October 13, 2010
by Suada Kolovic
The financial aid process can be a daunting one but if you’re planning on attending college any time soon, you should know that there are tons of federal student aid options out there – from Pell Grants to Perkins Loans to FAFSA – but your eligibility to receive aid depends on your level of need and, subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive. So, to the folks right in the middle: How does a tax credit sound? The American Opportunity Tax Credit, created in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, expires in 2010, but President Obama has proposed making it permanent, with a price tag of $58 billion over 10 years.
Now what does this mean to you? Because the Opportunity Tax Credit is more generous than its predecessor, the Hope Tax Credit, it provides a credit of up to $2,500 rather than $1,800 and it phases out at a higher income level – $160,000 for married couples filing jointly instead of $100,000. According to a report by the Department of Treasury, it’s also partially refundable so students and families with little or no tax liability can receive up to $1,000 of it as a tax refund. The report comes as lawmakers are debating a bill to extend several expiring tax credits. Recent versions would not extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit, but President Obama hopes lawmakers will reconsider.
"The president obviously feels strongly that this is an important relief for middle-class families," said Gene Sperling, counselor to the Treasury Secretary.
October 27, 2009
In recent years, colleges have begun experimenting with a number of techniques to make textbooks more affordable for, and more likely to be purchased by, college students. From on-demand textbook printing at the University of Michigan to on-campus and online textbook rental options nationwide, it seems like at least two or three textbook pricing revolutions roll out each year. This year, however, Williams College in Massachusetts is trying something entirely different: giving textbooks away for free.
Starting this fall, students who receive financial aid at Williams will be able to charge their textbooks to their bursar accounts--an option available to students at many colleges--and then will receive college-based grants for the amount of their textbook purchase, which as far as Williams officials know, is an offer unique to their campus. The textbook program, as well as the reasons for its inception, were highlighted in a recent blog post in the New York Times' college admissions blog, The Choice.
Williams previously offered financially needy students $400 book grants each semester, but found that some students still weren't buying all their required textbooks, as they felt the money they spent on books was still coming out of their own pockets. A textbook lending program through the library was used to supplement it, but there were concerns that students couldn't make full use of borrowed books. To allow students to highlight and annotate books, as well as reference them in subsequent semesters, the college decided to make sure students were able to purchase all required texts. Thus, the current grant program was born, which Williams officials expect to cost roughly the same as the combination of the previous grant and library lending programs but to serve students more completely and efficiently.
Little touches like free textbooks can go a long way towards swaying students still working on their college search. Regardless of the college you attend, you may want to factor textbooks into your scholarship search, as well. While textbooks don't seem like much individually, when the costs are added up, they can become a sizeable portion of a student's college costs. With many students paying for textbooks out-of-pocket, they can quickly create a problem with money management, increasing work burdens, credit card balances, or student loan debt.
August 1, 2008
September 19, 2007
by Paulina Mis
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.
October 2, 2008
October 7, 2008
June 8, 2011
by Julius Claybron
I began my high school career at EXCEL-Orr High School but quickly realized the school was not doing enough to prepare me for post-secondary success. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to Urban Prep Academy and though my collegiate dreams were now within reach, the transition was not easy. I was met with much opposition and had multiple run-ins with many of the students. I was torn: Here I had this great opportunity but these external factors were taking an academic and emotional toll on me. I began to regret transferring and eventually regret school altogether.
Luckily, I found solace in my extracurricular activities such as debate and youth activism club. These things helped me realize my full potential and made me believe that there was something greater in store for me. Transferring quickly went from the worst decision I had ever made to the best, especially when it came time to start applying to colleges. Initially, I saw more challenges – Will I get in? Can I afford tuition? – but my worries were put to rest just as fast: We had an entire class period dedicated to college preparation and the application process, which is where I found out about the site you’re reading right now. Not only did I get accepted to a fantastic school, I also received enough scholarships and grants to pay for it.
If you find yourself dissatisfied with your high school’s curriculum, don’t sit idly by: Challenge yourself by taking harder courses or transfer, like I did. It may be difficult at first but any struggle will be well worth it in the future.
Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy, a public all-male college-preparatory high school, during his sophomore year. Julius started to read at the age of two and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He will begin his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.
October 15, 2008
Texas A&M, Boston University, and Vanderbilt University have all recently announced expanded financial aid programs to help lower-and-middle-class students deal with the rising cost of college education and the tough economic situation the country currently faces.
This news comes as many other colleges are announcing budget cuts and tuition hikes in order to break even in the face of declining state funding. Proposed cuts to higher education funding currently range from a one percent cut in Maryland to a reduction of funding by more than 14 percent in Nevada, according to a recent write-up in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Despite financial concerns, though, more and more schools are digging into their pockets to find additional scholarship and grant money for their students. Texas A&M will provide free tuition to all freshmen with a family income below $60,000 and a GPA above 2.5. Boston University plans to meet all financial need for every Boston public school graduate admitted to the university. Vanderbilt will replace all need-based student loans with grants for its students starting next fall, though it still needs to raise an additional $100 million to fully fund the program.
U.S. News and World Report provides more information on these new financial aid programs. You can find out more about these and other generous institutions by conducting a college search on Scholarships.com.
December 3, 2008
May 6, 2009
A little over a week after announcing his plans to gear up for battle with student lenders over the future of the Federal Family Education Loan Program, President Obama has begun calling in the troops. An e-mail message sent to young Obama supporters by the Democratic National Committee is urging students to speak up in favor of the President's proposal to switch all federal lending to the Direct Loans program and to use the savings to expand Federal Pell Grants.
Students have been asked to call, write, or e-mail their Representatives and Senators to let them know what they think of the proposal to eliminate FFELP for Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans. The text of the e-mail, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, urges students to stand against "special interests" and to help "fix a broken system." Rhetoric on the other side has focused primarily on preserving jobs and preserving choice (technically, the choice is primarily left to schools, not students, as students aren't able to choose freely between DL and FFELP until they graduate and consider consolidation loans).
Regardless of whether you favor or oppose this plan, now is a good time to let your people in Congress know how you feel, since changes in federal student financial aid are likely to affect you directly. So, what do you think? What changes, if any, should Congress make to student loans? Do you plan on writing to Congress about this issue?
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