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Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

May 11, 2012

Concerned About Student Debt? Choose Your School Wisely

by Alexis Mattera

Cost plays a huge role in many students’ college choices. Depending on their financial situation, some students dismiss the schools with high tuition in favor of lower-cost in-state schools because they think it will save them money. In actuality, they could be doing themselves an economic disservice in the long run.

Using data from U.S. News and World Report’s most recent student debt survey of 25 top-ranking public and private schools, Reuters revealed that, on average, 53 percent of students surveyed received financial aid and at least half of students at most of the institutions graduated debt-free...but it depends on what school they attended: Princeton graduates, for example, owed only $5,000 at commencement while University of Michigan graduates owed more than $27,000 despite Michigan’s in-state costs being less than half of Princeton’s. How is this possible? Numerous schools including Princeton, Caltech, Davidson College and the University of Washington have eliminated student loans from their financial aid packages and others like Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley have capped contributions for students from low- and middle-income families. (Check out the entire article here, including this handy infographic.)

While it is difficult for many students to attend college without taking out some kind of loan – especially those attending state-run institutions which don’t have the fiscal means to eliminate debt – it is possible to avoid debt if you choose the right school. Thoughts?

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Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

With Hard Work and Help from Her Community, NC Teen is Ivy League-Bound

June 8, 2012

Homeless Student Finds Her Place at Harvard

by Alexis Mattera

Any current or soon-to-be college student will tell you that gaining acceptance to the school of their choice is not an easy task. What if, however, you had to manage that stress along with AP classes, extracurricular activities, work and the general perils of being a teenager without a roof over your head and the support of your parents? If you’re Dawn Loggins, you study hard, rely on the kindness of others and get accepted to Harvard.

In this great CNN piece, Loggins discusses how her less-than-fairytale upbringing (living in a home with no running water or electricity, having drug-addicted parents who abandoned her and dealing with ridicule from other students in her youth) made her the person she is today: a straight-A student who will attend Harvard University on a full scholarship. She credits her teachers and guidance counselors for sticking by her and providing her everything she needed – from candlelight to study by and clean clothing to a job and a place to call home – to succeed. And succeed she did: Loggins was accepted to all five schools to which she applied (UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Davidson College, Warren Wilson College and, the ultimate dream school, Harvard) and is hoping to start a nonprofit organization to help other teens who've had obstacles in their educations.

Read the rest of this inspirational story here and join us in wishing Dawn the best of luck at Harvard and in all of her future endeavors!

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How Will You Fund Your College Education?

June 8, 2012

How Will You Fund Your College Education?

by Jessica Seals

Throughout my undergraduate career, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of scholarships and grants that helped cover my tuition and other fees. Thousands of other college students across the country also rely on this free money to pay for their education and we should all be taking note of the fact that many financial aid options that we have to help pay for college are being eliminated or being heavily restricted. For example, two years ago I was able to take summer classes and receive a Pell Grant because the government allowed students to receive it during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Now, students are only eligible to receive the grant two semesters out of the year which means that a student cannot put the funds toward summer classes if they’ve already applied them to the fall and spring semesters for that academic year.

Many people already decide not to enroll in college because they do not feel like they can afford it. Cutting down on the usage of the Pell Grant can force many students to skip summer classes and send them down a slippery slope, as more students will be forced to stay in school longer and accrue more debt from student loans. Classrooms will become emptier during summer sessions and colleges hard-pressed for funds could raise tuition to compensate. The problem will continue to spiral out of control and lead to more reasons why people opt out of attending college.

We all should become more aware of the decreases that are being made towards higher education spending. The changes affect all of us and if we can all become aware of them, we’ll be able to take (and guide others along) the necessary route to make sure that paying for school is a lot less stressful.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. Jessica will be back at Memphis this fall to begin working toward her master’s degree in political science this fall; she ultimately hopes to attend law school.

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Questions to Ask Your Student Loan Servicer

June 13, 2012

Questions to Ask Your Student Loan Servicer

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a recent high school graduate, chances are you’re looking forward to the surge of independence that comes with becoming a college freshman. And while anticipating all the excitement that comes with entering college – meeting new people, establishing a home away from home, sleeping in until noon, etc. – establishing how you’re going to pay for it is an entirely different story. Here at Scholarships.com, we encourage students to apply for scholarships early and often but taking out student loans might be inevitable. With that being said, knowing what questions you should ask your student loan servicer might ease the transition and U.S. News and World Report has done some of the legwork for you by compiling a list of helpful questions that financial aid officers, student loan counselors and former lenders recommend you ask:

  • When exactly will my payments begin?
  • Do you have my current contact information on file?
  • What is my interest rate?
  • Is my interest rate competitive?
  • Is there any way to get an interest rate reduction?
  • Is consolidating my loans a good option for me?
  • How do I qualify for Interest-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment?
  • Do I qualify for an economic hardship deferment?
  • What happens if I lose my job?
  • If I go back to graduate school, what are my loan options?

Can you think of any other questions you’d like answers to? If so, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

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Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

Ed Sec Says Comparing More Schools Will Lead to More Informed College Choices

July 3, 2012

Duncan to College Applicants: "Shop Around"

by Alexis Mattera

In the epic battle between quality versus quantity, it's the former that usually prevails but Arne Duncan has a slightly different proposal for soon-to-be college students: increase the quantity of schools you consider in order to find the best quality fit.

Though the annual Higher Education Research Institute survey reported that students are already employing that approach (just 12 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen applied to only one college in 2011), Education Secretary Duncan believes that too many students are making their college choices based on distance from home rather than price, majors and other factors vital to college completion and future success. He feels that if students apply to more schools and compare financial aid packages, they'll find the school and program that's right for them. But not everyone is buying into his "shop around" proposal. Lloyd Thacker, director of the admissions reform group Education Conservancy, said, "The problem with the admissions process is it's become too much like a transaction or consumer process, and less like an investment in education ... I'm not saying what he's doing is necessarily wrong but you need to be very thoughtful that good intentions are tied to sound research.”

Check out the full Inside Higher Ed article here and let us know what you think. Are you ready to go shopping with Duncan or will you be taking a different approach when applying to college?

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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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Cooper Union Students Protest Tuition Change

December 4, 2012

Cooper Union Students Protest Tuition Change

by Suada Kolovic

After more than 110 years of tuition-free education, Cooper Union will no longer grant each admitted student a full-tuition scholarship. The response? Eleven students have barricaded themselves inside the college for the past 24 hours to protest the school’s decision.

According to the New York blog Gothamist, 11 Cooper Union students and one student journalist from The New School have barricaded themselves inside Cooper Union’s Foundation Building. They unfurled a red banner from the eighth floor which read “Free Education To All” and released a list of demands that included the resignation of Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha, a public affirmation of “the college’s commitment to free education” and more transparency for the Board of Trustees. The school released a statement that while a decision has yet to be made on whether or not they would charge tuition, it was being considered in light of a waning endowment and rising costs. We should note that no matter what the trustees vote, all current students are grandfathered in so they won’t be retroactively charged tuition or be asked to pay for the rest of their time at Cooper.

Since 1902, each of Cooper Union’s 1,000 undergraduates have received a full scholarship, valued at approximately $150,000 as of 2012. As a result, it is one of the most selective colleges in the United States, with an acceptance rate generally below 10 percent, with both the art and architecture school’s acceptance rates often below 5 percent. What do you think of the efforts made by these 11 students? Do you agree with their sit-in form of protest?

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California Legislation Proposes a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree

January 4, 2013

California Legislation Proposes a $10,000 Bachelor’s Degree

by Suada Kolovic

In what seems to be a growing trend across the country, a California state legislator is the latest elected official to push for a bachelor’s degree that costs no more than $10,000 total (yes, total!). And while last year’s college graduates left school with an average of $25,000 in debt, the possibility of a $10,000 degree to incoming college freshman is encouraging.

Assemblyman Dan Logue (R) introduced the bill following similar initiatives in Florida and Texas: In the proposed California legislation, students would start to earn college credit in high school through Advanced Placement courses and would then enroll full-time at a community college. The state university would in turn accept up to 60 credits for transfer. The problem? There’s the possibility that the state itself could be responsible for much of the cost since the bill requires that schools and colleges be reimbursed for any mandated expenses. As of right now, the legislation has only one sponsor while the speaker of the California Assembly, a democrat, reportedly has alternative plans for higher education reform.

Given California’s current budget woes, do you think the proposed legislation is the right option for the state? Let us know what you think.

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SOTW: Best Buy Scholarship Program

January 21, 2013

SOTW: Best Buy Scholarship Program

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Best Buy Scholarship Program provides students who demonstrate an excellence in academic achievement, volunteer efforts and/or work experience an opportunity to receive a $1,000 scholarship to use towards their college education. Scholarships are available to current high school students in grades 9-12 who plan to enroll in a full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two or four-year college or university or vocational-technical school in the United States.

Up to 1,100 students will each receive a $1,000 scholarship. If you're a 9-12 grade student who plans to attend post-secondary education, have solid grades and are involved in community service or work experience, you'll want to check out this opportunity! For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Cooper Union to Charge Undergraduate Tuition in 2014

April 25, 2013

Cooper Union to Charge Undergraduate Tuition in 2014

by Suada Kolovic

It’s official: After 18 months of intense analysis and serious opposition (we’re looking at you, students who barricaded themselves in the college last December), Cooper Union will begin charging undergraduate tuition for the first time.

Faced with a $12 million annual budget deficit, the Board of Trustees voted last week to reduce the full-tuition scholarship to 50-percent for all undergraduates admitted to the institution beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2014. “The time has come to set our institution on a path that will enable it to survive and thrive well into the future,” said board chairman Mark Epstein in an announcement to students and faculty members in the college’s Great Hall. “Under the new policy, the Cooper Union will continue to adhere to the vision of Peter Cooper, who founded the institution specifically to provide a quality education to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.” None of the 900 current undergraduates would be affected but those considering enrolling in the fall of 2014 and beyond could pay $19,275 a semester.

After the speech, opponents of the decision gathered outside the Great Hall and staged what they called a walkout, arguing that any tuition would alter the essential character of the prestigious school. What do you think of the announcement and the corresponding criticism? Let us know in the comments section.

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