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And Forbes’ Top American School Are…

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors, do you know where you want to spend the next four years? Sure, it may still be summer and you’re nowhere near crunch time when it comes to making that decision, but go ahead and get a head start and check out some of the top schools in the country, according to Forbes Magazine.

Every year Forbes puts together a list of the best undergraduate institutions in the country, focusing on areas that matter most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, graduation rates and low levels of debt. Here’s the numerical breakdown: Post-Graduate Success (30%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence; Student Satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates; Debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates; and Four Year Graduation Rate (17.5%) and Competitive Awards (7.5%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes and the Fulbright. Here are the top 10:

  1. Williams College
  2. Princeton University
  3. United States Military Academy
  4. Amherst College
  5. Stanford University
  6. Harvard University
  7. Haverford College
  8. University of Chicago
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  10. United States Air Force Academy

For the second year in a row, Williams College has been named as the best undergraduate institution in America. And with total annual costs adding up to nearly $55,000, it’s certainly not cheap but the 2,000 undergraduates here have among the highest four-year graduation rates in the country, win loads of prestigious national awards like Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, and are often rewarded with high-paying careers. Does this information have you rethinking where you’ll apply?


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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.

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Groupon-NLU Deal Doesn’t Guarantee Admission to Graduate Program

by Suada Kolovic

Last week, we shared Groupon’s “experimental” deal offered by National-Louis University which provided bargain hunters with the opportunity to purchase an introductory teaching course at a serious discount. A total of 18 students took advantage of the deal but hopefully they read the fine print: Purchasing the Groupon does not guarantee acceptance to the master’s program that the course is a part of. Whoops.

While the Groupon-toting students will take “Introduction to the Profession and the Craft of Teaching” for the discounted rate, they aren’t technically enrolled at the institution. Instead, each participant will be considered a “student-at-large,” said Nivine Megahed, NLU’s president. The students-at-large will get inside-the-class practicum experience early on in order to get the full effect of teaching prior to applying to the master’s program unlike their traditional counterparts, Megahed said. Often, when aspiring educators teach in a classroom for the first time, “they either love it, or they go running for the hills,” she added.

Once they’ve completed the course, at-large students who want to take part in the program will have to go through the traditional admissions process, which requires a passing grade on the Illinois Basic Skills test. If you bought the Groupon, would this be a deal breaker for you? Do you think NLU should have made such stipulations clear early on?


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Federal Mandate: All Schools Must Offer Net Price Calculators by October 29th

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we understand that trying to figure out how much a college education will actually cost you and your family is pretty confusing. With everything that goes into your financial aid packagegrants, loans, scholarships, etc. – the real cost of a college education is muddled in there…somewhere. But fear, not college bound students! All that’s about to change thanks to a mandate by the federal government: All colleges and universities receiving Title IV federal student aid must have net price calculators by October 29th.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the U.S. Department of Education instated the mandate in order to “provide a clearer view of the difference between the total cost of tuition and fees – commonly referred to as sticker price – and the net price, an estimate of the cost subtracting scholarships and grants.” Most students generally receive some institutional aid so the better they understand how much an institution is offering as whole, the better prepared they are to compare the financial aid packages offered by different schools.

What do you think of the federally implemented net price calculators? Do you think it will be an essential piece of the funding your college education puzzle?


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Students Continue Trend of Applying to More Colleges

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior, the daunting task of filling out college applications is just around the corner. And if you’re thinking about applying to multiple institutions – we’re talking six or seven schools – then you’re not alone: According to a recent study, more prospective college students are applying to a large number schools than ever before.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that a quarter of freshmen who enrolled in college in the fall of 2010 applied to seven or more schools, while 77 percent applied to at least three. There are a number of factors that contribute to this trend, including the ease of applying to several schools with the Common Application and the Universal Application, but does this approach complicate the admissions process? The study notes that the uptick in applications challenges counselors to investigate students beyond their submitted materials. "The more activities a student has leading up to the application and beyond, the more we can understand if they're a real applicant," says Deb Stieffel, vice president for enrollment at Susquehanna University. "You can't just tell by the application anymore; you have to look deeper." (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think it’s problematic for students to apply to multiple schools just for the sake of applying?


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MIT to Offer Free Online Courses

by Suada Kolovic

Think you have what it takes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Let’s be honest, few do but if you’re interested in testing the waters, MIT will soon offer free online certification courses to outside students who complete them!

How will the interactive e-learning venture, known as MITx, work? Here’s the breakdown: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students currently enrolled at MIT as well as external learners like high school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, interact with teachers and other students globally, experience stimulated labs, participate in quizzes and take tests. Still have your doubts? MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif assures interested students, "This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT," he said. "An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does."

One slight catch is that although MITx courses will carry no cost, the institute plans to charge a “modest” fee for the certificates. (The exact amount is still undecided.) The first course will begin around spring of 2012 but MIT has yet to announce the course. Does this opportunity spark your interest? Should other prestigious institutions – Harvard, Stanford, Brown, etc. – offer similar initiatives? Let us know what you think.


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Excelsior College Rolls Out $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree Program

by Suada Kolovic

With spring just around the corner, high school seniors across the country are anxiously awaiting word from colleges they’ve applied to. And while getting into your top choice school is all well and good, figuring out how you’re going to pay for it is pretty scary. If the cost of your college education is keeping you up at night, you might want to consider Excelsior College. Why? They just rolled out a program that guarantees a bachelor’s degree for $10,000!

This may seem like the opportunity of a lifetime but there are limitations to the price-guaranteed program. Students only have the option to earn a bachelor’s degree in the following areas: BA in Liberal Studies with an area of focus in Psychology or Sociology; BS in Liberal Studies with areas of focus in Administrative/Management Studies or Health Professional; and BS in Liberal Studies in Psychology or Sociology. If you’re interest, here’s how it works: Excelsior specializes in credit-by-examination, meaning that students may earn credit through a single comprehensive exam. In the past, students would have had to pay $370 per credit, which put an Excelsior degree at about $20,000. Not anymore! The new program has the faculty matching each end-of-course exam to one or more free online courses. "Excelsior has been a pioneer in credit by examination for more than 40 years," said Dr. John Ebersole, Excelsior’s president. "What makes this program truly innovative is its use of open education resources as a key source of study material for students. Not only do these free resources help keep student expenses down, they engage students in learning subject matter from some of the world’s leading colleges and universities." (For more on the story, click here.)

Would you consider applying to Excelsior? Are you a tad apprehensive about the academic merits of a self-guided curriculum? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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California Regulators Shut Down Medical Institute

School Falsely Claimed That it Was Accredited

February 17, 2012

California Regulators Shut Down Medical Institute

by Suada Kolovic

For some students, heading off to college for the next two, four or even six years isn’t the right option. And while college isn’t for everyone, an education should be. In order to stay competitive in the workforce, it’s important to realize that there are opportunities in the form of both trade and vocational schools for students who don’t see themselves on college campuses. But before you sign up for a program that offers training as a dental hygienist or ultrasound technician, verify that the institution is accredited or run the risk of obtaining a very expensive yet useless certificate or licensure. Think this doesn’t happen? Unfortunately, it does: The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has ordered the Institute of Medical Education to close its two campuses in San Jose and Oakland for falsely claiming accreditation.

According to the college’s website, the Institute of Medical Education is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The reality, said commission has not been a federally recognized accreditor since 2010. “Those things put students at enormous risk,” said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the bureau responsible for shuttering the schools. “These students have spent a lot of money and a lot of time for programs that may not allow them to sit for licensure examinations.” The institute had offered certificate programs in vocational nursing, medical assisting and other health-related fields for fees of up to $40,000 and state officials have urged students to apply to the state’s Student Tuition Recovery Fund, which reimburses students at schools that close.

Have you considered the possibility of going to a vocational school instead of a traditional four-year college?


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Rick Perry Pushes $10,000 College Degree

Texas Governor’s Initiative Just One Way to Keep College Costs in Check

November 27, 2012

Rick Perry Pushes $10,000 College Degree

by Suada Kolovic

Under a plan unveiled in 2011, Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged institutions in his state to develop options for low-cost undergraduate degrees. Limiting the cost of a bachelor’s degree to no more than $10,000, 10 Texas colleges – which educate more than 50,000 students, or roughly 10-percent of the undergraduates at public universities in the state – have answered the call so far. "A $10,000 degree provides an opportunity for students to earn a low-cost, high-quality degree that will get them where they want to go in their careers and their lives," Perry said in a statement.

Most of the proposed inexpensive degree programs take advantage of community college and dual-enrollment high school credit options and are not available to student in most disciplines. When Perry issued his challenge last year, he wanted the state's universities to "leverage Web-based instruction, innovative teaching techniques and aggressive efficiency measures" to drive down the cost of a degree.

Although not affiliated with Perry’s initiative, Scholarships.com also gives students the opportunity to lower the cost of a college educaiton by obtaining scholarships and grants. As a leading scholarship search service and financial aid information resource, Scholarships.com plays a primary role in helping students make the decisions that shape their lives. On Scholarships.com, students are connected with tools to aid in researching and finding financial aid for college, as well as choosing a campus that's right for them. Our regularly updated proprietary database allows students to search 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion and quickly arrive at a list of awards for which they qualify. And it's all free. If you are interested in learning more about Rick Perry’s initiative or other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today.


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California Legislation Proposes a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree

by Suada Kolovic

In what seems to be a growing trend across the country, a California state legislator is the latest elected official to push for a bachelor’s degree that costs no more than $10,000 total (yes, total!). And while last year’s college graduates left school with an average of $25,000 in debt, the possibility of a $10,000 degree to incoming college freshman is encouraging.

Assemblyman Dan Logue (R) introduced the bill following similar initiatives in Florida and Texas: In the proposed California legislation, students would start to earn college credit in high school through Advanced Placement courses and would then enroll full-time at a community college. The state university would in turn accept up to 60 credits for transfer. The problem? There’s the possibility that the state itself could be responsible for much of the cost since the bill requires that schools and colleges be reimbursed for any mandated expenses. As of right now, the legislation has only one sponsor while the speaker of the California Assembly, a democrat, reportedly has alternative plans for higher education reform.

Given California’s current budget woes, do you think the proposed legislation is the right option for the state? Let us know what you think.


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