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Casino School Offers Unemployed Chance to Learn Unique Skills

January 4, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Michigan's ABC School of Bartending and Casino College has been capitalizing on out-of-work career-changers with classes in training potential new employees for new casinos planned across the border. Unemployment rates remain significant in Ohio, the site of the future casinos, despite a more positive economic outlook for 2010, and those looking for jobs with earning potential - casino dealers may make up to $60,000 a year - and a change of pace are learning to deal cards and count poker chips, among other tricks of the trade, at the casino school.

Many at the school hope to leave the school prepared for the more than 7,500 potential jobs at casinos to be built in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune says nearly 200 Ohio residents have come through the school's doors over the last two years. Students pay the base price of $1,000 to get through nearly 300 hours of training for a dealer certification, spending about 40 hours a week with current and former professional dealers. (The tuition increases if the students wish to learn more beyond properly counting chips, managing a game and dealing blackjack and basic poker.)

While the certification isn't a requirement of casino jobs, the students at the school feel their participation in the program could give them a leg up in a hiring process that will be undoubtedly competitive no matter the state's job outlook. The college has been so successful that it plans to open locations in Cleveland and Columbus next spring. In the Tribune article, John Pifer, who directs the Sacramento, Calif.-based Casino College, described the gaming industry as a field that "survives all economies."

The schools are good examples of certificate programs tailored to prepare residents of a community or state for local employment options. The Midwest has a number of technical schools specializing in automotive fields that have both suffered and thrived depending on changed in the auto industry. Other places offer certificates for those, like many of the students at the casino school, who have lost their jobs or are looking to build up their resumes. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers a horticultural therapy certificate program through a partnership with Oakton Community College. The focus of that program is on-site education with hands-on training in the field of horticultural therapy. Northern Essex Community College offers a certificate in sleep technology, a program that focuses on teaching students how to diagnose sleep disorders.

Many community colleges offer certificates in accredited programs that could help you land a job in even the toughest market, or to specialize a degree you may already have in your chosen field of study. If you're interested in adult programs or returning back to school to learn a new skill, consider your local options, as they may cost you less and even have ongoing relationships with local employers that hire a large number of applicants from those schools.

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College Administrators Worried About Recession's Effects on 2010

January 8, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Most would agree that 2009 wasn't a banner year in higher education. As the country dealt with a recession, colleges and universities were forced to find ways to make up budget deficits, at times increasing tuition and fees for incoming freshmen. Enrollments at some schools increased, but so did the number of financial aid requests. Several states were forced to cut aid programs at a time when students needed funding the most.

Could it get any worse? Some administrators think so.<

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week describes many administrators' belief that schools will need to continue to weather the storm through fall 2010. At a meeting of the Council of Independent Colleges this week, about 60 administrators from schools across the country discussed "keeping morale up" in the wake of a persistent recession and competing with community colleges, where enrollments only continue to grow as more adults return to school to improve their skills and become more competitive in a weak job market. Some college leaders said they were even working more closely with their local community colleges to improve not only relationships among institutions of higher learning, but transfer rates between community colleges and four-year institutions. One president said she now had at least two recruiters focusing solely on recruiting on the community college level.

The administrators also said this past year wasn't as bad as they had thought, so perhaps their predictions won't come to fruition. Most met the enrollment numbers they were hoping for, despite community college competition, by getting creative - targeting more graduate students and returning adults. Unique academic programs specific by campus also did well, as did athletic programs. (Recruitment efforts of athletes on two-year campuses also increased.)

What do you think about the outlook of 2010? Is there anything for administrators, and perhaps more importantly, students, to worry about? Is this the year we'll see changes to the federal student loan program? Tuition rates will probably continue to rise, but that was happening before the recession. Will enrollments drop at four-year colleges? So far it would seem that even at schools where available financial aid has decreased, enrollment has remained steady. There are reasons to be positive, so even if college leaders think 2010 will be the tough one, the college-bound should never use that as a reason to put off going for a college degree, especially with all of the scholarship opportunities out there.

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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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Can't Find a Job? Get Your Money Back

February 12, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Remember that Monroe College student who sued her alma mater when she failed to find a job? Lansing Community College plans to introduce a new program next month that would provide training in high-demand fields and a guarantee of employment upon completion, or your money back. (The Monroe College student, Trina Thompson, sued for the full cost of her tuition, or about $70,000.)

The Michigan community college announced the plan at a State of the College speech yesterday morning. An article in the Lansing State Journal included an interview with the school's president, Brent Knight. "Why spend money, take time to learn when you may not get a job?" Knight said in the interview. The program will be called "Get a Skill, Get a Job or Your Money Back."

The program will be offered only to those pursuing short-term, non-credit training programs for high-demand occupations, according to the Lansing State Journal. Those include programs targeting pharmacy technicians, customer service call center workers, certified quality inspectors, and home technology integration technicians. (You didn't think this was a blanket guarantee, did you?) Students interested in the program will be asked to sign contracts where they agree to attend all of their classes, complete all assigned work, and participate in a job preparedness workshop. The students will also need to make "good-faith efforts" to find a job once they complete their programs. The college plans to begin offering the program this May.

As the economy has only just begun to rebound and students' job outlooks continue to suffer, colleges have been getting creative to address not only declining enrollment numbers, but an increase in applicants. Most community colleges have actually seen a growing number of returning adults coming onto their campuses, and are in need of more funding to accommodate all of those students. Nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period.

These growing enrollments have also caused some problems on the four-year college level. Last fall, Ithaca College offered 31 students $10,000 each to defer their enrollment for one year after they ended up with an incoming class that was 20 percent larger than expected. The University of California plans to use a waiting list for incoming freshmen if it does not receive the necessary funding that would fund 5,121 out of around 14,000 currently unfunded enrollments. 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.

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College Experience Becoming Family Affair

March 9, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

As the number of returning and adult students continues to grow in an economy where advanced skills are necessary to not only land a good job but keep that job, it was only a matter of time when we'd start seeing more students in school at the same time as their parents.

We've already written about growing community college enrollment. The numbers speak for themselves—nationwide, full-time enrollment at community colleges is up 24.1 percent since 2007, with overall community college enrollment increasing 16.9 percent over the same period, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Many of those enrolled are returning adult students who want to amp up their skill sets or start on a path toward a new career, perhaps due to a recent layoff or desire to go into a more desirable field. Community colleges have also always been an affordable option for traditional students either looking for a two-year start before transferring to a four-year university, or a two-year associate's program that will get them out onto the market faster. It's only natural then that there would be some overlap, with students and their parents taking courses at the same time.

In Illinois, college students who are 40 and older make up about 23 percent of the community college populations. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune looks at mothers and daughters taking community college courses together, such as Diana Gudowski, a 52-year-old attending Prairie State College in Chicago Heights with her 19-year-old daughter Marissa. The two found themselves on the same campus when the family decided collectively that they could not afford Marissa's first choice, the $30,000 per year St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Marissa plans to complete her prerequisites at the community college and then transfer to Northern Illinois University. Meanwhile, her mother is taking classes toward a bachelor's of fine arts in photography; she already has an associate's from Prairie State in photographic studies. Although their courses don't overlap, their schedules do—the two carpool to campus, as the family shares one car.

"When I got out of high school, I thought ‘Cool. … Now I can take my first class at noon.' But four out of five days, my Mom starts at 8 a.m.," Marissa said in the article.

The article's focus is on mothers and daughters because the female population has been hit harder by the struggling economy. Despite some upturns, there are still more than 15 million people out of work across the country, and many of those are older women with limited educations, according to the Tribune. Are you (or your parents) interested in the community college option? Try our free college search or look through our library of resources for more information.

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Community College to Introduce One-Year Associate's Degree

April 28, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Several four-year colleges are already looking into offering accelerated three-year programs, either to bring more revenue into their schools or to offer an official path for students already working to complete their degrees under the traditional four years. Associate’s programs have always been an alternative for students looking for lower-cost options in specific fields and disciplines, and typically take two or more years to complete. One school, however, will launch an accelerated version of the typically two-year program, giving the students the option of receiving a degree in one year flat.

Starting this fall, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana will offer a pilot program to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support in just one year. Students must commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. school week, five days a week, but in exchange, the cost of the program and any associated tuition and fees will be covered by the college. The fifth day in that school week will be reserved for fields trips, more experiential activities, or additional class time if certain instructors need it.

According to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the program, this is the first community college in the country to offer an accelerated associate’s degree. The project was made possible by more than $2.5 million in grants from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and aims to address low degree-completion and retention rates among low-income students. Only about 25 percent of students who enter associate’s degree programs graduate with that two-year degree, according to The Chronicle.

Is it really possible to squeeze all of that instruction into one year? Ivy Tech administrators say yes. The students who were welcomed into the program for the fall were determined to be “college-ready” by guidance counselors and faculty and staff at the college, based on their academic achievements in college and any relevant test scores and records. Students will be divided into cohorts of between 12 to 20 students, and will receive condensed instruction where they are expected to synthesize quite a bit of information at one time. All of the students will be receiving financial aid. In fact, they must be in need of financial aid to enter into the program, as one of the aims of the program is to improve the success rates of low-income student populations.

According to The Chronicle, a number of technology centers in Tennessee have been experimenting with accelerated certificate programs, although they do not award associate’s degrees in any fields of study. Proponents of acceleration say programs like the one at Ivy Tech are especially useful in areas with competitive job markets or high numbers of unemployment workers who need new skills; graduates are able to get back out into the workforce with new skills in less time than before. What do you think? Is one year too little time to get a degree? Should four-year colleges look to accelerate programs even further?

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Family Fights Decision Blocking 13-Year-Old from College

June 4, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

You probably know all about dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses, two strategies used by high school students to get into college-level work sooner and set themselves up for graduating from college early (or even on time). But how early is too early to get started on that college education? Lake-Sumter Community College says 13.

Thirteen-year-old Anastasia Megan and her parents have filed an age-discrimination complaint against the community college with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to fight the school’s decision to reject Anastasia’s application for dual enrollment. According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Anastasia, a home-schooled student, has already breezed through her high school curriculum, and her parents say they no longer have the means to challenge her academically.

Officials at Lake-Sumter Community College say it would be inappropriate for Anastasia (or anyone of her age, as the college is unable to talk about the case specially) to enroll at the school because it could pose a safety risk. The college attracts a large number of adult students, and unlike a high school where there may be some limits as to who enters the school, Lake-Sumter is open to anyone who wishes to come onto the campus. In the article, the school’s president Charles Mojock says: “And we have many adult students having adult conversations on adult topics and that may or may not be suitable for some young students.” The growth in young applicants, some as young as 8 years old, even led the school to add a minimum-age requirement of 15, according to the article.

Anastasia’s parents, meanwhile, say their daughter is “well-suited” for college, and has experience among adults from a number of international trips she has taken with her parents and siblings. She has completed online college courses successfully, and had above-average scores on the college-placement tests required as part of the admissions process by Lake-Sumter. If the Department of Education rules on the side of the college, Anastasia’s parents said they may need to supplement their daughter’s education in other ways, perhaps by more world travel. Lake-Sumter is the only college in the area that Anastasia could attend that would not mean a move away from home for the family.

What do you think? Should Anastasia be allowed onto a college campus at 13? Should her parents look instead into high schools for gifted students that may allow her to socialize with kids her age? How young is too young for the college experience?

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Community Colleges Forced to Become More Selective

July 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Open access may become a thing of the past at community colleges if they cannot find a way to accommodate a marked increase in applicants using their limited budgets.

A recent article in The New York Times described the tough spot community colleges were in. On the one hand, President Obama has expressed his desire to see an increase in five million community college graduates by 2020 via his American Graduation Initiative. On the other, an increase in visibility for the two-year schools has led to the colleges being stretched to their limits enrollment- and budget-wise.

The article opens with a student who was shut out of winter-term classes because he was assigned a late registration slot. By the time he was able to sign up for his next round of college classes, the ones he needed were full. Being unable to register for classes has led some students to delay completion of their programs. The article gives another example of a student at Mt. San Antonio College who has taken a dance class three times so far because she has been unable to register for any required courses that would get her on the path to transferring to a four-year university.

The problem is greater elsewhere; some schools have had to turn students away as classrooms are already packed with as many first-year students as they can hold. In California, a state that has had to introduce wait lists in its public university system, about 21,000 fewer students were admitted to community colleges there for the upcoming school year. According to the Times article, some districts had to reject half of those applicants interested in enrolling at the community colleges. The City University of New York and its six community colleges have also had to limit their enrollment numbers for the fall. The schools have introduced wait lists, but hundreds of students will probably not be allowed admittance into the state system.

Unfortunately, the situation won’t improve until community colleges return to the levels of funding they need to accommodate the influx of students. In states like California, both community colleges and four-year institutions have been struggling with cutting classes and consolidating programs to save some money in their budgets. Schools across the country hope to see more generous budgets come the next enrollment cycle.

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Community Colleges Introducing Shortcuts to Two-Year Degrees

July 7, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Although many students are able to complete their associate degrees in two years, a number of community colleges are looking to shorten students’ time at their institutions even further. The changes at one school alone have included moving from semesters to trimesters, shortening courses from 16 to 14 weeks, and offering more options for degree completion in the summer, when most schools offer fewer classes than in the fall and spring terms.

An article this week in Inside Higher Ed suggests more community colleges are looking to meet the call from the Obama administration and organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to get students out in the real world with degrees before they drop out. President Obama is placing great weight on the power of community colleges to double the number of graduates in the United States by 2020.

At Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, for example, all students are able to earn an associate degree in just 14-16 months if they complete one course every two weeks under the school’s trimester system. According to Inside Higher Ed, about a quarter of the students there have been graduating in a shorter amount of time. Lower Columbia College will introduce a program called the “Transfer Express” this fall. Students in the program will be able to earn an associate degree in one year. You may also remember that Ivy Tech Community College will offer a pilot program come fall to students interested in completing degrees in health-care support. Students will be able to earn their degrees in one year if they commit to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day-a-week school schedule.

So what’s the incentive to community colleges to move students through faster? Doesn’t it hurt their bottom line? According to Inside Higher Ed, students in accelerated programs are more likely to graduate—and less likely to drop out—than those who may be going to school at a less break-neck pace. Allowing students to finish traditionally two-year programs in a year or a little over also opens up room at community colleges for more students to enroll, a significant advantage when a number of two-year schools are having accommodating an increase in applicants.

Accelerated programs aren’t for everyone, though. Students who have no plans to drop out of school may find the pace too challenging, and consider leaving programs for a more traditional two-year program. Some students will also need additional, remedial instruction in introductory courses that have no place in accelerated programs. If you’re interested though, it could be a decent money-saver for you, as many schools that offer the programs do so with tuition discounts attached.

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All Transfer Credits Not Created Equal

July 21, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A big selling point of attending a community college is the money you’ll save when compared to the tuition and fees at a public or private four-year college or university. If you’re one of the many students out there with plans to transfer to a four-year institution once your two years are up at the local community college, there are a few things you should know when you’re looking to transfer. The credits you collected at your two-year college may not all transfer to your intended four-year school.

A recent article in the Indianapolis Star took a look at the trouble students at Ivy Tech Community College have been having when looking to transfer to the state’s public colleges, namely Indiana and Purdue universities. What they’ve found is that the public colleges aren’t accepting credits for many of the core classes that make up four-year colleges’ general education requirements.

According to the Indianapolis Star, there are many reasons why credits may be difficult to transfer. For one, there are no across-the-board standards when it comes to what constitutes a first-year English course, for example. It is then up to the discretion of the four-year schools’ administrators to decide whether or not to accept those credits. Credits that don’t transfer must be repeated on the four-year college level, which means students may not be saving as much money as they thought and take longer to graduate than they had initially planned. As most two- and four-year colleges don’t have standard numbering systems when it comes to listing courses in the college catalogs, it may also be difficult for students to know which level English course they should take in the first place to make sure they’re taking transferable credits.

There is no easy way to make sure the community college classes you’re taking will transfer to the four-year university of your choice, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. We’ve come up with some tips to help.

  • If you know where you’d like to transfer early on, develop a relationship with administrators at that four-year college. The more you know about the kinds of college classes that do transfer, the more informed you’ll be when it comes to picking courses out of the catalog at your community college.
  • If you’re flexible about where you’d like to go when you’re ready to transfer, consider the partnerships many community colleges have with state universities. Many two-year schools have long histories as feeder schools, making it easier to transfer credits from one place to another.
  • Know who to talk to, both at the community college and four-year college level. Often, department heads are the ones who approve transfer credits or who know about the kinds of courses that would meet requirements.
  • If you’re denied transfer credit, petition. Many schools will reconsider transfer credit decisions if you give them more information about a particular course, such as evidence of assignments and exams or syllabi. Four-year colleges just want you to be ready to transfer, so show them that you are.
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