Would an MBA Help You Come Out on Top in a Recession?

During the Great Recession, a record number of graduate management programs reported an increase in applications, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, an association of graduate business schools.

And now, many economists say the writing is on the wall for another U.S. recession. Those considering a Master of Business Administration degree and its higher earning potential as a hedge against today’s economic uncertainty may be on to something.

Inflation is still putting a strain on the economy. More than 94,000 U.S. tech workers have been laid off so far this year, on top of the more than 140,000 tech workers who lost jobs last year, according to Crunchbase News, a business publication.

To sweeten the deal, top business schools like Kellogg School of Management and Tuck School of Business are waiving GMAT and GRE exams for recently laid-off workers — increasing the incentive to go back to school.

But a looming recession doesn’t make an MBA a no-brainer.

If you’re wondering whether now is the time to head to business school, here are a few things to consider.

Employers are still interested in MBAs

The 2022 Corporate Recruiter survey from GMAC found 97% of recruiters expect demand for MBA hires to remain the same or increase at their organizations.

This reinforces what has been a generally positive trend over the last 15 years, says Maite Salazar, chief marketing officer of GMAC.

Even with the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, hiring trends for MBAs remained stable from 2020 to 2022. Employers leaned into MBA hires for their leadership and problem-solving skills and their ability to scale up and expand globally, Salazar says.

The cost of an MBA is still a deterrent

Roughly 60% of global prospective MBA students say cost could moderately impact their decision to attend graduate business school or prevent them from going altogether, based on a 2021 GMAC survey.

In the U.S., the average cost of an MBA is $225,605, according to a 2022 report from BusinessBecause, a graduate management education website. This is a 3.7% increase from 2021, and the cost of tuition and fees has been trending upward globally.

Though scholarships, fellowships and grants are the best way to pay for an MBA, they likely won’t cover the full cost. MBA student loans can cover any gap in expenses, but the more you borrow, the more interest payments will eat into the return on investment of your MBA degree.

On average, MBA graduates say it’s worth it

Over 85% of graduates believe their investment in a graduate management degree was worth it, according to a 2022 GMAC survey of 3,600 MBA candidates at more than 700 business schools around the globe. Respondents completed their graduate business education between 2010 and 2021. Increased employability, greater earning power and a broader professional network were the biggest returns on investment for survey respondents.

Nearly two-thirds of graduate students advanced one job level after obtaining an MBA. Those who were in more junior roles pre-MBA saw even larger jumps in their careers, the survey found.

And 2022 GMAC data still shows that U.S. MBA starting salaries are $40,000 higher than starting salaries for those with a bachelor’s degree alone — even though salary growth has remained flat over the past three years.

However, MBA outcomes can differ based on race, gender and other factors. For example, the GMAC study shows Black, Hispanic and Native American graduates were less likely to report career advancement than graduates who are white, Asian or of other race/ethnicity.

An MBA is not the only path to economic success

If your goal is to sharpen your business skills, there are alternatives to an MBA, such as business graduate certifications, professional certifications and mini-MBAs.

Business graduate certifications are credit-based programs offered by colleges or universities. They tend to focus on a specialized field and require fewer courses, so they can be a smaller time and financial investment than an MBA.

Professional certifications are offered by companies or national organizations and are typically sought out by those looking to be certified in a specific skill, role or software program. Some certifications can include a number of courses, while others involve passing an exam. Costs will vary by program.

A mini-MBA can come in many forms. Universities may offer a mini-MBA program that functions similarly to a business certificate program — you can earn credits that count toward an MBA degree in the future. Other organizations — like Abilitie, a leadership development company that offers a formal 12-week mini-MBA — have non-accredited programs focused on sharpening specific business skills.

A mini-MBA program can make MBA-level skills accessible to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity, says Luke Owings, vice president of product at Abilitie.

Mini-MBAs and other business certifications are not the same as an MBA degree. How employers value these programs can vary by company.

Trea Branch writes for NerdWallet.

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5 Things to Consider When Picking a College in the COVID-19 Era

Colleges have faced innumerable challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the way they’ve responded to those issues should influence how prospective students evaluate them.

Online learning, strict campus rules and lingering economic concerns have left many students wondering if their college investment will be worthwhile. As a result, fall 2020 enrollment declined by 2.5% — or by more than 400,000 students — according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Hafeez Lakhani, founder of college admissions counseling firm Lakhani Coaching, acknowledges the changing college landscape but still advises students to prioritize college. “Education is about playing the long game,” he says, pointing to data showing college graduates earn nearly twice as much over their lifetimes compared with high school graduates.

As you finalize your college selection, consider these questions to gauge which school is best for you in the era of COVID-19.

1. Can you visit campus?

Don’t count out a school just because you can’t physically visit campus.

“Sure, you don’t get to step foot on campus, but you have more opportunities to connect with the school than you had before,” says Sydney Matthes, counselor at college admissions consulting firm Collegewise. She says students can participate in virtual campus tours and virtual class audits.

For example, Hampton University’s campus in Virginia remains closed through at least this spring but is conducting tours and information sessions virtually. Admissions officials say the virtual tours allow prospective students to get a sense of the campus in anticipation of its reopening.

If a school isn’t offering virtual tours, Matthes advises students to contact the admissions office directly and ask to meet via video chat with a professor or current student. “It’s easier to sign up for a virtual tour, but shows interest to write an email,” she says. “Creating relationships is important.”

2. What are the COVID-19 rules?

Having a sense of how a college handled the pandemic’s initial outbreak, the rules it set and its response to students breaking campus COVID-19 rules will give you an idea of what school life will look like.

Brett Joshpe, a lawyer who represented students dismissed from Northeastern University over COVID-19 rule violations, says he got calls from parents all over the country who were concerned about the pandemic rules and their enforcement.

“A lot of parents and [students] in general are rethinking what they’re paying for and where they are going [to college],” Joshpe says.

Make sure you can commit to rules set by a college before deciding to attend.

3. What is your — and the college’s — financial situation?

Many colleges and students are seeing their finances change as the pandemic drags on.

For colleges, Lakhani attributes some of the financial decline to decreased international student enrollment. He says there have been fewer international students coming to the United States over the last several years, and the pandemic only exacerbated the situation.

“International students typically pay full tuition,” Lakhani says. “When you take the flow of international students out, universities have to make up that tuition elsewhere.”

He fears that the cost difference could be passed down to other students, that programs or amenities could be affected and that smaller private schools may have to close.

For students, the pandemic-induced economic downturn means you may have less money available to cover college expenses. According to a June 2020 survey by college study guide website OneClass, about 50% of the 9,000 students surveyed say the coronavirus pandemic has decreased their ability to pay tuition.

But even with a shifting financial landscape, you can still attend college:

  • Select a college you can afford that has a strong financial standing.
  • Take advantage of scholarships, grants and other free money through the FAFSA before borrowing.
  • If your financial situation has changed from what’s represented on your FAFSA, contact prospective schools and request a professional judgment to amend your aid offer.

4. What are the online options?

There is no guarantee that colleges will be back in person by fall 2021. And if they start off in person, they could have to quickly pivot back online.

So even though you may be considering a school based on its in-person classes, campus and activities, also evaluate its online structure. To do this, ask to test drive the school’s online learning platform and attend a virtual lecture. You can also get the perspective of a student who started off in person, but had to switch to online.

And ask if your school keeps records of how many professors are trained or certified in online learning. The ability to teach great classes in person doesn’t always mean the ability to teach great classes online.

5. What support services does the college offer?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health issues for college-aged students. According to a June 2020 survey by the research institute Center for Promise, one-third of the 3,300 teenagers surveyed say they have been feeling more depressed or unhappy during the pandemic.

A September 2020 study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows 71% of 195 college students surveyed expressed feelings of depression and anxiety. The study concluded there is an “urgent need to develop interventions and preventive strategies to address the mental health of college students.”

Some colleges are responding to this need. Appalachian State University in North Carolina, for example, began offering virtual one-on-one and group counseling for remote and on-campus students. It also hosts a student-led mental health ambassador group that offers peer mentorship.

If you have been struggling emotionally during the pandemic, prioritize a college that has strong support services. Matthes says she advised students to consider support services before the pandemic and that they are even more important now. “The uncertainty can be a little scary, but this, hopefully, isn’t forever,” she says.

Cecilia Clark writes for NerdWallet. Email: cclark@nerdwallet.com.

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What to Do When Your First Student Loan Payment Is Due

The first student loan bills are arriving for the Class of 2019. If the grads are able to stick to the standard plan, they’ll make payments every month for the next 10 years and be done with it.

But not all borrowers will knock out their loans so quickly. Among federal loan borrowers who began taking on debt in 2003-2004, just 1 in 4 had paid off their debt by 2015, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. As for the students with debt remaining, about 39% were still in repayment.

This year’s recent graduates can improve their odds by setting a plan now to pay back the debt and stay on track moving forward, no matter what obstacles pop up.

“A plan will alleviate the stress you feel when you’re unsure about what life looks like after college, and you have this debt to pay,” says Tracie Miller-Nobles, an associate professor at Austin Community College and a member of the American Institute of CPAs’ Consumer Financial Education Advocates.

Here’s how to create a strategy.

Get details on all loans

Don’t wait to find out how much money you owe. There’s a chance your bill won’t arrive before your first due date, student loans experts say.

“Just because you don’t get a bill doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money,” says Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors.

For federal loans, go to the student aid website or the National Student Loan Data System. To find private debt, visit annualcreditreport.com for a credit report, which lists private loan debt and the lender.

Once you know who holds the loans, call it to check or update your contact information. You can also create an online account to track payments.

Find the right repayment plan

Your repayment goal should be to pay the least amount over time, Mayotte says. That’s because the longer you pay off the loan, more interest will accumulate. For most borrowers, the standard 10-year repayment plan is the cheapest option.

For others, that may mean pursuing a loan forgiveness program, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives federal loan debt after making 120 payments on an income-driven plan while working full-time for the government or a qualifying nonprofit.

High earners may pay off loans faster by asking their servicer to apply additional payments to their loan balance.

It’s borrowers who face modest incomes or job uncertainty who have some thinking to do.

“There are a lot of options, and borrowers tend to get confused or distracted because there are so many options that aren’t that drastically different,” says Abril Hunt, outreach manager for ECMC, a nonprofit organization focused on student success.

Hunt recommends that borrowers who can’t make payments on the standard plan try Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE. It’s the income-driven repayment plan that all graduates with federal loan borrowers can enroll in.

An income-driven repayment plan, like REPAYE, sets payments at a portion of your income, which can help fit them into your budget. You’ll need to recertify your income each year. If you lose your job or don’t have one yet, your payments could be as little as $0.

If you’re not sure which plan to choose, use the Department of Education’s repayment estimator to find out your payment on each plan.

Automate repayments

Once you’ve selected a plan, make sure you never miss a payment. Enroll in autopay, but be sure to have enough money in your bank account to cover those direct payments.

Autopay can save you money, too: All federal student loan servicers and most private lenders will reduce your interest rate by 0.25 percentage points when you enroll.

Have a plan if you run into trouble

If the worst happens — a costly medical emergency or job loss, for example — contact your servicer or lender as soon as possible. They can help you work out a short-term reduced payment plan, sign up for income-driven repayment or apply for a temporary postponement.

Pausing payments for a short period can give you breathing room. But interest may continue to grow, so try to pay the interest during this time to avoid higher debt.

Reevaluate every year

Your knee-jerk move might be to pick a plan with the lowest payment possible, Mayotte says.

“That might be the right thing to do for your first loan payments, but as your income grows and your living situation changes you don’t want to leave it on autopilot,” she says.

Set an annual reminder to reassess your repayment strategy. That could be tax time or when you recertify your income for an income-driven plan.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

The article What to Do When Your First Student Loan Payment Is Due originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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4 Places to Find Last-Minute Scholarships

Only a few weeks — or maybe even days — remain until college campuses reopen, but there may still be time to get a scholarship and reduce the amount of student loans you have to borrow.

Here are four resources to find a scholarship to help pay for college before classes begin.

1. Your college’s financial aid department


Your school’s financial aid office may know about remaining opportunities.

Contact your school’s financial aid department to find out if any institutional scholarships are left. There may be money left behind from a student who decided not to attend. Or a financial aid department may have inside information on available award opportunities.

At the University of San Francisco, Christopher Simpson, associate director of the school’s financial aid and veteran student services, recently heard from an administrator at the East Bay College Fund. The nonprofit couldn’t find a recipient that fit its scholarship’s profile: a student from Southern California attending a school in Northern California and not living on campus.

“By chance, I had a student who I could pass along the resource to,” says Simpson.

2. Your employer or your parents’ employer


Your parents’ employers may sponsor scholarships.

Ask your parents if their employers have scholarships available. One in 10 companies has employer-sponsored scholarship programs for members of their employees’ families, according to the 2018 Survey of Benefits by the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association.

If you’re working yourself, even part-time, find out if there is a scholarship program for employees.

3. Scholarship search engines and contests


Scholarship search engines and social channels may show late-deadline options.

Find late-deadline scholarships using search engines like the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop scholarship finder, College Board Big Future scholarship search tool, Scholarships.com, FastWeb, FinAid and Peterson’s.You can filter by due date or find ones that accept applications year-round. You may also search for scholarships on social channels, using hashtags.

Monthly scholarship contests may pop up on search engines, too. They’re simple to enter and often don’t require an essay. Typically, awards are around $1,000.

Never enter a contest or apply for a scholarship online if you’re required to submit money or private information, like your Social Security number; that may signal a scam.

4. Local organizations


Try local organizations connected to a charity or career that interests you.

Find organizations in your hometown that award scholarships. These tend to be less competitive than national awards because recipients usually must be local. Start by inquiring with your high school’s guidance office or college career center to find community-based scholarships that have gone unclaimed.

“Local organizations often won’t have a recipient, so they’ll extend their deadline and they don’t always advertise that,” says Jennifer Horner, director of financial aid at Eastern Connecticut State University in Windham, Connecticut.

Reach out to community organizations, foundations and charities in your hometown or state to find out if they have scholarships still available. On scholarship search engines, you can usually filter awards by geographic location to find nearby awards.

You can also look for career- or major-related scholarships through professional associations and national student organizations. These may be tougher to get at the eleventh hour, but are still worth a shot.

Get your ducks in a row

To make the late-scholarship-application process easier, polish your resume and have a basic essay template on hand. The template should include information about yourself, why you’re attending school and why you need the money.

“If you can have those things on hand, in your mind or written down somewhere, then in most cases you’ve got most of your essay done and you’re just tying it back to the objective of that particular organization,” says Simpson.

What to do when you get a scholarship

last-minute-scholarships-6Once you get a scholarship, alert your financial aid office, and ask about returning loan money you no longer need to borrow.

Once you receive a scholarship award, contact your school’s financial aid office. Scholarship money is factored into your entire aid package. If you receive more gift aid than your determined financial need, it can impact need-based aid you receive and may even reduce institutional scholarships you’ve already been awarded.

If you have student loans, a scholarship can help you lower how much you need to borrow. Ask your financial aid office about returning loan money that could now be covered by your scholarship.

Make a scholarship plan for next year

Plan ahead to apply for scholarships to pay for the spring semester or the next academic year. Apply for renewable and large-dollar scholarships to reap the biggest benefits. Track upcoming deadlines so you won’t have to scramble for last-minute awards next year.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

The article 4 Places to Find Last-Minute Scholarships originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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College Resources for Students with Disabilities: Best Colleges, Gov’t Programs, Scholarships & Helpful Apps

People with disabilities are a diverse and vibrant community, making up nearly one-fifthof the US population. Yet, they face unique struggles when it comes to accessing postsecondary education.

People with disabilities of all kinds tend to attend and graduate college at far lower rates than people who do not have disabilities. According to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 16.4 percent of people with disabilities over the age of 25 had completed a bachelor’s degree compared with 34.6 percent of their non-disabled peers.

And, of those who had completed a bachelor’s degree, only 26.1 percent were employed compared with 75.9 percent of their non-disabled peers. One distressing result of this trend is that 48 percent of people with disabilities are living on an income of $15,000 per year or less.

One of the reasons for this disparity is a lack of affordable, adequate resources that folks with disabilities need to succeed after high school. When you add the hefty price tags of medical care and assistive technologies to the soaring costs of college tuition, the financial burden of attending college as a person with disabilities can seem nearly insurmountable.

In this guide, we’re going to point you towards some useful resources for people with disabilities, including physical, intellectual, and learning disabilities, to help you get access to a great college education and save some money along the way. Here’s what you’ll get in this guide:

  • 5 of our best tips for accessing college education as a person with disabilities.
  • A list of government resources for your education
  • Tips on scholarships, top schools for people with disabilities, discounts on assistive technology, and more!

Tips for folks with disabilities pursuing a college education

Know your rights

The disability rights movement has made tremendous strides over the last several decades to ensure fair and just treatment for folks with disabilities. Check out the Americans with Disabilities Act website so you’re prepared in the event that your rights are being violated.

Use on-campus disability resources

Find the office for students with disabilities on your campus or at schools you’re interested in. Most colleges and universities have an office for students with disabilities that connects folks with the resources that are available on campus. Schedule an appointment with them to review your options.

Shop around for schools

We’ve got a few useful lists a little later on in this article, but it’s crucial to do your research. Some schools are more committed to the success of their students with disabilities, so it’s important that you look out for which schools have the highest success rates for people with disabilities. A few schools are even completely dedicated to educating students with disabilities!

Find an advocate

Sometimes speaking up for your own needs can be challenging, especially when you’re already facing the stresses of college life. Find a point person on campus or even a friend who can help you advocate for yourself so you can get your needs attended to.

Check out advocacy organizations associated with your specific disability

Many of these organizations can offer you more specific information about your rights, link you with resources that you need, and some even offer scholarships and grants to help you with the costs of schooling. This guide deals with disability broadly, so it would definitely be useful to check these organizations out for more tailored information.

Government resources for college students with disabilities

There are a number of resources and benefits funded by the federal government as well as state and local governments that can help you transition to a postsecondary education and succeed when you get there.

In addition, anti-discrimination laws are on the books to ensure that your campus is accessible and that you have the resources you need to perform at your best. These are the government resources are here to assist you.

Medical tax deduction

Under IRS publication 502, students with disabilities who require special education may be able to deduct the cost of college tuition, meals, and lodging if they attend a school that is specifically equipped to assist students with learning disabilities.

In order to qualify for the deduction, a doctor must recommend that the student attends a school that offers particular services for students with learning disabilities and the primary objective of their education should be helping them to overcome their learning disabilities.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which was passed in 2004, mainly pertains to students up to age 21 who are pursuing elementary and secondary school education. However, it does require that services are provided which can help students with disabilities transition to life after high school, including transitioning to postsecondary education.

The act requires that these transition services are offered before the student turns 16 and that schools offer individualized programs tailored to each student’s specific needs.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education Pamphlet

This document was developed by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The pamphlet is intended to inform students with disabilities of their rights and responsibilities when pursuing postsecondary education and offers useful information on how to address cases of discrimination, how to request academic adjustments, and what your rights are as a student with disabilities.

Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID)

In 2015, the US Department of Education offered grants to 25 institutions to help them create or expand model programs at colleges and universities that offer services to help students with intellectual disabilities transition to a college education or receive credits for postsecondary education.

Many of these programs are offered at reduced rates, provide individual support for students, and offer meaningful credentials for students upon finishing the program. You can find a list of colleges and universities that offer these programs here.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504

Under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, any college or university that receives federal financial assistance, which is all public and most private institutions, may not discriminate against students with disabilities. They must require reasonable accommodations so that students with disabilities can have access to the same services, extracurricular activities, housing, and more that their non-disabled peers enjoy.

Schools must also provide quality auxiliary aids such as notetakers, interpreters, assisted listening devices, captioning, specialized gym equipment, and other tools to assist students with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Act of 1998

This act grants federal assistance to states to help them implement programs that provide assistive technology to people with disabilities. The main purpose of these programs is to offer several key services including state financing programs for devices, device loan programs, device demonstrations, and device reutilization programs where folks can access used devices at a low cost.

These programs are intended to help people with disabilities figure out what devices work best for them and to assist in finding ways to access them at low or discounted rates.

National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD)

The National Center for College Students with Disabilities is the only federally-funded organization dedicated to providing information and resources to college students with disabilities. They are currently in the midst of filling the gap in research about the experiences of college students with disabilities.

Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring (DREAM)

Funded by the NCCSD, the Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring(DREAM) national student activist group is an online disability cultural center that connects students with disabilities and empowers them to create change on their own campuses by forming DREAM chapters.

One of their main projects is #DREAMMentorMondays, a monthly free webinar series that touches on topics relevant to undergrad and graduate students with disabilities. Check out their College While Disabled blog for more information and inspiration.

Disability Discharge

Graduates who become totally and permanently disabled after receiving an undergraduate education may be eligible for debt forgiveness of federal student loans and/or TEACH grant service obligations. For more information, check out this FAQfrom Nelnet.

Colleges specifically for students with learning disabilities

These two accredited colleges are the only schools in the country that exclusively enroll people with learning disabilities. Both schools offer unique services and access to crucial resources for students with disabilities which help them to graduate at higher rates than their peers who are enrolled in traditional colleges and universities.

Landmark College

Located in Vermont, Landmark College is dedicated to providing an education exclusively to students with learning disabilities. They offer resource centers to help students succeed in different areas of their education including individualized programming that can identify strengths and weaknesses. Landmark also provides the latest technologies for students to use free of charge.

Beacon College

Beacon College was the first school in the country to receive accreditation which awards degrees specifically to students with learning disabilities. Their programs have an 83.3 percent graduation rate, which is significantly higher than the 34 percentcompletion rate reported by a survey from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The college’s Center for Student Success is one of the main draws, which acts as a resource for students to get support in their coursework, access career development services, and learn important life skills.

The best colleges & universities for students with disabilities

When it comes to supporting students with disabilities, not all schools perform at the same level. Take a look at these rankings of schools that are best for students with disabilities to help decide which college or university might be the right one for you.

College scholarships for students with disabilities

These websites offer lists of scholarships that are available for people with disabilities.

Affordable Colleges Online

Affordable Colleges Online offers a listing of 85 scholarship for students with physical, intellectual, and learning disabilities as well as a number of other resources to help you afford your college education. The list is searchable by disability.

Learn How to Become

Their 50 Best Scholarships for Students with Disabilities page offers a well-organized list of scholarships available to folks with disabilities as well as advice on how to get federal funding, grants, and other forms of financial assistance to help fund your education.

Nitro College

Nitro College’s 131 Scholarship Opportunities For Students With Disabilities. By far the most comprehensive list out there, this collection of scholarships is searchable both by disability and by award amount. The list begins with a bunch of useful resources for folks with disabilities as well.

Top 10 Online Colleges

Top 10 Online Colleges’ 25 Great Scholarships for Students with Disabilities. This list offers detailed information on 25 scholarships that are available to folks with disabilities including contact information for each scholarship and details on how to apply.

Discounts on assistive technology & free or low-cost apps for disabled college students

As technology has advanced, devices and apps that can assist folks with disabilities have become much more effective and widely available. While many of these technologies are still quite expensive, there are some resources out there that are free, low-cost, or available to you at a discount to help you succeed. Check these out:

Assistive Technology Discount Sales and Services

This company offers product information and discounts on assistive technology devices and services. Check out their Discounted Products page to find discounts on assistive technology organized by specific needs.


EnableMart offers a wide variety of assistive technology devices and products for folks with different disabilities. Join their mailing list to get invitations to free webinars and special offers, and use this discount code for $5 off your first order.


All Apple products including Mac, iPhone, and iPad come standard with assistive technology applications such as Speak Screen which reads text on a screen out loud and Live Listen, which connects the device’s built-in microphone to your assisted listening device to help you hear conversation more easily.

If you’re planning to get an Apple product for school, you can check out a list of their accessibility features here.

Dragon Anywhere

Dragon Anywhere is a free dictation app that converts speech to text. In order to access all of the features, you do need to purchase a subscription, but some features come standard.


Bookshare makes over 600,000 eBooks accessible to people with various disabilities. Students with a qualifying print disability can get a free membership to Bookshare with a letter from a doctor.

Speak It!

The Speak It! app costs $1.99 and will convert text to speech. You can plug in emails, documents, web pages, PDFs, and more and have them read back to you out loud or you can type in text and it will speak it out loud so others can hear what you’re saying.


Voice4U is an app that helps folks with autism, language barriers, traumatic brain injuries, and history of stroke communicate with others through pictures. The app normally costs $59.99, but they offer free license codes to qualified organizations and individuals. Check with your college or therapist to see if they can get a license code.

Virtual Manipulatives

Virtual Manipulatives is a top-rated free app that can help you learn fractions visually.

Talking Calculator

Students with developmental delays and dyscalculia often benefit from having a calculator that reads numbers and symbols out loud to them. This free Talking Calculator app does just that!

Voice Recorder HD

The Voice Recorder HD app creates high-quality recordings that can be replayed at varying speeds which is useful for folks who have trouble with auditory processing. The app records in the background, so you can use other programs while it records. They also offer accessibility support within the app for people with disabilities.


Ginger is a software plug-in that you can use for free on any Chrome browser. It includes tons of features like word prediction, grammar checker, sentence re-phraser, text reader, dictionary, and more, although some are only available in their subscription program.

Students can get a 40% discount on Ginger’s premium plan, which costs as little as $7.49 per month when you purchase an annual membership.

Enable Viacam

Enable Viacam is a free, open source software program allows people with ALS, spinal cord injuries, or other disabilities to control their computer with intuitive head movements instead of a mouse. It works with any good webcam and has a bunch of different customizable options.

Disability justice organizations for disabled college students

There are a number of nonprofits and other organizations out there working to support, provide resources, and ensure justice for people with disabilities. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a great idea to check out organizations that advocate for folks with your specific disability.

However, these groups work for people with disabilities more broadly and are a great place to find useful information, get involved in disability activism, and receive support:

Association on Higher Education and Disability

Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is a disability advocacy organization that “envisions a postsecondary experience that embraces disability and is free from barriers.”

In addition to offering information and resources, students can purchase an annual membership for $40 which includes benefits such as a discounts on professional development events and resources, access to their Career Center and Information Services Portal, over 50 free webinars, and more. They also offer an annual scholarshipof $1,000 to two recipients.

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is an advocacy organization that works to empower people with disabilities. Their page on education is an incredibly useful resource, containing a list of scholarships, organizations to check out, information about their advocacy work, and a link to their summer internship program.

Learning Disability Association of America

Learning Disability Association of America advocates for folks with learning disabilities, helps refer people to resources in their area that can support them, and offers an annual conference to connect folks with learning disabilities and professionals who work with them.

Students can get an annual membership for $25 which gets you access to benefitsincluding their toll-free information line, discounts on conferences and events, connection to their community forum, regular briefings, and much more.


PACER is staffed predominantly by parents of folks with disabilities and offers programming and resources to help people with disabilities and their parents.

They have an entire page dedicated to Training and College Opportunities that is a wealth of information on how to get into college, how to transition smoothly into life after high school, and how to ensure that you’re receiving fair treatment in your postsecondary education.

The National Parent Center on Transition and Employment is aimed at parents specifically, but you should check out their resources including this super useful page on using the latest assistive technology in college.

Everyone deserves a fair, accessible, and affordable education. While we may not be there quite yet, these tips and resources can help you find ways to afford a postsecondary education and to succeed when you get there. The Dealspotr blog also number of other articles to help folks with disabilities to save money that you won’t want to miss, including 100+ Resources, Tips, and Discounts on Mobility and Accessibility Products for Seniors and People With Disabilities and 60+ Discounts, Health Care Resources, and Helpful Programs for People with Disabilities.

And, as always, stay up to date with Dealspotr blog for more useful information on saving money and check out the Dealspotr homepage to get discounts and promo codes on thousands of everyday items.

This article was written by Emily Helwig of dealspotr.com . Twitter: @Marketing_Qween

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Ask Brianna: Is 4-Year College Right for You?

“Ask Brianna” is a column for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

Americans want to believe that we all have the chance to explore our individual brands of limitless potential. We tell young people, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” We say they should take the time to discover who they really are and pick a career that will match.

As you might have heard, college isn’t cheap. Increasingly, only those whose families have the resources or the willingness to take on student loan debt can afford to enroll in a four-year college, explore existential questions, and hope they’ll end up with a fulfilling, well-paying career.

“So everybody’s kind of on their own, and it means the advantaged kids get to be Hamlet and the disadvantaged kids don’t,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

If you’re considering what to do after high school, or counseling someone who is, here’s how to navigate the options for achieving your very own American dream.

Plan to pursue postsecondary education — of some kind

Despite the cost, college has become more and more compulsory. Automation has increased the demand for high-skilled workers, and jobs in the fastest-growing industries — like health care, education and finance — often require education beyond high school.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce defines good jobs as those that pay at least $35,000 a year for workers under age 45 and $45,000 for workers over 45. In 1991, about 40% of those jobs required a bachelor’s degree; by 2015, 55% did.

While that’s a big jump, it still means 45% of good jobs are attainable without a four-year degree. But a high school degree alone likely won’t lead to earnings that are high enough to sustain you. That means you should plan to continue on in school. And don’t wait too long, especially if your family isn’t in the top 20% to 25% of earners.

In that case, “Every year you don’t go to college increases the chance you’ll never go by almost 25%,” Carnevale says.

Choose a career path first

Unsurprisingly, it will be easier to choose a postsecondary path if you have a career in mind. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good place to start. Search potential careers by pay, level of education needed, growth rate and more.

The average bachelor’s degree recipient earns 168% of a high school diploma holder’s salary, according to an analysis by the Hamilton Project, a policy initiative affiliated with the Brookings Institution. But a bachelor’s isn’t the only path to good pay.

Aircraft mechanics, for instance, enjoy median earnings of about $60,000 a year with a mechanic’s certificate and 18 months of experience, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By contrast, the bureau says that’s also how much teachers, social workers and nutritionists make with a four-year degree.

A career, of course, isn’t just about making money. The most fulfilling jobs offer autonomy, variety, and opportunities for on-the-job training and advancement, says James Rosenbaum, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University.

Consider taking small steps to a degree

Carnevale and Rosenbaum advocate for incremental education, especially for students who don’t have the money to pay for a four-year education outright or who have concerns about graduating on time. Consider alternative college paths: Start with a one- or two-year certificate at a trade school or community college, get a job at a company that offers tuition assistance, and pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree while you work.

“We definitely see that pathway of earning a certificate and then continuing on to earn a degree after that has grown,” says Doug Shapiro, executive research director at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Make sure both the school and the program of study you choose are reputable. Check that they’re accredited and licensed, if applicable, using the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

And if this all feels complicated, know that it’s not just you.

“It used to be pretty easy: If you didn’t want to go to college, you didn’t; you could do just fine if you didn’t,” Carnevale says. “Now you’ve got to go on to some kind of postsecondary ed, and the choices you make matter a lot.”

This column was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Ask Brianna: Is 4-Year College Right for You? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Is Online College for You? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out

Amelia Roberts, a nurse in Washington, D.C., knew she needed to return to college for a bachelor’s degree if she wanted to win a care coordinator position at her hospital. But attending college on a campus wasn’t a practical option for her.

“I was in the workforce, so traveling to a class in the evening wasn’t going to work. Everything pointed to online university,” Roberts says. She enrolled in a bachelor’s of science program in nursing online through Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. Soon after Roberts got the promotion.

Roberts found the independent and self-paced style of online learning suited her well.

Millions of college students enroll in online courses every year. Nearly a third of all college students take at least one online course, and one in seven students take online courses exclusively, according to the most recent data available from Babson Survey Research Group, which conducts national surveys annually on online learning in the U.S.

But it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering an online degree program, ask yourself these five questions.

1. Are you self-motivated?

You need to be a self-starter to succeed in any classroom, but it’s critical for online learning. Online degree seekers are often older than typical freshmen, and classes aren’t always the top priority.

“The majority of our students are working adults with full-time jobs, children and other commitments outside of the classroom,” says Joe Chapman, director of student services for Arizona State University Online. “Attending in class on campus is not an option for them, and it’s been several years since they last attended school. … It can be daunting and scary for some people.”

To thrive in an online setting, you’ll need self-discipline. You’ll also need a strategy to manage your time and energy to balance classwork with other responsibilities, experts say.

2. Do you have the right equipment?

You can take a course online at any time and place — that’s its primary appeal. Yet that doesn’t mean you should be using your smartphone to do it, experts say.

“You may have a phone, an iPhone or an iPad and you can access our classes that way, but to be effective, you really should have a reliable computer,” says Lynne M. Lander Fleisher, director of Clarion University Online.

You’ll need a desktop or laptop and regular access to Wi-Fi to complete coursework online. You may need to download software your school requires as well.

3. Can you adapt to learning online?

Learning in an online setting may not be the best way for you to absorb information. If you’re not a reader, then you probably won’t enjoy online courses, which tend to require a lot of reading. You’re unlikely to interact much with your professor or peers in an online course. A solo learning style may not be a fit if you rely on communicating with others.

“Everyone learns differently, so the people who can learn better by reading or hearing have an advantage,” says Megan Pederson, teaching specialist and online academic advisor for University of Minnesota Crookston. “People who learn by doing tend not to enjoy the online experience.”

4. Is the school you’re interested in legitimate?

An online degree program’s quality will vary by institution. Programs offered by established, nonprofit public or private schools are usually safe bets. You should research the credentials of schools without a brick-and-mortar counterpart.

Start by finding top online colleges from “best of” lists by reputable publications. For an extra layer of quality control, inquire about accreditation, both institutional and program-specific, with the admissions department.

5. How will you pay?

If you can’t afford to pay for your degree with savings and income, the financial aid process is the same as if you were attending a traditional college campus. You’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Then you’ll receive a Student Aid Report detailing aid you qualify for.

The amount of aid you can get will depend on your enrollment status, dependency status and income. The rule of thumb is to accept any grants and scholarships, followed by work-study, before taking on a loan.

Schools that are accredited will offer financial aid. Be wary if your school does not offer federal financial aid or pushes its own loan programs.

The article Is Online College for You? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Why Some Students Quit College — and How They Can Finish

Growing up in Cookeville, Tennessee, a university town about 80 miles east of Nashville, Hayley Furcean was determined to be the first college graduate in her family.

“I’ve always been the smart kid,” she says.

After graduating from high school in 2008, she earned a full academic scholarship for her first year at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and began studying early childhood education. But things took a turn the summer after freshman year, when her grandmother died.

Furcean began questioning whether teaching preschool was what she wanted to do with her life. She moved out of her parents’ home, which meant picking up more shifts at work to pay rent and bills. She suffered from depression and often skipped class.

“My grades went from A’s to F’s,” Furcean says. “It was really tough at that time to prioritize school when I felt like everything else was falling apart.”

After sophomore year, she left school.

Furcean’s story is personal, but her situation is common. In 2016, 36 million people ages 25 and over had earned some college credit but no degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Students’ reasons for stopping short of a diploma are wide-ranging: poor grades, strained finances, negative college experiences, programs that weren’t the right fit.

Without a degree, it can be impossible to qualify for many jobs. By 2020, 65% of all U.S. jobs will require some kind of higher education, according to estimates by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. It’s also challenging for people with no diploma to earn enough to repay student debt. College dropouts who started school in 2003-04 were more likely to have defaulted on their school loans by 2015 than students who had completed an associate or bachelor’s degree, according to National Center for Education Statistics data.

To help students, colleges should do more to identify those at risk for dropping out and help them avoid doing so, says Hadass Sheffer, president of The Graduate! Network, an organization working to increase the number of adults who complete college. For instance, institutions could unintrusively track students’ attendance and whether they turn in assignments, and intervene with those who show signs of trouble, Sheffer says.

“The path to giving up is the path of least resistance,” Sheffer says. “What if you had to jump through hoops to quit?”

A second chance

In January, Furcean returned to Tennessee Tech University for her second go at a bachelor’s degree. She’s taking classes at night and online in workplace leadership and business management, and works full time as a preschool teacher.

Her schedule is demanding, but Furcean, now 27, has extra support. She works with an advisor at her local branch of Tennessee Reconnect, an organization that offers free services for adults going back to college. These resources are crucial because many returning students struggle with understanding how to re-enroll in college and pay for it, Sheffer says.

Programs like Tennessee Reconnect are available in more than 20 communities across 13 states — students can find one near them through The Graduate! Network’s website. Those who don’t have access to free help can navigate the process independently by following these tips:

  • Contact your original school’s admissions, advising or registrar’s office to find out what you need to do to finish your degree.
  • Consider other schools, particularly if you had a bad experience at your previous institution. If you need a more flexible class schedule, explore options including online or hybrid programs, which mix online and in-person classes.
  • Look for a college that offers a prior learning assessment program if you plan to study in a field you’ve already worked in, says Lexi Anderson, a policy analyst at Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based organization focused on state-level education policy. You may be able to earn college credit for experience and skills you already have.
  • Apply for grants and federal student loans, which come with flexible repayment options, by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Contrary to what some believe, adult students are eligible for financial aid, including Pell Grants. Additionally, search for scholarships designated for adult learners.

The article Why Some Students Quit College — and How They Can Finish originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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How Acing the PSAT Can Lead to Scholarship Money

If you’re like most high schoolers, you probably think of the PSAT as a practice run for the SAT. But this test actually has some pretty high stakes of its own.

In fact, its full name is the PSAT/NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. If you get a top score on the test, you could qualify for a National Merit Scholarship in the amount of $2,500.

Plus, you could be in the running for college-sponsored, corporate-sponsored, or “special” scholarships.

For now, let’s focus on the National Merit Scholarship of $2,500. Here’s what you need to know about winning this scholarship opportunity.

1. Take the PSAT in 11th grade

Before winning a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll need to take the PSAT. Fortunately, you probably don’t have to worry about signing up for the test. Most schools across the country administer the PSAT to students in the fall of their junior year.

That being said, you might ask your school counselor if you can take the PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10 as a freshman or sophomore. That way, you’ll get a sense of what the test is like and you’ll learn how to perform under testing conditions.

Just keep in mind that only your 11th-grade PSAT scores count toward the National Merit Scholarship. Beyond taking the test as a junior, you also have to meet a few other eligibility requirements set by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

These include being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and progressing normally toward graduation. And of course, you have to be one of the top PSAT scorers in the country.

2. Score in the top 1 percent

To stay in the running for a National Merit Scholarship, you have to do extremely well on the PSAT. In fact, you need to score in the top 1 percent of scorers across the country.

So, what is a good PSAT score for the National Merit Scholarship? That all depends on the state you live in, since NMSC compares scores on a state-by-state basis. Plus, it uses its own scoring system called the Selection Index.

To learn your state’s cutoff from previous years, call NMSC at (847) 866-5100. Keep in mind, though, that state cutoffs can change from year to year. A good PSAT score for the National Merit Scholarship in one year might not qualify the next.

Plus, scoring in the top 1 percent doesn’t guarantee you a scholarship. What it does mean is that you could be named a National Merit Semifinalist, a prestigious distinction in its own right. But you’ll have to wait to move from semifinalist to scholarship winner.

3. Wait for a notification letter

If you’ve got your sights set on a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll have to be patient. That’s because you don’t actually find out if you’re a semifinalist until almost a year after you take the PSAT.

Although you’ll take the PSAT in October of your junior year, you won’t hear from NMSC until September of your senior year.

Of the 1.6 million juniors who take the PSAT, 16,000 get a letter saying they became semifinalists. Of this group, 15,000 are invited to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. If you’re one of the invitees, your next step will be to put together a scholarship application.

4. Craft an outstanding application

Your National Merit Scholarship application is similar to a college application. In addition to your PSAT scores, the scholarship committee will look at your:

  • Academic transcript
  • Extracurricular involvement
  • SAT scores
  • A letter of recommendation from a school official
  • Your response to the National Merit essay prompt

Unlike a college application, your recommendation should come from your high school principal. Spend some time getting to know your principal so you can get a thorough and personal letter of recommendation.

Along similar lines, put effort into your National Merit application essay. According to NMSC, both your recommendation and essay can go a long way toward helping you win the scholarship.

After submitting your materials, you’ll find out in the spring of your senior year whether you won the scholarship. Of the 15,000 students who apply, 2,500 win the $2,500 National Merit Scholarship. Plus, an additional 6,200 students win other types of scholarships.

You could also win college or corporate scholarships

The official National Merit Scholarship isn’t the only prize you could win for your high PSAT scores. There are three other types of scholarship prizes for students who rock the PSAT:

  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships: About 230 businesses, including Macy’s, Pfizer, and UPS, partner with NMSC to give out 1,000 scholarships. Each business sets its own criteria and NMSC helps locate students. NMSC might look for children of employees, community residents, or finalists with career plans the company supports.
  • College-sponsored scholarships: Your college could give you a scholarship if you designated it as your first choice on your NMSC application. About 4,000 students win college-sponsored scholarships.
  • Special scholarships: About 1,200 special scholarships go to students who got high scores on the PSAT but didn’t become finalists. NMSC will notify you about applying to a special scholarship, and you might need to submit a separate entry form to be considered.

For full details on how to apply for each type of scholarship, check out the official NMSC website. Whichever award you’ve got your eye on, you’ll need to ensure you earn a top score on the PSAT.

Don’t put too much pressure on winning the National Merit Scholarship

As you can see, the National Merit Scholarship is extremely selective. Plus, applying for it is a long process that spans a year and a half.

Since there’s no guarantee of winning, make sure you’re applying to other scholarships in the meantime. There are tons of scholarship opportunities across the country that could help you pay for college.

You might get a scholarship for your academic achievements or community service work. Or you could find random prizes that reward you for being left-handed or having an unusual hobby.

Make the most of scholarship search engines, and apply for opportunities far and wide. Instead of placing all your eggs in the National Merit Scholarship basket, seek out alternate sources of funding.

That way, you’ll reduce the amount you have to pay for college and, hopefully, avoid taking on too much student debt.

The article How Acing the PSAT Can Lead to Scholarship Money originally appeared on studentloanhero.com.

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How to Ace Your Transfer to a 4-Year College

Transferring from community college to a university should be as simple as basic math: Two years at the first school plus two years at the second equals a bachelor’s degree. But the equation is often more complicated.

Many students’ classes don’t transfer correctly, and they have to spend extra time and tuition dollars finishing their degree, if they complete it at all, according to a May 2017 report from the Community College Research Center.

The vast majority of community college students — 80 percent — intend to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to 2011 National Center for Education Statistics data. But only 13 percent of students who start at a community college successfully transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to a 2017 report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Here are five tips for acing the transfer process, so you can beat the odds and earn your bachelor’s degree on time and on budget.

Find out how your credits transfer

Like piecing together a puzzle, transfer students must figure out how their credits fit into the degree requirements for their new school. Many community colleges have transfer agreements with local colleges and universities — also known as articulation agreements — that map out how specific classes translate at the four-year institution.

It’s possible to transfer to a school that doesn’t have an articulation agreement with your community college, but you’ll have to do extra research and work closely with advisors at both schools.

Befriend an academic advisor

Students should meet with an advisor at their community college at least twice a semester, says Laura Riley, coordinator of the advising and transfer center at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A community college advisor can help you choose a major, pinpoint potential four-year schools and enroll in courses that will transfer to those schools. If you have questions about the school where you hope to transfer, reach out directly — many colleges and universities have a dedicated transfer office.

Consider a range of schools

What was a “reach” college for a high school senior might be a realistic option for a transfer student, says Kevin Meza, the transfer center coordinator at Glendale Community College in Glendale, California.

Admissions requirements for transfer students are different than those for high school seniors. They vary by school, but many institutions require transfer students from community colleges to have earned a certain number of transferable credits, maintained a certain grade point average and completed prerequisites such as English and math.

To give yourself choices, apply to some safeties, a handful of middle-of-the-road options and a few dream schools.

Apply for financial aid

It’s crucial to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is the application for all federal student loans, grants and work-study programs, and you need to submit it every year you’re in school to be considered for this aid. If you submitted the application before, you can file a renewal FAFSA, which is easier and faster.

Next, search for potential scholarships, including awards that are designated for transfer students. For instance, all members of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a national group for high-achieving community college students, are eligible for scholarships from the group. The average member receives $2,500 disbursed over two years, according to the organization.

Earn a credential first

Community college students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, according to a 2015 study published in Research in Higher Education.

The type of associate degree matters. Students intending to transfer should pursue an associate degree designed for that purpose, such as an associate degree in arts or an associate degree in science. An associate degree in applied science is typically designed for students who want to enter the workforce immediately after community college.

The article How to Ace Your Transfer to a 4-Year College originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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