March 18, 2008
Speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings told representatives what they wanted to believe, but didn’t: the college aid crisis was under control. After months of financial struggles, a number of student lenders have decided to discontinue their participation in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL), leaving students to look elsewhere for college funding.
A troublesome lending market and a new law limiting government subsidies to student lenders have many lenders rethinking their participation in the FFEL. With less government backing and greater default rates, some student lenders are finding it necessary to cut back on student benefits, increase borrowing criteria, and sometimes, leave the government program completely.
These changes have left families worried about finding sufficient student loan assistance from the government, concerns Spellings has tried to diminish. During her testimony, the education secretary stated that so far, “No institutions have notified us that any eligible student has been denied access to federal loans.”
If true, students and parents would be relieved to know that they can still take advantage of low interest government loan rates rather than relying on private, more expensive, student lenders. According to Spellings, the government would step in before students were forced to rely solely on private lenders.
One safeguard proposed by Spellings was the option for schools participating in the FFEL program to switch to the government's Direct Loan program, one in which students bypass government-subsidized lenders and borrow straight from the government.
Ms. Spellings also pointed out that Pell Grants, federal need-based awards that do not need to be repaid, have been increasing and will likely continue to do so. Students who receive free grant money will have fewer loan needs---to an extent. Currently, those eligible for Pell Grants may only receive $4,310 per year, and not all are eligible for this form of federal student aid.
Still, the Secretary of Education maintained a positive outlook and expressed confidence that most student lenders are not in critical positions stating, “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL...a small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped origination new loans.”
March 20, 2008
For many disabled individuals, completing school can be a struggle. Such students may have to consider not only their scholastic aspirations but also their health and wellbeing when making important college decisions. Whether additional efforts must be applied to maintaining a proper diet, lowering stress, completing assignments in a timely matter or any number of other priorities, dealing with both disabilities and classes can prove to be a challenge.
Insufficient college funds are a common setback for many disabled students, for any students. To help with this aspect of college, numerous disability scholarships have been created for those with financial needs. Take a look at the disability scholarships listed below for awards you may be eligible to receive. For additional information about scholarships, grants, internships and fellowships, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
The Association of Blind Citizens Reggie Johnson Scholarship
The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) will be awarding this disability scholarship to a number of legally blind students. One $2,000 scholarship and eight $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to winners. Applicants will have to submit a 300 to 500 word autobiographical essay explaining how the award could assist them in achieving their college or vocational program goals.
Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired
Each year, the Travelers Protection Agency (TPA) provides students who are deaf or near deaf with scholarship awards. The number of recipients and award sizes may vary based on Trust Executive Committee recommendations.
disABLEdperson Inc. College Scholarship Competition
Students eligible for this disability scholarship will have the chance to earn $750 to be used towards their college education. Applicants will have to answer the annual essay question and fully complete an online scholarship form. Students must be attending a 2 or 4 year US college or university and must have a disadvantage or deficiency that interferes or prevents normal achievement in a certain area.
Scholarship for People with Disabilities
The Scholarship for People with Disabilities annually provides students with scholarships of up to $1,000. To be eligible applicants must have a physical or sensory disability and must demonstrate scholarship need. This award is limited to students who are Minnesota residents or who have received Courage Center services.
1-800-Wheelchair Scholarship Fund
High school and undergraduate college students who apply for the 1-800-Wheelchair Scholarship will have the opportunity to win $500 for college. Students must be at least 16 years old and must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0. Preference will be given to applicants with a mobility disability, but disability is not a requirement.
Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation Scholarship
With the help of the Ethel Louse Armstrong Foundation (ELA), female graduate students with physical disabilities may win up to $2,000. Applicants must be active in a disability organization and must be willing to provide ELA with scholastic and career updates. To apply, students must submit an essay of 1,000 words or less explaining, “How I will change the face of disability on the Planet”.
March 27, 2008
The Republican candidates may have settled down, but there is no ceasefire in sight for Hillary and Barack. Both candidates have been campaigning around the clock, scribbling in their calendars, visiting every nook and cranny. When they couldn’t make an appearance, their families did. On Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton took her turn at the podium when she spoke to a group of students at Indiana’s Ball State University.
According to the Ball State Daily News, Chelsea took time to describe her mother’s plans for decreasing the costs of a college education. “My mother plans to double the Pell Grant to $10,800, expand the eligibility for a tax credit and develop Americare, and organization developed by my father to help college be more affordable,” she told the crowd.
For about an hour, Chelsea answered questions about Hillary’s plans for the presidency. She covered health care, the No Child Left Behind Act, the strengthening of hate crime laws and the war in Iraq. With the exception of a few poster-carrying Obama backers, most of the estimated 1,000 attendees appeared supportive.
If, as Chelsea suggested, Hillary were to increase Pell Grant awards, dangerous college lending habits could decrease dramatically. Currently, only $4,310 in Pell Grant money is available to eligible students each year. Even after Pell Grants reach their peak during the 2012-2013 school year (as mandated by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act), only $5,400 will be made available.
Students who do not receive sufficient money in the form of Pell Grants can still turn to scholarships for college funding assistance. For additional information about college scholarships and grants, students may conduct a free scholarship search.
March 28, 2008
Just two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the US House Committee on Education and Labor about its fear of a federal lending program meltdown. To the best of her ability, she tried to qualm the legislators' fears and to convince them that negative speculations were exaggerated. “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL,” she said. “A small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped originating new loans.”
However, the Department of Education’s request for Lender of Last Resort (LLR) preparation painted a somewhat different picture. In a letter sent to 35 guarantee agencies, the Financial Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Warder laid out the basic LLR provisions and asked that the guarantee agencies quickly respond with plans for enacting the emergency program, should the need arise.
With lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program at increasing rates, both legislators and families have been feeling uneasy about college loan options. And while the department maintained that things were largely under control, the letters spoke for themselves.
The LLR provisions state that when a student eligible for federal aid is denied by at least two lenders, guarantee agencies and lenders who have signed agreements with them are responsible for awarding the loan. Being nonprofit entities, the guaranty agencies would use government funding to repay lenders for any student defaults.
To be certain that individuals have quick access to student loans, regardless of decisions made by cautious lenders, the department has asked that guaranty agencies submit their plans to put the LLR program in place. Among other things, they were asked to prepare a timeline for issuing LLR loans to students, provide a method for informing students about LLR eligibility and plan for meeting the increased administrative requirements. Recipients of the letter were given up to 30 days to respond with a new outline for their LLR program.
April 9, 2008
You’ve seen them before, the shiny cars standing in the mall, the slot boxes covered in pictures of dollar bills and palm trees. That’s right, they’re sweepstakes—easy money. Unlike most scholarship essays, sweepstakes involve little to no effort. Requirements may be as minute as an email or a postal address.
Sweepstakes are definitely a breeze, but they are a competitive breeze. Just about everything that entails little work and big money is. The young and old love sweepstakes like a kid loves cake. Some become addicted, spending hours on end rummaging through sites in search of contest opportunities.
While students should by no means rely solely on their luck to fund college, legitimate contests may be worth a shot. Someone will win the prize, and you just may be that lucky someone. For college sweepstakes that may help you afford an education, check out the links below. To find college scholarships and grants that are a bit more reliable, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes (New Winners Announced Every Three Months!)
Coca-Cola & Chuck E. Cheese’s $25,000 College Scholarship Sweepstakes
Academic Finance Corporation (AFC) $50K Giveaway Scholarship Sweepstakes
SuntTrust Off to College Scholarship Sweepstakes
Wells Fargo CollegeSTEPS Program & Scholarship Sweepstakes
$100,000 Oxy Cash for College Sweepstakes
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Prep for College Sweepstakes
What’s Your Freedom Quotient Sweepstakes
April 10, 2008
With a growing number of lenders leaving the FFEL Program, the Direct Loan Program has been receiving additional attention from schools and from the media. Unlike the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, more commonly known as the Direct Loan Program, allows students to borrow money directly from the government.
Each program has its advantages, but schools have more frequently opted for the FFEL. About eighty percent of colleges and universities process their loans through the FFEL Program, one which involves working with lenders who are subsidized by the government. With the student loan market quickly souring, numerous schools are rethinking their decisions and scrambling to find a new plan, the Direct Loan one.
Students whose schools process loans through the Direct Loan Program are less likely to receive financial perks often provided by FFEL lenders, but then again, FFEL lenders staying with the program are cutting back on these anyway. The lack of administrative assistance offered to schools participating in the Direct Loan Program may make it less appealing to financial aid officials, but to those taking out PLUS loans, the program is promising.
Although the government has capped Perkins and Stafford loans at 5 and 6.8 percent respectively, caps on PLUS loans are lower under the Direct Loan program than they are under the FFEL one. If they borrow from the government, graduate students and parents eligible for PLUS loans may pay no more than 7.9 percent in interest. If they borrow from FFEL lenders, they may pay as much as 8.5 percent. The actual interest paid will depend on the chosen FFEL lender, but don't hold your breath for a good deal.
To eliminate or lessen the burden felt by students who borrow from the government or from outside lenders, families should consider applying for scholarships and grants. For information about scholarship and grant opportunities you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
April 11, 2008
Among the many complaints voiced by students in need of federal aid are those concerning insufficient Pell Grant awards and a lack of consideration for students who are smart, but not exactly the braniac kind of smart. These are valid worries, and while they have not been tended to fully, the SMART Grant is a start.
Approved by the Senate in late December of 2005, the relatively new SMART Grant allows students who have demonstrated financial need to receive over and above their annual Pell Grant limit. Eligible students may receive up to $4,000 in SMART Grant money just by filling out a FAFSA.
Because the SMART Grant has been largely overshadowed by the more common and better-known Pell Grant, many students are unfamiliar with the award. The SMART Grant can more than double a student's grant money, but there are a number of stipulations that considerably narrow the eligibility pool.
To be eligible for the SMART Grant, students must have already demonstrated sufficient financial need and must have been eligible for the Pell Grant. But that in itself is not enough. Students must also be majoring in the physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering or in a foreign language determined critical to national security. To show that they are dedicated to graduating with a degree in one of the aforementioned fields, students must have already completed the first two years of their undergraduate program—while maintaining at minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time and must be taking at least one course required for the completion of their major during the term the grant is received.
Assuming the student meets all of the above criteria, the SMART Grant can make a big difference in an individual's ability to cover college costs. A Pell Grant award may not exceed $3,410 for the 2007-2008 schools year, an amount unlikely to cover annual college tuition, let alone fees and living expenses. An extra $4,000 would certainly make a difference.
April 15, 2008
Applying for a number of small scholarships is a great way to accumulate financial aid for college, but some students prefer to go straight for the big fish. Rather than follow the, “a penny saved is a penny earned” mantra, they prefer to abide by the, "go for the gold" one.
Whether you are the former or the latter, plenty of scholarship opportunities are available to you. But be advised, the bigger the award, the bigger the competition. Students who find information about a big-ticket scholarship frequently opt for that rather than spend time on one which, in comparison, looks like a conciliatory prize.
If you’re looking for top awards, check out the full ride scholarships listed below. For more information about college scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search. If you are looking for full tuition scholarships granted by your current or future college or university---most award a handful of them--- try visiting their financial aid office websites. You may conduct a free college search to find these websites along with estimated costs of attendance.
The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship
The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship will be awarded to a freshman entering a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the United States. A full tuition waiver as well as a stipend covering room, board and books will be offered.
Microsoft College Career Scholarship
A one-year, full tuition scholarship will be awarded to winners of the annual Microsoft College Career Scholarship. Financial aid will be offered to students who major in computer science, computer engineering, or a related technical discipline such as electrical engineering, math, or physics. Applicants must be undergraduate students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.
The Posse Foundation awards full tuition merit scholarships to students who plan to attend one of its partner schools. Winning high school students are trained in multicultural teams called “Posses” to successfully complete programs at top-tier colleges and universities.
The Hertz Foundation awards students a full tuition renewable grant plus a stipend of up to $31,000. The award is merit-based and offered to students pursuing a Ph.D. in the applied physical and engineering sciences or modern biology with physical science applications.
The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities are collaborating on a scholarship program for students who attend one of the 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities. Full tuition, room and board, employment with the USDA during the summer and after graduation, fees and books will be covered.
April 17, 2008
Nervous about economic turmoil and the uncertainty associated with oversized college loans, students are increasingly turning to community colleges for a low-cost alternative to a postsecondary education. Though certainly lower in cost, some students still need assistance in affording local schools. According to a recent study conducted by the Project on Student Debt, federal loans are not always an option for these students.
Based on the report, 20 percent of community college students living in eight states do not have access to low-interest federal loans. In Georgia, the state which fared worst, about 60 percent of community colleges did not participate in the federal loan program. Throughout the nation, the problem was most severe in low-income areas where students were most likely to seek out federal student aid in the form of loans.
After interviewing administrators at nonparticipating schools, it was found that the most cited reason for not taking part in the program was a fear that high default rates would lead to sanctions on Pell Grant disbursements to students. According to federal regulations, colleges with student default rates that exceed 25 percent for three consecutive years lose the ability to disburse the Pell Grant, a form of need-based federal aid that does not need to be repaid.
Capped at $4,310 for the 2007-2008 school year, the Pell Grant frequently suffices in making community college an option for students, especially those who work while attending school. However, the size of the grant is based on a student’s Expect Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by information provided on one's FAFSA, and many complain that the form does not take into account special circumstances that could result in a student’s inability to contribute the full expected amount. Families who receive no federal assistance in the form of a Pell Grant and those who receive an insufficient amount may be forced to take out more expensive private loans to attend. If ineligible, they may have to work until college is an affordable option.
April 24, 2008
As far as we know, there isn’t one. Let’s begin by addressing your first question: if there is no catch, who's paying for this, and what's their work incentive? The answer is FlatWorld, and, if things go right for the new company, guidebooks, work materials and requests for in-print versions will be sufficient to cover labor costs and to generate profits.
Since 2007, FlatWorld has been crafting their innovative idea, and it plans to make services available to the public by 2009. The diversity of their textbook selections and the facility of their use will largely determine the success of their new venture, but students aware of FlatWorld will probably, at the very least, check out their site. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the average college student spends over $900 on textbooks—annually. Being able to pocket a good chunk of that money will significantly alleviate financial burdens caused by increasing college rates.
Electronic book versions are not exactly new, and companies less geared towards college students dealing with unregulated textbook costs have already offered similar services. Electronic books in general are growing in popularity, especially the fee-based ones. If you’ve done some Amazon shopping or people watched on the train in recent months, you’re probably familiar with the new Amazon electronic reading device. It’s catching on quickly, but, truth be told, there’s just something about physically holding a piece paper. As much as I love branches, I couldn’t help but print out class articles en masse during finals week, ones I could have easily browsed online. (In my defense, I did fit four pages on one sheet.) The ability to quickly scribble a note, double star a sentence or circle a key word just makes the learning process more interactive and complete.
Still, I’m willing to bet that dishing out $120 for a textbook that can’t be resold due to future edition changes can make a little inconvenience worthwhile. Most money management tactics can. And FlatWorld is doing its best to make up in ease what they lose in “that special something”. By making their texts editable to both students and the professors who assign them, they have made their options a bit more user friendly and appealing. Readers can even interact with each other during the reading process—I smell an attractive cliff note opportunity. Dragging your desktop to the quad may be a bit of a pain, but being able to afford vacation time may give you an incentive.
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