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Student Debt Forgiveness Programs Skyrocket

May 6, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you plan on paying for your college education out-of-pocket, completing the FAFSA and applying for scholarships are essential in your quest for financial aid. But have you considered federal programs that forgive student loan debt almost entirely? It’s an increasingly popular option: According to reports, government officials are trying to rein in federal programs that forgive some student debt, amid rising concerns over the plans’ costs and the possibility they could encourage colleges to push tuition even higher.

The fastest-growing plan requires borrowers to pay 10 percent a year of their discretionary income in monthly installments. The unpaid balances for those working in the public sector or for nonprofits are forgiven after 10 years while those private-sector workers see their debt wiped clear after 20 years. And while there is currently no limit on such debt, the Obama administration has proposed to cap the amount eligible for forgiveness at $57,500 per student. The cost? A report last week from the Brookings Institution estimated that the plan could cost taxpayers $14 billion a year! “Loan forgiveness creates incentives for students to borrow too much to attend college, potentially contributing to rising college prices for everyone,” the study said. The authors went on to recommend the forgiveness provisions to be scrapped entirely. (For more on this story, click here.)

Share your thoughts on federal student debt forgiveness programs in the comments and check out our financial aid section for more information on how to fund your college education.

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Legislation Seeks Student Protection on College Debit Cards

May 23, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With graduation season in full swing on college campuses across the country, many of you are well-prepared and excited for this new chapter in your lives. So whether you've snagged a position in your field (way to go!) or have a coveted internship lined up, it seems as though things are all finally falling into place...until you realize that along with the crippling student loan debt you’ve accrued the past four years, you also have a ton of debit card debt. Yikes! Fortunately, Congress seems to be tackling predatory college debit card programs head-on.

The legislation – known in the Senate as the Protecting Aid for Students Act and in the House as the Curbing Abusive Marketing Practices with University Student Debit Cards Act – would prevent "revenue-sharing" deals between college and banks for college-issued deposit accounts/debit cards and would require that banks pay colleges at "market rate" to provide and promote their banking services. The bill also calls for a "code of conduct" for colleges that bans banks from giving gifts to college officials. "Many of today's college students are being strong-armed into using financial products that are endorsed by their university," lead House sponsor Rep. George Miller of California said in a written statement. "These products often carry unnecessarily high fees that chip away at students' federal grants and loans, which should be helping pay for classes, not lining the pockets of banks. In reality, these ‘preferred’ products aren’t preferable at all." (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the proposed legislation? Were you tempted by every credit card promotion with a free t-shirt incentive while on campus? If so, check our Campus Life section for tips on credit card money management, resisting the urge to splurge and recognizing want vs. need to get back on track!

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Obama's Student Loan Plan: What's in it for you?

June 10, 2014

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 available. From Pell Grants to Perkins Loans to FAFSA, the funding is out there but your eligibility to receive aid depends on your level of need and, subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive. Translation: For the majority of students, loans are inevitable. But don't fret just yet because President Obama announced an executive order capping loan payments: In an attempt to ease heavy college debt, millions of student loan borrowers will soon be able to cap their payments at 10 percent of their monthly income.

According to the administration, this action will help up to 5 million more borrowers but will not be implemented until December 2015 at the earliest. And while some students taking out loans can already cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes, the president's order will extend this ability to students who took out loans before October 2007. (It’s important to note, however, that President Obama's executive order would cover only those loans from the federal government, not private financial institutions.) "The past couple of years, we've done future students, we've done current students, and now we're trying to take a step back," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters Monday. Duncan went on to explain that the expansion of the payment caps would be "fantastic for the economy" by allowing young people to spend or invest that money elsewhere. (For more on this story, click here.)

What do you think of the president's attempt to ease the financial burden associated with student loans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section. And for more information on federal funding, visit our Financial Aid section.

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Starbucks Offers Employees Free College Tuition

June 16, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Have you heard the one about the English major that was so unemployable that their only viable option was becoming a barista at the local Starbucks? Well, the joke's on you because starting this fall, Starbucks employees will be eligible for a free college education: According to reports, Starbucks is rolling out a program that would allow its workers to earn online college degrees at Arizona State University at a steeply discounted rate. Thanks a latte!

The new initiative will offer Starbucks' 135,000 U.S. employees who work at least 20 hours a week the option to graduate debt free from ASU with no requirement to repay tuition costs or stay with the company. Under this freshly-brewed program, employees will receive full tuition reimbursement if they enroll in ASU's online program as juniors or seniors; they can also pick from a wide range of educational programs that aren't related to their Starbucks work. And while it’s unclear how many employees with choose to participate in the new program or how much it will cost Starbucks Corp., the company isn't disclosing the financial terms of its agreement with ASU. In a news release, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz talked about “the fracturing of the American Dream”, saying: “There's no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it?" (For more on this story, click here.)

Do you think this partnership between Starbucks and ASU is a step in the right direction? Would you consider working for Starbucks given the promising initiative? Share your thoughts in the comment section and for more info on how to fund your college education, head over to Scholarships.com.

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Asking Your Student Loan Servicer the Right Questions

June 23, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

If you're a recent high school graduate, chances are you're looking forward to the independence that comes with becoming a college freshman. And while anticipating all the excitement that comes with entering college – meeting new people, establishing a home away from home, etc. – establishing how you're going to pay for it is an entirely different story. Here at Scholarships.com, we encourage students to apply for scholarships early and often but taking out student loans might be inevitable. With that being said, knowing what questions you should ask your student loan servicer might ease the transition so check out the list of helpful questions that financial aid officers, student loan counselors and former lenders recommend you ask:

  • When exactly will my payments begin?
  • Do you have my current contact information on file?
  • What is my interest rate?
  • Is my interest rate competitive?
  • Is there any way to get an interest rate reduction?
  • Is consolidating my loans a good option for me?
  • How do I qualify for Interest-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment?
  • Do I qualify for an economic hardship deferment?
  • What happens if I lose my job?
  • If I go back to graduate school, what are my loan options?

Can you think of any other questions you’d like answered? If so, feel free to add them in the comments section. And for more information on the ins and outs of student loans, head over to Scholarships.com’s Financial Aid section.

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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

October 1, 2013

Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

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.

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California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

October 11, 2013

California Gov Signs Bill Allowing Higher Fees for Popular Community College Classes

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and you don’t think a traditional four-year university is for you, attending a community college does have its perks. Whether you’re interested in completing your general courses or testing the waters with a major that you're not absolutely set on, community colleges offer students the luxury of figuring out their educational path for a fraction of the cost...or at least they used to: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow a handful of community colleges to charge inflated prices for in-demand courses. Let’s say it all together now: Booooooo!

The higher costs – $200 per unit instead of $46 – would only affect the shorter summer and winter sessions. Supporters insist that the pilot program would prevent more students from being shut out of courses they need to graduate but critics said that lower-income students would be denied the opportunity to obtain course credits essential to their educational success. "The state would be shifting the burden for funding access from the state general fund to the backs of students," said Vincent Stewart, the community college system's vice chancellor for governmental relations, after the California Legislature approved the measure. "Creating a pay-to-play fee structure, where students who have greater wealth and means can get on a fast track, is patently unfair."

Even with the rate per unit almost quintupled, the overall cost of studying at a community college is still considerably less when compared to traditional options but is it fair to charge more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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11 Colleges Where You Can Earn a Degree for Free

July 29, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we make a point to advocate the importance of funding your college education the right way (for free!) and while financing your higher education solely with scholarships is an amazing feat, there is another factor to consider: colleges with no tuition to be begin with. Yup, they totally exist – check out the 11 colleges below where you can earn a degree for free:

We should also mention that elite universities with healthy endowments also tout financial aid programs that pay 100 percent of tuition, room and board and fees for students from families with certain incomes – $75,000 or less at MIT, $65,000 or less at Harvard and Yale, and $60,000 of less at Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, Brown and Texas A&M. For a more detailed look at any of the schools listed or hundreds of other universities, check out our College Search. And let us know where you’re heading this fall in the comments section!

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Is Earning a College Degree Worth It? Study Finds Modest Return for Some

February 10, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

It wasn't too long ago that the majority of Americans agreed that one had to pursue a college degree in order to succeed in the workforce. Unfortunately for millennials, the rate of success after obtaining said degree is no longer so intrinsically tied: According to reports, millions of college students don't graduate, suffer a mismatch between education and employment and are left with massive amounts of debt.

New research suggests that earning a college degree is no longer the surest ticket to the middle class. "'Ticket' implies a college degree is something you can just cash in," said Alan Benson, assistant business professor at the University of Minnesota. "But it doesn’t work that way. A college degree is more of a stepping stone, one ingredient to consider when you’re cooking up your career...It’s not always the best investment for everyone." Benson, along with MIT’s Frank Levy and business analyst Raimudo Esteva, co-authored a new paper examining the value of public university options in California. They found that factors like how long it takes to complete a degree and whether students even make it to graduation can significantly diminish the value of pursuing higher education. Unsurprisingly, the study also found that students who take out loans and don’t graduate on time incur much more debt. All in all, Benson concluded that the investment of a college education is generally better for those who graduate – on time – from a school with healthier resources. (For more on their research, click here.)

Do you think that a college degree is necessary for gainful employment and upward mobility? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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Top 10 Least Expensive Colleges to Earn Your Degree

February 6, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

It seems as though students are willing to do just about anything to save money while in college, from working multiple low-paying jobs to sticking to an Ramen-noodle-only diet to applying early and often for college scholarships. But what if there was a more direct route to affordable education...like selecting a school that won't cost you $200,000 to attend.

According to USA Today, your best bet is Berea College in Kentucky. With the average annual price tag clocking in at $2,382, students pay $10,257 total for four years. We should mention that 100 percent of the student population receives financial aid and that students also participate in a labor program in order to keep costs low. In order to determine the figures, they multiplied the average net cost most students pay (including average amounts of financial aid) by the average length of time to graduate. The resulting number is the average price most students will end up paying. Interested in other affordable higher education options? Check out USA Today's top 10 least expensive colleges to earn your degree below:

Did any of your top choices make the list? If not, would you consider a college based on its affordability? Let us know in the comments section. And don’t forget that even affordable college tuition can still be expensive! Try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by visiting Scholarships.com and conducting a free college scholarship search where you'll get match with scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities that are unique to you!

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