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by Susan Dutca

California's Antelope Valley School District banned atheist scholarships from being listed on student publications and must now pay $10,000 in legal fees. They claimed it would upset parents, "promote anti-religious expression," and have "argumentative" and "aggressive undertones." Freethinkers instead saw it as anti-atheist prejudice.

The district was sued by FFRF for refusing to allow college-bound seniors to compete for $17,950 in scholarships from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and $1,750 in scholarships from the Antelope Valley Freethinkers. According to The Friendly Atheist, the scholarship essay prompts are not the least bit aggressive but rather allow students to "develop opinions based on science and reason in contrast to faith and dogma' by writing about their experiences when "objecting to or raising logical- or evidence-based challenges to statements of faith of dogma within their family, school, or Antelope Valley at large."

For students who may face ridicule, harassment, or punishment for speaking up against religion in the classroom, at school events, in government, or their own homes, the FFRF's prompts are: "Young, bold and nonbelieving: Challenges of being a nonbeliever of color" and "Why I'm Good Without God: Challenges of being a young nonbeliever."

While the atheist scholarships were banned, the district accepted scholarships from other religious groups, such as the Church of Scientology, which "solicited religious speech, required applicants to be religious, and dealt with the historically controversial topics of homosexuality and guns."

In your opinion, do you think the schools were right in banning the scholarships? Why or why not? Leave us your thoughtful comments below. If you are looking for scholarships based on your personal faith, check out our extensive list of religious scholarships.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

June is LGBT Pride Month, and though we are already more than halfway through, there is still enough time to apply for scholarships! Check out these scholarships exclusive to LGBT youth, supporters and students pursuing higher education:

  1. Levin-Goffe Scholarship Fund

    Deadline: June 22
    Maximum Award: $25,000

  2. The David Womack Memorial Alabama LGBT Scholarship

    Deadline: June 30
    Maximum Award: $1,000

  3. PrideGLV Rainbow Scholarship Fund

    Deadline: July 1
    Maximum Award: $500

  4. The Jackie Spellman Scholarship

    Deadline: April 15
    Maximum Award: $5,000

  5. The Collective Bill Caspare Memorial Fund Scholarship

    Deadline: July 8
    Maximum Award: $6,000

  6. Boundless Opportunity Scholarship

    Deadline: Varies
    Maximum Award: Varies

  7. PFund Scholarship

    Deadline: January 15
    Maximum Award: $10,000

  8. LGBT PA Caucus Student Leadership Award

    Deadline: January 15
    Maximum Award: $1,000

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Students at Vanderbilt University will soon have their sex-reassignment surgeries covered under a new student health-care plan. Without insurance, many individuals are unable to pay for hormones, surgeries and counseling necessary for the transition. From sex-reassignment to breast augmentation, college and universities are taking steps to make their students feel comfortable and more respected.

The desire for more trans inclusivity does not come without opposition from the Tennessee's Republican-led legislature. Rep. Diane Black released her statement, criticizing the "painfully obvious lack of common sense," since "[our] institutions of higher learning exist to graduate students who are career ready and are prepared to compete in the global economy, not to play politics by providing insurance coverage of medically unnecessary procedures while raking in federal grants." Schools such as Ohio University, which already have expanded transgender health coverage, pay an additional $120,000 yearly.

Medicare lifted its ban on coverage for sex-reassignment surgery in May of 2014. Since then, 72 colleges and universities have implemented the plan. Vanderbilt will cover services such as hormone-replacement therapy and other transgender-related operations. Schools with existing policies, such as the University of Arizona, pay for hormone therapy, orchiectomy, and genital reconstructive surgery. VU will be the first university in Tennessee to offer surgery coverage, making it a leader in the movement.

Transgender students have voiced their discontent with schools unwilling to accommodate their health needs. RJ Robles, a transgender graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, was devastated when he found out that breast augmentation was not covered by student health insurance. "I was going to basically have to put my transition on hold," he claimed. Robles is "really proud of the Vanderbilt community for stepping up" and feels like trans students are finally being "celebrated, valued, respected, heard and seen."

According to Cynthia Cyrus, Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs at Vanderbilt, the decision came to pass in a "relatively non-controversial" manner and "not deeply debated in any way." Students at VU claim that there was no debate to begin with and there "was no organized opposition to this policy because [the students] had no idea that such a policy was even being considered." VU later admitted to Fox 17 that the decision (for now) is merely a "political statement," but a "reasonable move in the right direction."

In your opinion, should colleges and universities be covering students' sex-reassignment surgeries, as well as cosmetic surgeries?

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Bruce Leslie has already come under fire for some controversial "calls" he's made and now he's been busted phone-scrolling during commencement ceremonies. While he was ON THE STAGE, no less. Colleges and universities are struggling with cell phone policies with students constantly caught using their mobile devices and laptops for non-academic purposes in academic settings and situations. But what's the punishment for a college Chancellor's "cellphone perusing"...during a commencement ceremony? Nothing, really.

Ironically, Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie pushed a self-help book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into the "system curriculum, replacing a required humanities course." He felt the need to do so after realizing "some graduates hardly looked him in the eye or knew how to shake his hand as they were accepting diplomas during graduation." Following the incident, Leslie apologized "if he offended anyone." He spent a reported 40 minutes scrolling on his smartphone during a commencement at Palo Alto College, where many graduates are first-generation, low-income, and predominantly Mexican-American college students.

This isn't Leslie's first time exhibiting poor etiquette in a professional setting - he's been known to behave poorly at faculty meetings as well. But Leslie is not alone. Other faculty, administrators, and even board members in the world of higher education have been caught drinking and sleeping during commencements. The entire law faculty at the University of California at Berkeley has been known to convene at 10 a.m., graduation day, and have a "leisurely lunch" while graduates filed on stage. They would regroup later, "oblivious to or unnoticed by parents and families."

Were students on their phones during the commencement ceremony? Some have argued that, despite the sometimes poor netiquette displayed by students, educators must be held to the "highest standards of comportment and professionalization," and that they "set institutional culture." One resolution to the problem is to jam cellular devices, but that is illegal since it may obstruct signal from an emergency call. Another option would be to Wi-Fi jam cellphones. Or perhaps implement a no cell phone policy for those on stage.

Do you think educators should have a stricter no cell phone policy? Should the Chancellor receive some form of punishment for his mobile misuse? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

With Tinder, you can find your future partner, land a hookup, or...earn a scholarship? A female junior at the University of Nebraska Oklahoma was awarded a scholarship and paid internship for defending her use of the mobile dating app.

After Shannon Workman's sorority, Chi Omega, found that she had a Tinder profile picture while rocking a T-shirt with their letters, she was called to a disciplinary meeting. They found the picture to be "disrespectful" and pushed for a "membership revocation," which Workman secretly recorded. Rather than go through an appeals process, Workman opted to left-swipe and bounce. After choosing to exercise her right to use the Tinder app and defy Chi Omega, Tinder CEO and Co-founder Sean Rad reached out to offer Workman a full tuition scholarship to finish her undergrad education. Additionally, she was offered a paid internship at the company because what she did "sends a very empowering message to young women and college students."

Though Tinder has been blamed for creating a modern hookup culture and creating a "dating apocalypse", Workman stated that she defends Tinder because "I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Some people use it for hookups but I don't, and a lot of great things happen through Tinder.” Tinder was started at USC, primarily through the sorority and fraternity realm - which is still the most active group on Tinder. Over 50 percent of users are ages 18 to 24, many of whom are women.

What're your thoughts on Tinder offering a scholarship to the student? You may have your own causes that you believe in - from social action and environmental activism, to simple community service, there are scholarships that award student’s leadership and passion for causes larger than themselves.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Tuition assistance from scholarships may be cut as much as 30 percent by fall 2017 for tens of thousands of New Mexico students. Proceeds from lotteries, including the January $1.6 billion Powerball, are not able to keep pace with higher education cost increases.

Ticket sales are down, college tuition costs are up, and state budgets are tight. As a result, lawmakers in eight states are considering cutting lottery-funded scholarship programs. New Mexico has one of the best lottery-based scholarships in the country, helping roughly 90 percent of all first-year, full-time students with full-tuition aid. According to an associate VP at the University of Mexico, students who normally qualify for such aid would have to pay nearly $1,700 out of pocket annually if the budget cut takes place, which will most likely necessitate taking out more in student loans. According to the Department of Education, only 60 percent of students would receive full-tuition benefits, instead of the current 90 percent.

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According to Susan Montoya Bryan, one reason New Mexico ticket sales have started to decline is that millennials tend to not buy lottery tickets; most likely because they opt to pay for gas at the pump instead of going into the convenience store. In several attempts to close the gap, New Mexico lawmakers have tried measures such as a "one-time appropriation to prop up scholarships and shifting $19 million in liquor tax revenue," moving unclaimed prize money to the lottery tuition fund, raising eligibility requirements to a 2.5 GPA, and having applicants complete at least 15 credit hours per semester at a four-year school.

Bryan reports that annual revenue from lotto ticket sales is about $40 million and tuition costs for eligible students are expected to surpass $65 million. Federal data already indicated that New Mexico has the highest student loan default rate. New Mexico is not the only state facing this financial dilemma. Tennessee tried a short-term goal by setting up an endowment to fund scholarships through interest and earnings. Georgia was the first to introduce lottery-based scholarships, nearly two decades ago, but had to make changes in 2011 which resulted in a 25 percent decrease of qualifying students. Republican state Rep. Jason Harper recommends that scholarships are used only after all financial aid is exhausted.

Lucky for you, we offer you tons of scholarship opportunities for which you may qualify that are not affected by the lottery system.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Between her coursework and political activism, Bernarda Elizabet Garcia actively fights for immigrants' rights, especially when it comes to funding higher education. As a scholarship recipient of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund's Young Activist Award, Garcia is a powerful and influential voice in her community through her advocacy for extending federal financial aid to undocumented college students by "improving the quality of life through immigration reform and education." Though there currently are not many government policies that give financial assistance to undocumented students for higher education, there are other organizations that are dedicated to helping those students pay for a college education.

There are roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, with 2.1 million potentially eligible for the most recently proposed federal DREAM Act. Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college in the United States. According to College Board, college tuition and fees for full-time students at a public four-year institution (in-state) was roughly $19,548 per year in 2015-2016. For out-of-state tuition at a public school, the cost was $34,031 and tuition at a private nonprofit cost, on average, $43,921 in the same year. Without financial aid, it is nearly impossible to afford a college education, especially when many undocumented students come from low-income households.

Though there is no federal or state law that prohibits undocumented students from being admitted or attending U.S. colleges, government policies pose a barrier, as undocumented students do not have access to federal financial aid or Pell grants. However, Georgia, along with Alabama and South Carolina, plan to implement a policy that would ban illegal students from being admitted to their colleges. Just earlier this month, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal for lowering the in-state tuition for undocumented students. According to Education Reporter Lauren Foreman, following Georgia's decision, eight students from Georgia State University were arrested after refusing to leave a protest. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress in 2001, failed to pass even after countless reintroductions and a big push in 2010. The goal of the act was to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the US. However, all state DREAM Acts are different and are not synonymous with DACA, which is a policy that was created in 2012 by President Obama to grant deferred deportation to those under 31 years of age who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16.

Another controversial topic is whether or not undocumented students should be eligible for lower tuition - tuition that state residents pay when attending in-state universities and colleges. Currently, the majority of schools charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least twenty states have passed tuition equity bills that allow undocumented students to pay the same tuition as their classmates, regardless of their immigration status (certain criteria must be met to qualify). Based on the laws passed by these states, there is a general consensus that the state does not "lose revenue from the number of students who would otherwise pay out-of-state tuition," but rather, "it raises the percentage of high school graduates who pursue a college degree."

Organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and TheDream.US are dedicated to helping undocumented students earn scholarships to pay for college, regardless of immigration status. Be sure to check with your current or prospective university or college to see what funding opportunities you are eligible for, if you are an undocumented student. Check out our scholarships for undocumented students and scholarships for which you qualify today to help fund your college education.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

A new study reports that 2015/2016 college freshman embody an all-time high predisposition for civil engagement in the study's 50-year history. According to Mikhail Zinshteyn, political and social crime-fighting students hope to be the new brigade of community leaders and activists this year.

According to the Higher Education Research Institute, who surveyed 114,189 first-year students attending college full-time, 8.5% of students - regardless of race - said there was a "very good chance" that they would engage in student protests in 2015. HERI reports that this is the highest level recorded since its inception in 1967. Black students represented the largest increase in expected student activism with a 16% change from the previous year, where 10.5% of students expected to participate in campus-related demonstrations. Latino students represent a 3.2% increase from 2014 to 2015, where one in every ten Latino student (10.2%) reported a "very good chance" in student activism. 7.1% of white students - compared to the 4.6% in 2014 - also planned to be more involved in social-based demonstrations.

According to the study, every race has seen some level of increased desire to participate in student protests, demonstrations, and rallies. To what might we attribute this trend? Kevin Eagan, director of CIRP claims, "Student activism seems to be experiencing a revival, and last fall's incoming freshman class appears more likely than any before it to take advantage of opportunities to participate in this part of the political process...we observed substantial gains in students' interest in political and community engagement across nearly every item on the survey related to these issues." Another part of the survey records that 59.8% of incoming freshman were likely to vote in a "local, state, or federal election at any point during their college career," which is a 50.3% increase from 2014. According to Eagan, this could very well mean a strong interest and dedication to the community and political realm where college students' roles will "play a critical role in upcoming elections." Zinshteyn also notes the "political leanings" of these students as liberal or far-left, the highest percentage since 1973. Regardless of political affiliation, Zinshteyn notes the "emboldened political attitudes of these 18 and 19-year-olds mirror a rise in volunteerism and commitment to others...offering evidence disputing the view of younger Americans as narcissistic or incurious about the world."

Though the study focused on 2015, this group of individuals have the next four years to push forward their agendas and make an impact in the upcoming presidential election. This means a more politically-aware and knowledgeable body of students are scoping out their best candidate for social change.

Credit is attributed to Mikhail Zinshteyn, who is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and program manager at the Education Writers Association. He has also reported for The American Independent, where he covered state education policy, elections, and economics. Additionally, he manages the Education Writers Association's National Awards for Education Reporting.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Jess Hanch

The FBI is investigating a Kent State University history professor for alleged ties to today's most talked about terrorist organization, ISIS. Professor Julio C. Pino has been under investigation for more than a year by an FBI "joint terrorism task force." The special agent who confirmed the investigation chose to remain anonymous. According to the agent, there is "no direct threat to the university". However, the professor will remain under investigation for his ties to the organization, and for allegedly recruiting students to join ISIS.

Pino openly supports Palestinians in the current Israel-Palestine conflict, and caused controversy on campus when he stated in class that scholars who supported Israel were "directly responsible for the murder of 1,400 Palestinian children, women, and elderly civilians". Although Pino converted to Islam in 2000, he confidently told reporters that he does not support the Islamic State (ISIS), nor does he discuss the terrorist organization in class. He also stated he has always been clear about his political views and "stands in defense for civil-liberties [by] fulfilling my duties as an American citizen by speaking out on issues that some people find controversial," including the Israel-Palestine conflict. In light of the investigation, he told reporters "I follow the law. I advocate that others do also. And I ask others to respect my freedom of speech as much as I respect theirs". This is his first FBI investigation, and he has a clean record.

Pino told reporters that neither the FBI nor Homeland Security had made him aware of the investigation in any way until now. He also had not heard anything from the University. Kent State's University Spokesmen Eric Mansfield told KentWired that "Kent State is fully cooperating with the FBI". The FBI Agent reported to KentWired that they interviewed several faculty members, and some of Pino's students about the accusation however there is no information yet about whether or not Professor Pino was interviewed. There is no further news on what will happen to Pino, and there have been no comments released from faculty or students. As of right now, Pino will continue to teach two history courses at Kent State this year, and will teach in the fall semester.

Although the FBI agent clearly stated that the campus is not directly in danger, the investigation is still prominent enough to make its way into the public eye. How do you stand on this issue? Do you support Professor Pino and his statement about his right to free speech? Would his past statements about the conflict in the Middle East be taken differently if he did not align as Muslim? Start a conversation and leave your comments below.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

After being charged with sexual bribery, trafficking degrees, and misappropriating public funds, a former president of the University of Toulon began trial on Monday and, if found guilty, could face up to 10 years in prison and €150,000 in fines for enrolling Chinese students in exchange for monetary and sexual favors.

Laroussi Oueslati, former French president of the University of Toulon served as the central admission official back in 2008 and focused primarily on developing and strengthening the workforce through the recruitment of Asian and South American students. In 2008 alone, 300 students - primarily of Chinese descent - were admitted to the university. However, due to their "low-level of French," they never should have been admitted. Oueslati reportedly shortened the registration and admissions process by accepting students who "paid him up to €3,000 (£2,300) each." Some students claimed they were assured a seat in exchange for "having intimate relation" with Oueslati. Sexual bribery, in this case, refers to the solicitation of sexual favors by promise or rewards, which is viewed as a serious form of professional and moral corruption. So far, 14 witnesses have been called to appear in this week's trial.

Several students took to the Internet to openly state that Oueslati requested €3,000 to be paid directly to him to secure university admission. In addition to bypassing the traditional admissions process, he reportedly created his own panel, "independent of the university's central admission process," which "rarely examined candidates' academic records," according to The Telegraph. In response to all of the claims, Oueslati maintains his innocence, stating, "I am not corrupt...I can tell you that if ever someone tried to corrupt me I would, if you'll excuse the expression, tell them to p-- off." One other university administrator and four former Chinese students also face charges. Two students who fled to China are also being sought out for arrest.

Oueslati had an "all-powerful academic" and irresistible personality and presence at the Institut d'Administration des Entreprises, according to Le Monde. Nonetheless, once the accusations came to light in 2009, he was forced to resign and potentially faces a lifetime ban from exercising any role in the world of academia, if not greater consequences. The trial, which began on Monday, is expected to continue until Friday.

If you have a passion for business, education, or law and hope to better the world of higher education, check out our many scholarships today.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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