September 20, 2007
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal incentives within the student lender industry has burgeoned into a full-out hunt for immoral use of student funds. The buzz has recently spread into college study abroad offices where administrators frequently receive money and free-of-charge trips in exchange for recruiting student travelers. As always, there are two sides to every story, and many college officials have been eager to tell theirs.
According to some study-abroad advisors, the trips were much more business than they were pleasure. College administrators have said that travel was a necessary tool for advisors who educated students on their locations of interest. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Gayly Opem, executive vice president of marketing at the Institute for the International Education of Students, held such an opinion stating, “I don’t know of any other way for them to do it than to visit the program.”
An accusation more difficult to justify was one that claimed students who chose to travel without school program assistance were sometimes denied approval for credit transfers. The New York Times article about Brendan Jones, a Columbia student denied credit transfer from Oxford told the story of one such case. Although Oxford is well known for its academic excellence, and ranked higher than some abroad institutions Brendan’s Columbia peers received credits from, the transfer was denied. Instead of returning, Brendan decided to finish school at Oxford.
Studying abroad is generally regarded as an enriching experience, in a both intellectual and social sense, but brows are rising at the business side of college travel. After Cuomo’s investigation revealed questionable administrative tactics, the idea of colleges and travel agencies marketing travel as a full-out panacea just feels tainted. A 2004 issue of Transitions Abroad magazine featured the results of a study by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) which claimed that 98% of students who spent a year abroad returned with increased sef-confidence and a higher level of maturity. It also reported that about 70% of the travelers returned with an ignited interest in a career direction they pursued after the experience. I have a feeling that plenty of students studying in the U.S. also developed career interests during college.
The overall theme of the investigation is that college costs are out of control, and college administrators who act like businessmen are in part to blame. While hope for a major overhaul of the funding system is a bit premature, new legislation passed by Congress will increase Pell Grants and decrease some student loan interest rates. In the mean time, students can fill funding gaps by conducting a free scholarship search and applying for awards. Students can also use Scholarships.com’s resources to find much-needed information about taking control of their finances and planning ahead for college costs.
September 24, 2007
On September 20, 2007, a meeting of more than 40 representatives and national associations was held to discuss college ethics matters. The off-the-record discussion was organized by David Ward, the president of American Council on Education (ACE), in part as a response to recent investigations into unethical business practices between student lenders and colleges.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the meeting dealt with problems within the student lending industry as well as with questionable credit card solicitations to alumni and sporting-event ticket distributions. Mr. Ward was quoted as saying, “"If, for example, a president is about to sign a contract, somebody should say, 'What's the story we're giving to the public on this?' And if the president pauses, then maybe they need to pause on the contract too."
Pressures on schools to come up with funds have led to questionable actions that include receiving kickbacks from lenders and study abroad organizations. The meeting was to address such actions and to come up with plausible solutions. During the conference, Mr. Ward was asked to create a committee that would address legal problems between colleges and businesses and to come up with a checklist to assist college administrators in recognizing potential ethical problems.
To avoid or minimize the use of student lender services, students can look to scholarships and grants that can assist them in funding a college education. Conducting a free scholarship search will allow students to find myriad awards they are eligible to receive. For additional information on financial aid and college-related issues, students can take advantage of Scholarships.com Resources.
October 17, 2007
Students aren’t getting enough sleep—nothing new here. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of high school students reported extreme daytime sleepiness. And how can you blame them? Anyone with high ambitions knows what it takes to get into a good college. Balancing extracurriculars with school and a social life can seem like a juggling act, but many feel that it’s the only way to reach goals.
Regardless of what teachers say, many students are certain that staying up to study will get them better test scores than extra zzzs would—myself included. Students are just too busy to study earlier. Okay, okay, maybe putting things off and surfing the net has something to do with it as well. But procrastination makes today’s students no different from those of generations past. Unfortunately, current generations feel that not studying must be followed by intense late-night sessions. According to an article in New York magazine, kids today sleep one hour less than they did 30 years ago.
As you may imagine, nothing good can come of that. Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, weight gain, an increase in cases of ADHD and, of course, poor school performance—even if we beg to differ. According to the article, studies of sleep-deprived students have consistently shown they don't perform as well as do student who get sufficient sleep. In a recent trial, a group of sixth-graders intentionally deprived of sleep performed as well on exams as average fourth-graders. That’s a two year decrease in cognitive ability. By one estimate, sleeping problems can hurt a child’s IQ as much as lead exposure! If that doesn't send us back to bed... well, let's just hope it does.
October 18, 2007
It’s difficult to read a national newspaper–your choice–for longer than a week without coming across at least one article dealing with the environment. Why should a blog be any different? Jokes and polar bears aside, the environment is in need of some true student TLC, and students have plenty of it to give. Here are some things each of us can do to help.
1. Get educated Change starts with education. When searching for potential colleges, take into consideration the variety of classes offered. The more options schools have, the more you can dabble in various interests, especially the environment. By educating yourself about environmental issues, you can learn about ways to improve the situation, and what’s more, inspire others with your newfound knowledge. When you let people see how the environment affects them personally, you are more likely to convince them that their efforts and time are worth the investment.
2. Turn off the lights Saving money and energy is a click away, or a clap clap. Remember to turn off lights and appliances when you are through with them. Pay extra attention to air conditioners—open windows and running air conditioners make mother earth cry.
3. Live by the triple R’s Many of us already reduce, reuse and recycle to some extent, but most of us don’t really crack down on bad habits. By making the three R’s your mantra, you can reduce emissions, save some tree lives and fatten your piggybank.
4. Write to Congress This one is for the ambitious. Begin a petition in support of the Kyoto Protocol to be sent to Congress; or at least sign the one you make your friend create. So far, 172 countries and governmental entities have signed the pact limiting emissions. Somehow the U.S. is not one of them.
5. Take public transportation A great benefit to most on-campus travel is the abundance of public transportation. Taking the bus or train to school can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and it can also free up some time to chat or study. It may not be the most convenient way of getting around, but improvement isn’t always convenient. For those who live close by, riding a bike, rollerblading or walking is also a good option.
6. Bring your own bags and mugs Try stuffing your groceries into a backpack, and bring mugs to coffee shops. (Or visit ones that offer in-house cups.) Some stores and coffee shops will even give you discounts for doing so.
7. Be laptop savvy in class You won’t look like you’re too cool for school by bringing your laptop to lectures—really. Students can save much paper by appending and saving posted online notes on laptops. By bringing a laptop to class, you can save trees and increase the likelihood of future legibility. Plus, editing is easier on a computer, and most students can type more quickly than they can write. If you’re not one of them, it’s about time you practiced.
There are plenty of things students can do to make a difference, and many are already hard at work. This year, Scholarship.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve scholarship prizes were awarded to students who wrote the best essays on problems dealing with standardized testing and the environment. See what the winners had to say on the topic, and check out Scholarships.com's new Resolve to Evolve $10,000 essay scholarship. You can also search our database for college scholarships and grants; begin finding money for college today!
October 24, 2007
It’s tough being a senior. You have to do homework (at least during the first semester), study for standardized tests, apply to colleges and, oh yes, select them. Counselors do counsel, but let’s get serious; you’re the one stuck with the heavy-duty work. Plus, consulting with them is just one more thing to add to your to-do list.
College information is not that hard to come by if you browse the web like a maniac, but having a source that allows you to compare all data sure makes things easier. The Scholarships.com College Search allows you to do just that. Students searching for college information can visit the site and compare myriad stats on one 17” computer screen. (Adjust size for people who think they're too cool for standard screens---you know who you are.) Whether you’re interested in a community college, a state university or a private school, we have the information you’re looking for. Start out by searching for a school by area of study, state, name, college type (two or four year) or any combination of the four.
From there, your will be directed to a list of schools that match your criteria. You can sort them by whatever information you’re most interested in: name, location, tuition or school type—from top up or top down. Pick out the ones that are still of interest to you, and find the information you need.
Check out the school’s tuition and fees, its incoming freshman profile, the financial aid offered, graduation rates, contact information and more. After you’ve narrowed things down a bit, you can conduct a free scholarship search to find financial aid information that can help you pay for your college of choice.
Your senior-year workload can't be eliminated completely, but we can do plenty to ease the pain. You could really use the extra time for more important business---like doing nothing at all. Just call us your free personal college finder; we’ll smugly accept the title.
October 30, 2007
Stress-free high school, does that sound like an oxymoron to you? Unfortunately it does to many high school students. Teachers are noticing it too, and one has made it a point to publicize his efforts to initiate change. Principal Paul Richards of Needham High School has created a Stress Reduction Committee to do something about these caffeine-wired, sleep-deprived, on-edge teens.
He has been hard at work teaching students how to relax. He has even invited stress-relief experts to the school—it’s just that students couldn’t fit them into their schedules. That’s why yoga classes are now required for seniors (and hopefully not graded).
But for some unfathomable reason, Mr. Richards has received countless criticism. (For the record, I support you Mr.Richards.) According to an article, the principal received hate mail from across the country after taking the honor roll list out of his school newspaper. That sounds uncomfortably reminiscent of the honor roll list published in my grade school newspaper. We even got to strut bright yellow student-of-the-month pins.
Those who know that Mr. Richards is now working on his doctorate at Boston College may be compelled to say that he’s not exactly leading by example. But he sees things in a different light. Based on the New York Times article, his intent was to assist students in managing stress and in finding the college that fits them best, whether it be prestigious or not. He encouraged students to be ambitious but reasonable when signing up for A.P. classes. “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he stated. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”
A stress-free high school environment is a start, but changes at the top are imperative for this to really work. If schools continue to be rated and employers continue to value them, it won’t be too easy to change things. A sort of trickle down relaxonomics is in order. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sleep and finals are not much easier to manage in college (assuming that you plan to graduate). Take tips from Mr. Richards now, and the future may look brighter.
November 8, 2007
Why should I care about voting?
Whether you're new to it or not, you’ve got to make like “Diddy” and “Rock the Vote”. Even if you’re not a huge fan, he’s got it right this time. There is something at stake for student voters: financial aid. This year has been a tumultuous one as far as college financial aid is concerned, and a collective student voice is needed to convince candidates that students mean business.
It all began when an investigation headed by New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that some, actually many, financial aid officials were receiving money from student lenders in exchange for promotions. Findings showed that certain lenders were paying schools to place them on preferred lender lists, offering gifts and money to financial aid officials in exchange for loan promotion, conducting seemingly unbiased loan exit sessions, and giving athletic departments money for each lead sold.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that third-party lender advertisers were using tactics such as imitating government websites to make students feel as if they were getting unbiased information or that some study abroad advisors were receiving money and free trips from study abroad companies for every student they convinced to travel with them. Sigh… I’m a bit out of breath.Some, not many, successful efforts have been made to fix the financial aid system. The recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act has increased Pell Grants and decreased student lender subsidies. Unfortunately, these changes don't apply to all students. Those who are still in need of college funding should conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com. And to convince politicians that they need to hold up their end of the deal, students need to vote.
How do I register?
Votes won’t cast themselves. (Florida votes are a rare exception; they do what they want.) To participate in next year’s elections held on November 4, 2008, you have to be a registered voter. Under the Motor Voter law, states need to make registration available in numerous public agencies. Local departments of motor vehicles are common ones. Many cities also set up voting facilities in state buildings, libraries and schools.
Check your city hall or their online site for voting areas in your city. Most states also allow citizens to register by filling out a mail-in form available online at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) . States have different deadlines for registration (usually about 30 days prior to Election Day), so don’t wait too long. When you're ready to register, bring proof of state residency e.g., driver’s license, ID or utility bill. If you are sending your registration via mail, you will need to photo copy these items.
Students who move to college must update their address before registering. Contact your local city hall to find out how this works for students living in college dorms. Once you’ve done that, you will have to pay a $750 voting fee. Just kidding, you're registering to vote, not for college classes.
April 24, 2008
As far as we know, there isn’t one. Let’s begin by addressing your first question: if there is no catch, who's paying for this, and what's their work incentive? The answer is FlatWorld, and, if things go right for the new company, guidebooks, work materials and requests for in-print versions will be sufficient to cover labor costs and to generate profits.
Since 2007, FlatWorld has been crafting their innovative idea, and it plans to make services available to the public by 2009. The diversity of their textbook selections and the facility of their use will largely determine the success of their new venture, but students aware of FlatWorld will probably, at the very least, check out their site. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the average college student spends over $900 on textbooks—annually. Being able to pocket a good chunk of that money will significantly alleviate financial burdens caused by increasing college rates.
Electronic book versions are not exactly new, and companies less geared towards college students dealing with unregulated textbook costs have already offered similar services. Electronic books in general are growing in popularity, especially the fee-based ones. If you’ve done some Amazon shopping or people watched on the train in recent months, you’re probably familiar with the new Amazon electronic reading device. It’s catching on quickly, but, truth be told, there’s just something about physically holding a piece paper. As much as I love branches, I couldn’t help but print out class articles en masse during finals week, ones I could have easily browsed online. (In my defense, I did fit four pages on one sheet.) The ability to quickly scribble a note, double star a sentence or circle a key word just makes the learning process more interactive and complete.
Still, I’m willing to bet that dishing out $120 for a textbook that can’t be resold due to future edition changes can make a little inconvenience worthwhile. Most money management tactics can. And FlatWorld is doing its best to make up in ease what they lose in “that special something”. By making their texts editable to both students and the professors who assign them, they have made their options a bit more user friendly and appealing. Readers can even interact with each other during the reading process—I smell an attractive cliff note opportunity. Dragging your desktop to the quad may be a bit of a pain, but being able to afford vacation time may give you an incentive.
May 6, 2008
The rising cost of college rates has been a headache for families across the nation. However, college tuition is not the only expense expected to increase. Due in part to the high costs of gas, the price of food transportation—and therefore food—has been on the rise. Like consumers, campuses have to deal with the effects that food costs have had on meal plans.
If you're one of the many dorm-residing students subscribing to an on-campus cafeteria plan, especially one with a buffet-style layout, you can imagine how quickly prices could escalate. Numerous students make it a habit to fill their trays with one of everything…just in case. The quantity of wasted, expensive food has college representatives worried that a hike in cafeteria prices is inevitable.
Colleges are doing what they can to minimize expected charges, but pricing continues to be a problem. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, some schools have taken to skimping on the amount of ingredients used in each dish while others have managed to save by eliminated cafeteria trays. In an interview with Mr. Simon of Western Washington University, it was reported that, “Western Washington dining halls observed a 34-percent reduction in waste during one week last month when the institution went trayless.”
For students who aren’t fond of dorm food as is, the idea of having to save money to afford it is extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, many students see few alternatives. Unless they can stuff all groceries into a portable, shared fridge, it’s just one more pain to deal with.
June 5, 2008
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