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Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

National Need Mirrored in the Buckeye State

April 26, 2011

Financial Aid Applications Increase for 2011-2012

by Alexis Mattera

If you are attending college, you probably need some form of financial aid to pay for tuition, room and board, books and other living expenses. Next year, it’s likely you’ll need a little bit more.

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported the number of students in the U.S. who have filed forms for federal financial aid for the 2011-2012 academic year has increased by about 1 million from last year. At Ohio State alone, requests are up about 10,600 from two years ago - a 22-percent jump, says financial aid director Diane Stemper. Ohio University’s Sondra Williams reports a similar trend with a 12-percent increase in federal financial aid applications. The reasons for the increased need aren’t surprising. "Many people who used to have the resources to send their children to college have lost their jobs or been downsized," Stemper said, adding lower home and stock values and rising food and gas prices are also culprits.

Though more students are getting the aid they require – OSU has seen an increase in Pell Grant recipients enrolled and OU has more students receiving subsidized loans – the financial relief may be short-lived: Governor John Kasich’s state budget proposal has public universities in Ohio could increasing tuition by up to 3.5 percent. Current undergraduate and graduate students, do you need more financial aid now than you did when you first enrolled? High schoolers and incoming freshman, how do you plan to pay for school?

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All Media Are Not Created Equal

Tablet, Smartphone Interest Soars While E-books Fail to Gain Traction

May 13, 2011

All Media Are Not Created Equal

by Alexis Mattera

With the popularity of wireless computing devices among college students, it would seem that e-textbooks would be just as attractive for this tech-savvy generation. Not so, according to a new survey: The printed textbook is still the big man on campus.

Student Monitor’s survey of 1,200 full-time students at four-year institutions revealed that although 54 percent of respondents owned smartphones, 87 percent owned laptops and nearly 50 percent reported interest in purchasing a wireless reading device, only 5 percent of respondents purchased access to an e-textbook this spring – and usually only because professors required them to. The proportion of students who rented at least one printed textbook, however, doubled to 24 percent from last spring. With campus bookstores and independent sites like Chegg.com making book rental easier and more available, the trend is only expected to grow: Thirty-six percent of underclassmen said they are either likely or very likely to rent at least one textbook next semester.

The main reason students are renting textbooks instead of buying the electronic versions? The savings, which were reported as about $127. With that kind of money back in the bank, students could splurge on their other "likes" the survey revealed...or maybe get a head start paying off some of those student loans. Which side are you on in the textbook debate – Team E-book or Team Rental – and why?

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The Best Financial Aid Policies in Higher Ed

July 13, 2011

The Best Financial Aid Policies in Higher Ed

by Alexis Mattera

Did you know that more than 70 colleges across the country have replaced loans with grants? That’s right: Schools are offering more free money to entice students to enter their hallowed halls, meaning they will not be saddled with the often-dreaded student loan payments after graduation. What institutions come out on top? Here are a few of the best aid policies, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Daniel de Vise:

For de Vise’s complete top 12, click here. If your school made the cut, are you reaping the financial benefits? If your school is not represented, how are you paying for your degree?

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PayScale’s Best-Paying College Majors

July 26, 2011

PayScale’s Best-Paying College Majors

by Alexis Mattera

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, it costs approximately $80,000 in tuition plus expenses to earn a bachelor’s degree from a public four-year college and about $140,000 to gain the same credentials from a private nonprofit four-year institution. There are certainly ways to find this kind of fundinggrants, student loans and, hello, scholarships! – but will your major of choice be worth the money? If you select one of the fields included on PayScale’s list of best-paying college majors, it is decidedly so.

The annual list is dominated by engineering, with seven of the top 10 in branches of the field, while the other top-earning degrees include physics, applied mathematics and computer science:

Petroleum Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $97,900
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $155,000

Chemical Engineering

  • Staring Median Pay: $64,500
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $109,000

Electrical Engineering

  • Staring Median Pay: $61,300
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000

Materials Science and Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $60,400
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000

Aerospace Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $60,700
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $102,000

Computer Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $61,800
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

Physics

  • Starting Median Pay: $49,800
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

Applied Mathematics

  • Starting Median Pay: $52,600
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $98,600

Computer Science

  • Starting Median Pay: $56,600
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,900

Nuclear Engineering

  • Starting Median Pay: $65,100
  • Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,800

Does this list have you reconsidering your college path or will you stick to your intended major?

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Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

Would You Marry to Keep College Costs Down?

June 7, 2011

Students Say "I Do" for Lower Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

In February, we read a New York Times article about students getting married to save on tuition and asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers if they, too, would get hitched if it meant they’d pay less for school. The responses? Mixed, but the topic is still hot four months later.

State aid is down, tuition is up and students are stuck in a tough position these days. While some are continuing down the traditional paths of obtaining funding for college (filling out the FAFSA, applying for scholarships and grants, taking out loans, etc.), others are taking a different route – or should we say aisle – with a friend or another student in a similar monetary situation. Why? If a student is single and under the age of 22, their financial aid is determined by their parents’ income but if the student is married, aid is determined by the joint income of the student and their spouse – an enticing loophole for cash-strapped undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike marrying to obtain citizenship, marrying for financial aid or in-state residency benefits is legal according to WalletPop; there are even matchmaking services that help students find likeminded individuals to marry for tuition relief and divorce after graduation!

What are your thoughts on these “on-paper” marriages? Would you say “I do” if you could save thousands on tuition and fees or do you feel this practice – while legal – is too unethical to consider?

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College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

August 24, 2011

College Costs Continue to Outpace Savings

by Alexis Mattera

There are lots of ways students and their parents can pay for college – at Scholarships.com, we’re familiar with nearly 3 million options – and many begin socking away funds early on. As admirable as this timely planning is, a new study shows it won’t come close to covering the ever-rising cost of higher education.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments has revealed that while 67 percent of parents surveyed have put money into some sort of college fund this year, current and expected savings project the typical American family will only be able to pay for 16 percent of college costs when the time comes. Why? Many factors contribute, like the less-than-stellar economy and existing student loan payments (more than half of parents with children under five still have outstanding balances) but perhaps the hardest-hitting element is the colleges' steep price tags: Over the past five years alone, college costs have jumped 26 percent.

This news may sound bleak but families are still finding ways to afford school without going into debt...or having their children graduate with a mountain of it. More parents are asking their kids to work part-time, commute to save on room and board, opt for state schools over private ones and take additional credits - all to keep costs in check. These are all excellent options to defray ballooning education costs but don’t forget scholarships and grants – aka free money for college! Just like saving, it’s important to start searching for scholarships early and often. No time’s better than the present – complete a free scholarship search today!

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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

October 4, 2011

College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?

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The Fight Against Federal Student Aid Fraud

October 21, 2011

The Fight Against Federal Student Aid Fraud

by Alexis Mattera

Firefighters. Police. Ghostbusters. Your mom. There are certain people you instinctively contact when you need assistance and the same holds true for the federal government. When the Department of Education noticed there was something strange in the neighborhood regarding federal student aid, they knew just who to call.

Less than a month after releasing a report detailing how organized fraud rings were exploiting distance education programs, the ED contacted colleges across the country urging them to develop additional ways of identifying threats to federal funding. Schools were encouraged to combat potential fraud rings by monitoring groups of students using the same IP or email addresses to apply and participate in online programs, paying closer attention to students living outside the schools' normal coverage areas and delaying the disbursement of federal funds or releasing said funds in multiple disbursements. In addition to the steps colleges are taking internally, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the department will be working with Congress and schools "to ensure we have all the tools we need to prevent criminal elements from defrauding federal student aid dollars."

Do you think colleges are doing enough to prevent federal student aid fraud?

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University of Charleston Slashes Tuition

November 4, 2011

University of Charleston Slashes Tuition

by Alexis Mattera

Between announcements of Cooper Union possibly charging tuition and the average student debt topping $25,000, news about the cost of college haven’t been too positive as of late. But lo, the University of Charleston has broken the bad news cycle: The West Virginia school has announced it will reduce tuition by 22 percent for all new students and provide additional aid for continuing students.

UC has guaranteed that no undergraduate student will pay more than $19,500 for tuition in the fall of 2012. This will be the base price for freshmen and transfer students while the figure returning students will see is $25,500 with a promise of at least $6,000 in university aid. The tuition reduction is part of a broad system redesign which the University of Charleston hopes will allow greater innovation and cost-effectiveness without compromising the quality of its education. According to a release on UC's website, these changes include “a five-year plan that emphasizes fast-track learning, achieving athletic prominence, championing innovation and expanding access.”

In a time where every dollar makes a difference, did the University of Charleston just move up on your college wish list?

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A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

November 29, 2011

A Little Loan Goes a Long Way

by Alexis Mattera

In recent years, college students have become more cautious about taking out loans to pay for school. There are multiple reasons for this – horror stories from friends or siblings, limited job prospects after graduation and high interest rates have all been cited – and while it’s an admirable goal to graduatefrom college debt-free, educators think this approach could actually hinder students from getting degrees.

According to a recent Associated Press article, students are attempting to limit borrowing by working longer hours, taking fewer credits (and often not enrolling full-time), living at home and attending less selective institutions. While educators are impressed with this level of fiscal responsibility, they are quick to point out that each action above is a risk factor that makes college students less likely to graduate. Borrowing could prevent this, said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of Excelencia in Education. "If you can take out a little bit of loan you're more likely to complete. If you can go to a more selective institution that gives you more resources and support, you're more likely to complete." How much more likely? Federal data analyzed by Excelencia and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) in 2008 shows roughly 86 percent of students who borrow for college are able to attend full-time compared to 70 percent of students who don't borrow and roughly 60 percent of full-time students receive a bachelor's degree within eight years compared to 25 percent of part-time students.

What can be done to facilitate this message? Educators believe students need to better understand financial aid, the difference between types of loans, debt management and the returns on various degrees and majors. In addition to searching for scholarships and grants, is borrowing part of your financial aid plan and does this information make you more or less likely to take out a loan?

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