July 1, 2008
Despite an initial House split over some of the bill’s provisions—an incident which nearly doomed approval by the House—an agreement on the veteran college aid bill was reached by both Congress and the President. On June 30, President Bush signed into law the bill which would, among other things, provide veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars additional assistance in affording a college education.
The new law—similar in content to the WWII GI Bill—will call for an increase in the college financial aid awarded to troops who have served in either war for a minimum of three years. Sufficient assistance to pay for the most expensive public college or university in their respective states will be available to the veterans. Those who are eligible will also receive a monthly stipend to offset housing costs and other college-related expenditures.
The legislation will more than double the federal funding veterans previously received for a postsecondary education. Even those who are not currently planning for college can benefit as the money may be transferred to a veteran's child or spouse.
Perhaps the more controversial part of the bill was that which allocated $162 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to ABC News, the new funds would bring the total amount approved for war expenditures to about $850 billion over the last five years. In reference to the bill, President Bush stated that, "Our nation has no greater responsibility than to support our men in women in uniform - especially because we're at war."
July 11, 2008
The morose state of the lending industry, recent cuts in federal loan subsidies and a loss of interest in loan securities investing have caused chaos within the student loan market over past months. According to Forbes, Student Loan Corp., a previous division of Citibank, has become the latest victim in the student loan credit crunch, announcing plans to lay off 146 of its 523 employees.
On Wednesday, the company announced that the 146 Student Loan Corp. jobs, plus an additional 28 Citibank N.A positions, would be eliminated sometime in August. The affected employees will be offered counseling, assistance in finding new work, severance packages and, for some, the chance to take advantage of job openings in other parts of the country. Business has been so poor for the company that their stock has dropped by 48% over the past 52 weeks, reported Forbes.
Student Loan Corp. is just one of many companies who have been forced to either cut jobs or to exit the student loan industry altogether. Other major lenders who have either stopped or suspended offering certain student loans include Bank of America, NextStudent, Brazos, and American Education Services. Even Sallie Mae, the largest student lender in the business has been struggling to stay afloat, suspending select loan services.
July 15, 2008
All entries have been cast, all information verified, and yes, a winner has been chosen. Matt D. of Newport, KY has been randomly selected as latest winner of the Scholarships.com $1,000 Tell A Friend Sweepstakes. By referring his friends to Scholarships.com, Matt was able to secure $1,000 towards a college education.
"Winning the sweepstakes was really exciting! It was the first scholarship I applied for and … I won,” he told us. Once again proving that financial aid is available to those who search, Matt was able to join the growing list of Scholarships.com Success Stories. By giving them free access to our scholarship search, providing them with valuable college-funding resources and personally sponsoring numerous sweepstakes and scholarships, Scholarships.com has assisted myriad students in affording a postsecondary education.
Every three months a new Scholarships.com user is selected as the Scholarships.com Tell A Friend Sweepstakes winner. Applying couldn’t be easier—no essays and no recommendations required. For the chance to win $1,000, just visit our Tell A Friend Sweepstakes page. You can enter the names and email addresses of up to ten friends, and, if they join the site, you will both be eligible to win $1,000. The more friends you refer, the more entries you’ll receive. Submit now for the chance to win!
July 16, 2008
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted nearly $900,000 for work on four issues of The Future of Children , a biannually-released journal about effective policies and programs for children. Since its inception in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted nearly $16.5 billion to provide for the health and education of people living in the US and abroad. In addition to sponsoring numerous education-related initiatives, the foundation created one of the biggest, most lucrative scholarship programs in the country, the Gates Millennium Scholars.
Their latest donation will be used by the Brookings Institute and the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs—co-publishers of The Future of Children —to conduct research, disseminate information, host conferences and pay for additional efforts related to the four issues. According to a Woodrow Wilson School news release, the proposed journal topics will include Children in Fragile Families, Children and Youth in Immigrant Families, Work and Family Balance and Postsecondary Education.
The Future of Children is aimed at identifying the research and policies that could assist families in raising their income and paying for school. To this end, researches will study the problems affecting individuals between the ages of 16 and 26, as well as those of their children. Their findings will be disseminated at no charge, and, once available, the results will be posted on www.futureofchildren.org. To encourage legislators to concentrate their efforts on bettering the circumstances of America's youth, journal contributors will also host numerous public awareness events.
July 17, 2008
According to West Virginia’s The State Journal, a recent poll indicates that Americans are prioritizing the affordability of a college education over other factors. Though criteria such as scholastic quality, distance and diversity were also critical, the cost of a school topped the list as most important.
With college costs continuing to outpace inflation and graduates finishing school with growing debt, families are beginning to realize that attending schools within their means may be more important than attending ones of greater prestige. A recent report from the National Center for Education Studies (NCES) stated that during the 2005-2006 school year, 46 percent of first-time, full-time students who sought a degree took out student loans, a few graduating more than $100,000 in debt.
The Chronicle of Higher Education Gallop Poll indicated that, though there were conflicting views over whether the government or the public should be responsible for much of the cost, most agreed that colleges should contribute to the solution by spending a larger percentage of their endowment funds.
As the media focuses on problems of national debt, controversy has grown over the use of annually increasing endowment funds acquired through donations to colleges. Though endowment contributors frequently create stipulations about who may or may not receive their scholarship money, the public has pointed to the questionable nature of storing funds and increasing tuition, especially during a time when debt has become a growing problem for students.
July 18, 2008
During a conference held by the Department of Education this week, department commissioners, educators and business leaders alike expressed their disappointment with Education Secretary Margaret Spelling’s inability to improve the current state of postsecondary education. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education created by the secretary herself complained that, after three years of work, students were still unsure about which colleges best fit their needs, and employers were still dissatisfied with graduates’ lack of preparation for the workforce.
Furthermore, while steps to alleviate the burden of school expenses have been taken—most prominent of which was perhaps the increase in Pell Grant caps—the rising costs of a college education have made paying for school a struggle. During the 2005-2006 school year, more than 40 percent of first-time college students were forced to take out student loans. These factors, combined with the declining value of a college degree, have made securing a sufficiently lucrative job difficult for those with debt, especially when searching for positions within the nonprofit sector.
With only six months left in office, the secretary has little time to apply the suggestions of her peers. Complaining that colleges are not doing enough to prepare students for the business world, previous advertising executive Richard Holland stated, “We just talk about this all the time, and we don’t do anything about it.” Added Education Department’s senior adviser Vickie Schray, “There’s still a lot that needs to be done.”
October 10, 2007
August 23, 2007
Effective October 15, 2007, College Board will no longer accept student loan applications. College Board, best known for administering the SAT and AP tests, announced its decision to leave the lender industry on August 22nd. In a press release, College Board stated that legislation aimed at curbing unethical relations between lenders and colleges made it too difficult to cover costs associated with education professional meetings.
The legislation was created as a result of findings that numerous lenders made payments to colleges in exchange for spots on college preferred lender lists. Legislation included a more concrete definition of a lending institution—which categorized College Board as a lender—and restrictions on lender payments to financial aid officials. Although College Board does not itself lend money to students, it receives payments from lenders for allowing students to sign up. As it is now considered a lender, it can no longer offer funds to the financial aid officials it works with.
The meetings College Board convenes for education professionals are now subject to strict regulations. Under new rules, College Board would no longer be able to reimburse members for travel and lodging expenses. Edna Johnson, a College Board spokeswoman stated, “If we no longer reimburse the educators, then only those educators from schools, colleges and universities with the financial resources to pay for the travel and the accommodation would attend.” The meetings held by College Board include discussions of practices for assisting families in paying for an education and tactics for effective administration of financial aid programs.
The new decision is likely to affect lenders more than it does College Board and the students who search for financial aid. According to the Washington Post, College Board issued 74,000 loans valued at $400 million in 2007, and the year is not over. However, less than 1 percent of College Board’s revenue comes from the lending sector.
Students who signed up with College Board aren’t the losers in this decision either. Those who wish to take out loans with companies represented by College Board may still do so by contacting lenders directly. They may be forced to do some extra research, but that’s a good thing.
July 20, 2007
On Friday June 20, the Senate approved the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 by a vote of 78-18. The bill, if approved by the House, would increase Pell Grant eligibility and lower government subsidies to outside lenders. The House passed a similar proposal—the College Reduction Act of 2007—in June, making a compromise on both versions likely. The overarching theme of the bill was an increase in government aid to students and, at the same time, a decrease in aid provided to student lenders.
Lowered subsidies would likely result in increased interest rates for students who take out loans from lenders outside of the government. Government loans offer students the best interest rates, but such loans also have smaller borrowing limits. Many students end up looking to lenders subsidized by the government for additional aid. While interest rates on subsidized loans are not as favorable as those offered by the government, they are still more favorable than those offered by private, unsubsidized lenders.
According to MarketWatch, the new bill could save the government up to $15.4 billion by 2012. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, was enthusiastic about the approval stating, "The passage of the Higher Education Access Act tonight was a victory not only for students and their families, but for the American people. With this new congress we made education a national priority again, and we’ve given the next generation the tools they need to compete in the global economy."
Fortunately for student borrowers, the bill did address worries about lender rate increases. Cuts on outside lender subsidies were also accompanied by increased caps on government loans as well as by increased laxity on government loan eligibility requirements. These changes are likely to benefit students who don’t borrow much. For those that do, effects will depend on just how much more the government is willing to lend and on how much outside lenders will choose to charge after cuts.
Students still have a lot to cheer about. The biggest perk of the Higher Education Access Act is its proposal to increase government grant offers. Free money is the best kind. Like scholarships, grants provide students with aid that need not be repaid. If the bill is enacted, the government would increase the amounts of Pell Grants a student may receive to a maximum $5,100. It would also alter the formula used to determine grant eligibility in a way that would lessen restrictions on financial circumstances required for grant reception.
Additional bill provisions include loan forgiveness options for borrowers who work in areas of public service for ten years, a cap on monthly loan payments required of students, and the establishment of a program that would increase competition between lenders. If the bill passes, the enactment may be expected within the next few months.
Posted By Scholarships.com to Scholarships.com Blog at 7/20/2007 09:57:00 AM
August 31, 2007
College Board has been dealt another big blow. Just days after it was revealed they
had bought their way into spots on preferred-lender lists, College Board announced
a drop in SAT scores. College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the
SAT and AP tests, announced on August 28th that the average combined scores for
2007 graduates dropped by 1 point in critical reading and by 3 points in math and
writing. Since 1967, average reading scores dropped by 41 points and math scores
by 1 point (writing scores were not reported). College Board stressed the positive
saying that more students, minorities in particular, were taking the test.
Earlier this year, the SAT was scrutinized after research released by the University
of California revealed that the correlation between high school grades and SAT scores
may not be as accurate as once thought. Although the test was a good indicator of
first-year grades, the following three did not match up. Eventually, ambitious students
adjusted to the University of California’s difficult curriculum, regardless of initial
The study was a continuation of a 2003 study which showed that SAT performance was
better than GPA in predicting first-year college performance. Apparently, after
catching up with the 80,000 students sampled, things had changed. In fact, findings
showed that the longer students attended college, the greater the value in using
high school grades as a means of predicting future performance. Such findings indicate
that the strong correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic factors is eventually
watered down. The implications of this research are yet unclear. It is, however,
becoming clear that the SAT may not be as good of an indicator of college performance
as was once thought.
The question of whether the SAT & ACT tests should continue to be administered
was one of two issues addressed in Scholarships.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve essay
contest (the second dealt with the population’s effect on the environment.) To read
what students had to say, you can visit the Scholarships.com 2007 Resolve to Evolve Award Winners page. To find sample questions and advice on preparing
for standardized tests, you may visit the Resources section at Scholarships.com.
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