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College Seen as More Essential, Less Affordable

February 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

More Americans are regarding a college education as necessary, but fewer are regarding college as accessible for everyone according to survey results released today by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.  While the economy is likely a factor, these trends have been ongoing since at least 2000, even during times of relative economic strength.

In the latest survey, conducted in December 2008, 55 percent of Americans regard a college education as not only advantageous but essential for success in today's work world.  Meanwhile, 67 percent of respondents believed that many qualified people don't have the opportunity to go to college.   63 percent believed that college costs are going up faster than other costs, and 53 percent believe that colleges could reduce tuition while still offering a high-quality education.

While 74 percent believed that cost should not deter students from attending college, concern is growing about the availability of financial aid and the extent of students' reliance on student loans.   67 percent (up from 60 percent in 2007) believed that students were borrowing too much to pay for school, while 22 percent (up from 15 percent in 2007) believed that sufficient financial aid was not available to everyone who needed it.

While public perception does not always accurately reflect reality, these survey results do suggest that more needs to be done to make college affordable or to inform the public about grants, scholarships, and campus-based and federal student financial aid.  College scholarships and grants are still out there, and they're not just for A students or the exceptionally needy.  Complete a FAFSA (a free application for federal student aid) and conduct a free scholarship search to see what's available for you.

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Obama Urges Americans to Attend College

February 25, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

In a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress, President Obama called for every American to complete at least one year of postsecondary education and pledged greater financial support for those attending college.  He also urged that America become the "best educated" nation and set the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

In addition to healthcare and alternative energy, the president declared education to be a top priority for improving America's economy and its place in the world.  He called on families, schools, and Congress to embrace this priority, and to better prepare citizens for careers that increasingly require some amount of  education or training beyond high school.

President Obama promised greater funding for higher education in the federal budget for 2010. This may include the educational tax benefits he advocated in his campaign, as well as other increases to federal student financial aid. He once again mentioned community service or other national service as requirements for future financial aid.

In addition to pledging greater state support, he also asked for an individual commitment by each American to not only graduate from high school, but to set college goals and attend a college, university, community college, or vocational training program for at least one year.  In addition to helping people succeed individually, greater education and training can lead to greater success for society.

Obviously, problems with paying for school will not disappear overnight.  But with help from schools and the government, individuals who work hard and make higher education a priority can reap the benefits, despite the challenges that remain.

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Gates Foundation Launches Community College Grant Program

June 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced new grants to help states and community colleges improve remedial education and college completion.  The grants, totaling $16.5 million, were awarded to five states and fifteen community colleges and represent the second wave in an effort the foundation began in 2004.

As college costs continue to rise, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to community colleges as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional four-year university.  Greater emphasis on higher education, such as President Obama's earlier urging for every American to receive some amount of post-secondary education, have also brought community colleges into focus.  In addition to being affordable and local, community colleges often focus on career-oriented education, which can help the unemployed or those who are looking for better job security quickly and effectively pick up skills and certification to achieve career goals.

Despite the benefits of a community college education, many students who enroll struggle to finish.  As many as 60 percent of community college students may need remedial courses, including up to 90 percent of low-income and minority students at these institutions, and students requiring remediation are currently at a disadvantage when it comes to successfully completing requirements to earn a degree. Grants from the Gates Foundation aim to help colleges continue to address this problem, building on the success of previous Gates-funded programs that saw the number of students successfully moving to college-level coursework rise by 16 to 20 percent.

Students will benefit from this grant money through increased access to support services, such as tutoring and academic advising, that can help them meet their college goals.  Improved remedial education, a federal focus on community colleges as vital educational institutions, and new state efforts to smooth the process of transferring from two-year to four-year state colleges all have the potential to help a greater number of Americans attain a higher education, and to do so at a lower cost.

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Dickinson College Launches Public Service Fellowship Program

July 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Service-minded students have a variety of ways to fund their college education through community service scholarships and other awards. Now, students interested in attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can participate in a fellowship program that awards $10,000 towards tuition for each year of full-time public service completed.

The Dickinson College Public Service Fellowships are awarded to high school seniors who are interested in deferring enrollment in college to first work in public service in some capacity. If accepted, students can defer enrollment for up to four years, and receive up to $40,000 in scholarship money through this program. Qualifying public service work can be independent or done through a national service organization, such as AmeriCorps, and can be paid or unpaid. Projects must be devoted to some aspect of improving the human condition or the natural environment.

While these scholarship awards are only offered through one college at present, at least one other school is seeking to encourage students to become engaged in public service before they start actively pursuing their college degrees. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Princeton University has also launched a program to pay for admitted students to first engage in a year-long service project abroad before beginning classes.

Several colleges have recently announced campus-based scholarships for community service. Many other schools also match AmeriCorps tuition awards, and over 1,100 private colleges have also pledged to assist veterans with tuition to acknowledge their service to the country. If you are a high school student hoping to get involved in a large-scale service project, there's more incentive than ever as colleges and scholarship providers continue expanding financial aid awards for locally and globally engaged individuals.

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Data on Hispanic Students Shows Persistent Attainment Gap

October 7, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Hispanic students are still significantly lagging behind other groups when it comes to college admission, retention and graduation rates, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center. The Pew study released today attempts to explain why those gaps remain, especially as a majority of Hispanic students report that they understand the value of a college education and are urged by their parents to pursue bachelor's degrees.

The numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, which date back to 2007 and were released last week, show that only about 19 percent of Hispanics report having attended some college or pursuing associate's degrees; only about 9 percent go on to complete their bachelor's. The national average for some college attendance or those completing associate's degrees is about 25 percent, with nearly 19 percent completing bachelor's degrees. About 26.5 percent of white students reported attending some college or completing associate's degrees; nearly 21 percent complete undergraduate degrees. Female Hispanic students seem to fare slightly better than the men.

The Pew Hispanic Center's study showed that although Hispanic students today are more likely to go to college than they were in 1970, perhaps due in part to the rapidly growing population, there is still a large disparity between those who say everyone should go to college and those who actually do. While nearly 90 percent of Hispanic students surveyed (ages 16-25) said that it was important to get a college degree to get ahead (compared to 82 percent of the general population that agreed with that statement), only about half said they had plans of their own to go to college. And among Hispanic immigrants, less than a third say they have plans to pursue a bachelor's degree.

So why the gap? About 74 percent of respondents in the Pew study said they had to cut their educations short because they had to support their families. Others said poor English skills hampered their ability to keep up with the rigors of college, and even high school. According to Latinosincollege.com, a website that aims to help more Hispanics graduate from four-year colleges, Hispanic students still have the highest high school dropout rate of any group.

Financial obstacles were a concern for about 40 percent of respondents in the Pew study who said they simply could not afford to go to college. While some of the other reasons may be hard to address and improve upon, financial aid and paying for college should not keep the collegebound from getting an education. Scholarships for minorities, including the growing number of Hispanic scholarships, are some of the most common student-specific scholarships out there, so for those putting their college plans on hold because of finances, be sure to conduct a free scholarship search to view all of the scholarships you’re eligible for.

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Nine Out of Ten Parents Agree: Attending College is Important

November 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Has the recession had a negative impact on families' view of college? Record college enrollment in 2009 suggests no, and a new survey of parents backs that up, as well. Oppenheimer Funds conducted a survey asking parents of pre-college-age children whether they view college as important for their kids and how they plan to pay for school and recently shared the results in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The survey focused especially on saving for college-not surprising, since Oppenheimer Funds is heavily involved in college savings plans.  The more than 1,000 parents overwhelmingly responded that they view attending college as a must for their children. Eight out of ten say it's very important for their children to earn a college degree, despite barely half of respondents saying their own parents wanted the same for them. An even larger proportion, 90 percent, stated the belief that sending their children to college was an essential part of the "American dream." Hispanic families had an even more positive response, with 95 percent regarding college as essential for their children's success.  Most families still believe that college is within reach for students who want to attend, even after the effects of skyrocketing college costs and the economic downturn. However, more than half believe that it's less accessible than it used to be, and nearly two-thirds expressed concerns about the pace of tuition increases eventually pricing out many families.  In the meantime, the parents surveyed planned largely to pay tuition themselves, often with the aid of scholarship money. While over 60 percent had less than $10,000 tucked into a 529 plan or similar college savings account at the time, 80 percent of parents said they hoped to cover at least half of their children's college costs. Parents also overwhelmingly wanted to avoid debt for their children, with half hoping their kids could take out less than $10,000 in student loans.

But college savings accounts took a sharp downward turn in the recession and while private loan borrowing is down, overall student loan debt has largely been on the rise (the average amount borrowed by college graduates currently sits at over $20,000). Given this, parents of high school students, as well as the students themselves, may want to focus their efforts on finding scholarships. Our free college scholarship search can help-parents or students can complete a profile to learn about scholarship opportunities they can apply for early or late in high school.

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Want a Happier Life? Go to College

November 24, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It may not always seem like it, but going to college can actually make you happier.  Perhaps not in the short term--there are finals, after all, and that general lack of money or personal space that comes with the college lifestyle--but in the long term, people who go to college consistently report being happier.  They also claim to be healthier and more likely to make good choices.  This comes on top of the financial benefits of receiving a degree, which include better job security, lower unemployment, and higher salaries.

In a working paper entitled, "How Large Are Returns to Schooling? Hint: Money Isn't Everything," available from the National Bureau of Economic Research, two researchers use data from General Social Surveys from 1972 to 2000 to gauge whether increased education has any correlation with increased happiness, job satisfaction, and other indicators of a better life.  While it's difficult to show direct causation, their analysis did find a strong correlation between college education, especially receiving a bachelor's degree or higher, and many positives in life.

People with college degrees were more likely to report having satisfying jobs with a greater degree of autonomy, sense of accomplishment, and opportunity than other workers with similar backgrounds but less education.  This can play into greater happiness, since work is such a big part of many people's sense of identity and fulfillment.  Their research also backs up earlier reports that college graduates are less likely to face unemployment long-term or need to rely on public assistance, which can also correlate with higher self-esteem and a lower likelihood of depression.

Recipients of college degrees also make better decisions, likely due in part to the reasoning and research skills they gained in college.  They report being healthier, possibly because of making positive decisions about their health, including both lifestyle choices and healthcare decisions.  They also are less likely to get divorced, more likely to hold off on having children until they're financially and emotionally ready to do so, and may be more likely to develop better relationship and parenting skills than less educated counterparts.  They also are likely to plan for the future, as opposed to living only for today.  Finally, those who had more education were likely to be more trusting, believing that people are basically good, which can lead to more social participation.  Having stronger friendships, stronger family ties, better health, plans for the future, and positive attitudes can all tie in easily to increased happiness.

Achieving any amount of post-secondary education can influence all of these figures, and even respondents who just finished high school were more likely to report positive results than respondents who did not.  While increased education can correlate with less free time and more job-related stress, many people consider these acceptable trade-offs for overall improvements in quality of life.  So if you're wondering, " why go to college?" you hopefully have some good reasons.  If your question has now changed from "why" to "how," check out our free college search and scholarship search to get started on the path to a happier life.

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Employers Expect More from New Hires and Their Schools

January 21, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new survey of employers shows that broader may be better when it comes to higher learning. Despite students’ increasing interest in a college education that prepares them for a specific career, employers and the nature of the job market both appear to be demanding students with a wide knowledge base and flexible skills.

The survey, commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization that advocates liberal arts education, was published yesterday. It focused both on what employers would like to see in new hires and on how well they think colleges are able to prepare students for the workforce.  Only one in four of the 302 employers surveyed felt that two-year and four-year colleges are currently doing a good job of preparing students for the challenges of the global economy. One in five believe that significant changes are needed in how colleges prepare students for the workforce and most wanted to see at least some changes made.

Many employers saw college education as increasingly important for job applicants: 28 percent said they would place more emphasis on hiring people with at least a bachelor’s degree in upcoming candidate searches. Nearly the same proportion, 25 percent, said they would be placing less emphasis on hiring people with no degree. The greatest increase in interest in candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher comes from the largest employers—those with 500 or more employees. They reported 43% more emphasis on hiring candidates with a four-year degree.

Employers reported that degree attainment isn’t the only area in which their expectations for employees have increased. The vast majority of employers agreed with the following four statements about their company:

  • Our company is asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past (91%)
  • Employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past (90%)
  • The challenges employees face within our company are more complex today than they were in the past (88%)
  • To succeed in our company, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge today than they did in the past (88%)

To meet these increased expectations, employers overwhelmingly felt it would be helpful for students to pursue opportunities that are becoming common features of a liberal arts education, such as a capstone project that demonstrates their depth of knowledge and analytical skills (84%), an internship or community-based field project (81%), coursework that develops research skills (81%). They also expressed support for more education to build research skills, cultural awareness (both locally and globally), ethical thinking, and understanding of large challenges. An accompanying position paper from the AAC&U expanded on how colleges could foster these kinds of learning and thinking.

However, students do not have to wait for sweeping reforms in college education to take advantage of opportunities that will benefit them in the hiring process. Indeed, they might not have time. Of the employers surveyed, 38% expect to hire more people within the next year, and 54% plan to keep levels of employment steady, a sunnier outlook than was presented in another recent survey of employers. As the country comes out of the recession, recent college grads will be increasingly in demand, but they may also be in greater supply as many schools are currently experiencing record enrollment.

Luckily, at many colleges and universities you can find classes, internships, and other experiences now that will help prepare you for the workplace. If you’re a high school student working on your college search, focus on schools that emphasize research and offer numerous opportunities for internships and senior thesis projects. If you’re currently enrolled, take a variety of courses, especially ones that develop research and analytical skills, and see if your school currently offers internship experiences or opportunities for substantial research projects. By demonstrating through your experience and coursework that you’re both skilled in your subject area and able to learn and adapt, you may have an edge over your competition.

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Study Analyzes the Most Educated—and Unemployed—Generation

February 24, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The country's Millennials, the 50 million or so teens and 20-somethings who are entering adulthood around the start of the new millennium, are on track to become the most educated group of individuals the country has ever seen. But they're also entering adulthood to face the largest number of unemployed and out of work people in more than 30 years.

A study released today by the Pew Research Center included new data that surveyed 2,020 adults, including 830 Millennials, to determine how future generations will look and to nail down the "Millennial Identity." The study also drew on more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, and was supplemented by an analysis of Census Bureau data and other relevant studies. Among the findings, a record 39.6 of Millennials were enrolled in college as of 2008.

Although the recession has greatly affected their chances of landing jobs post-graduation (22 percent of businesses report they will hire fewer college graduates than in previous years), the group remains confident and upbeat about both their chances on the job market and the economy. About nine-in-10 either say that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals, despite the 37 percent of Millennials who reported they were unemployed, the largest number among this age group in more than three decades.

Among other findings: 

     
  • About one-in-six aged 22 and older admitted to returning to a parent's home because of the recession.
  •  
  • Nearly six-in-10 said that work ethic was one of the big differences between young and old workers; about three-fourths said that older people had the more impressive work ethic.
  •  
  • Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe, and nearly four-in-10 have a tattoo. (Of those who are tattooed, half have two to five and 18 percent have six or more.)
  •  
  • More than eight-in-10 say they sleep with a cell phone near the bed, and nearly two-thirds admitted to texting while driving.
  •  
  • Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, and one-in-five have posted a video of themselves online.
  •  
  • Two-thirds agreed that "you can't be too careful" when dealing with people, but place more trust in the federal government than previous generations.
  •  
  • One-in-four are not affiliated with any particular religion, but responded that they pray about as often as previous generations.
  •  
 The study also found that about 74 percent of all respondents, young and old, agreed that there was a generation gap. Most of this was related to technology use, although some was related to the state of the nation. About 41 percent of Millennials say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country. About 26 percent of those 30 and older said the same, suggesting that the recent troubles with the economy have affected the older more than the young.

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College Students Plan Alternative Spring Breaks

March 2, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Spring break is fast approaching. Some college students already have their all-inclusive vacations planned out for beach-side locations like Cancun and South Padre Island, taking the week to relax, kick back, and take a break from campus life. Others, however, have alternative plans, and hope to give back a little in the wake of a number of recent devastating natural disasters.

An article in Inside Higher Ed yesterday describes the plans of David Adewumi, a Pennsylvania State University student who will join 10 of his peers on a relief trip to Haiti. They plan to spend the week of their spring break helping with minor medical care, food distribution and building shelters for those who lost their homes and livelihoods in the recent quake. A group of 20 to 25 students from the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard University have similar plans to spend their spring breaks in Haiti, training Haitians to build homes using dirt-filled bags.

The earthquake in Chile on Feb. 27 may cause some to divert their spring break attentions to that country as well. Some schools, like the City University of New York, have already expanded their relief efforts to include both Haiti and Chile. (So far, all students who had already been living or visiting in the South American country have been reported safe, including 27 University of Notre Dame students and faculty members, a group of business-school students and faculty members from the University of Tennessee, and students studying abroad from the University of South Carolina at Columbia.)

Organizers of alternative spring breaks say college students' relief trips are nothing new. But the speed with which students have mobilized to assist countries with recent disasters is. Students have expressed so much interest that some organizers, relief agencies, and college administrators worry that the situation in both Haiti and Chile is not stabilized enough to make for a meaningful experience for spring breakers. In the Inside Higher Ed article, Suzanne Brooks, the director of the Center for International Disaster Information, says inexperienced volunteers should wait a year before planning any relief missions to Haiti. "I don’t think it’s impossible that a year from now for spring break there may be some programs up and running, but I really don’t think it makes sense for this year," she said in the article. It may also not be the safest option, other say, or even a wise idea to send more relief agencies out there when those already on site have had trouble finding sufficient food, water, and housing.

Lucky for you, there are plenty of options if you want to organize an alternative spring break closer to home. At Tulane University, "service learning" has become a part of the curriculum, as students work to continue rebuilding a city still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Those interested in local community service opportunities should also be aware that many nonprofits reward those good deeds with scholarships.

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