrease in study time. The declines can’t be explained by any one reason alone, like work or choice of college major, according to the paper, or "compositional changes" in the students themselves or the colleges they’re attending. The paper also showed that study times declined across all student groups and populations, meaning one group didn’t account for the decline more over another, skewing the data. The paper did suggest the way students study may be different.

Why do you think students are studying less? Articles on the paper since have suggested that college students simply have less time for school than in previous generations. They work more, spread themselves thin, and engage in more extracurricular activities to make themselves more competitive on the job market after graduation. Or it could be a technology issue. The Internet and social media may have made completing assignments easier, or, in a more negative light, have become such a distraction to students that it is  much easier to spend time online (and procrastinate, pull all-nighters) than open up a textbook. You’ve already heard about the hard time students have unplugging from their phones, computers, and social networking sites. What do you think?

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Considering the "Best Value" in College Choice

May 27, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the dust has settled and students have made their decisions on where they’ll be come fall, a number of news outlets have been taking a look at whether any trends have emerged among incoming freshmen.

A series this week from CNN and the resulting New York Times article about it are interested in whether students were particularly mindful this year in choosing the better value among their college options, rather than decisions based on reputation, prestige, and “name brand” alone. Whatever students’ reasoning for it—rising costs of tuition and fees, a struggling economy, future plans to attend graduate and professional school among them—anecdotal evidence points to “yes.”

The CNN series first takes a look at a student who chose a state school over Boston College when it came down to making his final choice. He did so because of his aspirations after he’s done with his undergraduate career; he wants to go to medical school. The series then looks at a recent graduate from New York University who finished his degree with more than $250,000 in debt. The same student turned down a full scholarship from another school considered less well-known than NYU.

We always caution about making your college decision based on name alone. You’re determining where you’ll be for the next four years, after all, and it’s important to think about things that will result in a better fit for you rather than the boasting you’ll be able to do if you go to a big name school. (Some things to consider may be whether your choice is strong in your intended field of study, location, and what kinds of things you need in a school outside of academics.) And, as the news pieces above describe, it may be a wise choice to consider how much student loan debt you’ll be in once you’re done with school. Sure, private colleges often make up a bit for their high tuition and fees by offering more in financial aid, but students still often find themselves faced with the decision of paying less for their education if they attend a public state school, a community college, or a school that may be closer to home than they’d like.

No matter what we say though, prestige will still top many students’ lists as their main priority in college choice, as many students have had the dream of attending an Ivy League school since they could walk. How about you? What were your main considerations when you were choosing where to go to school this fall? Did you have to choose between a school that was a better value over one with more prestige?

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Colleges Cut Costs Creatively

May 28, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As colleges prepare for another academic year of tightened budgets, some schools have found ways to rein in costs more creatively than using wait lists for incoming freshmen, recouping revenue through increases in tuition, or introducing new student fees.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently took at look at several of these colleges’ efforts to cut costs creatively, focusing a majority of the article on Middlebury College, where students make their own granola. The executive chef at the school decided several years ago that the rising cost of granola was a waste of money. Rather than cut granola out of students’ diets, he decided to get those students already working in the college bakery to help hand-mix and bake the oats for their own brand of granola made on site. The school ended up saving $27,000 in their food budget, which has already seen several budget cuts and could use the additional revenue.

Colleges elsewhere are looking for ways to pinch pennies as well. According to the article, a recent office-supply swap at Marquette University saved the school $10,000 over the last year, as departments used the school’s website in the same way one might use Craig’s List, to furnish and equip their offices and classrooms. At Miami University, a program called “Leveraging Efficiencies and Aligning Needs” allows focus groups to convene and look for potential savings on the Ohio school’s campus. They’ve come up with $16,000 in savings by no longer offering bottled water in campus hotel rooms and $66,000 in savings by asking students to switch their steam heaters off over winter breaks, according to The Chronicle.

Have you noticed your college cutting costs creatively, rather than going the traditional route of increasing tuition and fees? If you find yourself struggling with those rising college costs, know that there are options out there that have nothing to do with helping the college bakery cook up granola. Take a look at the resources we’ve come up with to help you manage college costs. We have tips on everything from saving money on books and supplies to preparing for those hidden student fees you may not have factored in when budgeting for your first year on campus.

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Students Create Makeshift Study Spot to Address Cuts to Library Hours

June 10, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

It’s coming to the end of final exams at California State University in Los Angeles, but you won’t see students there studying at the library well into the night. You’ll see them in the make-shift “People’s Library,” an open air study spot outside the school’s main library set up by students looking for an answer to shortened library hours.

The “People’s Library” opened on June 1 as a response from students dealing with state budget cuts that have forced the college to cut library hours. The school’s library now closes at 8 p.m. each night, while the students’ version operates through midnight. According to an article today in the Los Angeles Times, the students have been using donated tables and chairs, and the campus’ lighting and electrical equipment. Free coffee is brewed to fuel the study sessions, and students have access to the Internet, a copier and a printer. According to the article, the students’ “library” has the support of administrators, despite initial resistance and concerns. (Administrators helped the students set up their electrical hook-ups safely.)

The state university system’s library budget was cut 20 percent overall this fiscal year. At Cal State L.A., student library assistant positions were cut from 19 to 11, and subscriptions to more than 400 print journals and 10 databases were canceled, potentially hampering students’ research capabilities. Although library attendance has decreased across the board, perhaps due to advances in technology and increases in access to the Internet thanks to wireless networks, it remains both a communal space and option for those who don’t have access to online tools at home or in the dorm, or who want a quiet place to study. According to the article, administrators will reconsider the main library’s operating hours for next year, although budget shortfalls will continue to dramatically affect the state’s university system.

Across California, institutions of higher education have been looking for ways to cope with millions of dollars in cuts in the state budget. At the University of California, a wait list was used for the first time in the school system’s history to allow the school to be more flexible in the number of students it enrolls for fall 2010. There and elsewhere, major school decisions are dependent upon what happens with the state budget.

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Report Shows Jobs Await Those with Degrees

June 15, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

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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Community Colleges Forced to Become More Selective

July 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

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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More Americans Applying to Canadian Universities

December 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Recent economic hardships have derailed many families' college plans, prompting some to stop saving and others to start considering less expensive colleges.  For students still determined to attend a prestigious university, another option has been gaining traction.  According to an article in The Boston Globe, applications from American students are up at many of Canada's top universities, indicating a new surge in an already growing trend. 

Since 2001, the number of Americans attending Canadian universities increased by 50 percent, and based on current trends in applications and increased recruiting efforts, growth is expected to continue.  Americans choosing to study abroad in Canada are still eligible for federal student financial aid, even if they attend college abroad for all four years.  And even international tuition in Canada ($14,487 on average) is cheap right now when compared to private college tuition ($19,337 on average) and even out-of-state tuition at some state colleges in the United States.

 Studying in Canada also removes many of the traditional barriers faced by international students.  Many Americans studying in Canada can cheaply and easily return home for holidays.  Students are instructed in English at the majority of Canadian colleges and universities, signs around town will also be in English, and for the most part, accents are not even very pronounced.  Despite their proximity to home, though, students still benefit from being immersed in another culture, and since many of Canada's top schools are situated in urban settings, Canadian universities also present an opportunity to experience life in a big city.

 However, the bargain is dependent on exchange rates.  When the American and Canadian dollars are approximately equal in value, studying in Canada becomes relatively more expensive, as does living in Canada.  Also, while some college scholarships can be applied to tuition at Canadian universities, many stipulate that applicants must be attending college in the United States.  While studying abroad in Canada is an option to consider when looking for ways to get the most educational value for your dollar, be sure to weigh all your alternatives.  Regardless of where you wind up, though, there are scholarship opportunities and other ways to help pay for school.

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Paying Tuition on Time Getting Tougher in Recession

January 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.

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University of California May Up Aid to Low Income Students

January 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The University of California system's board of regents is considering a proposal to extend financial aid covering full tuition to families earning under $60,000 per year.  The change, suggested by University of California President Mark Yudof, is still under review and will likely be voted on next month.

The concerns that motivate this move are becoming more pressing and are shared by many figures in higher education.  The University of California, like other state university systems, is facing budget cuts and plans to increase tuition in response.  California is also one of the states hardest hit by the recession, especially the collapse of the housing market.  There is widespread concern that these factors may put a college education out of reach for many.  The University of California system also serves a relatively large number of low-income and moderate-income students, so Yudof's proposal could potentially benefit a substantial portion of the student body.

Despite economic hardship and shrinking endowments, California is not alone in considering increases to college scholarships and grants for students struggling the most financially.  A number of prestigious schools have eliminated student loans for less affluent students in recent years.  These significant financial aid packages may be becoming more of a draw students this year, as many of the most prestigious and most generous schools are reporting double-digit increases in applications for the 2009-2010 academic year.

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