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Fee Increase? No Problem!

Students Willing to Pay Up for Needed Projects

January 13, 2011

Fee Increase? No Problem!

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: You’ve been accepted by College A and College B - your two top choice schools - and have been awarded generous financial aid packages by both. You decide to attend College B but one year in, a project is announced that would increase the fees you’re paying...on top of the already hefty sums of tuition, books and housing. Are you on board? If so, you’re in good company.

State funding for colleges isn’t what it used to be so when a school needs new dormitories, laboratories and classrooms, students have become more willing to fund these endeavors because they will benefit their educational experience. In Colorado, mandatory student fee increases range from 18.5 percent (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) to 611 percent (Mesa State) since 2006 but current students are readily handing over the cash…even though the majority will have graduated long before the projects are finished.

"I won't be a student here when the projects are complete, but I do know my degree will only gain in value," said Sammantha O'Brien, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Brad Baca, vice president of finance and administration at Western State College in Gunnison, agrees. "We're in a very competitive environment and having high-quality amenities and facilities is an important factor," he said. And if the upgrades aren’t reward enough, students at these schools are more informed and involved: At Western State, for example, 40 percent of the student population participated in the fee vote – a record turnout.

What do you think, readers? Would you pony up the dough for a dorm you won't live in or an academic building in which you’ll never hear a lecture?


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Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

Changes in Higher Ed Funding Afoot

February 15, 2011

Obama (Sorta Kinda) Keeps His Promise

by Alexis Mattera

While "Honest Barack" doesn't have quite the same ring as our 16th President’s nickname, we have to give him credit for keeping his promise to privilege spending on education and research...for the most part: Some potentially painful cuts could slice through the higher education pie relatively soon.

First, the good news. The 2012 budget blueprint reveals the maximum Pell Grant (currently set at $5,550 per year) would not be slashed by $845 as originally expected and funding will continue for financial aid programs including AmeriCorps, the Perkins Loan and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Programs and academic research agencies. The Education Department's overall budget would grow by 4.3 percent in 2012 under the President's budget but despite this positive information, it won’t be all unicorns and butterflies for college students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration had to make some "tough choices" to maintain the current level of funding and compensate for future spending. For example, the department's 2012 budget calls for ending a three-year experiment allowing students to qualify for two Pell Grants in a calendar year and use this funding to attend college year-round, as well as eliminating the subsidy in which the government pays interest on graduate student loans while the students are in school; the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, the Byrd Honors Scholarships and the TEACH Grant program would also be eliminated.

Obama said, "Education is an investment that we need to win the future...and to make sure that we can afford these investments, we’re going to have to get serious about cutting back on those things that would be nice to have but we can do without," but student advocates, like Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, were quick to show their displeasure. "It is regrettable that the administration is proposing to maintain Pell by making cuts to other student aid programs that provide much needed funds to students," he said.

The information above merely scratches the surface (check out Inside Higher Ed’s article for all details) but it’s enough to get the conversation started. What do you think of the proposed budget? Will the changes impact your ability to pay for school? Would you propose a different course of action?


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Alaska Governor Stresses Need for State-Funded Scholarship Dollars

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, our goal is to make finding money for college as easy as possible. Paying the full cost of tuition out of pocket isn’t in the cards for most college-bound students and high-interest loans aren’t the most desirable options for others, meaning some students’ quests for postsecondary degrees must be funded solely by scholarships, grants and fellowships. Can it be done? Of course it can. You just need the right people on your side.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell recently requested the funding of the incoming Alaska Performance Scholarship program, a nurse training proposal and a handful of other educational priorities from state lawmakers. While Parnell feels students have worked hard to earn state-funded performance-based scholarship dollars and would be "out to dry" without it, senators worry the program could leave rural students behind if aid is distributed unevenly across the state...not to mention create a potential legal problem given the state constitution’s promise of fair education services. Students seeking need-based grants do have the existing AlaskAdvantage program to turn to but it is significantly underfunded. It could, however, gain support through Senate Bill 43, which calls for AlaskAdvantage to receive $7 million of the proposed $21 million in state college scholarship funding on an annual basis.

Will it happen? Our Magic 8-Ball says "cannot predict now" but we hope it goes through for the sake of the many students in need. How are you currently paying for or planning to pay for school? What programs have you found most helpful in securing the funding you need?


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Duke Faculty Raise Concerns Over Kunshan Campus

Questions of Cost, Academic Freedom Voiced

April 25, 2011

Duke Faculty Raise Concerns Over Kunshan Campus

by Alexis Mattera

International campuses are becoming somewhat of a trend lately – NYU, Yale and Vanderbilt all have plans in the works – but the faculty at one well-known school is questioning its proposed overseas operation.

Duke University approved the first round of development for a comprehensive campus in Kunshan, China nearly a year and a half ago but educators voiced their concerns to President Richard Brodhead at a recent academic council meeting. Though the school already has an overseas presence (Duke partnered with the National University of Singapore to create a graduate medical program in 2005), faculty members said now that the campus is actually under construction, they feel they’ve been left out of the loop on matters including cost, academic freedom, Internet access and faculty involvement and buy-in. Craig Henriquez, chairman of Duke’s academic council, believes faculty members are just as apprehensive about the Kunshan campus as they would be about anything unfamiliar. “In the beginning I think most people saw it as just simply an idea,” he said. “But now that it’s all coming together, I think you’re starting to see a level of anxiety that comes with any new venture.”

To be clear, there have been some major changes to the initial proposal (check out Inside Higher Ed’s article for specifics) but Provost Peter Lange says that since “nobody has ever launched something like this before,” the school has to be “cautious and careful, but we also have to take some risks in order to learn what is possible." Do you agree with the administration or side with the faculty on this matter? Would you be interested in attending Duke’s Kunshan campus given the controversy?


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New Kids in Class, This Scholarship of the Week is for You!

Expat Youth Scholarship Deadline Approaching

April 25, 2011

New Kids in Class, This Scholarship of the Week is for You!

by Alexis Mattera

Were you ever the new kid in class? What about the new kid in class in an unfamiliar country or culture? If this sounds like you, apply for our Scholarship of the Week: Clements International’s Expat Youth Scholarship!

This unique contest is for expat students who spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures. Simply create a two- to three-minute video explaining your favorite thing about your host country and its culture (if you have lived abroad in more than one country, please only select one), upload your video to YouTube then visit Clements International’s website to submit your entry by the May 13th deadline.

For more information on this and other scholarship opportunities, complete a free scholarship search today!


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Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

National Need Mirrored in the Buckeye State

April 26, 2011

Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

by Alexis Mattera

If you are attending college, you probably need some form of financial aid to pay for tuition, room and board, books and other living expenses. Next year, it’s likely you’ll need a little bit more.

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported the number of students in the U.S. who have filed forms for federal financial aid for the 2011-2012 academic year has increased by about 1 million from last year. At Ohio State alone, requests are up about 10,600 from two years ago - a 22-percent jump, says financial aid director Diane Stemper. Ohio University’s Sondra Williams reports a similar trend with a 12-percent increase in federal financial aid applications. The reasons for the increased need aren’t surprising. "Many people who used to have the resources to send their children to college have lost their jobs or been downsized," Stemper said, adding lower home and stock values and rising food and gas prices are also culprits.

Though more students are getting the aid they require – OSU has seen an increase in Pell Grant recipients enrolled and OU has more students receiving subsidized loans – the financial relief may be short-lived: Governor John Kasich’s state budget proposal has public universities in Ohio could increasing tuition by up to 3.5 percent. Current undergraduate and graduate students, do you need more financial aid now than you did when you first enrolled? High schoolers and incoming freshman, how do you plan to pay for school?


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Louisiana Board of Regents Cuts 100+ Programs

by Alexis Mattera

With the royal wedding set to happen in less than one day’s time, many people’s minds are filled with thoughts of excess, grandeur and all things sparkly. But instead of waking up at an ungodly hour to toast the new bride and groom with sapphire-hued Kate-tinis, the Louisiana Board of Regents has a rather opposite plan: cut more than 100 academic degree programs statewide.

The Regents labeled the programs averaging fewer than eight bachelor’s degree graduates, five master’s degree graduates or three doctoral graduates in the past three years as low-completers and terminated 109 programs directly, while 189 will be consolidated or shaped into new programs. Southern University, LSU, the University of Louisiana and Southeastern Louisiana University recorded the most degrees lost and no public historically black colleges will offer a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language once the programs are phased out; a small sliver of positive news for students is that eliminated programs will remain in place until currently-enrolled upperclassmen graduate.

Though Karen Denby, Regents associate commissioner for academic affairs, said the colleges will be more efficient with class sizes, faculty loads and graduation rates as a result of the cuts, some administrators – like Mike Gargano, LSU System vice president of student and academic support – are still wary about the motivation behind the changes...and we’d assume students are as well. To our Louisiana readers, does this announcement impact your intended major or career path?


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Food-bot Keeps Stomachs and Wallets Full

Carnegie Mellon Grad’s Program a Hit with Budget-Conscious College Students

April 29, 2011

Food-bot Keeps Stomachs and Wallets Full

by Alexis Mattera

The academic year is winding down at many colleges and so are many students’ meal plans and bank account balances. Instead of reaching for the ramen noodles (AGAIN), grab your computer instead. That’s what Greg Woloschyn did last year and it paid off: He created Food-bot and didn’t pay for food for five months.

The then-senior and computer science major at Carnegie Mellon grew tired of scouring his campus for free dining options so he created an email account that screened messages from every mailing list on campus for food-related terms. Once that method proved successful, Woloschyn spent his winter break writing a more advanced computer program called Food-bot which used the information to populate a food calendar online. His findings weren’t just doughnuts or pizza either: Woloschyn trained the program to rate the food mentioned in event listings (for example, steak earned a 10) and assigned “awkwardness” ratings for no-cost noshies at ethnic or religious-affiliated events.

One year later, Woloschyn’s plate is pretty full: He’s expanded Food-bot beyond Carnegie Mellon to serve empty-pocketed students at Berkeley, the University of Maryland at College Park, Duke, Case Western and MIT and has plans to develop mobile applications for Android phones and iPhones this summer when he’s not at work as a software engineer for Qualcomm. If you’ve tried Food-bot, has it kept your belly and wallet satisfied?


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How Expensive is "Too Expensive" for a College Education?

Students Willing to Spend More for Academics, Prestige

November 4, 2010

How Expensive is "Too Expensive" for a College Education?

by Alexis Mattera

The true cost of a college education is seldom the number that’s printed in school brochures and on various college comparison lists. When you figure in federal aid, scholarships, grants, room and board, books and supplies, that price fluctuates. One thing remains constant - higher education doesn’t come cheap - but a new poll finds students are willing to stretch their finances for several key factors.

In April, right up until enrollment deadlines, students were still considering “too expensive” schools and were willing to stretch to pay for their education, poll conductors the College Board and the Art & Science Group report. While it would be more financially sound to select the school with the lower tuition and better financial aid package, “too expensive” colleges remained in play if they had strong academics in students’ fields of interest, were places students felt comfortable, had prestigious academic reputations or had excellent records of graduate school acceptance or good job placement after students graduated. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Twenty-six percent of students surveyed said their family would have to stretch a lot, but “I think we’ll make it.”
  • Twenty-two percent chose “I’m not sure how my family will afford to send me to college, but I believe we’ll work something out when the time comes.”
  • Eleven percent said, “I don’t think my family can afford to send me to college, but we are going to try.” Nearly 40 percent of students surveyed did not have a sense of long-term costs, citing “no idea” what their likely monthly payment on student loans would be after graduation.

If you think back to every award show you’ve ever seen, you’ll recall those who do not win always say it is an honor just to be nominated. The same can be said for college admissions: It’s an amazing achievement to be accepted to a prestigious college but is attending worth it if the cost of attendance is going to drive you and your family into debt?


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And the Best Value Colleges Are…

Kiplinger Ranks Top Private and Liberal Arts Schools

November 15, 2010

And the Best Value Colleges Are…

by Alexis Mattera

True or false: Public schools are always a better value than private schools or liberal arts schools. Have your answer all bubbled in? Let’s see if it’s right.

A school’s value isn’t solely determined by cost; though it does play a significant role, if you factor in curriculum caliber and overall quality of life, it turns out that many private and liberal arts schools are indeed better values than their public counterparts. That and the amount families actually have to pay after financial aid is only around $20,000. Nice.

According to Kiplinger’s annual lists, Swarthmore College and Princeton University lead the pack for liberal arts and private institutions, respectively. Why? Swarthmore’s most qualified applicants only pay $18,791 – that’s nearly two-thirds off the school’s $52,650 sticker price and a huge reason why almost all Swatties return for sophomore year – and Princeton graduates leave its hallowed halls with the lowest average debt, due in large part to a tuition bill less than $50,000 and the elimination of student loans from its financial aid package. Here are the top 10 in each category:

Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Swarthmore College
  2. Pomona College
  3. Williams College
  4. Washington and Lee University
  5. Davidson College
  6. Bowdoin College
  7. Claremont McKenna College
  8. Amherst College
  9. Hamilton College
  10. Vassar College

Best Values in Private Colleges

  1. Princeton University
  2. Yale University
  3. California Institute of Technology
  4. Rice University
  5. Duke University
  6. Harvard University
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Columbia University
  9. Brown University
  10. Dartmouth University

Students and parents, does this information have you rethinking the possibility of private and liberal arts schools?


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