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Considering the "Best Value" in College Choice

May 27, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the dust has settled and students have made their decisions on where they’ll be come fall, a number of news outlets have been taking a look at whether any trends have emerged among incoming freshmen.

A series this week from CNN and the resulting New York Times article about it are interested in whether students were particularly mindful this year in choosing the better value among their college options, rather than decisions based on reputation, prestige, and “name brand” alone. Whatever students’ reasoning for it—rising costs of tuition and fees, a struggling economy, future plans to attend graduate and professional school among them—anecdotal evidence points to “yes.”

The CNN series first takes a look at a student who chose a state school over Boston College when it came down to making his final choice. He did so because of his aspirations after he’s done with his undergraduate career; he wants to go to medical school. The series then looks at a recent graduate from New York University who finished his degree with more than $250,000 in debt. The same student turned down a full scholarship from another school considered less well-known than NYU.

We always caution about making your college decision based on name alone. You’re determining where you’ll be for the next four years, after all, and it’s important to think about things that will result in a better fit for you rather than the boasting you’ll be able to do if you go to a big name school. (Some things to consider may be whether your choice is strong in your intended field of study, location, and what kinds of things you need in a school outside of academics.) And, as the news pieces above describe, it may be a wise choice to consider how much student loan debt you’ll be in once you’re done with school. Sure, private colleges often make up a bit for their high tuition and fees by offering more in financial aid, but students still often find themselves faced with the decision of paying less for their education if they attend a public state school, a community college, or a school that may be closer to home than they’d like.

No matter what we say though, prestige will still top many students’ lists as their main priority in college choice, as many students have had the dream of attending an Ivy League school since they could walk. How about you? What were your main considerations when you were choosing where to go to school this fall? Did you have to choose between a school that was a better value over one with more prestige?

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Legislators Ask for Analysis of For-Profit Colleges

June 22, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

For-profit colleges have been the talk of the town in Washington over the last week, with legislators concerned by their rapid growth and what they consider a resulting lack of oversight. 

Yesterday, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for a federal review of for-profit colleges, their recruitment strategies, and the value of what they provide students. In the letter they sent to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers were especially concerned about the fact that the for-profit sector accounts for less than 10 percent of total enrollments but about 25 percent of federal financial aid disbursements. According to an article in The New York Times this week, for-profit colleges collected $26.5 billion in federal funding last year, compared to $4.6 billion in 2000.

The letter came just after the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal that for-profit colleges be more forthright about students’ potential loan debt relative to their incomes, even going so far as to propose limiting federal aid to those colleges with the most uneven debt-income ratios. The for-profit colleges themselves have said that they would be comfortable with disclosing graduation- and job-placement rates and median debt levels, but that limiting federal aid would certainly force many of them into insolvency.

One case in Illinois serves as a cautionary tale, and an example of what is so troubling to legislators. The Illinois State Board of Education has launched an investigation of the Illinois School of Health Careers’ patient care technician program in Chicago after a group of students decided to file a class-action lawsuit against the institution. The students say they were misled into thinking that they would be able to take the state’s certified nursing assistant exams upon completion of the program. In fact, the program lacks the proper approvals from the Illinois Department of Public Health, leaving students with student loan debt and instruction in a field they say offers few, if any, job prospects.

Supporters of for-profit colleges say the schools are important in serving a population looking to learn a particular trade or get out into the workforce more quickly. Republican lawmakers on the other side of the issue have said Congress should be more concerned about looking for ways to monitor the bad eggs among the bunch and not be so skeptical of an entire industry, according to The New York Times article. Representatives for the Career College Association have said accredited institutions that focus on career-preparedness are critical in meeting President Obama’s goal of getting the United States on top in terms of higher education by 2020.

Most for-profit schools don’t report the kinds of dissatisfaction felt by those students at the Chicago school described above and are a good option for many students, especially those seeking flexible alternatives. The key is quality control. If you’re interested in a career college or an online degree university, do your own research. Make sure your intended school is accredited, as this means it meets a set of standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. Make sure the college you’ll be paying for—and may be paying for years down the line, even after graduation—is not only legitimate but worth paying for.

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Study Lists Best Returns on Investments

MIT Provides Best Bang for Your Buck

June 30, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

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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Latest Princeton Review Rankings Cause Expected Stir

August 3, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Each year the Princeton Review releases its comprehensive list of colleges ranked by the extracurricular and social offerings on their campuses, how happy their students are, and which schools are the most religious or LGBT-friendly, among a number of other categories. The distinction that gets the most attention year after year, however, is the school the review dubs as the top “party school,” an honor that may be lauded by students but dreaded by the chosen school’s administrators.

The title this year goes to the University of Georgia in Athens. The school has appeared on the list 10 times since the Princeton Review began ranking the colleges based on these criteria in 1992. Choosing the top “party school” may seem like a difficult task, but according to an Associated Press article, students at the Georgia college party from Thursday through Sunday at the nearly 100 drinking establishments surrounding the college.

Administrators at the school aren’t unhappy, obviously. President Bruce Benson questioned the research methods used as part of the survey, and highlighted the efforts the school has made to introduce student alcohol education programs. Ohio University, funnily enough also found in a town called Athens, was ranked second, followed by Pennsylvania State and West Virginia universities. The University of Mississippi rounded out the top five. On the other side of the spectrum, Brigham Young University was ranked as the first-place finisher among “Stone-Cold Sober Schools,” a distinction that college has held for the last 13 years.

The Princeton Review collects its data based on email surveys of 122,000 students across more than 370 college campuses. The “party school” ranking comes from responses on alcohol and drug use, hours spent studying, and how prevalent Greek life is on each campus, according to the Associated Press article. Among the Review’s other findings:

  • Students study the most at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology; they student the least at the University of North Dakota.
  • Harvard University has the best college library; Bradley University ranked highest in the “This is a Library?” category.
  • Brown University students are the happiest in the country; the unhappiest are at Fisk University.
  • Bowdoin College serves up the best campus food; the worst food is found at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
  • The most politically active students are found at American University; students are most apathetic when it comes to politics at Salisbury University.

Obviously, take all lists like this with a grain of salt. While it may be helpful to have information on student-faculty ratios or the financial aid help offered by campus, only you can determine where your best fit will be when it comes to less tangible criteria like how social a college is or which school offers the tastiest meal plan. Do your own research, starting with a college search based on the most important criteria to you.

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Community Colleges Offer More Than Associate's Degrees

August 17, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Community colleges have gotten quite a bit of attention lately as legislators and even President Obama himself have billed the schools as an important bridge in improving higher education across the country. The traditionally two-year schools have also seen an influx of students as both a result of those efforts and the economy, with more adult students returning to college to pick up new skills and make themselves more competitive on the job market.

But it isn’t just associate’s degrees being awarded at community colleges anymore. As some of the schools have begun offering accelerated options, others are going the other way, expanding their four-year offerings with baccalaureate degrees in disciplines that had been typically found only at four-year universities.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed took a look at Florida, where the trend is most obvious. The state’s community colleges now offer more than 100 four-year degrees, and are on track to offer more. In 2008, 10 out of 28 community colleges offered 70 four-year degrees; today, 18 of the schools offer 111 of the degrees, according to the article. While many of the degrees cover nursing and education, the two disciplines even neighboring four-year colleges said they needed help with due to high demand, community colleges are also expanding into other fields of study, such as international business and interior design.

Some four-year colleges have been concerned that the trend will affect their own programs and enrollment at their campuses, as it is typically much less expensive to attend a community college over a traditional four-year school. But supporters say the two student populations remain very different. Those attending the community colleges are typically older, with many from those student groups who may be wary about doing well academically at a four-year campus. The demand is there, then, as it is at traditional four-year colleges, and the community colleges must receive state approval before adding any new baccalaureate programs as a further safeguard.

No matter where you go, make sure you choose your college based on what you feel would be the best fit for you across all areas—socially, financially, and academically, to start. Community colleges offer cost-savings and flexible schedules, but you may feel like you need more of a campus life at a larger state university. Or your chosen field of study may be better known at a local private college. Consider all of your options during the college search so that you're confident in your choice.

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Obama Extends an "Opportunity" to College Students

The American Opportunity Tax Credit, That Is

October 13, 2010

Obama Extends an "Opportunity" to College Students

by Suada Kolovic

The financial aid process can be a daunting one but if you’re planning on attending college any time soon, you should know that there are tons of federal student aid options out there – from Pell Grants to Perkins Loans to FAFSA – but your eligibility to receive aid depends on your level of need and, subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive. So, to the folks right in the middle: How does a tax credit sound? The American Opportunity Tax Credit, created in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, expires in 2010, but President Obama has proposed making it permanent, with a price tag of $58 billion over 10 years.

Now what does this mean to you? Because the Opportunity Tax Credit is more generous than its predecessor, the Hope Tax Credit, it provides a credit of up to $2,500 rather than $1,800 and it phases out at a higher income level – $160,000 for married couples filing jointly instead of $100,000. According to a report by the Department of Treasury, it’s also partially refundable so students and families with little or no tax liability can receive up to $1,000 of it as a tax refund. The report comes as lawmakers are debating a bill to extend several expiring tax credits. Recent versions would not extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit, but President Obama hopes lawmakers will reconsider.

"The president obviously feels strongly that this is an important relief for middle-class families," said Gene Sperling, counselor to the Treasury Secretary.

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CBS Announces Top 25 Colleges with the Best Professors

Money Watch Ranks the Collegiate Cream of the Crop

December 8, 2010

CBS Announces Top 25 Colleges with the Best Professors

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to attend a particular university – from prestige and academics to athletics and diversity. But if you’re in search for the universities with the top rated professors, CBS Money Watch has created the ultimate list for you. To compile the list, CBS relied on data from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which referenced information from RateMyProfessor.com. If you’re unfamiliar with the website – which I doubt you are – it allows students to anonymously rate their university professors as well as view the ratings college teachers have received. And with over one million professors and 10 million opinions, it’s the most comprehensive online source of student feedback on instructors.

After perusing the list, it’s clear there’s a common denominator: For the most part, a majority of the schools are liberal arts colleges with student bodies under 4,000 students. That’s not surprising considering smaller student bodies translate into smaller classes, greater hands-on learning opportunities and, most importantly, more individual attention. For additional information on any of these school – or thousands of others – check out our college search.

  1. Oklahoma Wesleyan University
  2. United States Military Academy (NY)
  3. Clarke College (IA)
  4. Wellesley College (MA)
  5. North Greenville University (SC)
  6. Master’s College and Seminary (CA)
  7. Wabash College (IN)
  8. Carleton College (MN)
  9. Sewanee-The University of the South (TN)
  10. Marlboro College (VT)
  11. Corban College (OR)
  12. Randolph College (VA)
  13. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
  14. Wesleyan College (GA)
  15. Pacific University (OR)
  16. Whitworth University (WA)
  17. Doane College (NE)
  18. College of the Ozarks (MO)
  19. Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  20. Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
  21. Emory & Henry College (VA)
  22. Wisconsin Lutheran College
  23. Hollins University (VA)
  24. Trinity International University (IL)
  25. Cornell College (IA)
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Top 10 Universities with the Highest Graduation Rates

December 20, 2010

Top 10 Universities with the Highest Graduation Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Drum roll please: According to a report released by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard University nabbed the top spot with the highest undergrad completion rate of all research universities...shocking, I know.

The report, “Graduation Rates Over Time: Private Research Institutions,” compared graduation rates at public and private research universities from 2002 to 2008 analyzing changes in graduation rates of more than 1,000 four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. The rates were calculated as the percentage of all first-time, full-time students entering in the fall seeking bachelor’s degrees who completed their bachelor’s degrees within six years. The Chronicle found that 33 percent of universities showed a lower graduation rate in 2008 than in 2002 and suggested that the decrease may be due to the fact that students are taking longer than six years to earn a degree.

Check out the top 10 universities below with the highest graduation rates in 2008 and for a complete list, visit the Chronicle’s website. For more information on any of these schools – or thousands of others –check out our college search.

  1. Harvard
  2. Yale
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. Princeton University
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  6. Duke University
  7. Dartmouth College
  8. Washington University in St. Louis
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  10. Northwestern University
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Yale Alum Donates $50 Million to School of Management

December 21, 2010

Yale Alum Donates $50 Million to School of Management

by Suada Kolovic

Giving back to your alma mater is a tradition deeply rooted in the inner workings of any university. Once your status has shifted from “student” to “alumni,” you can bet there is an expectation for you to give back. And while some go out of their way to avoid the financial strains of contributing, a Yale graduate recently pledged $50 million to the School of Management…and that ain’t chump change.

A member of Yale University’s Class of 1964 has given a $50 million gift to the Ivy League school towards construction of a new building at the School of Management. Edward P. Evans, the former chairman and CEO of the Macmillan publishing house, will fund a portion of the estimated $189 million construction costs. In honor of the gift – the largest in the School of Management’s history – the building will be named Edward P. Evans Hall.

According to the Associated Press, Yale President Richard Levin says the large losses in the university’s endowment during the recession have prompted the school to secure funding before new projects begin. School of Management Dean Sharon Oster said the university has raised all but some $25 million toward the campus plan and the campaign will continue for another six months. Officials say the new building is expected to open in 2013 and allow the graduate school to add 200 more students.

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What Are They Reading?

Best-Selling Books on Campus

December 23, 2010

What Are They Reading?

by Suada Kolovic

>Curious as to what college students are reading this winter? Well, wonder no more! The Chronicle has compiled a list of the best-selling books from information supplied by stores serving the following campuses: American U., Beloit College, Case Western Reserve U., College of William & Mary, Drew U., Florida State U., George Washington U., Georgetown U., Georgia State U., Harvard U., James Madison U., Johns Hopkins U., Kent State U., Pennsylvania State U. at University Park, San Francisco State U., Stanford U., State U. of New York at Buffalo, Tulane U., U. of California at Berkeley, U. of Chicago, U. of Florida, U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U. of Miami, U. of Nebraska at Lincoln, U. of New Hampshire, U. of North Dakota, U. of North Texas, U. of Northern Colorado, U. of Oklahoma at Norman, Vanderbilt U., Washington State U., Washington U. in St. Louis, Wayne State U., Williams College, Winthrop College, Xavier U. (Ohio). For more information on any of these schools, check out our college search.

  • Decision Points

    by George W. Bush
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race

    by Jon Stewart
  • Towers of Midnight

    by Robert Jordan
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

    by David Sedaris
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    by Stieg Larsson
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

    by Jeff Kinney
  • Sh*t My Dad Says

    by Justin Halpern
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire

    by Stieg Larsson
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang

    by Chelsea Handler
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

    by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
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