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by Agnes Jasinski

The cost of books and supplies may not seem like all that much when compared to the thousands of dollars you’re spending on tuition, fees, and room and board, but it’s still painful to drop $100 or more on a textbook you may not even use as often as your professors think. Recognizing your pain, colleges are looking for ways to reduce the costs of textbooks without sacrificing instruction.

At Rio Salado College in Arizona, administrators issued the rule that faculty members must choose one printed textbook for all sections of each course. At most colleges, professors and instructors are able to choose different books for different sections, leading to a rise in cost of those books because colleges aren’t able to purchase them in bulk. At Rio Salado, the school’s relationship with Pearson has allowed them to cut costs even more by promised the publisher it would be the school’s sole supplier. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed today, those decisions have allowed the college to retail textbooks for about half of what they would have charged under the old system. This kind of standardization wouldn’t work at all colleges, according to the article. Many professors use books they’ve authored, or customized texts based on what they’d like to highlight in their sections.

Elsewhere, campus bookstores have joined the textbook rental trend to respond to students going online to rent print copies of the requisite texts. Even though many students are able to recoup some of the cost of their books by selling them back at the end of the semester, putting down hundreds of dollars up front for a stack of books isn’t easy for anyone, especially a new freshman. According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently, colleges had been hesitant about offering the service until now because of high start-up costs and lack of profits, and the fact that rental programs often require professors to keep the same edition of a book for at least four to six semesters. Storage can also be an issue, especially in a survey course that enrolls hundreds of students. Others say e-books will be the way of the future, with more textbook providers going digital and college campuses and bookstores following suit. Many students are already renting digital textbooks to peruse on their iPads and Kindles, according to The Chronicle article. Does your college offer a unique alternative to the traditional campus bookstore textbook purchases?


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College Offers Tuition Discounts for Service

Marist College Rewards Big Brothers, Big Sisters

June 29, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

As if you needed more reason to get some volunteer work under your belt, students at one New York college will be rewarded with generous tuition discounts if they are members of one of three local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters.

Starting this fall, Marist College will offer discounts of 25 percent to new undergraduates and graduates at the school who are members of any of the three Hudson Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters. Those students will also get a pass on any application fees. According to The New York Times article on the new initiative, the school decided to offer the discounts to encourage volunteerism in the community, especially among men. The dean of graduate and adult enrollment at the college is a Big Brother himself, according to the article.

While school administrators admit they will probably lose some revenue from the initiative, they are also hopeful that more students will be drawn to Marist with the introduction of the program. Tuition discounts will also apply to any family members of participants in Big Brothers Big Sisters, according to The New York Times, meaning a parent of a “little” brother would be eligible for the reduction in college costs as well.

Administrators at the college say they don’t know of similar programs at other schools, but that doesn’t mean you should quit volunteering if you’re not interested in Marist. Most colleges offer grant and scholarship opportunities for students involved in community college. Columbia College, for example, offers the $1,000 Boone County Endowed Scholarship to freshmen applicants who boast volunteer experience and certain academic requirements. Pacific Union College offers the $1,200 Christian Service Award to students involved in church or community service leadership.

If those scholarship totals seem low to you altruistic high school students, be aware that there are a number of generous community service scholarships out there to supplement the financial aid packages you’re offered from your intended college. Volunteer experience will also help you on your college applications, scholarship contests that aren’t specifically targeted at volunteers, and future employment. And if you’re pursuing a major in a high needs field, such as nursing or education, you may also be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, so make sure you do your homework when you’re determining how to pay for college.


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Study Lists Best Returns on Investments

MIT Provides Best Bang for Your Buck

June 30, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

You’ve seen lists ranking the “greenest” colleges, those who are the most neighborly, and the schools most concerned about the social good. The latest list released this week from PayScale Inc. ranks colleges based on their Return on Investment (ROI), a calculation they came up with by considering the cost of college against the estimated median salary of a graduate from a particular school, 30 years down the line.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) topped the list of schools that will give you the best return on your money, based on PayScale’s calculations. According to the ranking, you’ll get about a 12.6 percent return on your investment at MIT, or nearly $1.7 million over 30 years. In second place was the California Institute of Technology, with Harvard University coming in third. Private colleges dominated the list, with the first public university, the University of California-Berkeley, not appearing until number 16. The worst deal seemed to be public out-of-state colleges where students must pay higher tuition rates than those attending colleges in their home states. Attending a public college on in-state tuition would then be a pretty good deal.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took the list with a grain of salt, describing the limitations of the ranking. The ranking did not consider the fact that few students actually pay the sticker price of college, with a majority receiving some kind scholarship or grant support. The report also only considered those who would graduate to receive paid salaries or hourly wages, leaving out students who may be doing quite well for themselves as architects or entrepreneurs, two project-based career paths. Finally, the data used to rank the schools was limited in itself, as the information was self-reported and did not include every school.

Still, it isn’t surprising that technology schools topped the rankings this time around. Engineering degrees in particular are consistently ranked among the top 10 highest-paying college majors. Don’t be discouraged if your intended college isn’t on this list or any list, though, or if your intended major isn’t going to lead to the big bucks. Your interest in a school, program, and field of study should be considered above all else. And if you’re new to the process of narrowing down your list of college options, browse through the resources we have on choosing the right school. It’s never too early to start researching!


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Scholarships Are Not Just For High School Students

How To Get Aid While In College

August 3, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

Many college students end their first year of college with a significant amount of loans and out-of-pocket cost, forcing them to make the decision of either finding another school for the subsequent year or pausing their college education altogether. However, a mistake that can be made by students receiving loans or that have out-of-pocket costs is believing that undergraduate scholarships are not available for those already in college.

What all college students should know is that there are a plethora of scholarships and financial aid available exclusively to undergraduate students. These funds can be awarded based on many things, including community service done in high school in college, family income, the amount of loans used for college, and your academic record while in college. The places you should start looking for scholarships are the financial aid office at your college, where most schools post flyers or have a simple handout that list scholarships that are available for students at the school. The next step is to go directly to your financial aid advisor and ask if he/she knows of any financial aid sources that are available for you.

If you are unsuccessful in finding any opportunities via flyers, handouts, or asking your financial aid advisor, you should schedule a meeting with the director of financial aid at your school and ask them about ways of lowering your loan amounts and out-of-pocket costs. During this meeting you must remember that many students come into the office every day in need of aid so you must stress how important it is for you to receive additional aid if you are going to continue your education. The director may be able to tell you about grants and scholarships that are available to you. The reason you should tap into your school's resources for financial aid first is because most of the money your school has in its budget for financial aid will be available at the beginning of the school year. The longer you wait to investigate, the smaller your chances of receiving additional funds. The key thing to remember is the earlier you inquire, the better.

After you have tapped into all of your school's resources, you should then start your personal search for scholarships. The best place to start this search is of course Scholarships.com. When using the Scholarships.com database you should narrow your search to scholarships and grants available to undergraduate students. After you have done this you should find all of the scholarships you meet the requirements for and you should start your scholarship list. Almost all of these scholarships or grants will require you to write personal statements and obtain one or more recommendations from professors. If you want more information about writing personal statements and essays or getting your recommendations for scholarship applications take a look at my previous entries, "So You Want To Set Yourself Apart Huh?" (personal statements) and "A Strong Foundation Means a Strong Application" (recommendations). These entries will go into deeper detail about how to get great recommendations and how to write personal statements that will set you apart from other applicants.

Besides personal statements and recommendations, any scholarship you apply for as an undergrad will rely heavily on your academic record. This means that doing well in your classes and having a strong GPA will greatly increase your chances of being awarded most scholarships and grants. Your search for financial aid while in college may be a rough one, but it is definitely a search worth making. If you utilize the information listed above you too will soon realize that scholarships are not just for high school students.


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Daytona State Employing E-Book Program

Students Could Save Hundreds of Dollars Each Semester

September 3, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Daytona State is going to do it beginning in January 2011; they will actually purchase a license from publishers to allow their students access to electronic versions of the texts they would otherwise go out and try to locate in print form at the best price they can find. For this service, the student s will be charged a “digital materials” fee. For it’s part the college will require publishers to make the e-books readable in multiple types of e-reader, regular computers included. After all, not everybody has a Kindle or an iPad.

Since they can pretty much guarantee one e-book sale per student per class per semester, Dayton State will be able to get a pretty sizeable discount from the publishers. When you consider there are no printing costs, etc. for the publishers, you would think it would be even less, but the estimated fee as it stands is about $30 per e-book. That said, this is still a huge savings off regular e-book pricing and only about a quarter of what they would be paying for standard, new, print textbooks.

Funnily enough, this practice actually originated with one of the oft-maligned “for-profit” institutions, University of Phoenix, where e-books have been in use for some time. At many schools the cost of books, while considerable, is not much in comparison to tuition, room and board at around $1,100 per student at a four year school. However, at Daytona State, a former community college that now offers some four-year degrees, textbooks can make up nearly a third of a student’s total cost of attendance. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why such a school might give this approach a try. And it’s not like the students won’t still have a choice, either. If a student prefers a printed book they can either print the book themselves or purchase a regular print textbook and apply the digital materials fee to the purchase. Would you rather save up to $1,100 or have traditional, print textbooks? Do you think/hope your school will try a similar program? Let us know what you think about Daytona’s upcoming e-book program.


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Credit Card Crack Down

SUNY Adopts Credit Card Reform Agreement

September 10, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the emergencies only credit card. Sounds great in theory but when a student’s cash flow is low, the term “emergency” can take on an entirely new meaning (some sweet new sneakers or a floor dinner at Chez Fancypants, perhaps?). If Mom and Dad aren’t too keen on the idea – maybe they’ve been there, done that and have the credit score to prove it – there hasn’t been much they could do to prevent their child from stopping by the student union during the first week of classes and signing up for myriad cards and repercussions…until Andrew Cuomo stepped into their corner.

Reuters recently posted an article detailing the State University of New York’s agreement with the New York Attorney General to adopt practices to protect students from unnecessary debt. SUNY, with 465,000 students on 64 campuses throughout the state, is the first university in the country to adopt this sort of reform, which calls for mandatory financial literacy programs to educate students on loans, credit cards and finances in general to minimize the nearly $4,100 in credit card debt and $20,000 in loans that most four-year college students graduate with. Letters have also been sent to the state’s approximately 300 higher educational facilities insisting that they evaluate any existing contracts with credit and debit card companies, prohibit the sharing of students’ personal information with card companies without authorization, limit on-campus marketing and never accept percentages of charges imposed on students.

When I began my freshman year at UConn in 2001, I made the decision not to sign up for a credit card for one simple reason: I knew that when I tired of my wardrobe or dining hall food, it would have been all too easy to bust out the plastic. That being said, I knew plenty of people who were tempted by the free t-shirts and bottle openers and they would have surely benefited from Cuomo’s reform and tips like these. Now to our readers: Have any financial wins or woes from your college days you'd care to share? Would you have made different choices if more information was available? Were the sneakers worth it?


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MTV’s New Groove

Music Channel and College Board Launch Financial Aid Contest

September 17, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Current high school and college students are probably too young to remember when MTV actually played music videos. It was a glorious time for sure but after hearing this next announcement, I think they will like the network’s new direction just fine.

The NYT’s The Choice blog revealed that instead of launching another mind-numbing reality show, the music channel and the College Board have joined forces for the Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge. The contest – which is being underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is open to current and potential college students interested in creating an innovative digital tool that will help more students obtain funds for school. The prize for the winning individual or team? A cool $10,000, as well as a $100,000 budget to bring their idea to life.

A statement released yesterday stated the contest was created to make it easier for students “to navigate what can be a confusing financial aid maze.” This metaphorical roadmap will definitely be a useful one: Each year, countless students are forced to postpone or abandon their dreams of higher education because they cannot pay for school but the Get Schooled creators hope their program will play a role in raising college completion rates.

The contest will run through December 17th so if you think you have what it takes to win, submit your idea here. Best of luck to all who enter!


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Do Something…and Win!

This Scholarship of the Week Award is Twofold

September 20, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Hey, you. The one with the sketchpad full of doodles, memory card filled with images and computer crammed with creations. Yes, YOU. Want to score a college scholarship and help out your school at the same time? Of course you do, because in addition to being wildly talented, you’re also a good person. Here’s what you need to do to make a difference in your life (a $1,000 scholarship) and the lives of others ($5,000 for your school’s music program and 5 HP Pavilion dv6z laptops for your school’s art program) with the Make Art. Save Art. Scholarship from DoSomething.org.

Like the award, the requirements are also in two parts. First, create a PC wallpaper using either your photographic, graphic design or traditional visual art skills and tell DoSomething.org why you think art education is important and why it should continue to be part of the curriculum. Next, upload your original work to Facebook and Twitter and see how many people share your design. Each time someone shares what you created, you’re one step closer to victory so use any and all connections you have to ensure your art is seen. And if a scholarship and funds for the arts aren’t enough, the winning designs will be available for download as PC wallpapers and featured on DoSomething.org.

There are many talented artists out there but only one entrant age 25 or younger will receive this excellent award. For more information, visit www.makeartsaveart.org and for other scholarships like it, conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.


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Save the Perkins!

Proposed Amendment Will Keep This Loan Alive

September 23, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

The Perkins Loan Program has played a vital role in the quest for higher education (mine included) since 1958 but in two years, it could end up just as extinct as dinos and dodos. Can it (and the dreams of countless students) be saved?

The Perkins, or as one supporter affectionately calls it, “the David among the Goliaths of other aid,” is used by 1,800 colleges across the country yet Congress hasn’t provided any new money for the program since 2004. In 2009 alone, colleges awarded 495,000 new Perkins loans at an average of $2,231 per student and its demise would shut out college access to low-income students and eliminate the jobs of campus officials and loan servicers who help distribute the funds. Representative John Spratt clearly understands the importance of the Perkins and is sponsoring an amendment to delay the program’s cancellation – so much so that he held a hearing in Washington yesterday discussing the Perkins’ significance; though it probably won’t pass this year, Spratt is optimistic that with the support of the House Budget Committee and the schools relying on the loans, the amendment has a shot at approval next year.

“By its very nature, the Perkins Loan Program provides schools the flexibility to provide additional aid to needy students. The importance of this flexibility cannot be overstated,” said Sarah Bauder, assistant vice president of enrollment services and student financial aid at the University of Maryland at College Park, in her testimony during the hearing. “Financial aid administrators work where the rubber meets the road and have a unique perspective that allows them to assess students’ and families’ ability to pay for college in ways that aid applications will never be able to assess. When aid administrators see students and families struggling with unique circumstances, they need some flexibility to deliver funds to ensure the success of these students.” One such student, Joseph Hill, also testified. The Georgetown senior stated that though he received $26,000 in scholarships, the Perkins was what made it possible for him to attend the school of his dreams. “Last week, I was talking to my mother, and without hesitation, she said, ‘It still wouldn’t have worked without that Perkins Loan,’ ” Hill revealed.

There’s a lot more to the history of the Perkins and the fight to save it (get the details here) and as a former Perkins recipient, I can’t help but root for this little amendment that could. I'm definitely making a t-shirt.


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Pay-Per-Click, Reinterpreted

Johns Hopkins Students Not Feeling New Fees

September 24, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

College students always looking for ways to stretch their money as far as it can go. This could mean getting meals strictly from the campus dining halls or doing laundry once a month instead of every week but if that means a little extra cash in their pockets or bank accounts, scaling back on luxuries (and even essentials) is an easy sacrifice to make. That being said, I can completely understand why some Johns Hopkins students are up in arms.

Nearly 200 students are protesting a new fee for classroom clickers, a technology that allows professors to gauge student understanding or opinion in real time by giving them handheld voting devices and taking polls throughout a class period. Students can pay per course ($13) or a one-time fee ($35) that covers all courses, all semesters; students must also purchase enrollment codes and the actual clicker devices, which cost between $20 and $30. Adding this cost to the already large amounts students spend on tuition, housing, books and other supplies may not seem like a lot but to a college student, it’s about the price of two movie tickets and some Chinese carry-out. The university, however, thinks the program adds considerable value to the education of its students: One biology lecturer found that since he started using clickers, class attendance and grades have gone up 30 percent.

Still, students are not down with the added costs and have created a Facebook page where they can voice their displeasure about everything clicker-related. Thought time: Would you pony up the extra cash if it meant better grades or would you rather keep it and splurge on a night out with friends instead?


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