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House and Senate Reach Compromise on Stimulus

February 12, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Senate passed their version of the economic stimulus bill Tuesday, and by late afternoon yesterday it was announced that a compromise had been reached between the House and the Senate. The compromise bill includes less funding than either version--$789 billion as compared to $820 or $838 billion, and one of the areas that faced cuts was education.

While the final draft of the stimulus bill has not been released--or necessarily written--yet, some details are emerging in media coverage. It appears that a Pell Grant increase has made it into the final draft, though the exact amount is still unknown. Federal Work-Study also receives a funding boost, though it's also unclear whether it's the full $490 million appropriated by the House. The $2,500 tuition tax credit has also survived, as have several other tax credits not related to education. Proposed increases to Perkins Loans and unsubsidized Stafford Loans appear to have been axed from the conference committee's version of the bill. States will receive some money to offset educational expenses and aid in school construction and renovation, though not as much as the House had appropriated.

More details will likely emerge over the next couple days as the bill makes its way back through the House and Senate for final approval. The stimulus package could be signed by President Obama as soon as Monday. While the stimulus will provide some help to most people attending college, it's not too late to find other ways to boost the funding to your own college education. Conduct a free college scholarship search to see what financial aid is out there.

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Report Shows Long-Term Effects of State Cuts to Higher Ed

February 11, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The loss in funding faced by state and community colleges this year may not be a one-time thing.  A report issued this week by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) indicates that state budget cuts to higher education made during recessions tend to become permanent.  With many attempting to eliminate multi-billion dollar budget shortfalls, cuts to education are almost certain to happen across the country, and based on data collected by SHEEO, they are likely to continue into the future.

Per-student state higher education spending peaked in 2001, when it hit the highest level in inflation-adjusted dollars since data was first collected in 1983.  A recession in 2001 prompted drops in education spending that continued until 2006, when spending began to grow again until 2008, though per-student funding did not return to 2001 levels before another recession interfered.

In response to cuts in funding of around 7 percent between 1998 and 2008 and increases in enrollment of around 25 percent over the same period, tuition revenue has risen 20 percent.  The report suggests this trend is likely to continue, with funding potentially falling off permanently and tuition hikes continuing as a result of this year's budget cuts.  Thus, the burden is passed on to already cash-strapped students and families, who are already facing the prospect of needing more student loans due to losses of income and declines in college savings plans.

The SHEEO expressed hope that the stimulus package currently moving through Congress might mitigate this effect.  However, the version passed yesterday by the Senate eliminated billions of dollars that would have gone to offset state budget cuts, so the positive impact on higher education could be less than is hoped.  Additionally, members of Congress have expressed frustration with rising tuition rates, especially given tuition's likelihood to continue to outpace increases in Federal Pell Grants, such as the new funding currently included in the stimulus.

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Credit Crisis Leaves Student Loans Stuck in Default

February 10, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The recession seems to be bringing an almost constant stream of stories about people in all sorts of circumstances who are facing new and varied financial troubles.  These stories could easily be read as a guide for "things not to do in a recession."  The latest addition?  "Default on your student loans."

While neglecting even one payment is a bad idea at any time, borrowers who have found themselves in default on their loans are facing an even more difficult time as a result of the credit freezeThe Chronicle of Higher Education published a story today about this particular aspect of the trouble facing participants in the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Currently, 19 of the nation's 35 guarantee agencies (the companies that service student loans in the FFEL program) lack a buyer for their student loans, including rehabilitated loans.

People who borrowed Stafford loans, defaulted on their payments, then agreed to "rehabilitate" their loans, or make consistent payments until the loan can be repackaged and resold and thus brought out of default, are finding that there's currently no market for their rehabilitated loans, so they're stuck in default status longer than necessary. This hurts their credit score and also keeps them from being eligible for federal student financial aid if they choose to go back to college, as many people affected by the recession are doing.

Currently, the federal government cannot buy up these loans, though legislation may be in the works to fix this.  While students do have other options, such as consolidation through Direct Loans (the federal government loan program), students were typically pushed toward rehabilitation before the credit crunch, as it was most profitable for the lenders, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education article.

If you have a student loan currently in repayment, be sure to work with your lender if you're having trouble making payments.  Look into consolidation loans, and ask about extended payment plans, in-school deferments (if you're planning to go back), loan forgiveness programs for certain career paths, and hardship forebearances.  Student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, so if you default, you're stuck with the consequences--possibly for much longer than you'd think.

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Scholarships.com College Technology Scholarship

February 9, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

A career in technology can be exciting and rewarding, not to mention financially lucrative.  However, the path to this career typically includes a college education, which isn't exactly cheap.  Technical fields have demanding coursework and in some cases, astronomical course fees.  These and other factors can make paying for school even more challenging for technology students.  To ensure that these challenges do not become roadblocks, Scholarships.com offers a $1,000 college scholarship for students who plan to pursue a career in technology.  And since all you need to apply is a short essay explaining your interest in this area of study, this week's Scholarship of the Week could be one of the easiest steps in your education.

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

Applicants for the Scholarships.com College Technology Scholarship must be U.S. citizens and either undergraduate students or high school seniors who plan to enroll in an accredited college or university in the coming fall.

Applicants must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors: 

     
  • Aerospace Technologies
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  • Air Conditioning
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  • Automotive Technologies
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  • Aviation
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  • Aviation/Aircraft Technology
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  • Communications
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  • Computer Science
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  • Computer Technology
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  • Drafting/Computer Aided Design
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  • Electronics
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  • Information Technology
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  • Information Systems Engineering
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  • Lighting Technologies
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  • Mechanical/ Electrical Technologies
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  • New Media
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  • Natural Resources Technologies
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  • Packaging Technologies
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  • Polymer Technology
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  • Television
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  • Transportation Technologies
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  • Telecommunications
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Deadline:

March 31, 2009

Required Material:

A completed Scholarships.com profile and a 250 to 350-word scholarship essay written in response to the question, "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in technology?"

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 this scholarship award will find it in their search results.

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More Students Taking AP Classes

February 6, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Advanced Placement, or AP, classes are becoming more popular and more students are passing the exams, according to annual data released by the exam's publisher this week. Approximately 15.2 percent of the class of 2008 received a passing score on the AP exam, as compared to 14.4 percent of the class of 2007.

AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit.  Each AP course ends with an exam, scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 considered to be "passing" and credit-worthy by most colleges.  A few high schools also offer the option to take an AP course as dual-enrollment, where students pay to earn college credit for their work completed, rather than their test score.  Students can potentially shave a semester or more off their college experience through AP coursework, or AP work can free students' time in college up for more exploration of a variety of courses.  Either way, many students see AP courses as a way to work towards their college goals.

Despite the benefits of AP, there are some arguments against it, as with any standardized test.  For students, AP exams cost money, often have relatively low pass rates, don't guarantee college credit, aren't offered in every subject at every school, and are likely to conflict with at least one event your senior year of high school.  For teachers and college administrators, there's a concern about depth of coverage, quality of instruction, and students missing out on a key part of the college experience by coming in with so many AP credits.

Advocates of AP coursework say it can help students start college planning, get excited about the subject area, and save money by shaving off a few general educational requirements.  As AP grows in popularity, high schools are continuing to add courses and improve their teaching of the subject.  As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are definitely worth considering.  AP credit can be a way to build your resume, explore a potential college major, and jumpstart your career.

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Scholarships.com Celebrates Black History Month

February 5, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

February is a short month, but it's jam-packed with celebrations.  I'm not just talking about Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras.  February is Black History Month, a reminder that long before President Obama took office, African Americans were doing some pretty amazing things.  Black History Month is a great opportunity to learn about and commemorate important people and events that often go overlooked in American history.  It's also a great time to seek out new scholarship opportunities.

Several local scholarships have Black History Month themes, and we've featured a small sampling of them on our Black History Month Scholarships resource page.

If you're an African American student looking to make your own contribution to Black history, and history in general, a great place to start is with our list of African American scholarships.  After all, there's nothing like a college education to help you achieve your goals and change the world.

In addition to raising awareness of the important roles African Americans have played throughout American history, two of the major goals of Black History Month are combating injustice and promoting equality--after all, its original dates were chosen to celebrate two key players in the early civil rights movement, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Students who have taken part in efforts with similar goals may want to take some time this month to commemorate their own achievements by applying for community service scholarships.

To apply for the scholarship awards mentioned above or to learn about other sources of money for college, conduct a free college scholarship search.

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College Seen as More Essential, Less Affordable

February 4, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

More Americans are regarding a college education as necessary, but fewer are regarding college as accessible for everyone according to survey results released today by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.  While the economy is likely a factor, these trends have been ongoing since at least 2000, even during times of relative economic strength.

In the latest survey, conducted in December 2008, 55 percent of Americans regard a college education as not only advantageous but essential for success in today's work world.  Meanwhile, 67 percent of respondents believed that many qualified people don't have the opportunity to go to college.   63 percent believed that college costs are going up faster than other costs, and 53 percent believe that colleges could reduce tuition while still offering a high-quality education.

While 74 percent believed that cost should not deter students from attending college, concern is growing about the availability of financial aid and the extent of students' reliance on student loans.   67 percent (up from 60 percent in 2007) believed that students were borrowing too much to pay for school, while 22 percent (up from 15 percent in 2007) believed that sufficient financial aid was not available to everyone who needed it.

While public perception does not always accurately reflect reality, these survey results do suggest that more needs to be done to make college affordable or to inform the public about grants, scholarships, and campus-based and federal student financial aid.  College scholarships and grants are still out there, and they're not just for A students or the exceptionally needy.  Complete a FAFSA (a free application for federal student aid) and conduct a free scholarship search to see what's available for you.

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2009-2010 FAFSA Application Deadlines

February 3, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

As we mentioned last month, financial aid application deadlines are fast approaching for the coming fall.  While students technically have until June 30, 2010 to complete a FAFSA on the Web for the 2009-2010 school year, state aid deadlines happen much sooner with some occurring as early as February--this February.  So if you're waiting to do your taxes first or just generally procrastinating on your application, check the deadlines below to make sure you don't miss out on state or campus-based aid programs

     
  • Alabama:   Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Alaska:  April 15, 2009
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  • American Samoa:  Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Arizona:  March 1, 2009
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  • Arkansas
       
    • For Academic Challenge - June 1, 2009
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    • For Workforce Grant - check with your financial aid administrator
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    • For Higher Education Opportunity Grant - June 1, 2009 (fall term); November 1, 2009 (spring term)
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  • California
       
    • For initial awards - March 2, 2009
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    • For additional community college awards - September 2, 2009 - date postmarked (additional forms may be required)
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  • Colorado: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Connecticut: Priority deadline February 15, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
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  • Delaware: April 15, 2009
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  • District of Columbia: June 30, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
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  • Federated States of Micronesia: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Florida: May 15, 2009 - date processed
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  • Georgia: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Guam: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Hawaii: Check with you financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Idaho:  Opportunity Grant - Priority deadline March 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
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  • Illinois
       
    • First-time applicants - September 30, 2009
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    • Continuing applicants - Priority deadline August 15, 2009
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  • Indiana: March 10, 2009
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  • Iowa: July 1, 2009
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  • Kansas: Priority deadline April 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
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  • Kentucky: Priority deadline March 15, 2009
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  • Louisiana: July 1, 2009
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  • Maine: May 1, 2009
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  • Marshall Islands: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Maryland: March 1, 2009
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  • Massachusetts: Priority deadline May 1, 2009
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  • Michigan: March 1, 2009
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  • Minnesota: 30 days after term starts
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  • Mississippi
       
    • MTAG and MESG Grants - September 15, 2009
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    • HELP Scholarship - March 31, 2009
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  • Missouri: April 1, 2009
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  • Montana: Priority deadline March 1, 2009
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  • Nebraska: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Nevada: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • New Hampshire: May 1, 2009
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  • New Jersey
       
    • June 1, 2009 if you received a Tuition Aid Grant in 2008-2009
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    • All other applications - October 1, 2009, for fall and spring terms;
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    • March 1, 2010, for spring term only
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  •  
  • New Mexico: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • New York: May 1, 2010 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • North Carolina: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • North Dakota: March 15, 2009
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  • Northern Mariana Islands: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Ohio: October 1, 2009
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  • Oklahoma: Priority deadline April 15, 2009 for best consideration
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  • Oregon: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Palau: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Pennsylvania
       
    • All 2008-2009 State Grant recipients and all non-2008-2009 State Grant recipients in degree programs - May 1, 2009
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    • All other applicants - August 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
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  •  
  • Puerto Rico: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Rhode Island: Priority deadline March 1, 2009
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  • South Carolina: Tuition Grants - June 30, 2009
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  • South Dakota: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • Tennessee
       
    • For State Grant - Priority deadline March 1, 2009
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    • For State Lottery - September 1, 2009
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  •  
  • Texas: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
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  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Utah: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • Vermont: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Virginia: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Washington: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • West Virginia: Priority deadline March 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Wisconsin: Check with your financial aid administrator
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  • Wyoming: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
 Additional information about federal and state financial aid application deadlines can be found on the official FAFSA website.  Deadlines for individual campuses may occur earlier than the deadline for your state.  Check with your college's financial aid office to find out deadlines for campus financial aid.

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Zinch Ammunition for Tuition Scholarship

February 2, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is one of those rare scholarship opportunities that reward students for doing something they quite possibly already wanted to do.  The Zinch Ammunition for Tuition $25,000 Scholarship is a scholarship award for high school students who complete a profile on Zinch.com.  Applicants are judged based on both merit and need, as determined by the information they include in their Zinch student profiles.

So why is this something you might already want to do?  A profile on Zinch not only allows you to compete for a sizable amount of scholarship money, but also allows you to find colleges that cater to your interests and get in touch with recruiters from colleges you want to attend.  It's not often you find a scholarship competition that not only helps you pay for college, but helps you find a college, as well.

Prize:

$25,000

Eligibility: 

High school students graduating between 2009 and 2012 with a minimum GPA of 2.0.  Both US citizens and international students are eligible to enter.

Deadline:

April 10, 2009

Required Material:

A student profile completed to the best of your ability on Zinch.com

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 this scholarship award will find it in their search results.

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Student Loan Rescue Plan to Move into Next Phase in February

January 30, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The student loan rescue plan that will allow the Department of Education to buy up student loans issued since 2003 will begin operating in February.  The plan will set up a bank to act as a "conduit" for purchasing older student loan assets and will also allow the Treasury to become the buyer of last resort for assets the conduit bank is unable to refinance.  The Treasury will buy up student loans through this program for the first 90 days, after which the Department of Education will take over.  The Bank of New York Mellon is currently the only authorized conduit, though more could be added later.

This plan will hopefully allow banks that have had to leave the FFEL program to find the capital to reenter it through selling some of their older student loans to the conduit bank.  While students borrowing Stafford Loans through the FFELP had few problems finding loans in 2008, this program should help the student loan marketplace continue to stabilize and should help prevent potential problems down the road.

Another $200 billion program announced by the Treasury in November is also set to begin operations in February.  This one targets consumer credit in general, but also includes private student loans.  Between these two programs and the proposals contained in the economic stimulus package currently working its way through Congress, students entering college in 2009 may have an easier time finding financial aid.

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