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by Emily

New college grads may face an especially tough time due to the recession.  The growth in anticipated new hires, which is measured twice a year by The National Association of Colleges and Employers, has been slowing since it reached a high in spring 2007, falling almost flat in the fall.  The numbers for spring 2009 show that for the first time in years, businesses actually anticipate hiring fewer college graduates this year than last--22 percent fewer, in fact.  According to The Boston Globe, the business and finance sectors have an even bleaker outlook, as does the northeastern region of the United States.

With this dim hiring picture in mind, soon-to-be college graduates are looking at alternatives to the traditional workforce. Additional education, teaching fellowship programs, and volunteer work are all proving popular. If you're a college student staring graduation in the face, keep in mind the increased competition and start researching and applying sooner, rather than later.

Graduate programs, including ones offered by business schools, are seeing increased enrollment as many students choose to either delay their entry into the workforce or push up their long-term plans to attend graduate school.  Graduate students can potentially land full-tuition fellowships or assistantships, as well as generous scholarship awards.  Many graduate degrees can help recipients become more competitive when they do enter the workforce, even if the economy does not recover substantially.

Similarly, teacher certification programs, such as the popular Teach for America, are seeing an increase in applicants.  These programs offer a stipend, as well as teacher certification, and in some cases a master's degree in education, in exchange for a commitment of one or two years teaching in a low-income school or a high-need subject.  Other programs exist with similar benefits, including teaching fellowships in several major cities such as New York and Chicago.  College students or recent grads who want to teach but don't want to pay for more school may want to consider these options.

Other volunteer programs, like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, also are seeing more applicants.  Such programs often come with a stipend or living allowance, as well as student loan deferments or even loan cancelation or repayment benefits.  Students can also participate in many of these programs while still in college or while pursuing graduate degrees.  If you're interested in an alternative to the post-collegiate rat race, there's no time like the present to start considering your options.


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by Emily

A bill to expand AmeriCorps and create new community service opportunities has passed the House of Representatives.  The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education, or GIVE, Act passed today with bipartisan support in the House, and a similar bill, named the Serve America Act, has also been approved by the Senate education committee.  It will move to the Senate floor early next week, where it is expected to be met with a similar level of enthusiasm.  National service has been a priority of the Obama administration, so expect to see opportunities for community service expand shortly.

Over the course of five years, the bill will appropriate $6 billion to AmeriCorps, increasing positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and also increasing education stipends to $5,350--the same dollar amount as Federal Pell Grants.  The GIVE Act also includes provisions to encourage middle school students to volunteer, as well as funding to increase volunteerism on college campuses.  The GIVE Act will create volunteer programs focused on issues that have become major priorities in recent years, such as education and healthcare.

This legislation is heralded as the largest expansion in national service since the Kennedy administration.  While AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs pay far less than a full-time job, many students have been showing increased interest in them due to the education stipends and living allowances they provide, as well as the opportunities for service and unique experiences volunteers gain.  People serving full-time in positions affiliated with AmeriCorps or other programs also qualify for a new federal loan forgiveness program, which forgives Stafford loan debt for public service employees after ten years.


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by Emily

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law a bill to expand Americorps, a national service program that provides small stipends to people of all ages engaged in volunteer work throughout the country.  The act, officially known as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, paves the way for Americorps to grow in size from its present 75,000 volunteers to as many as 250,000 volunteers by 2017.

In addition to creating more volunteer positions, the Serve America Act will also increase the education stipend for volunteers to $5,350, the same amount as Federal Pell Grants.  This will enable more recent graduates and people currently attending college to participate in Americorps programs, which are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to employment in the current economy.

The national service bill, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, quickly made its way through both houses of Congress, receiving bipartisan support, as well as a ringing endorsement from President Obama, who has long been a proponent of community service.  Congress still needs to find funding for Americorps to begin to expand, but a provision to provide an immediate 25% increase in funding to the program was included in Obama's 2010 budget proposal.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Service-minded students have a variety of ways to fund their college education through community service scholarships and other awards. Now, students interested in attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can participate in a fellowship program that awards $10,000 towards tuition for each year of full-time public service completed.

The Dickinson College Public Service Fellowships are awarded to high school seniors who are interested in deferring enrollment in college to first work in public service in some capacity. If accepted, students can defer enrollment for up to four years, and receive up to $40,000 in scholarship money through this program. Qualifying public service work can be independent or done through a national service organization, such as AmeriCorps, and can be paid or unpaid. Projects must be devoted to some aspect of improving the human condition or the natural environment.

While these scholarship awards are only offered through one college at present, at least one other school is seeking to encourage students to become engaged in public service before they start actively pursuing their college degrees. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Princeton University has also launched a program to pay for admitted students to first engage in a year-long service project abroad before beginning classes.

Several colleges have recently announced campus-based scholarships for community service. Many other schools also match AmeriCorps tuition awards, and over 1,100 private colleges have also pledged to assist veterans with tuition to acknowledge their service to the country. If you are a high school student hoping to get involved in a large-scale service project, there's more incentive than ever as colleges and scholarship providers continue expanding financial aid awards for locally and globally engaged individuals.


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by Emily

High school students face a lot of pressure when it comes to planning their future. There's a persistent idea that if you don't have your entire life mapped out by the end of 11th grade, you're somehow doomed to a life of vagrancy or doing whatever job your parents pick out for you. If you're a high school senior still uncertain about choosing a college major and setting career goals, a career Q&A that appeared in the New York Times earlier this week might help. It primarily offers advice to parents, but can also serve as a road map for high school students who are thinking about potential college majors and post-college careers.

Focus on Strengths and Interests: Rather than starting out by exploring careers and seeing which one you can fit into, begin by thinking about what you're good at and what you like doing. Maybe you're amazing at math and like to build things in your spare time, or maybe you get joy out of helping your classmates edit their English papers. Think about what you like doing and what environments you prefer to work in. Then begin looking for careers that play to those strengths. By focusing on both what you enjoy and what you excel at, you stand a much better chance of finding a major or a job you can enjoy doing.

Research Potential Careers Now: Don't wait until your final year of college to decide whether or not you like the professions you found fascinating in high school. Look for opportunities to learn more about potential careers and the people who pursue them. Internships, volunteer experiences, and job shadowing can be great ways to do this. If you know any adults whose job sounds interesting, see if you can arrange to talk to them about it, observe them at work, or even help out after school. Consider reading books about careers you find interesting, as well, but be sure to balance glamorized or fictionalized accounts with real-world observations and experiences to avoid disappointment. Career exploration and research don't have to stop in high school, either. You don't need to go to college with a career plan set in stone, nor do you need to wait for your department or advisor to take the lead on preparing you for a career or showing you what options exist. Feel free to choose classes that interest you and find time outside of school to continue to learn about what people with your degree can do and take advantage of opportunities to gain exposure to and experience in fields you find interesting.

Don't Feel Forced: Finally, and most importantly, don't worry if nothing comes to mind right away, or you're still hearing nothing from your parents and teachers but "you're good at math! Be an accountant!" It's normal to be undecided for awhile or to change your mind later, and you likely have a lot more talents and interests than what you can recall immediately as a high school student. College students switch majors and adults switch careers and both groups do so successfully. So don't feel like you have to make a lifelong commitment to the first idea that appeals to you or those around you. If you keep your mind open and have some strategies in place, you'll eventually come across something that will stick.


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by Agnes Jasinski

One alternative to the traditional job search has seen a marked increase in applicants over the last year, as recent graduates look for ways to bide their time in a struggling economy that has made the job market even more competitive. According to an article in Inside Higher Education today, the Institute for International Education (IIE), which awards fellowships through the Fulbright Program, received more than 8,500 applications for student Fulbrights for 2010-11. That's an increase of more than 1,000 applications since last year.

The Fulbright Program looks to strengthen relations between Americans and other countries, and gets its funding from an annual appropriation from Congress. There are about 1,500 of the student awards to go around, and those awarded the State Department-sponsored fellowships are able to study, conduct research or teach English in 140 countries. Grants are awarded in all fields and disciplines. While the IIE has been working harder to get the word out on the program, many college administrators think marketing tactics alone wouldn't explain such a significant jump in applicants, especially because the application process for the awards is fairly involved. "Some are putting applying for fellowships into the mix in a way they might not have if the job market were stronger," said Michael Pippenger, Columbia University’s associate dean of fellowship programs, in Inside Higher Ed.

The Fulbright Program isn't the only alternative to employment that's seen an increase in applicants. Teach for America also saw applications rise about 42 percent last year, a record for the program that trains students to teach in low-income communities, and those numbers are only expected to increase this year. The group does say they increased their recruiting efforts, but the current state of the economy may have something to do with more graduates postponing the traditional job search.

Programs that emphasize cultural experiences, volunteerism, or service can also be good resume builders for when the job market picks up and you're ready to venture back out into to search for that perfect position. If you're able to, consider your options, whether you're looking at programs while you're still in school or for post-graduation. And don't forget that there's plenty of funding and free scholarship money out there for you to pursue such opportunities.


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by Emily

Dreading student loan payments? While it may seem counterintuitive, you might want to think about law school. Two law schools are now offering to pick up the tab on student loan repayment for their graduates who go into public service. The University of California at Berkeley School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center are both unveiling new student loan forgiveness programs to complement the federal public service loan forgiveness program.

Attorneys in public service professions typically earn much less than their colleagues who pursue more lucrative legal careers. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median income of all lawyers at just over $100,000, public interest lawyers can expect to start out making around $41,000 and many law students can expect to graduate with at least double that amount in debt. This can make pursuing a career in public service while living independently and avoiding default on debts nearly impossible. This is where loan forgiveness comes in.

Under the federal loan forgiveness program, college graduates who work in public service (a category with a surprisingly expansive definition-most governmental, non-profit, and education careers are covered) for ten years while making payments on their student loans through the federal Income Based Repayment plan will see their remaining debt forgiven. Income Based Repayment requires borrowers to pay no more than 15 percent of their discretionary income on their loans each year.

The programs at Georgetown and Berkeley take care of graduates' monthly loan payments for the ten years it takes to have their loans forgiven, provided they pursue legal careers in public service areas and earn below particular income thresholds. Berkeley grads qualify for some amount of help if they earn less than $100,000 per year, with their total loan costs covered if they make less than $65,000. Georgetown currently covers graduates earning less than $75,000 but plans to expand its program as funding allows.  Until recently, Harvard University offered a plan that provided one free year of law school to students planning to work in public service, but that plan was rescinded due to economic hardships facing the university.  However, other schools still offer financial assistance to students pursuing law degrees, especially ones that lead to careers in public service.

These programs still may not cover private loan debt that students amass while pursuing law degrees. However, law students are able to borrow more in federal loans, such as Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans, than undergraduates typically can. There are also a variety of law scholarships available to students who are interested in pursuing legal careers. If you're interested in public service, but not in law, there are other forms of financial assistance available, as well.


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by Agnes Jasinski

As the Red Cross speculates that up to 50,000 people may have died in the Tuesday earthquake in Haiti, colleges across the country have begun tracking down students, staff, and faculty members who are studying or conducting research on the devastated island.

Several schools had already been able to locate their students and employees. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has reported that the two student groups who were studying in  Haiti were safe and accounted for. One group was about 70 miles north of the capital with the organization Engineers Without Borders as part of a project to build a small hydroelectric plant. The second group was there as part of the Haiti Project, doing electrical work and working on bringing Internet connections to a small mountain village. A dean from Maryville University is safe and writing a blog about the situation. Four people from Virginia's Blue Ridge Community College who had traveled to Haiti as part of a program through the nonprofit SIFE, which works to build socially responsible business leaders, were safe following a full day of emailing and phone calls by administrators. Two students and a faculty member from Taylor University were also reported safe; the students were there working with Radio Lumiere, a Christian radio station.

Others were still looking to make contact in a country where it has become increasingly difficult to reach people, or even send aid. Administrators at Lynn University are still waiting for word about whether six of the 12 members of a group that arrived in Haiti hours before the earthquake hit are safe. The group was on a humanitarian mission. The University of Florida has not been able to make contact with two graduate students who went to Haiti to work on a documentary about building a school there. Two faculty members from that school working on a grant through the U.S. Agency for International Development were safe and accounted for.

If you feel helpless and want to do something, consider contacting the American Red Cross about a donation. The organization has already raised more than $800,000 for Haiti through its online and text messaging campaign - people can text "Haiti" to 90999 to send an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross, an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. (Your donation will appear on your next phone bill, and all cell phone carriers are participating in the program.)

If the news has made you more aware of countries in need, there are a lot of things you can do both abroad and closer to home, and many alternatives to employment for college graduates looking to make a difference. Interested in education? Consider Teach for America, a program that offers a stipend and teacher certification in exchange for a commitment of one or two years teaching in a high-needs school. Often, students are eligible for loan deferment or forgiveness programs if they consider programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Looking for something more short-term? Organizations like Habitat for Humanity work with student-led projects that have done quite a bit of difference in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Such programs don't just build character and help people, either - they're also good for your resume. So if you're interested, there's no time like now to sign up and help out, even if you just do some community service in your neighborhood.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Duke University professor Deborah C. Jenson wasted little time deciding how to get academia involved following the recent earthquake in Haiti. She developed a new course for the school called "Haitian Creole for the Haitian Recovery" that aims to help undergraduates, health-care practitioners, and engineers get involved in relief and rebuilding efforts by teaching them about the country's language and culture. Less than two weeks after the earthquake, a group of students from all different backgrounds - history, forestry, and political science majors, for example - were already meeting and discussing how their unique skill sets could contribute to rebuilding Haiti.

The course also includes a basic introduction on how to navigate Haiti as someone who joins the relief effort, from getting around to pinpointing exactly the parts of Haiti that were most affected by the earthquake. Jenson came to the idea almost immediately after the disaster. She met with students from the Haitian Student Alliance and her Creole classes, and knew exactly what the relief effort would need to be successful and lasting: cultural sensitivity.

In an interview with Jenson in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, she describes the projects already taking form as a result of her students' need to help, such as a prosthetics drives and an initiative to help HIV-positive orphans. Others are in the class so that they can become effective communicators before going on humanitarian missions to Haiti. Jenson said in the interview that because it is obvious rebuilding efforts will continue for many years to come, Duke will probably offer the course in subsequent semesters.

Colleges and organizations across the country continue to look for ways to use their resources and personnel to make a difference in Haiti. The Institute of International Education created an emergency grants program to help students from Haiti on American campuses who have been affected by the earthquake. Accredited campuses are able to nominate up to five students at their institutions for the $2,000 grants. Lynn University established a fund to assist members of their community whose lives the earthquake impacted. The school was rocked recently by news that the four students and two faculty members who went missing after the earthquake were presumed dead. The group was there on a service learning trip.

If you're still looking for ways to help, contact your university. Colleges have become an excellent source for students interested in joining the relief effort. Or consider getting involved in community service projects closer to home. There's never a shortage of service or volunteer projects wherever you may be.


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by Agnes Jasinski

College seniors who prioritize "prosocial" activities while on campus have a better chance to lead more productive lives in adulthood than their peers who may have focused more on their academics or landing a high-paying job post-graduation, according to a University of Notre Dame.

"Prosocial" activities are described as helping friends through difficult situations and participating in community service projects, not making sure your Friday and Saturday nights are planned well in advance. The researchers suggest the results point to the benefits of having goals focused on helping others rather than just helping yourself.

The two studies looked at a sample of 416 college seniors (57 percent were male) who were evaluated again 13 years after graduation, once they reached their mid-30s. As seniors, the respondents had four types of "life goals" in the following categories: creative ("becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts"), prosocial ("helping others who are in difficulty"), financial ("being successful in a business of my own"), and personal recognition ("becoming an authority in my field"). At adulthood, however, those who responded that they still considered themselves prosocial after all those years also described greater personal growth and integrity.

It isn't a stretch to believe that being kind to your peers and spending some time volunteering may make you a better person, or at least allow you to work toward being a better person. It's interesting to think, however, that how you behave in college may have a hand in shaping who you are as an adult. The studies suggest that if your purpose in life is helping others, you're set to become a well-rounded adult. Colleges may want to take notice and provide students with more of these types of activities and opportunities, or even promote service as part of their curriculums.

You don't need to allow your grades to slip or stop working hard to graduate on time and land that first job out of college. The studies are more a reminder that other things are important, too, like evaluating your life goals and giving yourself a priority check once in a while. Make the most of your college experience, and consider volunteerism and service as a way to make you more well-rounded. And if you are that go-getter worried about how the state of economy will hinder your job prospects post-graduation, consider this: community service looks great on a resume, and great on applications for advanced degrees. There are also a large number of scholarships that reward students for their service, so consider all of your options when you're planning that social calendar.


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