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Graduation Rates Higher at Career Colleges than Community Colleges

January 28, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As a college degree has become increasingly necessary in our global economy, career colleges have rapidly risen in popularity. Career colleges are run as businesses and their degree programs are substantially more expensive than the equivalent at community colleges. However, their course offerings appeal to students, with online classes, flexible scheduling, and accelerated programs. Now, a new study shows there are additional draws to for-profit career colleges: compared to community colleges, students who attend career colleges are more likely to graduate.

The Imagine America Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides research and support for career colleges, released a report this week analyzing the retention and program completion rates of career college students in two-year programs, compared to those attending community colleges and not-for-profit two-year colleges. The study found that career colleges have substantially higher rates of both retention and graduation compared to public community colleges, and slightly higher rates compared to other private schools.

Currently, only 57 percent of full-time students at community colleges return the next year, compared to 72 percent of full-time students at career colleges and 68 percent of students at private not-for-profit two-year schools. Part-time students, the group typically seen as most at risk of dropping out, also fared better in retention at career colleges, with 60 percent returning the next year, compared to 42 percent at public two-year schools and 56 percent at private institutions.

Degree completion rates were also significantly higher at for-profit colleges, compared to community colleges. At for-profit schools, 59 percent completed their degree programs, compared with only 23 percent at community colleges. At not-for-profit private schools, 55 percent of students graduated. The degree completion rates at for-profit and private two-year schools are comparable to graduation rates at four-year colleges.

However, there are still questions about whether attending a career college is the best choice. Many in the higher education community have raised concerns over career colleges’ ability to educate students and prepare them to land lucrative jobs, especially given the high rates of student borrowing and student loan default among career college attendees. Currently, the Department of Education is debating increased regulation of career college recruiting to prevent students from borrowing more than they can afford or enrolling in costly programs that don’t produce a measurable economic benefit.

If you’re considering an associate’s degree or certification program, be sure to explore your options. There are pros and cons of both community and career colleges, as well as a number of other factors to be weighed in your college search.

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Colleges Lure Students with Applications Resembling Credit Card Offers

January 29, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

High school juniors who took the PSAT this fall are likely beginning to notice a new phenomenon hitting their mailboxes at home: a wave of mailings from colleges across the country. To parents, the flood of viewbooks and application packets is likely reminiscent of the piles of credit card offers that often make up the bulk of their mail. Beyond sheer volume, there are other traits that college mailings share with credit card offers, and these were recently explored by The New York Times.

In recent years, colleges across the country have been sending out priority applications to entice students to apply and hopefully attend. The applications usually come in bright packaging, usually with some language that suggests the student has been singled out as someone of special interest to the college. Some examples the article gives are “Advantage Application,” Distinctive Candidate Application” and “Exclusive Scholar Application.”

Inside, students find a partially completed application and an announcement that the school has waived the application fee, and possibly some of the application requirements, for a select number of students, including the recipient of the application. In reality, most priority applications are sent out in batches of tens of thousands. The wording isn’t always strictly honest, either. One college, University of the Pacific, promised to waive application fees for its “Distinctive Candidate” applicants, but they don’t actually require an application fee from anyone.

Still, the applications are convenient for students interested in attending these institutions. Waived fees can save students $50 or more per application, and the option to substitute a graded high school paper for a freshly written college application essay can also be enticing. They can also provide an opportunity to learn about a college the student might have never considered otherwise. In fact, this is the reason many admission officials state for choosing to launch a priority application campaign.

However, some counselors are worried that the inundation of priority applications may encourage students to wind up only applying for college at schools that mail them priority applications. Students can also be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mailings landing on their doorstep, especially when each application is a nearly identical, overly fluffy, and not necessarily true portrayal of the college and the applicant's chances of being admitted.  This can complicate the college search for students who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to visit or fully research each school that seems promising. Others in the higher education world worry that these applications represent a prioritization of selling the school, boosting enrollment, and increasing their U.S. News ranking (an increase in applications or in test scores of applicants can be a considerable boost) over their mission of recruiting and educating students who will thrive at their school.

What do you think of these applications? Did you receive any from colleges? Did they affect your college choice in any way?

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University of California Plans to Use Wait List for Incoming Freshmen

February 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

The University of California is planning to place some incoming freshmen on wait lists for the 2010 academic year to address uncertainties in the state's higher education budget. This would be the first time in history that the university system is considering a wait list, and more than 1,000 students may be affected by the change.

According to an article in The Daily Californian, the wait list would allow the school to be flexible in the number of students it enrolls for the upcoming school year. Enrollment numbers may change depending on state funding available; the decision to increase enrollments is dependent on the more than $51 million in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget. That $51 million would fund 5,121 out of around 14,000 currently unfunded enrollments. Last month, Schwarzenegger proposed restoring $370 million to the university in his budget, and also proposed a a constitutional amendment that would earmark at least 10 percent of the state's general fund to higher education.

Wait lists are typically more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students' decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher. An interview with Nina Robinson, the university’s director of student policy and external affairs, in the New York Times last week, looked at the unstable environment at schools across the state of California, and what a wait list could mean for students looking to attend colleges there.

Robinson said the wait lists would help the school hit their enrollment numbers without over-enrolling students, which has contributed to budget shortfalls. "It’s one thing to over-enroll 100 students if you’re going to get the funding for them anyway, but now if you’re adding 100 students and you‘re already over enrolled 1,000 students, that’s a serious problem," she said in the interview. Robinson also suggested a wait list may lead applicants to think space at the University of California is more scarce, allowing them to plan accordingly and apply to more "Plan B" schools.

Whether this would be a temporary change or a more permanent one is difficult to tell. California's financial woes go far deeper than over-enrollment at the University of California, and the lack of state support up to this point has made it difficult for the university system to avoid fee increases - the state's Board of Regents approved a fee increase that would raise costs by at least $2,500, or 32 percent - and turning away transfer students. Whether those students placed on a wait list face a good chance to eventually gain admission to the school is also difficult to tell, and largely dependent on the state's budget, something administrators won't know until well into the fall semester. Typically, a student’s odds of getting admitted off a wait list is about 1 in 3. If you're concerned about your chances, or if you intend to attend the University of California, it may not be a bad idea to expand that college search.

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College Goes 3-D to Entice Freshman Applicants

February 11, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is looking to give juniors narrowing down their college search choices a more unique brochure experience. More than 20,000 of them will receive 3-D glasses to go along with the school's brochures, a strategy the school describes as both a gimmick and symbolic of what the school is all about.

Viewing things in 3-D has only become more popular thanks to the success of James Cameron's "Avatar." But looking at a brochure is undoubtedly a different experience than sitting in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn in your lap. The New York Times talked to the school's director of communications, Cathy Williams, this week. She sees it this way: Hobart is looking to change the way students "see the world." The 3-D glasses are symbolic of that idea, and the brochures ask potential applicants to "open your eyes to new possibilities at HWS."

Nearly 10,000 of the recipients requested the catalogs; another 12,000 or so were identified through a College Board search program. (Institutions of higher education are able to purchase lists of students who have scored above a certain level on standardized tests or who have expressed interest in a particular field of study.) Those who receive the brochures don't only get the 3-D experience on paper. They're also then able to view videos of professors explaining the science behind the concept of 3-D.

Colleges have been working extra hard lately to entice potential applicants. Some have revamped their college application packets to resemble credit card offers, now speeding up processing times, waiving application fees, and using language typically used by credit card companies: Advantage Application, Distinctive Candidate Application, and the Candidate’s Choice Application, to name a few. More than 100 colleges and universities paid the same marketing company to send out variations of these applications last fall. Some spent more than $1 million on these application campaigns, according to the New York Times.

While their applicant pools have indeed increased thanks to the marketing campaigns, it makes one wonder how colleges find advertising dollars in their budges while tuition and fees continue to increase, schools shutter their "no loans" programs, and colleges struggle with budget deficits. What do you think? Would 3-D glasses included in your college brochure spark your interest in a school more than the glossy materials you usually receive? What other gimmicks have you seen colleges use to get students to apply to those schools?

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Cannabis Colleges Cropping Up Across the Country

February 26, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As more states continue passing medical-marijuana laws (14 and counting), it was only a matter of time before higher education would take notice. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, Calif., institution that provides "quality training for the cannabis industry."

Oaksterdam (named after Oakland and Amsterdam) has been offering weekend seminars and semester-long courses since November of 2007, when a group of marijuana-legalization activists their burgeoning movement deserved a trade school. The main school exists in a 30,000-square-foot converted office building, with satellite campuses in Los Angeles, Sebastopol, Calif., and Flint, Mich. Its academic departments, which admittedly began as a "political stunt," according to the article, now include coursework in biology, political science, horticulture, and "methods of ingestion," a class that teaches the benefits and history of extracted medicine, the chemistry behind it, and the different extraction methods and equipment used.

Although classes at the school aren't transferable - Oaksterdam isn't an accredited institution - that fact hasn't seemed to hurt enrollment. The "campus tour" described in the Chronicle article included an out-of-work engineer looking for a new career and a teenager who decided against majoring in horticulture at the University of California at Davis in favor of Oaksterdam. "I was convinced it was the best road for me to go down," he said in the article.

MedGrow Michigan Cannabis College is the Midwest's version. Students there take one class a night for six weeks, and take a cooking and concentrates lab, a history of cannabis class, and several horticulture lectures. The school's site boasts that more schools outside of its current Southfield, Mich., location are coming, and the faculty there include attorneys, professors in botany, and a professor of history who was one of the first 500 patients in the state of Michigan to obtain his patient ID card for medical marijuana use.

Cannabis colleges aren't the only kind of school taking advantage of career changers looking to pick up new skills and improve their job outlooks. Michigan’s ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border in Ohio. Students at the casino school learn how to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, to prepare for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A new school that recently opened in Tinley Park, Illinois, Bette Baron’s Art of Body Coloring School, offers a two-week intensive program in body art.

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College Rejection Letters Don't Have to Mean Failure

April 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you haven't heard already, today may be the day you find out whether you've been accepted to your first-choice college or university, as April 1 is the notification deadline for many of the most selective schools across the country. If the news you've gotten so far hasn't been the best, though, or if you come home to see a slimmer envelope than you'd hoped for, know that you're not alone. Many of the most famous and familiar faces out there were rejected from their top picks. (And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke.)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a look at the company students with rejection letters will be keeping, and the examples they found should make any dejected high school senior feel just a little bit more hopeful. Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate in medicine, was rejected twice from Harvard Medical School, at one time counseled to join the military instead. There's a decent-sized list of famous faces who have been rejected from Harvard. "Today Show" host Meredith Vieira and broadcaster Tom Brokaw were both rejected from the Ivy; Vieira instead met a mentor at Tufts University who got her into journalism. Warren Buffet, currently one of the richest people in the world, now describes his rejection from Harvard as a mere "temporary defeat," according to the Journal. Ted Turned received dual rejection letters from both Harvard and Princeton University, eventually attending Brown University, where he left on his own terms to join his father's billboard company - a company he has since turned into a media empire.

If you didn't get in everywhere you wanted to, don't be too discouraged. It's rare that an incoming freshmen hasn't had to deal with at least one rejection letter. Check out the New York Times' blog for their ongoing feature of students' experiences this admissions season. Those students are not only dealing with good news, but making tough decisions on whether those number-one choices were really the best fit, or only the top picks in their college searches because of their ranks and reputations.

This is also one of the most competitive years in terms of admissions rates, as more students are applying to the most selective schools than in years prior. Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, for example, have seen percentage increases of applicants in the double digits over the previous year. Both of those schools have admission rates hovering around 14 percent, which seem like tough odds. So expand that net when you're choosing a college, because there could be a diamond in the rough out there that you haven't yet considered.

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Not Rejected, Not Accepted: Tips for Handling the Waiting List

April 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While many students marked April 1 as the day they found out whether they were accepted or rejected to their first-choice colleges, many others were given a different response - placement to the waiting list. High school seniors are then faced with a tough decision. Should you take a risk and bank on placement at a school you're wait-listed at, even if you miss notification deadlines at schools you've been admitted to? Or should you cut your losses and inform the schools you've been wait-listed at that you'll be going elsewhere?

The waiting list generally benefits the colleges. The schools' administrators are able to wait until their own first-choice students make decisions on where they intend to attend, moving to those on the waiting list typically by May 1, once students' deadlines to notify the school of their choice have passed. The schools may also use the waiting list to fill gaps in their student population, according to The New York Times, offering eventual admittance to a student with a particular musical or athletic talent that the school had hoped to enroll in their first-choice pool.

Knowing this, it may seem like a risky endeavor to bet on a school choosing you out of the hundreds of other students on waiting lists. Still, many do choose to stay, especially at the most prestigious, private schools. At Yale University, for example, about two-thirds of students remain on the waiting list. (More than 900 were wait-listed at Yale this year.) Of those offered eventual admittance to Yale, a majority do choose to enroll there.

So what should you do? It really depends. Here are a few tips: 

     
  • If you know you won't be attending a school you're wait-listed at, notify them of your intentions right away. There's someone out there who does want that spot, and you may be keeping them from being placed at their top-choice school.
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  • If you know you're sincerely interested in the school you're wait-listed at, let the school know that. Notify them immediately that you intend to wait for their decision, and send admissions staff a personal letter on why you want to go to that school. If they're your top choice, tell them. If you know any alumni from the school, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. This is the stage of the game where admissions officials are looking at every piece of information coming in on an applicant.
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  • Ask for an interview. You wouldn't be wait-listed if you didn't have the academic credentials to attend their school, so the admissions office will now be looking at other factors - extracurricular activities, outside interests, and whether your personality is a good fit for their campus.
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 While waiting lists are more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students’ decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher, some schools have used the list as more of a strategy to deal with uncertainties in state budgets or over-enrollment. California's public university system is using waiting lists to deal with a record number of applicants this year and a state budget shortfall that has made it impossible for the school system to accept as many students as it had been admitting in year prior. This is the first time the state universities have used waiting lists, and students have until April 15 to remove their names from the lists or continue waiting until around the first week in June. Any new admittances will be determined by the outcome of the state's 2010-2011 budget negotiations.

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Princeton Review Ranks 286 "Greenest" Colleges

April 22, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, The Princeton Review has come up with a list of the 286 greenest colleges. The list is based on the notion that the environment has become so important to college students that some would base their college searches on whether or not a school is as concerned as they are about preserving the ecosystem.

The Princeton Review partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council to come up with the list, which gives colleges and universities a “Green Rating” based on their environmentally-related policies, practices, and academic offerings, according to the test prep company. The schools on the list include: Allegheny College, where 40 percent of the food budget is spent on local or organic food and 90 percent of the school grounds are maintained organically; Illinois State University, which opened a Center for Renewable Energy in 2008 and which holds an annual “Healthy You Healthy Earth” environmental fair; Lawrence University, which recently opened a new LEED-certified student center and campus garden that provides produce to the dining hall; and Mills College, which reuses or recycles more than 60 percent of its waste and is working to restore nearby Leona Creek and Lake Aliso as school-wide projects.

Each school that received a “Green Rating” in the 80s or 90s on a scale of 60-99 was included in the ranking, which explains the odd number of schools who made it on the list. While it’s difficult today to find a college that doesn’t feel some responsibility to preserve the environment through recycling or energy conservation programs (which can also save schools struggling to cope with budget shortfalls some money), the list went further than those basic safeguards to determine which schools included “green” thinking in their curricula and broad policies.

An article this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education was skeptical of the list, citing anecdotal evidence of student demands that are not all that “green.”Private rooms and bathrooms and well-equipped recreation and student centers, among other things that would in fact make a college less environmentally-friendly, often top students’ wish lists on what they need out of their college experience, according to the Chronicle article. What do you think? Do you agree that college students are more "green" these days? Would you base your decision on where you plan to go to college on a "Green Rating"?

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Space Still Available at Many Colleges for Fall

May 5, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

May 1 is traditionally the day many students submit enrollment deposits to their intended schools and make their college choice official. For colleges will late and rolling admissions, however, now begins the time to woo students into choosing their school for fall.

Despite what you’ve heard about increased competition and limited space at the most selective institutions (and colleges in California, where the state school system is using wait lists for the first time), space is still available at a number of colleges across the country. A survey released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling lists those public and private schools, and whether slots available for new freshman and transfer students are limited or more plentiful.  The Space Availability Survey is also probably good news for students on wait lists, as it shows there are still options for those who may be rejected from those schools they have been waiting to hear back from. The survey also lists which schools still have housing and financial aid available to incoming students, as both may be limited this late in the game.

For once, it seems, the ball is in the students’ courts. Schools that may need to reach deep into their wait lists or that may have lower enrollments overall due to high price tags that may not be as desirable in a tough economy may need to put in a little extra effort getting students interested in their campuses. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education described the “sweet and subtle science” of wooing students who have yet to make their final decisions. At Lafayette College, for example, admissions officials spend much of the late spring reaching out to high school seniors and their parents with personalized follow-up letters, e-mails, phone calls, and on-campus events meant to showcase how their school is different than the rest and is more interested in building relationships with new additions to their student body.

At Menlo College, admissions officials don’t expect to have their incoming class finalized until the first week of September, according to an article yesterday in The Chronicle, with many of those late registrants coming from overseas and transfer students from across the country. Pennsylvania State University at Schuylkill is about two-thirds of the way to their enrollment goal for their new group of incoming freshmen. At the same time, recruitment officers there are contacting juniors for next year.

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Survey Shows Students Lack Accurate Financial Aid Information

May 25, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A recent survey of high school students found that students are not only ruling out certain schools based on “sticker price” alone, but that many also overestimate how much financial aid they will be receiving to attend the college of their choice.

According to the survey, the high school seniors who participated were starting their college searches with inaccurate information on financial aid basics, the net cost of college, and general comparison shopping. The findings came from “Student Poll,” an initiative from the College Board and the Art & Science Group marketing firm that polled more than 1,600 high school seniors between November 2009 and January 2010.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the survey suggested something needed to be done to address students’ perceptions on the costs of college. Although the federal government will soon require all schools to provide prospective students with net-tuition calculators that will offer those students a clearer picture on what they would pay in tuition after any scholarships and grants, many of the respondents in this survey said they were not using similar calculators already available. Of those who did use calculators, most came from wealthier families; students from low-income families were less likely to use them.

The survey also found the following:

  • Nearly 60 percent of students reported looking only at the sticker price of an institution before taking financial aid into account; 28 percent had considered the net tuition price of a school after taking into account what they might receive in financial aid.
  • Related to parents’ influence on college choice, 26 percent of students said their parents insisted they attend the most affordable option, 40 percent said their parents insisted they apply to a more affordable school, and 22 percent said their parents ruled out a school that was outside their budget.
  • About 64 percent of white students expect to receive merit aid; about 50 percent of Hispanic and 45 percent of African American students expect to receive merit aid.
  • About 60 percent of students who scored 1250 or higher on the SAT expect to receive merit aid.
  • Students expect grants and scholarships to cover 35 percent of their college education costs, loans to cover 21 percent, family or personal savings to cover 17 percent, and another 24 percent to come from their own or their parents’ earnings during college.

Despite the wealth of information out there, it seems that high school students are still unprepared and not equipped with realistic expectations when it comes to navigating the financial aid process. Are you nervous about where you should start? Check out the college cost calculators we provide, and cultivate relationships with financial aid administrators, as you can never be too prepared when it comes to determining how much your education will cost, and you’ll pay for it once you’ve got that information.

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