October 7, 2009
While prospective college freshmen are already beginning to fill out their college applications in preparation for fall application deadlines, transfer students traditionally enjoy a bit more leeway. However, the sharp state budget cuts and larger enrollments in community and state colleges this year may mean that students planning to transfer from a two-year to a four-year school will want to get their applications together as early as possible this year.
California, a state whose severe budget crisis has made it something of a canary in the mineshaft for most funding issues this year, has recently begun turning transfer students away in droves from its four-year public colleges. The reason: the state university systems have had to cut back enrollments across the board, and after many decisions had already been made for the academic year now underway, in order to deal with a sharp decrease in available state funding for the current fiscal year.This means that many conditionally admitted transfer students have been told they need to wait a year or look elsewhere, simply because they didn't correctly complete all the necessary steps far enough ahead of time to secure seats in state universities for the fall and spring semesters this year. This leaves students applying last-minute to pricey private colleges, vying for seats in courses that likely won't even count just to kill time until the next admissions cycle, or even dropping out for a semester or more. The state's budget picture shows no signs of improving, meaning transfer students will likely need to contend with the same situation next year, as well.
While other state university systems haven't had to cap or reduce enrollments or close budget holes to the same extent as California, a decrease in funding coupled with an increase in interest in state and community colleges may still result in wrenches being thrown in many students' transfer plans. More students at community colleges will make it harder for some students to get into classes they need to complete to successfully transfer to a four-year college. More students applying to state colleges means available seats may fill up faster and transfer applications may be delayed. It can also mean stiffer competition for financial aid, such as transfer student scholarships. Like in California, it could also mean that students whose transfer applications are not perfect the first time may see their plans derailed, or at least delayed, much more easily than in previous semesters.
Because of these concerns, students who are planning to transfer from a community college to a state college (and also students considering a move between four-year schools) will want to stay in touch with their academic advisors this year and complete all required steps as quickly as possible. Make sure you are applying for admission and aid well ahead of deadlines, and make sure you're meeting all requirements to ensure a smooth transfer process. Staying on top of things this fall can save you headaches, and possibly money, when it's time to switch schools.
October 8, 2009
The economy has made college admission totals difficult to predict. Many community colleges are seeing significant increases in the number of students applying to their schools, perhaps as a result of more adult students seeking to pick up new skills to make themselves more desirable in a tough job market. Some private colleges have faced declining enrollments as students look for more affordable options when considering which school they'll attend in the fall, while others that have maintained generous financial aid packages have experienced an increase in applicants.
Ithaca College can't complain about declining enrollment. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that the New York school has offered 31 students $10,000 each to defer their enrollment for one year. Ithaca's target for new freshman was between 1,700 to 1,750. They ended up with an incoming fall class of 2,027, or 20 percent more than expected. Sure, having a larger class is better than seeing significant decreases in enrollment, but enrolling more freshmen than the school can handle won't only affect the college's bottom line as they adjust this year, but the four years that large class will be moving through the ranks. The school will also be forced to enroll fewer students over the next few years, making it harder to recoup any losses in spending this fall.
According to the Chronicle, the college had to make several other adjustments to prevent a repeat situation and compensate for the extra funding they'll need to get through the next four years with a larger class:
The Chronicle suggests missing the admissions mark by this much is rare. Ithaca had been seeing declining admissions numbers up until this point, so they worked harder this year to boost enrollment. Ithaca also accepted 73 percent of its 2009 applicants, compared with 59 percent in 2008. Administrators at the school maintain a positive outlook, and say that while they did need to spend some to get the situation under control ($250,000 for those deferred enrollments alone), they plan to come out with a modest surplus.
October 9, 2009
Although community colleges nationwide have seen significant boosts in enrollment, a report released yesterday suggests many will be forced to put their educations on hold or find new sources of funding if their institutions continue blocking access to federal student loans.
The Project on Student Debt released the report, and despite their stance on promoting that students take on as low a student loan burden as possible, they say community college students are at risk for taking on riskier private student loans or watching their grades slip as they take on more work hours to cover gaps in funding because they aren't able to apply for and receive federal student loans. About one in 10 students in 31 states surveyed don't have access to federal student loans, and in some states, more than 20 percent of students can't get the federal loans. Minority students have less access to federal loans than other student groups, as the report found many minority students attending community colleges that don't participate in the federal student loan program.
Why have many community colleges moved away from offering federal student loans? In an uncertain economy, the answer is risk, according to the report. Defaults on student loans have begun to rise among not only community college students, but among all college students over the last few years. The report always says many community college administrators believe students shouldn't have to borrow to attend their schools. Tuition is lower, they say, and if students are saddled with large amounts of debt now, they could hurt their chances for qualifying for low interest rates and federal student loans if they were to transfer to a more expensive, four-year institution.
But some students do need the additional funding even at a low-cost option like a community college, especially in the current economic climate. According to survey results released by the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges last month, about half of the nation's community colleges are expecting budget cuts and midyear reductions in their state appropriations. Many administrators in that survey also reported that stimulus money provided by the Obama administration went toward meeting existing budget deficits, and that they would be forced to raise tuition rates substantially despite record enrollments to make up for a lack of state funding. (The average tuition increase among community colleges is expected to be about 5 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year.)
While you should always exhaust your options with grants and scholarships first, student loans are often a necessary evil, and we have plenty of tips on how to go about applying for them and making sure you're getting the best rate possible. Never rely on credit cards to fund your education, or you'll run the risk of getting into more debt than you can handle not only post-graduation, but while you're still in school. Browse through our site for more information on your student loan options.
October 12, 2009
Colleges may need to work harder to find cost-effective ways to promote diversity on their campuses, as schools' diversity departments that have enjoyed growth over the last few years have found they aren't immune to the economic crunch.
An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday described strategies being considered by colleges in order to preserve their existing diversity departments and to make as few changes to minority-based programming as possible. Some schools have had to scale back diversity efforts to protect other programs affected by reduced budgets. Financial aid budgets are understandably a top priority at many schools, which is critical for not only minority students but all low-income students relying on aid, but staffing and across-the-board cuts have not spared diversity departments. According to the article, some schools' diversity programs must now make do with less, a common refrain in not only higher education but everywhere over the last few years. Central Connecticut State University's diversity office is down to two employees, for example.
But more broad cuts at college campuses will undoubtedly affect minority students more than other groups. Caps in enrollment at the big state universities where minority students make up a large percentage of the student populations could change the makeup of those schools, as minority students often apply for financial aid and admission later than white students, according to the article. The California State University system, for example, where 55 percent of the student population is composed of minority students, has been forced to cut its enrollment numbers by about 35,000 students over the next two years. Other schools like Reed College have been forced to reject students who would require more financial aid than the college is able to afford, harming those less-affluent students who don't have the means to attend the more expensive or private schools without significant aid.
Numerous studies have looked at how colleges can expand opportunities for minorities, both in getting them enrolled in college and getting them to apply for financial aid to pay for college. And while colleges have been trying to compensate for cuts that may affect minority students more than others by coming up with new, more cost-effective programming targeting those student groups, it will take some time for colleges to get back to the level of funding they once enjoyed and replenish those departments most affected by by budget cuts.
For minority students concerned about changes on their college campuses, consider a free scholarship search. Scholarships for minorities, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so for those putting their college plans on hold because of finances, be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you’re eligible for.
October 13, 2009
Colleges across the country have had to make sweeping budget cuts to cope with substantial endowment losses and reductions in state funding sustained as a result of the recession. In many places, these cuts have led to fewer instructors, larger class sizes, and fewer course offerings. In addition to potentially reducing the quality of instruction students receive (even as they see their tuition continuing to rise dramatically), these factors are also making it harder for students to graduate on time.
An Associated Press article details the struggles some students at state colleges are facing trying to finish their educational careers. Despite the limits placed on freshmen and transfer enrollment this year, upperclassmen in California, as well as other states facing large-scale financial difficulties, are finding it nearly impossible to get into the classes they need to complete their plans of study.
Some students are able to only enroll part-time, jeopardizing their financial aid eligibility, while others are spending money on classes that basically amount to filler, at least as far as education requirements are concerned. Still other students may be choosing to take a semester or more off from school when faced with the prospect of being unable to enroll in any of the classes they want or need to take. Even more frustrating for students who need to take specific courses to graduate is that along with overstuffing sections of popular classes, universities are more likely to cut sections and courses (and even departments) with low enrollments to conserve resources, potentially leaving even more students high and dry.
Aside from analyzing every possible approach to fulfilling their degree requirements; petitioning professors, colleges, and department heads to grant exceptions in the wake of overflowing classrooms; and being sure to register as early as possible for next semester, there are few other options available to undergraduate students caught in this situation. However, students who are in the midst of their college searches can take steps to protect themselves against canceled classes and prolonged stays in college. A growing number of schools offer four-year graduation guarantees and accelerated degree programs, allowing students who can make the commitments required to avoid frustrations and minimize their time to degree.
October 14, 2009
The topic of health care has dominated the news recently. Voices on both sides of the political spectrum have been trying to either stop the debate entirely or come up with ways to compromise on a complicated issue even legislators have become perplexed by. In a big push forward, the Senate Finance Committee voted "yes" yesterday to approve an overhaul of the country's health care system, signaling at least the first step toward potential medical reform.
But how will college students be affected in all this, if at all? An article in Inside Higher Education today looks at whether the proposals currently being considered will have an adverse affect on students and campus-based health care plans, which many students leave their parents' plans for. The article suggests that without any major changes, the bill up for debate ignores college health insurance plans altogether as it focuses instead on employer-based group plans and individual policies. Allowing students to remain on their parents' health insurance plans for a longer period of time could be an option under the proposal, although this would not address students whose parents have lost their jobs and health insurance, for example, and need an affordable plan to get them through their college careers.
Lookout Mountain Group, a nonpartisan group that researches the impacts of health care reform on students, released a statement last week that the proposals currently on the table did little in the way of making sure college students had access to affordable, quality health care plans. The group further warns that the cost of health care for students could actually increase if language isn't included in the bill that would address the lack of campus-based options. Jim Mitchell, the director of Student Health Services at Montana State University and spokesperson for the Lookout Mountain Group, said in a release that any health care proposals should strive to include college? and university?sponsored student health insurance/benefit plans under the bill's definition of "group insurance."
Worst case scenario, how would students' health care be affected if no changes were made? According to the Government Accountability Office, 71 percent of four-year private colleges, 82 percent of four-year public colleges, and 29 percent of two-year public colleges offer student health care plans. Best case scenario, legislators realize the oversight and work on including amendments that would not only maintain campus-based student health insurance plans, but expand health insurance offerings for college students, a population that definitely needs affordable options.
No matter what happens with the health care bill, consider your health insurance options before you get to college. Many insurance plans will allow full-time students to remain dependents under their parents' health care plans while those students are in college. If you choose to go this route, make sure you've notified your college; many schools that carry student health insurance plans automatically charge and enroll new undergraduates for their plans. (You may need to provide proof of your insurance in this situation, but that's for your own benefit. Trust us. You don't want to start college uninsured, and will be thankful for insurance when you get sick at college.) If you go with your college's plan, you'll probably pay less than you would for a private plan, and you'll need to be comfortable going to your school's clinic or health center for most of your minor ailments.
October 21, 2009
On Tuesday, the College Board published the latest installment in its Trends in Higher Education Series, annual reports detailing changes in college costs and student financial aid. These newest reports cover the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years and provide some insight into how economic difficulties have affected paying for college. Despite the recession, tuition continued to rise at a pace comparable to previous years, but financial aid has undergone some changes.
Between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, tuition increased 6.5% at 4-year public colleges and 4.4% at 4-year private colleges. Tuition and fees for in-state students at four-year state colleges rose from $6,591 to $7,020. Out-of-state tuition and fees at public colleges rose to $18,548, a 6.2 percent increase. Private college tuition and fees rose to $26,273. Total costs of attendance also rose to $19,388 for public colleges (a 5.8% increase) and $39,028 for private colleges (a 4.4% increase). Rising college costs are attributed to declines in state funding and massive endowment losses brought about by the recession.
Despite tuition increases and greater financial difficulties for students and families, total student borrowing dropped by 1% when adjusted for inflation in 2008-2009. Federal student loan borrowing increased by $11 billion, or 15 percent, to about $84 billion. Most strikingly, there was a 50% drop in private loan volume in the 2008-2009 academic year, as a result of the tightening of credit markets. The 2008-2009 academic year also saw a growth in grant aid (both need-based and merit-based college scholarships and grants). About 2/3 of full-time undergraduates receive grants and the average grant was $5,041. The College Board anticipates that students will receive an estimated $5,400 in grant aid and tax benefits in 2009-2010.
A large portion of grant aid is made up of merit-based awards, like academic scholarships, which worries some analysts who are concerned with the increasing cost of tuition pricing lower income families out of college entirely. While, after adjusting for aid, the average net cost of tuition actually has declined for families over the period covered in these reports, another recent report by Postsecondary Education Opportunity research Tom Mortenson showed that students from the poorest families tended to have the largest amount of unmet financial need. The sharp drop in private loans suggests those families may be less likely to be able to secure funding to cover that unmet need, even if colleges and the federal government have made more aid available this year.
Much of the growth in federal student loans and college grants and scholarships is likely due to the increased amount of aid colleges and the federal government made available to struggling students as a result of the recession. However, much of this emergency aid is intended to be temporary, so these changes may turn out to be anomaly, rather than an overall trend.
October 22, 2009
As tuition and fees continue to rise and students need more financial aid to complete their college educations, ideas on how to both keep costs for students low and bring schools' budgets under control continue to crop up among lawmakers.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former president at the University of Tennessee turned Republican lawmaker, has an editorial on the topic in Newsweek this week, where he compares the three-year degree track to a fuel-efficient car. It would save students money, ease the dependence on federal and campus-based financial aid, and allow students to move into the working world or to pursue an advanced degree in less time. And it would be up to the students to decide whether to complete their degrees in three years.
Many schools allow students to complete their degrees in three years, but few have official programs set up where students enter college knowing they'll be done in three years. Hartwick College has allowed students to complete their studies in three years for a while, but announced earlier this year a more official academic program for high-performing students that could be completed in three years. Students in that program will save about $43,000 in tuition and fees by forgoing a fourth year. This fall, 16 first-year students and four second-year students entered into the three-year program at Hartwick. Lipscomb University also unveiled a three-year option this year to students willing to attend classes in the summer. The state of Rhode Island has legislation on the table this month that would require all schools in the state to offer a three-year option.
On the other side, Waldorf College will stop offering the three-year programs it had set up as most students and staff preferred a traditional four-year track. Many students want the full four (or however many) years on campus. I still often wish I was back there. Students who have compressed a four-year program into three years have less time for what often makes the college experience memorable - time for friends, social outings and extracurricular activities that make you more well-rounded and able to juggle many aspects of your life at once. Alexander acknowledges possible obstacles in his piece, but maintains that something needs to be done to stay competitive and address an economic fallout that could affect schools for years to come.
Why not leave the choice to the students? What do you think of the opportunity to complete a college degree in three years? It could make sense for students looking at completing advanced degrees in addition to their master's. And the cost-saving aspect of the idea would turn many students on to the idea, especially returning adult students. Let us know whether you're planning on completing a degree in three years, and whether you think all schools should offer a three-year program as an option.
June 19, 2013
Yes, I’ve applied for a LOT of scholarships. It was basically my full-time job throughout college and Scholarships.com was my preferred source for finding the scholarships that I qualified for. You may think that this post will outline how you should do the same thing. False: Me telling you how to apply for 300 scholarships would be like a guy who found a mountain of gold after searching for 30 years telling you to take the same long, exhausting journey. You don’t want to repeat his arduous trek – you just want to buy a one-way ticket to gold mountain! In the same way, I want to teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that will help you to win scholarships...without having to apply for hundreds of them.
Start Small. I started this whole thing by applying to one scholarship. That’s it. I won that scholarship ($1,500 a year for the rest of my education) and that’s what motivated me to apply for more. Some students create massive goals for themselves and set out to win a ton of scholarships, yet they soon find the process to be daunting and give up. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. Don’t try to find hundreds or even dozens of scholarships in one shot. Instead, find five scholarships that have deadlines within the next six months and make it a priority to apply for them. First off, it’s a lot easier to find five scholarships that you not only qualify for, but feel you have a solid shot of winning. Second, this will be enough of a taste of the application process to help you determine whether or not you’d like to keep this whole scholarship thing up. If you do end up winning a scholarship, or if you simply enjoyed the process, then you can go to town and apply for many more. Until then, keep it simple.
Select the Right Scholarships. National corporate scholarships draw a lot of applicants so even if you are eligible, the odds of you winning are low in comparison to the smaller ones. The same goes for awards with very limited requirements. What should you do then? I suggest that your five scholarships look something like this:
This mix still gives you the opportunity to win a national award but increases your chances of success by including smaller, local scholarships that receive fewer applicants.
Take Your Time. Now that you’ve got your scholarships selected, you should put maximum effort into completing the applications to the best of your abilities. Don’t procrastinate until the night before the essay is due and just slap a few things together with the hope that it’s good enough – really research and consider what each scholarship organization values and try to highlight the areas of your life that reflect these values.
Push Through It! You are going to feel unsure. Maybe you hate your essay. Maybe your resume feels lacking. You get stuck, then procrastinate, then neglect and before you know it, the deadline has passed and you didn’t apply for the scholarship. Don’t let this happen! If you don’t apply, you will never have a chance of winning. Push through those feelings of frustration, ask for help if you need it and just submit your scholarship application. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.
Diane Melville is the author of The Community College Advantage and president of the community college planning website, Transfer Bootcamp. Diane has applied for more than 300 scholarships (using Scholarships.com, of course!) and paid for her entire college education using private scholarships. She hopes to use this blog to share everything she has learned about paying for college.
September 27, 2013
Navigating college can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Every school runs a little differently but most have many common resources available to all students, new and seasoned.
Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.
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