A College Degree is Nearly a Necessity Your education is the single greatest gift you can give yourself. While there are educational opportunities all around us, some of them come at a greater cost than others. A college education might require a hefty investment of time and money upfront but the pay off is much better over time than if you used your life experiences in order to achieve the same level of education that you can pack into 2, 4, or 5 years of an undergraduate education on the college level. In other words, over the course of your lifetime you are likely to pay far less for your college education than you would pay (in earning potential) for not having a college education. At the same time, each level of college education you receive increases your overall earning potential. This means that a one-year degree in a technical field will provide a modest boost from a high school diploma when it comes to earning potential but an associate's degree will provide an even better boost. You will see an even more significant improvement in earning potential when you increase from an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree. The vast majority of students enter the work force upon completion of a bachelor's degree. Those students, however, who remain in school for graduate studies often, find that a master's degree even further improves their lifetime earning potentials. The problem for most when it comes to making the jump between degrees and educational levels is cost. There are times in life when we simply need to get out of school and get to work. The good news is that it is gradually becoming easier for those with careers to further their education without sacrificing either their careers or their family during the process. Of course there will be some sacrifices along the way but it isn't an all at once or nothing endeavor. You can work towards your degree by taking online classes, night classes, and Saturday classes. The information age has made it easier than ever before to achieve the educational goals you need to meet in order to satisfy your dreams for the future. Your level of education will get your foot in the door when it comes to certain jobs and your lack of education will limit you far more than a lack of experience will limit you in many cases. As time grows on, more and more companies are seeking employees that have degrees rather than those who have experience in the field. If you hope to remain competitive in the business world you need to arm yourself with the proper education. Check with your company to see if they offer any sort of incentives for employees continuing their education. You might be surprised to find that your company offers to match your tuition funds or even completely reimburse them if you are working towards a degree that will assist you in your job functions. There is no wrong reason to get an education. Even if you are applying for a job that won't use your specific degree, you might find that having a degree at all gives you a boost over other applicants for the same position. A college degree is becoming more and more necessary in today's business climate. You need to take every opportunity that is available to you in order to get your college degree. 572
A Community College Education is a Good Start Many people search and search for the University they will attend upon graduation from high school. Eager students look forward to their time at university while parents wring their hands hoping that their children choose to attend a university that is not only close to home but also within their budget limitations. Another worry that parents have when their children decide to attend college is whether or not that university they attend will have the specialized and individualized services that their children were accustomed to receiving in high school. Face it; larger universities tend to be rather impersonal when it comes to the education of their students. One answer to all those worries and more is to transition your students from high school to a two-year college rather than throwing them to the university wolves so to speak. Many people find that two-year colleges can in fact provide superior educations to four-year universities for those first two years or foundation college level courses. You will not get the specialized or specific instruction in a two year college that is available to upper level students on a university level but most students find the first two years of their college educations focused on getting the requirement and pre-requisite courses rather than the specialized courses in their intended field of study. Many people also find that those first two years at a community college-transitioning from a small pond to a larger lake-are much easier to handle than going straight from high school to a university-out of the pond and into the ocean. Universities often have lower level classes as auditorium classes. These classes offer little individual instruction and are often sink or swim sorts of classes. Those students who have special learning needs are often lost in the shuffle when entering a universitymunity colleges offer smaller classes and ample opportunities for tutoring as well as classes on how to learn to study. Two-year colleges are also much easier on the budget than most universities. Most people find that community college does not place nearly the financial burdens on families that universities place. Add to that the fact that most community colleges offer very flexible class scheduling and even some courses online and you will find that there are many reasons to consider community college that go well beyond mere budgeting requirements. Another benefit to students who wish to enter the work force sooner rather than later is that you can actually get a degree or certification in certain programs from a two-year college. This means that you can actually graduate and begin earning much sooner than if you were to attend a four-year college in search of a degree. If you aren't sure you want to invest the next four or five years of your life in pursuit of a degree or you simply aren't ready to commit yourself to one line of work for the rest of your life it is a good idea to spend two years in a community college rather than making the leap straight into a university setting. If you are considering whether or not a community college or two year education is the best course of action for your specific needs, I really recommend creating a list of pros and cons of each and balancing your budget to see where your needs are most likely to be fully met. Remember you can always transfer to a university once you've completed your two-year college education or at any time during that education as long as you meet the universities admission requirements. Good luck and remember that your college education is one of the largest indicators of your future earning potential so take it seriously. 629
Advantages of Universities A degree from a university means many thing to many different people. Only you can define the importance of a degree such as this to you and only you can determine whether or not now is the time for you to pursue a university degree. If you are unsure about how advantageous a university degree could be to your life let's look at some of the advantages to a university education in relationship to a community college education. Money. The first obvious advantage of a university education would be in future earning potential. A four-year degree trumps a two-year degree almost every time. There would have to be exceptional circumstances for someone with a two-year degree to earn more over the course of a lifetime than someone with a four-year degree in the same exact field. While a degree does not guarantee employability, it does improve the odds as well as the income potential that is associated with the field you are entering into. If you have a two-year degree the decision to continue your educational pursuits can be a tough one but it is well worth the effort in the end. Housing. This is another distinct advantage that universities offer over community colleges. In fact, many universities are now offering housing opportunities to students with families in addition to those students who have no families. Colleges and universities are offering all kinds of value when it comes to housing and meal plans. A great deal of the college experience is missed when you do not live on campus. For this particular reason students wishing to enjoy the experience that dorm life provides often consider universities over community colleges. Diversity. This is another key component that is often missing at the community college level. International students find no real price breaks between universities and community colleges so they tend to opt for the housing and cultural atmosphere that universities present rather than going with the limiting educational, residential, and cultural experience offered by many community colleges. You will find students of different races, religions, cultures, and nations on the university level-far more than will typically be seen in a community college unless you are attending community college in a very culturally diverse city such as New York. Culture. This is something that is often lacking on the community college level, as they are largely commuter campuses. You will not see quite the opportunity to experience art, music, the theater, and other wonderful experiences that universities pride themselves in offering to their students. There is nothing quite like the cultural offerings of most large universities and if you get the opportunity I hope you will take the time to stop and experience some of the wonderful things that being in a university community present you with an opportunity to experience. Research opportunities. On a university level you will have the opportunity to participate in research projects with certain professors if your prove yourself worthy and express an interest. This is something that isn't as likely on the community college level as most professors in a community college are dedicated to teaching rather than research. You will find that the experience of working on a large-scale research project is unlike anything you are likely to experience again if you ever get the chance. Confidence. There is nothing quite like a college degree from a university to help you become a more confident person both personally and professionally. This is something that really can't be achieved on the community college level but can only be experienced by getting a degree from a university. If you lack confidence when dealing with others or in your career, I hope that you will find that your university education is just the thing to help you feel more confidence on all levels of your life. These are just a small sampling of the many benefits of attending a university over a community college education. I hope you will carefully consider these when making your decision about which is best for your personal education needs. 681
Are Student Loans Becoming Necessary Evils? When it comes to getting a college education most people can agree that the costs can be staggering at best. Even the least expensive colleges in the nation can add up over a four or five year period of time creating crippling debt for those who do not qualify for some of the better grant programs of substantial scholarships. The problem lies in the fact that the parents of most traditional college students make too much money to qualify for the free financial aid that is needs based and very few qualify for the limited number of scholarships that are available to students based on merit.
Even among those that qualify competition and fierce and there are no guarantees. Enter the student loan. There are all kinds of student loans and unfortunately with rising costs associated with college attendence and the growing necessity of a college degree for success in this country it is becoming more and more difficult to pay the price that is associated with higher education.
There are three types of loans that are commonly found for college students. They include federal student loans, federal plus loans, and private student loans. Each type of loan has advantages and disadvantages that are unique to that particular loan.
Below I will give a little information about each of the loan types and whom they may benefit. Student loans. There are three different types of student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and Perkins loans. Perkins loans are only available to students who display exceptional financial need. These loans are available at a 5% interest rate and are available to both graduate and undergraduate students.
Perkins loans are extended through the university you attend and will be repaid to the university unlike the other types of student loans, which are repaid to the lending agency. Subsidized student loans are loans in which the interest is deferred until graduation or you cease to be a qualifying student. What this means is that while you are responsible for repaying the loan upon graduation the interest on these loans does not begin to accrue until your begin repayment 6 months after graduation or your cease to be at least a half time student of the university. You must qualify based on your income in order to receive a subsidized student loan.
While the needs requirements for these loans isn't as grave as those required in order to receive a Perkins loan you must still qualify. Unsubsidized student loans do not require qualification on a needs basis. You must be a student and enrolled at least half time in order to receive an unsubsidized student loan. The good news however for those who do not qualify based on needs for other student loan options is that this type of loan is available to all qualifying students regardless of need. The interest on these loans however begins to accrue immediately, which means they can really add up over time.
PLUS loans are loans that are taken out by the parents of students who need the funds in order to cover educational expenses. The maximum amount that can be borrowed is the cost of attendence minus any financial aid awards the student has already received. The repayment on these loans begins 60 days after the loan is dispersed and the repayment period can be up to 10 years. In order to cover the costs involved in education that go above and beyond what the government recognizes as acceptable college related expenses you can opt to go the route of private student loans rather then relying solely upon federal financial aid for your student loan source. These loans require that you qualify in order to receive them based on your credit rather than your need and must be used for educational purposes only.
With these particular loans you really need to make sure you read all the fine print as different companies offer different conditions and different perks. You should really take the time and compare prices and options before taking out a private student loan and this should be done only as a last resort. Student loans for many can be the difference in attending college and getting the education you are hoping for and not being able to pay the high costs that go along with higher education. For this reason you should treat them with respect and not take them lightly.
Associate Degree Vs. Bachelor Degree There really are few ways to compare a two-year education with a four-year education that would be fair to either degree program. The truth of the matter is that both are excellent for certain things while both also offer serious limitations. When it comes to pros and cons they both have their own set of both that make excellent food for thoughts. Two-Year Education Pros When it comes to a two-year college program there are several things you should consider in its favor before you take the plunge. First of all, you should keep in mind that the degree or certification at the end of your studies doesn't necessarily indicate the end of your education. Two-year degrees are excellent starting points for four-year degrees but also allow you the option to venture out into the workplace with your own skills and knowledge that will allow you greater earning potential than a high school diploma. You will also have the benefit of entering the work place much sooner with an associate's degree than with a bachelor's degree. Most importantly for many who are limited by budgets, two-year colleges offer an affordable alternative for an education or even the first two years of your education. Cons The biggest cons that most people find when it comes to getting a two-year degree is the growing competition for limited jobs. In fact, it is difficult to remain competitive in any industry when there are more and more entering the work force with bachelor's degrees. It is simply more difficult to maintain a competitive edge with only a two-year degree though it is not impossible. The other obvious con when it comes to two-year college degrees is that fact that some positions will not even consider anyone with less than a four-year degree. This means that you aren't even in the running required to worry about competition. Four-Year Degrees Pros A bachelor's degree will earn you far greater earning potential in your lifetime than a high school education without a doubt. It will also place you in a position of serious competition within your chosen field or industry. This means that you will often be given preference when seeking jobs over those who do not have degrees or those with lesser degrees regardless of experience. There is also not enough that can be said about the personal confidence that goes along with earning your degree. You will find that you are much more confident on both a personal and a professional level once you've earned your bachelor's degree. Cons The single largest con associated with a bachelor's degree is the expense. Both in terms of time and money bachelor's degrees exact a price. You should be certain that you are both willing and able to pay that price before setting out to get your degree. Regardless of whether a two-year degree or a four-year degree is in your personal best interest at the moment neither are a waste of time or effort. I hope that you will eventually seek a four-year degree, as this will give you a competitive edge in business, however, even the smallest improvement in your education level can mean big changes over the course of your lifetime. Sometimes it helps to improve your education in steps. Take one class at a time until you have your associate's degree then repeat until you have your bachelor's degree. Good luck! 572
Common Attendance Methods for Returning Students Are you one of many Americans that dreams of returning to college but fears that option ended for your many years ago? If this is you, then you are in luck. There is no time like the present to go back and pursue your educational dreams. In fact, there has been no better time throughout history than today for those who wish to return to school but cannot give up their careers in order to do so. Educational opportunities abound today in America and only show evidence of increasing and improving with time and technological advances. There are many options available for the returning students of today that would have been summarily designed to those hoping to further their educational goals in the past. If you are hoping to go back to school consider the options below very carefully before deciding which will be best for you. The All or Nothing Approach This endeavor is a giant leap of faith. It involves quitting your job, packing up your life and going back to college with every hope for a better future hinging on your performance. This is a high-risk endeavor for many professionals who have families and careers to consider. However, the rewards will be much quicker with this approach than most of the other available options. You should consider carefully whether this is an appropriate plan of action for your specific needs or if the risk would be too high for your family to endure. Night School Most community colleges and universities offer a wide assortment of night classes to those students who have daytime careers but are hoping to further their educations. You will find that despite common preconceived notions there is a wide mixture of students in night classes. There are first time college students who simply prefer night classes to early morning classes, retirees hoping to learn something new, and professionals hoping to grab a few more credit hours towards their degree. You never know whom you will find in your night classes but chances are you will find that there is a special sense of community among night school students that you won't find in traditional day classes. Techno Wizards for Internet Courses Believe it or not you do not need to have spectacular technical skills in order to take the average online or Internet course. The truth of the matter is that the most technical skill most of these classes require is the ability to visit websites, open email, and download an occasional file. Internet classes offer extreme flexibility for those with busy family and work schedules. This is the option of choice for many returning schools. The good news is that more and more universities and community colleges are offering these sorts of classes in many different fields and majors. The more demand grows for these classes the more classes will be offered. The fact is that as consumers we have the right to ask for what we want or need. College students are consumers who are paying a hefty price for the product they hope to receive-a solid educational experience. Do not be afraid to request that the university you are attending offer more options for working students if you find that you are in need of a class that isn't offered in a flexible manner. Chances are if you need the course, there are others like you who will as well. If there is enough demand, most universities will oblige the demands of their students. 591
Common Types of Financial Aid If you are planning to attend college or the parent of a child you hope will attend college, I'm sure you are concerned over how you are going to be able to afford the process. A college education in many cases is a significant investment. The good news is that there are many options for the average family when it comes to paying the high costs involved in higher education. Types of Financial Assistance for Educational Expenses Scholarships. You will find that scholarships come in many different shapes and sizes and have all kinds of strange requirements in order to qualify to receive them. Some are based on need while others are based on merit. You will also find that there are many community and faith based organizations that offer scholarships in addition to certain corporations that offer scholarships in a gesture of good will to employees and the children of their employees. These are an excellent source of educational funding, as they do not need to be repaid. Federal Pell Grants. This is another financial aid source that doesn't require repayment. However, you must qualify based on need in order to receive this particular type of college assistance. You can only obtain a Pell grant if you are an undergraduate college student who has not yet earned a college degree. There is a formula that is used to determine the amount of award for which you are eligible. This depends greatly on your means as a family and how much you can realistically expect to contribute towards the cost of your education. Loans. This should be used as a last resort when it comes to paying your college expenses, as this is money that must be repaid with interest. There are several types of loans that are available and you should consider carefully and weigh your options before taking out a loan. However, if this is the only method you have for covering the cost of your tuition it will be money well spent once you've managed to repay the debt. 1) Student loans. There are three different types of student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and Perkins loans. You must qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized loan, which will put off your interest accumulation until after graduation or you cease to be enrolled the minimum number of hours. You do not however, need to qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized student loan, which will begin accruing interest immediately. If you happen to be in exceptional financial need you can apply through your university for a Perkins loans. These are low interest loans that must be repaid to the university. 2) Parent Loans. These are commonly referred to as PLUS loans (parent loan for undergraduate students). These loans allow parents to borrow the money required to cover the costs of education that are not covered by other means of financial assistance. Repayment on these loans begins 60 days after the funds are transferred and can take up to 10 years. 3) Private loans. These loans are not guaranteed and are solely credit-based loans. They do not however, have the same limited scope that government loans have and in many cases can help bridge the gaps in actual educational expenses and the amount of money that you are allowed to borrow through traditional financial aid opportunities. Before signing up for any particular sort of financial aid it is a good idea to see a financial aid counselor at the university you are planning to attend. They will have the best information about what steps you need to take in order to apply for financial aid at that specific universities and unique scholarship or grant opportunities that might be available to you through your state or the college. Higher education is a dream that is definitely worth having. Do not allow financial limitations to keep you from your goal if possible but enter into all financial arrangements with great caution and thought. 666
Community College Advantages If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in a community that has a community college you should really make the time in your schedule to check and see what kind of classes they can offer that can help you advance your education and your career. You might be amazed at the different types of courses you can take even on the community college level. I know that I have found some of the courses that are offered and the degree of learning that takes place to be quite impressive. I think that many people who have in the past disregarded the important role that community colleges play in providing an affordable venue for learning will be quite amazed as well. Community colleges have an undeserved reputation for inferiority when this could not be further from the truth. A good many of the nations nurses are products of community college educations. In many states, the associates degree nursing programs are quite rigorous and provide more clinical experience than most bachelor's degree nursing programs. This means that students graduating nursing school with an associates degree in nursing are often better prepared to deal with patient care than those who have the 'superior degree'. This by no means is meant to disparage B. S. Nursing students at all. In fact, most hospitals will not even consider you a candidate for an administrative nursing position unless you have the Bachelor's degree. This is only meant to point out that associates degree programs can be quite competitive and inclusive despite common misconceptions. Of course there are other benefits to learning on the community college level, at least for the first two years of your education. One of those benefits that speaks volumes to me is the fact that teachers in community colleges are dedicated to teaching. They are not working on their own research or books. They are there for the purpose of helping you achieve your goals, which means you aren't an interruption in their pursuit of their own goals. Community colleges also offer an excellent buffer for students who may not have been on top of their game academically in high school or those who are returning to college after a long absence from academia. You won't find the large auditorium classes on the community college level that major universities are famous for offering. You also won't find that teachers do not have time for their students. There is a lower teacher to student ratio in community colleges so that professors will have time to address the needs of students. Another benefit is that even if you do not go on to get your four year degree after completing your community college education you will find that your earning potential is significantly improved over those who do not have at least a two-year college education. Research also indicates that students who complete a two-year degree program at a community college are more likely to finish and get a four-year degree than those students who begin their educational experience at a four-year university. There are a few problems that can be associated with a community college education and you should take note of these so that they do not become a problem for you. First of all, some universities do not accept many of the courses that are offered on the community college level as transfer credits. Make sure that you know what courses are required for the university that you are planning to transfer to in order to avoid this. You also may find that you are limited on the courses you can take and the times in which they will be available. Make sure that you have all the limited courses well ahead of time so that you aren't taking another year of classes in order to graduate. All in all, a community college education can be just as enlightening as a university education if you enter into the process with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I hope you take advantage of this much less expensive option before moving on to university courses if possible. 691
Community College Disadvantages While there are many distinct advantages that can be associated with attending a community college there are a few disadvantages that I would be remiss in not mentioning. We all like to look at the positive side of things and the good in my opinion of community colleges, at least as a springboard for university learning far outweigh the bad. However, if you are considering community college as an option whether for your associate's degree alone or have plans to move along to the university level upon completion you should see the big picture and not just the sunshine and flowers. The first thing you should be aware of, and this applies primarily to those students with plans to transfer, is that you should always consult the college you intend to attend next in order to make sure that the courses you are taking on the community college level are compatible with the core requirements for the university. In many cases they are similar enough to be considered compatible but there are exceptions and it is better to find this out sooner rather than later. If you plan to attend a University that is located near the community college you are attending you should check and see if they have some sort of articulation agreement that will allow associate's degree graduates to transfer seamlessly. Many states are stepping in and passing laws that require colleges in their specific states to accept community college credits as transfer credits in an effort to keep qualified workers in the state. Some universities are even offering distance learning programs to associates degree graduates in order to allow access to students who live a greater distance from campus to have access to educational opportunities that would have been denied to them in the past. Of course if you live in one of these states, a former disadvantage may now work in your favor. Many community colleges do not offer housing opportunities and most of those that do are still largely commuter campuses rather than residence campuses. Rather than spending funds on housing these colleges tend to reserve their spending to assist in academic pursuitsmunity colleges in rural areas are much more likely than those in larger cities to offer housing on campus. The lack of on-campus housing makes participation in sports and other activities a little more difficult than colleges that are largely residential in nature. If you decide to make a community college your last stop when it comes to your personal educational experience you will be denying yourself a great deal of earning potential over the course of your lifetime. For this reason you should seriously consider the benefits that transferring to a university will present for your educational goals. My largest complaint when it comes to community colleges when compared to larger universities was the fact that there are such limited opportunities to take specific classes than when compared to those classes on a university level. You will find that you must remain within your sequence of courses on the community college level or you risk needing an extra semester or year in order to complete the requirements for your associate's degree. Universities tend to offer greater flexibility, especially in lower level courses that are required by all in order to graduate. My other major complaint when it comes to community college is the fact that they often have much smaller libraries than universities. This seriously limits the ability that students have to do extensive research with the exception of rare cases. Universities simply have deeper pockets than the average community college. For this reason they will have bigger libraries and far more bells and whistles than the average community college. Hopefully we'll see this change over time as well. Despite the disadvantages that can be associated with community college educations, I feel that they are very much outweighed by the benefits that the community college learning environment offers. 661
Educational Savings Accounts When it comes to getting a college education, financing is one of the most important considerations that you will need to make. Unfortunately for far too many it is one the last considerations that is made when it comes to the educations of our children. If you are a parent you owe it your child and yourself to plan ahead and plan carefully in order to cover the cost of your child's education. There are fortunately, a few great ways in which you can do this. The most common is to begin by opening up an educational savings account for your child (under the age of 18). When you open up an educational savings account for your child, you can contribute up to $2,000 per year per child. This is a combined total contribution however and includes the contributions of grandparents, friends, and family in addition to your own personal contributions. The money from these funds can be withdrawn tax-free as long as they are used for educational purposes. Educational expenses in this case include books, tuition, fees, supplies, and college room and board provided that your child is at least a part-time student. If you do not use all the funds for your child there are options as far as what to do with the remaining funds in the account. The first option would be to leave the funds in the account and allow the account beneficiary to withdraw them up until the age of 30. There is a penalty involved and the beneficiary will be required to pay income tax on those funds. You could also elect to roll those funds over to the next child under the age of 18 who will have educational expenses in the future. The money you set aside in these accounts to cover the cost of the education of your child or children is not tax-deductible however, it is a great way to begin saving money and investing in the future of your child. If you begin investing the maximum amount $2,000 per year upon birth your child should have a nice nest egg to help cover educational expenses. If your child is fortunate enough to qualify for scholarships and other sources of financial aid you can turn the funds over as a graduation gift or save it for the next college student in your family that comes along. Either way you've saved yourself a good part of the worry that goes along with providing for your family by having this fund set up for your children. You can sign up for programs like Upromise in order to subsidize your contributions with donations from corporate sponsors as their way of thanking you for buying their products or using their services on any credit cards that you, your friends, and your family members have registered to go into your child's account. Every edge you give yourself when it comes to investing in the education of your children is an edge worth having. College tuition rates are rising at an alarming rate while corporate expectations of college degrees are rising at the same near lightening speed. This means that a college degree is more critical for our children than in any past generations. Take the time now to check into securing the future of your children by establishing an educational savings account. Let friends and family know that any gifts they are planning to give your children that involve money would be appreciated if they instead invested in the future of your children rather than the now. You can also ask your friends and family to sign up their credit cards with Upromise in order to provide a little bump in donations to your child's college savings account. These little steps add up to significant savings over the course of 18 years. You just might find that the investment you are making is adequate to cover the costs of your child's tuition in full. 663
Financial Aid Options for Students When it comes to financial aid for college there are primarily two sources: privately funded financial aid and federally funded financial aid. When applying for or receiving either you need to make sure that you are fully aware of all the fine print involved. Most people find that the expenses of college are much too great to afford without assistance of some sort. If you are a parent chances are that you will some day face the need to pay college tuition along with the worry of how on earth you will manage to accomplish that goal. The problem is that not every student who wishes to attend college qualifies for either federally funded student aid or the vast majority of scholarships that require either exceptional grades or a specific and exceptional talent in order to receive. For those students thinking outside the box may be necessary in order to receive the much needed educational assistance or financial aid. If you do not qualify for federal financial aid for your children, then you may want to consider the benefit of other scholarship options. One common scholarship option that is often overlooked is the ROTC program that most universities offer. There is a price to pay for these scholarships but many find that price provides valuable experience and is well worth the education and the experience received during the process. If your child is interested in the possibility of a military career or becoming a military officer, this is a great way to go. As a parent you may want to see what sort of, if any, flexible spending accounts your state has set up that can help you set aside money for college expenses for your children. Many states have these and there are programs such as Upromise that allows you and others to dedicate the spending from a credit card to be used as a 'match' program for your child's college funds. While it isn't a dollar for dollar match of your credit card spending every little bit helps. The real beauty of programs like Upromise is that you can enlist the help of family in friends when saving for your child's college educational expenses. Regardless, it is never too early to begin saving for your child's college education and these expenses seem to be rising exponentially. There are many programs that exist to help minorities and women pay for their educational expenses. Some of these scholarships are needs based while some of them are solely merit based. On all levels competition is fierce, however, if you qualify for any of these scholarships you would be doing yourself a disservice not to apply for them. You never know when your application might be the one that captures the attention of the scholarship committee. The one thing you should keep in mind is to read all the instructions, make copies of everything, and follow the directions. You'd be amazed at how many worth applicants are denied scholarships each year because they did not follow the directions on the application properly. Another thing you should keep in mind is neatness. You are much more likely to win a scholarship if the committee can actually read your application. There are many great opportunities for financial assistance when it comes to college. The trick is typically in finding the great sources. Your college's financial aid office is an excellent source of information for financial aid as is your high school counselor. See what your options are before you sacrifice the dream of a college education. 597
Financial Motivation for Two-Year Education When it comes to college, you are considering an expensive proposition any way you look at it. There are however, ways in which you can greatly reduce your overall expenses when it comes to getting your college degree. The first method, which in many cases is the most preferred, is by attending a community college for the first two years of your college educational experience. Believe it or not you can literally save thousands of dollars over the course of spending two years on the community college level. You will hear all kinds of arguments on why it is better to attend all four years at a university. The universities almost always make these arguments. Unfortunately, their opinions are a little bit biased in these matters. Most universities offer equivalent courses with community colleges meaning that the first two years of study should transfer with no problems or snags along the rocky road to your degree. The universities make money each semester you begin class as a student. It is in their best interest financially to have you from the beginning rather than as a transfer. In fact, many universities offer lower level classes as auditorium classes. They pack more students into classes and have fewer professors or graduate students teaching the courses and maximize their money off the first and second year students rather than those in upper level courses. Yet another reason to consider a community college for the first two years of you education. Getting back to the expenses of a community college, most community colleges are largely commuter campuses. This means you won't face the high housing costs that are associated with universities, particularly if you are attending college close to homemunity colleges also offer far less distractions that cost additional money than most major universities. This doesn't mean that there aren't ample social opportunities; it simply means that there are fewer of them. This also leaves fewer distractions than universities present when it comes to studying. Community colleges simply cost less all around. While it would be nice if you could receive a full four year education at this level, they are able, for the most part, to keep expenses down by not requiring the level of qualification that universities require of their professors for upper level courses. You will have excellent, if not superior quality of education at lower levels than you would have on the university level, but you will also eventually need to move on to the university level in order to complete your education. For this reason, you would do well to save half of your savings over university costs for each of the two years you are attending community college and apply it to your university education. This will ease the burden of the additional costs of the university and feel as though you are paying the same amount for tuition throughout your education regardless of the fact that you are literally saving thousands of dollars on your educational expenses. Some states have educational savings plans that allow parents to save for tuition at current costs by enrolling. These plans cover two years of community college education and two years of university education. By locking in today's prices you are eliminating the inflation. When you consider the fact that college tuition is increasing at an alarming rate this is by far an excellent way to go. You should check with your state and see if they offer a similar plan to parents of younger children and what the requirements are in order to enroll your child today. If you are looking for a real value in education whether or not you only go for your two year degree of move on to a university in order to finish your four-year degree you should find that a community college education offers a significant value for the money. Most people find that every penny they spent in a community college was a penny well spent. 669
Finding the Right College Program for You There are all kinds of college programs that are available today for those seeking higher education and degrees in a wide variety of fields. The problem often lies in finding the type of education that is appropriate for your specific needs. We all learn best through different methods and identifying your learning method is a great way to understand what learning environment will work best for you. The common learning environments for college level studies are the following: community colleges, universities, and online or distance learning opportunitiesmunity colleges tend to offer smaller classrooms with more discussion-oriented styles of learning and discourse. Universities tend to be more lecture oriented while distance and online learning opportunities are quite often self-directed learning opportunities that require a great deal of discipline in order to be successful. When trying to identify the college that will work best for you, you should keep in mind your personal learning style. Beyond that you should also consider the type of environment you expect from your college education and the amount of time you wish to devote to the pursuit of your education and degree. Some people find that university life is far too distracting while others find that the solitude of online and distance learning is a distraction in and of itself. You will find all kinds of cultural opportunities at a university that you will not find through home studies or on the community college level. For some students, these opportunities are icing on the cake and an important part of the learning experience as you delve into other cultures, art, music, and history. Others find these opportunities to be far too plentiful and far too distracting for their study needs. Whichever student you tend to be will make a huge difference in the best situation for your learning needs. Another important consideration is housing. Most universities have ample on campus housing for their students while a few campuses experience on campus housing shortages and rely on housing that is located in and around the college area in order to fill in the gaps. Some universities will even offer limiting housing opportunities to students who have spouses and children. While housing on community college is seen, particularly in rural areas where there is limited housing available in and around the schools, these are more often the exception rather than the rule. Most community colleges are largely commuter campuses with very limited if any housing opportunities. Online and distance learning programs offer no housing to students. Another concern that most also be considered carefully is the distance between classes and any special needs you may have. Universities tend to be large and spread out. It is quite possible to need to get from one end of campus to another (a mile or more in some cases) with a 10-minute window in which to get it done. For students with special needs or physical disabilities this can be quite problematic, especially on days of inclimate weathermunity colleges tend to have smaller campuses, which mean less real estate to cover in between classes. Online and distance learning classes go with you wherever you have access to a computer. This means that they are as portable as you need them to be if you have your own laptop and wireless Internet access. You must consider all these things and so much more when narrowing down your college choices. Do you really want to take the personal responsibility required in order to succeed in online and distant learning courses? Do you want to be limited by the meager offerings of coursework available at the community college level? Is it worth it to you to pay the high price involved in a university education? These are all questions that you need to consider carefully before making the decision as to which college environment is the most desirable for you. 655
Free Application for Federal Student Aid For any student hoping to attend college in the coming year, the first place you need to start is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that is commonly referred to as FAFSA. The earlier you fill out this form the better as far as your chances of receiving the full amount of financial aid that is available to you as well as to clear up and fix any potential problems that may arise well ahead of the deadline for aid being awarded. The final date for application changes from year to year and is generally somewhere near the beginning of summer. Earlier is much better than later as far too many students wait until closer to deadline in order to fill out their forms and if you have any questions you are likely to find yourself standing in or calling into longer lines for your answers. There are a few things you need to know about the FAFSA. Most schools require this form to have been filled out before they will award any financial aid, not just federal financial aid. In other words you should check with your school but you may need to fill out this form even if you are only applying for departmental scholarships and not federal financial aid. It is a good idea to begin at the financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend at any rate to make sure they do not have additional forms that they require you fill out in order to apply with financial aid through the university or college as well as the federal government. Another thing you need to be well aware of is that you will need to fill out one of these forms for each year that you hope to receive financial aid of any kind. This is not something that is automatically renewed or guaranteed. There are many changes that could affect the amount of money you are eligible to receive as well as whether or not you are eligible to receive federal funds at all on any given academic year. For this reason you must apply for aid for each year that you attend. Another thing that you must remember is that while a subsidized student loan doesn't been to accrue interest until you graduate or cease to be enrolled for the required hours, an unsubsidized student loan begin accruing interest from day one. This means that you will owe a substantial amount of money in interest upon graduation if you take out an unsubsidized student loan in order to pay for educational expenses. Student loans make college educations possible for many people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. At the same time there are many people, who neglect to use these loans responsibly, which is the beginning of irresponsible spending habits that can plague people for the remainder of their lives. Take great caution that you use your student loans for their intended purpose and use them wisely. The FAFSA also enables you to apply for Federal Pell Grants and Federal Work Study programs in addition to student loans. Of the three mentioned above, student loans should be a last resort rather than a first. The amount of money available can prove to be quite tempting so be very careful and read all the terms before signing up for any and all financial aid. Your high school, college financial aid office, and the Internet are all excellent sources for information on scholarships, grants, loans, and work study programs for which you may qualify. 605
Graduate Degree Options Many people find that in the courses of their careers they wish they had the ability to go back to school for even further education. Unfortunately, not everyone has the good fortune to live in the vicinity of a university that offers graduate level studies in the career they have chosen. Chances are that a good percentage of the population does not and if they do chances are even better that they have very busy personal and professional lives that make intensive graduate studies difficult to pursue at best. If you are one of the many people that feel you have made your choice and are stuck with your undergraduate degree or that a post graduate degree is simply out of your reach, I hope you will read this article with great interest and learn that there options available to you no matter how far away from a university you live or how little time you have to devote to your graduate studies. A graduate education is a very intensive course of study that is very narrow and specific. In other words, many students find that their graduate coursework is their favorite by far as it gets into the meat of the subject matter of their interest rather than merely hitting the highlights. Only a small percentage of the population at this point in time has a graduate education. Though this does not necessarily guarantee you any employability it can provide you with very specialized knowledge or skills that will help you perform your job better and qualify you for more interesting and specialized positions in your field of study. If you would like to pursue a graduate education but feel you are too far from the nearest university that offers a comprehensive graduate education in your field, you might be surprised to find that the nearest graduate level curriculum is as far away as your living room or your favorite Internet cafй. Online courses give new hope to potential graduate students. Many of them will actually allow you to work around your work schedule and at your own pace while trying to achieve your dreams of higher education and life long learning. Online courses are becoming more widely accepted across the nation and around the world. We live in the information age and it only makes sense that we are taking control of our educations by using services and demanding services like online courses in order to further our educational goals. At the moment there are only limited offerings for graduate studies, most of them centering on educational fields with only a few graduate degrees offered in other fields such as the medical industry. As demand grows so will the availability of graduate courses and degrees that are being offered online. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live relatively close to a university that offers graduate studies in your field you might want to check with the university and see if they offer weekend graduate classes. This is a new trend that seems to be growing in popularity as a valid option for those who hope to return to college but can't afford to give up precious work or family time during the week. These courses are much more intense than your average once or twice a week night course but they allow you to pursue your graduate degree in a much quicker manner than traditional programs have allowed and are much more employer and family friendly. Of course you also have the option of taking one or two classes at a time at night in order to achieve your graduate degree as well. Masters degree students only need to take 9 hours a semester in order to be considered full time students and qualify for financial aid. All in all, you do not need to sacrifice your goals of graduate studies in order to maintain your career or achieve some sort of balance between work, education, and family. Whether you choose online courses, night courses, or weekend courses for your studies you have many opportunities to achieve the degree you desire without sacrificing heavily in order to do so. 696