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Financial Aid Options for Students

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.

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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 pursuits. Community 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 home. Community 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.

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