September 18, 2008
According to a Department of Education memo cited by the New York Times, the Federal Pell Grant program could face a budget shortfall of up to $6 billion in 2009 due to increases in grant amounts and numbers of applicants. The cap on Pell awards has risen from $4050 to $4731 between 2006 and now, and will increase to $6000 for the 2009-2010 academic year (if funding is available) according to the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act. Meanwhile, the number of FAFSA applications has risen by nearly 17 percent in the last year alone, driven by a worsening economic situation.
While data has not yet been released on whether more students are qualifying for Pell Grants or other need-based federal student financial aid this year, increasing college enrollment and unemployment rates, coupled with an overall economic downturn and increased cost of living for Americans, certainly suggest the possibility exists. According to the Department of Education memo to Congress, tough choices or an unpopular announcement regarding Pell Grant funding may have to be made shortly after the next President's inauguration. While it's speculated that Congress will ultimately find the money to fully fund the popular grant program, the federal government is by no means exempt from economic strain.
This announcement comes at the same time as the release of the results of an audit of 14 student loan guaranty agencies, which suggests the government may have lost over $1 billion to FFELP student loan companies taking advantage of a now-closed federal funding loophole. Lenders had been recycling new student loans through a loan program that guaranteed a 9.5 percent return from the government on student loans made before 1993. Lenders had been taking advantage of this loophole as late as 2006, claiming in some cases hundreds of millions of federal dollars for which they should have been ineligible.
When these loan recycling programs came to light, the Department of Education settled with lenders, allowing them to keep the money they had gained up to that point in the 9.5 percent program, but requiring them to immediately cease using the program or submit to an audit in order to continue receiving the subsidies on loans actually eligible. So far, 14 lenders have agreed to these audits. Based on the results, if the loan agencies audited are representative of all lenders that participated in the 9.5 percent program, federal losses could total $1.2 billion. Several of the lenders involved in this settlement, including Nelnet, a company that also recently settled with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over other questionable business practices, have also announced that they are unable to completely fund their student loan programs for the 2008-2009 school year.
September 30, 2008
The U.S. Department of Education released a series of new statistical reports last week showing a dramatic increase in participation in the federal direct lending student loan program. Motivated largely by the economic downturn and the credit crunch of the last year, 400 new colleges joined the federal direct lending program. Overall, student borrowing through the program has increased by 50 percent in the last year.
The federal direct lending program provides students at participating schools with Stafford Loans directly, instead of going through the intermediary of a bank, as is done in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). In previous years, borrowing through FFELP could land students with lower interest rates, as well as significant repayment incentives, but that has changed significantly since 2007 as a result of subsidy cuts and economic difficulties faced by FFELP lenders. Since direct loans are serviced directly by the Education Department, they are largely exempt from the fallout of the credit crunch and are currently more appealing to many colleges.
There is good news for students at schools that continue to participate in FFELP, though. Lenders are participating in the loan buyback program enacted as part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed earlier this year. About 40 percent of the student loans in the bank system have been sold to the Education Department, with paperwork being completed on much of the remaining balance. This move appears to have worked to allow lenders to fund loans for students, as the Education Department also reports that not a single student has had to participate in the federal "lender of last resort" program.
In other financial aid news, Congress recently approved $2.5 billion in Pell Grant funding, to help tide the program over through March 2009, at which point most spring semester grant awards should have been disbursed. All of this news suggests that students are highly likely to be able to continue to find federal student financial aid for college, at least for the forseeable future. Of course, finding scholarships and avoiding student loans is still a smart plan, but this news suggests that despite growing fears about the economy, federal financial aid will still be available to students who need it.
October 2, 2008
May 26, 2011
When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.
My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.
The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!
There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.
If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.
Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.
September 9, 2013
Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.
Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)
There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.
The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.
What do you think about the proposed federal plan?
Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.
October 1, 2013
Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.
First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.
Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)
If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.
My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.
Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.
September 4, 2007
When combined with free scholarship and grant opportunities found at
Scholarships.com, government grants can significantly decrease, if not completely
cover, a student’s financial needs. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid;
unlike federal work study and assistantships, there is no labor involved. When students
submit a FAFSA, they are
automatically in the running to receive government need-based grants. The most well-known
of these is the Pell Grant, but lesser-known government grants are also available.
Here is a breakdown of grants students may find on their FAFSA award letters:
The Pell Grant is the largest grant program in the United States, awarding undergraduates with
millions each year. The Pell Grant is the foundation of all government aid. Seeing
as Pell Grant money is free, awesome GPA or not, students should take advantage
of all offers before moving on to Federal Work Study and government loans. Unfortunately,
students don’t always get their fill with Pell Grants. During the 2007-2008 school
year, students may only receive up to $4,310 in aid from Pell Grants, and not all
eligible students receive this much. This may seem like a drop in the bucket for
those who need $12,000 or more each year, but every penny counts.
Students with extreme need may be eligible for the Federal Supplemental Educational
Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Like the Pell Grant, this is a grant for undergraduates.
It is intended to provide additional assistance to the neediest of students, those
with the lowest expected family contributions. Students may receive up to $4,000
each year in FSEOG funding, but awards may be as little as $100 per year. The award
received will depend on the time of application, the level of need, and the rules
at each school’s financial aid office.
This is a new grant introduced during the 2006-2007 school year. Students who felt
their merit-based aid opportunities were thwarted by grades that did not sufficiently
reflect their abilities may receive some compensation. Up to $750 will be awarded
to first-year undergraduates and up to $1,300 for second-year full-time undergraduates
who have completed a difficult high school program. The state or local education
agency is responsible for deciding which schools are deemed rigorous. For information
on high school eligibility based on state, visit the Department of Education. As this is still a need-based grant program at
heart, only students who were deemed needy enough for Pell Grants can receive Academic
Competitiveness Grant money.
The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART
Grant) is awarded to third and fourth-year college students. Students who major
in the physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology, engineering or a foreign
language determined to be essential to national security may be able to supplement
Pell Grants with SMART Grants. Up to $4,000 per year may be awarded to each recipient.
A more detailed list of eligible fields of study may be found here.
In addition to government grants, students may find school grants on their award
letters. These, unlike the government grants, usually take academic achievement
into account. Some may also consider a student’s financial need. To find out more
about institutional grants offered at each college, students should visit their
school website and conduct a scholarship and grant search at
Above is a list of grants students can receive by submitting their FAFSA, but students
don’t need to stop there. Myriad scholarship and grant opportunities are available
to them at Scholarships.com, and they aren’t restricted to undergraduates and those
determined to be needy by government standards. To conduct a free scholarship and
grant search, visit Scholarships.com,
and find money for college.
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.
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.
June 13, 2008
Students who enter into loan agreements can be bombarded with unfamiliar terms and overwhelming agreements. The meaning of a student lender is obvious enough--it's the entity in charge of borrowing money--but the role a guaranty agency plays in the student lending process is a bit less obvious. The information below will give you a better idea of how guaranty agencies work, and how their work affects you.
What are guaranty agencies?
Guaranty agencies are state or private non-profit organizations in charge of administrating the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, one that subsidizes participating student lenders. Because lenders who participate in the FFEL program receive subsidies from the government, they must abide by certain rules. (e.g. they cannot charge an interest rate higher than that set each year by the government.) In return, the government agrees to insure them through one of the 35 existing guaranty agencies. If an individual defaults on a student loan, a guaranty agency will pay the student lender most of the remaining loan balance.
How do guaranty agencies affect me?
Students who enter into a loan agreement with an FFEL lender agree to pay their guaranty agency a maximum 1% default fee (also known as a guaranty fee) to cover insurance costs. Guaranty agencies with a sufficiently large reserve may choose to lower or eliminate the student default fee. Some may also reduce fees for students who sign up for direct bank withdrawal or for those who make a certain number of on-time payments.
If a guaranty agency is forced to repay a student lender for a student's loan default, they are also responsible for collecting the outstanding balance. Students who are unable to fulfill their borrowing responsibilities due to certain circumstances may be eligible to have their loans discharged (forgiven).
For additional information about the guaranty agency serving your state, you may contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID or visit the Department of Education website.
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