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by Paulina Mis

In an anticipated statement outlining potential changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced new plans to amend the act. Key improvements included the standardization of graduation rate calculations and the heightening of awareness about family tutoring and school transfer options.

Based on current regulations, states are permitted to define not only their benchmarks for academic success, but also the methods for determining their high school graduation rates. The problem with this approach became particularly evident after a  study comparing graduation gaps between major cities and suburbs suggested that numerous states fared much worse than their graduation data suggested.

Under the secretary’s new plan, all high schools would have to determine graduation rates by dividing the total number of high school senior graduates by the number of freshman who began four years earlier, with adjustments made for transfer students. Students who took extra years to finish would not be considered to have successfully completed the program, indicated a Los Angeles Times article covering the story.   The issue of assisting students attending “at risk” schools was also tackled, with the Secretary proposing an increase in efforts made to inform parents about alternative scholastic options for their children. Students who attend such schools have the option to switch to a more successful district school and additional tutoring opportunities should be made available to them. To address the problem of transportation costs to new schools, Margaret Spellings suggested that funding set aside for that purpose be increased.

In regards to the frequent requests for flexibility in measuring the progress of students with disabilities and those with limited English skills, the Secretary of Education stated, “the Department promulgated regulations to permit States to include in their AYP [Annual Yearly Progress] determinations the proficient and advanced scores of students with disabilities assessed based on alternate and modified academic achievement standards, as well as regulations that provide flexibility in the assessment of, and accountability for, recently arrived and former LEP [Limited English Proficiency]students.” 

The official version of this statement will be made available today in the Federal Register, and the public will have 60 days to respond before proceedings move forward.

As the NCLB primarily affects students, Scholarships.com has created an opportunity for them to voice their opinions about its effectiveness. In the 2008 Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarshiphigh school seniors were asked to determine and elaborate on why the NCLB has or has not been successful in reaching its goals. The number and quality of responses were nothing short of impressive. Winners of the annual Resolve to Evolve competition will be announced on June 30, and their essays will be made available to the public. Top responses will also be forwarded to the proper officials in the hope that we too can be a part of the solution.

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High School , High School News


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by Paulina Mis

To alleviate the affects of the intensifying credit crunch, Sallie Mae has been lobbying for government assistance. In past months, student lenders have been struggling to find buyers for both their loans and their loan securities. Sallie Mae, the largest student lender in the business, has turned to the government for assistance, asking that the US Treasury assuage loan market tensions by purchasing their securities.

In yesterday’s PBS Nightly Business Report, specialty finance analyst Sameer Gokhale and student loan expert Tom Stanton weighed in on the potential effects of such a move. According to Sameer Gokhale, a quick infusion of cash from the Treasury would, “help all of those lenders and ultimately result in a smoother flow of capital back into the student loan system.”

Tom Stanton took a different approach claiming that federal intervention was not yet necessary. “In its last year as a government sponsored enterprise, Sallie Mae made something like 73 percent return on equity, a very generous return. There’s no need at this point to go back to the government and get support,” he stated.  

Even if student lenders continue to drop out of the government’s FFEL program and assistance such as that requested by Sallie Mae is not offered by the Treasury, students will have federal student aid  resources to rely on. A Department of Education lender of last resort measure wherein the government would act as a lender to students denied loans by other lenders would prevent financial catastrophe, but according to the Nightly Business Report Correspondent Stephanie Dhue, resorting to such a plan would be more time consuming than enhancing funds for the one already in place. 

The lender of last resort is yet untested, and, although details are being addressed by Congress, setting up the new program could be painstaking for schools. However, with the Chronicle of Higher Education citing more than fifty FFEL student lender departures, the program may be put into action regardless.


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by Paulina Mis

Each year, the Henkel Corporation awards college scholarships to individuals who are literally stuck at prom. This contest encourages student creativity and expression by rewarding individuals for creating the most tapeworthy prom attire---attire made completely out of duck tape. Submitted photographs from eligible couples will be posted online and voted on by site visitors. Criteria will include workmanship, originality, use of colors, accessories and the quantity of duct tape used.

Prize:

1. One $3,000 scholarship for each individual in the couple

2. One $2,000 scholarship for each individual in the couple

3. One $1,000 scholarship for each individual in the couple

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be attending a high school prom in the spring of 2008.

2. Applicant must be 14 years of age or older at the time of entry.

3. Applicant must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec and Puerto Rico).

4. Applicant may not be an employee of the sponsor or their family member, nor may they live in the same household as an employee.

Deadline:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Required Material:

1. Photograph of the couple wearing a prom outfit made completely out of duct tape

2. The individuals’ first names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, ages, grade levels and the name of the closest major city to their home towns

3. A liability, publicity release and consent form signed by each individual; if the applicant is a minor, parental permission is required

4. The high school name, address and telephone number, as well as the date the prom was held. 

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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by Paulina Mis

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at halting the mass leave of student lenders from the federal loan program. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 50 lenders have left the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program to date. The growing departure has left families fearing that students will have no one to turn to for financial assistance once their Pell Grants and savings run dry.

To lessen the plight of FFEL lenders and students who depend on them for financial assistance, the bill would allow the Secretary of Education to purchase loans student lenders were not able to sell to investors. By pouring money into the loan market, the Department of Education would enable student lenders to use their capital for issuing new loans rather than paying out the original ones.

The new bill also addressed the lender of last resort, an emergency plan wherein guaranty agencies would be forced to lend money to students who were turned away by other lenders. Under the new plan, the Department of Education would have permission to advance funding to the agencies if need should arise.

To make the transition from the FFEL to the lender of last resort loan program easier on students, loans would be petitioned for on a college by college basis rather than a student by student one. Based on previous outlines of the untested program, students in need of a lender of last resort loan would have had to seek permission from the Department of Education and prove that at least two lenders had turned them down before receiving money.

A bill similar to the House version was introduced but not yet addressed by the Senate. Before the ideas are implemented, both the House and the Senate will have to iron out differences and send the final version to the president for approval.


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by Paulina Mis

Nervous about economic turmoil and the uncertainty associated with oversized college loans, students are increasingly turning to community colleges for a low-cost alternative to a postsecondary education. Though certainly lower in cost, some students still need assistance in affording local schools. According to a recent study conducted by the Project on Student Debt, federal loans are not always an option for these students.

Based on the report, 20 percent of community college students living in eight states do not have access to low-interest federal loans. In Georgia, the state which fared worst, about 60 percent of community colleges did not participate in the federal loan program. Throughout the nation, the problem was most severe in low-income areas where students were most likely to seek out federal student aid in the form of loans.

After interviewing administrators at nonparticipating schools, it was found that the most cited reason for not taking part in the program was a fear that high default rates would lead to sanctions on Pell Grant disbursements to students. According to federal regulations, colleges with student default rates that exceed 25 percent for three consecutive years lose the ability to disburse the Pell Grant, a form of need-based federal aid that does not need to be repaid.

Capped at $4,310 for the 2007-2008 school year, the Pell Grant frequently suffices in making community college an option for students, especially those who work while attending school. However, the size of the grant is based on a student’s Expect Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by information provided on one's FAFSA, and many complain that the form does not take into account special circumstances that could result in a student’s inability to contribute the full expected amount. Families who receive no federal assistance in the form of a Pell Grant and those who receive an insufficient amount may be forced to take out more expensive private loans to attend. If ineligible, they may have to work until college is an affordable option.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Even the most disciplined and well-intentioned parents may have a hard time saving for their child’s college education. To assist parents and students in their search for college funding resources, Oxy has created a college sweepstakes with some hefty awards.

By applying, parents will be entered to win one of eleven prizes ranging in size between $5,000 and $25,000. Because the awards will be offered in the form of 529 Plan contributions, they will continue to grow tax free.  With no essay required, this one is worth a try. For more information about this and other college scholarships and grants, you may conduct a free college scholarship search.

Prize:

1. One $25,000 529 Plan contributio 2. Five $10,000 529 Plan contributions 3. Five $5,000 529 Plan contributions

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be 18 years old or older or must be a parent of a child who is between 13-19 years of age between April 1, 2008 and September 28, 2008 2. Applicant must be a legal US resident

Deadline:

September 29, 2008 by 3:00 PM ET

Required Material:

1. Online or postal mail registration


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Full Tuition Scholarships

April 15, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Applying for a number of small scholarships is a great way to accumulate financial aid for college, but some students prefer to go straight for the big fish. Rather than follow the, “a penny saved is a penny earned” mantra, they prefer to abide by the, "go for the gold" one. 

Whether you are the former or the latter, plenty of scholarship opportunities are available to you. But be advised, the bigger the award, the bigger the competition. Students who find information about a big-ticket scholarship frequently opt for that rather than spend time on one which, in comparison, looks like a conciliatory prize.

If you’re looking for top awards, check out the full ride scholarships listed below. For more information about college scholarships and grants you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search.  If you are looking for full tuition scholarships granted  by your current or future college or university---most award a handful of them--- try visiting  their financial aid office websites. You may conduct a free college search to find these websites along with estimated costs of attendance.

The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship

The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship will be awarded to a freshman entering a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the United States. A full tuition waiver as well as a stipend covering room, board and books will be offered.

Microsoft College Career Scholarship 

A one-year, full tuition scholarship will be awarded to winners of the annual Microsoft College Career Scholarship. Financial aid will be offered to students who major in computer science, computer engineering, or a related technical discipline such as electrical engineering, math, or physics. Applicants must be undergraduate students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Posse Scholarship

The Posse Foundation awards full tuition merit scholarships to students who plan to attend one of its partner schools. Winning high school students are trained in multicultural teams called “Posses” to successfully complete programs at top-tier colleges and universities.

Hertz Fellowship

The Hertz Foundation awards students a full tuition renewable grant plus a stipend of up to $31,000. The award is merit-based and offered to students pursuing a Ph.D. in the applied physical and engineering sciences or modern biology with physical science applications.

The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities are collaborating on a scholarship program for students who attend one of the 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Universities. Full tuition, room and board, employment with the USDA during the summer and after graduation, fees and books will be covered.


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College Fellowships

April 14, 2008

by Paulina Mis

Because graduate and professional school students are no longer eligible for Pell Grants, they must search elsewhere for financial assistance. A common option is the fellowship--a financial aid opportunity created to help graduate students obtain their degree.

Master, doctoral and professional school candidates who demonstrate both merit and dedication are the most common recipients of fellowships. When searching for this type of aid, students are unlikely to come across awards that mirror the goofy, unusual duck tape outfit or left-handed student scholarships. More often than not, fellowships are geared towards students who are serious about their work—ones who display resolve and passion in their respective fields. They are commonly awarded to individuals who plan to conduct research in a certain field or to ones who plan to begin a career in a subject designated by the fellowship provider.

Below are a few examples of fellowship opportunities you may be eligible to receive. Many awards are conferred annually, so check back for updated deadlines. For additional information about financial aid options, try conducting a free college scholarship search.

AACC International Fellowship

The foundation previously known as the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) is awarding fellowships in the amounts of $2,000, $2,500 and $3,000 to students who conduct research directly related to grain-based food science or technology. Students must be pursuing an MS or Ph.D. degree to be eligible.

Department of Homeland Security Fellowship

Tuition, fees and a stipend of $2,300 per month for 12 months will be awarded to graduate students whose thesis deals with science, technology, engineering or math as they relate to homeland security. Applicants must be US citizens and must have a minimum 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship

Architects pursuing a career in historic preservation may be eligible to win $25,000 in stipend money. Winners from France and the US will practice preservation technologies in each other’s countries over a six month span.

Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) will award fellowships to minority doctoral students who display potential for becoming accounting educators. Renewable fellowships of up to $12,000 will be given away each year. 

American Graduate Fellowships

Students working towards a doctoral degree in the humanities and attending one of the 23 leading independent research universities in the U.S., Great Britain or Ireland may be eligible to receive a fellowship of up to $50,000. History, philosophy, literature, languages and the fine arts are among eligible fields


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by Paulina Mis

Among the many complaints voiced by students in need of federal aid are those concerning insufficient Pell Grant awards and a lack of consideration for students who are smart, but not exactly the braniac kind of smart. These are valid worries, and while they have not been tended to fully, the SMART Grant is a start.

Approved by the Senate in late December of 2005, the relatively new SMART Grant allows students who have demonstrated financial need to receive over and above their annual Pell Grant limit.  Eligible students may receive up to $4,000 in SMART Grant money just by filling out a FAFSA.

Because the SMART Grant has been largely overshadowed by the more common and better-known Pell Grant, many students are unfamiliar with the  award. The SMART Grant can more than double a student's grant money, but there are a number of stipulations that considerably narrow the eligibility pool.

To be eligible for the SMART Grant, students must have already demonstrated sufficient financial need and must have been eligible for the Pell Grant. But that in itself is not enough. Students must also be majoring in the physical, life, or computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering or in a foreign language determined critical to national security. To show that they are dedicated to graduating with a degree in one of the aforementioned fields, students must have already completed the first two years of their undergraduate program—while maintaining at minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, students must be enrolled full time and must be taking at least one course required for the completion of their major during the term the grant is received.

Assuming the student meets all of the above criteria, the SMART Grant can make a big difference in an individual's ability to cover college costs. A Pell Grant award may not exceed $3,410 for the 2007-2008 schools year, an amount unlikely to cover annual college tuition, let alone fees and living expenses. An extra $4,000 would certainly make a difference.


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Federal Direct Loans

April 10, 2008

by Paulina Mis

With a growing number of lenders leaving the FFEL Program, the Direct Loan Program has been receiving additional attention from schools and from the media. Unlike the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, more commonly known as the Direct Loan Program, allows students to borrow money directly from the government.

Each program has its advantages, but schools have more frequently opted for the FFEL. About eighty percent of colleges and universities process their loans through the FFEL Program, one which involves working with lenders who are subsidized by the government. With the student loan market quickly souring, numerous schools are rethinking their decisions and scrambling to find a new plan, the Direct Loan one.

Students whose schools process loans through the Direct Loan Program are less likely to receive financial perks often provided by FFEL lenders, but then again, FFEL lenders staying with the program are cutting back on these anyway. The lack of administrative assistance offered to schools participating in the Direct Loan Program may make it less appealing to financial aid officials, but to those taking out PLUS loans, the program is promising. 

Although the government has capped Perkins and Stafford loans at 5 and 6.8 percent respectively, caps on PLUS loans are lower under the Direct Loan program than they are under the FFEL one. If they borrow from the government, graduate students and parents eligible for PLUS loans may pay no more than 7.9 percent in interest. If they borrow from FFEL lenders, they may pay as much as 8.5 percent.  The actual interest paid will depend on the chosen FFEL lender, but don't hold your breath for a good deal.

To eliminate or lessen the burden felt by students who borrow from the government or from outside lenders, families should consider applying for scholarships and grants. For information about scholarship and grant opportunities you may be eligible to receive, try conducting a free college scholarship search.


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