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Is College Still Worthwhile?

December 30, 2011

Is College Still Worthwhile?

by Alexis Mattera

There’s been much debate about the true value of a college degree. This isn’t surprising given rising tuition costs and lower employment rates but a new study by a 2011 Trinity College graduate reveals spending the time and money to obtain a college degree is still very much worthwhile.

That graduate – Sarah Millar – came to this conclusion by examining data from government and private sources as well as her own personal experience as a college student. She found that although college costs have climbed an average of 6.4 percent each year since 1981 and annual income has only risen 0.4 percent in that time, the average take-home pay of college graduates is $38,950 versus $21,500 of students who only graduated high school. Unemployment rates of the two groups are also in favor or college degree holders – as of last month, 4.4 percent to 9.6 percent – and earnings of college grads exceed high school grads by more than $1 million over 40 years. Millar does note that all colleges and majors are not created equal, though, as average starting salaries of recent grads in specific fields of study from well-known or prestigious schools are more than those from state universities or smaller private colleges.

Check out more information from the study here then tell us: What do you think of Millar’s findings?


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Pell Maximum Maintained, Eligibility Tightened

by Alexis Mattera

The Federal Pell Grant program as we know it has been in jeopardy in recent years but an agreement reached last night will keep its funding intact. While college students will still receive the maximum award amount per year, the number of eligible recipients is a quite different (and unfortunate) story.

The Chronicle reported congressional leaders agreed on a spending bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by 1 percent, thereby maintaining the maximum Pell Grant amount of $5,550. To make this $300 million increase possible, however, eligibility for the award has been restricted. Under the bill, Pell Grant funding will only be available to each student for six years instead of nine, high school diplomas or GEDs will be required (no more ability-to-benefit tests) and the income cap for receiving an "automatic zero" expected family contribution will be lowered from $30,000 to $23,000. The interest subsidy on undergraduate student loans during the six-month grace period after a student graduates would also temporarily end.

Yes, the changes are significant but they are far less severe than an earlier bill which would have lowered the income cap to $15,000 and reduced the amount of income working students could exclude when applying for financial aid – changes that would have negatively impacted thousands of college students, especially those attending community colleges. We want to know what you think about the news. Is there a way to maintain federal funding without decreasing eligibility or do you think this bill is the best option?


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Creativity Pays Off - Win This Scholarship of the Week and Earn $10,000 for College!

Annual Create-A-Greeting Card Scholarship Contest Deadline is January 14th

January 9, 2012

Creativity Pays Off - Win This Scholarship of the Week and Earn $10,000 for College!

by Alexis Mattera

Have you ever spent time searching for the perfect card for your mom’s birthday, best friend’s first job or cousin’s anniversary but couldn’t find a greeting that conveyed exactly what you wanted to say? If so, this Scholarship of the Week – and its $10,000 prize – has your name all over it.

The Gallery Collection’s Annual Create-A-Greeting Card $10,000 Scholarship Contest asks its applicants – high school, undergraduate and graduate students – to design the front of a greeting card (holiday, birthday, thank you, get well, etc.) using original photographs, artwork and/or computer graphics. The student with the winning design will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship and have his or her creation made into a greeting card to be sold on The Gallery Collection’s website.

Have the perfect idea? Visit the official website and make sure to get your design submitted before the January 14th deadline. As always, to learn more about this award and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?


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University System of Georgia to Consolidate Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

When quality and quantity go head to head, it’s the former that usually prevails. Given the University System of Georgia’s latest announcement, it appears such is the case in higher education as well.

The system’s board of regents recently approved a plan to consolidate eight of the 35 state colleges and universitiesGainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University; Middle Georgia College and Macon State College; Waycross College and South Georgia College; and Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University – into four schools. Spokesman John Millsaps revealed that though the consolidations were brought about by the fledgling economy, the plan was devised with the students in mind: Combining the schools will provide greater access to more classes, degree programs, educators and resources and remove bureaucratic hurdles like transferring credits between institutions.

Are you attending or considering attending one of the institutions to be consolidated? If so, how does this news impact your college career?


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Good Samaritan Pays Student’s Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

It’s Friday the 13th and instead of posting some bad, unlucky or just plain weird news, we thought we’d share a story that’s downright feel-good.

Like many college students today, John Jay College criminology major Angy Rivera was having a difficult time making her tuition payments. While she was eligible for in-state tuition rates as an undocumented student, Rivera could not qualify for state and federal aid so she began selling what she called handmade education bracelets on Chipin.com to bridge the financial gap. When her tale was recently featured in the New York Daily News, retired MTA conductor Luis Hernandez took note – and action: He donated $2,500 to cover the remainder of Rivera’s tuition, even though she was a complete stranger. “I’m retired and I’ve got a little money to spend,” said Hernandez. “I like helping out kids...especially if it’s somebody trying to get an education.” Naturally, Rivera shed tears of joy and told Hernandez, “This just made my next six months – you don’t know how big this is!” She also said she will use the money generated from her bracelets sales to pay for books and fees.

Times may be tough but if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t too proud to ask for help, good things can happen.


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Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

Tenured Prof Leaves Stanford to Offer Low-Cost Online Courses

January 24, 2012

Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

by Alexis Mattera

Schools like MIT, Berkeley, Tufts and Michigan have been in the news recently for their support of online certificate programs. These courses are often low-cost or free alternatives to traditional college courses and one professor is so confident in this method of education that he has left a prominent position at a prestigious university to provide just that to the masses.

As reported by Reuters, The Chronicle and other outlets, Sebastian Thrun has left his post as a tenured computer science professor at Stanford to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes. Thrun is no stranger to this kind of education – he taught an artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students around the world that had students taking the in-person lecture at Stanford flocking to its online counterpart – and will now focus on crafting online courses that recreate the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring through Udacity. One of the start-up’s first offerings will be a course called “Building a Search Engine” that will teach students with no prior programming experience how to build a search engine like Google.

What do you think of Thrun’s new operation? Is this the direction higher education is headed in or will traditional classes still have a place in the future?


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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?


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University of Maine Freezes Tuition at All Campuses

by Alexis Mattera

The weather in Maine is far from balmy this time of year but did the chilly temps inspire the University of Maine’s approach to college costs? Probably not but it’s kind of fun to think so.

For the first time in 25 years, undergraduate tuition has been frozen at all seven campuses: Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland and Presque Isle. Vice Chancellor Rebecca Wyke said the decision was not an easy one for the University of Maine System Trustees and though the implementation will be equally difficult, the tuition freeze was necessary. "It's going to challenge the campuses because they're already facing a budget gap that they're going to have to close," Wyke said, but explained, "The board’s action is very consistent with where Maine family income is and it reflects their understanding of the difficult financial times that we're in."

UMaine students in the audience, what do you think of the news? Are you glad to be getting a tuition reprieve or do you think tuition increases – even slight ones – are necessary to maintain campus resources, course quality and the college experience overall?


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Study Reveals Fewer Students Attending First-Choice Schools

by Alexis Mattera

It’s finally decision day. You rush to your mailbox – either traditional or electronic – and find a fat envelope from your first-choice school waiting for you. They like you, they really like you...but will you reciprocate those feelings in the fall? According to a new survey, it’s becoming far less probable.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California Los Angeles study revealed that of the 204,000 college freshmen surveyed at 207 schools, just 58 percent enrolled at their first-choice college. This is the fifth year the percentage has dropped and program director John H. Pryor said financial aid (or lack of it) is a huge factor in students’ decisions. “These students who were accepted and are not attending are much more likely to say they are not going because they did not get the financial aid they wanted.” (Read the survey in its entirety here.)

How many of you were accepted to your first-choice school only to have to give up your spot because of one of the factors cited in the survey?


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