January 25, 2010
Whether it’s preparing students for college or providing vocational education, one of the purposes of high school is to help students transition from depending on their parents to living in the real world. Recently, more high schools have begun incorporating personal finance into their core curricula, hoping to prepare students to manage the money they make once they move out on their own.
Money management courses have been offered by high schools for decades, but they were often included in family and consumer sciences classes, often with vague and unappealing names like “independent living.” Many college-bound students would regard these as blow-off classes that couldn't possibly relate to their lives, while other students might avoid them out of fear of having their GPA torpedoed by demonstrating inadequate ability to sew, cook, or care for a baby doll.
However, widespread financial difficulties of the last few years have prompted an increased interest financial literacy among high school and college students who are hoping to avoid the mistakes they see their family and friends making. Financial literacy classes have also changed, focusing on a wider range of skills required for modern life, including taking out a mortgage and starting a retirement fund, rather than the checkbook-balancing and grocery shopping skills students may have found themselves learning just a few years ago.
As the value of personal finance education has become more apparent, states and school districts have begun incorporating it into their core curricula. According to the Council for Economic Education, 13 states require personal finance courses for high school graduation, up from seven in 2007, and a total of 34 states now require schools to implement content standards for personal finance education.
Taking personal finance classes in high school can prepare students to make smart financial choices right out of the gate, rather than learning the hard way in college or after. Students with a strong personal finance education may be able to avoid the financial pitfalls that trapped their parents, potentially helping to break the cycle of poverty for some, and helping others minimize suffering from credit cards or student loans acquired in college. Some school districts believe so strongly in playing a greater role in financial education that they’ve started guiding students toward healthier financial habits as early as kindergarten, according to an article in USA Today.
Colleges have also begun putting more emphasis on financial literacy. In the last few years, a number of colleges have added financial literacy courses, while others are offering or better publicizing financial counseling and advising services. One school, Syracuse University, has even tied financial aid to financial literacy for some students, offering grants to a selected group of students if they agree to participate in a financial education program.
Even if your high school or college doesn’t offer financial literacy training, it’s important to educate yourself about personal finance and build money management skills. Learning how to budget, pay bills on time and build your credit score can help you live a better and less stressful life before, during and after college.
February 4, 2010
The number of high school students signing up for Advanced Placement (AP) courses has grown significantly over the last year, but the number of students failing the exams to receive credit for the classes grew right alongside those figures, according to a USA Today analysis released today. The number of students failing the exams was particularly high in Southern states like Arkansas and Mississippi.
AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit. Most colleges require students to receive a 3 or higher to receive credit for the courses, based on a 1-5 scale. Nearly 3 million students took the tests last year; more than two in five, or about 41 percent, earned a failing mark of a 1 or 2. In the South, about half of all students failed the exams, a failure rate up 7 percentage points over the last 10 years. The worst performer was Arkansas; more than 70 percent of AP test-takers there failed their final exams. Ten years ago, about 36.5 percent of AP test-takers nationwide failed their exams.
The CollegeBoard, which offers the exams, has already responded. Officials there say it's misleading to consider all AP exams equal. Some courses, such as AP Physics, have seen higher numbers of students passing. The number of students taking AP English Literature, however, have not been as successful. Statistically, it shouldn't be all that surprising that there are more students failing the tests, as the number of students taking the tests has grown significantly. Enrollment in AP courses has grown from about 704,000 students in 1999 to 1.7 million last year.
Should you be worried? If you're eager to get your college career started or get some college prep under your belt, and feel confident enough in your abilities and academic record to tackle the extra work, these numbers shouldn't dissuade you from adding an AP course or two to your course schedule. As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are worth considering. AP credit can be a way to build your resume and explore a potential college major, and save money on your college education if you do well enough on those exams to get some college credit.
October 14, 2008
I remember sitting around in an English class one day, waiting for the professor to arrive, when one of my classmates mentioned the GRE (graduate record examination) test that we’d all recently taken to apply to graduate programs. She had been worried she wouldn’t even be able to get into English grad programs because of her abysmal standardized math test performance. Everyone chimed in with their GRE scores and application process anecdotes and I spoke up with, “I was surprised that I actually scored higher on the math than the verbal!” It was akin to announcing that I tortured small animals. The air went out of the room and I think some girls actually edged away from me.
This social stigma about math certainly doesn’t start with graduate students in English departments. Most students who excel at math, especially girls, have certainly felt it at one point or another. So while some previous research has suggested that girls just aren’t as good as boys at math, a new study published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society suggests something different. Combining two of the facts of life of high school—popularity is important to many girls and math just isn’t cool—the study proposes that girls don’t do as well at math in middle school and high school and don’t pursue math-heavy degrees as undergraduate students because of social pressure.
This conclusion comes from looking at the cultural backgrounds of some of the highest-performing college and high school students who participate in math competitions. Most of these students, especially the girls, came from cultures where math is prized as an important and useful skill and a source of prestige. These students or their parents tended to be from Asian or Eastern European countries, either sparing them from or giving them a social counterpoint to American beliefs about math. These countries produce a higher proportion of mathematically gifted women, as well as higher numbers of math superstars overall, suggesting that it’s not that girls aren’t good at math, but that girls in the U.S. are socialized to not make math a priority.
So, if you’re a high school math nerd, hang in there. At least one research team believes that you are good at math and you’re not a weirdo for being good at math. If you can stick with math into college, you’ll likely encounter a different attitude. And if the article in Friday’s New York Times is any indication, top colleges want mathematically-inclined students. They might even pony up some scholarship money to woo you.
October 17, 2008
While the U.S. Presidential debates have wrapped up for 2008, voters interested in hearing more about each candidate's plans for education policy have an opportunity to watch a debate between the candidates' educational advisors on Tuesday. The debate will take place at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City and will be webcast live by Education Week.
Due to the worsening economic situation in the United States, more and more families are having trouble finding money for college. Lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan Program and discontinuing private student loans have required some families to look elsewhere for financial aid, while lost income and tougher credit requirements have made it harder for other families to come up with the funds required to pay for school. While industrious students certainly can find college scholarships and grants, many voters would like to see schools and the federal government find ways to increase these sources of funding. Simplifying the financial aid application process and curbing the rising cost of tuition are other issues many would like to see the next administration tackle.
The quality of public education at the K-12 level also remains a concern for many voters. With more and more families viewing a college education as essential, adequate college preparation has become increasingly important. Yet many students require remedial education upon entering college, minorities are still are less likely to go to or finish college, and many voters are disenchanted with standardized testing and No Child Left Behind.
This debate will likely provide voters with more complete information on each campaign's education plans. If education policy is a major issue for you this election, consider tuning in to the webcast at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 21.
October 21, 2008
Just in case you haven't heard enough reasons to kick your scholarship search into high gear, an article appearing last week in The Boston Globe reported that one third of parents have cut back on or altogether stopped saving for college. According to a study by Fidelity Investments, the current economic situation has left many parents less equipped to help their children pay for school.
The study found that parents have fewer resources to devote to students' college expenses due to drops in values of investments and home equity. To help make up this difference, 35 percent of parents reported plans to delay retirement in order to better help their college-aged children pay bills. Parents are also asking more of college students, with 55 percent expecting their kids to work part-time, 44 percent hoping their kids will live at home while attending college, and 37 percent encouraging their children to attend less expensive state colleges. Additionally, 62 percent of parents expect their children to take out student loans--a figure that makes sense coupled with the 16 percent increase in FAFSA applications reported earlier this year.
When coupled with anecdotal evidence, such as another Boston Globe piece highlighting Massachusettes families' increased interest in public universities for 2009, this study stresses the need for students to ramp up their efforts to find money for college. While federal student financial aid and private loans are being turned to more and more, college scholarships are still options for students industrious enough to find them. If you're already attending college or currently in the midst of the college application process and haven't yet started searching for scholarships, now is a good time to begin. Between now and February, a great number of scholarship opportunities will open up for applications, so the sooner you know what's out there, the better a chance you'll have of winning scholarships.
November 4, 2008
It's November 4th, and that means election day for everyone in the U.S. If you haven't already cast an early or an absentee ballot, here's yet another reminder to show up at the polls today. Education has become a major concern due to economic instability, decreasing availability of student loans, and the rising costs of attending college. Today you can make your opinion on education known, and not only in the Presidential and Congressional races.
Voters in eleven states will pick a new governor, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, new governors in five states will play an important role in setting educational policies in coming years. Voters in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington can check out coverage of what's at stake in terms of education here.
State referenda in thirteen states also have the potential to affect educational policy on issues ranging from school funding to affirmative action. The Chronicle of Higher Education provides info on these referenda here, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education also addresses them here.
If you're just starting down the road to a college education, the people elected today and the measures passed today will have a direct influence on the shape of your academic journey. Your ability to fund your education, your experience at college, your ability to meet your college goals, and even your chances of getting into the college of your choice could change based on what happens today. So if you can, read up on the issues and get out there and vote.
November 6, 2008
U.S. News had an interesting piece in their education section last week about the monetary benefits of a college degree. Citing government statistics and several recent studies, the author related that students who complete a bachelor's degree can expect to earn $300,000 more in today's dollars over the course of their working lives than students who just complete high school. Students who earn a professional degree, go to law school, or complete business school can expect to earn even more.
A full-time worker with a bachelor's degree makes about $20,000 more a year than a student with a high school diploma, and a student with, say, an MBA can expect to make about $100,000 more than a high school grad each year. While such annual income disparities add up to more than $300,000 over a lifetime of work, studies citing that figure also adjusted for inflation, the extra money high school grads earn in those first four or five years, and the average cost of attending college for four years.
Another benefit of a college degree is a better chance of landing and keeping a job: the unemployment rate for college grads is half what it is for those who don't go to college. Students from low-income backgrounds also reap more benefits from receiving a degree, as they're able to land not only higher-paying, but also more stable jobs and better-benefited jobs, and to have opportunities that would not have been available to them otherwise. Going to college can also provide significant academic advantages for your future children.
So if college costs are daunting and you're considering whether your education is going to be worth the price you pay for school, do some research. You're statistically more likely to live a better life in a lot of ways if you go ahead and earn that degree. There are tons of reasons to go to college, and also tons of ways to help with funding your education. Do a thorough college search to find the best and most affordable fit for your educational goals, and then search for available scholarships and other financial aid to help you pay the bill.
November 10, 2008
Are you addicted to the History Channel and HGTV? Do you love old buildings and local history? Do you want to learn more about or get involved in preservation efforts in your community? If you're a high school junior or senior and this describes you, be sure to check out this week's Scholarship of the Week, the American Planning Association High School Essay Contest.
Two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to high school students who come up with the best historic preservation plans for their communities. Your scholarship essay should be between 1200 and 1500 words and should closely follow the instructions provided on the APA scholarship website. Not only can you learn about your community, earn scholarship money, and explore a potential career, but if you win, you will also receive a stipend of up to $1,000 to travel to an APA conference sometime during your college career to learn more about community planning.
Prize: Two $5,000 grand prize scholarship awards
Eligibility: High school students who are U.S. residents and are juniors or seniors during the 2008-2009 school year.
Deadline: January 15, 2009
Required Materials: Completed online scholarship application, following the instructions outlined by the American Planning Association on their contest website.
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.
November 11, 2008
November has been designated as National Scholarship Month for 2008. The purpose of National Scholarship Month is to raise awareness of the scholarship opportunities available to high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students, as well as the numerous benefits of winning scholarships.
November is also an ideal month to start finding scholarships, if you haven't done so already. Many scholarship competitions start or end in November, including our own College Health Scholarship (deadline: November 30) and our College History Scholarship (deadline: December 31). By applying for scholarships now, you're sure to stay on top of those scholarship application deadlines.
Check out our article on National Scholarship Month, which highlights many of the reasons to apply for scholarships. You might also want to browse the Scholarships category on our blog, where you'll find tons of information about scholarships and the benefits they provide. Convinced that scholarships are worthwhile, but not convinced you can win? Head over to our resources section, where you will find tons of advice on scholarship applications. We dispel scholarship myths, show you how to detect scholarship scams, and even offer advice on how to write a scholarship-worthy essay--complete with tips from scholarship reviewers.
So, do you believe that you can win a scholarship? (Because you can!) Then celebrate National Scholarship Month with us and start your scholarship search today. A scholarship search on Scholarships.com is fast, free, and easy, instantly generating a list of scholarship awards that are directly relevant to the information you provide in your profile. We have scholarships in our database for all sorts of people! Find out about athletic scholarships, green scholarships, unusual scholarships, corporate scholarships, women's scholarships, scholarships for minorities, and many more. After all, with 2.7 million scholarships and grants to choose from, we're bound to have something that fits you. And free money for college is always cause for celebration.
November 14, 2008
For many high school students, graduation cannot come soon enough. While admittedly, I was something of a nerd, going off to college was the single most anticipated event of my young life. I couldn't wait for the academic challenges, the new people, and the more serious learning environment. If someone came up to me when I was 16 and offered me the chance to start community college then, I would have definitely taken it. So I am definitely a little jealous of students in New Hampshire who may soon get that chance.
New Hampshire is one of three states that have agreed to implement some of the policies outlined by the National Center on Education and the Economy's New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. The commission released a report in 2006 calling for sweeping educational reforms to address America's slipping international standing in several measures of educational success and workforce preparation. Utah and Massachusetts will also implement measures recommended to boost the performance of public schools, including raising teacher pay, giving teachers greater (in some cases, complete) control over schools, implementing more dynamic proficiency tests that provide a more accurate picture of students' abilities, and better monitoring and assisting students at risk of dropping out. The policy New Hampshire is proposing will allow students the option of taking a test after 10th grade and either entering a community college or a college preparatory track if they pass, letting them prepare for college and gain college credits while still living at home, and keeping them from getting bored or coasting through the last two years of high school.
These are only a few of the suggestions found in the commission's report. While there is some skepticism over how much change will actually take place, many states and schools are showing an eagerness for change. It's hoped that innovations in education will help make more students better prepared for attending college and entering the workforce.
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