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Ithaca College Pays Students to Put Off School for a Year

October 8, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The economy has made college admission totals difficult to predict. Many community colleges are seeing significant increases in the number of students applying to their schools, perhaps as a result of more adult students seeking to pick up new skills to make themselves more desirable in a tough job market. Some private colleges have faced declining enrollments as students look for more affordable options when considering which school they'll attend in the fall, while others that have maintained generous financial aid packages have experienced an increase in applicants.

Ithaca College can't complain about declining enrollment. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that the New York school has offered 31 students $10,000 each to defer their enrollment for one year. Ithaca's target for new freshman was between 1,700 to 1,750. They ended up with an incoming fall class of 2,027, or 20 percent more than expected. Sure, having a larger class is better than seeing significant decreases in enrollment, but enrolling more freshmen than the school can handle won't only affect the college's bottom line as they adjust this year, but the four years that large class will be moving through the ranks. The school will also be forced to enroll fewer students over the next few years, making it harder to recoup any losses in spending this fall.

According to the Chronicle, the college had to make several other adjustments to prevent a repeat situation and compensate for the extra funding they'll need to get through the next four years with a larger class:

  • Raising admissions selectivity for the fall of 2010 to bring in fewer applicants from the beginning.
  • Building a temporary, $2.5 million residence hall.
  • Reinstating early decision.
  • Providing reduced rates on room charges and paying cable bills for students housed in lounges.
  • Providing $2,000 in incentives for upperclassmen to urge them to move off campus.
  • Hiring additional instructors.
  • Allowing for additional financial aid funding.

The Chronicle suggests missing the admissions mark by this much is rare. Ithaca had been seeing declining admissions numbers up until this point, so they worked harder this year to boost enrollment. Ithaca also accepted 73 percent of its 2009 applicants, compared with 59 percent in 2008. Administrators at the school maintain a positive outlook, and say that while they did need to spend some to get the situation under control ($250,000 for those deferred enrollments alone), they plan to come out with a modest surplus.

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Community College Students Need More Access to Federal Loans

October 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Although community colleges nationwide have seen significant boosts in enrollment, a report released yesterday suggests many will be forced to put their educations on hold or find new sources of funding if their institutions continue blocking access to federal student loans.

The Project on Student Debt released the report, and despite their stance on promoting that students take on as low a student loan burden as possible, they say community college students are at risk for taking on riskier private student loans or watching their grades slip as they take on more work hours to cover gaps in funding because they aren't able to apply for and receive federal student loans. About one in 10 students in 31 states surveyed don't have access to federal student loans, and in some states, more than 20 percent of students can't get the federal loans. Minority students have less access to federal loans than other student groups, as the report found many minority students attending community colleges that don't participate in the federal student loan program.

Why have many community colleges moved away from offering federal student loans? In an uncertain economy, the answer is risk, according to the report. Defaults on student loans have begun to rise among not only community college students, but among all college students over the last few years. The report always says many community college administrators believe students shouldn't have to borrow to attend their schools. Tuition is lower, they say, and if students are saddled with large amounts of debt now, they could hurt their chances for qualifying for low interest rates and federal student loans if they were to transfer to a more expensive, four-year institution.

But some students do need the additional funding even at a low-cost option like a community college, especially in the current economic climate. According to survey results released by the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges last month, about half of the nation's community colleges are expecting budget cuts and midyear reductions in their state appropriations. Many administrators in that survey also reported that stimulus money provided by the Obama administration went toward meeting existing budget deficits, and that they would be forced to raise tuition rates substantially despite record enrollments to make up for a lack of state funding. (The average tuition increase among community colleges is expected to be about 5 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year.)

While you should always exhaust your options with grants and scholarships first, student loans are often a necessary evil, and we have plenty of tips on how to go about applying for them and making sure you're getting the best rate possible. Never rely on credit cards to fund your education, or you'll run the risk of getting into more debt than you can handle not only post-graduation, but while you're still in school. Browse through our site for more information on your student loan options.

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Economy May Affect Diversity on College Campuses

October 12, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Colleges may need to work harder to find cost-effective ways to promote diversity on their campuses, as schools' diversity departments that have enjoyed growth over the last few years have found they aren't immune to the economic crunch.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday described strategies being considered by colleges in order to preserve their existing diversity departments and to make as few changes to minority-based programming as possible. Some schools have had to scale back diversity efforts to protect other programs affected by reduced budgets. Financial aid budgets are understandably a top priority at many schools, which is critical for not only minority students but all low-income students relying on aid, but staffing and across-the-board cuts have not spared diversity departments. According to the article, some schools' diversity programs must now make do with less, a common refrain in not only higher education but everywhere over the last few years. Central Connecticut State University's diversity office is down to two employees, for example.

But more broad cuts at college campuses will undoubtedly affect minority students more than other groups. Caps in enrollment at the big state universities where minority students make up a large percentage of the student populations could change the makeup of those schools, as minority students often apply for financial aid and admission later than white students, according to the article. The California State University system, for example, where 55 percent of the student population is composed of minority students, has been forced to cut its enrollment numbers by about 35,000 students over the next two years. Other schools like Reed College have been forced to reject students who would require more financial aid than the college is able to afford, harming those less-affluent students who don't have the means to attend the more expensive or private schools without significant aid.

Numerous studies have looked at how colleges can expand opportunities for minorities, both in getting them enrolled in college and getting them to apply for financial aid to pay for college. And while colleges have been trying to compensate for cuts that may affect minority students more than others by coming up with new, more cost-effective programming targeting those student groups, it will take some time for colleges to get back to the level of funding they once enjoyed and replenish those departments most affected by by budget cuts.

For minority students concerned about changes on their college campuses, consider a free scholarship search. 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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College Budget Cuts Jeopardize Graduation Plans

October 13, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Colleges across the country have had to make sweeping budget cuts to cope with substantial endowment losses and reductions in state funding sustained as a result of the recession. In many places, these cuts have led to fewer instructors, larger class sizes, and fewer course offerings. In addition to potentially reducing the quality of instruction students receive (even as they see their tuition continuing to rise dramatically), these factors are also making it harder for students to graduate on time.

An Associated Press article details the struggles some students at state colleges are facing trying to finish their educational careers. Despite the limits placed on freshmen and transfer enrollment this year, upperclassmen in California, as well as other states facing large-scale financial difficulties, are finding it nearly impossible to get into the classes they need to complete their plans of study.

Some students are able to only enroll part-time, jeopardizing their financial aid eligibility, while others are spending money on classes that basically amount to filler, at least as far as education requirements are concerned. Still other students may be choosing to take a semester or more off from school when faced with the prospect of being unable to enroll in any of the classes they want or need to take. Even more frustrating for students who need to take specific courses to graduate is that along with overstuffing sections of popular classes, universities are more likely to cut sections and courses (and even departments) with low enrollments to conserve resources, potentially leaving even more students high and dry.

Aside from analyzing every possible approach to fulfilling their degree requirements; petitioning professors, colleges, and department heads to grant exceptions in the wake of overflowing classrooms; and being sure to register as early as possible for next semester, there are few other options available to undergraduate students caught in this situation. However, students who are in the midst of their college searches can take steps to protect themselves against canceled classes and prolonged stays in college. A growing number of schools offer four-year graduation guarantees and accelerated degree programs, allowing students who can make the commitments required to avoid frustrations and minimize their time to degree.

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Current Health Care Proposals Lack Provisions for College Students

October 14, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The topic of health care has dominated the news recently. Voices on both sides of the political spectrum have been trying to either stop the debate entirely or come up with ways to compromise on a complicated issue even legislators have become perplexed by. In a big push forward, the Senate Finance Committee voted "yes" yesterday to approve an overhaul of the country's health care system, signaling at least the first step toward potential medical reform.

But how will college students be affected in all this, if at all? An article in Inside Higher Education today looks at whether the proposals currently being considered will have an adverse affect on students and campus-based health care plans, which many students leave their parents' plans for. The article suggests that without any major changes, the bill up for debate ignores college health insurance plans altogether as it focuses instead on employer-based group plans and individual policies. Allowing students to remain on their parents' health insurance plans for a longer period of time could be an option under the proposal, although this would not address students whose parents have lost their jobs and health insurance, for example, and need an affordable plan to get them through their college careers.

Lookout Mountain Group, a nonpartisan group that researches the impacts of health care reform on students, released a statement last week that the proposals currently on the table did little in the way of making sure college students had access to affordable, quality health care plans. The group further warns that the cost of health care for students could actually increase if language isn't included in the bill that would address the lack of campus-based options. Jim Mitchell, the director of Student Health Services at Montana State University and spokesperson for the Lookout Mountain Group, said in a release that any health care proposals should strive to include college? and university?sponsored student health insurance/benefit plans under the bill's definition of "group insurance."

Worst case scenario, how would students' health care be affected if no changes were made? According to the Government Accountability Office, 71 percent of four-year private colleges, 82 percent of four-year public colleges, and 29 percent of two-year public colleges offer student health care plans. Best case scenario, legislators realize the oversight and work on including amendments that would not only maintain campus-based student health insurance plans, but expand health insurance offerings for college students, a population that definitely needs affordable options.

No matter what happens with the health care bill, consider your health insurance options before you get to college. Many insurance plans will allow full-time students to remain dependents under their parents' health care plans while those students are in college. If you choose to go this route, make sure you've notified your college; many schools that carry student health insurance plans automatically charge and enroll new undergraduates for their plans. (You may need to provide proof of your insurance in this situation, but that's for your own benefit. Trust us. You don't want to start college uninsured, and will be thankful for insurance when you get sick at college.) If you go with your college's plan, you'll probably pay less than you would for a private plan, and you'll need to be comfortable going to your school's clinic or health center for most of your minor ailments.

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New Report: Tuition and Financial Aid Rise, Private Loans Fall During Recession

October 21, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Tuesday, the College Board published the latest installment in its Trends in Higher Education Series, annual reports detailing changes in college costs and student financial aid. These newest reports cover the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years and provide some insight into how economic difficulties have affected paying for college. Despite the recession, tuition continued to rise at a pace comparable to previous years, but financial aid has undergone some changes.

Between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, tuition increased 6.5% at 4-year public colleges and 4.4% at 4-year private colleges. Tuition and fees for in-state students at four-year state colleges rose from $6,591 to $7,020. Out-of-state tuition and fees at public colleges rose to $18,548, a 6.2 percent increase. Private college tuition and fees rose to $26,273. Total costs of attendance also rose to $19,388 for public colleges (a 5.8% increase) and $39,028 for private colleges (a 4.4% increase). Rising college costs are attributed to declines in state funding and massive endowment losses brought about by the recession.

Despite tuition increases and greater financial difficulties for students and families, total student borrowing dropped by 1% when adjusted for inflation in 2008-2009.  Federal student loan borrowing increased by $11 billion, or 15 percent, to about $84 billion. Most strikingly, there was a 50% drop in private loan volume in the 2008-2009 academic year, as a result of the tightening of credit markets. The 2008-2009 academic year also saw a growth in grant aid (both need-based and merit-based college scholarships and grants). About 2/3 of full-time undergraduates receive grants and the average grant was $5,041. The College Board anticipates that students will receive an estimated $5,400 in grant aid and tax benefits in 2009-2010.

A large portion of grant aid is made up of merit-based awards, like academic scholarships, which worries some analysts who are concerned with the increasing cost of tuition pricing lower income families out of college entirely. While, after adjusting for aid, the average net cost of tuition actually has declined for families over the period covered in these reports, another recent report by Postsecondary Education Opportunity research Tom Mortenson showed that students from the poorest families tended to have the largest amount of unmet financial need. The sharp drop in private loans suggests those families may be less likely to be able to secure funding to cover that unmet need, even if colleges and the federal government have made more aid available this year.

Much of the growth in federal student loans and college grants and scholarships is likely due to the increased amount of aid colleges and the federal government made available to struggling students as a result of the recession. However, much of this emergency aid is intended to be temporary, so these changes may turn out to be anomaly, rather than an overall trend.

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Senator Continues to Push "Three-Year Solution"

October 22, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As tuition and fees continue to rise and students need more financial aid to complete their college educations, ideas on how to both keep costs for students low and bring schools' budgets under control continue to crop up among lawmakers.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former president at the University of Tennessee turned Republican lawmaker, has an editorial on the topic in Newsweek this week, where he compares the three-year degree track to a fuel-efficient car. It would save students money, ease the dependence on federal and campus-based financial aid, and allow students  to move into the working world or to pursue an advanced degree in less time. And it would be up to the students to decide whether to complete their degrees in three years.

Many schools allow students to complete their degrees in three years, but few have official programs set up where students enter college knowing they'll be done in three years. Hartwick College has allowed students to complete their studies in three years for a while, but announced earlier this year a more official academic program for high-performing students that could be completed in three years. Students in that program will save about $43,000 in tuition and fees by forgoing a fourth year. This fall, 16 first-year students and four second-year students entered into the three-year program at Hartwick. Lipscomb University also unveiled a three-year option this year to students willing to attend classes in the summer. The state of Rhode Island has legislation on the table this month that would require all schools in the state to offer a three-year option.

On the other side, Waldorf College will stop offering the three-year programs it had set up as most students and staff preferred a traditional four-year track. Many students want the full four (or however many) years on campus. I still often wish I was back there. Students who have compressed a four-year program into three years have less time for what often makes the college experience memorable - time for friends, social outings and extracurricular activities that make you more well-rounded and able to juggle many aspects of your life at once. Alexander acknowledges possible obstacles in his piece, but maintains that something needs to be done to stay competitive and address an economic fallout that could affect schools for years to come.

Why not leave the choice to the students? What do you think of the opportunity to complete a college degree in three years? It could make sense for students looking at completing advanced degrees in addition to their master's. And the cost-saving aspect of the idea would turn many students on to the idea, especially returning adult students. Let us know whether you're planning on completing a degree in three years, and whether you think all schools should offer a three-year program as an option.

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Professionalism Matters in the Job Search

October 26, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Would you consider yourself professional? Out of all the things you're worried about when it comes to landing a job after college in a difficult economy, worrying about how you come off to employers may not be at the top of your list. But a recent study by York College in Pennsylvania may have you thinking otherwise.

The purpose of the study from the school's Center for Professional Excellence was to find a measure of how professionalism factors into the hiring process, to define "professionalism" when it comes to recent college graduates, and to determine the role colleges should play in developing professionalism among students. The study's findings? Students aren't behaving as professionally as their employers would like them to.

The study surveyed more than 500 human resources professionals and business leaders, and suggests that students need more guidance in college before going out on job interviews. An Inside Higher Education article last week describes the findings as a "gap between employer expectations and student realities." But the article also looks at whether the findings could be partially explained by the trouble an older generation has of defining appropriate behaviors of a younger generation.

So should you worry? It shouldn't come as a surprise that it's tough out there right now. A recent opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the additional obstacles of students entering the job world today - high unemployment rates and the tough decision whether a lower paying job outside of a graduate's interest area is better than no job at all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is about 15 percent. The National Association of Colleges and Employers claims that just 20 percent of those who graduated this year did so knowing they had a job waiting for them once they received their diplomas. So it probably wouldn't hurt for you to do what you can to stand out at that job interview, and wow those employers who apparently feel that many of the candidates they see exhibit unprofessional behavior.

The study's findings included the following:

  • Personal interaction skills, the ability to communicate and a work ethic that includes being motivated and working on a task until it is complete were included as the top characteristics of the professional employee by employers.
  • The most frequently cited unprofessional traits or behaviors were appearance, which includes attire, tattoos, and piercings, poor communication skills, including poor grammar, and a poor work ethic.
  • More than 37 percent of the respondents reported that less than half of the recent graduates they have hired exhibit professionalism in their first year.
  • Nearly all of the respondents (97.7%) stated that their assessment of how professional an applicant will be on the job has an effect on their hiring decision. Of these respondents, almost three-fourths (71.8 percent) indicated that 50 percent or more of the hiring decision is based on an assessment of the applicant’s professionalism.
  • About 33 percent feel the prevalence of professionalism has eroded over the past five years.

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Fulbright Program Sees Increase in Applicants in Weak Economy

October 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

One alternative to the traditional job search has seen a marked increase in applicants over the last year, as recent graduates look for ways to bide their time in a struggling economy that has made the job market even more competitive. According to an article in Inside Higher Education today, the Institute for International Education (IIE), which awards fellowships through the Fulbright Program, received more than 8,500 applications for student Fulbrights for 2010-11. That's an increase of more than 1,000 applications since last year.

The Fulbright Program looks to strengthen relations between Americans and other countries, and gets its funding from an annual appropriation from Congress. There are about 1,500 of the student awards to go around, and those awarded the State Department-sponsored fellowships are able to study, conduct research or teach English in 140 countries. Grants are awarded in all fields and disciplines. While the IIE has been working harder to get the word out on the program, many college administrators think marketing tactics alone wouldn't explain such a significant jump in applicants, especially because the application process for the awards is fairly involved. "Some are putting applying for fellowships into the mix in a way they might not have if the job market were stronger," said Michael Pippenger, Columbia University’s associate dean of fellowship programs, in Inside Higher Ed.

The Fulbright Program isn't the only alternative to employment that's seen an increase in applicants. Teach for America also saw applications rise about 42 percent last year, a record for the program that trains students to teach in low-income communities, and those numbers are only expected to increase this year. The group does say they increased their recruiting efforts, but the current state of the economy may have something to do with more graduates postponing the traditional job search.

Programs that emphasize cultural experiences, volunteerism, or service can also be good resume builders for when the job market picks up and you're ready to venture back out into to search for that perfect position. If you're able to, consider your options, whether you're looking at programs while you're still in school or for post-graduation. And don't forget that there's plenty of funding and free scholarship money out there for you to pursue such opportunities.

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2008 College Enrollment Set New Record

October 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Is it feeling crowded on campus? It should be, according to new research. A Pew Research Center report released this week shows that in 2008, colleges experienced record enrollments, and early estimates indicate that 2009 enrollments may break the newly minted records for 2008.

Nearly 40 percent of young adults ages 18-24 were enrolled in college in October 2008, up from the previous record of 38.9 percent set in 2005. About 8 million young adults, or 27.8 percent, were enrolled in four-year colleges, representing a slight increase from 2007. However, community colleges have seen an enrollment boom, with their numbers swelling from 3.1 million students, or 10.9 percent of the young adult population, in 2007 to 3.4 million students, or 11.8 percent of young adults, in 2008.

A large part of the enrollment increase is attributed to the growing size of high school graduating classes, with the nation graduating the most students in 2009. This likely accounts for the growth in numbers overall, but something else may be contributing to the increase in community college enrollment. For that, most people are pointing to the recession, which encouraged students who may not have otherwise attended college to enroll, while pushing other college-bound students to explore less expensive options.

Giving further evidence to this theory is the decline in employment among young adults. In 2008, only 50.4 percent of young people aged 16 to 24 were working, compared to 52.7 percent in 2007. However, while more trouble finding work may have encouraged some students to consider attending college, it also has likely created a problem paying for school for many students. A large number of community college students tend to rely on income from work to pay their tuition, as opposed to applying for financial aid or student loans.

Based on enrollment increases for 2008 and anecdotal evidence of continued enrollment booms in 2009, it appears students are still finding ways to fund their educations. Still, students applying to college for 2010 may want to take note of these numbers and begin the college application process and scholarship search early just in case.

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