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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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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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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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Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

by Alexis Mattera

Cost plays a huge role in many students’ college choices. Depending on their financial situation, some students dismiss the schools with high tuition in favor of lower-cost in-state schools because they think it will save them money. In actuality, they could be doing themselves an economic disservice in the long run.

Using data from U.S. News and World Report’s most recent student debt survey of 25 top-ranking public and private schools, Reuters revealed that, on average, 53 percent of students surveyed received financial aid and at least half of students at most of the institutions graduated debt-free...but it depends on what school they attended: Princeton graduates, for example, owed only $5,000 at commencement while University of Michigan graduates owed more than $27,000 despite Michigan’s in-state costs being less than half of Princeton’s. How is this possible? Numerous schools including Princeton, Caltech, Davidson College and the University of Washington have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages and others like Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley have capped contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. (Check out the entire article here, including this handy infographic.)

While it is difficult for many students to attend college without taking out some kind of loan – especially those attending state-run institutions which don’t have the fiscal means to eliminate debt – it is possible to avoid debt if you choose the right school. Thoughts?


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Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

Ten Schools Commit to More Financial Aid Disclosure

June 6, 2012

Want More Financial Aid Info? Help is On the Way!

by Alexis Mattera

With student loan debt now totaling more than $1 trillion, current and would-be college students need access to financial aid information more than ever before. The good news is that universities across the country are doing their best to make the facts as clear and available as possible in the near future.

Ten schools – Arizona State, Miami Dade College, North Carolina A&T State University, Syracuse, UNC Chapel Hill, Vassar and the state university systems in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas – have committed to providing key funding information to all incoming students as part of their financial aid packages starting in the 2013-14 school year. The details will include the cost of one year of college, financial aid options such as grants and scholarships, estimated monthly payments after graduation on federal student loans and comparative data about graduation and loan repayment rates. According to the White House, this disclosure will play a vital role in making college more affordable for all students: "Too often, students and families face confusion when comparing financial aid packages, some of which do not clearly differentiate loans from grants, nor distinguish private vs. federal loans, making it difficult to compare aid offers side-by-side. Clarity and accessibility of information is necessary so that students and families can make informed decisions about where to attend college, so they can choose a school that is best suited to their financial and educational goals."

What do you think of this plan? Do you think it will help students better understand financial aid or is the effort too little and too late?


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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!


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High School Students: Resolve to Enter This Scholarship of the Week!

The Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship Deadline is September 30th

September 17, 2012

High School Students: Resolve to Enter This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

A new academic year has begun and there are countless things high school students have resolved to do between the first and last day of classes. In addition to picking up a new extracurricular activity or making the honor roll, another bulleted item on to-do lists should be entering Scholarships.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship...but hurry – the deadline is quickly approaching!

The Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarship is about more than just making resolutions – it’s about creating change and furthering our evolution as individuals and a society. R2E is an opportunity to move beyond finger-pointing and offer constructive criticism and workable solutions for problems facing an administration or an organization. The applicant who submits the best overall essay will receive a $2,000 scholarship; one (1) winner will also be selected from each grade level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and will receive a $1,000 scholarship each. For this year’s prompts, official rules and submission form, check out our official R2E page.

Remember, this scholarship is open to ALL high school students – even freshmen and sophomores. Your chances of winning could be better than you think so make sure you submit your entry before the September 30th deadline. Best of luck and, as always, you can learn more about this award and others by conducting a free scholarship search today!


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We the Students...Will Enter This Scholarship of the Week!

The Bill of Rights Institute to Award Thousands in Scholarship Dollars

October 8, 2012

We the Students...Will Enter This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

Surely, you’ve learned about the Constitution of the United States in your American History classes but what role do the ideas of that document have today? The Bill of Rights Institute wants to know...and is prepared to award thousands in scholarship dollars to high school students through this year’s We the Students Scholarship Contest!

To be eligible for one of five scholarship awards – $4,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, $1,000 for third place and two $500 honorable mentions – high school students must answer three questions related to the principles of the Constitution and its relevance in today's society. All prompts can be found on the Bill of Rights Institute’s website, as well as official rules, FAQs and even essay writing tips.

Since the deadline isn’t until November 16th, applicants have plenty of time to perfect their entries. For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Affording College While Avoiding Debt

Schools Eliminate Loans, Educate Students To Be Fiscally Responsible

November 14, 2012

Affording College While Avoiding Debt

by Alexis Mattera

A college education is far from cheap but some students are able to graduate with far less debt than others. How? Scholarships and grants play a huge role in keeping expenses low but some institutions are lending a helping hand by revising their financial aid packages and educating their students on the importance of fiscal responsibility.

Davidson College, for example, instituted a “no loans” financial aid policy in 2007 and now addresses need through grants and student employment. Others, like St. John's College, Elizabeth City State University and the SUNY schools, are doing their part by providing tailored support services to students through graduation - the latter, in fact, have launched a system-wide effort to prevent student borrowers from defaulting on their loans by offering net price calculators and communicating early and often with borrowers.

You can read more about what’s being done to combat student debt here but we want to know if your college (or intended school) has similar initiatives in place. If not, what kind of services and information should they be providing regarding student debt?


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Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

Ed Sec Says Comparing More Schools Will Lead to More Informed College Choices

July 3, 2012

Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

by Alexis Mattera

In the epic battle between quality versus quantity, it's the former that usually prevails but Arne Duncan has a slightly different proposal for soon-to-be college students: increase the quantity of schools you consider in order to find the best quality fit.

Though the annual Higher Education Research Institute survey reported that students are already employing that approach (just 12 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen applied to only one college in 2011), Education Secretary Duncan believes that too many students are making their college choices based on distance from home rather than price, majors and other factors vital to college completion and future success. He feels that if students apply to more schools and compare financial aid packages, they'll find the school and program that's right for them. But not everyone is buying into his "shop around" proposal. Lloyd Thacker, director of the admissions reform group Education Conservancy, said, "The problem with the admissions process is it's become too much like a transaction or consumer process, and less like an investment in education ... I'm not saying what he's doing is necessarily wrong but you need to be very thoughtful that good intentions are tied to sound research.”

Check out the full Inside Higher Ed article here and let us know what you think. Are you ready to go shopping with Duncan or will you be taking a different approach when applying to college?


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