September 27, 2007
Teaching is a reward in itself right? Maybe so, but not making enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle can sure taint that theory. Qualified primary and secondary school teachers are, and have been for a while, in high demand, especially in the Math and Sciences. They play a crucial role in educating the next generation, and they help to instill in students a sense of confidence and a love of learning. Plus, school is mandatory, and someone has to teach the classes.
The government has been trying to make teaching attractive for years, but it’s pretty hard to do without adequate financial bait. Teachers may not strike it big, but students who are still interested may be able to take advantage of certain funding incentives, especially if they choose to spend some time in low-income districts. Here are some options for current and future educators:
1. TEACH Grant: Now that President Bush has [finally] signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, a new teaching grant will be made available to students. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) will allow students who plan to teach in-demand subjects and those who teach at low-income schools to receive $4,000 grants each college year (up to $16,000). High-demand subjects include math, science, foreign language, and special education among others. Smaller grants may also be offered to graduate school students who plan to teach.
2. Federal Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation: Students who became teachers, counselors or librarians in primary or secondary schools may be able to cancel their Perkins loans after working in low-income areas. To be eligible, educators should teach subjects that are in high demand.
3. Educator Expense IRS Deduction: Teachers who dig into personal pockets to buy classroom equipment may be partially repaid. According to IRS regulations, teachers and educators who buy books, supplies, equipment and software used in the classroom can deduct these costs from their income. The law may expire at the end of this year so keep your fingers crossed for an extension.
4. Teach for America: Teach for America offers financial assistance to graduates who agree to teach in low-income communities for at least two years. The program is not restricted to those who plan to teach subjects that are in high-demand, and teacher certification is not required. Those who are selected will be paid by the school district, but they will also be eligible for additional AmeriCorps grants as well as temporary student loan deferments. The program is competitive so students with high GPAs and leadership experience have an edge over other applicants. Aside from the grant incentive and the feel-good factor, Teach for America experience looks great on a resume.
Like everyone else, aspiring teachers may be able to decrease college costs by applying for scholarships and grants. Awards are not restricted to teachers nor are they restricted to the select few with exceptional GPAs. As a last-case scenario, students may also take out loans to pay for a college education.
September 26, 2007
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to receive a much contested Stanford University fellowship, and to offer one.
Much of Stanford University’s faculty as well as numerous students and alumni were outraged after it was announced that Donald Rumsfeld would be receiving a one-year fellowship from the school. The appointment would entail Rumsfeld examining and advising a university panel on issues of national security and the aftermath of September 11th.
Like most Ivy League schools, Stanford is known to be campus of liberal thinkers—the same can’t be said of its public policy research center that extended the invitation. It is unsurprising that a former high-ranking staff member of the Bush administration, one who resigned amidst accusations of Iraq war mishandling, was immediately deemed a campus misfit.
A petition with, as of now, 3,483 students, alumni and faculty signatures has been created in the hopes of withdrawing the offer. As stated in the petition, “We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry, respect for national and international laws, and care for the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford is inalienably committed.”
Donald Rumsfeld also had something to say on the topic of fellowships—that he will soon be awarding them. There are plans in store for a new Rumsfeld foundation that will shortly be awarding fellowships to students who plan to enter the field of public policy after graduating from college. Rumsfeld hopes that the award will encourage students to work for the government.
In addition to assisting graduates, the foundation will offer loans to micro-enterprises in developing countries and support Central Asian republics. It will likewise fund lectures on various topics, the kind of work Rumsfeld may be doing for Stanford.
According to the Washington Post, Rumsfeld has recently criticized both the press and Congress for “creating an environment that is not particularly hospitable to public services.” It was a comment in response to an advertisement that blasted Army General David H. Petraeus as one to, “Betray Us”. But that was the press. Who is left to blame for student and faculty criticism?
President Bush is certainly keeping students waiting. Graduates debating loan consolidation and lenders pressuring them to go through with it are standing by to see if the Congress-approved College Cost Reduction Act will finally be signed by the president.
If the bill is passed, the government will cut lender subsidies by October 1st. The savings will then be used to increase Pell Grants to needy students. October is fast approaching, but the president has yet to make a move on the bill approved by Congress on September 7th. The potential law is not only important because of the grant factor; it is important because it may mean cuts in financial breaks offered by student lenders.
Lenders have warned that if the bill passes, students will not be granted many of the financial perks they were once eligible for. One of the perks in jeopardy is the Sallie Mae (the largest lender in the business) interest rate cut on consolidated loans to borrowers who pay on time for three years. Sallie Mae and other lenders are making the best of the situation by pressuring students to consolidate with them before things change.
Except that consolidating is not always in a student’s best interest. Students who have loans issued before July 2006, ones with interest rates that change each year, may lock in this year’s rates by consolidating. (loans borrowed after July 1, 2006 have fixed yearly rates.) If interest rates increase, students may be doing themselves a favor. They will be able to keep their discounts and maintain lower rates.
But there is a large chance that rates will go down. If students wait, they may be able to get lower rates that can offset lender discounts, ones that many students aren’t even eligible for. Students should also remember that by consolidating and increasing the lifespan of their loan, they will be paying more in the long run. They will be paying less each month, but additional payments mean more interest buildup.
Consolidation is a tough call. It’s hard to foretell the future. Numerous financial aid administrators suggest that students contact their lenders to find out exactly what discounts they can keep by consolidating. If they are big and the likelihood of eligibility is there, they can consider.
September 25, 2007
The debate on whether ACT and SAT scores are an accurate tool for assessing student abilities has been going on for years. Even though recent studies found SAT scores to be less effective in predicting long-term college success than was previously thought, dealing with these tests is still pretty much unavoidable. Until standardized tests are out of sight and out of mind, students should do their best to get acquainted with them. Below is a sampling of average college SAT and ACT scores as reported by the Department of Education. To find more college ACT and SAT scores, information about estimated costs of attendance, and the number of applicants at schools across the U.S., check out our college search.
September 24, 2007
This week's “Scholarship of the Week” is the Students Serve Grant. By providing students with grants, Student Serve, a not-for-profit organization managed entirely by students, hopes to encourage the application of knowledge in conducting community service.
Students who apply will have to come up with a service-learning project (one that applies class knowledge to service) that will be helpful in solving a community problem. The project should be unique and have the potential to make a significant community impact.
Up to $3,000
1. Applicant must be a high school senior or an undergraduate attending a U.S college or university 2. Winners will have to complete a self-created project that aids a U.S. community
November 15, 2007
1. A description of 1,000 words or less that outlines a service-learning project 2. Two letters of recommendation from professors who can advise applicant on project 3. A completed application
To find additional awards, conduct a free scholarship search.
On September 20, 2007, a meeting of more than 40 representatives and national associations was held to discuss college ethics matters. The off-the-record discussion was organized by David Ward, the president of American Council on Education (ACE), in part as a response to recent investigations into unethical business practices between student lenders and colleges.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the meeting dealt with problems within the student lending industry as well as with questionable credit card solicitations to alumni and sporting-event ticket distributions. Mr. Ward was quoted as saying, “"If, for example, a president is about to sign a contract, somebody should say, 'What's the story we're giving to the public on this?' And if the president pauses, then maybe they need to pause on the contract too."
Pressures on schools to come up with funds have led to questionable actions that include receiving kickbacks from lenders and study abroad organizations. The meeting was to address such actions and to come up with plausible solutions. During the conference, Mr. Ward was asked to create a committee that would address legal problems between colleges and businesses and to come up with a checklist to assist college administrators in recognizing potential ethical problems.
To avoid or minimize the use of student lender services, students can look to scholarships and grants that can assist them in funding a college education. Conducting a free scholarship search will allow students to find myriad awards they are eligible to receive. For additional information on financial aid and college-related issues, students can take advantage of Scholarships.com Resources.
September 21, 2007
Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is kind of like filling out a super complicated Christmas wish list. You write it, you hand it over and you cross your fingers when the time to open approaches. A lot of times you’re disappointed with the results. Students should never dismiss the prospect of government aid. Even if they are not eligible to receive need-based grants, they will still have unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS Loans options. Receiving award letters with little or no aid options is frustrating, and it’s all because of that stupid Expected Family Contribution (EFC) formula.
How much government aid a student receives is largely dependent on how much the government thinks a family can contribute to the education of their child. This is what is known as the Expected Family Contribution. Based on the income and asset information students provide on their FAFSA, the government determines a student’s EFC number. The number is then sent to the student’s school of choice which subtracts it from their estimated Cost of Attendance (COA). What’s left over is used to determine if a student is eligible to receive federal or nonfederal aid.
The problem with the EFC is that it often overestimates how much a family is really able to contribute to a child’s education. Although factors such as a (dependent) student family size and the number of family members attending college are considered, the expectations can still seem high. According to a 2004 Department of Education report, a family making between $45,000-49,000 per year was expected to contribute $6,000 to their child’s education. One making between $50,000-54,000 was expected to contribute $7,000 and one that made between $95,000-99,000 was expected to contribute $18,900. It is doubtful that the average family can afford to contribute that much after paying all bills. Those with particular need, families with an EFC lower than $4,110, are eligible for free Pell Grant money this year, but only up to $4,310. That is not the average grant aid a student receives.
Recently released government data shows that, based on the average cost of an education at a public college, a family who sends one student to school is expected to contribute about 25% of their median household income. Those families who send their child to a private school are expected to contribute about 57% of their median household income. Even if students receive the maximum Pell Grant award, $4,310, the family may be nowhere near meeting the costs associated with a college education. If students are lucky, the new Congress-approved Pell Grant increase outlined in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act will be signed by President Bush. Based on White House reports, the president is expected to sign the legislation, but some doubts are still present.
Students who have been offered little or no financial assistance from the government can always look to scholarships and grants for financial assistance. Conducting a free scholarship search will allow students to find myriad awards they are eligible to receive. By using Scholarships.com’s resources, students can find the scholarship and financial aid information they need to fund their education.
September 20, 2007
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal incentives within the student lender industry has burgeoned into a full-out hunt for immoral use of student funds. The buzz has recently spread into college study abroad offices where administrators frequently receive money and free-of-charge trips in exchange for recruiting student travelers. As always, there are two sides to every story, and many college officials have been eager to tell theirs.
According to some study-abroad advisors, the trips were much more business than they were pleasure. College administrators have said that travel was a necessary tool for advisors who educated students on their locations of interest. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Gayly Opem, executive vice president of marketing at the Institute for the International Education of Students, held such an opinion stating, “I don’t know of any other way for them to do it than to visit the program.”
An accusation more difficult to justify was one that claimed students who chose to travel without school program assistance were sometimes denied approval for credit transfers. The New York Times article about Brendan Jones, a Columbia student denied credit transfer from Oxford told the story of one such case. Although Oxford is well known for its academic excellence, and ranked higher than some abroad institutions Brendan’s Columbia peers received credits from, the transfer was denied. Instead of returning, Brendan decided to finish school at Oxford.
Studying abroad is generally regarded as an enriching experience, in a both intellectual and social sense, but brows are rising at the business side of college travel. After Cuomo’s investigation revealed questionable administrative tactics, the idea of colleges and travel agencies marketing travel as a full-out panacea just feels tainted. A 2004 issue of Transitions Abroad magazine featured the results of a study by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) which claimed that 98% of students who spent a year abroad returned with increased sef-confidence and a higher level of maturity. It also reported that about 70% of the travelers returned with an ignited interest in a career direction they pursued after the experience. I have a feeling that plenty of students studying in the U.S. also developed career interests during college.
The overall theme of the investigation is that college costs are out of control, and college administrators who act like businessmen are in part to blame. While hope for a major overhaul of the funding system is a bit premature, new legislation passed by Congress will increase Pell Grants and decrease some student loan interest rates. In the mean time, students can fill funding gaps by conducting a free scholarship search and applying for awards. Students can also use Scholarships.com’s resources to find much-needed information about taking control of their finances and planning ahead for college costs.
September 19, 2007
Scholarships are great, all free money is. But as is true for earned income, students who receive awards may have to report them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To be in the clear, undergraduate and graduate students should take the time to check if their scholarships and fellowships are tax free. As long as students are careful about how they spend the money, their awards will probably be tax exempt.
Scholarships and Grants are tax exempt if:
1. The recipient is a degree candidate at an educational institution with a regular faculty, curriculum and enrolled body of students who attend at the location of educational activities.
2. The scholarship money is used for required tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment. Scholarship money used for room and board, travel and optional supplies is taxable.
3. The recipient is not accepting the scholarship in exchange for services received (e.g., teaching and research). This rule does not apply to scholarships received from the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program or the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance Program.
Sometimes, only a part of a student’s scholarship or fellowship will be taxable. For example, a student may receive $3,000 in fellowship money from a school. However, $2,000 of the money will be offered in exchange for assisting a professor in her research (fellowship money usually accompanies such stipulations.) The remaining $1,000 will not be taxed, as long as it is used for qualified school expenses. A student’s future research service earnings may have to be estimated and reported, even if the work has not yet been completed.
To be certain that all income is accounted for, students should take a look at scholarship conditions and whether they can be used to cover qualified expenses. Students who believe their scholarship and grant money may be taxable should report their award to the IRS. If the scholarship is not taxable and the student has no income aside from the scholarship, a tax return does not need to be filed. To find additional information on scholarship, grant and fellowship opportunities, students should conduct a free scholarship search and take a look at Scholarship.com’s financial aid resources.
September 18, 2007
When students unfold their FAFSA award letters, they may find that in addition to loans and grants, they were granted Federal Work Study (FWS) awards. What does work have to do with government assistance? Good point.
Aid in the form of work may not be the ideal award, but students who need significant financial assistance may want to consider working part time. Undergraduate and graduate students may be able to eliminate, or at least decrease, their borrowing needs by conducting a free scholarship search and by accepting Federal Work Study (FWS) positions.
These jobs are administered by colleges and often require cafeteria work, administrative assistance and research help. The work is not always glamorous, and it is often low in pay—think minimum wage. Don’t worry; there are some benefits.
Although FWS income is taxed, students are usually refunded a good chunk of it, and their financial aid eligibility is not hurt in the process. Students who work outside of school may find their future financial aid to be in jeopardy because of earnings. Students who accept FWS positions won’t have to worry about this. Their earnings will not be considered when government aid is determined. This is a great benefit as personal income is counted against students at a much larger rate than is that of parents.
Students who are interested and eligible for Federal Work Study are bound to find a job, and a flexible one at that. And because the jobs are created with students in mind, they tend to offer convenient schedules. The same can’t always be said for stores and restaurants which offer the finest of hours—late nights and weekends. When finals and class schedules changes come into play, flexibility will matter.
Like other FAFSA awards, Federal Work Study money is limited. If an award letter states that a student is eligible for $2,000, they can only work until they reach that point. This may or may not be enough. Eligible students looking for work will have to decide whether FWS jobs or outside positions are right for them. Depending on schedule flexibility, pay rate and interest, one, the other or neither may be the best option.
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