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by Agnes Jasinski

As the number of returning adult students continues to grow and the "traditional" student population has only become more diverse to include those with backgrounds and life experience in varying fields of study, some schools are looking at rewarding those new students with credit hours for "prior learning," rather than prompting them to start over as most freshmen do.

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores schools that consider academic achievements alongside individual accomplishments before students step onto campus, and look at their volunteerism, years in the military, or on-the-job training, among other life experiences. Formal assessments of those experiences are then used to evaluate incoming students as a way to award them credit hours, often as a replacement of general education coursework.

At Valdosta State University, professors conduct assessments of students' experiences by having them demonstrate what they already know about a certain field. The Chronicle describes a biology professor who awards credit to students who may have a background in science from volunteering to clean up local streams, for example, or lab experience. The school has been conducting such assessments for about a year and a half; the program started when the school decided to begin training students who had come from non-traditional backgrounds to become teachers.

At Empire State College, which is part of the State University of New York, students are able to write their own degree plans. Faculty committees and administrative offices review portfolios students craft based on their work experience in a particular field, for example, and determine how many credits students should receive based on that information. The school's administrators say having the students reflect on what they've learned before going to college helps them realize their potential and make obvious the kinds of skills they may have, as they are forced to put those talents on paper. At Inver Hills Community College, students are asked to complete two courses at the school before attempting a portfolio, which not only involves writing about their past experiences, but being able to discuss them.

Other schools conduct more standardized tests and formal assessments for students to demonstrate prior learning skills, such as the American Council on Education's evaluations of work and military training or the College Level Examination Program tests. According to the Chronicle and Stamats, a higher-education marketing company, the availability of credit for life experience is the top thing adults look for when selecting a school in their college search. About half of all schools have some kind of prior learning assessment available to students, according to the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, so if you're a returning adult student, consider that the work you've already done could save you some time—and money—as you take on that college experience.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The cost of books and supplies may not seem like all that much when compared to the thousands of dollars you’re spending on tuition, fees, and room and board, but it’s still painful to drop $100 or more on a textbook you may not even use as often as your professors think. Recognizing your pain, colleges are looking for ways to reduce the costs of textbooks without sacrificing instruction.

At Rio Salado College in Arizona, administrators issued the rule that faculty members must choose one printed textbook for all sections of each course. At most colleges, professors and instructors are able to choose different books for different sections, leading to a rise in cost of those books because colleges aren’t able to purchase them in bulk. At Rio Salado, the school’s relationship with Pearson has allowed them to cut costs even more by promised the publisher it would be the school’s sole supplier. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, those decisions have allowed the college to retail textbooks for about half of what they would have charged under the old system. This kind of standardization wouldn’t work at all colleges, according to the article. Many professors use books they’ve authored, or customized texts based on what they’d like to highlight in their sections.

Elsewhere, campus bookstores have joined the textbook rental trend to respond to students going online to rent print copies of the requisite texts. Even though many students are able to recoup some of the cost of their books by selling them back at the end of the semester, putting down hundreds of dollars up front for a stack of books isn’t easy for anyone, especially a new freshman. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently, colleges had been hesitant about offering the service until now because of high start-up costs and lack of profits, and the fact that rental programs often require professors to keep the same edition of a book for at least four to six semesters. Storage can also be an issue, especially in a survey course that enrolls hundreds of students. Others say e-books will be the way of the future, with more textbook providers going digital and college campuses and bookstores following suit. Many students are already renting digital textbooks to peruse on their iPads and Kindles, according to The Chronicle article. Does your college offer a unique alternative to the traditional campus bookstore textbook purchases?


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Textbook Alternatives = Big Savings

Open Books, Rentals Preserve Students’ Funds

October 8, 2010

Textbook Alternatives = Big Savings

by Alexis Mattera

As a college student, my pockets were far from deep but they got even shallower when I stopped at the co-op to buy my books at the beginning of each semester. My wallet and I loathed the astronomical price tags (even for used copies!) with a passion because we both knew there had to be a way for me to get books and not be forced to subsist on Top Ramen until my next break. I was right…just kind of bummed it didn’t happen during my collegiate tenure.

Data from the Student Public Interest Research Group’s new survey disclose textbooks available for free online or sold in print for low cost could slash students’ textbook bills from $900 to $184 each year. Using eBooks and textbook rental services like BookRenter.com and Chegg.com can also reduce book costs by $300. Though 93 percent of students surveyed said they would rent “at least some of their textbooks,” Cerritos College student Donald Pass prefers the flexibility of open textbooks because he could read the material for free online, purchase a print copy with study aids or print it himself. (Daytona State's administration agrees and will begin offering eBook access to students this coming January.) Professors like Lon Mitchell of Virginia Commonwealth University, however, say this option is troublesome because students often bring only limited sections of text to class, making it difficult for instructors to review supplemental material in different chapters. Mitchell also said that a number of his students have resisted the online versions of the open textbooks because compared to the print versions, they felt the online text was lacking.

I hear what Mitchell is saying loud and clear but if a student can reduce their spending by up to 80 percent by using open books and textbook rentals, I have a feeling print editions are going to be seen less and less as the years go by. Students, are you utilizing eBooks and textbook rentals or are you still relying solely on hard copies you don't have to share or return? If you’re using both, is there a noticeable difference in the material quality like Mitchell said? What's your preference between these options?


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The End of Traditional Textbooks is Near

Colleges to Force Switch to E-Textbooks

October 25, 2010

The End of Traditional Textbooks is Near

by Suada Kolovic

The start of every new semester calls for a new set of textbooks- very expensive textbooks. Students can’t really think about the cost of college today without factoring in the skyrocketing cost of textbooks. For years students have improvised on ways to dodge buying a new copy- purchasing a used one, borrowing a copy from the library, sharing with a friend, renting one, downloading an illegal version, or simply going without. We recently posted about how e-textbooks and textbook rental services are saving students money but it may not be too long before they’ll be a students’ only option. The plan is to have colleges require students to pay a course-materials fee, which would be used to buy e-books for all of them (whatever text the professor recommend, just as in the old model).

And why not? Electronic copies are far cheaper to produce than printed text, making a bulk purchase more feasible and with colleges ordering books by the hundreds of thousands, they can negotiate a much better rate than students were able to get on their own, even for used books. The hope is to thwart the possibility of students dropping out because they could not afford textbooks, whose average price rose 186 percent between 1986 and 2005, and continue to shoot up each year faster than inflation.

"When students pay more for new textbooks than tuition in a year, then something's wrong," says Rand S. Spiwak, executive vice president at Daytona State, who is leading the experiment there. "Our game plan is to bring the cost of textbooks down by 75 to 80 percent."

But not everyone is buying into the hype of the e-textbook. Issues of ethics have aroused, for instance, what if a professor wrote the textbook assigned for his or her class? Is it ethical to force students to buy it, even at a reduced rate? And what if students feel they are better off on their own, where they have the option of sharing or borrowing a book at no cost?


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How Expensive is "Too Expensive" for a College Education?

Students Willing to Spend More for Academics, Prestige

November 4, 2010

How Expensive is "Too Expensive" for a College Education?

by Alexis Mattera

The true cost of a college education is seldom the number that’s printed in school brochures and on various college comparison lists. When you figure in federal aid, scholarships, grants, room and board, books and supplies, that price fluctuates. One thing remains constant - higher education doesn’t come cheap - but a new poll finds students are willing to stretch their finances for several key factors.

In April, right up until enrollment deadlines, students were still considering “too expensive” schools and were willing to stretch to pay for their education, poll conductors the College Board and the Art & Science Group report. While it would be more financially sound to select the school with the lower tuition and better financial aid package, “too expensive” colleges remained in play if they had strong academics in students’ fields of interest, were places students felt comfortable, had prestigious academic reputations or had excellent records of graduate school acceptance or good job placement after students graduated. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Twenty-six percent of students surveyed said their family would have to stretch a lot, but “I think we’ll make it.”
  • Twenty-two percent chose “I’m not sure how my family will afford to send me to college, but I believe we’ll work something out when the time comes.”
  • Eleven percent said, “I don’t think my family can afford to send me to college, but we are going to try.” Nearly 40 percent of students surveyed did not have a sense of long-term costs, citing “no idea” what their likely monthly payment on student loans would be after graduation.

If you think back to every award show you’ve ever seen, you’ll recall those who do not win always say it is an honor just to be nominated. The same can be said for college admissions: It’s an amazing achievement to be accepted to a prestigious college but is attending worth it if the cost of attendance is going to drive you and your family into debt?


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How to Save When Buying Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

The start of every new semester calls for a new set of textbooks – very expensive textbooks. Students can’t really think about the cost of college today without factoring in the skyrocketing cost of textbooks. With the individual book prices well over $100 in many cases, textbook costs can easily add up and, depending on your major, you could easily be spending $500 or more on textbooks a semester. For years students have improvised on ways to dodge buying a new copy and it’s important to know that there are options available, so here are some tips put together by the Huffington Post that can save students some cash.

  • Buy Used: Definitely not a new concept, but still a great way to save almost half the cost of a textbook. Most college bookstores have used options on campus but quantities are limited. Other reliable resources that sell used textbooks are Amazon, half.com and abebooks.com.
  • Book Renting: This option is becoming increasingly popular. It allows students to rent a gently-used textbook for a semester for about half the price of a new edition. But if your campus bookstore doesn't rent books, check out chegg.com, bookrenter.com or collegebookrenter.com.
  • Try the Library: Believe it or not there are FREE options out there, like campus and local libraries. And if you’re one of the lucky ones to actually find a copy of what you’re looking for, check it out fast before one of your classmates beats you to the punch.
  • Buy Older Editions: In some cases, professors will permit students to buy a previous edition of a book that is just as good as the more expensive current edition. Therefore, it’s a great idea to ask your professor what their policy is before purchasing your textbooks.
  • Get International Editions: According to the New York Times, international editions of your textbooks are often identical to U.S. editions and cost 50 to 70 percent less than their American counterparts.
  • Go Digital: It seems like the end of traditional textbooks are near and increasingly more students have the option to purchase e-books directly from book publishers from sites like cousesmart.com and cafescribe.com.

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What are They Reading?

Bestselling Books on Campus

February 22, 2011

What are They Reading?

by Suada Kolovic

Curious as to what college students are reading this spring? Well, wonder no more! The Chronicle has compiled a list of the best-selling books from information supplied by stores serving the following campuses: American U., Beloit College, Case Western Reserve U., College of William & Mary, Drew U., Florida State U., George Washington U., Georgetown U., Georgia State U., Harvard U., James Madison U., Johns Hopkins U., Kent State U., Pennsylvania State U. at University Park, San Francisco State U., Stanford U., State U. of New York at Buffalo, Tulane U., U. of California at Berkeley, U. of Chicago, U. of Florida, U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U. of Miami, U. of Nebraska at Lincoln, U. of New Hampshire, U. of North Dakota, U. of North Texas, U. of Northern Colorado, U. of Oklahoma at Norman, Vanderbilt U., Washington State U., Washington U. in St. Louis, Wayne State U., Williams College, Winthrop College, Xavier U. (Ohio). For more information on any of these schools, check out our college search.

  • The Girl Who Played With Fire

    by Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    by Stieg Larsson
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

    by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia

    by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Sh*t My Dad Says

    by Justin Halpern
  • Mockingjay

    by Suzanne Collins
  • Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

    by Chelsea Handler
  • Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

    by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race

    by Jon Stewart
  • A**holes Finish First

    by Tucker Max

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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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Kara Coleman

by Kara Coleman

Hi! My name is Kara and I’m really excited about being one of the newest Scholarships.com virtual interns!

I have spent the past couple of years studying at Gadsden State Community College. I live at home with my parents and commute to school and work every day. I attend Gadsden State because it is affordable, close to my home and workplace and I don’t have to pay room and board expenses. I plan to transfer to Jacksonville State University for many of the same reasons: JSU offers everything involved in a “normal” college experience, like clubs and football games, but I can choose what to participate in while still meeting the demands of my work schedule and being able to watch my little brothers’ soccer games.

Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have loved to write. My dream has always been to write a New York Times bestseller but until that happens, I would like to have a job that involves writing. When I enrolled at Gadsden State, I declared myself as an English major. I took every literature class that Gadsden State had to offer and I even spent the past year tutoring English. At JSU, I intend to major in communications, with concentration in print journalism. I think that writing for a newspaper will give me a consistent day job while I write books on the side.

When I received the email stating that Scholarships.com was looking for virtual interns, I immediately began composing my writing sample. This opportunity will allow me to do what I love, add some bylines to my portfolio, and (hopefully!) give me some more exposure as a writer. I look forward to sharing my transfer experience and helpful hints with anyone who visits the site over the coming months. “Talk” to all of you soon!


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Scholarships – Are They Really Worth My Time? YES!

by Jessica Seals

A typical soon-to-be college student’s priority list probably looks a little something like this:

But wait!!! With all of the excitement of starting college, students can forget to get their finances together to pay for it all! Many students don’t realize that they can eliminate student loan headaches simply by starting the scholarship application process early. By doing so, students have more time to get their application materials together and apply for more scholarships because they are not rushing to submit everything on deadline day.

From my own personal experience, I found it advantageous to apply for scholarships early. I joined websites like Scholarships.com so that I could keep track of deadlines and scholarships that I qualified for. I sent it all of my materials early and when I started receiving letters that began with “Congratulations!” it made the time that I spent applying for scholarships worthwhile.

Another bit of advice that I found helpful was applying for scholarships even if the amount seems small. During my freshman year of college, I applied for the new member scholarship for the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society despite the fact that the award amount was $300. Nothing could make my smile turn into a frown that day because winning the scholarship meant that I wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for books in the upcoming semester.

My final advice: Apply for as many scholarships as possible because you might just be what the scholarship committee is looking for. Even the smallest award can help pay for something!

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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