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Mind the Gap

Should You Take a Year Off?

December 30, 2010

Mind the Gap

by Alexis Mattera

The road to college – once thought to be straight and narrow – is detouring into uncharted territory. It was once expected for all high school seniors to matriculate to an institute of higher education the semester after they graduate but today, many students (and their parents) are considering the notion of taking a year off from formal schooling first.

But what do students do during this time, often called a gap year? Not catching up on “Extreme Couponing” or trying out online dating: Students use this time to volunteer abroad or build their resumes and schools are adopting formal programs allowing incoming freshmen to defer admission for a year to do so. According to the Wall Street Journal, "gap fairs" are becoming just as common as campus job expos. The results? Mixed. While most students end their gap years better prepared to attend college, some get so waylaid that they abandon a collegiate education all together.

It may sound tempting to take a year off to explore the unknown but there are a few confounding variables. First, the price tag is far from alluring – unless you feel $35,000 is a reasonable figure. (The upside is that costs can be defrayed by stipends, grants, research fellowships and scholarships or the agreement to work in a very remote area.) Next, the hazy direction of your future. I won't deny that your late teens and early 20s are the best times to gain life experience but if said experience is going to leave you in debt or questioning once-important educational goals, is taking the time off worth it?


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College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

Parent Offers to Become Live Cadaver to Pay Off Children's Student Loans

February 28, 2011

College Costs (Literally) an Arm and a Leg

by Alexis Mattera

There's been a lot of talk about Harvard lately – its reinstatement of early action, a graduate winning the Best Actress Oscar, another Winklevoss lawsuit against Facebook, etc. – but this next story doesn’t fall within the boundaries of its ivy-covered campus...and not that far away, either. An arm’s length, shall we say?

Desperate to pay off their children's $20,000 worth of student loans, a Boston-area parent recently posted on Craigslist that he or she was willing to sell their body parts to combat the mounting debt. The posting did not include a name, gender or exact location but listed the "live cadaver" was 5 feet 10 inches tall, 200 pounds and had all organs in working order. "If you eliminate my children's student loans, I will give you my life!" the poster wrote. "Take my blood, take my plasma. Drill into my brain, my leg, my arm. Tap my heart, my liver, my kidney," the poster wrote, adding, "I am very very serious."

There are a lot of options out there to limit exorbitant loans (scholarships, grants and fellowships, to name a few) and consolidation can simplify the loan repayment process by allowing the borrower to combine several types of federal student loans and repayment schedules into one...but selling off one’s body parts piece by piece? We’re all for finding interesting ways to pay for school but this is just plain crazy. Would you ever consider taking this route to keep loan collectors at bay?


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Thiel Fellowship Pays Students to Leave School, Develop Ideas

by Alexis Mattera

Here at Scholarships.com, all of our resources are geared toward helping students prepare for and afford college educations...not leave them behind. That being said, this new award probably won’t be popping up in our database any time soon.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, announced the inaugural recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that will bestow 24 students with $100,000 each to not attend college for two years and develop business ideas instead. The driving force behind the fellowship is Thiel’s concern about the “irrational” increase in cost and demand for college educations and his belief that certain students would learn more by leaving school than continuing traditional coursework.

Not surprisingly, heated debates have erupted in academic circles – William K. Aulet, managing director at MIT's Entrepreneurship Center, believes the fellowship is sending the wrong message, stating, "To say that you're better off dropping out of school is a gross generalization." – but the fellowship winners have a different outlook: At least two recipients have expressed interest in returning to school at the end of the fellowship and one prospective winner turned down the deal entirely to enroll at MIT, which signals traditional education is still valued.

What do you think about the Thiel Fellowship? Would you be more than willing to apply and leave school if selected or would you prefer to continue your education in the classroom instead?


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Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

Universities Take Wealth into Consideration When Selecting Students

February 23, 2011

Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

by Suada Kolovic

Is your dad a congressman or your mom a prominent surgeon? Do you have an uncle or aunt in the Senate? Well then, you’re in luck because the world is your oyster. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, more colleges, including Middlebury, Wake Forest, Williams and Tufts, are either taking applicants’ financial statuses into account or have been offering admission to wealthier students who can afford to pay tuition in full, while some public state universities are admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition rates.

Now this isn’t the shock of the century by any means – how do you think George W. Bush ended up at Yale? – but the truth of the matter is that universities, like the economy, are struggling financially. And how do they combat the financial strain? By granting admission to applicants who don’t need financial aid. What does this mean to you, future high school graduates? The more likely you’re willing to pay for your education in full, the more likely you’ll get in. Colleges stress that they're not lowering their admissions criteria and instead begin their admissions process as “need blind” – admitting students regardless of their ability to pay and suggest they only consider an applicant’s financial status later in the admissions process.

Let us know what you think. Is it fair for students to practically buy their way into college? Should schools be permitted to resort to such tactics when considering a student’s admission? Would you forgo applying for financial aid in hopes of boosting your chances of getting in?


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Top Issues Millennials Want Discussed in State of the Union Address

by Suada Kolovic

For those of you that don’t closely follow politics, tonight President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address. If you aren’t familiar, the address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the President to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities. And with potentially millions of young Americans watching, we wondered what issues mattered most to Millennials? Fortunately, Generation Progress asked them just that! Check out some of the top responses below: (For the full list, head over to Generation Progress.)

  • A solution to the student debt crisis. With 40 million Americans shouldering $1.2 trillion dollars in educational debt, Millennials want to see President Obama call for ways to address this crisis.
  • Create a fair economy that shrinks the income inequality gap by raising the minimum wage to $10, maintains federal government programs like unemployment benefits, expands the U.S. apprenticeship system, supports young entrepreneurs to create new business and reinvest in national service programs like AmeriCorps.
  • Every state needs to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so young Americans can purchase affordable health care plans with subsidies Medicaid provides via the law.
  • Invest in green jobs while addressing the effects of climate change.
  • Enact common-sense gun legislation such as mandatory background checks.

What do you think of the top issues that Millennials want discussed? Any you would add? Let us know in the comments section.


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by Administrator

Earning an accredited online college degree can be the key to career advancement for many working professionals. In many fields, in order to move ahead, you have to earn an advanced degree.

For example, if you are a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), in order to move to the next level within your field, you need to earn the Registered Nurse (RN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) credential.

However, LPNS often work rotating shifts in hospitals, which makes it impossible to attend traditional nursing degree programs. Online degree programs provide an option for individuals in this situation to keep their variable schedule jobs while working toward and advanced degree that can have a significant positive impact on earning potential.

Even in career fields in which advanced degree requirements are not mandated, continuing education can give workers a competitive advantage in the job market. Most employers are concerned with reducing turnover in the workforce. When employers hire new workers or identify individuals to promote, they look for people who are likely to be successful with the company long term. Seeking an advanced degree lets employers know that you are serious about your career. This can help you stand out from other applicants or candidates for promotions. It is important to explore Doctoral Fellowships and Master's Degree scholarships because if you know how and where to look, growth opportunities are out there and can help you advance your career.

Some companies will hire individuals who don’t have degrees for entry-level positions, but seek degreed individuals for higher level positions and internal promotions. Once you have started working in a career position, it can be hard to find the time to attend college full-time. However, you are often overlooked for advancement opportunities if you don’t have a degree. Instead of feeling trapped permanently in an entry-level job, you can change your situation by seeking an associate degree online or enrolling in an online Bachelor’s degree program.


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by Administrator

In addition to the expansion of health coverage for Americans, another significant change has been made and another major economic issue addressed with the termination of the bank-based system of federally subsidized student loans.

With a vote of 220 to 211, the controversial bill, HR 4872, was passed by the House on Sunday and is expected to gain Senate approval within a few days. The bill, known best for the health-care provisions it contained, also addressed and closed the twenty year debate over whether to include private lenders in the federal student loan system.

Most of the savings expected to be derived from this major change (estimated at approximately $61 billion over the next decade) will be used for increasing the value of the Pell Grant for low-income students. Historically black colleges and community colleges are also expected to benefit from the savings this program offers. The House passed a similar bill in September of 2009, but didn't garner enough votes to pass the Senate. This time around, it was packaged with the health-care measure, and the amount dedicated to education has been reduced.


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by Administrator

In the world of financial aid there are many different forms of assistance available to students and each serves a slightly different purpose than the other. Many students assume that words like scholarship, grant, fellowship, internship, and student loan are interchangeable. They are not, however, and the consequences of misunderstanding which form of financial aid you are looking for or receiving can be far reaching. For each variety of assistance there are different tax stipulations, service requirements, and repayment expectations attached. Any student on the hunt for financial aid should know what he’s looking for, what he’s found, what the award requires and how it will help him achieve his college goals.

Scholarships

Most scholarships are financial awards given to eligible students with no strings attached. Typically, if you win a standard scholarship, unless it is renewable, your interaction with the donor ends the day you receive your check. According to the IRS, if you are not pursuing a degree, the entire scholarship is taxable. For those students using the scholarship for college, any portion used for tuition, fees, books, and supplies is not taxable. Any funds remaining after your expenses are paid for, however, are subject to tax. There is not typically a service requirement or other stipulation attached to the scholarship upon receipt of the award, however, you should check to be certain. Scholarships are offered in many varieties—sweepstakes, essays, competitions—for traditional and non-traditional students alike. Occasionally scholarships require that you do a specified amount of community service after receiving the award.

Grants

Like scholarships grants are a cash award that does not need to be repaid. There are federal grants, state grants, and grants issued by private businesses and organizations. Many undergraduate students greatly depend on government grants to get them through college. Why shouldn’t they? As long as students qualify financially, all they need to do is fill out a FAFSA. Aside from the government sponsored grant program, most grants are awarded to graduate students who need help funding research or who intent to enter a specific field. Grant amounts range greatly. They may be $100, $100,000, etc. Graduate school grants are not typically used toward tuition, but rather, they are usually used for any expenses necessary to complete your research.

Fellowships

Fellowships are typically awarded to pursuers of graduate or doctoral degrees. Although providers don’t seek repayment, they will frequently ask that students perform research work as a part of the deal. The work may be tedious, but it is usually worth the effort; it is not uncommon for stipends, in addition to tuition coverage, to be a part of the fellowship package. Fellowships tend to be lucrative, and they can get pretty competitive. Students who demonstrate exceptional merit are usually the top runners.

Internships

Most students know the difference between a scholarship and an internship, however, for those that need clarification an internship is an opportunity to work within a business or organization that you would otherwise need a degree to hold a position in. While some internships offer monthly stipends for students participating in their programs, others are unpaid. There are many professions that require students to have participated in an internship program before they can be hired as an employee. It’s a good idea to find out how most professionals in your field of interest secured a position in their field because you will likely discover that without the help of an internship most would not be where they are today. When you are considering an internship there are several things to think about before you accept a position. Ask yourself: How will it help me? What is the time commitment? Is there a stipend? And of course, is there a possibility for employment after the internship?

Student Loans

Believe it or not, student loans qualify as financial assistance; however, loans are a form of low-interest debt that must eventually be repaid. There is a limit to how much financial assistance a student can receive from student loans which is usually determined by how great the financial need of the student is. For the students who do not qualify for a need-based grant but do not have enough cash to pay for tuition, student loans are a good option. An added benefit is that most loans do not begin accumulating interest until 6 to 12 months after you graduate and monthly payments are also delayed until then.


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To Attend or Not to Attend: That is the ($100,000) Question

by Angela Andaloro

The decision to attend college is one that everyone arrives at differently. For some, not going to school isn’t an option, be it by their own standards or their parents’; for others, taking the next step in their educational career may have required a little more convincing. I have even heard stories of parents who bribe their kids to go to college with promises of apartments or cars.

While a new ride or a place to call your own might sound tempting, there’s an even more tempting offer out there from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel – the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, which, in exchange for a commitment to not attending college for two years and dedicating themselves entirely to their inventions, Thiel offered each fellow $100,000. The response was overwhelming, as are the opinions floating around the controversial award.

One of the lucky 20 fellows, Dale Stephens, wrote an article for CNN discussing his own feelings toward the idea that real world experience could prove to be more beneficial than a formal education. He discusses his disappointment in the values that are promoted by the college system – a disappointment that resounds on college campuses around the country. He goes on to discuss the possibilities out there for our generation beyond a traditional education, which, as Stephens puts it, are beyond the extremes of “Becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or mastering the phrase ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Stephens’ call to seek opportunities beyond the formal educational system may be influenced by his experience as a Thiel Fellow but is an idea that is considered by many current and soon-to-be college students. I myself have heard students complain about feeling as though they aren’t really getting anything out of college. The phrase “I’m never going to use this in real life” is one that’s uttered frequently, but how much truth is there to that? Do you feel that there’s something to be learned in college or is it a societal expectation we’ve come to accept?

Angela Andaloro is a rising junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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by Emily

Are you considering a career in public service, such as working for the government or a non-profit organization, but more than slightly overwhelmed by the thought of repaying your student loans with an often minuscule salary?  Realizing that you may actually be taking a pay cut to transition from your summer job to your "grown up" career can be demoralizing, and dealing with debt on top of that certainly doesn't help.  While many noble individuals certainly make this sacrifice, perhaps you were hoping to forget where the grocery store kept its "manager's special" items after you graduated.  And who can blame you?  The college budget diet, and the accompanying lifestyle of cramming half a dozen people into one run-down apartment, eventually does get old.  Luckily, there are forms of financial aid out there to minimize or relieve your debt and help you stretch that public servant salary a little further.

Some of the most well-known career-based assistance programs are designed for teachers.  The TEACH grant contributes $4000 a year towards the tuition of students who agree to teach a high-need subject at a low-income school for four years. Other programs such as Teach for America offer teaching certification, a stipend, and assistance with student loan repayment to individuals agreeing to teach in certain schools.

Teachers and other public servants can also qualify to have their Federal Perkins Loans canceled, saving up to $16,000.  Nursing students and other medical students can get in on this program, as well.  The federal government also launched a public service loan repayment program a year ago that will forgive qualifying federal student loan debt for those who commit ten years to public service.  In addition, a variety of government scholarships provide incentives for students in various majors to consider federal work.

An article appearing in USA Today this week also mentions some university-specific programs to help steer students towards public service careers.  Harvard Law School will waive tuition for one year for students who commit to five years in government or non-profit fields, and Princeton University will provide free master's degrees to eight 2008 graduates who first put in two years in federal jobs.  Tufts University is also helping its undergraduate students pay down debt or pursue graduate degrees if they commit a few years to public service work.

If you're leaning towards a career with a government agency or non-profit organization, be aware of the scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and loan repayment programs out there.  Include a free college scholarship search in your research to find out about many of your options for funding your education and minimizing your debt.


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