October 12, 2007
The battle to offer students the best chance of getting out of college with both a diploma and a fighting chance at earning a living wage while paying off their student loans continues. Even those who have already reached an agreement with the New York attorney general are being subpeonad for what Cuomo terms "deceptive corporate marketing practices".
It is difficult to say whether students deserve special consideration with respect to corporate marketing practices, which, it seems to me, have been deceptive by definition for at least the last four or five decades without being placed under this kind of scrutiny. Shouldn't everyone be entitled to marketing that is not deceptive? Or should we all just continue to accept that marketers are not your friends and they tell you what they need to in order to get you to buy what they want to sell?
Of course, the initial scope of the investigation was and remains critical, as every student should be able to assume that their advisor, regardless of the institution they attend, is not a marketer. It is vital that those in the financial aid offices in all of our schools give only objective information to students that will get them through school with as little debt as possible.
Of course, there are those who claim Cuomo's crusade will ultimately harm students by causing them to distrust their advisors when the majority of them have been giving, and continue to give, good, objective advice. While I believe this to be true, I also believe it is never a bad idea to do independent research on something so important and that this statement is condescending, to say the least. Apparently students across the board, if forced to research loans for themselves, will fare poorly and pay more in loans than if they listened to those at their college or university financial aid office. In this argument it is never considered a possibility that, given the opportunity, a student and his parent might find the best possible solution to funding their education. If I were an aspiring college student or a parent of such a student, I would find this very insulting.
October 11, 2007
It’s been a long year for colleges across the nation. Aside from the student lender and college study abroad fiascos, investigators are looking more closely at the handling of endowments by colleges.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, many schools have accumulated large endowment funds, some in excess of $1 billion. This is tax-free money, and if investments are well-planned, interest will lead to annual gains.
Despite this, college tuition rates have soared across the country, and students are increasingly left with debts that sometimes mirror mortgages. A proposal that could allay this problem involves forcing schools with large endowments to spend about 5 percent of their money each year, or be subject to taxes. After all, endowments are meant to aid, not hoard.
But some schools say that this is not as easy as it may seem. People who donate often leave specific instructions for endowment spending. Money may be set aside, for example, for students who are financially needy and epileptic, or for those who conduct research in the hearing sciences.
Based on the written testimony of four higher education associations, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, proposed legislation is based on inaccurate college endowment information.
According to the testimony, an average of 80 percent of endowment assets were restricted at public institutions in 2006, and 55 percent were restricted at private ones. That, of course, still leaves plenty of unrestricted funds that could be used to greatly relieve student needs. This, by the way, is what higher education associations already claim to do.
The issue is a bit of a slippery slope. Endowments could diminish if expenditure choices were left up to college officials. Plus, available money doesn’t necessarily translate into swimming pools of cash for directors to dive into.
Then again, tuition is getting out of hand, and storing large amounts of money when students have little choice but to take out excessive loans seems a bit immoral. Perhaps additional information is needed on unrestricted money expenditures and on how much is needed to maintain interest that would keep funds afloat.
October 10, 2007
October 8, 2007
Check out the Courageous Persuaders video scholarship for a chance to win college money and, in the process, to make a difference in the lives of kids across the nation. Applicants will create commercials warning middle-school students about the dangers of underage drinking. In addition to wining scholarships, selected students will get to work with the McCann Erickson advertising agency. With a bit of professional polish, the winning commercial will be broadcast on TV.
1. $2,000 New York Festival scholarship 2. $1,000 USA Today scholarship 3. Michigan applicants will have the chance to win additional scholarships ranging between $1,500-$3,000
1. Applicants must be high school students 2. Applicants must be U.S. citizens
February 15, 2008 by 5:00 PM
1. A video commercial lasting no more than 30 seconds 2. Online entry form
For additional scholarship and grant opportunities, visit Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.
October 5, 2007
If you think that $140 is too much to pay for a GRE exam, wait until you see the extra fees. In addition to this year’s $25 increase (up from last year’s $115), there are charges for just about everything one can be charged for.
Before I rant, I must admit that financial assistance for low-income students is available. Those who applied for financial aid and were determined to have an expected family contribution (EFC) lower than $1,400 or $1,800—based on dependency status—can pay $70. But, like I said, the EFC must be below $1,400 or $1,800.
For everyone else, especially for the numerous students who repeat the test, the cost can be a bit much. As if the graduate school application costs weren’t already bad enough. Here is what you may be dealing with:
1. Are you applying to more than four schools? Pay up. For every school above that number, students must pay an extra $15 shipping fee. I thought stamps were $.41?
2. Did your car break down? You better find a new ride to the test--unless you want to pay a $50 test center change fee.
3. Did something unexpected come up? Let’s hope it happened ten days before the test. Students who need to reschedule their testing date will have to announce their decision at least ten days prior to the exam—and they’ll be charged $50. And the rescheduled date must occur before a new testing year begins.
4. Do you need to cancel the test? You must do so ten days in advance, and only 50% of your money will be returned. Even retail return policies are more lenient.
5. In a hurry to send out applications? You will know your verbal and quantitative scores immediately after the test, but early writing scores will cost you $12.
6. Are you uncertain about the validity of your score? You can pay to have the test checked for someone else’s errors, for only $30. That’s just for the quantitative and verbal scores. Writing section scoring will cost you $50. The lengthy writing pieces are little over three pages—that’s about $150 per hour. All right, it’s only $75 per hour; two people are checking.
7. Need to pinpoint your weak areas? A $50 service can help. For $50, you can find out which questions were answered incorrectly and what the correct answers were.
Of course, all fees are subject to change without notice, probably not for the better.
October 4, 2007
In high school, students were limited to more or less five core subjects. Yes, additional extras were offered, but the list wasn’t very extensive. Once students enter college, it becomes obvious that there is much more to choose from. And additional career options translate into additional entrance tests. Don’t be stumped when your friends rattle off their stressful exam plans. Below are top testing acronyms—no need to be confused.
ACT- The American College Test (ACT), like the SAT, is a college entrance test. It is usually taken during a student’s junior or early senior year of high school. Most colleges take ACT or SAT scores into consideration when making admissions’ decisions.
AP- The Advanced Placement (AP) test is taken by high school students who wish to receive college credit for their high school work. Test takers have usually taken advanced placement classes in high school. Students who score sufficiently well in one or more of the subject options (there are over thirty), may be able to bypass certain college class requirements.
DAT- The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is for students who wish to enter the field of dentistry. In addition to general academic skill, the test measures knowledge of scientific information and perceptual ability. Because it is more than four hours long (not counting breaks), you can say that it measures stamina as well.
GMAT- The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is used to assess a student’s readiness for business school. Plenty of students attempt the test during their senior year of college, but there are many others who wait a few years. Many business schools look for applicants with sufficient work experience, and that may require a few years of full-time work.
GRE- The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is less major specific. Students with a wide range of interests and plans take the GRE before entering graduate school. The test is composed of three sections, the Quantitative Reasoning, the Verbal Reasoning, and the Analytical Writing.
LSAT- The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a test taken by students who wish to attend law school. It may be retaken, but unlike the GRE, it is only offered a few times per year. The test measures a taker’s reasoning skills more than it does their acquired knowledge.
MCAT- The Medical College Admissions Tests (MCAT) tests a student’s preparation for medical school. It tests both thought process and acquired scientific knowledge. Like the DAT, the MCAT is very time consuming.
NCLEX-RN- The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is taken by students pursing a career in nursing. It is used to determine if students are ready to become registered nurses (RN) and composed of four major categories and eight subcategories.
PSAT- The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a preparatory version of the SAT. Students who take the test, in addition to working out their brain, may get the chance to compete for national merit scholarships based on scores.
SAT- The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam for high school students. Most students choose to take this test during their junior or senior year. The majority of colleges require that students submit either an SAT or an ACT score as a part of their application package. Depending on the college, one, the other, or neither may be required.
October 3, 2007
Buying Sallie Mae, the biggest lender in the business, may have seemed like a great idea at first, but doubts have been creeping up. A group of investors that includes J.C. Flowers & Company, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Friedman Fleischer & Lowe initially offered $25 billion for Sallie Mae, but has recently retracted the offer blaming new legislation for the decision. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act signed by President Bush last week entails, among other things, government cuts on subsidies given to student lenders. Over the next five years, about $21 billion would be cut from lender support and invested in student aid programs.
J.C. Flowers & Company stated that their decision abides by contract rules and that such legislation was considered when the contract was drawn up. A smaller purchase price was still proposed, and, if Sallie Mae performs well, the offer may increase.
The legislation will certainly not put the lender giant out of business, but Sallie Mae may feel some pressure. The lender has stated that the new law will force it to give up some student perks, and that won’t go over well with borrowers. Those who have financial needs will still be forced to borrow once government grants and loans are exhausted, but increased caps on both may decrease student needs.
October 2, 2007
October 1, 2007
Check out the Coca-Cola Scholars Program for a chance to win big bucks. Coca-Cola's famed four-year scholarship is one of two awards offered by the company. It is one of the most sought after and lucrative scholarships around.
There are two rounds to this competition, and students who make it past the first will be asked to submit additional materials to scholarship administrators. Winners will be invited to Atlanta to receive their prizes and to complete an interview.
1. 50 scholarships worth $20,000 each 2. 200 scholarships worth $10,000 each
1. Applicant must be a full-time high school senior attending a U.S. high school (or be home schooled in the U.S.) 2. Applicant must plan to attend an accredited college or university 3. Applicant must be a U.S citizen, U.S. national, permanent resident, temporary resident (legalization program), refugee, asylee, Cuban-Haitian entrant, or humanitarian parolee 4. Applicant must have a 3.0 GPA 5. Applicants cannot be a child or grandchild of a Coca-Cola employee, an officer or owner of a Coca-Cola bottling company, or any bottler or company divisions or subsidiaries
October 31, 2007
1. A completed, admittedly lengthy, application. Students will have to submit information that includes school involvement, GPA, work experience etc. 2. Students who are selected to compete in the second round will be asked to submit additional materials.
For additional award opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search.
September 28, 2007
After an anxious wait on the part of students and lenders, President Bush finally signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act into law. And you know this is big if MTV reported on the bill even though partying at club Les Deux wasn’t involved.
According to the new law, the maximum Pell Grant offered to students will increase while the subsidies the government offers student lenders will decrease. This is the biggest boost in student aid since the GI Bill for veterans---and a fresh change from the 2005 $12 billion financial aid cut.
Among those who will benefit are needy students eligible for government grants and those who borrow from the government. Currently, students are eligible to receive a maximum $4,310 Pell Grant each year. This number will increase gradually, reaching a high of $5,400 by 2012.
Under the act, new subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will also be cut. A low point of 3.4 percent will be available to students who borrow between July 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. Unfortunately, students will have to wait until 2008 to take advantage of this change. Until then, they are stuck with the current fixed 6.8 percent loan interest rate.
Students who plan to teach in low-income neighborhoods after graduating may also benefit. Future teachers may receive a $4,000 TEACH Grant for each year they attend school (up to $16,000 for undergraduates and $8,000 for graduates), but a pretty detailed list of additional eligibility criteria must also be met.
The bill was largely a result of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal actions within the $85 billion student loan industry. The investigation revealed that numerous financial aid administrators, including one from the Department of Education, received financial incentives from lenders who hoped to improve their standing with schools.
Some of the financial aid changes outlined in the act were previously considered, but Cuomo’s investigation provided much-needed impetus. Although Bush had initially threatened to veto the bill, he agreed to sign once recommended changes were made. In a White House photo, the president is shown signing the bill with four smiling college students, three smiling congressmen and a smiling Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings looking over his shoulder. A sign that read, “Making College More Affordable” hung from his desk.
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