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Report Argues Flagship Universities Not Doing Enough for Low-Income Students

January 14, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While state universities are held up as examples of high-quality college educations at affordable prices, not everyone who wants to go to college can afford them. A new report by the advocacy group The Education Trust looked at this concern and found that despite heavily publicized campaigns enacted in the last few years, public flagship universities still are not doing enough to enroll and assist low-income and minority students.

Public flagships tend to be relatively large, research-oriented universities and are typically considered the most academically challenging and highly respected public schools in the country. Contrary to private colleges, a central part of the mission of public universities is to educate the students of the state, including the ones who cannot afford to pay full freight. Concerns have repeatedly been raised that the makeup of public flagship universities has looked less and less like the makeup of their states over time, suggesting a failure to uphold their public mission.

The Education Trust published a report in 2006 that provided support for these concerns, showing that low-income and minority students were underrepresented at state flagships when compared to the states’ overall college-going populations. The new report, entitled Opportunity Adrift, revisits this issue and winds up reprising the initial report’s criticisms, saying that while universities have put more money toward recruiting and funding low-income and minority students, they still have a lot of room for improvement.

Between 2003, the year their first report analyzed, and 2007, the source of the current report’s data, minority students became slightly better represented at the nation’s 50 public flagship universities. However, the improvement was only slight and disparities continue.  Similarly, average financial aid has increased sharply for students in the bottom income quintile, while holding more or less steady for other income levels from 2003-2007. After adjusting for inflation, students with the lowest income received an average of 23% more institutional grant aid in 2007 than they did in 2003. However, about $750 million of flagship universities’ $1.9 billion total institutional aid goes to students with family incomes over $80,400, students who probably have significantly less financial need.

Despite the shift in aid priorities from merit-based awards to need-based awards, public flagship universities actually enroll a higher percentage of high-income students and a lower percentage of low-income students than they did in 2003. Budget woes of the last two years are likely to drive this gulf even wider as schools find themselves needing to enroll more tuition-paying students and states are forced to cut funding to aid programs that may help low-income students enroll in public universities.

Individual institutions have made marked improvements in enrolling and funding low-income and minority students and the report takes care to highlight their achievements. However, the main conclusion of the report's authors is that more needs to be done to ensure that high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to be able to access higher education that can help them improve their lives. Research has shown that low-income students are less likely to attend colleges that challenge them and are more likely to opt not to go to college or to drop out before completing their degrees. A growing body of work, including this latest report, suggests that recruiting and retaining low-income and minority students should be a primary concern for public flagship universities that want to uphold their missions of providing an affordable college education to their states' populations.

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White House Proposes Federal Budget Freeze

January 27, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Immediately on the heels of an announcement that President Obama would be calling for additional assistance to college graduates struggling to repay student loans, the administration also unveiled a proposal to hold federal discretionary spending to current levels for the next three years, a move that could potentially have serious implications for colleges and students.

Currently, most federal education spending, including student financial aid, is discretionary, not mandatory, so it would fall under the umbrella of the budget freeze. This makes it possible that students will see limited increases to federal grants, work-study, and subsidized student loans in the coming years. The White House has pledged to make education a funding priority, but with states and colleges also struggling financially, it’s quite possible that financial aid programs will see an end to the boost in financial support they’ve received in the last few years.

It’s possible one federal aid program, at least, may be spared from the budget freeze. Last year, President Obama proposed making the Pell Grant an entitlement, putting it in the category of Medicare and other programs that would be exempt from the budget freeze, but the bill to do so still has not passed the Senate. If the bill passes, Pell funding will be mandatory and increases in Pell Grants will be tied to inflation, guaranteeing students a small, but steady, increase in available aid. If not, it’s up to Congress to allocate limited resources for any increases in grant amounts, and with increases in the numbers of college attendees, applications for financial aid, and Pell Grant recipients, it may be all Congress can do to hold funding levels steady for the next three years.

As details of federal and state budgets emerge, and emergency legislation that temporarily boosted funding to schools and student aid begins to be revisited and possibly phased out, exact changes to college funding will become clearer. Already, though, many families are finding paying for college increasingly challenging, even with the aid of college scholarships and grants. There’s a possibility that a federal budget freeze could mean that students in the next few years will see a situation similar to the one that faced students at the start of the last decade, where tuition increased rapidly while federal aid held steady and more and more students came to rely on private student loans.

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MTV’s New Groove

Music Channel and College Board Launch Financial Aid Contest

September 17, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Current high school and college students are probably too young to remember when MTV actually played music videos. It was a glorious time for sure but after hearing this next announcement, I think they will like the network’s new direction just fine.

The NYT’s The Choice blog revealed that instead of launching another mind-numbing reality show, the music channel and the College Board have joined forces for the Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge. The contest – which is being underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is open to current and potential college students interested in creating an innovative digital tool that will help more students obtain funds for school. The prize for the winning individual or team? A cool $10,000, as well as a $100,000 budget to bring their idea to life.

A statement released yesterday stated the contest was created to make it easier for students “to navigate what can be a confusing financial aid maze.” This metaphorical roadmap will definitely be a useful one: Each year, countless students are forced to postpone or abandon their dreams of higher education because they cannot pay for school but the Get Schooled creators hope their program will play a role in raising college completion rates.

The contest will run through December 17th so if you think you have what it takes to win, submit your idea here. Best of luck to all who enter!

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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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House Passes Controversial Dream Act

Dream Act to Create Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Students

December 9, 2010

House Passes Controversial Dream Act

by Suada Kolovic

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to give undocumented students who’ve graduated from high school, completed two years of college or military service and have no criminal record a shot at citizenship. The bill, known as the Dream Act, passed by a 216-198 vote after heated debates stemming from the fact that said students would also be eligible for federal financial aid.

The legislation is backed by President Obama who, according to the Huffington Post, called it “an important step” toward comprehensive immigration reform. In a statement, Obama said, "This vote is not only the right thing to do for a group of talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own by continuing their education or serving in the military, but it is the right thing for the United States of America.” Republicans, on the other hand, have slammed the bill and repeatedly referred to the Dream Act as a “nightmare act.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) described the bill as nothing more than “mass amnesty that will undoubtedly encourage millions more to illegally immigrate into our country.”

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to begin debate on a slightly different version of the bill...though it’s unlikely Democrats can muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-memeber chamber to advance it.

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Scholarship of the Week: Playwright Discovery Award

April 4, 2011

Scholarship of the Week: Playwright Discovery Award

by Suada Kolovic

The VSA arts Playwright Discovery Award invites middle and high school students to take a closer look at the world around them, examine how disability affects their lives and the lives of others, and express their views through the art of playwriting. Playwrights may write from their own experience or about an experience in the life of another person or fictional character. Scripts can be comedies, dramas, or even musicals — be creative! Young playwrights with and without disabilities are encouraged to submit a script. Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration by a group or class of students.

The winning play will be professionally produced or staged at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The winning playwright receives $2,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to view his or her work on stage. All submissions must be received by April 15th for consideration.

For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

Universities Take Wealth into Consideration When Selecting Students

February 23, 2011

Wealthier Students More Likely to Gain Admissions

by Suada Kolovic

Is your dad a congressman or your mom a prominent surgeon? Do you have an uncle or aunt in the Senate? Well then, you’re in luck because the world is your oyster. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, more colleges, including Middlebury, Wake Forest, Williams and Tufts, are either taking applicants’ financial statuses into account or have been offering admission to wealthier students who can afford to pay tuition in full, while some public state universities are admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition rates.

Now this isn’t the shock of the century by any means – how do you think George W. Bush ended up at Yale? – but the truth of the matter is that universities, like the economy, are struggling financially. And how do they combat the financial strain? By granting admission to applicants who don’t need financial aid. What does this mean to you, future high school graduates? The more likely you’re willing to pay for your education in full, the more likely you’ll get in. Colleges stress that they're not lowering their admissions criteria and instead begin their admissions process as “need blind” – admitting students regardless of their ability to pay and suggest they only consider an applicant’s financial status later in the admissions process.

Let us know what you think. Is it fair for students to practically buy their way into college? Should schools be permitted to resort to such tactics when considering a student’s admission? Would you forgo applying for financial aid in hopes of boosting your chances of getting in?

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And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

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

December 28, 2011

And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

by Alexis Mattera

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

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

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

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Harvard Alum Donates $150 Million for Student Aid

March 6, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy still in a slump, debt-ridden college students aren't alone in their financial struggles. Colleges and universities nationwide – who've had a fair share in creating insurmountable amounts of debt for the majority of students – have struggled to attract potential donors as concerns about unstable markets remain. Harvard University, however, may be the exception: An alumnus who started trading stock options from his dorm room almost 25 years ago recently donated $150 million to his alma mater for financial aid.

Hedge fund manager and Citadel Investment Group founder Kenneth Griffin’s donation (Harvard’s largest-ever gift specifically devoted to financial aid) is expected to help as many as 800 undergraduates annually. With tuition, room and board at Harvard University hovering at about $56,000, you'd assume that only students from affluent families could afford the outstanding price tag. The reality: Sixty percent of undergraduates receive financial aid from the school and pay on average just $12,000 a year. Families making up to $65,000 a year pay nothing, while those with incomes up to $150,000 pay between zero and 10 percent of their income. Griffin said he hopes to donate more to Harvard in the coming years and called for his peers to consider doing the same. "At Harvard, we've had not decades of commitment for our alumni, but centuries. It's time for my generation to step up," he said.

What do you think of Griffin's donation to Harvard – a school that already has an endowment of $32.3 billion – and not those in need directly? Is this a step in the right direction or not?

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Win $1,000 in the Scholarship of the Week!

Zinch’s Weekly Three Sentence Essay Due June 4th

May 29, 2012

Win $1,000 in the Scholarship of the Week!

by Suada Kolovic

What better way is there to kick off summer break than an additional $1,000 to put towards your college education? Zinch’s Weekly Essay Contest will help you do just that and all you have to do is write a two to three sentence essay on the following prompt: If you could time travel to report on the front lines of any war in world history, which would you choose and what would you investigate?

All high school and college students (including international students) are eligible to participate. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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