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UChicago’s New Financial Aid Initiative Targets Local Students

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Chicago has recently announced the launch of UChicago Promise, an initiative aimed at helping high school students in the city of Chicago gain admission, pay for and succeed in college. The cornerstone of the program is the commitment from the university to eliminate loans from financial aid packages of students from Chicago who are admitted.

“Chicago, from our pre-schools to our world-renowned universities, is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The step taken today by the University of Chicago is a creative step that will help many of Chicago’s own achieve their goals and graduate without a financial burden.”

In addition to replacing loans with grants and other nonrepayable student aid, UChicago Promise includes an automatic waiver of the University’s application fee and offers a wide array of support and mentoring programs for aspiring college students. The initiative will take effect for those applying this year and will not be available to students with existing loans or who have already matriculated.


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California Legislation Proposes a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree

by Suada Kolovic

In what seems to be a growing trend across the country, a California state legislator is the latest elected official to push for a bachelor’s degree that costs no more than $10,000 total (yes, total!). And while last year’s college graduates left school with an average of $25,000 in debt, the possibility of a $10,000 degree to incoming college freshman is encouraging.

Assemblyman Dan Logue (R) introduced the bill following similar initiatives in Florida and Texas: In the proposed California legislation, students would start to earn college credit in high school through Advanced Placement courses and would then enroll full-time at a community college. The state university would in turn accept up to 60 credits for transfer. The problem? There’s the possibility that the state itself could be responsible for much of the cost since the bill requires that schools and colleges be reimbursed for any mandated expenses. As of right now, the legislation has only one sponsor while the speaker of the California Assembly, a democrat, reportedly has alternative plans for higher education reform.

Given California’s current budget woes, do you think the proposed legislation is the right option for the state? Let us know what you think.


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College Student Tweets Oil Tycoon for Tuition Assistance…and Gets a Response!

by Suada Kolovic

Chances are if you’re a college student, you have a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Reddit account and with all that social media at your fingertips, you have a few options: 1. Repost a someecard that your friends have seen no less than 20 times (it’s still hilarious to you!) 2. Spend some time analyzing Taylor Swift’s latest breakup 3. Catch up on Grumpy Cat memes or 4. Tweet billionaire oil tycoons for some financial assistance. Well, you wouldn’t be the first to partake in the latter pastime.

Seth Samuelson, a current freshman at Oklahoma State University, had been hounding billionaire T. Boone Pickens on Twitter since September asking for help in paying for his college education. Last week, he finally got a response...though not one that he was hoping for. The social media-savvy billionaire tweeted back, “Give me 10 good reasons why I should do it,” following up a day later with, “Admire your guts but unless your [grade point average] is 3.0 or better, don’t worry about the 10 reasons.” Although getting a response at all was quite a shock, we should mention that Samuelson had tweeted Pickens a total of 68 times. “He’s a generous man, so why not ask?” Samuelson, an 18-year-old sports media major, told FORBES on Monday. Alas, Samuelson did not reply because he does not meet the GPA requirements. Jay Rosser, a spokesman for Pickens, wrote in an email that the billionaire “appreciated Samuelson’s persistence and wished him the best.”

Do you agree with Samuelson’s attempt to coax a billionaire into paying for his college education? Let us know in the comments section. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a different route in financing your college degree, Scholarships.com is a great place to start!


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University Will Require All Students to Purchase iPad Minis

by Suada Kolovic

With college just around the corner for high school seniors, preparing for your first year can be daunting. And while you’re going through your mental checklist of what you’ll need, don’t forget to add an iPad mini if you’re headed to Lynn University: Beginning this fall, all incoming students will be required to purchase one.

Lynn’s devices will come loaded with students’ summer reading and core curriculum texts and will cost about half as much as their print counterparts at $475. Why the shift? After meeting with Apple representatives and learning more about iTunes U and the iPad, Lynn officials experimented with the technology and were pleased with the initial outcome. During the January term, one section of the course was taught on iPads and utilized “challenge-based learning” – a method developed by Apple that focuses on using technology to apply course content to real-world problems – while the other section covered the same content through traditional methods. At the end of the term, students from both sections were surveyed about their experiences and those using challenge-based learning and the iPads were not only happier with the class but learned more! (For more on Lynn University’s switch to an Apple centered curriculum, click here.)

Do you agree with Lynn University’s decision to require an iPad mini based on one course evaluation? Let us know in the comments section.


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Report: Millions of Graduates Hold Jobs that Don’t Require College Degrees

by Suada Kolovic

It wasn’t too long ago that the majority of American’s agreed that one had to earn a college degree in order to succeed in the workforce. Unfortunately for millennials, the rate of success after obtaining said degree is no longer so intrinsically tied: According to a report, millions of college graduates suffer a mismatch between education and employment and hold jobs that don’t require costly degrees.

The study from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity says that nearly half of all American college graduates in 2010 – nearly three years after the recession began – were underemployed, holding relatively low-paying and low-skilled jobs. Of the 41.7 million working 2010 college graduates, about 48 percent work jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree and 38 percent of those polled didn’t even need a high school diploma. Authors Richard Vedder, Jonathan Robe and Christopher Denhart agreed that the country could be overeducating its citizens and questioned if too many public dollars were being spent on producing graduates that the nation’s economy doesn’t need. "Maybe we should incentivize colleges to more accurately counsel students," Vedder told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "If you get a degree in business administration, you may not necessarily walk into a middle-class life. There's a good chance you may end up being a bartender." (For more on this study, click here.)

Do you think that a college degree is necessary for gainful employment and upward mobility? Let us know what you think.


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Bloomberg’s Latest Donation to Johns Hopkins Tops $1 Billion Mark

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 (we are technically still in a recession), Michael Bloomberg isn’t one of them: The New York City mayor’s latest $350 million pledge has pushed his lifetime donations to his alma mater past the $1 billion mark. Yup, that’s billions. With a b.

Johns Hopkins announced the donation late Saturday, saying it believed Bloomberg – who amassed his fortune creating the global financial services firm Bloomberg LP – is now the first person to give more than $1 billion to a single American university. (This assertion, however, is hard to verify since many donors tend to give anonymously.) About $250 million of Bloomberg’s latest contribution will be part of a larger effort to raise $1 billion to foster cross-disciplinary work at Johns Hopkins; the remaining $100 million will be devoted to need-based financial aid for undergraduate students in the form of 2,600 Bloomberg scholarships in the next 10 years. "Johns Hopkins University has been an important part of my life since I first set foot on campus more than five decades ago," Bloomberg said in the statement issued by the university. "Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it."

What do you think of Bloomberg’s generosity? Do you plan to donate to your college after you graduate?


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Changes to 529 Savings Plans

February 5, 2013

Changes to 529 Savings Plans

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you’re going to pay for your college education can be intimidating. No one wants to pay off student loans for the rest of their lives, full-tuition scholarships are rare and federal student aid seldom covers all college costs but if you’re lucky enough to have a parent or relative willing to help curb the financial strains, it’s important to note that college savings plans are becoming increasingly flexible and affordable. Here are some of the changes to the 529 savings plans for 2013:

  • Increase gift tax exemptions: Grandparents can gift $14,000 annually before they’re charged a gift tax. Since five years of the exempted amount can be gifted at one time, that’s a five-year donation of $70,000 per grandchild while a married couple could potentially gift $140,000, provided they don’t give additional funds to the same grandchild in the five-year span.
  • Expanded qualified expenses: Last year, families couldn’t use 529 plan funds for laptops, iPads, internet service and software but the IRS is going high tech and realizes these are necessary items for higher education. Parents of a student who receives a full or partial scholarship can now use the funds to enhance their child’s educational experience.
  • Declining plan prices: Competitive bidding among plan management companies to run 529 plans on behalf of states is contributing to the trend of downward pricing. (For more information about 529 plans, click here.)

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Four College Majors to Avoid

February 7, 2013

Four College Majors to Avoid

by Suada Kolovic

With recent college graduates facing an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent and substantially lower starting salaries, we have to ask: What path should students take in order to flourish after graduation? And while there isn’t one direct route that translates into success, Georgetown University’s Center on Education has compiled a list of majors that college students should avoid:

  • Liberal Arts (Unemployment Rate for Recent College Graduates 9.2 percent): Studying a broad palette of subjects including everything from literature and philosophy to history and sociology sounds like a dream. Unfortunately, employers may not see a liberal arts degree in the same divine light as the ancient Greeks did.
  • Philosophy and Religious Studies (Unemployment Rate for Recent College Graduates 10.8 percent): With the demand for these two degrees particularly lackluster, it’s difficult to justify them as your desired majors. Susan Heathfield, a career expert and writer of About.com’s Guide to Human Resources, suggests considering a degree in communications instead.
  • Information Systems (Unemployment Rate for Recent College Graduates 11.7 percent): "I'm not exactly sure what someone would do with [an information systems] degree in the current world," Heathfield says. "In the early days, the roles of various programmers, software developers, and network administrators were more distinct, but not anymore. Now the degree to have is computer science or computer engineering."
  • Architecture (Unemployment Rate for Recent College Graduates 13.9 percent): Thanks to the massive hit the housing and commercial real estate industries took in the past decade, architecture has highest unemployment rate among the degrees examined. If you’re interested in the process of planning and designing, engineering might be a more lucrative option.

What are your thoughts on the majors that made the list? Do you agree that they should be avoided at all costs or should students be encouraged to pursue their passion regardless of potentially high employment rates? Let us know in the comments section.


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Cooper Union to Charge Undergraduate Tuition in 2014

by Suada Kolovic

It’s official: After 18 months of intense analysis and serious opposition (we’re looking at you, students who barricaded themselves in the college last December), Cooper Union will begin charging undergraduate tuition for the first time.

Faced with a $12 million annual budget deficit, the Board of Trustees voted last week to reduce the full-tuition scholarship to 50-percent for all undergraduates admitted to the institution beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2014. “The time has come to set our institution on a path that will enable it to survive and thrive well into the future,” said board chairman Mark Epstein in an announcement to students and faculty members in the college’s Great Hall. “Under the new policy, the Cooper Union will continue to adhere to the vision of Peter Cooper, who founded the institution specifically to provide a quality education to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.” None of the 900 current undergraduates would be affected but those considering enrolling in the fall of 2014 and beyond could pay $19,275 a semester.

After the speech, opponents of the decision gathered outside the Great Hall and staged what they called a walkout, arguing that any tuition would alter the essential character of the prestigious school. What do you think of the announcement and the corresponding criticism? Let us know in the comments section.


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California Universities Instate College Graduation Fees

by Suada Kolovic

In the coming weeks, college seniors across the country will take their first steps towards new beginnings with their diplomas in hand…that is, of course, if they pay the recently instated college graduation fees.

According to a recent report, more than half the schools in the California State University system are charging a graduation fee that students are required to pay before receiving their diplomas. While the fees aren’t astronomical (they range from $45 to $115), students are frustrated with a struggling school system that has increased tuition every year and are only now discovering that their diplomas weren’t included in the tuition hikes. "We already have to pay to be here and [now] we've got to pay to leave," California State East Bay sociology major Donnisha Udookon told the Tribune. Students who have long complained about the extra charges agree that by the time they reach graduation, they almost come to expect an add-on fee at every turn. To them, graduation no longer signifies a moment filled with a sense of incredible accomplishment but as the last chance for the institution to nickel-and-dime the graduating student body. (Fine print: Student loans not included.)

Recent college graduates, do you think it’s fair for schools to charge a separate fee for students to receive their diplomas? What’s your school’s stance on graduation fees?


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