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Colleges Worry About End of Federal Aid-Based Ability Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

It may feel like we’ve skipped winter but federal aid is about to be put on ice for college hopefuls lacking high school diplomas or GEDs.

As of July 1st, newly-enrolled students will no longer be allowed to take an "ability to benefit" test or complete a set amount of credits without aid; instead, college students will be required to have high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive federal financial aid. How will these students – many of whom are older, seeking training to find a new job, immigrants and students in states like California where the basic adult education budget has been cut – pay for school? College administrators anticipate they will turn to private loans...or give up on their degrees entirely.

David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, says the change “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” as these schools view enrolling students without high school credentials as a key part of providing access to higher education: There are currently about 836,000 students without high school diplomas or GEDs enrolled at two-year public colleges nationwide and according to a limited 2006-2007 Education Department study, students without high school diplomas and GEDs were ultimately more successful in college and had higher GPAs than their classmates with high school diplomas, even if they failed the "ability to benefit" test. If would-be students have to get a GED before going to college and receive zero financial assistance while they prepare, Baime says many will opt out altogether.

What do you think of the new rule regarding federal aid? Do you think a high school diploma or GED is necessary to succeed in college?


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Commit Now, Pay Later

Public College Tuition Often Still Undecided by Enrollment Deadlines

March 21, 2012

Commit Now, Pay Later

by Alexis Mattera

The cost of college is a huge factor for a high school senior about to head off to college for the first time, a transfer student getting ready to continue his or her education at a four-year school and an undergrad preparing to pursue a graduate degree. If the student can’t afford to attend a specific school, an alternate institution that better fits his or her college budget should be selected...but what if tuition is still undetermined before the enrollment deadline?

This scenario is common at public universities across the country, as they cannot announce the next year’s tuition until they know how much funding they will receive from their respective states. Though schools like Towson and UVa offer estimates, banking on those figures is a gamble: For example, VCU raised tuition 24 percent in 2010 and the average public university in California raised expenses 21 percent last year – sizeable increases few college hopefuls could have expected. Colleges in this position have to work out preliminary financial aid packages based on the current year’s costs and adjust the awards after tuition is set. Students weighing their enrollment options at private universities have it much easier: A recent report projected private tuition would rise between 4 and 5 percent for next year but schools including Georgetown, UPenn and Goucher have already set and posted their tuition rates for the upcoming academic year.

Are you still waiting on next year’s tuition rates to make your college choice?


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State Financial Aid Runs Dry in Illinois

by Alexis Mattera

Did you already file your FAFSA this year? If you live in Illinois, your early bird mentality will help you pay for college because state funding has run out earlier than expected.

Officials said the state’s primary source of need-based financial aid, the Monetary Award Program (MAP), received 40,000 more applications this year than last. "It's a sign of incredible demand more than anything else," said John Samuels, spokesman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission but since these scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, students who applied after March 13th – roughly 140,000 – will have to find alternate funding. Illinois currently provides at least $387 million for the program and Governor Pat Quinn has proposed increasing that amount by $50 million to give financial assistance to 35,000 additional students – though it would take $1 billion to for every eligible student to receive a MAP grant.

Does this news impact your college plans or did you submit your financial aid forms in time?


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Tips & Tricks for a More Affordable Internship Experience

by Alexis Mattera

Many students don’t have time to take on internships during the traditional academic year, making summer break the perfect time to gain experience in their fields of choice. Unfortunately, students looking to earn college credit for these often unpaid positions must still fork over the cash to cover the credit fees – sometimes thousands of dollars – despite not being enrolled in formal classes.

Is there a way to have a more affordable internship experience? Indeed, according to one of USA Today’s collegiate correspondents...and with 11 internships under her belt, she speaks from experience:

Are you interning this summer? Let us know where in the comments!


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Tuition Discounts Lack Effectiveness

by Alexis Mattera

When making your final college choice, would you choose the school touting generous tuition discounts or the institution offering the standard financial aid package? The choice may seem obvious but according to a new study, things aren’t always what they seem.

A survey of 400 private institutions conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers revealed tuition discounting could be losing its effectiveness as a way of luring students to colleges. Data show that though the rate of institutional discounts in the form of scholarships, grants and fellowships continues to rise – the average is predicted to hit 42.8 percent this year – 45 percent of the schools surveyed saw overall enrollment remain flat or drop and 53.2 percent saw a decline or no change in the number of freshmen they enrolled.

What do you think of the tuition discounting trend? Is it playing a role in your college decision or are other factors (location, reputation, programs of study, etc.) more important to you?


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Schools with Rolling or Late Admissions Deadlines

by Alexis Mattera

So you’ve applied to a number of schools and received your admissions decisions but found that the colleges you once thought were perfect are anything but. Is it too late in the admissions cycle to find the right school for you? Not when countless colleges offer rolling and/or late admissions! Here are a few schools that do just that:


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Prepare to Attack This Scholarship of the Week

Paul Frank Art Attack Scholarship Deadline is May 15th

April 16, 2012

Prepare to Attack This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Even if you don’t know Julius, Clancy or Worry Bear by name, you’ve likely seen these characters in one of Paul Frank’s whimsical designs at one point or another. If you think you can create something just as funky, enter the second annual Paul Frank Art Attack Scholarship for a chance to earn $2,500 to put toward your amazing artistic future!

Art Attack participation requires an upload of one piece of original art including some element of the Paul Frank characters/brand, an explanation of how and why the artist incorporated the Paul Frank brand, a description of what kind of art education program the applicant will be supported by the prize money and brief background info about the applicant. The Paul Frank online community will vote on submissions to narrow to the top 10 in each age group (14 – 17 and 18+) on PaulFrank.com and a panel of expert judges will select the first and second place winners in each category. One first prize of $2,500, two second prizes of $1,000, and three third prizes of $500 to be allocated to art supplies or classes will be awarded; in addition to the monetary scholarship, the winning adult artist will also receive a full page ad in Juxtapoz magazine and funding for travel to visit the Paul Frank studios and attend the Academy of Awesome launch party with a feature on PaulFrank.com.

The Art Attack deadline is May 15th so applicants have just about one month left to submit their creations. For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Non-Resident Admission Doubles at UC

by Alexis Mattera

When I moved into my freshman dorm at UConn, I was one of the few out-of-state students on my floor. It wasn’t a bad thing by any means – I made a lot of friends through conversations that began with someone asking "Hey, can you say [any word ending in R]?" because they wanted to hear my thick Boston accent in action – but it was certainly foreshadowing for today’s abundance of non-residents at state schools.

According to an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the number of non-Californians accepted as freshmen to the UC system has nearly doubled in just two years. Twenty-three percent of all students admitted for this fall hail from other states or nations, partly because non-residents pay nearly three times the tuition and fees of in-state students – a huge boon for UC, which has had its budget cut by about $1 billion during the last few years. In-state students’ college costs are heavily subsidized with public funds and the nine undergraduate campuses simply don’t have the money to cover the cost of educating them, though UC officials insist that no eligible Californian is denied admission because of non-resident students.) In addition to funding woes, applicants also had to contend with increasing selectivity: UC admitted just 64 percent of the students who applied...and just 21 percent at Berkeley and UCLA.

There were some positive aspects to UC’s announcement (the Merced campus accepted 75 percent of applicants, more students of color were admitted systemwide and an additional 2,100 California graduates gained admission over last year) but what do you think of the influx of non-residents at state colleges and universities?


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As Enrollment Deadlines Approach, Students Face Tough Choices

by Alexis Mattera

Enrollment deposits are due at many colleges around the country in 11 days and while some students committed to colleges within hours of receiving their acceptance letters, others are still weighing their higher ed options. As the deadline draws closer, don’t choose a college by tossing a dart at a map or playing eeny meeny with your admissions offers – consider these tips from U.S. News:

Plan another visit. Sure you went on the traditional tour last time you visited Big State U or Fancy Private College but this time, skip the campus-sponsored activities to get the true experience of what it’s like to attend that particular school.

Contact former classmates. If you know a few students who matriculated to the school you’re considering, get in touch with them. It’s never been easier to do via the myriad social networking sites out there and they’ll provide insight you won’t find in the brochures!

Don’t forget costs. You may have been accepted to your first-choice school but you didn’t receive the grants, scholarships and merit-based aid you were hoping for. Minimize the amount of debt you’ll accrue from taking out hefty student loans by reconsidering your second- or third-choice school...and its more-than-generous financial aid package.

You can read the rest of U.S. News' tips here but we’re curious as to how our readers made their college decisions. Did you employ any of the strategies listed above? Are you still trying to choose your school? Let us know what worked for you!


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Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest Deadline Approaching

April 23, 2012

Get Stuck on This Scholarship of the Week

by Alexis Mattera

Bubble gum in your hair. “Kick me” signs. He said, she said. These are all sticky situations we try to avoid in life – and for good reason! – but here’s one that could pay off big for your college education: The Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.

The Henkal Corporation's Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada, including the District of Columbia but excluding Puerto Rico and the Province of Quebec. This scholarship contest rewards individuals for creating prom attire made completely out of – you guessed it – Duck brand duct tape. To be eligible for the $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $500 scholarship awards, each couple must submit:

  • One color photograph (professional or amateur) of the couple together in prom attire
  • Each individual's full name, address, telephone number, email address (if applicable) and age/grade level, and the name of the closest major city to the individual's hometown
  • A release form signed by each individual and, if any entrant is a minor (under 18 years of age), that individual's parent or guardian
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the high school or home school association which is hosting the prom and the date the prom was held

The deadline to submit your adhesive attire is June 13th so there’s still plenty of time to get creative. For a registration form and official contest rules, interested students should visit the Duck brand website or conduct a free Scholarships.com scholarship search today!


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