July 31, 2008
More students than ever are attending college. The economy's in a slump. Gas prices are through the roof. Rent keeps going up, especially in college towns. Everything is getting more expensive, including food. What does all this add up to? Housing shortages on college campuses, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. As many students opt to live in the dorms, as a way to save money in college by avoiding the cost of rent, gas, and food, as well as the time involved in getting to campus, many schools are running out of places to put all their students. For some students, this problem has been familiar for years--for example, during my sophomore year of college, my university wound up renting, and later purchasing, a hotel near campus to house some of their incoming freshmen--but for others, this phenomenon is new and surprising.
Many families are displeased at the thought of paying that daunting housing bill for their students to still be living off-campus and having to commute a mile or more to get to class. But placing students in a hotel or an apartment off-campus isn't the only makeshift housing solution being implemented by universities this fall. Other students will wind up in converted lounges, triple-occupancy dorm rooms, former office space, or recently reopened buildings. Still some undergraduate students, like 725 University of Missouri attendees, may wind up paying on-campus rates for swanky apartments with full kitchens and plasma TVs thanks to the housing shortage on campus.
While many of these housing arrangements can be just as good as or even be better than traditional dorm space at some institutions, students should be aware of the potential for on-campus housing crunches at their schools. Incoming high school seniors who are starting the college search should decide early whether they want to live on campus in 2009, should be sure to ask questions about housing on their campus visits, and should apply for housing at the earliest possible date. Students currently living on-campus should also be proactive in procuring living arrangements for future semesters. Familiarize yourself with your university's housing policies and housing situation, and be sure you're taking all steps necessary to get the best on-campus housing possible.
July 30, 2008
The new version of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is at last moving to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote. After seven years of waiting and debating, Congressional reauthorization of the HEA could finally happen in the next week, setting the stage for a number of changes in federal student financial aid for college students.
Among other things, the reauthorized HEA would:
Many other changes appear in the 1,158 pages of the bill, which has been a long time coming. The Higher Education Act is supposed to be reauthorized every 5 years, but it has been 10 years since the previous version passed. The new HEA should help financial aid programs adapt to the present situation students face, and should help students better assess and plan for the costs of a college education.
July 29, 2008
Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation, Inc., the fourth largest holder of guaranteed student loans and the largest nonprofit loan provider, will not be able to issue new student loans to college students this fall. The company had initially announced in March that it would suspend providing Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) student loans, but after emergency legislation passed this summer to help FFELP lenders, it looked like Brazos may be able to stay in the game. However, they recently issued a news release stating they would not be able to provide new loans to students this fall, citing the short amount of time between the passage of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act and fall semester loan disbursement dates. "We have simply run out of time to secure financing to disburse loans as soon as they are needed," said Brazos CEO Murray Watson.
In another blow to many families' pocketbooks, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA), the state's nonprofit student loan agency, also announced that it would be forced to suspend its student loan services in the fall. With continued uncertainty in the availability of FFELP Stafford Loans and private student loans, now more than ever students are encouraged to keep in touch with their financial aid offices, and also to explore alternate ways to find money for college. Many universities and state governments are continuing to look at adding new grant programs, with North Dakota being the latest to introduce legislation to provide a new $2000 state grant to its residents attending college in-state.
In addition to grants, scholarships remain excellent resources to pay for school. Students can conduct a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com to find out instantly which scholarship opportunities may be open to them.
July 28, 2008
Are you looking for something to do with the rest of your summer? While scientific research might not be everyone's idea of a good time, putting together a research project could pay off for high school students through this week's Scholarship of the Week.The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology recognizes remarkable talent early on, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. The Competition promotes excellence by encouraging students to undertake individual or team research projects in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, or a combination of these disciplines. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete in high school. It is administered by The College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation.
Students may enter as individuals or as part of a team. Entries are "blind read" by a panel of judges assembled by The College Board and its partner Educational Testing Service. The judges have related expertise to the project being reviewed. They do not know anything about the student; papers are judged solely on the merits of the abstract and supporting documentation.
Prize: In the initial review up to 300 projects are selected as semi-finalists. Of these, up to 30 individual students and 30 teams go on to compete in regional finals. Regional finalists receive scholarships of $1,000 apiece and regional winners receive $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for teams. Regional champions progress to the national competition, where they compete for scholarship opportunities up to $100,000.
Eligibility: All current U. S. high school students are eligible to enter the competition.
Deadline: Applications are due by 5 p.m. Eastern Time October 1, 2008.
Required Materials: Please review the Siemens Foundation Competition scholarship information for complete submission guidelines and required materials.
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship search results.
July 25, 2008
Students in three states could be seeing major changes in their funding for college in the next two school years. Colorado students attending religious schools will now have access to additional state funds, based on a U. S. Court of Appeals ruling that overturned a state law limiting funding to students attending "pervasively sectarian" institutions. Colorado Christian University successfully appealed a state decision to deny its students access to state financial aid programs based on the university's emphasis on religion. Colorado also may be changing admissions and scholarship criteria at state universities. If Amendment 46, an anti-affirmative action initiative passes in November, the state will have to do away with all educational programs designed to benefit minorities specifically.
Additionally, faced with an inability to fund all of the students who qualify for TEXAS grants, the state of Texas is looking at increasing eligibility requirements to target grants at higher-performing students, instead of simply high-need students, according to a Dallas News article.
Meanwhile, private colleges and universities in Wisconsin plan to ask the state for a $4 million increase in aid to help students with the greatest financial need afford college in the 2009-2010 school year, a plan the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel backs.
July 24, 2008
Twenty small private colleges will be using a Wal Mart Foundation grant this fall to augment their efforts to recruit and retain first-generation college students, according to an Inside Higher Ed article. While many first-generation students initially look to community colleges or state universities, many private colleges and universities argue that they could be a good fit as well due to smaller student populations and better access to professors and resources. In addition to these advantages, recipients of the Wal Mart Foundation grant will be adding more programs specifically designed for students who are the first in their families to attend college.
This funding is being used for a wide variety of projects of especial benefit to poor and working-class students. Lesley University in Massachussettes plans to use its grant money for outreach programs to inform high school students of their options for college. Saint Edwards University in Texas and Ripon College in Wisconsin both plan to implement bridge programs that help freshmen gain necessary skills to succeed in college the summer before they start classes. Ripon College also plans to use this grant to help its first-generation students gain paid internships and valuable work experience before they graduate.
With the current financial aid crunch, small private colleges and universities undertaking efforts such as these can become more appealing options for budget-conscious students and families, as well as students concerned about their preparedness for college. Choosing the right college is vital, since there are all sorts of special programs for different students populations at each school. Conduct a free college search on Scholarships.com to get started!
July 23, 2008
A survey released yesterday by the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) indicated that 90 percent of financial aid administrators are at least somewhat concerned about the current student loan crunch. As lenders continue to opt out of Federal Family Education Loan Programs (FFELP) and to reduce the number of schools they make loans available to, many financial aid administrators remain concerned that students at their institutions may have decreased access to money for school. While overall administrators expressed confidence that the recent Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act will help students pay for college this year, 52 percent said that more needed to be done to make sure students will have sufficient access to college loans in the future, and more than half stated that they believe it will be more difficult for students to borrow additional private loans in the upcoming school year.
A number of schools are turning to the federal Direct Loans program to ensure continued loan availability for their students, while others are calling for other solutions to the student loan problem, putting an emphasis on federal student aid. Many NASFAA members stressed the importance of increasing access to federal grant programs and scholarship money in order for students to continue being able to afford a college education. NASFAA President Dr. Philip Day summarized this position, stating, "Too many students rely on loans to pay for their education. I do not accept the premise that student loans are here to stay, especially for needy students. If the student loan crunch has shown us anything, it is that our neediest students have no place in the student loan marketplace. We should help them find as many alternatives to borrowing as possible by providing them with grants and scholarships to meet their educational costs."
The survey also asked what financial aid administrators were doing for students and their families to help them find money for college. Many financial aid offices continue to maintain a preferred lenders list, despite recent media criticism and policy changes, something NASFAA stresses is both wanted and needed by families needing to find private student loans or new FFELP lenders on short notice.
NASFAA is also backing a new piece of legislation known as the Preventing Student Loan Discrimination Act, which if passed, will prohibit FFELP lenders from denying loans to eligible students based on the institution they attend, the length of their program, or their income level. These provisions will help students pay for school in the short term, but the report stressed that more needs to be done to make college affordable in the future.
The full survey is available through the NASFAA website.
July 22, 2008
Technology, rental programs, and new laws could finally reverse the trend of rising textbook costs, according to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report. Students, parents, and professors alike often recoil at the astronomical pricetag of some textbooks, especially for introductory courses students are required to take. For many, textbook purchases can represent the last hurdle in the race to pay for school, as students who have managed to find money for college tuition and housing still may not be able to foot a textbook bill of several hundred dollars per semester.
Now, a combination of factors may finally bring some relief to students in this predicament. In recent years, schools and private companies have piloted textbook rental programs that have been met with a great deal of enthusiasm from students who are now able to rent many of the general education textbooks that they would likely sell back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. E-books and open source projects have begun to catch professors' attention as alternatives to requiring students to purchase an expensive hard copy of a textbook.
Finally, a bill currently under consideration in Congress would require textbook companies to provide professors with accurate pricing information before book orders are placed. This would allow professors to choose textbooks based on price, in addition to quality of information. The proposed law would also require publishers to provide unbundled versions of currently bundled textbook packages, which often have high prices due to the inclusion of workbooks or electronic content that many students and professors wind up electing not to use.
Cheaper textbook options such as these can help students save money in college, which is a relief for every student, whether they are paying with scholarship money, federal financial aid, or their own savings.
The Department of Education Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance recently released a report entitled Early and Often showing the financial aid community what can be done to help students and families better prepare to pay for school. The report provided recommendations on what information students needed to know before deciding whether to attend college, when the students needed to know it, and how it could best be disseminated to students and their families, stressing four categories of knowledge that students need to make informed decisions about attending college.
Students need to understand:
The Early and Oftenreport states that this process needs to begin as early as the sixth grade to ensure that students and families have enough time to devise a strategy for getting into and paying for college.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, "Possessing timely and accurate information at each juncture of a student's college preparation timeline can dispel the hyperbole in the media and alleviate complexity, inform students of financing options, and ensure they make sound decisions."
The report asserts that "early information on the availability, eligibility, and variety of financial aid is essential to promote access and persistence. Every student should learn that funding an education requires a reliance on many sources: federal and state governments, institutions, private resources, and personal financial resources. Each of these sources can provide financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Delivering information on the differences between need-based aid and merit-based aid will help students better predict which aid options will be available for them. Understanding the intricacies among such options is vital to successfully financing higher education."
Working with the strategies suggested by the Department of Education, websites such as Scholarships.com already provide the public with a wealth of free resources regarding a variety of financial aid.
By browsing our website's Resources section, students can find information in all four of the Department of Education's vital categories, especially paying for college and applying for financial aid. Additionally, our scholarship search can fill an important role, even early in the college planning process. Students can fill out a profile and conduct a free search, gaining valuable information on which scholarships may be available to them. This will help students get a better idea of how they will be able to afford college.
The full Early and Often report is available on the Department of Education website.
July 21, 2008
The National Peace Essay Contest, a scholarship sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace, gives students the chance to voice their opinions on matters regarding international peace and conflict. By administering this award, the institute hopes to promote thoughtful discussion between youth, educators and national leaders alike.Students interested in this year’s scholarships will have to write a 1500-word essay discussing the steps international entities such as the UN, governments and government or non-government organizations can take to protect individuals from crimes against humanity during times of warfare. An example of two foreign conflicts and possible measures that could be taken to promote their peace will have to be identified.
Applicants should also designate a coordinator such as a teacher, parent or youth leader to act as a contact between them and the US Institute of Peace. Coordinators will be responsible for reviewing the entries and ensuring that scholarship essays are the original work of the applicant.
Prize: 1. National first place award $10,000 (includes state awards) 2. National second place award $5,000 3. National third place award $2,500 4. Fifty-three state awards $1,000
Eligibility: 1. Students must be in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia or, if they are U.S. citizens, abroad. 2. Applicants may not have been previous first-place state winners or immediate family members of the institute. 3. Students may participate with the sponsorship of an essay coordinator.
Deadline: February 1, 2009
Required Material: 1. Two registration forms, one filled out by the student and one by the teacher 2. A 1500-word essay addressing this year’s topic
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once the search is completed, students eligible for the award will find it in their scholarship search results.
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