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Ed Secretary Duncan: “DREAM Act Would Benefit Our Country”

June 29, 2011

Ed Secretary Duncan: “DREAM Act Would Benefit Our Country”

by Suada Kolovic

From the get go, the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students, has faced an uphill battle. With it failing in the Senate last year and both sides expressing skepticism about the bill, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress yesterday that the Administration supports its passage.

According to Duncan, the students who could benefit if Congress approves the DREAM Act would fill 2.6 million jobs and would bring in $1.4 million more in revenue than it would cost over the next 10 years. Duncan also addressed several misconceptions about the DREAM Act: It does not create an amnesty program with an easy path to citizenship, it will not affect the availability of federal student loans or Pell Grants for citizens and it will not create incentives for an increase in undocumented immigration. “Simply put,” Duncan concluded, “educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country.”

Keep in mind that in order for undocumented students to qualify for the DREAM Act, they must prove they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school or received a GED, possess good moral character and been admitted to an institution of higher education or serve in the military. Do you hope the DREAM Act becomes a reality? Let us know what you think.

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Professor Shoots Himself in the Foot...Literally

September 5, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The ongoing debate to allow guns on college campuses took an awkward turn on Tuesday when a professor at Idaho State University accidentally shot himself in the foot.

The incident comes just two months after a bill was signed by Governor Butch Otter (R) allowing those with concealed carry permits to carry guns on state and college campuses. The bill – which made Idaho the seventh state to allow concealed guns on campuses – prohibits guns in dorms, arenas, stadiums or theaters. And while it is still unclear what cause the firearm to discharge, Lt. Paul Manning of the Pocatello Police Department told the Daily Beast the unnamed professor’s handgun was in the professor’s pants pocket and was not visible during class. The professor (who possesses an enhanced concealed carry permit) was treated for non-life threatening injuries and an investigation is currently underway to determine if he will be charged with a misdemeanor for discharging a firearm within city limits. “When they passed this law, it was bound to happen," ISU President Arthur Vailas told the Idaho State Journal; an opponent of the bill, he described the incident as "scary and embarrassing.” (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on having concealed weapons on campus? Do you agree with gun advocates and the stance that more firearms would increase campus safety or do you think it would do the exact opposite? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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College President Bans School-Funded Travel to Indiana

March 31, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

In response to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, San Francisco State University President Leslie E. Wong has banned all school-funded travel to the state.

The controversial legislation, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Mike Pence last week, is meant to protect religious liberty but many have expressed concern that the law will become a tool of discrimination and a way to allow businesses to turn away lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers. So far, seven institutions in the state – Ball State, Butler, DePauw, IU, Purdue, Valparaiso and Hanover – have issued statements promising to honor their nondiscrimination policies. On Monday, Wong weighed in by blocking employees and students from using SFUS funds to travel to Indiana, effective immediately. "I am dismayed, if not extremely disappointed, in the recent legislation signed into law in Indiana. It is unconscionable for this great university to spend its resources in a state that attempts to legislate discrimination of any kind," he said in a written statement. (For more on this story, head over to The Huffington Post.)

In the midst of this national debate, Governor Pence has said he would support new legislation to "clarify the intent of the law"...but is it too little, too late? What do you think of Indiana's new legislation? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Colleges that Produced the Most Current Members of Congress

February 20, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With college on the horizon for high school seniors, students with political aspirations should understand that it's never too early to start making the right connections. And what better place is there to start than by attending the college that boasts 47 elected officials currently on Capitol Hill? (Curious as to which school I’m referring? None other than Harvard University, of course.)

With twice as many members of Congress counted as alumni, Harvard just might be the college for those with governmental ambitions. Georgetown University scores a distant second with 20 current members of Congress, followed by Yale University with 18. Check out the list below to see what other colleges might better your chances at making your political dream a reality:

For the complete list, head over to FindTheBest.

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Colleges Accused of Misleading Students About Financial Aid Applications

February 7, 2014

Colleges Accused of Misleading Students About Financial Aid Applications

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you're going to pay for your college education can be daunting. And while no one would argue that filling out the FAFSA is an important piece of the financial aid puzzle, it seems that some colleges might be making the process more complicated...and costly.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland alleged this week that more than 100 universities – including dozens of elite and Ivy League institutions – may be violating the law by telling potential applicants that they have to spend money filling out an unnecessary form. In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Cummings said 111 universities required a financial aid form developed by the College Board to be considered for any financial aid. Fifty-eight of the schools told applicants that they had to submit the $25 PROFILE form "in order to secure any type of financial aid, including federal student aid," Cummings wrote. The other 53 directed applicants to "submit both the FAFSA and the PROFILE to obtain federal financial aid, although they do not clarify what each form is used to assess." And while Cummings insists that these schools appear to be in violation of the Higher Education Act, some college officials have defended their use of PROFILE, stating that because it takes into account factors the FAFSA doesn't — like home equity and some business income — it allows universities to make fairer decisions on who needs aid the most. Meanwhile, Cummings has requested a meeting with Duncan to figure out what steps need to be taken to ensure that colleges are not creating unnecessary barriers to federal assistance. (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the outrageous fees students already must endure, what do you think of universities adding an additional one? Are you for filling out a form that costs you $25 if there is a chance you might get additional aid or against forking up more money than necessary? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Department of Defense Supplying College Campuses with Military-Grade Equipment

September 11, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Grenade Launcher? Check. M-16s? Check. Armored Vehicles? Check. No, this isn’t an artillery checklist for a high-ranking general but rather the stockpile that could be located on a college campus near you.

According to reports, at least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the Department of Defense through a federal program that transfers military surplus to law enforcement agencies across the country. Through the 1033 program, participating colleges don’t have to buy the equipment but are responsible for the cost of delivery and maintenance. They are prohibited from reselling or leasing the gear and are required to provide updates on the location of tactical gear, like armored vehicles and weaponry. To date, at least 60 institutions have acquired M-16s through the program: Arizona State University has the most with 70 in its arsenal, followed by Florida International University and the University of Maryland with 50 M-16s each. (The University of Central Florida received a grenade launcher in 2008.) “What was once the unthinkable has become the inevitable,” said UCF’s chief of police Richard Beary. “These bad guys have plans and are heavily armed, and law enforcement needs to be able to keep up with them. In order to do that, police officers need to be highly trained, well equipped, and ready to respond to any scenario.” (For more on this story, click here.)

Participants in the program argue that it provides departments – particularly those with limited budgets like campus police forces – with necessary gear at very little cost. Meanwhile, detractors contend that the procurement of tactical gear doesn’t help with the types of crimes that occur more frequently on college campus, like alcohol-related incidents and sexual assault. What are your thoughts on having military-grade artillery on campus? Let us know in the comments section.

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What Colleges Can Expect from Congress in 2015

January 21, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

With a new year comes a new Congress under new-ish management. Republicans will control the Senate for the first time in eight years, while the House of Representative will have its largest Republican majority in since 1928. But what does any of that have to do with higher education? Here are five predictions, courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

  1. Gridlock will continue. The gridlock and partisan warfare that we've seen in recent years will continue...and is likely to worsen as the 2016 election approaches. By the fall, the prospects for compromise on major legislation – education or otherwise – will be dim.
  2. Funding will remain tight. Budgets won’t change much, especially once the latest round of across-the-board spending cuts (known as the sequester) is applied. In that context, the most colleges will be able to hope for are modest increases for research and student aid; most programs will have to fight just to keep level funding. The Perkins student loan program, which is set to expire in September, will be particularly vulnerable. If government accountants conclude that continuing the program would cost taxpayers, lawmakers may abolish it.
  3. Colleges will have to compete for attention. Republicans have laid out several priorities for 2015, including overhauling President Obama's new healthcare system and approving the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline. Renewal of the Higher Education Act – the main law governing federal student aid – is not among those priorities.
  4. Simplification will rule the day. In the Senate, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has drafted legislation to shrink the FAFSA to the size of a postcard and to reduce the number of grant and loan programs. Meanwhile, House Republicans have offered a road map for reauthorization that calls for "one grant, one loan, and one work-study program" and just two loan-repayment programs.
  5. For-profit colleges will breathe a little easier. Republicans aren’t likely to single out the sector in the way Democrats have. Rather, they will seek to apply any accountability regimes to all colleges.

For more on their predictions, click here. Any you'd like to add? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile for a list of scholarships that are personalized to you!

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President Obama Proposes Free Community College

January 13, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

When considering the true cost of a college education, students must remember to factor in not only tuition but mandatory fees, room and board, books, supplies and living expenses. Unless, of course, you’re considering a community college: President Obama recently proposed free community college for all high school graduates for two years! Score!

The concept, according to administration officials, is not to target low-income students explicitly: Anyone will be provided the option of two years of tuition as long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend school at least half-time. In effect, community college would be universal the way high school is. "Two years of college should be free and should be universal and should be of high quality for responsible students, just like high school is today," said Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education, the third-highest ranking official at the U.S. Department of Education. If the initiative is adopted nationally, officials estimate nine million people across the county could each save about $3,800 in college costs.

It's important to note that the President's proposal would involve the federal government and states combining to pay the entire cost of tuition for two years at a community college for any American who wanted it. And relying on taxpayers is where the program is likely to run into objections from Republicans in Congress: The administration estimates the program would cost about $6 billion a year. (For more on this story, click here.)

With the cost of a college education still on the rise, what do you think of President Obama’s proposal? Share your thoughts in the comments section. For more on the pros and cons of community college, head over to our College Prep section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your education.

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Obama Hears Our Plea, Drops Proposal to Raise Taxes on 529 Savings Plans

February 3, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

After widespread criticism from both parties, the Obama administration decided to scrap its proposal to raise taxes on college savings accounts. Just last week, we blogged about President Obama's proposal to "roll back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Luckily, that's no longer the case.

According to The New York Times, the decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded the proposal be withdrawn from the president's budget, "for the sake of middle-class families." Interestingly enough, top Democrats, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, pressed for the repeal. Administration officials initially defended the plan as an attempt to redirect tax benefits that they said largely benefit wealthy families toward tax credits that help poorer families. The administration will keep its plan to expand other higher education tax breaks, a White House official told The Times. (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the administration scrapping its proposal? Are you relieved? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, where you’ll get matched with financial aid that is unique to you!

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For Some, "Pay it Forward" A Step Backward

3% Over 24 Years Not a Bargain for All

August 22, 2013

For Some, "Pay it Forward" A Step Backward

by Kevin Ladd

Dreamed-up in Portland Oregon and soon lauded in New Jersey, Washington, Ohio and elsewhere, the "Pay it Forward" plan could cost some folks more than simply taking out loans at 6.8%. With the plan calling for approximately $9B in start-up funds and requiring college grads to pay 3% of their income for the 24 years following graduation, only those making below a certain amount would benefit. Certainly, it would be great in the beginning and sounds easier than securing loans, but anybody looking at the big picture and planning to earn over $55K per year upon graduation should probably consider a more traditional path. As always, we recommend finding as many scholarships as possible to keep student loans to a minimum. Free money is better than either of the aforementioned options!
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