Archives for September 23, 2015

Raise.me: Build Your Own College Scholarship with Small Achievements

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raise_logoHere’s some news for anyone who’s in high school and applying to college. By way of this CNN Money article, a new startup called Raise.me lets you automatically earn small “micro-scholarships” from many different participating colleges simultaneously based on your individual achievements like:

  • Taking specific courses and getting good grades.
  • Participating in sports or other extracurricular activities like Yearbook club.
  • Community Service
  • Good standardized test scores on SAT, ACT, or AP exams.
  • Other honors like National Honor Society, Eagle Scout or Golden Eagle award, or National Merit Scholar.
  • Attending an event at a participating college.

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For example, if you get an A in your English class this year, you can receive scholarships from dozens of colleges on raise.me all at once, including $1,000 from Tulane University, $500 from the University of Central Florida, and more. […]

When a college awards you scholarship money on raise.me, they are guaranteeing that they will include that scholarship money in your financial aid package if you apply for admission and are admitted. […] Each college on Raise.me has their own minimum GPA requirement.

Any US high school student in 9th through 12th grade is eligible, and you can enter your achievements retroactively. The money for the program is paid by charitable foundations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, colleges, and other funders like Facebook.

So far there are 76 participating colleges including Penn State, Loyola Marymount, Lewis & Clark, Michigan State, Temple, and University of Central Florida.

More thoughts:

  • This is ideal for smaller, lesser-known colleges to link up with good students that would never have considered them otherwise. The Harvards and Stanfords of the world don’t need this service.
  • By linking up small, achievable goals with measurable rewards, you can motivate high school students to work harder. I applied for a few college scholarships back in the day, but I hated that it felt like you were writing a long essay in exchange for a lottery ticket. This approach, if scaled successfully, might allow merit-based aid to be distributed more evenly.
  • Doesn’t is seem like the “gamification” of college scholarships? Like power-ups in video games, students can increase their scholarship “scores” gradually. You don’t want to make the entire high school experience a checklist, but hopefully it will be a net positive.
  • I’d worry that this approach could be gamed by the colleges as well due to their “sticker price” model where they post some astronomical tuition that nobody really pays. In reality, they alter what they charge you based on your desirability to them. I’ve written about this phenomenon here, here, and here. In other words, most admitted applicants already get $20,000 or more in “grants” anyway.

If you have a child in high school, I don’t see why you wouldn’t encourage them to at least check this website out.

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Tennessee Offers Free 2-Year College Tuition for All High School Graduates

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collegeUpdate 2015. The Tennessee Promise program has welcomed 15,000 students in their first year of offering free community college tuition. The number of students attending community college full-time straight from high school grew 14%. This Boston.com article includes an interesting quote:

“The reason Tennessee can afford Tennessee Promise is that 56 percent of our state’s community college students already have a federal Pell grant, which averages $3,300, to help pay for the average $3,800-per-year tuition,” said Tennessee State Sen. Lamar Alexander in a statement. “The state pays the difference–$500 on average. Nationally, in 16 states, the average Pell grant pays for the typical student’s entire community college tuition.”

Oregon has also recently passed their own free community college bill.

Original post from April 2014:

Tennessee lawmakers recently approved a program that would cover tuition and fees at two-year colleges for any high school graduate. The “Tennessee Promise plan” is the first of its kind in the U.S., although reportedly Florida, Mississippi, and Oregon are considering similar plans. It will be interesting to see if it succeeds in making higher education more affordable.

Participants will have to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, attend mandatory meetings, work with a mentor, and perform community service. The program is also “last money in” after other scholarships and grants. I hope that they will also make sure that any credits earned will transfer over to 4-year universities and that the courses are rigorous enough that the students don’t arrive at a significant disadvantage. If successful, this could essentially halve the cost of a in-state Bachelor’s degree, as most students will be able to live at home for the first 2 years as well.

I went to a well-respected public university, and while there got to know several community college transfer students as both an undergrad and graduate student instructor. As a whole, I found them to be much more hard-working and excited about their studies. I don’t have hard numbers but I’d be willing to bet that the junior transfers actually got better grades than those of us who entered as freshman. (Obviously those who got accepted as transfers were a selected group, not representative of all community college students. They also tend to be older, which can help with maturity.)

Free community college may also reduce the significant number of people who enroll at a 4-year university, rack up student loan debt, and don’t finish. According to this Slate article, 20% of those who enroll full-time at a 4-year program don’t finish within 6 years. Community colleges can also have low completion rates, but it is especially awful to have no degree and a big pile of debt.

Also related: We know student loan debt is growing, but now delinquency rates are increasing as well.

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