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2009 Brought Big Changes to Financial Aid

Dec 31, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

A lot has happened in the last twelve months. We inaugurated a new President, weathered a recession, and obsessed over and forgot hundreds of minor crises and scandals. College students and recent graduates have marked all these events, and have very likely also noticed some pretty sweeping changes in their financial situations.  Here are a few of the most memorable.

At the start of the year, President Obama encouraged more Americans to enroll in college, calling for the U.S. to again lead the world in college attendance by 2020.

The recession also motivated more students to go back to college, especially community colleges. Enrollments surged at two-year schools across the country. State colleges also saw increases in applications and enrollment. Along with this, financial aid applications were up in 2009, as were aid appeals.

Colleges and universities searched for creative ways to cope with the recession and the accompanying booms in enrollment and financial aid applications. Several community colleges added late night classes and many public and private colleges boosted their financial aid offerings to assist needy students.

Federal aid also underwent significant changes. Revisions to the Higher Education Act went into effect, as did new and renewed economic stimulus legislation. Pell Grants went up, as did Stafford Loan borrowing limits.  The Income-Based Repayment plan premiered, guaranteeing college graduates affordable federal loan payments, and a new public service loan forgiveness program.

Veterans' benefits were reworked in 2009, as well, and the resulting backlog of applications had students waiting weeks or even months to receive the money they needed to pay their tuition and their bills. Once the bugs are worked out, though, veterans will see an expansion of their college benefits, and in the meantime, veterans were able to receive emergency payments to help them get by.

States also received much needed cash from the government to help them minimize cuts to education while they dealt with budget crises. However, several states had to make cuts to education budgets, including state aid and loan repayment programs. California made some of the most sweeping budget reductions and the state's university systems were forced to cap enrollment and hike tuition over 30%.

As we look toward 2010, more changes appear to be underway. Congress is (still) considering changes to federal loan programs and the creation of a consumer financial protection agency, and recently passed credit card legislation will soon go into effect. States and colleges are still struggling with fallout from the recession and may alter their financial aid offerings more in the next year.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Pittsburgh Student Tax Proposal Abandoned

Dec 22, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Pittsburgh has dropped a proposal to enact a tax on college students as a way to raise revenue for the city following several weeks of criticism from not only students but the higher education community. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced yesterday that the city would instead focus on a "leap of faith," urging local colleges, nonprofits, and the business community to increase voluntary donations.

At a press conference Monday, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University both pledged to offer larger donations to the city than they had in previous years. Local insurer Highmark also pledged support. About 100 tax-exempt organizations gave a total of $14 million to the city between 2005 and 2007. The 1 percent tuition tax, described as the “Post Secondary Education Privilege Tax” or Fair Share Tax,” would have raised $16 million for the city to cover things like city employees’ pension funds and costs associated with the public library system until the city is able to get a handle on its budget problems. This "voluntary" agreement with the city's institutions only covers the upcoming fiscal year, however, so whether the city would ever revisit a student tax is unclear. The mayor also failed to say how much money would be offered voluntarily, as those deals have not yet been finalized.

The mayor also said he would target the state for more funding to solve the city's budget problems. A new group, the New Pittsburgh Collaborative, will come up with a list of things to ask the state for when the time comes, according to an article today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Previous talks have focused on raising taxes for those who in the city and expanding a tax on currently tax-exempt employees' payrolls, two proposals that would also not be met without resistance.

The fallout from the proposal was immediate. About 100 students came to a Pittsburgh City Council meeting recently to protest the measure, calling the idea "Taxation Without Representation" and a double tax on those students already paying taxes on things like sales items and property. An article in Inside Higher Ed today suggests other institutions of higher education were anticipating the outcome of the student tax to determine whether this could be an option in their cities. Some municipalities without strong support from outside organizations and voluntary contributions from their local colleges and universities may look to pass similar measures anyway, especially if those local economies fail to improve.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Community College Enrollment is Growing

Dec 18, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're a student at a community college, you may have noticed campus has been a lot more cramped lately. Anecdotal reports of students flocking to community colleges have been steadily rolling in over the course of the last couple years. But now a study by the American Association of Community Colleges has numbers to back up these reports. It appears enrollment is up at community colleges nationwide, especially among full-time students.

Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9% over the same period. Enrollment increases are most pronounced in the Rocky Mountains region of the country, where overall enrollment has climbed 36% between 2007 and 2009. In most regions, full-time enrollment increases have significantly outdistanced increases in part-time enrollment. Considering the majority of community college students traditionally attend part-time, this represents a dramatic shift for schools and a greater drain on resources.

Several community college systems have had to cap enrollment, while many others have effectively done so, as they have more students interested in enrolling in classes than they can accommodate. Over 34 percent of respondents to the AACC survey reported that they believed some potential students had been turned away due to capacity issues. Some schools are adding "graveyard shift" sections of classes to try to find room for all of the students who are interested in taking classes. Others, including administrators interviewed by Inside Higher Ed, reported reshuffling administrative and classroom space to try to accommodate more students.

It appears this enrollment boom has not come at the expense of more costly private colleges. Several private schools are reporting that early enrollments for the most part are either flat or up, as compared to last year. Based on these and other reports, it appears college admissions and financial aid may be even more competitive this year than last. If you're planning to attend college next year, whether it's a community college, state college, or private college be sure to meet application deadlines for admission and financial aid, and apply well ahead of deadlines if possible. You may also want to look at broadening your college search and applying for a couple extra schools to maximize your chance of getting in and winning scholarships.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Student Banned from Campus for Facebook Status

Dec 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Monday, a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was greeted by campus police when she arrived on campus. The reason: faculty members had felt threatened by her Facebook status updates.

Amanda Tatro, a student in the university's mortuary science program, had made a series of Facebook status updates over the weekend that made references to violence and her embalming lab class. Some of her professors were concerned by these updates and called the police. Tatro was escorted off campus Monday and barred from her classes for the first half of the week, finally being reinstated and allowed to make up missed work yesterday after police and the university's Office of Student Conduct deemed her posts non-threatening.

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Tatro posted to Facebook that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" because "lots of aggression can be taken out" with a sharp embalming tool. She later added she wanted to "stab a certain someone in the throat" and followed that up with an oblique reference to the movie Kill Bill and "making friends with the crematory guy."

To many, this was just blowing off steam to her friends after receiving some bad news. But to professors being bombarded with last minute pleas and thinly veiled threats from stressed students during the finals week frenzy, Tatro's threats could easily refer to them, rather than an ex-boyfriend they knew nothing about. Given recent violent acts and threats on other college campuses, instructors chose to share their concerns with police.

While Tatro's situation was resolved relatively quickly and peacefully, others have faced serious consequences for threatening posts online. If you use Facebook or other social networking sites casually, be aware of who might be able to read what you write. Think about possible interpretations of what you say before you say it, especially if it could be in any way construed as a threat of violence against or a malicious attack on someone you know. If you put something on the Internet, always assume that it's public, and that your professors, peers, prospective employers, high school nemeses, and parents are able to stumble across it. Though public venting can be nice and can help you blow off steam when you're stressed, it can potentially lead to trouble and Internet drama that could last much longer than the original cause of your stress.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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19 Colleges Targeted in Gender Bias Investigation

Dec 17, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has chosen 19 schools across the country that it will investigate for instances of gender bias in the admissions process. The schools were chosen based on their proximity to Washington, D.C., with an eye toward making sure the list was a mix of the different kinds of liberal arts public and private four-year institutions.

The commission began its inquiry into whether colleges were being more selective when considering female applicants in November. Why is this happening now? Female enrollment has grown steadily over the years, with about 58 percent of bachelor's degrees being awarded to women, and there has been some concern that men have been given some admissions preference over women as the number of female applicants continues to rise.

The issue has been made even more controversial due to its link to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. The law has been most often applied to athletics, as it mandates that men and women are equally represented on sports teams at these institutions. Advocates for female athletes have grown concerned over the inquisition, as it could raise questions about Title IX and whether the legislation is even still needed because the number of women in higher education has grown so significantly.

Perhaps the real question, however, is why the number of men enrolling in college has decreased. A focus on liberal arts colleges in this investigation could point to the fact that fewer men are interested in liberal arts educations, preferring instead technical or research universities or institutions that have proven backgrounds in male-dominated fields like engineering. Regardless, the results of the investigation should at least answer some questions as to whether gender bias is as prevalent as the commission believes, if women are being treated unfairly, and if there need to be changes made on the federal level regarding legislation to prevent inappropriate admissions practices.

The schools receiving subpoenas include the following: Georgetown University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Shepherd University, Virginia Union University, Gettysburg College, Goldey-Beacom College, Goucher College, Messiah College, Washington Colleges, Catholic University of America, Loyola College in Maryland, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, York College of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, and the University of Richmond. All of the schools were chosen based on their location and how representative they would be in the sample with the exception of the University of Richmond, which has been criticized extensively for reports of gender bias in its admissions policies.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Teaching Assistant Arrested for Dramatic Delivery of Course Evaluations

Dec 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Everyone knows not to say "fire" in a crowded theater or "bomb" on an airplane. But what about saying "bomb" in a classroom? As a graduate teaching assistant at University of California-Davis learned last week, that might not be such a good idea either.

James Marchbanks, the teaching assistant in question, was arrested last week for making a terrorist threat, false imprisonment, and making a false bomb threat. Why? The graduate student referred to the course evaluations he was distributing to his introductory drama class as a bomb.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Marchbanks reportedly walked into class on the last day with his backpack on one shoulder and told the class, "I have a bomb, this is the last time I am ever going to see you. I am going to leave class before the bomb goes off but you are all going to stay here until it's done," then tossed a packet of course evaluations and pencils on the desk at the front of the class and ran out

The move was widely interpreted as a dramatic and lighthearted delivery of evaluation forms that he felt could potentially destroy his career. In fact, 13 students signed a letter to this effect. Unorthodox teaching methods, relaxed and informal attitudes, and extreme nervousness about their effectiveness as teachers are all pretty standard for graduate students, especially in the arts and humanities, so for many students in Marchbanks' Drama 10 class, his delivery of course evaluations probably seemed on the quirky end of ordinary.

However, a few students took his remarks seriously and decided to file a complaint, even when it became clear that he was alluding to the destructive power of negative evaluations, and not to a homemade explosive device. Campus police obtained a warrant for his arrest and a judge set bail at $150,000, a figure substantially higher than the Sacramento Bee calculated the charges should carry, and a price certainly well out of the reach of what a student receiving a graduate fellowship or assistantship could afford. It was eventually decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime and he was released, but only after he had spent four days in jail.

While few people are likely to argue that Marchbanks deserved jail time for his comments, it does raise questions about what's appropriate to say in a classroom. With multiple incidents of on-campus violence, including a graduate student's recent murder of a professor at the State University of New York-Binghamton, appearing in the media, many already stressed-out students may be more on edge than normal right now. Did students overreact?  Do graduate students need to be more aware of their actions in the classroom as new teachers?  What do you think?

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Obama Encourages Studying in China as Budget Cuts Discourage Studying In-State

Nov 19, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Yesterday, in a joint statement with the leader of China, President Obama announced plans to strengthen the United States' relationship with China through several efforts, including expanding study abroad programs in each country. China currently sends more students than any other country to American colleges and universities, and the President promised yesterday to make an even greater effort to facilitate the enrollment of Chinese students in U.S. schools. Meanwhile, Obama has pledged to greatly expand study abroad in China for American students, from 20,000 currently enrolled, to 100,000, matching the number of Chinese students currently studying here.

Many colleges and universities are trying to boost interest in study abroad, especially among student groups that are significantly less likely to participate. The current administration's emphasis on studying in China could interest more students in exploring the possibilities for studying in other countries, as well as their awareness of the study abroad scholarships and other financial aid that can help.

And for many students attending state colleges in the United States, attending college in another country might be starting to sound good, at least compared to the situation at home. Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to debate over just what will happen with federal student loans next year, while state budget cuts are continuing to drive up college costs and reduce aid. The most dramatic examples of state cuts are taking place in California and Michigan, the states hardest hit by the recession.

Students in the University of California system found out that their tuition and fees are likely to increase by 32 percent next year, at the same time colleges are forced to scale back enrollment and financial aid due to a significant drop in state funding. The University of California's Board of Regents approved a fee increase that would raise costs by at least $2,500 by next fall, with students in some graduate and professional programs seeing even sharper fee increases.

Meanwhile, Michigan students are receiving bills from their colleges to the tune of thousands of dollars for the current semester, just as spring registration is under way. The state's Promise Scholarship, modeled after the much-lauded Kalamazoo Promise, was canceled this year due to lack of available funding. Students and schools had already budgeted for receiving the money this fall, and now that it's not available, colleges are billing students who lost their scholarships for the amount of their tuition the scholarship would have covered. Typically, unpaid bills prevent students from registering and graduating, though schools have said they'd do their best to accommodate students, provided the money will be paid.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Do Colleges Discriminate Against Women in Admissions?

Nov 3, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

College admission practices are often points of contention, especially when tricky issues like race, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned. Colleges worry about trying to promote diversity and give students a fair chance in their admission practices and other parties worry about practices potentially shortchanging students. Based on some of these concerns, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate allegations of gender bias in admission practices at selective colleges. The concern: in order to preserve male-to-female ratios on campus, colleges are being less selective in admitting male students than in admitting female students.

In recent decades, women have begun to thrive in higher education, making up a significantly larger share of undergraduate students, bachelor's degree recipients, and master's degree students than men. Postsecondary Education Opportunity data shows that currently there are 77 men in college for every 100 women, and 73 male bachelor's degree recipients for every 100 female graduates. While gender gaps still persist within specific fields, including traditionally male-dominated disciplines like engineering and computer science, overall women are coming to college in droves and doing well once they arrive.

This trend shows no sign of reversing and has some worried that men will become increasingly underrepresented in higher education, while simultaneously work opportunities contract in traditionally male-dominated fields that don't require degrees. Schools and other organizations are beginning to address these concerns. For example, a conference panel last month addressed some of the moves being undertaken to encourage more young men to attend college and persist to a degree.

The Commission on Civil Rights inquiry is intended to see if practices are going beyond encouraging young men to enroll and have actually moved into the territory of discriminating against women in admission by admitting a smaller percentage of female applicants and being more selective in admitting women than men. This practice, while possibly unethical at private colleges, would be illegal at state colleges. So far, there hasn't been sufficient evidence to support this theory, with the majority of admission officers recently saying they don't consider gender as an important criterion in college admission, leaving some wondering if the inquiry is entirely necessary. Information subpoenaed from colleges in the Washington, D.C. area should help the commission determine whether reality reflects reporting.

Adding in another level of controversy and drawing a great deal of criticism to the investigation is the strong focus on athletics in the text of the proposal for the investigation. The theory behind it seems to be that Title IX, the federal regulation designed to prevent sex discrimination--most visibly by mandating that men's and women's sports are equally represented in public schools--is preventing men from enrolling in college by limiting their opportunities for athletic involvement. Of all the directions the investigation could take, this certainly seems to be an unusual one, and on the surface it seems to present some problematic and likely inaccurate assumptions about gender. The investigation gets underway this month, so a clearer sense of direction may emerge as time goes on.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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2008 College Enrollment Set New Record

Oct 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.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Research Suggests Admissions Competition May Be Overblown

Oct 27, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It may not be more difficult to get into the college of your choice these days. In fact, at least half of the nation's colleges are actually less competitive than they were over the last 50 years, according to an expansive research project published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The effort, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at Stanford University, shows that only a small number of private colleges have become more competitive over the last several decades, and that a more substantial number are actually less competitive. The study looked at data from 1955 through today and focused on information on SAT scores rather than the anecdotal evidence we've come to accept on whether it's tougher to get into college. Hoxby claims that students' choices about where they go to college today are based more on the specific characteristics of that college, such as the study body or the resources available to them at a particular school, rather than its location and distance from home. That means some schools saw more applications - often smaller, private schools - while others - often larger, public institutions - have seen a decrease in applicants.

It also means students are spending more to go to college, or requiring more financial aid to do so, since they're going out of state for their educations. An article in Inside Higher Education today suggests that the typical student shouldn't be concerned about rising admissions selectivity, but rather another finding of the study - falling standards of achievement. Students are less prepared than ever to go to college, despite much attention on getting high school students thinking about higher education earlier and earlier.

So how do you explain recent data from reputable organizations like the National Association for College Admission Counseling that show declining acceptance rates at four-year colleges? Hoxby says her data looks at the big picture, which shows that traditionally selective private schools have and will remain selective as more students leave their hometowns for more elite institutions. But most students shouldn't focus on the idea that college is impossible to get into. Simply put, it isn't - according to this round of data, of course.

Check out our college search tool to find schools that fit your specific interests, whether you're hoping to attend school in a particular state or look for colleges with the programming you're interested in.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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House Moves to Further Regulate Private Loans

Oct 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Private student loans may soon come under increased federal regulation as Congress takes up legislation that would create a consumer financial protection agency. The bill moved out of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday and will soon go to a floor vote.

Lenders fought the legislation, but the proposed amendment to exempt student loans from the agency's oversight was defeated in committee. A brief but heated debate also arose over whether the agency should also regulate "gap loans" made by private for-profit colleges directly to students to help cover tuition and other expenses. Ultimately, the panel sided with the schools who argued that new Truth in Lending restrictions already offered students sufficient protection in regards to borrowing from schools.

Student loans are only one of several aspects of lending that would be regulated by the new agency. They'd be accompanied by mortgages, credit cards, and other bank-based loans. This comes in addition to legislation that's already been passed that will limit lenders' ability to market credit cards to college students. However, auto financing plans offered by car dealers were exempted and the agency's role in regulating smaller banks and lending institutions was also limited by amendments.

Backers of the proposed regulatory agency hope that its creation will offer greater protection to consumers, including college students, who find themselves overwhelmed by risky debt or deceptive lending practices. They hope that they will be able to limit the extremely high interest rates and confusing terms that accompany some private loans.  Student lenders have previously come under fire for questionable lending practices and have paid out large settlements and agreed to new codes of conduct governing their practices of marketing loans to students and offering incentives to colleges to promote their services on "preferred lender" lists. Private loans have also seen increased regulation this year, with previous student aid legislation requiring them to disclose terms up front, among other steps taken to make their lending practices more transparent.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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