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18 Year Old Makes History in This Year’s Election

November 7, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With this year’s midterm elections behind us, have you ever wonder: “Man, I could do a better job than [insert disappointing political official’s name here]”? Only to realize almost immediately that crushing sense of defeat given the fact that you’re too young and inexperienced to run… or are you?

Saira Blair, an 18-year-old West Virginia University freshman, won a seat on the West Virginia House of Delegates after defeating her Democratic opponent 63 percent to 30 percent. Doing the majority of her campaigning out of her dorm room, Saira will be the youngest state lawmaker in the nation. She campaigned on a pledge to work to reduce certain taxes on businesses and holds anti-abortion and pro-gun positions. "When I made the decision to run for public office, I did so because I firmly believe that my generation's voice, fresh perspective and innovative ideas can help solve some of our state's most challenging issues," she said. Studying economics and Spanish, Blair will defer her next semester so that she can attend the legislature’s 60-day session in the spring and will resume her coursework in the fall. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of an 18 year old becoming the youngest state lawmaker in the country? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And as always, don’t forget to create a free profile Scholarships.com to get matched with awards that reflect your interests and attributes.

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10 Public Colleges with the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition

November 11, 2014

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 that's not always the case: Depending on where you live, an out-of-state college may be even cheaper than your home state university. Don't believe us? Check out the list below from U.S. News and World Report for the top 10 public colleges with the lowest tuition for out-of-state students:

Did your prospective college make the list and does this information alter your interest in the school? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget that even affordable college tuition can still be expensive! Try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, where you’ll get matched with financial aid that is unique to you!

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Report: UChicago’s Local Financial Aid Initiative Shows Promise

December 4, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

In October 2012, the University of Chicago launched UChicago Promise, an initiative aimed at helping high school students in the city of Chicago gain admission, pay for and succeed in college. The cornerstone of the program is the commitment from the university to eliminate loans from financial aid packages of students from Chicago who are admitted.

Recently, the University released a report on the first year of UChicago Promise that shows hundreds of students, parents and high school guidance counselors have benefitted from the initiative. Check out some of the highlights below:

  • Contributed to a 48.8-percent boost in the number of Chicago applicants to the University of Chicago
  • Saved Chicago families a total of $89,475 in application fees through a new automatic waiver
  • Coached 1,100 students and parents through workshops on college interviews, essay writing and financial aid
  • Served more than 250 public school students through academic enrichment programs, including Upward Bound and the Collegiate Scholars Program
  • Brought more than 500 middle school and high school students to the UChicago campus through GEAR UP, a national program aimed at increasing access to postsecondary education

To read more on the first year-in-review report, click here. Share your thoughts on the University of Chicago’s local financial aid initiative. Do you think more universities should follow this trend? Do you know of any that already do? Let us know. And don’t forget that affordable college tuition can be expensive. Try to fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com!

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Four Degrees That are Better to Earn at a Community College

December 9, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

When it comes to earning a college degree, attending a four-year university may not be the surest route to a successful career: Depending on what you're interested in pursuing, a two-year or technical certificate can offer a better return on your investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in fields such as health care, manufacturing and information technology offer median earnings of up to $55,000 or more for graduates with associate degrees. Interested in the specifics? Check our U.S. News & World Report’s four degrees that are better to earn at a community college below:

  • Engineering technology: High-tech employers are looking for specific skills rather than degrees. This is especially the case in manufacturing, where employers have a hard time filling open positions, says Jason Premo, founder of the South Carolina-based aerospace manufacturing company Adex Machining Technologies. The median salary for aerospace engineering technicians ranges from $55,000-$75,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; with additional on-the-job training, that figure could rise significantly, Premo says.
  • Radiation technology and medical imaging: Radiation therapist, nuclear medicine technologist and diagnostic medical sonographer are three high-paying positions a student can take on with a two-year degree. In 2012, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists earned median salaries of $77,560 and $70,180, respectively, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Plumbing and heating: A college degree isn't required to become a plumber or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technician. Instead, students become apprentices, where they receive on-the-job training (with a salary!) and take classes in math and science that cover topics relevant to the field, such as hydraulics and mechanical drafting. Apprentice programs are either offered directly via a union or through a community or technical college. The programs are typically tuition-free and trainees earn technical certifications and professional licenses required to work in the field.
  • Dental hygiene: Bachelor’s and associate degrees in dental hygiene are both considered entry-level requirements for a career in the field but an associate degree is by far the more common route. The median salary for hygienists in 2012 was $70,210, according to BLS, which also estimated that job openings in the field will increase by 33 percent over the next few years.

Are you considering a two-year degree or technical certificate as opposed to a bachelor’s degree? If so, are you pursuing any of the careers listed above? Share your thoughts in our comments section. For more on the pros and cons of community college, head over to our College Prep section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your education.

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10 Universities Where Most Classes Are Small

December 16, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The transition from high school to college is most evident to students when they realize they’ll no longer be coddled in cozy classes of 20 students or fewer. Lecture halls with 300-plus students are the norm at most major universities, where classes tend to be impersonal, relationships with professors are typically nonexistent and students feel more like numbers than people. So for those who prefer a learning environment that provides back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors, U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of universities with the highest percentage of small classes.

According to the data, several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked universities with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Check out the top 10 universities with the smallest class sizes below. (For more information on this survey, click here.)

How important is class size to you? Are large lectures deal breakers in your book? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile for a list of scholarships that are personalized to you! Whether you’re studying at a university or community college, we’ll help you find the financial aid you need to pay for school. Start your search today!

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Is Earning a College Degree Worth It? Study Finds Modest Return for Some

February 10, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

It wasn't too long ago that the majority of Americans agreed that one had to pursue a college degree in order to succeed in the workforce. Unfortunately for millennials, the rate of success after obtaining said degree is no longer so intrinsically tied: According to reports, millions of college students don't graduate, suffer a mismatch between education and employment and are left with massive amounts of debt.

New research suggests that earning a college degree is no longer the surest ticket to the middle class. "'Ticket' implies a college degree is something you can just cash in," said Alan Benson, assistant business professor at the University of Minnesota. "But it doesn’t work that way. A college degree is more of a stepping stone, one ingredient to consider when you’re cooking up your career...It’s not always the best investment for everyone." Benson, along with MIT’s Frank Levy and business analyst Raimudo Esteva, co-authored a new paper examining the value of public university options in California. They found that factors like how long it takes to complete a degree and whether students even make it to graduation can significantly diminish the value of pursuing higher education. Unsurprisingly, the study also found that students who take out loans and don’t graduate on time incur much more debt. All in all, Benson concluded that the investment of a college education is generally better for those who graduate – on time – from a school with healthier resources. (For more on their research, click here.)

Do you think that a college degree is necessary for gainful employment and upward mobility? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

January 6, 2015

by Alexis Mattera

Though it's a day off from school and work, New Year's Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year's resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2013 for the 2014-2015 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

For more information on FAFSA and other daunting financial aid acronyms, head over to our Federal Aid section. And while you’re there, don’t forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile to help you fund your college education.

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What Colleges Can Expect from Congress in 2015

January 21, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

With a new year comes a new Congress under new-ish management. Republicans will control the Senate for the first time in eight years, while the House of Representative will have its largest Republican majority in since 1928. But what does any of that have to do with higher education? Here are five predictions, courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

  1. Gridlock will continue. The gridlock and partisan warfare that we've seen in recent years will continue...and is likely to worsen as the 2016 election approaches. By the fall, the prospects for compromise on major legislation – education or otherwise – will be dim.
  2. Funding will remain tight. Budgets won’t change much, especially once the latest round of across-the-board spending cuts (known as the sequester) is applied. In that context, the most colleges will be able to hope for are modest increases for research and student aid; most programs will have to fight just to keep level funding. The Perkins student loan program, which is set to expire in September, will be particularly vulnerable. If government accountants conclude that continuing the program would cost taxpayers, lawmakers may abolish it.
  3. Colleges will have to compete for attention. Republicans have laid out several priorities for 2015, including overhauling President Obama's new healthcare system and approving the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline. Renewal of the Higher Education Act – the main law governing federal student aid – is not among those priorities.
  4. Simplification will rule the day. In the Senate, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has drafted legislation to shrink the FAFSA to the size of a postcard and to reduce the number of grant and loan programs. Meanwhile, House Republicans have offered a road map for reauthorization that calls for "one grant, one loan, and one work-study program" and just two loan-repayment programs.
  5. For-profit colleges will breathe a little easier. Republicans aren’t likely to single out the sector in the way Democrats have. Rather, they will seek to apply any accountability regimes to all colleges.

For more on their predictions, click here. Any you'd like to add? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don't forget to create a free Scholarships.com profile for a list of scholarships that are personalized to you!

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Don’t Tax My 529 College Savings Plan, President Obama!

January 27, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

Saving for your college education early is essential in the quest to actually affording it. And if you're lucky enough to have your guardians and relatives willing to help with college costs, the 529 tuition savings plan was the surest route to take. If you aren't familiar, the 529 tuition savings plan was designed to help parents begin saving for college by providing an investment option that allows them to withdraw funds for qualified educational expenses tax-free...or at least that was the case.

According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama has proposed "rolling back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. For now, both plans allow parents, grandparents or anyone looking to help fund a kid's education to contribute after-tax dollars into accounts that grow tax-free; when money is withdrawn for educational expenses, there’d be no tax either. President Obama has suggested changing the law so that withdrawals would be taxed as ordinary income. Yikes. Why the change? The administration has labeled the plans “inefficient” and complained that the benefit accrues too heavily toward higher-income Americans. (For more on this story, click here.)

With the plans as popular as they are – more than 12 million children from 7 million households are currently benefitting – what negative affects could the proposed changes have? Would they affect you personally? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Obama Hears Our Plea, Drops Proposal to Raise Taxes on 529 Savings Plans

February 3, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

After widespread criticism from both parties, the Obama administration decided to scrap its proposal to raise taxes on college savings accounts. Just last week, we blogged about President Obama's proposal to "roll back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Luckily, that's no longer the case.

According to The New York Times, the decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded the proposal be withdrawn from the president's budget, "for the sake of middle-class families." Interestingly enough, top Democrats, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, pressed for the repeal. Administration officials initially defended the plan as an attempt to redirect tax benefits that they said largely benefit wealthy families toward tax credits that help poorer families. The administration will keep its plan to expand other higher education tax breaks, a White House official told The Times. (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the administration scrapping its proposal? Are you relieved? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, where you’ll get matched with financial aid that is unique to you!

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