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Obama Signs Student Loan Deal

August 19, 2013

Obama Signs Student Loan Deal

by Kevin Ladd

There has been a lot of talk around student loan rates over the last few months, or even the last year or two, depending on how closely you've been listening. With the rising cost of higher education and the harsh reality that most students will need to take out loans to finance at least a portion of their education, federal student loan rates are a concern for many of us. Recently, President Obama signed a student loan deal to bring rates back down from the 6.8% to which they doubled on July 1st, when Congress failed to act before the deadline. Basically, the legislation is connecting student loan interest rates to the financial markets. This offers lower rates this fall because the government can borrow money relatively cheaply at this time and is far better than the 6.8% it has been for the last several weeks.
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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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Understanding Obama’s New Student Loan Plan

August 15, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With the final month of summer rapidly slipping away, now is the time to buckle down and finalize how you're going to fund your college education. Whether that entails a full-ride scholarship (way to go!), an impressive financial aid package or even necessary loans, it's important to understand your options. Some of you might even be considering President Obama's Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan...if you can figure out what it involves or if it's even an option. If you're confused about this plan, you're in luck: U.S. News and World Report has broken down the big questions you need answered below:

  • Will these updates help me? If you have federal student loans, maybe. Starting in 2015, borrowers who took out loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011 will be eligible to take advantage of the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan. Government officials estimate this includes an additional five million people.
  • How much could I save? Now, most federal loan borrowers are eligible for income-based repayment – a different repayment plan that has the same premise as Pay As You Earn. Unlike Pay As You Earn, however, IBR caps payments at 15 percent of one's disposable income and forgives the balance after 25 years of payments. Those differences could mean a lot, both in monthly payment amount and in the total amount paid over time.
  • Didn't the president mention loan refinancing too? He did, but in relation to a bill that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced last month called the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. This legislation would allow federal and private student loan borrowers with older, higher interest loans to consolidate them within the direct loan program at today's lower fixed interest rates. That bill still has to pass both the Senate and the House, something that may not happen because Republicans are opposed to paying for the bill with a gradual increase in tax rates for those in the higher income brackets.
  • What else should I know? There is still a long way to go before the president's executive action takes effect: December 2015 is the target implementation date. The overall plan includes quite a few other ideas that will make a difference to student loan borrowers, like improving financial incentives for federal student loan servicers to help borrowers stay out of default, making it easier for active-duty military to receive benefits and increasing communication partnerships with entities such as the IRS and tax companies to ensure consumers are aware of their higher education rights and benefits.

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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Professor Shoots Himself in the Foot...Literally

September 5, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

The ongoing debate to allow guns on college campuses took an awkward turn on Tuesday when a professor at Idaho State University accidentally shot himself in the foot.

The incident comes just two months after a bill was signed by Governor Butch Otter (R) allowing those with concealed carry permits to carry guns on state and college campuses. The bill – which made Idaho the seventh state to allow concealed guns on campuses – prohibits guns in dorms, arenas, stadiums or theaters. And while it is still unclear what cause the firearm to discharge, Lt. Paul Manning of the Pocatello Police Department told the Daily Beast the unnamed professor’s handgun was in the professor’s pants pocket and was not visible during class. The professor (who possesses an enhanced concealed carry permit) was treated for non-life threatening injuries and an investigation is currently underway to determine if he will be charged with a misdemeanor for discharging a firearm within city limits. “When they passed this law, it was bound to happen," ISU President Arthur Vailas told the Idaho State Journal; an opponent of the bill, he described the incident as "scary and embarrassing.” (For more on this story, click here.)

What are your thoughts on having concealed weapons on campus? Do you agree with gun advocates and the stance that more firearms would increase campus safety or do you think it would do the exact opposite? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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College President Bans School-Funded Travel to Indiana

March 31, 2015

by Suada Kolovic

In response to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, San Francisco State University President Leslie E. Wong has banned all school-funded travel to the state.

The controversial legislation, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Mike Pence last week, is meant to protect religious liberty but many have expressed concern that the law will become a tool of discrimination and a way to allow businesses to turn away lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers. So far, seven institutions in the state – Ball State, Butler, DePauw, IU, Purdue, Valparaiso and Hanover – have issued statements promising to honor their nondiscrimination policies. On Monday, Wong weighed in by blocking employees and students from using SFUS funds to travel to Indiana, effective immediately. "I am dismayed, if not extremely disappointed, in the recent legislation signed into law in Indiana. It is unconscionable for this great university to spend its resources in a state that attempts to legislate discrimination of any kind," he said in a written statement. (For more on this story, head over to The Huffington Post.)

In the midst of this national debate, Governor Pence has said he would support new legislation to "clarify the intent of the law"...but is it too little, too late? What do you think of Indiana's new legislation? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Colleges that Produced the Most Current Members of Congress

February 20, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

With college on the horizon for high school seniors, students with political aspirations should understand that it's never too early to start making the right connections. And what better place is there to start than by attending the college that boasts 47 elected officials currently on Capitol Hill? (Curious as to which school I’m referring? None other than Harvard University, of course.)

With twice as many members of Congress counted as alumni, Harvard just might be the college for those with governmental ambitions. Georgetown University scores a distant second with 20 current members of Congress, followed by Yale University with 18. Check out the list below to see what other colleges might better your chances at making your political dream a reality:

For the complete list, head over to FindTheBest.

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Top Issues Millennials Want Discussed in State of the Union Address

January 28, 2014

Top Issues Millennials Want Discussed in State of the Union Address

by Suada Kolovic

For those of you that don’t closely follow politics, tonight President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address. If you aren’t familiar, the address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the President to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities. And with potentially millions of young Americans watching, we wondered what issues mattered most to Millennials? Fortunately, Generation Progress asked them just that! Check out some of the top responses below: (For the full list, head over to Generation Progress.)

  • A solution to the student debt crisis. With 40 million Americans shouldering $1.2 trillion dollars in educational debt, Millennials want to see President Obama call for ways to address this crisis.
  • Create a fair economy that shrinks the income inequality gap by raising the minimum wage to $10, maintains federal government programs like unemployment benefits, expands the U.S. apprenticeship system, supports young entrepreneurs to create new business and reinvest in national service programs like AmeriCorps.
  • Every state needs to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so young Americans can purchase affordable health care plans with subsidies Medicaid provides via the law.
  • Invest in green jobs while addressing the effects of climate change.
  • Enact common-sense gun legislation such as mandatory background checks.

What do you think of the top issues that Millennials want discussed? Any you would add? Let us know in the comments section.

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Colleges Accused of Misleading Students About Financial Aid Applications

February 7, 2014

Colleges Accused of Misleading Students About Financial Aid Applications

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how you're going to pay for your college education can be daunting. And while no one would argue that filling out the FAFSA is an important piece of the financial aid puzzle, it seems that some colleges might be making the process more complicated...and costly.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland alleged this week that more than 100 universities – including dozens of elite and Ivy League institutions – may be violating the law by telling potential applicants that they have to spend money filling out an unnecessary form. In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Cummings said 111 universities required a financial aid form developed by the College Board to be considered for any financial aid. Fifty-eight of the schools told applicants that they had to submit the $25 PROFILE form "in order to secure any type of financial aid, including federal student aid," Cummings wrote. The other 53 directed applicants to "submit both the FAFSA and the PROFILE to obtain federal financial aid, although they do not clarify what each form is used to assess." And while Cummings insists that these schools appear to be in violation of the Higher Education Act, some college officials have defended their use of PROFILE, stating that because it takes into account factors the FAFSA doesn't — like home equity and some business income — it allows universities to make fairer decisions on who needs aid the most. Meanwhile, Cummings has requested a meeting with Duncan to figure out what steps need to be taken to ensure that colleges are not creating unnecessary barriers to federal assistance. (For more on this story, click here.)

With all the outrageous fees students already must endure, what do you think of universities adding an additional one? Are you for filling out a form that costs you $25 if there is a chance you might get additional aid or against forking up more money than necessary? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Department of Defense Supplying College Campuses with Military-Grade Equipment

September 11, 2014

by Suada Kolovic

Grenade Launcher? Check. M-16s? Check. Armored Vehicles? Check. No, this isn’t an artillery checklist for a high-ranking general but rather the stockpile that could be located on a college campus near you.

According to reports, at least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the Department of Defense through a federal program that transfers military surplus to law enforcement agencies across the country. Through the 1033 program, participating colleges don’t have to buy the equipment but are responsible for the cost of delivery and maintenance. They are prohibited from reselling or leasing the gear and are required to provide updates on the location of tactical gear, like armored vehicles and weaponry. To date, at least 60 institutions have acquired M-16s through the program: Arizona State University has the most with 70 in its arsenal, followed by Florida International University and the University of Maryland with 50 M-16s each. (The University of Central Florida received a grenade launcher in 2008.) “What was once the unthinkable has become the inevitable,” said UCF’s chief of police Richard Beary. “These bad guys have plans and are heavily armed, and law enforcement needs to be able to keep up with them. In order to do that, police officers need to be highly trained, well equipped, and ready to respond to any scenario.” (For more on this story, click here.)

Participants in the program argue that it provides departments – particularly those with limited budgets like campus police forces – with necessary gear at very little cost. Meanwhile, detractors contend that the procurement of tactical gear doesn’t help with the types of crimes that occur more frequently on college campus, like alcohol-related incidents and sexual assault. What are your thoughts on having military-grade artillery on campus? Let us know in the comments section.

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