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And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

U.S. News Lists Schools with Lowest Average Debt for 2010 Grads

December 28, 2011

And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

by Alexis Mattera

If you are a recent college graduate, those student loans you haven’t thought about in four or more years are about to come calling...and collecting. While some students’ debt tallies are quite large, the amounts owed by others are much more manageable.

U.S. News & World Report has reported that the average amount of student loan debt (defined as money loaned to students from colleges, financial institutions and the government, not including parent loans) for a 2010 college graduate was about $25,000 but this number truly varies depending on what school a student calls his or her alma mater: For example, 2010 graduates of Alice Lloyd College have an average total indebtedness of only $3,108 and those from Princeton owe just $4,385, due in large part to more grants, scholarships and work study that do not require repayment. Here are all of the schools that made the top 10 and the average amount of student loan debt 2010 graduates incurred:

Does this information have you reevaluating your college plans or financial aid choices?

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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?

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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?

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Get a (Residential) Life with NACURH!

February 8, 2012

Get a (Residential) Life with NACURH!

by Radha Jhatakia

Do you think your residence hall life is a little dull and in need of help...or so great that other schools could benefit from your programs? Either way, I have the perfect opportunity for you to let your voice be heard and maybe do some traveling. Ever heard of NACURH?

NACURH stands for the National Association of College and University Residence Halls and they are having a conference soon. At these conferences, you gain ideas to host different programs at your college, meet students from a wide array of schools and learn many new things. I personally haven’t been to a NACURH conference yet but I attended a PACURH (Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls) conference at Washington State University in Pullman this past November and it was an amazing experience!

How do you get involved? I applied in September (the only requirement is that you live in university housing) and was selected as a delegate for San Jose State University. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we had many meetings to guide us through the tasks we had to accomplish and along with learning about new programs, delegates have to submit program ideas of their own – what a great way for you to share your ideas! Also, you have to show your school spirit so if you are proud of the college you attend, you can represent with school gear, chants and different competitions that will gain your delegation some points! The program I created for PACURH helped celebrate multiculturalism and was selected as a top 10 program – I was even able to present my program at the conference twice!

You won’t get many opportunities like this to make a difference and learn something new while having the time of your life! If you’re interested in NACURH or one of its affiliates, ask your residence hall government how you can get involved and start making a difference in residential life on your campus and beyond today!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.

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10 Most Expensive Public Schools for Out-of-State Students

February 16, 2012

10 Most Expensive Public Schools for Out-of-State Students

by Suada Kolovic

For the budget-conscious high school senior, it seems like a no-brainer to apply to the local state school for the best shot at affordable tuition. But with the economy in a slump and funding cuts becoming the norm, public universities across the country are more interested in recruiting out-of-state students. Why? It’s pretty simple: On average, tuition and fees for students crossing state lines is more than double that of their in-state peers. So if you have your sights set on schools beyond your state’s boundaries, check out the 10 most expensive public schools for out-of-state students (figures do not including room and board, books and other miscellaneous costs):

  1. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor: $37, 265
  2. University of Virginia: $36,570
  3. University of California – Irvine: $35,780
  4. University of California – Davis: $35,672
  5. College of William and Mary (VA): $35, 409
  6. University of California – Santa Barbara: $35,386
  7. University of California – Santa Cruz: $35,211
  8. University of California – San Diego: $35,006
  9. University of California – Riverside: $34,729
  10. University of California – Berkeley: $34,645

Did your prospective college make the list and does this information alter your interest in the school? Is it fair for colleges facing financial woes to place the burden on the shoulders of incoming out-of-state students?

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Sixty-Two Schools Meet Students’ Full Financial Need

February 22, 2012

Sixty-Two Schools Meet Students’ Full Financial Need

by Alexis Mattera

Wouldn't it be amazing if that super expensive college you were just accepted into said, "Hey there, new friend – thanks for all your hard work saving, scrimping and scholarship searching but we’ll take it from here, financially"? It can happen...kind of.

When a student fills out the FAFSA, a figure known as the expected family contribution (EFC) – the amount a student or family can reasonably spend on one year of college – is calculated using family income, number of children, amount of assets and other factors. There is sometimes a gap between the EFC and the final cost of college but 62 schools have reported to U.S. News that, on average, 100 percent of their admitted full-time undergraduate students' financial need was met for fall 2010 by some combination of aid (work-study, merit scholarships, grants, subsidized loans, etc.).

Now, we're not going to list every single college and university that reported these claims (you can check out U.S. News' site for that) but we will say that some well-known schools like Yale, Vanderbilt and Grinnell – the latter of which has never failed to meet full need for a student in 20 years, according to financial aid director Arnold Woods – have made the cut. Way to go and keep up the good work!

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Friends and the College Search: How They Can Help or Hinder Your Decision

February 22, 2012

Friends and the College Search: How They Can Help or Hinder Your Decision

by Katie Askew

There are many factors that one should consider while searching for the perfect college. While cost, location and student life are all very important, where your friends are or aren’t attending school could play an unexpectedly vital role in your decision.

During college search time, my best friend and I were both focused on out-of-state schools. We both knew we wanted to get out of South Dakota but our interests were different – she was focusing on music and I was looking into English – and in the end, we had one college we both loved in our top three choices: Colorado State University. After much debate, I ended up at the University of Minnesota, while my best friend chose to go to CSU. My decision to not go to CSU was (along with a slew of other minor factors) mostly due to my friend, as I wanted to forge my own path and start fresh in a new city. Two years later, I have no regrets and our friendship is just as strong as ever.

Some students base their college decisions on where a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend or relative is attending school without really considering what they themselves want and need out of their own college experience. Yes, these relationships are important but it’s more important to decide for yourself: I know I made the right choice because I thrive in the big city and my friend loves the picturesque views of the Rocky Mountains outside her apartment window. Would our friendship have survived the turmoil of change college students go through if we were at the same school? We’ll never know for sure but it certainly has stayed intact across the miles...not to mention that I get an amazing spring break in Colorado and she gets a week-long summer vacation in the Twin Cities!

Some friendships may survive the chaotic transformation every college student goes through but some will not and you should not base your college choice on just this one factor. Distance from your high school friends, whether it’s thousands of miles apart or a couple blocks across campus, will impact your college life – just don’t let it dictate your decision for the wrong reasons.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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The Truth About Tuition Rates

March 12, 2012

The Truth About Tuition Rates

by Kara Coleman

Did you know that if you are a business major, you could be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for your college education than a political science major at the same school?

While certainly not a new concept, the number of schools with differential tuition rates has been growing steadily since 1980. At some colleges, juniors and seniors pay a higher tuition rate than do freshmen and sophomores; others charge students more depending on the field of study they are entering. The most common programs to be slammed with higher rates are nursing, business and engineering (the departments that cost the most money to operate) but some schools also charge special rates for students who are majoring in journalism, architecture, fine arts, education and physics. Just how many schools are doing this? A team from the Cornell Higher Research Institute found that 143 public colleges in the U.S. currently had differential tuition rates over the 2010-2011 academic year.

Is this fair? Students should choose their majors depending on their interests and talents but I can easily see where someone who wanted to attend their dream school might select a different field of study if it promised lower tuition rates than their first choice of major. Of course, most colleges still have a one-size-fits-all tuition rate so one must wonder if these schools benefit from other colleges charging more for certain courses of study. If I were considering nursing programs at two different public schools and the tuition rate at one was $250 more per semester than the other, the cost difference is substantial enough to take into consideration.

My university charges a flat, in-state credit hour fee. Could it be the next school to jump on the differential tuition rate bandwagon...or will it be yours?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

April 4, 2012

Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Words of Wisdom for the Wait-Listed

April 4, 2012

Words of Wisdom for the Wait-Listed

by Alexis Mattera

At this point in the college admissions cycle, most students have either been accepted, rejected or wait-listed; while the definitions of and actions associated with the first two outcomes are pretty clear (decide if you want to go or choose another school), things involving the third can be a little murky. What do you do if you find yourself in these waters? Here’s a much-needed paddle from the folks at The Choice blog:

Reevaluate: William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, suggests taking a second look at the school (or schools) you’ve been wait-listed at and deciding which you would realistically attend if you were accepted.

Respond: Some schools look at the time it takes students to reply to a wait-list notification; write a follow-up letter about why you want to go there or surrender your spot if the school isn’t the right fit for you as soon as possible, says veteran counselor Ted de Villefranca of the Peddie School in New Jersey.

Realize: A spot on the wait list is by no means a guarantee of admission – of the 996 students on Yale’s wait list last year, only 103 were accepted – so keep your expectations manageable in case you don’t get in.

Reach out...within reason: Mention only substantive information, says Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of admissions at Yale, and don’t overdo it. In that same vein, JHU’s Conley warns against constantly contacting the admissions staff, as your repeated calls and emails could be a turn-off.

You can read the rest of the experts’ tips here but we want to know if any of our readers are former wait-listers and, if so, what advice do you have for students who are in that position right now?

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