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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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Top Universities Where Most Students Live on Campus

by Suada Kolovic

With summer break in full swing for most high school graduates, navigating the long, challenging road that is obtaining a college degree won’t begin until late August. And while your calendar is already chock-full with summer fun, consider this: The country is facing a shortage of on-campus student housing at public and private schools. So perhaps between attending that beach party, block party and annual beach block party, it’s essential that you figure out where you’re going to live this fall.

According to the National Multi Housing Council, areas with the highest campus housing shortages include Arizona, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and West Virginia. But despite the shortage, some universities are still housing a majority of their students on campus. Check out the top 10 national universities with the highest percentage of undergraduates living in campus housing (as of Fall 2011):


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A New Facebook in Town?

August 31, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Looks like there’s a new facebook in town. Sort of. Apparently trying to recapture what the aforementioned site once offered, namely exclusivity to college students, is the new site CollegeOnly.com. It’s really not a bad idea, either, if you think about it. Sure, facebook really took off and their numbers skyrocketed as a result of their opening-up their site and services to the general public, but at what price? Or, at what price to students, I should say. It worked out pretty well for facebook. I mean, does it really make sense to jettison users of your site once they reach a particular age or social status? With regard to site traffic, less is never more.

Several years ago, students could go online and post photos from frat parties and, basically, be college students without fear of their parents, employers, etc. seeing them, for example. Sure, facebook allows you to adjust your privacy settings and sure, you don’t have to accept every friend request you get, but it could be a bit awkward to get an invite from an employer, parent, aunt, etc. with whom you really don’t want to be facebook “friends” for the above-mentioned reasons.

Having only glanced at the site (don’t currently have a “.edu” email address), I can’t go into much more detail, other than to say the clipart on the home page is certainly an interesting choice. Regardless of your gender or preference there’s a plunging neckline there for you. Enjoy.


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Daytona State Employing E-Book Program

Students Could Save Hundreds of Dollars Each Semester

September 3, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Daytona State is going to do it beginning in January 2011; they will actually purchase a license from publishers to allow their students access to electronic versions of the texts they would otherwise go out and try to locate in print form at the best price they can find. For this service, the student s will be charged a “digital materials” fee. For it’s part the college will require publishers to make the e-books readable in multiple types of e-reader, regular computers included. After all, not everybody has a Kindle or an iPad.

Since they can pretty much guarantee one e-book sale per student per class per semester, Dayton State will be able to get a pretty sizeable discount from the publishers. When you consider there are no printing costs, etc. for the publishers, you would think it would be even less, but the estimated fee as it stands is about $30 per e-book. That said, this is still a huge savings off regular e-book pricing and only about a quarter of what they would be paying for standard, new, print textbooks.

Funnily enough, this practice actually originated with one of the oft-maligned “for-profit” institutions, University of Phoenix, where e-books have been in use for some time. At many schools the cost of books, while considerable, is not much in comparison to tuition, room and board at around $1,100 per student at a four year school. However, at Daytona State, a former community college that now offers some four-year degrees, textbooks can make up nearly a third of a student’s total cost of attendance. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why such a school might give this approach a try. And it’s not like the students won’t still have a choice, either. If a student prefers a printed book they can either print the book themselves or purchase a regular print textbook and apply the digital materials fee to the purchase. Would you rather save up to $1,100 or have traditional, print textbooks? Do you think/hope your school will try a similar program? Let us know what you think about Daytona’s upcoming e-book program.


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by Administrator

Perhaps, for the time being, American colleges (see Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc.) are among the most desirable in the world, but there is some concern that this might not always be so and that perhaps this shouldn't be taken for granted.

Before Toyota started shipping automobiles to the United states in ever-increasing quantities, General Motors ruled. The American car was king in the U.S. and led all other auto companies world-wide for three quarters of a century. That began to change in the 80's and now it is not uncommon, even right here in the heartland of America, to see more Japanese cars on your morning commute than those manufactured in the United St. Could we have learned a lesson from Japan? Taken a page from their playbook maybe and avoided the enormous failure and subsequent government bailout of what was once the auto sales leader for 77 consecutive years? There are those who believe education is set on a similar trajectory. Here are five things we might want to consider:

  1. Building Human Capital While college costs continue to rise in the U.S. and it becomes more and more difficult for high school grads to attend college, China is making sure its young people have an opportunity to get a post-secondary education. Apparently they, along with other East Asian countries, see a strong connection between the education of its citizens and its burgeoning economy and are working to build human capital to ensure continued growth and success.
  2. Policy May Set Pace China is set to outpace the U.S. not just in college grads, but also in world-class universities. This is primarily due to the amount of importance they place on education and the funding they commit to seeing that it succeeds. If we are to have any hope of keeping up with China, India and Japan in the coming decades, we may want to consider a similar approach and learn from the success of these programs and their dedication to higher education.
  3. Beware Hubris It's probably not a good idea to assume that, because there presently are no Asian institutions listed among the top 20 worldwide, there won't soon be. According to Yale's president, Richard C. Levin, there is likely to be some change in the coming years, with National University of Singapore one of the schools likely to break into the top twenty.
  4. Eyes on Asia It might be a good idea to take a serious look at some of the programs the most successful schools in Asia have implemented and consider building some of our own in select institutions, for a start. Getting students involved in more global, real-life situations and positions earlier, for example, might be something we should be doing more of.
  5. If You Can't Beat 'Em OK, it may be a bit early to admit defeat and, if we step it up a bit, maybe concession won't be necessary, but working with Asian universities could be among the key steps we could take to improve the quality of the education we offer in the U.S.


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by Administrator

It would seem there are a substantial number of students in California that are relying on local community colleges to provide them with the education they need. Fortunately for them, nearly all of California’s community colleges are willing to dip into their reserves to enroll these unfunded students. Still, though, many of these schools have waiting lists in the thousands as the price of higher education rises and there just aren’t enough paid-for chairs to go around.

Of course, this also raises the issue of whether the number of students being added to the classrooms will have a detrimental impact on the quality of education students can expect to receive at one of these colleges. For example, College of the Sequoias has increased their average class size by about 20% (from 26 to 31 students per class) in addition to using almost $2 million from its reserves to accommodate some students who would probably have had to wait until next year (perhaps longer) to enter college otherwise and whose prospects of employment would not have been very good, either.

With unemployment as high as 18% in the surrounding region, College of the Sequoias’ president Bill Scroggins feels it is his duty to do all he can to make sure as many of these folks as possible have the opportunity to receive a post-secondary education. In Mt. San Jacinto College’s immediate surroundings the unemployment rate is at 15% and, consequently, more than 25% of its students are unfunded. While these schools have not yet furloughed faculty or cut their pay, many other budgetary cuts have been made, such as eliminating travel and conference budgets. Clearly these are short-term solutions and a more permanent solution will need to be found, but at least some of the unfunded students are being taken-in and given an opportunity to get the education they will need in order to work toward their desired career.

Apparently, while California’s economy is running at a high deficit, there are these small bastions of efficient colleges who managed to put away some of their assets for a few years’ worth of rainy days. Hopefully the economy that surrounds them will turn around before their reserves are depleted and the would-be students in the surrounding communities find themselves entirely dependent upon state and federal funding.


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Discounts to Take Advantage of While in College

by Aaron Lin

Being a college student has a lot of perks in terms of accessible facilities, discounts and resources. Here are a few tips on what to take advantage of while you’re a student:

I hope some of you have ideas to add, too. Feel free to comment!

Aaron Lin is a chemistry major at Louisiana State University but has plans to transfer to LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to pursue a medical laboratory science degree and further feed his interest in the application of scientific and medical knowledge. In his free time, Aaron likes to eat food, read and write about food, exercise to work off that food and play the occasional computer game. He also enjoys footbiking, running and Frisbee.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The president of Middlebury College has introduced a plan that would cap the school's annual comprehensive cost increases at 1 percentage point above inflation, a proposal that would slow increases that have been running well above and independent of changes in the Consumer Price Index. The school's board is expected to approve the proposal prior to planning its budgets for the next year.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, the decision to come up with a proposal for a tuition increase cap came when administrators started talking a hard look at the ever-growing cost of a liberal arts degree. At Middlebury, the "comprehensive fee" of an education there - tuition, room and board - has reached past the $50,000 per year mark. And despite a record number of students applying to the school, administrators felt they should be forward-thinking rather than taking advantage of the current windfall of applicants. Those numbers won't keep up forever, after all. In a speech at the college on Friday, the school's president, Ronald D. Liebowitz, said there would eventually "be a price point at which even the most affluent of families will question their investment; the sooner we are able to reduce our fee increases the better."

A number of schools have tried to impose tuition freezes in the past, only to revert back to their old ways when budgets tightened. Princeton University tried in 2007; Williams College tried in 2000. Middlebury administrators, however, hope their cap is sustainable for the long term. Middlebury's increase for the current 2009-10 year was 3.2 percent, 3 points above inflation. The average annual increase for private, four-year colleges is 4.4 percent, according to the College Board. Critics of the proposal worry that cuts will come from elsewhere to make up the funds lost by the cap; the school loses about $900,000 for each percentage point increase it doesn't make. In the Inside Higher Ed article, Liebowitz said he saw revenue potential in the school's unique programming, and that the move could make the college even more desirable to applicants also applying to private colleges who are not considering tuition increase caps.

In 2008, only five colleges charged $50,000 a year or more for tuition, fees, room, and board. In 2009, 58 did, making $50,000 the new norm. Still, it could be worse. Tuition and fees increased by an average of 4.3 percent at private colleges and universities nationwide for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to data from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Those figures, although much higher than the rate of inflation, were still lower than previous averages. In fact, those tuition increases were the lowest they have been in 37 years, despite the struggling economy. On average, schools also allocated 9 percent more to college scholarships and grants for 2009-2010 than the previous academic year.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many students are preparing for the last few weeks of finals, completing projects and cracking books open for a week of finals. Students at Southern Catholic College in Georgia, however, are packing up their bags, potentially for good. Tomorrow is the last day of the semester at the college, nearly a month ahead of schedule due to budget woes that made it impossible for the school to maintain its schedule of courses through mid-May, the traditional end of the spring semester.

The decision was announced abruptly earlier this month by Rev. Shawn Aaron, the school's president and a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, via email to faculty, staff, and the school's nearly 200 students. Students will receive full credit for the entire semester, and graduating students will receive their diplomas in an upcoming simple ceremony at the college. In the email, Father Aaron gave no indication as to whether the school would reopen at all, or whether this was a temporary budget fix. According to an article in The Catholic Review, the school would need $6 million to reopen by June.

The school was founded in 2000, but has had some financial trouble since its first years of operation. According to The Catholic Review, the school had gotten into the bad habit of spending more than it took in; in 2007, the college spent $2.5 million more than it should have, and only continued the trend in the years that followed. The formerly privately-run institution was transferred to the Legionaries of Christ in the fall of 2009, but the congregation was unable to financially support the school. In addition to overspending, the students at the school who were on full scholarships outnumbered those who paid full tuition, room and board, which runs more than $24,500 a year.

Students didn't see the early closure coming, according to the article. They went to social networking sites when they heard the news, learning mostly through hearsay why the school would be closing so suddenly. Their worries include how their grades will be calculated based on the shortened semester, and whether their credits will transfer over to other institutions if the school closes for good. According to The Catholic Review, the school's president waited so long to notify the student body because the school board was waiting to hear back about a last-minute plea to a benefactor of the college. That plea did not lead to any last-minute funding, so the decision was made to close the school when it was apparent the school was unable to pay its faculty and staff beyond April 15.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As students begin evaluating their offers of acceptance from colleges, one factor may weigh more heavily than any other on the tough decisions of choosing the right school - financial aid. The financial aid opportunities School A offers to incoming freshmen that School B does not may be what makes or breaks the decision on where a student will enroll, even if School B is the student's "dream school." Comparing financial aid offers is then an integral process in the decision-making process, and unfortunately you don't have a lot of time to send your notice back to each school you've been accepted to. Here are some tips to navigate the process, and help you determine how to find the "best value":

  • Compare the scholarships and grants available at each school. Have you already been offered either, or has the school simply notified you of your eligibility for more free funding?
  • Compare student loan amounts. What may seem like the best offer at first may actually be anchored by a significant amount of student loan debt. Student loans should be your last resort as far as covering college costs.
  • Compare your expected family contributions. Schools may handle this piece of information differently, and may even accept more information about your family's financial situation after you've received your financial aid package. It's fine to question a school's offer, especially if there are big discrepancies between what each school is offering you.
  • Compare the tuition and fees of each school, and what that financial aid package covers. Some schools may offer you what appears to be an impressive amount of aid based on the cost of tuition alone, and you already know college costs include a lot more than that base price - fees, books and supplies, and room and board, for example.
  • Be aware of what you're eligible to receive next year. Some schools may offer a more impressive financial aid package to incoming freshmen, and pad students' offers the following year with more student loans. Do your research. Compare average student loan debts at each school, talk to students already attending each school, and be frank with your financial aid administrator.
Some students may have been lucky enough to have been accepted into a program that has offered them a tuition-free education. A recent article in USA Today took a look at colleges that offer to pay the tuition of all new students, despite all you've already read about tuition and fee increases across the country. Some are military schools that require a commitment from you to serve in the military post-graduation, but others are schools where there exists a need for new graduates, either due to the school's locations or lack of graduates in certain fields of study. Webb Institute, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and the College of the Ozarks, for example, all offer tuition-free educations to students. Do you know of more? Tell us about them!


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