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Community Colleges: Could a Money-Saving Move Derail Your College Goals?

October 1, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

A working paper put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new data on the learning outcomes of students who enroll at a community college with the intent to transfer to a four year school. The paper, discussed in detail in an article in Inside Higher Ed, suggests that even accounting for differences in educational goals, students starting at community colleges are less likely to earn a bachelor's degree in nine years than students who start at a four-year college.

The study tracked students who enrolled in Ohio's colleges and universities in 1998 and used a survey of incoming students from that year to determine career and college goals. Researchers then looked at the learning outcomes of community college students who took the ACT or professed an interest in ultimately getting a bachelor's degree.  The results showed that these students were 14.5 percent less likely than their counterparts at four-year colleges and universities to graduate.

The article stresses the difficulty in comparing students at the two different types of colleges.  Community college students tend to be from lower-income backgrounds and are more likely to be minorities or adult students, which can all be factors in students' likelihood to earn a degree.  The study also doesn't account for whether the difference is simply due to changes in plans.  Many students choose the less expensive option of community college because they are unsure of their educational goals, so it's likely those goals might change and students might decide to walk away with an associate's degree.

More research still needs to be done, but students who are considering starting at a two-year college then transferring may want to keep these numbers in mind.  While the study shows that students who do successfully transfer to a four-year state college do just as well as students who start in one, the transfer process can be difficult and daunting.  Students have to navigate the application process, degree requirements, and other hurdles at two institutions, and there's not always a guarantee that a student's credits will successfully transfer.  This can dissuade less dedicated students and students with fewer resources, as can the higher cost of tuition at a four-year university. Community college students also may not be sure what to expect in college at the baccalaureate level and may feel unprepared.

If you plan to put in a year or two at a community college then transfer, do your research thoroughly and make sure you're making the right college choice.  You'll need to have a clear sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, and find out as much as possible about what will be involved in transferring as early as you can. Learn about financial aid options available to you as a transfer student and make sure your plan will really make your bachelor's degree cheaper. Finally, don't get discouraged and keep your eyes on the prize.
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Worries About Economic Downturn Spread to Higher Ed

October 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

So far colleges and college students have been weathering the credit crunch and financial troubles on Wall Street fairly well.  Students have been able to get student loans and pay for school, and colleges have been able to raise money for projects and provide students with needed services and even additional scholarship money in many cases.  However, events of the past few weeks appear to be starting to take a toll on colleges and universities.

Earlier this week, many universities saw their investments held in the Commonfund, which was run by Wachovia, frozen after the bank announced that it would sell its operations to Citigroup this week.  Schools were initially given access to only 10 percent of Commonfund funds in order to prevent a run on the bank.  While the amount has increased and crisis has largely been averted for universities depending on this money for regular operating costs, there was initial concern this week that some schools might not be able to make payroll.

Boston University announced a freeze on future hiring and construction projects earlier this week, and the University of Memphis announced a voluntary buyout plan for 115 positions within the university.  Other colleges are beginning to struggle financially, as well, as they face the prospect of smaller donations and less state funding.  The economic downturn may lead to more staffing cuts, fewer resources available to students, higher tuition, and even smaller or fewer financial aid awards (especially in the case of scholarship awards that rely on alumni donations for funding each year).

While students typically flock to colleges and universities when they can't find employment, the impact of the economic downturn and the continued (though still entirely theoretical) threat of a lack of student loan or federal aid funding for students may cause some students to decide against attending college, or to make their decision based entirely on which option is cheapest.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, in addition to offering a thorough description of the impact of the economic downturn on higher education, also gives a list of prospective winners and losers if the situation continues to worsen.  The top of the list of losers?  Middle class families.
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College Costs , College News



TRIO Financial Aid and College Assistance Programs

November 27, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The government funds a number of financial aid and mentoring programs, and you are probably—no offense—unaware of most. It’s not your fault. Most students are not well-versed in matters of federal aid because they have not been informed about their options.  Aside from the best-known federal grant, the Pell Grant, most students know little about available federal aid.

The TRIO program (no, this is not an acronym) is one of the lesser-known federal financial aid and counseling programs. It was created to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as those facing circumstances that hinder their academic pursuits. The TRIO program is made up of six different student programs and a training program for TRIO program staff. It not only addresses financial obstacles caused by affording an undergraduate education but also those caused by affording graduate school.

To be considered disadvantaged, students must have an maximum annual income of $15,315 for a one-person family unit, $20,530 for a two-person family unit, $25,750 for a three-person family unit and $5,220 for each additional person. (The income cutoff is higher in Hawaii and Alaska.)

The student programs offered through TRIO include:

Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program- This program was created to increase the number of underrepresented students who obtain graduate and doctorate degrees.  Eligible students who demonstrate strong academic potential are assisted in their preparation for graduate studies with counselor support, financial aid, research and internship opportunities as well as tutoring programs.

Student Support Services (SSS) Program- The SSS program assists students in meeting their basic college requirements. The goal of the program is to increase student graduation rates and the number of students who continue their education. Eligible students will receive help in securing admission and financial aid to four-year colleges and universities, personal counseling, tutoring assistance, career planning and college scholarship information.

Talent Search- Students eligible for the talent search aid are assisted in completing their high school education and attending a college or university. Eligible disadvantaged students will be offered tutoring, career search aid, college information, counseling and mentoring services.

Upward Bound- The Upward Bound program assists high school students in preparing for college.  It awards aid to financially disadvantaged students, students whose parents did not obtain a bachelor’s education and low-income first-generation veterans pursing a college education. Upward Bound projects include tutoring in math, science, composition, literature and foreign languages. Students are also offering counseling, cultural enrichment programs and work-study programs.

The Upward Bound Math-Science Program- This program was created to improve the math and science skills of students and to encourage them to pursue a degree in the math and sciences. Participating students will receive aid with the help of summer programs, counseling, computer lessons and the opportunity to work with college faculty and graduate students on science research projects.

The Educational Opportunity Centers Program- The Educational Opportunity Centers Program is an assistance service for adults who need help in their pursuit of a postsecondary education. Eligible adults will receive personal counseling, information on college financial aid and tutoring aid.

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Financial Aid Glossary

November 28, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Understanding college aid jargon can be tough. Learning about college requirements, school testing and financial aid applications is difficult enough. Bring snooty words and acronyms into the picture, and you’ll find yourself rereading the same sentence ten times.

To get into the college game, you have to know how to talk the talk. That’s where we come in. Scholarships.com offers you free access to a college prep and financial aid glossary that will help you decipher “advanced” school vocabulary. Before you get into the nitty gritty details of college planning, you need an overview, and we can help you with that.

Those applying for federal financial aid will need to know what a Pell grant is, how the Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined, and what the federal work study program (WSP)  has to do with their student aid report (SAR). It can be a lot to handle at first, but these are words worth knowing. You are likely to come across them when applying for aid, and when you do, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

Such knowledge is particularly important for students who apply for loans. To make the best, most affordable choices, these students will need to know the difference between Perkins loans, Stafford loans, PLUS loans and private loans. Before signing anything, it’s important to know about Annual Percentage Rates (APR), accrued interest, loan deferment, loan defaulting and consolidation. The glossary will provide quick answers to these and other financial aid questions.

By taking advantage of the resources offered at Scholarships.com, you can feel confident about your financial aid and college planning decisions. Just breathe, and take things one step at a time. Sit down at the table with your financial aid documents and a glossary. Slowly things will begin to make sense. When you think you have the basics down, you can count on Scholarships.com for more in-depth information.

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North Virginia High Schools Funding AP Exams

December 13, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Hey high school seniors (and superstar juniors), how would you like to have your school pay for your AP exams? I’m assuming there are no jeers in the crowd, at least not from students who know that College Board, the administrator of AP tests, charges students $84 for each exam.

Students lucky enough to belong to the numerous high schools in major North Virginia districts no longer have to worry about these rates. Since 1998, numerous counties in the state have been adopting the idea of helping students get an inexpensive head start on a college education. By paying for the students’ tests, these schools have been able to save students hundreds.

Those who take an AP class don’t always stop with one. Many students are taking on increasingly large loads, enrolling in two, three, four, even five college-level classes per year.  There are students who begin earlier than that, building up their resume during their junior year. The money they dish out for these tests adds up. Some students take advantage of the discount prices offered to low-income students, but most can't count on them.

Many North Virginia schools take care of this problem by entirely covering the cost of the exam. The testing fee policies do vary by school, and not all students can expect the same assistance. In return for the coverage, some schools require that all students  take the exams. Others do not. Some cover the whole cost, and others only pay a portion of the fee. Regardless, these schools deserve props for helping students meet their financial needs. It would be nice if the word spread to other states.

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Harvard Extends Financial Aid to the "Not-So-Needy"

December 14, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a move that’s both impressive and grossly irritating to poor students across the nation, Harvard University announced on Tuesday its intent to improve the financial aid packages of well-off students. Of course that’s not how they announced it. According to the Harvard Crimson (the university newspaper), the Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons proudly declared that the aid would allow students to pursue careers in public service without fear of outstanding debt--as if that's the ultimate goal of most Harvard graduates.

In 2006, Harvard eliminated contribution requirements for students whose families made less than $60,000 per year. It has taken things one step further this year by increasing the amount of financial aid offered to students whose household income was greater than that. Mr. Fitzsimmons stated that families making between $60,000 and $200,000 were in a state of “crisis” when it came to finding money for college.

Hmmm…Crisis eh? That’s quite a hyperbole, especially when one considers  the rising number of students who leave school with debt that exceeds $100,000. I somehow don’t feel bad for people making $200,000 each year, and I definitely don’t subscribe to the fact that they are going through a crisis. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, the median (not average) income in the U.S. is $48,201 and only 19 percent of households make over $100,000. Double that and the word crisis does not apply.

Under Harvard's new plan, families with incomes between $60,000 and $120,000 per year will soon be expected to pay 0-10 percent of their income for an education.  Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 will be expected to pay 10 percent of that amount. To put things in perspective, the sticker price for the Harvard package is $45,620, and a family making $180,000 will pay 39 percent of that.

After reading the article, Harvard graduate Andrew Kalloch offered his thoughts on the news in a letter to the editors, “I wear old T-shirts, and they suit me just fine. Others wear designer clothing and there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is asking alumni to contribute to the embarrassment of riches already bestowed upon the American upper class.”

I'm not saying we should begrudge any students their financial aid, popped collars or not. After all, low or nonexistent tuition would be a deserved dream come true for most hard working students. It's just a bit disconcerting that myriad students with incomes far below those acknowledged by Harvard are burdened by student loans, and no one is giving them a reasonable piece of the pie.

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Congress Proposes Financial Aid Cuts

December 18, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Worried about President Bush’s threat to veto the bill, Democrats in Congress have made cuts to their initial proposal for the 2008 appropriations bill. The funding would affect numerous federal agencies, and compromised budgetary proposals were a common theme. Higher education programs dealing with financial aid and research grants were among those to see funding cuts.   

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the new bill would decrease the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program budget by $13.5 million. The Perkins Loan program, a low-income federal student loan option, as well as the Leveraging Education Assistance Program (LEAP) would receive $1.1 million less than they did the previous year. Considering the president had suggested eliminating these programs altogether, they could have fared worse. 

Although a number of financial aid programs would receive a bump in budget, research inflation estimates would, in effect, lead to funding cuts. Financial aid for the National Institutes of Health is an example. Though the budget for the institutes would increase by 0.4 percent, the estimated 3.7 percent inflation rate in biomedical research would leave the institutes with smaller funds.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) would find itself in a similar position. 

If the budget is passed, some programs would see real budget increases in the upcoming year. The Health Careers Opportunity Program, the Allied Health program and NASA would each be offered greater budgets. Nursing education, an area that Bush had planned to lower funding for, would also see greater funding. Such a raise makes sense knowing that the nursing profession is growing in popularity and that nursing scholarships are in great demand.   Even with the cuts, the allocations differ from those originally suggested by the president. A response from the White House is yet to be seen.
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Tour de Scholarships.com

December 19, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The whole “college graduates earn $1 million more than non graduates over their lifetime” stat is getting a bit trite. I’ll give you a few more if you’re not convinced that college is a worthwhile investment.

College graduates enjoy greater career security

College graduates can offer their children a more secure financial future

College graduates are healthier

College graduates are more likely to contribute to society

Anyway, you get the picture. The problem isn’t that the whole “follow your dreams” thing makes no sense. The problem is affording those dreams and affording the time and preparation it takes to follow them. Most of us don’t make enough money to loll around devoting our days to perfecting our sculpting skills and sharpening our 3 point shots. Even those with less risky dreams can’t always afford to test the waters, especially if the schooling required to get those jobs is too expensive and time consuming. That’s why so many students find themselves having to compromise their initial career goals after realizing their dream jobs won’t allow them to pay off student loans. Let’s just say that the need for qualified teachers isn’t caused by a disinterested public.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be gloomy. I swear there’s a silver lining. Financial aid in the form of government grants and outside scholarships is readily available to students in difficult situations. Without a cloud of college debt hanging over your head, “The Road Not Taken” may suddenly become an option. The financial aid information found at Scholarships.com will help you familiarize yourself with the FAFSA, government grants, corporate scholarships, private scholarships, the ins and outs of student loans and myriad other financial aid opportunities. Whether you’re interested in preliminary information or ready to get down to business by finding scholarships, we can help you do it.

If you’re not convinced, you can take a tour of our site. Visit our homepage, and take a sort of “Tour de Scholarships.com” if you will. We can help you see how conducting a free college scholarship search will help you find scholarships and grants that, based on the information you provide, you're eligible to receive. Find New York scholarships, scholarships for graduate students, scholarships for minorities, poetry scholarships, music scholarships—you name it, we’ve got it. With information about more than 2.7 million scholarships and grants, Scholarships.com offers more than you’ll know what to do with. If you’re not convinced yet, just take the tour. Like the search, it’s free. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a world of financial aid opportunities to gain.

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New Year, New Start to Saving

December 21, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Wind, rain or shine, college tuition bills always safely make it to your mailbox, or the inbox.  Even if you’re struggling financially, there’s no need to give up. Whether you’re having trouble keeping your spending in check or are hindered by college bills, things can be better. The new year is coming up, and you deserve a new chance, a minty fresh start. Students looking for a way to save should follow this advice to get things right in '08.

1. Look for scholarships. Applying for scholarships is a great way to save for college. It doesn’t cost to apply—don’t listen to anyone who suggests you should pay—and the rewards tend to be large. Try conducting a free scholarship search to find scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive.

2. Avoid magazines and websites with appealing products. Oftentimes students will be unaware they’re in need of something until they see it in a magazine. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Marketers have a way of making whatever it is that catches your eye look more amazing and necessary than it really is. The best way to avoid their evil traps is to stay out of their way.

3. Skip the details at restaurants. I can’t tell you to skip the restaurant thing. Going out for dinner is just part of the student culture, and if you can’t eliminate it, be smart about it. If you skip the appetizers, lose the dessert and trade in water for a soft drink, you can cut your bill in half.  Those that go out to eat for the company more than the food can also go straight for the appetizer and stop there. They tend to be oversized anyway.

4. Watch your phone plans. For some reason, students always seem shocked when an insane phone bill comes in the mail. If you know you’re a chatterbox, you should plan accordingly. Get the same plan as the people you chat with most, start a family plan and watch the texting.

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Posted Under:

College Costs , College Culture , Tips



Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes

January 9, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Gossiping doesn’t cause that warm, “I’m so sweet” feeling you get by helping someone—except this time. It’s true, by gossiping, you can help yourself and your friends.  When you tell your pals about Scholarships.com, you will get the chance to pocket $1,000. When they register, they too will get the chance to win.

It really is that easy. Just refer up to ten friends, and every time one of them registers, your name will be entered in our drawing. You will have until March 3, 2008 to get your entry in and to make your friends register. They will thank you for it. 

If you haven’t registered yet, give it a try. The process is both free and easy. Scholarships.com members will have access to a database with information about more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion.

Those who win the giveaway won’t have to stop there, and neither will those who don’t. Many scholarship and grant opportunities are available to students in need of financial aid. Students can find scholarships based on major, age, school … talent, interest, location … job, gender …. Let’s just say that there are many awards to choose from. Check out the official rules for additional information about the Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" Sweepstakes, and conduct a free college search today.

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