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Ivy League Students Avoid Student Debt Crisis

by Suada Kolovic

Despite the hefty sticker price associated with all Ivy League institutions, estimated yearly costs are actually quite affordable. In fact, Ivy Leaguers graduate with less debt than their peers who attended less prestigious schools. How? Turns out healthy endowment funds play a huge role in aiding low-income, middle-income and even upper-income students with tuition costs. Score!

According to statistics from U.S. News & World Report, many of the best colleges in the county are relative steals for the lucky few who earn admission. For example, Princeton University students graduate with about $5,096 of debt for all four years – the lowest sum for alumni leaving a national university with debt. Amy Laitinen, a former White House education adviser now at the New America Foundation, said, "Folks look at the sticker price and assume that's what everyone is paying. The truth is that the more elite schools have more resources."

But with acceptance rates hovering at less than 10 percent, gaining access to those Ivy League dollars is fiercely competitive. Do you think it’s fair for students who don’t meet the Ivies’ steep admissions standards to be saddled with crippling debt or should the few that do be rewarded with an affordable, brand name education? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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by Suada Kolovic

With the cost of a college education continuing to skyrocket, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become increasingly popular. If you’re not familiar with MOOCs, they provide students with the opportunity to study high quality courses online with prestigious universities – we’re talking Harvard, Yale and Stanford – for free. Well, at least, that used to be the case: Udacity, one of the three MOOC providers, said on Wednesday that it would no longer give the opportunity to earn free, “non-identity-verified” certificates.

On the bright side, students will still be able to view Udacity’s online-course materials without paying but those looking to earn a certificate to prove they've mastered the material will have to pay for it. The policy change, effective May 16th, is to help employers take MOOCs more seriously, Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun said in a blog post. “Discontinuing the ‘free’ certificates has been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made,” wrote Thrun. “We know that many of our hardworking students can’t afford to pay for classes. At the same time, we cannot hope that our certificates will ever carry great value if we don’t make this change.” Currently, Udacity offers two types of courses: full and free. (The “full” courses cost $150 per month and include personalized support, project-based assignments, job-placement services and the coveted verified certificate while the free courses only include access to the online course material.) “We keep working hard to bring you the best learning experience. Sometimes it means making tough choices – this was one – to maximize the learning outcome for our students,” he said. “I can’t wait to see more employers seek you out for the skills you develop on Udacity.” (For more on this story, click here.)

Do you agree with Udacity’s policy change? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.


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College Tuition Increases Slow, Government Aid Falls

by Suada Kolovic

High school seniors heading to college in the fall, listen up: The average cost at the nation’s four-year public universities rose 2.9% this year, the smallest annual increase in more than three decades (yay!) but the slowdown in tuition increases have been offset by reductions in federal grant aid (boo!).

According to a new report from the College Board, public colleges have raised tuition prices so sharply in recent years not to gouge students but to bank on the increased state aid. And although the increase is moderate, "this does not mean that college is suddenly more affordable," says economist Sandy Baum, co-author of Trends in Higher Education reports on tuition and financial aid. "It does seem that the [upward tuition] spiral is moderating. Not turning around, not ending, but moderating." Unfortunately, students continue to suffer from the constant cycle of rising costs and serious college debt. Shrinking state aid for public colleges and universities has translated into the cost of public schools to jump $1,770 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The amount of government aid received last year fell $6,646 for every full-time student at those institutions while just five years ago, each student received $9,111 in today’s dollars. (For more on this report, click here.)

If college is in your forecast, what do you make of the report’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.


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Study: Majors Are More Important Than Where You Went to College

by Suada Kolovic

With fall semester in full swing, high school seniors are mere months away from deciding where they’ll spend the next four (or more) years. And while there are multiple factors to consider when making such a major decision, most would argue that prestigious universities and high-earning salaries are intrinsically tied...or are they?

According to a recent study by College Measure, students who earn associate degrees and occupational certificates often earn more in their first year out of college than those with traditional four-year college degrees. Examining schools in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the study found that short-term credentials such as two-year degrees and technical certificates were worth more than bachelor’s degrees in a graduate’s early years. College Measures President Mark Schneider said, “The findings challenge some conventional wisdom, showing for example that what you study matters more than where you study. Higher education is one of the most important investments people make. The right choices can lead to good careers and good wages while the wrong ones can leave graduates with mountains of debt and poor prospects for ever paying off student loans.” (For more on this study, click here.)

It’s important to remember that the study focuses on short-term gains as opposed to long-term/lifelong earnings. It’d be interesting for College Measure to reexamine their findings over the next few years but what do you think of its current report? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!


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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and you don’t think a traditional four-year university is for you, attending a community college does have its perks. Whether you’re interested in completing your general courses or testing the waters with a major that you're not absolutely set on, community colleges offer students the luxury of figuring out their educational path for a fraction of the cost...or at least they used to: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow a handful of community colleges to charge inflated prices for in-demand courses. Let’s say it all together now: Booooooo!

The higher costs – $200 per unit instead of $46 – would only affect the shorter summer and winter sessions. Supporters insist that the pilot program would prevent more students from being shut out of courses they need to graduate but critics said that lower-income students would be denied the opportunity to obtain course credits essential to their educational success. "The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," said Vincent Stewart, the community college system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, after the California Legislature approved the measure. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track, is patently unfair."

Even with the rate per unit almost quintupled, the overall cost of studying at a community college is still considerably less when compared to traditional options but is it fair to charge more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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LGBT Students Can Face Serious Roadblocks to Financial Aid

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you plan on paying for your college education out-of-pocket, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as the FAFSA) is essential in your quest for financial aid. For the uninitiated, the FAFSA is used by the Department of Education to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid for college, including the Pell Grant, federal work-student programs and federal student loans. And while most students struggle with the complicated application process, LGBT students potentially face more serious roadblocks: According to U.S. News & World Report, name changes, gender identification and strained family relationships can present unique FAFSA challenges.

In 2012, sexual orientation and gender identity were the number one reason for youth homelessness in the U.S., notes Thomas Krever, chief executive officer of the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Almost 40 percent of homeless youth identified as LGBT and of those teens, 46 percent ran away because their family rejected their sexual orientation or gender identity. What does this have to do with the FAFSA? Students under the age of 24 need tax returns and bank statements from their parents in order to file for financial aid and those without family support are left in limbo. Other LGBT students struggle with the fact that the FAFSA doesn’t necessarily reflect their identity. Questions about name and gender can be enough to keep transgender teens from even applying, says Eli Erlick, founder of Trans Student Equality Resources. "One thing about funding, specifically FAFSA, is that transgender students may not be able to change their name due to parents not being supportive or not having the money to do so," says Erlick. "This can lead to transgender students being nervous to apply, or not even applying at all, because they're scared for their own safety, because using these forms with their legal names may out them." (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think about the challenges LGBT students face when seeking financial aid? Can you think of something the government can do to ease this pressure?


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by Suada Kolovic

While the road to a college degree may include countless detours, it’s essential to understand the importance of financial aid and filling out the FAFSA. But don’t just take my word for it – President Obama agrees: Last week, the President announced an initiative that would encourage more students to apply for federal student aid.

Under the FAFSA Completion Initiative, the Department of Education will work with states to identify students who have not completed the form and employ new outreach efforts to help more students through the process. The White House said the effort would build on earlier steps by the Obama administration to simplify the form and make it easier for parents and student to use information from their tax returns to complete the paperwork. "We made it simple. It doesn't cost anything. It does not take a long time to fill out. Once you do, you're putting yourself in the running for all kinds of financial support for college," said President Obama.

For those of you that aren’t familiar, the FAFSA (which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) acts as a gateway between graduating seniors and almost $150 billion in grants, loans and work-study funds that the federal government has available. Funds do run out, though, so we recommend filling out the FAFSA as early as possible. Have you filled out the FAFSA? Let us know how it went in the comments section. If you haven’t done so yet, review our financial aid section for some tips.


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University of Iowa Slashes Law School Tuition

by Suada Kolovic

‘Tis the season for discount digging. With the holidays just a mere two weeks away, many people have gift-giving on the brain so it should come as no surprise that everyone’s on the hunt for rock-bottom prices. And whether you’re in the market for a new textured wrap sweater (who isn’t?!), the latest Apple gadget or even a shiny new law degree, you’re in luck! Yup, that’s right future litigators: Law school is officially on sale in Iowa.

The University of Iowa College of Law has approved a 16.4-percent tuition cut for both in-state and out-of-state students. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Iowa residents will pay $21,965 in tuition – a $4,309 reduction – while nonresidents will see tuition fall by $7,750 to $39,500. Why the discount? Turns out that despite being ranked 26th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, enrollment for the law school has steadily declined since 2010. Law Dean Gail Agrawal admits that the tuition reduction is intended, in part, to help the law school compete for applicants and students who are increasingly concerned with cost and debt loads. “We want to take a leading role in the evolving face of legal education and ensure our place as a best value proposition among the top public law schools,” she said. Keep in mind that the University of Iowa isn’t the only law school bargain out there: The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, the University of Akron School of Law, the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law have all announced tuition cuts in the past year.

Law school hopefuls, is discounted tuition enough for you to consider a school despite the current weak legal market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.


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Scholarship Displacement Explained

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way – for free! – and while financing your higher education solely from scholarships is an amazing feat, there is a factor to consider: scholarship displacement.

If you don’t know what scholarship displacement is, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, winning a scholarship may not be the end-all be-all when it comes to paying for school because they can complicate the financial aid package offered by your intended university. Why? When a student wins a scholarship, the college may reduce the student’s need-based financial aid package to compensate. For example, say a university offers a student a $15,000 grant and an additional $15,000 loan to cover the cost of attending. If the student were then to win a scholarship for $15,000, the college could retract its $15,000 grant. Colleges call this an over-award and the scholarship providers call it displacement.

Although this may seem discouraging, it shouldn’t dissuade you from applying to scholarships altogether. Instead, do your homework, speak with your admissions counselor and know where your intended college stands when it comes to their scholarship policies. If you’re brining a lot of scholarship dollars to the table, you have options. Every college is different and has their own guidelines when it comes to outside scholarships. If one university doesn’t allow you to put those scholarship dollars to other costs – loans, books, room and board, etc. – enroll at one that does. You could also enlist the help of the scholarship sponsor: Some scholarship providers may have a lot of clout with the college, especially if their scholars make up millions of dollars of funding to the college.

If you have any additional questions about scholarship displacement, don’t hesitate to ask us!


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