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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

by Alexis Mattera

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2012 for the 2013-2014 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

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Scholarships.com Virtual Interns Wanted

by Alexis Mattera

Whether you're putting pen to paper, live tweeting campus events or blogging until the wee hours of the morning, one thing is certain: Sharing information is your passion. And you know what? It's ours, too, so let's join forces through Scholarships.com's virtual intern program!

Over the last 15 years, Scholarships.com has been a go-to site not only for high schoolers in search of financial aid but for college students living away from home for the first time, trying to balance limited money for food and fun, and adjusting to postsecondary academic expectations. We have plenty of information on those topics and more but we want to hear from you about what's going on at the campus you call home for the majority of the year. From parties to politics, from housing to hazing, and from class registration to commencement exercises, let us know what's trending at your school and your musings could be featured regularly on our blog.

If you're interested in becoming a Scholarships.com virtual intern, please send your resume, a 300-word writing sample detailing a campus issue, and links to your blog/Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Pinterest to virtualintern@scholarships.com with "Scholarships.com Virtual Intern" in the subject line.Thanks and looking forward to hearing what your unique voice has to say!


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Muchas Felicidades, Excelencia in Education

Nonprofit Campaigns to Improve College Graduation Rate Among Hispanics

September 8, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Right now, a mere 12 percent of all college graduates are of Hispanic descent. Those stats are no bien, if you ask me, but Excelencia in Education is poised to do something about it today when it unveils several nationwide plans to improve college completion among Hispanics.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Excelencia in Education says that 50 groups will be joining the campaign; the official policy document will be released in March. "We know everyone has to increase their numbers, but we have so much farther to go," Deborah A. Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia, said of the Hispanic population. Santiago knows her stuff: The policy brief Excelencia will release today states that young adults who are Hispanic are less likely to be enrolled in college than are other young adults and in 2008, the college-going rate for Hispanic high-school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 was 37 percent and for all 18- to 24-years-olds, the proportion of Hispanic people enrolled in college was just 26 percent.

Is it possible to increase these numbers? Santiago and her team obviously think so, as does President Obama, who has promised the U.S. will be the world leader in overall college-degree attainment by 2020. To reach that goal, Excelencia says, 3.3 million more Hispanic people than are now projected to complete college would have to earn degrees in the next 10 years. Excelencia will also track the college-completion progress of black and white students on an annual basis in addition to their work with Hispanics, using this year’s the statistical report as a baseline.

We know Scholarships.com is visited by students of many ages, locales and ethnicities so we’d like to hear what you think regarding this matter. What do you think of Excelencia in Education’s plan? Obama’s goal?


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An Apple a Day...

Students and Staff Receive More Than the Daily Fruit Requirement

September 9, 2010

An Apple a Day...

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in early April, the iPad has had quite the effect on consumers – even the most PC-loyal ones – around the world. The student population is no exception and just as they use the iPad and other Apple products every day on and around campus – this year, all Seton Hall undergrads received an iPad, while Stanford is bestowing the device on its incoming medical students – many colleges are even integrating the device beyond their curricula.

Eric Stoller of Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U. posted a piece last night where he followed up on a recent tweet from UNCP’s Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Becca Fick. In 140 characters or less, Fick said her office was getting – her words – a fleet of iPads…and while that particular fleet turned out to be just four (cuatro, quatre, vier, etc.), the department is making good use of its new quartet in conferences, student voice assessment and social media management, among other fields.

Have you noticed iPads popping up more around your school and, if so, how and by whom are they being used? If not, do you think wider usage would be a benefit or a burden?


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A ‘W’ for Women

For the First Time, Females Earn Majority of Doctorates

September 14, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

I’ve been hearing the Spice Girls on the radio a lot lately but before you question my taste in music, I’m thinking the stations had to have gotten wind of this next piece of girl power-infused news: Data released today show that in 2008-2009, women earned the majority of doctoral degrees in the U.S. for the first time ever.

These numbers shouldn’t be surprising given that female enrollment has grown at all levels of higher education (thanks in large part to scholarship funding for both undergraduates and graduates), but the doctoral degree arena has been male-dominated until now. Though the female doctorate majority is slight at 50.4 percent, in 2000 women were earning just 44 percent of doctoral degrees; progress like this in just under a decade is hard to ignore.

The probability a new doctorate recipient being female depends on the field: In the study, just 22 percent of doctorates in engineering were awarded to women and 27 percent in computer science and mathematics. According to Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the Council of Graduate Schools (the organization that compiled and released the data), this is because the number of undergraduates majoring in these fields remains disproportionate. If it weren’t for this fact, he says, women would have surpassed men in doctoral awards already.

Inside Higher Ed presents additional details from the study here, definitely worth looking into, in my opinion...but what about yours? It doesn't matter if you're male or female, what do you think on this announcement?


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Employers Want the Everyman (or Woman)

State College Graduates More Desirable for Entry-Level Jobs

September 15, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Andy Bernard brags about graduating from Cornell any chance he gets. Granted he is a television character on “The Office” and over the top in every way possible but you will encounter people like the Nard Dog all throughout your life; don't get us wrong, getting into and graduating from a school like Cornell is definitely something to be proud of but if your school of choice lacks the perceived prestige of an Ivy, such comments can be trying to hear. Here's a reason why you could be the one smiling a tad brighter after graduation in spite of that.

In its own study, the Wall Street Journal found that U.S. companies largely favor individuals with bachelor’s from large state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools for entry-level positions. Four hundred seventy-nine of the country’s largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies participated and revealed state school graduates – top picks were those from Penn State, Texas A&M and U of I Urbana-Champaign were best prepared and most able to succeed.

Instead of casting a wide net for candidates, the WSJ discovered big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions. This way, they are able to form lasting partnerships with faculty and staff who can point them towards the students who could potentially become valuable employees: Those with the practical skills needed to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school grads, on the other hand, are top picks from recruiters who prize intellect, cachet among clients, critical thinking and communication.

The Andys of the world may still boast a bit, though: Cornell was the only Ivy League that made the study’s top 25.


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An Update on Harrisburg University’s Social Media Shutdown

Some Students Participate, Others Find Ways Around It

September 16, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

When I first heard that Harrisburg University of Science and Technology planned to block Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger from its campus wireless network this week, I wondered how it would play out. Today, I got my answer (thanks, Inside Higher Ed!).

Fact: The sites are blocked on campus. Another fact: Students are resourceful. It seems like every student carries a smartphone or iPad equipped with access to their carriers’ respective 3G networks and Harrisburg U. students who don’t have left campus to get their social media fixes via the Wi-Fi in a nearby hotel’s lobby or attempted to hack into the campus network to bypass the block. Eric Darr, the provost behind the plan, said the university never expected full abstinence but bus personal observations reveal the proportion of students participating is between 10 and 15 percent – notable because students are required to have laptops and have their computers open in class. In Darr’s eyes, the initiative has been a success because people have become more aware of the role social media plays in their lives. “This extreme media coverage in and of itself is forcing more focus on social media,” he said. “That was the whole point of this in the first place.”

The slight percentage Darr noted could have been far different if the social media ban was implemented on a residential campus (Harrisburg is nonresidential, meaning that many students live nearby instead of living in dormitories and on-campus apartments), where students were more dependent on campus networks. Plain and simple, students can log on all they want when they get home…and they have been: Gio Acosta, a junior, said that while the ban has helped him focus in class, he still gives in to the digital urge at home. “They didn’t make any rules about that,” he said.

Do we have any readers currently at Harrisburg U. out there? If so, tell us how you’ve been dealing with the ban. Are you participating? Ignoring it? Hacking your way around it?


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Playing Favorites?

Kahlenberg and Co. Discuss Legacy Preference in College Admissions

September 22, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

I used to hate Hate HATE when my brother was allowed to do something and I wasn’t because he was a boy and I was a girl. I’d stomp and sigh and eventually find something better to do but the sting of that bias stuck with me for a while. I (and I’m sure my parents) would shudder to think of my reaction had I been denied admission to the college of my choice when another candidate got in based on any other reason than merit.

Though college officials claim their preference toward alumni children is modest at best, a new book states the opposite. In Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, editor Richard D. Kahlenberg calls for a reexamination and elimination of alumni preferences now; as an advocate for class-based as opposed to race-based affirmative action, Kahlenberg also argues that with the elimination of affirmative action in several states (a shift he predicts will spread), existing biases make it “hard to justify alumni preferences when you have gotten rid of help for minorities.” One section of the book, which is a collection of research articles by scholars, journalists and lawyers, even details how much the advantage of being an alumni child has increased in the last 20 years (Princeton admitted 41.7 percent of legacy applicants in 2009 – 4.5 times the rate for non-legacies – while the legacy admit rate was only 2.8 times the rate in 1992) though they are typically are “average” academically and “under-perform” those with similar demographic backgrounds who did not receive alumni admissions preferences; there is also additional assistance for white applicants, athletes and the children of wealthy donors. Inside Higher Ed delves deeper here.

I haven’t read the book so therefore I cannot choose a side just yet, but I have to say the article has me intrigued. Getting into college (not to mention finding the money to pay for it) is competitive enough so why turn it into a steeplechase rather than the marathon it already is?


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Save the Perkins!

Proposed Amendment Will Keep This Loan Alive

September 23, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

The Perkins Loan Program has played a vital role in the quest for higher education (mine included) since 1958 but in two years, it could end up just as extinct as dinos and dodos. Can it (and the dreams of countless students) be saved?

The Perkins, or as one supporter affectionately calls it, “the David among the Goliaths of other aid,” is used by 1,800 colleges across the country yet Congress hasn’t provided any new money for the program since 2004. In 2009 alone, colleges awarded 495,000 new Perkins loans at an average of $2,231 per student and its demise would shut out college access to low-income students and eliminate the jobs of campus officials and loan servicers who help distribute the funds. Representative John Spratt clearly understands the importance of the Perkins and is sponsoring an amendment to delay the program’s cancellation – so much so that he held a hearing in Washington yesterday discussing the Perkins’ significance; though it probably won’t pass this year, Spratt is optimistic that with the support of the House Budget Committee and the schools relying on the loans, the amendment has a shot at approval next year.

“By its very nature, the Perkins Loan Program provides schools the flexibility to provide additional aid to needy students. The importance of this flexibility cannot be overstated,” said Sarah Bauder, assistant vice president of enrollment services and student financial aid at the University of Maryland at College Park, in her testimony during the hearing. “Financial aid administrators work where the rubber meets the road and have a unique perspective that allows them to assess students’ and families’ ability to pay for college in ways that aid applications will never be able to assess. When aid administrators see students and families struggling with unique circumstances, they need some flexibility to deliver funds to ensure the success of these students.” One such student, Joseph Hill, also testified. The Georgetown senior stated that though he received $26,000 in scholarships, the Perkins was what made it possible for him to attend the school of his dreams. “Last week, I was talking to my mother, and without hesitation, she said, ‘It still wouldn’t have worked without that Perkins Loan,’ ” Hill revealed.

There’s a lot more to the history of the Perkins and the fight to save it (get the details here) and as a former Perkins recipient, I can’t help but root for this little amendment that could. I'm definitely making a t-shirt.


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SUNY Albany Bids Adieu, Ciao and Do Svidaniya

Classics and Theater Departments Also Eliminated…But Why?

October 4, 2010

SUNY Albany Bids Adieu, Ciao and Do Svidaniya

by Alexis Mattera

Coptic, Ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit have long been considered “dead languages” but at SUNY Albany, a few more are joining that list in terms of majors. On Friday, language faculty members learned the university was ending all admissions to programs in French, Italian and Russian. Classics and theater are also being cut once current students in those programs graduate.

At least 10 tenured faculty members in language programs, 20 adjuncts and tenure-track educators were told they have two years of employment left in which to help current students finish their degrees. It came as more of a shock, however, that so many languages were being eliminated at the same time – not to mention that it was happening at a doctoral university that touts the motto of "the world within reach." How could this be happening, they wondered? University president George M. Philip cited deep, repeated budget cuts and the failure of the New York Legislature to pass legislation that would have given more control over tuition rates and the use of tuition revenue to the state's university systems.

If this news left me slack jawed, I can only imagine how faculty members in the impacted departments must be feeling. One French professor said no other university of the caliber and size of Albany has taken such drastic measures so why now and with this institution? If others are making it work, why can't Albany?


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