April 11, 2008
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.
April 10, 2008
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.
April 9, 2008
You’ve seen them before, the shiny cars standing in the mall, the slot boxes covered in pictures of dollar bills and palm trees. That’s right, they’re sweepstakes—easy money. Unlike most scholarship essays, sweepstakes involve little to no effort. Requirements may be as minute as an email or a postal address.
Sweepstakes are definitely a breeze, but they are a competitive breeze. Just about everything that entails little work and big money is. The young and old love sweepstakes like a kid loves cake. Some become addicted, spending hours on end rummaging through sites in search of contest opportunities.
While students should by no means rely solely on their luck to fund college, legitimate contests may be worth a shot. Someone will win the prize, and you just may be that lucky someone. For college sweepstakes that may help you afford an education, check out the links below. To find college scholarships and grants that are a bit more reliable, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
Scholarships.com "Tell A Friend" $1,000 Sweepstakes (New Winners Announced Every Three Months!)
Coca-Cola & Chuck E. Cheese’s $25,000 College Scholarship Sweepstakes
Academic Finance Corporation (AFC) $50K Giveaway Scholarship Sweepstakes
SuntTrust Off to College Scholarship Sweepstakes
Wells Fargo CollegeSTEPS Program & Scholarship Sweepstakes
$100,000 Oxy Cash for College Sweepstakes
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Prep for College Sweepstakes
What’s Your Freedom Quotient Sweepstakes
April 8, 2008
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an excellent opportunity for students in need of college funding. It may be tedious to fill out, but those who receive financial aid will be glad they did. Before submitting, students should review their applications for completeness, accuracy and, of course, deadlines. The June 30th federal cutoff may be months away, but often overlooked state and college deadlines are not.
In addition to federal aid such as Pell Grants, Federal Work Study and loans, students may receive state and college aid based on the information provided in their FAFSA. To be eligible for assistance from one's state and school, students must meet federal, state and college deadlines.
Many states set closing dates between the months of March and May, so students should act quickly. The FAFSA deadlines for individual states are listed below, and college ones can be found by contacting the financial aid office at one's college or university of choice.
Alabama Check with your financial aid administrator Alaska April 15, 2008 American Samoa Check with your financial aid administrator Arizona June 30, 2009 Arkansas For Academic Challenge - June 1, 2008; For Workforce Grant, check with your financial aid administrator;For Higher Education Opportunity Grant - June 1, 2008 (fall term); November 1, 2008 (spring term) California For initial awards - March 2, 2008; For additional community college awards - September 2, 2008 - date postmarked Colorado Check with your financial aid administrator Connecticut February 15, 2008 Delaware April 15, 2008 District of Columbia June 30, 2008 Federated States of Micronesia Check with your financial aid administrator Florida May 15, 2008 Georgia Check with your financial aid administrator Guam Check with your financial aid administrator Hawaii Check with you financial aid administrator Idaho March 1, 2008 Illinois First-time applicants - September 30, 2008 Continuing applicants - August 15, 2008 Indiana March 10, 2008 Iowa July 1, 2008 Kansas April 1, 2008 Kentucky March 15, 2008 Louisiana July 1, 2008 Maine May 1, 2008 Marshall Islands Check with your financial aid administrator Maryland March 1, 2008 Massachusetts May 1, 2008 Michigan March 1, 2008 Minnesota 30 days after term starts Mississippi MTAG and MESG Grants - September 15, 2008 HELP Scholarship - March 31, 2008 Missouri April 1, 2008 Montana March 1, 2008 Nebraska Check with your financial aid administrator Nevada Check with your financial aid administrator New Hampshire May 1, 2008 New Jersey June 1, 2008 if you received a Tuition Aid Grant in 2007-2008 All other applications - October 1, 2008, for fall and spring terms; March 1, 2009, for spring term only New Mexico Check with your financial aid administrator New York May 1, 2009 North Carolina March 15, 2008 North Dakota March 15, 2008 Northern Mariana Islands Check with your financial aid administrator Ohio October 1, 2008 Oklahoma April 15, 2008 for best consideration Oregon Check with your financial aid administrator Palau Check with your financial aid administrator Pennsylvania All 2007-2008 State Grant and non State Grant recipients in degree programs- May 1, 2008; All other applicants - August 1, 2008 Puerto Rico Check with your financial aid administrator Rhode Island March 1, 2008 South Carolina Tuition Grants - June 30, 2008 South Dakota Check with your financial aid administrator Tennessee For State Grant - March 1, 2008; For State Lottery - September 1, 2008 Texas Check with your financial aid administrator U.S. Virgin Islands Check with your financial aid administrator Utah Check with your financial aid administrator Vermont Check with your financial aid administrator Virginia Check with your financial aid administrator Washington Check with your financial aid administrator West Virginia March 1, 2008 Wisconsin Check with your financial aid administrator Wyoming Check with your financial aid administrator
(State deadlines provided by the Department of Education)
April 7, 2008
Are you in the mood for easy money? Well you came to the right place. Coca-Cola, NCAA and Chuck. E Cheese have recently teamed up to give away scholarship money, and they're making it really easy to apply. Because this is more of a college sweepstakes than it is a college scholarship, registration from an eligible applicant is the only requirement.
By applying, students (or parents applying on behalf of students) will be entered into two contests, the College Bound Scholarship and the Instant Win Game. The winner of the College Bound contest will be randomly selected to win $25,000 in scholarship money. Those who win the Instant Win Game will receive one of numerous sponsor-brand prizes.
For more information about this and other college scholarships and grants, you may conduct a free college scholarship search. If you are eligible to receive this scholarship, you will find the application and contact details in the “My Scholarships” section.
1. One $25,000 scholarship 2. One hundred POWERade Sweatshirts 3. One hundred Wilson NCAA basketballs 4. One hundred fold-out chairs 5. One hundred Coke Zero t-shirts 6. Two hundred POWERade sports bags
1. Applicant must be 18 years old or older 2. Applicant must be a resident of the 50 United States, District of Columbia or Canada 3. Applicant may not be an employee, child or immediate sibling of employees of Coca-Cola, NCAA or Chuck E. Cheese. 4. Each applicant may only enter 1 time per day
May 1, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. ETRequired Material:
1. Online registration
April 4, 2008
Deciphering the rewards one receives after filling out a FAFSA may be just as difficult as filling out the form itself. Students who plan to take advantage of government loans must pay particular attention to Award Letters detailing their financial aid options.
One of the difficulties associated with taking out government Stafford or PLUS Loans is understanding the differences between the two programs that administer them, the Direct Student Loan Program and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Students should be aware that although federal Stafford and PLUS Loans may be taken out through either program, the interest rates and conditions may differ based on which is used.
If the college or university participates in the Direct Loan Program, students will borrow money directly from the government at rates that, if the loan is a PLUS Loan, may be slightly lower than those offered through the FFEL program. If the school participates in the FFEL Program, students will be borrowing from a lender they have chosen to work with.
While certain schools participate in both of these programs, about 80 percent of the time, a student will be borrowing through the FFEL program. If a student is taking out only Stafford Loans, the differences are slim. Because lenders participating in the FFEL Program are subsidized by the government, they have to abide by a rule that states all Stafford Loans taken out on or after July 1, 2006 will have interest rates fixed at 6.8 percent.
However, students who also take out a PLUS Loan (a loan offered to parents and graduate students), the interest rates and repayment plans may differ based on program and lender. Students whose parents have borrowed through the Direct Loan Program on or after July 1, 2006 will have their PLUS Loan interest rates fixed at 7.9 percent. If the PLUS Loan is borrowed through the FFEL program, the interest rate may be no greater than 8.5 percent. Individual lenders will choose whether they will set their interest rates at this or a lower number.
It is important that students who borrow through the FFEL Program take more than interest rates into consideration when choosing a lender. Details such as the length or repayment and the penalties for late payments should be considered. Some lenders also offer financial perks to students who have good payment histories, and these should also be taken into account. Usually, schools will provide students with a list of preferred lenders to help them sift through their options, but students should also take other lenders into consideration. While students can trust most financial aid offices to provide them with the most affordable and best-rated lender suggestions, incidences of financial relationships between schools and lenders suggest that students should also conduct some research of their own.
For more information about federal aid, students can take a look at the Scholarships.com Resources section. To find information about scholarships opportunities, students can complete a free college scholarship search.
April 3, 2008
The credit crunch and its negative impact on student borrowers is no longer news. Both FFEL and private lenders have been responsible for financial tensions, and now there’s more to gripe about. Numerous colleges have been complaining that they are not receiving sufficient funding to cover their students' Perkins Loan needs.
Perkins Loans are awarded to students by colleges and universities, but the government provides much of the funding. Because these loans are restricted to students who show particular financial need, shortages will affect students whose families have the lowest incomes most. Perkins Loans have the cheapest interest rates and the most lenient payment options as far as government loans go, as far as most student loans go. Students are asked to pay a 5 percent interest rate on Perkins Loans as opposed to 6.8-7.22 percent on federal Stafford Loans and 7.9-8.5 percent on federal PLUS Loans. Those who turn to private lenders can expect even higher rates.
Due to a poor loan market and a lack of government subsidies, many schools have been forced to cut back on both the number and the size of their Perkins Loans. According to U.S. News & World Report estimates, about 50,000 students who would have qualified for Perkins Loans last year will not qualify for them this year. Those who do qualify may still see their loan limits diminish. Technically, students can borrow up to $4,000 in Perkins Loans (though the number may be lower for those deemed less needy), but certain colleges will be decreasing the maximum funds available to students.
This has left families worried that they may be forced to rely on private student loans after reaching their federal loan limits. After dealing with increasing default rates, both Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) lenders and private lenders have been forced to make loans more difficult to receive and less appealing to borrowers. Major lenders are becoming sticklers about eligibility criteria and have been cutting back on the benefits offered to students with good paying records.
Students who are no longer eligible for Perkins Loans still have financial aid opportunities. By applying for college scholarships and grants, students may find college funding they do not have to repay. Before considering loans, students should conduct a free college scholarship search to find awards they may be eligible to receive. It is also important to fill out a FAFSA each year. Just because an individual is not eligible for Perkins Loans does not mean they will not be awarded free money in the form of Pell, FSEOG, SMART or TEACH grants.
April 2, 2008
If you’re a suburbanite used to friends graduating left and right, you’re in the minority. A report released today by America’s Promise Alliance has shown that graduation rates for high school students residing in the suburbs are concerning—until one looks at those of urban students.
According to the findings, only 52 percent of students attending principal high schools in the 50 largest cities receive their diploma before leaving. At 70 percent, the nation’s overall graduation rate is much higher but still in need of improvement.
The largest discrepancy between urban and suburban districts was found in Baltimore, Maryland and Columbus, Ohio. Of the students residing in the suburbs of Baltimore, 81.5 percent were able to graduate. Only 34.6 percent of those living in urban districts of the city were able to do the same. The respective graduation percentages for students living in Columbus were 82.9 and 40.9. As one might expect, New York City was not far behind, ranking fourth on the list of cities with the largest gaps in urban and suburban graduation rates.
The results were based on school data retrieved from the 2003-2004 school year leading some to wonder whether the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was in part to blame. Many educators feel that the main goals of the NCLB Act---to minimize student achievement gaps and increase overall scholastic performance--- have not been fulfilled. Both the effectiveness and the steps taken to achieve NCLB aims have been subject to much criticism in past years.
During this year's Scholarships.com scholarship competition, high school seniors from around the country wrote to Scholarships.com to voice their opinions on the NCLB. In doing so, these students were given the opportunity to win $10,000 in scholarship money.
Check back in a few weeks to read the essays of this year's Resolve to Evolve Scholarship winners. If you missed the deadline, don't despair. You may still be eligible for next year's scholarships. For information about currently available awards, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
April 1, 2008
Numerous students find themselves doubting whether applying for scholarships is really worth their time. They assume that competition is tough and that most applicants have an exceptional academic record—not true. It’s in a student’s best interest to maximize his/her financial aid potential by giving scholarships a shot. Check out some common scholarship misconceptions below before passing up valuable options. 1. All scholarship contests are competitive—There is no denying that a few national scholarship competitions can be difficult to win. Certain corporations go out of their way to advertise their philanthropic actions, and they create very minimal eligibility criteria to encourage students to apply. However, millions of scholarships are available, and most are neither well-advertised nor open to every student.
Try searching for awards you are eligible to receive based on strict criteria. If you’re a Chicagoan and you find an award available only to high school seniors residing in Illinois, go for it. Remember, the competitors are just as intimidated by you as you are by them. Don’t give up before you start. 2. Applying for scholarships will reduce federal student aid eligibility— A number of students worry about federal aid reductions resulting from scholarship winnings. Let’s set the record straight. According to Federal Student Aid representatives, Pell Grant awards will not be reduced because of scholarships. It is, however, possible for schools to limit certain loan eligibility or to reduce school scholarship offers. But unless you’re expecting a full ride from Harvard, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you are, the effects will be minimal, if any. 3. It’s easier to work for the money—Yes, you are pretty much guaranteed a paycheck when you work, but working is not the easiest way to find money for college. Student jobs are a great source of supplementary income, but, realistically, a student paycheck is unlikely to cover tuition. Plus, scholarships and jobs are not mutually exclusive. If you have the chance to win $3,000 by spending three or four hours typing away, take advantage of it. You may have to work an entire summer for that money. Even if you don’t win, the few hours won’t destroy your social life.
March 31, 2008
The Joes Foss Institute, an organization dedicated to restoring patriotism, integrity and the appreciation of America’s freedoms, will be awarding $5,000 to the winner of their 2008 Memorial Day scholarship. The topic for this year’s competition will be Patrick Henry’s famous: “Give me liberty or give me death,” speech.
If you slept through the Revolutionary War chapter in history, don't worry. Information about Patrick Henry’s spirited contributions to civilian freedoms has been transcribed in numerous books, newspapers and online articles. A little research will go a long way. The student whose essay scholarship application best demonstrates how Patrick Henry’s quote and accomplishments have affected today's society will win a college scholarship and a cash prize for his/her educator.
1. $5,000 2. $250 for the winning applicant’s class 3. $500 for the winning applicant’s school.
1. Applicants must be middle or high school (grades 7-12) students studying in the US. 2. Applicants must not have received a past scholarship from the institute.
May 31, 2008 (postmarked or electronically received by this date)
1. An essay of original work that is at least 1500 words in length 2. A cover sheet with the applicant’s full name, address, phone number, date of birth, grade in school, school name, total word count and the statement: “I have read and understand the guidelines, the essay submitted is original and of my own creation.” 3. The essay must be typewritten in English. If it is submitted electronically, it must be sent in as an MS Word attachment.
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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