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Department of Education Issues Overview, Requests Plans for Lender of Last Resort

March 28, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Just two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the US House Committee on Education and Labor about its fear of a federal lending program meltdown. To the best of her ability, she tried to qualm the legislators' fears and to convince them that negative speculations were exaggerated. “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL,” she said. “A small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped originating new loans.”

However, the Department of Education’s request for Lender of Last Resort (LLR) preparation painted a somewhat different picture. In a letter sent to 35 guarantee agencies, the Financial Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Warder laid out the basic LLR provisions and asked that the guarantee agencies quickly respond with plans for enacting the emergency program, should the need arise.

With lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program at increasing rates, both legislators and families have been feeling uneasy about college loan options. And while the department maintained that things were largely under control, the letters spoke for themselves.

The LLR provisions state that when a student eligible for federal aid is denied by at least two lenders, guarantee agencies and lenders who have signed agreements with them are responsible for awarding the loan. Being nonprofit entities, the guaranty agencies would use government funding to repay lenders for any student defaults.

To be certain that individuals have quick access to student loans, regardless of decisions made by cautious lenders, the department has asked that guaranty agencies submit their plans to put the LLR program in place.  Among other things, they were asked to prepare a timeline for issuing LLR loans to students, provide a method for informing students about LLR eligibility and plan for meeting the increased administrative requirements. Recipients of the letter were given up to 30 days to respond with a new outline for their LLR program.

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Chelsea Clinton Talks Financial Aid With College Students

March 27, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Republican candidates may have settled down, but there is no ceasefire in sight for Hillary and Barack.  Both candidates have been campaigning around the clock, scribbling in their calendars, visiting every nook and cranny.  When they couldn’t make an appearance, their families did. On Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton took her turn at the podium when she spoke to a group of students at Indiana’s Ball State University.

According to the Ball State Daily News, Chelsea took time to describe her mother’s plans for decreasing the costs of a college education. “My mother plans to double the Pell Grant to $10,800, expand the eligibility for a tax credit and develop Americare, and organization developed by my father to help college be more affordable,” she told the crowd.

For about an hour, Chelsea answered questions about Hillary’s plans for the presidency. She covered health care, the No Child Left Behind Act, the strengthening of hate crime laws and the war in Iraq. With the exception of a few poster-carrying Obama backers, most of the estimated 1,000 attendees appeared supportive.

If, as Chelsea suggested, Hillary were to increase Pell Grant awards, dangerous college lending habits could decrease dramatically. Currently, only $4,310 in Pell Grant money is available to eligible students each year. Even after Pell Grants reach their peak during the 2012-2013 school year (as mandated by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act), only $5,400 will be made available.

Students who do not receive sufficient money in the form of Pell Grants can still turn to scholarships for college funding assistance. For additional information about college scholarships and grants, students may conduct a free scholarship search.

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Conflicting Provisions Hurt No Child Left Behind

March 26, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The recipe for the No Child Left Behind Act seems simple: identify ineffective schools, and improve their student performance. Sprinkle in a dash of funds, a threatening environment for underperforming teachers, and melt away problems at 365°.

Unfortunately, most successful plans call for more than a dash of funds. And as was demonstrated by a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the No Child Left Behind progress, funding problems have been leaving states struggling to comply with the program’s requirements. Of particular concern were two NCLB provisions responsible for regulating the allocation of federal education funds.

As mandated by the No Child Left Behind, states are required to set aside 4 percent of the federal assistance they receive to help low-income students and use that money to improve schools that have failed to meet state academic expectations. No problem there. Because most poorly-scoring schools are low income, the 4 percent used to improve schools would indirectly help the low-income students.

The problem arises when another provision comes into the picture. According to the “hold-harmless” rule, states are not allowed to set aside more money for a poorly-performing school if it means having to cut back on other school district grants, reports the Washington Post. Because of this stipulation, numerous states have been finding it difficult to come up with sufficient money to help poorly performing schools while maintaining previous assistance levels to other school districts.

According to the GAO report, the “hold-harmless” provision has prevented 22 states from setting aside the required NCLB funds. Some states have made up differences by taking advantage of other federal and state funds, but not all have been able to do so successfully.

Insufficient funding is just one of many concerns cited by NCLB critics. Others have included a diminished focus on untested material and a decrease in attention paid to advanced students. High school seniors interested in voicing their opinions on the NCLB, both positive and negative, may do so by applying for the Scholarships.com 2008 Resolve to Evolve Scholarship. Seven applicants who submit the most thought-out and well-crafted responses will be awarded with scholarships ranging between $1,000 and $3,000. For additional information about this and other college scholarship and grants, students may conduct a free scholarship search.

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Brazos Leaves Student Loan Market

March 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Joining the growing number of student lenders that have chosen to opt out of the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp has announced that it too would discontinue their participation. The combination of a troublesome lending market and the passage of an act reducing federal subsidies to FFEL lenders have left students and parents worried about their college funding options.

Brazos is just one of the 26 lenders that have already stopped providing FFEL loans to students, reports The Wall Street Journal. Because Brazos is one of the largest student lenders, the news is particularly disconcerting to families already fearful of less-than-promising student loan options.

More than eighty percent of all federal student loans are provided by federally-subsidized lenders that participate in college FFEL programs. The remaining federal loans are disbursed through the less-popular Direct Loan program which allows students to borrow directly from the government.

Speaking to the US House Committee on Education and Labor, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings recently proposed that more schools simply adopt the federal Direct Loan program. The suggestion sounds promising, but administrative setbacks and budget availability may prove to be a problem.

Though only a small percentage of the estimated 2,000 student lenders have pulled out of the FFEL program, the market is dominated by the top fifty lenders, a number of which have already left the FFEL program. Included in NASFAA's list of lenders that have either ended or suspended their FFEL services are the large originators NextStudent, Goal Financial, College Loan Corporation and College Board.

Before turning to loans for their financial aid needs, students should search for college scholarships and grants that may provide them with cost-free college funds. By conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com, student will receive access to more than 2.7 million scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion.

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Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans



Holocaust Remembrance Project Scholarship

March 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Numerous people have worked hard to keep the memories of the Holocaust alive. Despite their efforts, many students know little about the World War II years. By encouraging them to inquire about the stories and to research the violent acts that occurred during the Holocaust, the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation hopes to help students learn from the past and to change the future.

This year, thirty high school scholarships will be awarded to students who write the best, most-researched Holocaust essays. Those who participate will be asked to write a paper of no more than 1,200 words analyzing why the remembrance, history and lessons of the Holocaust must be passed on to a new generation. They must then suggest ways in which students can fight future prejudice and violence. Students whose essays show the greatest promise will be awarded scholarships ranging from $300 to $10,000.

Prize:

1. Ten first-place winners will receive scholarships ranging between $2,500 and $10,000. They will also be awarded an all-expense-paid trip to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. 2. Ten second-place winners will receive scholarships of $500. 3. Ten third-place winners will receive scholarships of $300.

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be 19 years old or younger. 2. Applicant must be enrolled as high school student in grades 9-12. 3. Applicant must be a resident of the U.S. or Mexico or must be a U.S. citizen living abroad. 4. First-place winners must agree to participate in the Washington, D.C. trip.

Deadline:

April 30, 2008 by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Required Material:

1. An essay of 1,200 words or less submitted online. 2. A works cited, reference page or bibliography

Further details about the application process and about contacting the scholarship provider 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 list.

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TEACH Grants

March 21, 2008

by Administrator

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is one of the most anticipated federal student aid programs for current and future teachers. Passed as a part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the TEACH Grant will provide financial assistance to students who agree to spend time teaching in low-income areas.

The new program will go into affect during the 2008-2009 school year, and, as with other federal aid programs, the exact details and award sums may change in the future. For now, students who are eligible for the program may receive a grant of up to $4,000 per year. Like other teaching scholarships and grants, the TEACH Grant will encourage qualified students to spend time teaching in areas that are frequently underfunded and understaffed. The eligibility criteria and additional details are as follows:

Eligibility: 1. Students who receive a TEACH Grant must agree to work full-time at low-income elementary or secondary schools for at least four years. 2. TEACH Grant recipients must agree to teach a high-need subject. 3. Recipients must be US citizens or eligible non-citizens. 4. Although the TEACH Grant is not a need-based award, applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 5. The TEACH Grant recipient must be enrolled as an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate or graduate student in a college or university participating in the TEACH program. 6. To continue receiving the award, a student must remain in good academic standing. This will usually mean either scoring in the 75th percentile on a college admissions test or maintaining a minimum GPA of 3.25. 7. The recipient must sign a TEACH Grant service agreement.

Before applying for this grant, students should be aware that the TEACH Grant is only awarded to students who complete the service requirement. If the student does not comply with the teaching agreement, the TEACH Grant will be turned into a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan. The loan charge will include both the grant sum and the interest the student would have accumulated had they been charged from the date of each TEACH Grant disbursement.

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Posted Under:

College Grants , Financial Aid



Disability Scholarships

March 20, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

For many disabled individuals, completing school can be a struggle.  Such students may have to consider not only their scholastic aspirations but also their health and wellbeing when making important college decisions. Whether additional efforts must be applied to maintaining a proper diet, lowering stress, completing assignments in a timely matter or any number of other priorities, dealing with both disabilities and classes can prove to be a challenge.

Insufficient college funds are a common setback for many disabled students, for any students. To help with this aspect of college, numerous disability scholarships have been created for those with financial needs. Take a look at the disability scholarships listed below for awards you may be eligible to receive. For additional information about scholarships, grants, internships and fellowships, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

The Association of Blind Citizens Reggie Johnson Scholarship

The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) will be awarding this disability scholarship to a number of legally blind students. One $2,000 scholarship and eight $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to winners. Applicants will have to submit a 300 to 500 word autobiographical essay explaining how the award could assist them in achieving their college or vocational program goals.

Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired

Each year, the Travelers Protection Agency (TPA) provides students who are deaf or near deaf with scholarship awards. The number of recipients and award sizes may vary based on Trust Executive Committee recommendations.

disABLEdperson Inc. College Scholarship Competition

Students eligible for this disability scholarship will have the chance to earn $750 to be used towards their college education. Applicants will have to answer the annual essay question and fully complete an online scholarship form. Students must be attending a 2 or 4 year US college or university and must have a disadvantage or deficiency that interferes or prevents normal achievement in a certain area.

Scholarship for People with Disabilities

The Scholarship for People with Disabilities annually provides students with scholarships of up to $1,000. To be eligible applicants must have a physical or sensory disability and must demonstrate scholarship need. This award is limited to students who are Minnesota residents or who have received Courage Center services.

1-800-Wheelchair Scholarship Fund

High school and undergraduate college students who apply for the 1-800-Wheelchair Scholarship will have the opportunity to win $500 for college. Students must be at least 16 years old and must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0. Preference will be given to applicants with a mobility disability, but disability is not a requirement.

Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation Scholarship

With the help of the Ethel Louse Armstrong Foundation (ELA), female graduate students with physical disabilities may win up to $2,000. Applicants must be active in a disability organization and must be willing to provide ELA with scholastic and career updates. To apply, students must submit an essay of 1,000 words or less explaining, “How I will change the face of disability on the Planet”.

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No Child Left Behind to Undergo Selective Renovation

March 19, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

After years of attacking the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), elementary and high school educators have received some promising news. The Bush administration has finally admitted to certain No Child Left Behind deficiencies and chosen to make some adjustments, in select areas.

Rather than branding all underperforming schools as failing—even those with improved test scores—the administration has proposed distinguishing between schools with serious scholastic troubles and those with slightly sub par scores. To date, one of the biggest issues critics have had with the No Child Left Behind was the program’s lack of flexibility. Because all student groups, regardless of English fluency, have had to meet state proficiency requirements, numerous schools, especially ones in low-income areas, have encountered problems. After a few failed attempts to meet state testing standards, schools were faced with funding losses and possible closings.

Those that were successful in meeting most requirements but found it difficult to raise the scores of a select student group were treated the same as all other “failing” schools. According to The New York Times, 10 percent of the nation’s schools were subsequently identified as “in need of improvement”, a percentage large enough to make additional result evaluation critical.

Under the proposed NCLB plan, up to ten states will have the option to focus their efforts on schools with the greatest scholastic needs rather than on ones with mild testing setbacks.  However, only ten schools will have this opportunity, and only those with near perfect records of having abided by the NCLB law will be eligible.

Program evaluation methods are just a few of the many controversial aspects of the NCLB. For better or for worse, the law has had a dramatic affect on teachers and school administrators across the nation. More importantly, it has had a great impact on many elementary and high school students.

To promote student awareness and challenge students to proactively respond to controversial issues, Scholarships.com has created the Resolve to Evolve essay contest. This year, one of our two topics addresses the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act. A total of $10,000 will be awarded to winning applicants who submit their essays.

For additional information about eligibility, requirements and other response options, students and teachers may visit our Resolve to Evolve page. For information about scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities, students should complete a free college scholarship search.  

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Margaret Spellings Stands Behind Federal Student Aid Program

March 18, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings told representatives what they wanted to believe, but didn’t: the college aid crisis was under control. After months of financial struggles, a number of student lenders have decided to discontinue their participation in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL), leaving students to look elsewhere for college funding.

A troublesome lending market and a new law limiting government subsidies to student lenders have many lenders rethinking their participation in the FFEL.  With less government backing and greater default rates, some student lenders are finding it necessary to cut back on student benefits, increase borrowing criteria, and sometimes, leave the government program completely.

These changes have left families worried about finding sufficient student loan assistance from the government, concerns Spellings has tried to diminish. During her testimony, the education secretary stated that so far, “No institutions have notified us that any eligible student has been denied access to federal loans.”

If true, students and parents would be relieved to know that they can still take advantage of low interest government loan rates rather than relying on private, more expensive, student lenders. According to Spellings, the government would step in before students were forced to rely solely on private lenders.

One safeguard proposed by Spellings was the option for schools participating in the FFEL program to switch to the government's Direct Loan program, one in which students bypass government-subsidized lenders and borrow straight from the government.

Ms. Spellings also pointed out that Pell Grants, federal need-based awards that do not need to be repaid, have been increasing and will likely continue to do so. Students who receive free grant money will have fewer loan needs---to an extent. Currently, those eligible for Pell Grants may only receive $4,310 per year, and not all are eligible for this form of federal student aid.

Still, the Secretary of Education maintained a positive outlook and expressed confidence that most student lenders are not in critical positions stating, “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL...a small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped origination new loans.”

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SEVEN Fund Student Essay Competition

March 17, 2008

by Administrator

The Social Equity Venture Fund (SEVEN), a nonprofit organization providing monetary, organizational, and intellectual support for poverty solutions, has recently announced their student essay competition topic for the 2008-2009 school year. It’s not particularly simple, but the cause is a good and the payoff well worth the effort. One $10,000 prize and one $20,000 prize will be awarded to essay winners.

Before applying, students will have to watch “The Entrepreneur President, Paul Kagame of Rwanda,” and write a 2,000 word essay in response to the video. The writer will be assuming the role of President Kagame’s advisor and will have to put his vision into practice.

Prize:

1. One $10,000 undergraduate student scholarship 2. One $20,000 graduate student scholarship

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student 2. Applicant must attend an accredited college or university worldwide.

Deadline:

December 7, 2008

Required Material:

1. A 2,000 word scholarship essay 2. A 100 word introductory abstract 3. The full name, address, phone number and academic email of the applicant 4. The degree level, major, and school contact number 5. A brief biography

Further details about the application process and about contacting the scholarship provider 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 list.

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