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by Emily

Although the economic downturn has changed some borrowing and spending habits, recent college graduates are more in debt than ever before. Average student loan debt has continued its steady rise, with graduating seniors holding an average of $23,200 in student loans in 2008. This information comes courtesy of a report by the Project on Student Debt on average debt for the college class of 2008, the latest in an annual series profiling the previous year's graduating class and the financial situations they face upon leaving school.

As debt rose for graduating seniors, so did unemployment, with the unemployment rate for workers age 20-24 (the typical age range for recent college graduates) now standing at 10.6 percent, the highest on record. This combination of factors is likely contributing to the rising student loan default rates we've seen in the last year.

The highest-debt states include the District of Columbia, whose class of 2008 held an average of $29,793 in student loans, Iowa ($28,174), and Connecticut ($26,138). Six other states also topped the $25,000 mark, compared to only two last year: Iowa and New Hampshire. Utah and Hawaii held onto their low-debt distinctions, once again being the two cheapest bets in higher education, at $13,041 and $15,156 respectively. Other low-debt states for 2008 included Kentucky, Wyoming, Arizona, Georgia, and California, though soaring tuition and reduced state funding may soon bump California off this list.

South Dakota, West Virginia, and Iowa had the highest portion of student borrowers in 2008, with 79 percent of graduating seniors in South Dakota taking out a student loan at least once in their college career. More than 70 percent of 2008 graduates in Minnesota and Pennsylvania also went into debt to fund their educations. Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah had the fewest students borrowing, with 37 percent of students in Hawaii, 40 percent of students in Nevada, and 41 percent of students in Utah graduating with debt in 2008.

In addition to describing trends state-by-state, the Project on Student Debt also looked at debt by college. An interactive state map offers not only pop-ups of the state's average debt and percentage of students borrowing, but also provides a link to a list of data by college, including the percentage of borrowers and the average debt for 2008 where available. The report, available on the Project on Student Debt website, also lists which colleges' graduates had the highest and lowest average amounts of debt.

This information can be especially useful to students currently involved in the college search or college application process. Schools whose students borrow less to complete college often have low tuition, generous scholarship opportunities, or other programs to keep costs down. If you're concerned about paying for school, this can be very appealing.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Are you looking for an affordable college option, but finding yourself less than interested in huge state colleges? You might want to look into attending a HBCU. A new study by the United Negro College Fund finds that, on average, historically black colleges and universities charge much less than their historically white counterparts. The study found that not only do HBCUs charge 31 percent less than comparable institutions, but that their tuition and fees also rose more slowly than similar colleges.

The report compares total tuition charges at UNCF's 39 member institutions with comparable institutions for the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years. The average tuition and fees at the HBCUs was $20,648 for 2006-2007 and $21,518 for 2007-2008. In comparison, comparable institutions had total tuition and fees of $26,451 and $28,156 respectively. Their tuition charges also rose between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 at a rate more than double that of HBCUs ($870 to $1706). Five of the HBCUs surveyed did not raise tuition at all, whereas all comparable institutions charged some amount more.

UNCF analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Comparable schools were selected based on a variety of criteria, including Carnegie Classification, level of institution, degree granting status, and private or public status. However, as U.S. News' Kim Clark points out, the study did not take into account the net prices of these schools--the amount students can actually expect to pay. Many colleges and universities offer substantial scholarships and grants, especially private colleges where most students see significant discounts off the sticker price.  There are a variety of institutional and UNCF-sponsored scholarships offered specifically to students at HBCUs, as well as a number of African American scholarships that can help make tuition more affordable for students at these schools.

With or without financial aid, choosing to attend college at a historically black college or university can result in substantial savings. There are other benefits to attending HBCUs, as well, especially for students who may need extra support. Since many HBCUs serve students from diverse and often disadvantaged backgrounds, they have systems in place to better support students who might otherwise struggle in college. HBCUs also tend to produce students more appreciative of diversity, so if that's important to you, you may find your home at one of these colleges. Regardless of what you ultimately decide, it can't hurt to diversify your college search. By learning about and visiting a variety of schools, you're more likely to find the one that fits you best.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Whether you place much value on the lists that come out ranking colleges each year or not, it's never a bad idea to do your research and be informed when starting your college search. The latest, a ranking of the "100 Best Values in Public Colleges," comes from Kiplinger, which based its conclusions on a combination of academic quality - standardized test scores, retention and graduation rates, student-faculty ratios - and the schools' costs vs. financial aid offerings.

Knowing what the "best deals" are out there, at least according to Kiplinger, may not be bad information to have, especially as tuition costs continue to rise and high school graduates are increasingly looking at college costs and the best bang for their buck when choosing their intended colleges. The list is led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for overall value, and Binghamton University for best out-of-state value. Kiplinger says both those schools offer either the same or more financial aid than they have in previous years, despite a year where schools have looked to raise tuition and cut aid to recoup budget losses, while still delivering impressive academic programs. Other schools that ranked high included the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of Virginia.

Using the magazine's scoring tool, Kiplinger also offers a large amount of data that allows students to make their own assumptions, including in-state vs. out-of-state costs at public institutions and the average financial aid award at any given school. You're also able to search by state or by school to see whether the school you intend to attend is a "good deal." It may not hurt to know whether you're sacrificing quality for cost, or weighing the options of an expensive private college over a less expensive public institution. (Kiplinger also ranks the "Best Value" private colleges with rankings for the top 50 private liberal arts colleges and the top 50 private universities. Pomona College led the liberal arts colleges; the California Institute of Technology led the private universities.)

Remember that it's also important to do your own research when choosing the right school. Consider not only the tuition and fees associated with the school, but whether the colleges you're considering offer the fields of study you may be interested in down the line. Do you want to be close to home, or a little farther away? What kinds of extracurricular activities are you interested in? Are you an athlete, narrowing your choice by a school's sport offerings and athletic scholarships? Weigh the pros and cons of every school you're considering to make the best choice, and when you've narrowed that list down, it may come down to the financial aid each school is offering you.


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by Emily

To make up for budget cuts and other difficulties caused by the recession, many state colleges, including some prestigious research universities, have begun admitting more out-of-state students, who typically pay more in tuition than in-state students. While this could make getting into a top school in your own state more challenging, this shift does present some unique opportunities. If you're starting your college search, you may want to consider applying to state colleges in neighboring states. You can get a bargain on tuition compared to private colleges, and there may even be tuition discounts and scholarship opportunities to further help you further bring down costs.

University systems and state higher education agencies offer tuition discounts for certain out-of-state students, bringing down your tuition costs to anywhere from 100% to 150% of in-state tuition: as much as a 50-75% discount on the regular out-of-state rate. High-achieving students, children of alumni, and residents of neighboring towns or states may qualify for programs at specific universities or for certain state scholarships.

If you have specific schools in mind, look to see if they offer discounts for students in your situation. Many large public universities will have some program in place to offset costs for out-of-state students. State colleges and universities near borders may also offer a discounted rate to students living just across a state line.

State-wide tuition discounts also exist. Students in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin can take advantage of a wide-ranging tuition reciprocity agreement: Minnesota's public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition for students from the Dakotas and Wisconsin, and schools in those states return the favor for Minnesota residents. Minnesota also has similar agreements with Manitoba and some community colleges in Iowa.

The Southern Regional Educational Board offers the Academic Common Market for students in the southeastern United States pursuing specialized degrees at schools out-of-state. Students who qualify to participate in ACM are able to pay in-state tuition at the school they attend, provided their degree program is not offered by any colleges in their home state.

Other regional tuition exchange programs offer students a chance to go to school out-of-state at a special discounted rate. The two largest of these programs are the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Both allow students to attend participating state colleges for 150% of in-state tuition, and MSEP also allows students to receive a 10% discount on tuition at participating private colleges.

If you want to attend school out-of-state, you may also be able to qualify for in-state tuition by becoming a resident of the state. Check the residency requirements of the state and the school where you want to attend college--while some will not allow college students to apply for resident tuition, others happily grant residency to students. A recent article by Kim Clark in U.S. News gives some other tips for how to get in-state tuition at out-of-state schools.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As the dust has settled and students have made their decisions on where they’ll be come fall, a number of news outlets have been taking a look at whether any trends have emerged among incoming freshmen.

A series this week from CNN and the resulting New York Times article about it are interested in whether students were particularly mindful this year in choosing the better value among their college options, rather than decisions based on reputation, prestige, and “name brand” alone. Whatever students’ reasoning for it—rising costs of tuition and fees, a struggling economy, future plans to attend graduate and professional school among them—anecdotal evidence points to “yes.”

The CNN series first takes a look at a student who chose a state school over Boston College when it came down to making his final choice. He did so because of his aspirations after he’s done with his undergraduate career; he wants to go to medical school. The series then looks at a recent graduate from New York University who finished his degree with more than $250,000 in debt. The same student turned down a full scholarship from another school considered less well-known than NYU.

We always caution about making your college decision based on name alone. You’re determining where you’ll be for the next four years, after all, and it’s important to think about things that will result in a better fit for you rather than the boasting you’ll be able to do if you go to a big name school. (Some things to consider may be whether your choice is strong in your intended field of study, location, and what kinds of things you need in a school outside of academics.) And, as the news pieces above describe, it may be a wise choice to consider how much student loan debt you’ll be in once you’re done with school. Sure, private colleges often make up a bit for their high tuition and fees by offering more in financial aid, but students still often find themselves faced with the decision of paying less for their education if they attend a public state school, a community college, or a school that may be closer to home than they’d like.

No matter what we say though, prestige will still top many students’ lists as their main priority in college choice, as many students have had the dream of attending an Ivy League school since they could walk. How about you? What were your main considerations when you were choosing where to go to school this fall? Did you have to choose between a school that was a better value over one with more prestige?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Those interested in what conservative Fox News commentator Glenn Beck has to offer in terms of an academic experience will have a chance to explore that idea for themselves starting this week. The broadcaster has officially launched his own online summer program, Beck University.

The program, which does not give those enrolled college credit, offers online lectures and discussions based on the concepts of faith, hope and charity instead. Those enrolled don’t pay tuition, but must instead subscribe to Insider Extreme, which comes at a cost of $6.26 per month.

Beck isn’t an academic by any means—according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, he dropped out of Yale University after taking one course—but he has given the reigns of the program to outside experts. According to the program’s website, this week’s schedule includes Faith 101 with David Barton, the founder and president of a “pro-family organization.” Courses later this summer include Hope 101 and Charity 101, with the philanthropic course led by James R. Stoner Jr., a professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Beck isn’t the only famous face to have ventured into the world of online education. Donald Trump started the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, renamed from Trump University after he was told calling the school such violated New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents in the state. The program, which does not offer college credit, describes itself as a resource for business leaders and those interested in wealth creation. Bassist Bootsy Collins has started the online Funk University, which gives aspiring musicians access to online lectures on music history and funk from “Professor Bootsy” and lessons in advanced bass and rhythm. The program is more a tutorial in bass Bootsy-style, as it doesn’t offer college credit either.

However you feel about such programs, make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into no matter what you sign up for. If you’re up for a few classes in funk to supplement your coursework elsewhere, that’s perfectly fine, but know that many of these entertainingly-named “schools” don’t offer college credit and certainly won’t be accepted by your home institution as transfer credit. That probably means they won’t exactly give your resume a boost either when you’re out there applying for jobs. Check out the information we’ve come up with on choosing the right school if you’re unsure, including tips on finding an accredited distance learning program if you’re looking for an online college in particular.


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A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

New Facility Combines Winemaking, Wi-Fi

February 7, 2011

A Ripe Idea at UC-Davis

by Alexis Mattera

The last thing many people want to think about the day after the Super Bowl (beside Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem flub or the overall lack of enjoyable advertisements) is alcohol but this next story won’t add to a hangover. We promise.

The University of California at Davis, long known for its winemaking program, has unveiled new technology at the school’s Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science to fine-tune the fermentation process. Custom-built probes embedded with microchips measure the sugar density and temperature of fermenting wines every 15 minutes; the readings are then wirelessly transferred to a server at the facility and displayed on a large monitor. The use of Wi-Fi to monitor the process is certainly a big step but enology professor Roger B. Boulton says the footprint will be even larger as the measurements will soon be viewable on the Web and via smartphones. Students and researchers will be able to compare their results with expected outcomes and adjust as necessary to determine how different fermenting conditions affect different grape varieties.

Boulton continued to say that the measurement technology puts the university years ahead of commercial operations because it will ultimately reduce the number of failed batches. How green! What do you think of these developments at UC-Davis? Would having access to this new technology get you to consider a major in winemaking?


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Want to Know the Likelihood a College Will Accept You? There’s an App for That!

by Suada Kolovic

There’s an app for just about everything these days, so it’s about time that there’s one that will help students determine how likely they are to be admitted at their school of choice. The Facebook application, AdmissionSplash, asks students to submit a personal profile including quantitative and qualitative characteristics, such as test scores, grades and extra-curricular activities, which colleges consider when making admissions decisions. Then the program enters that information into a complex algorithm to predict the student’s chance of getting into any of the 1,500 colleges currently included.

According to tests conducted at UCLA and NYU, AdmissionSplash founders looked at three sets of students – 88 and 73 from UCLA and 75 from NYU – and found that the app was able to accurately predict admissions decisions for 85, 91 and 97 percent from each group, respectively. AdmissionSplash co-founder Allen Gannett views the application as a more-personalized college guide book, calling it “a really good tool for narrowing down your choices,” but is quick to point out that students should not rely on it as a sole indicator. Gannet believes the app will help students navigate through the stressful application process and hopes to develop a program that will predict admission chances for law, medical, business and grad school applicants.

High school seniors, are you downloading this app to help you with your application process? Let us know what you think.


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Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

Colleges with the Highest Return on Your Investment

April 8, 2011

Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

by Suada Kolovic

With all this talk about possible Pell Grant cuts, acceptance rates plummeting and universities facing serious tuition hikes – Arizona universities could face hikes of up to 22% – which schools are worth the outrageous sticker price of about $200,000? According to PayScale.com’s annual survey of colleges with the highest return on investment rates, the California Institute of Technology tops the list with a 12.2% annual return. PayScale’s data is pulled from 1.4 million pay reports from persons who obtained bachelors degrees in the last 20 years, for more on their methodology click here. Check out who made the cut below:


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Top 10 Least Expensive Public Colleges for In-State Students

by Suada Kolovic

It seems like students are willing to do just about anything to save on tuition, from saying “I do” to asking for handouts to applying early and often for college scholarships. But what if you’re not willing to take the plunge, have a sense of humility and scholarships just aren’t covering the astronomical costs tied to college tuition? Then attending a public school might be your best bet and to slash the bill even further, selecting an in-state public school is the way to go!

According to a survey conducted by U.S. News, the average tuition and fees for in-state residents among the 452 public colleges that reported data was $7,042 for the 2010-11 school year. Check out the 10 least expensive public schools for in-state students, accounting for tuition and required fees (but not room and board, books, transportation or other miscellaneous college costs) below.

  1. New Mexico Highlands University
  2. Macon State College
  3. Fayetteville State University
  4. California State University—Northridge
  5. Elizabeth City State University
  6. University of Wyoming
  7. University of North Carolina—Pembroke
  8. North Carolina A&T State University
  9. Eastern New Mexico University
  10. Fort Hays State University

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