Best Schools for Financial Aid 2011

The results are in and the Princeton Review has revealed the list of America’s best colleges for financial aid. What this means is, these colleges have the best financial aid ratings out of more than 600 colleges surveyed, so they were able to meet the financial aid needs of their students better than all others. The top 11 are:

  • -Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
  • -California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)
  • -Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA)
  • -Harvard College (Cambridge, MA)
  • -Lake Forest College (Lake Forest, IL)
  • -Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  • -Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
  • -Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
  • -Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, CA)
  • -Washington University in St. Louis (MO)
  • -Williams College (Williamstown, MA)

The Princeton Review also listed schools where financial aid options are “not so great.” The top ten are Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA), Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT), New York University (New York, NY), Elon University (Elon, NC), Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA), University of Maryland (College Park, MD), Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park, CA), DePaul University (Chicago, IL), Miami University (Oxford, OH), and Grove City College (Grove City, PA). Eleven through 20 include:

  • -California State University-Stanislaus (Turlock, CA)
  • -Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY)
  • -Auburn University (Auburn, AL)
  • -Villanova University (Villanova, PA)
  • -Spelman College (Atlanta, GA)
  • -Howard University (Washington, DC)
  • -Washington State University (Pullman, WA)
  • -The College of New Jersey (Ewing, NJ)
  • -University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
  • -Westminster College (New Wilmington, PA)

For a full list of the best colleges for financial aid, visit www.PrincetonReview.com.

How to Choose the Best Job for Your Skills

It’s no secret that American’s are now living in an employers market. Gone are the days when headhunters lined up at your door hoping to sign you as a client. Hundreds of hopeful job seekers are even lining up to compete for positions that pay less than what was offered (for the same job) just a few years ago. So what does this mean for today’s job seeker? You need a strategy and it starts with knowing your skills and accepting your strengths and weaknesses.

To get started with assessing your skills and finding a suitable match in the job world, the first thing you need to do is understand the difference between a skill and what you “like” to do or “feel” you’re good at. According to Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D. and career expert:

A skill is a learned capability to perform actions. A skill is a capability because it gives you the potential to do something competently. A skill is learned because it is not something you are born with, and it is not acquired through normal sensory development or through special physical conditioning. It is not a talent or aptitude. A skill allows you to perform actions rather than just know or feel something, which is what makes it valuable to employers.

Keep in mind that critical thinking and a positive attitude are considered skills because they require actions on your part such as learning how to see things from someone else’s point of view, speaking with an upbeat tone or offering assistance with any given task. These skills, combined with certain technical skills such as typing, programming, etc., all make up a skill set and they all contribute to completing projects and other work related tasks.

So, now it’s time to take out a pen and a piece of paper and jot down your skills. After you have written your skills on a piece of paper, take a long, hard look at them. Now rate them. Use 1 for “low level,” use 2 for “moderate level” and use 3 for “high level.” Once you have done this, choosing the best jobs for your skills will be easy.

Below are just a few examples of best jobs for people with a high level of communication skills, equipment use/maintenance skills, computer programming skills, management skills, science skills, and social skills. These positions are listed as the top ten best jobs for your skills out of 50 by JIST Works, America’s Career Publisher. Please note that these careers require a “high level” of the listed skill and each list offers a wide variety of positions for all different education levels and personality types.

Communication Skills

  • - Teachers (Postsecondary)
  • - Surgeons
  • - Dental Hygienists
  • - Medical Scientists
  • - Personal Financial Advisors
  • - Physical Therapists
  • - Physician Assistants
  • - Pharmacists
  • - Social and Community Service Managers
  • - Market Research Analysts

Equipment Use/Maintenance Skills

  • - Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
  • - Anesthesiologists
  • - Management Analysts
  • - Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  • - Computer Support Specialists
  • - Pipe Fitters and Steamfitters
  • - Plumbers
  • - Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
  • -Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
  • -Forest Fire Fighters

Computer Programming Skills

  • - Computer Software Engineers (Applications)
  • - Computer Software Engineers (Systems Software)
  • - Computer Systems Analysts
  • - Computer and Systems Information Managers
  • - Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
  • - Computer Security Specialists
  • - Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  • - Financial Analysts
  • - Accountants
  • - Actuaries

Management Skills

  • - Computer and Systems Information Managers
  • - General and Operations Managers
  • - Computer Security Specialists
  • - Medical and Health Service Manager
  • - Sales Managers
  • - Management Analysts
  • - Marketing Managers
  • - Accountants
  • - Auditor
  • - Medical Scientists

 Science Skills

  • - Anesthesiologists
  • - Internists (General)
  • - Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • - Psychiatrists
  • - Surgeons
  • - Family and General Practitioners
  • - Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software
  • - Pediatricians (General)
  • - Pharmacists
  • - Teachers (Postsecondary)

Social Skills

  • - Internists (General)
  • - Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • - Psychiatrists
  • - Registered Nurses
  • - Family and General Practitioners
  • - Pediatricians (General)
  • - General and Operations Managers
  • - Dental Hygienists
  • - Auditors
  • - Medical and Health Service Managers

For a complete list of jobs, profiles, salaries, expected job growth and more, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Bls.gov.

Employer Tuition Assistance Programs

Did you know that many employers offer Employee Educational Assistance Packages to employees interested in pursuing an associate or undergraduate degree, graduate degree or certificate? Currently, around 33 percent of employees that attend college through Employee Educational Assistance Packages (EAPs) earn an associate degree, 23 percent earn a bachelor’s degree, 22 percent pursue master’s degrees, and 15 percent pursue professional certificates. EAPs offer tuition reimbursement and reimbursement for books and program associated fees.

Employee Education Assistance Packages are common at large firms, although some smaller firms may be receptive to the idea. More on this later. Larger companies in the insurance industry, public utilities, financial, hospital care and education will almost always offer EAPs to employees. And contrary to popular belief, many plants and retailers do offer tuition packages to employees under certain circumstances. A good example is Ford Motor Company. Back in 2004, when Ford’s Edison, New Jersey and Avon Lake, Ohio plants closed leaving 1,500 workers without jobs, workers became eligible to receive up to $15,000 a year toward tuition as long as they were enrolled as full-time students.

There are two types of EAPs: job related EAPs and self-improvement EAPs. Job-related EAPs offer the most benefits for employers. They are tax deductible for employers and the training the employee receives will increase the employee’s worth (i.e. performance and productivity). Job related EAPs are also tax-free for employees. Self-improvement EAPs may or may not be tax deductible, so it’s best to consult the most current tax regulations before applying for EAP funds.

To apply for EAP funds, employees must complete the application through the Human Resources (HR) department. Depending on the company, the HR department may evaluate the application based on the institution, the program, the employees work history, salary and whether or not the course of study fits within the objectives of the company. Again, this depends on the company. Some companies may offer assistance for just about any program as long as the employee maintains a B average or better.

Approximately half of all companies that offer EAPs pay 100 percent of tuition costs. Twenty percent pay between 50 and 90 percent of tuition costs and 30 percent pay below the 50 percent mark. While most employers offer tuition reimbursement through EAPs, other plans may pay for tuition up front, but with one caveat. If the employee drops out or does not pass with a B average or better, the employee will have to reimburse the employer in full. If the employee quits his job before paying the employer back, the employer has the right to collect through the appropriate legal channels. Remember, all employees that receive money from EAPs will have to sign an agreement stating that they agree to pay the employer back if the employee fails, drops out or quits his job.

Not every employer has a formal employee education assistance program in place, but they might be open to the idea on a case-by-case basis or as a group. If the employee or group can prove that higher education will result in returns for the company, the employer may be willing to make an offer. It’s best to schedule a meeting with the boss to present your case.

Overall, EAPs are well worth the effort. They offer an excellent way for employees to finance their education. Remember, billions of dollars are readily available through employers to cover the costs of tuition. No other financial aid avenue offers a salary plus free money for higher education.

The list below represents only a fraction of the companies that currently offer Employee Educational Assistance Packages.

  • -American Fidelity Insurance
  • -AT&T
  • -Chicago Mercantile Exchange
  • -Cigna
  • -Ernst & Young
  • -Farmer’s Insurance
  • -General Mills
  • -Google
  • -Hilton Hotels
  • -Johnson & Johnson
  • -Kaiser Permanente
  • -Lockheed Martin
  • -Microsoft
  • -Nike
  • -Philip Morris
  • -Starbucks
  • -U.S. Bank
  • -Wal-Mart
  • -Wells Fargo
  • -Xerox

*Google image provided by Shutterstock.com.

Travel Nurse Salary and Benefits

Travel nursing is one of the fastest growing sectors in nursing today. Although travel nursing has become more popular in recent years thanks to wireless technology and Internet technology, this profession is not as new as one might think. Travel nursing can be traced back to 1978, where it all started in New Orleans. During Mardi Gras, the population in New Orleans nearly doubles in size, creating a demand for additional police officers, service workers, healthcare professionals, and many others.

In 1978, the hospitals in New Orleans were short-staffed during Mardi Gras, so one hospital hired a contract nurse to help out. According to Healthcare Traveler Magazine, this set a precedent. In the 1980s, a nationwide nurse shortage occurred. In response, hospitals hired contract nurses or “travel nurses” to care help care for patients. This trend continued after the most severe shortages ended, based on the convenience and cost-effectiveness of hiring skilled nurses for short-term assignments.

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is still a nursing shortage in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts a 500,000 nursing shortage by 2025, with more than one million needed by 2016. This is excellent news for aspiring nurses, but bad news for the industry overall. A nursing shortage means nurses that are already working are overworked, and hospitals are understaffed. As a result, more hospitals recruit and hire travel nurses. This creates a high demand for travel nurse agencies. In fact, there are more than 300 travel nurse agencies across the U.S. and this number continues to grow. Hospitals and placement agencies are willing to pay top dollar for skilled nurses willing to travel to hospitals and other medical facilities across the country.

It is estimated that, on average, travel nurses earn roughly 15 percent more than home-based nurses, excluding benefits and perks. Travel nurses earn an average of $83,200 per year. Median annual wages of home-based registered nurses is around $62,450 per year. It is important to note that most travel nurse agencies offer a number of bonuses such as signing bonuses, referral bonuses, and even a bonus upon completion of an assignment. Most home-based nurses do not receive bonuses.

Although travel nurses make more than home-based nurses, they still receive the same benefits as home-based nurses (i.e. health insurance, savings, retirement), but with several extras. Hospitals and nurse travel agencies are willing to pay relocation costs (no matter how many times you must relocates), they offer travel allowances, and you will never have to pay for an apartment or other accommodations. This means, travel nurses get to keep more of the money they earn as well.

The typical hospital nurse works a full-time schedule either days, nights or weekends. In facilities such as nursing care facilities where patients typically require 24-hour care, travel nurses may end up working the night shift. In some cases, overtime may be required. The amount of overtime pay travel nurses receive will depend on the position, facility, and if applicable, the agency. for example, a nurse that earns $42/hr. on assignment may receive $63/hr. for every hour worked above and beyond the regular 40-hour work schedule. Other positions list a n hourly wage of $40 and $60/hr. for overtime. Home-based nurses are eligible for overtime as well. The amount varies by facility.

Hourly wages are not the only financial benefit to working as a travel nurse. According to San Diego-based Travelnursing.com, “many travel nurse companies will allow their travelers to participate in their 401(k) plans.” Some agencies allow travelers to begin contributing on the first day of the first assignment, with the possibility to contribute up to $15,500, tax-free. Mature travel nurses, age 50 and up, may have the opportunity to contribute up to $20,500. Before you accept an assignment, simply inquire within about the agencies 401K plan. The same applies if you sign with a facility.

If you are considering accepting a travel nurse position and you would like to compare salaries and benefits of home-based vs. travel nurses, visit the U.S. Department of Labor at www.bls.gov.

Women More Satisfied with College Experience, Survey Says

According to a TIME report, women have surpassed men “in terms of college enrollment and competition,” but according to a new Pew Center Research survey, they are also “more likely than men to say college is a valuable experience.”

The survey results, released August 17, show that when asked to rate the job the U.S. higher education system is doing in terms of providing value for the money spent by students and their families, 50% of women who graduated from college say the experience was money well spent, while only 37% of men feel the same.

In addition to the divergent opinions over the value of college, the survey found more women than men reported feeling positively about their personal growth while enrolled. Seventy-three percent of women said college helped them grow and mature as a person, while 64% of men said the same.

The nationwide study also uncovered opinions about college affordability and intellectual growth.

Eighty-one percent of college-educated women say college was “very useful” in increasing their knowledge and helping them grow intellectually compared to 67% of men. One of the only areas where men topped women was in terms of college affordability: 14% of women agreed with the statement that most people can afford college today, compared with 26% of men.

The study surveyed 2,142 adults ages 18 and older between March 15 and March 29 of 2011. A year earlier, Pew also reported that a record 36% of women ages 25 to 29 had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 28% of men in the same age group.

Is the Master’s the New Bachelor’s?

Some may argue that getting a college degree isn’t worth it, but unfortunately for them, the statistics don’t lie. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over an adults working life, bachelor’s degree holders can expect to earn an average of $2.1 million; master’s degree holders can expect to earn an average $2.5 million; doctorate degree holders can expect to average $3.4 million, and professional degree holders average around $4.4 million. So, what can the average high school graduate expect to make during his working life? $1.2 million–if they’re lucky. The bottom line is, for the majority of professional jobs, a high school diploma just won’t cut it, and according to a recent NYT article, in many cases, a bachelor’s degree might not be enough either.

More employer’s than ever before now expect more education for positions that, years ago, may have required a bachelor’s degree only. As a result, the master’s degree is now the fastest growing degree in the U.S.

The number of [graduate degrees] awarded, about 657,000 in 2009, has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years, says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.

“Several years ago it became very clear to us that master’s education was moving very rapidly to become the entry degree in many professions,” Dr. Stewart says.

Colleges are turning out more graduates than the market can bear, and a master’s is essential for job seekers to stand out — that, or a diploma from an elite undergraduate college, says Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

So, what does this mean for today’s high school graduates? It’s going to take careful thought and solid research to make the best decision for your future! First, choose your career field carefully, meaning think about what you’re good at, realistically, and where the career field is headed. Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics to review projections, salaries, and requirements. Next, talk with a career counselor to find out what type of degree and experience are required for the career field you have chosen to supplement or reinforce what you have learned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, contact several companies you might be interested in working for and inquire about their specific requirements. This should help you make an informed decision about which direction you should take.

Top Reasons Workers Want Out, Even in a Bad Economy

During a time when people are fighting hard to keep their jobs, you’d have to be crazy to actually quit yours, right? Wrong! There are still some people out there that would rather dip into their life savings, or worse—move back home, than continue working at a job that makes them miserable. Why? Because the way they see it, the long-term consequences of staying will probably be worse than spending the next 6-12 months searching for a better position.

So, what are the top reasons work has become so unbearable for some? According to a recent Forbes.com article, the most common reasons people are miserable at work are balance, money, skills, respect, meaning, and struggle.

  • Balance: It’s impossible to balance work and outside/family life
  • Money: The money isn’t enough to sustain them or their families
  • Skills: The skills and talents required for their work aren’t are a good fit
  • Respect: They feel chronically undervalued or mistreated
  • Meaning: They experience little positive meaning or purpose in their work
  • Struggle: It’s simply too hard to keep going with it

Before setting out to make a change, the article suggest that you do three things:

Dedicate yourself to what you want— A fulfilling, satisfying life is not going to just fall in your lap. You have to claim it, and commit to getting it with concentrated, continual effort. You have to work it.

Refine your focus— Do you know exactly which talents and skills are easy and natural for you to use, that give your work a sense of purpose?  Do you know what type of work would represent an ideal fit? Are you in touch with your core values, standards of integrity and life goals?

Find the courage to make change—if you don’t take concrete action that is different in content and process from what you’ve done before, your life and career will not change.

For more information about jobs and career visit Forbes Careers at http://www.forbes.com/careers/.

Stagnant incomes struggle to keep up with rising tuition

 

Incomes are barely budging, while college costs keep rising. The median income has remained steady at around $33,000 since 1988, yet college tuition and fees have more than doubled since 1988. What’s worse is, college tuition and fees do not include room and board. According to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of financial aid sites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com, as out-of-pocket costs of college education go up faster than incomes, it’s pricing low and medium income families out of a college education. Let’s look at the figures, provided by CNN Money:

Tuition: In 1988, the average tuition and fees for a four-year public university rang in at about $2,800, adjusted for inflation. By 2008, that number had climbed about 130% to roughly $6,500 a year — and that doesn’t include books or room and board.

Income: If incomes had kept up with surging college costs, the typical American would be earning $77,000 a year. But in reality, it’s nowhere near that.

In 2008 — the latest data available — the median income was $33,000. That means if you adjust for inflation, Americans in the middle actually earned $400 less than they did in 1988.

So, what can low to middle class families do to get past this obstacle? There are several popular and not-so-popular ways to cover college tuition costs without going broke. Let’s start with the popular ways. If the student does extremely well in high school, he or she may qualify for a number of scholarships that can help pay a portion of tuition. Some scholarships are also very specific, meaning, high school students with talents in certain areas such as technology, science, or even art may qualify for any number of scholarships.

If the student is into sports, many colleges will pay all or part of the student’s tuition for playing on the football team, basketball, track, or even the swimming team. There are also a number of scholarships and grants for minority students and women. To find thousands of scholarships, grants, and awards of all kinds, pick up a copy of the latest edition of The Scholarship Book: The Complete Guide to Private-Sector Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Loans for the Undergraduate.

Now for a few not-so-popular ways to handle tuition costs. Many parents would prefer it if their college bound kids didn’t have to work. But the reality is this, many college students do have to work to help pay for college and some even work full-time. This can help lighten the load on the parents and teach the student a thing or two about managing money and what it takes to earn a living in America. This can be an invaluable experience for students when the time comes to enter the working world.

Another not-so-popular way to save money on college is to live at home and spend the first 1-2 years at a local community college. First and second year courses such as history, English, math, science, and others may be taken at a community college, as most are transferable to a 4-year college. The best news is, most community colleges charge 50 to 75 percent less per credit hour than 4-year colleges. And finally, it’s possible to finish college in three years, but it will take some hard work and you will have to sacrifice summers, and possibly an active social life. In the end though, you will have one less year of tuition payments to worry about. For more ways to save on college tuition, visit FoxBusiness.com.

Is the Economy Making Workers Healthier?

Could the economy really be making workers healthier? According to a CareerBuilder survey, you bet it is!  The survey says:

47 percent of workers report they have been packing a lunch more often to eat healthier or help save money. When it comes to smoking habits, 44 percent of workers who smoke said they are more likely to quit smoking given today’s economic conditions. In addition, one-in-five said that they have decreased the number of times they smoke during the workday (21 percent) or actually quit altogether (20 percent).

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, states that “Economic stress over the last year has caused some workers to reflect on their habits, and many of them have turned to healthier routines. In addition to helping cut personal costs, employees who limit their smoking and lunching out habits are taking better care of their overall health. This type of ‘better-for-you’ behavior can be encouraged by companies who implement wellness programs, healthy living challenges or smoking cessation support.”

The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.com among 4,498 U.S. workers, age 18 and over, employed full-time—not self-employed, and non-government.

New Government Rules Give Students Break on Loan Payments

Millions of college students around the world graduated this year and they have more on their minds than finding a job. Most college students graduated with a mountain of debt and no means to pay it. Even if these graduates find a job right out of college, depending on the amount of debt, payments can range anywhere from $100 a month to more than $1,000 a month.

According to a recent news article, one student loan servicing center suggested that a recent graduate, working in an entry-level position for a Web company, pay $900 a month towards his $82,000 federal student loan balance. Of course, this is nearly impossible to manage on an entry-level salary – or even a mid-level salary for that matter, so what can borrowers do to delay or minimize payments? According to author and personal finance columnist Gail MarksJarvis, if you have federal loans, you can make use of new government rules that give people a break on student loan payments they cannot afford.

If you owe more on your loans than you earn annually, you are likely a candidate for some relief. Under the relatively new “income-based repayment plan,” you get relief if the regular payments you would have to make over 10 years will exceed about 15 percent of your discretionary income. That’s calculated based on a formula related to the U.S. poverty line. Besides income, the calculation involves the size of your family. Simply put, most borrowers will pay less than 10 percent of their adjusted gross income.

To find out if you qualify for the income-based repayment plan and to calculate your payment, visit the official Federal Student Aid website at: http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/IBRPlan.jsp.

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