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Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for Arne Duncan

January 14, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

During his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Arne Duncan, Obama's appointee for Education Secretary, disclosed broad ideas but few specific plans for education in America.  Much of the hearing before the U.S. Senate focused on elementary and secondary education, though questions related to paying for college did surface.  Duncan's primary focuses appear to be on college access and college affordability, moving away from the emphasis on accountability the nation has seen under Margaret Spellings, the current Secretary of Education.

According to coverage by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, Duncan's primary goal related to college aid is to guarantee access to student loans for everyone attending college.  Taking up one aspect of Spellings' policy, he also expressed an interest in simplifying the FAFSA to make applying for federal student financial aid more enticing for college students.  Additionally, Duncan pledged to work towards the goals of increasing Federal Pell Grants and instituting the $4,000 education tax credit that made up a major part of Obama's campaign platform.

Congress may already be taking steps towards some of these goals in drafting the next economic stimulus package.  Reports have abounded this week that plans are in the works to increase the maximum available Pell Grant by $500 and to consolidate two existing federal higher education tax options into one $3,000 tax credit for higher education expenses.

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Academic Competitiveness and SMART Grants More Popular, Still Underused

January 15, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While many stories right now are focusing on financial aid programs finding themselves strapped for cash to award an increased of needy applicants, this is not universally the case. Data published by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows that two federal grant programs that were added in 2006 still have more awards than applicants.  The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant have gained some participation, but still they're still falling short of enrollment goals.

Both grants are intended to supplement Federal Pell Grants for students who are both academically talented and financially needy. The ACG is a grant of $750 to $1,300 for college freshmen and sophomores who have completed a rigorous high school curriculum and excelled academically, while the SMART Grant is an award of up to $4,000 per year designed to support college juniors and seniors who are enrolled in a science, math, engineering, technology, or critically needed language program.  Approximately 465,000 students received the ACG and SMART grants in the 2007-2008 academic year, up 95,000 from the first year they were offered.

In order to attract more applicants and meet their goal of doubling participation by the 2011-2012 academic year, the department is pushing financial aid administrators to become more aware of award criteria and to make sure the grants are being fully awarded.  In addition, requirements have also been loosened and students enrolled in eligible five-year programs will be able to receive a SMART grant in their fifth year of school beginning in July.

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Draft of House Stimulus Package Revealed

January 16, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While it's still a long way from becoming law, the first published draft of the economic stimulus legislation created by the House of Representatives includes billions of dollars for higher education, including several provisions designed to make paying for school easier.  The bill still has to be approved by both the House and the Senate (which is drafting its own stimulus legislation) then signed by the President, so it remains to be seen how many of the following appropriations will make it into the final version of the stimulus package.

The stimulus bill would increase funding to several federal student financial aid programs, as well as providing emergency funds to states to prevent further drastic budget cuts, and designating money to help colleges, especially ones affected by disasters, make needed improvements and repairs.  If the bill is passed, federal work-study will receive a boost in funding, as will Pell Grants, eliminating a projected budget shortfall for the program.  Unsubsidized Stafford Loans will increase by $2,000 per year, bringing the loan limit to $7,500 or more for undergraduate students.  The maximum Pell Grant award will also increase to $5,350.  In addition, lender subsidies will also increase, hopefully enticing more banks to remain in the FFEL program.  The Hope tax credit and a provision that allowed families to deduct up to $4,000 in educational expenses will also be combined into a new $2,500 tax credit, through which families with too little income to file taxes could still receive $1,000.

As Congress hammers out the details of the stimulus bill in coming weeks, these numbers will likely change.  A more detailed breakdown of these and other proposals affecting colleges and universities is available from Inside Higher Ed.

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The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship is Back!

Earn $1,000 or a Kindle Fire for College with Just 17 Syllables!

July 2, 2013

The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship is Back!

by Suada Kolovic

Are you a poetry ninja? If so, then we’ve got the scholarship for you: Scholarships.com’s Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship!

The Haiku Ninja Facebook Scholarship will go to the Scholarships.com fan that creates the best haiku detailing how our site is helping them combat the college admissions process and score some serious financial aid. Love our scholarship search? Tell us why! Is our financial aid section really helping you out? Send us an example! Think our college prep section is the best? Give us a shout out! The trick is you must convey your feelings in only three lines and 17 syllables – five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line and five syllables in the third line – and post it on our Facebook page. We always love hearing from our users so get creatively concise and you could earn $1,000 or a Kindle Fire for college!

Step 1: “Like” Scholarships.com on Facebook.

Step 2: Post a haiku on our wall about how Scholarships.com is helping you prepare for and afford college. Once you do this, you are automatically entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or a Kindle Fire.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want over the course of the contest but please limit your haiku entries to one per day. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which haiku best exemplifies what our site is all about and which applicant is using our resources most effectively. You must also adjust your privacy preferences to allow Scholarships.com to message you should you win.

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Starts: July 2nd

Ends: August 18th

Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle Fire each for second- and third-place winners

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Survey Provides Profile of College Freshmen in 2008

January 22, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're wondering what to expect in college or how you measure up against the students already there, an annual survey of college freshmen may help answer your questions.  The Cooperative Institutional Research Program, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute and UCLA, annually surveys college freshmen, asking a broad spectrum of questions ranging from their reasons for their college choice to their religious and political views.  The results from this year's survey have just been published on the Higher Education Research Institute's website.

The results indicate that--at least for now--the class of 2012 is the most politically engaged group of college students ever surveyed by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.  The report found that 85.9 percent of freshmen at least occasionally discussed politics, and fewer students than ever describe themselves as middle-of-the-road politically. Individual issues are also important to many students, with universal healthcare, same sex marriage, and protecting the environment among the issues with the broadest support among first year students.

In addition to politics, students are also more concerned about finances than they have been in the past, likely due to the poor state of the economy. Ability to pay is becoming an increasing concern and mores freshmen indicate plans to work their way through college.

Students are also becoming more concerned with financial aid.  More students than ever are describing offers of financial assistance, such as college scholarships and grants, as being essential to their college choice.  This year, 43 percent of freshmen based their decision heavily on this factor, with cost of attendance also rating highly for nearly 40 percent of freshmen.  Fewer students who were accepted to their first choice school chose to attend in 2008 than in recent years, likely due to issues of affordability and funding.

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University of California May Up Aid to Low Income Students

January 23, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

The University of California system's board of regents is considering a proposal to extend financial aid covering full tuition to families earning under $60,000 per year.  The change, suggested by University of California President Mark Yudof, is still under review and will likely be voted on next month.

The concerns that motivate this move are becoming more pressing and are shared by many figures in higher education.  The University of California, like other state university systems, is facing budget cuts and plans to increase tuition in response.  California is also one of the states hardest hit by the recession, especially the collapse of the housing market.  There is widespread concern that these factors may put a college education out of reach for many.  The University of California system also serves a relatively large number of low-income and moderate-income students, so Yudof's proposal could potentially benefit a substantial portion of the student body.

Despite economic hardship and shrinking endowments, California is not alone in considering increases to college scholarships and grants for students struggling the most financially.  A number of prestigious schools have eliminated student loans for less affluent students in recent years.  These significant financial aid packages may be becoming more of a draw students this year, as many of the most prestigious and most generous schools are reporting double-digit increases in applications for the 2009-2010 academic year.

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Both House and Senate Include Higher Ed in Stimulus Bills

January 27, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's looking like federal student financial aid will be increased in the forthcoming economic stimulus package, at least based on the legislation presented in each house of Congress in its current form.  While the House stimulus bill contains more aid for education, the Senate bill also proposes higher education tax benefits and increases in Federal Pell Grant funding.

The House bill promises:

  • $15.6 billion to increase the Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350 and fully fund the increase
  • $490 million to Federal Work-Study
  • $12.5 billion over the course of 10 years to offer a $2,500 tax credit that will be 40% refundable for those who would otherwise make too little to qualify
  • $6 billion to higher education infrastructure
  • $1.5 billion to improve energy efficiency for colleges, schools, and local governments
  • $39 billion to school districts and state colleges
  • $25 billion to states for "high priority needs" which can include education
  • a $2,000 increase in loan limits on federal Stafford Loans

The Senate bill appropriates:

  • $13.9 billion to increase the Pell Grant by $281 in 2009-2010 and $400 in 2010-2011 and fully fund the increase
  • $12.9 billion to create a 30% refundable $2,500 tax credit
  • $61 million to Perkins Loans
  • $3.5 billion to improve energy efficiency and infrastructure on college campuses
  • $39 billion to school districts and public colleges
  • $25 billion to states for "high priority" needs which may include education

The House bill also includes money to improve financial aid administration and further assist student loan lenders, while the Senate bill will allow computers to be counted as education expenses towards which 529 plans can be used.  The bills are facing some Republican opposition, especially regarding education spending, as it's been argued that construction projects and increases to student financial aid will not directly and immediately benefit the economy.  As Congress and the White House continue to hash out the details of these bills, amounts are likely to change.  But for now, it appears that colleges and college students may receive a little extra financial aid from the government this year.

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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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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
  •  
  • Alaska:  April 15, 2009
  •  
  • American Samoa:  Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Arizona:  March 1, 2009
  •  
  • Arkansas
       
    • For Academic Challenge - June 1, 2009
    •  
    • For Workforce Grant - check with your financial aid administrator
    •  
    • For Higher Education Opportunity Grant - June 1, 2009 (fall term); November 1, 2009 (spring term)
    •  
     
  •  
  • California
       
    • For initial awards - March 2, 2009
    •  
    • For additional community college awards - September 2, 2009 - date postmarked (additional forms may be required)
    •  
     
  •  
  • Colorado: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • Connecticut: Priority deadline February 15, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Delaware: April 15, 2009
  •  
  • District of Columbia: June 30, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Federated States of Micronesia: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Florida: May 15, 2009 - date processed
  •  
  • Georgia: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • Guam: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Hawaii: Check with you financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Idaho:  Opportunity Grant - Priority deadline March 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Illinois
       
    • First-time applicants - September 30, 2009
    •  
    • Continuing applicants - Priority deadline August 15, 2009
    •  
     
  •  
  • Indiana: March 10, 2009
  •  
  • Iowa: July 1, 2009
  •  
  • Kansas: Priority deadline April 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Kentucky: Priority deadline March 15, 2009
  •  
  • Louisiana: July 1, 2009
  •  
  • Maine: May 1, 2009
  •  
  • Marshall Islands: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Maryland: March 1, 2009
  •  
  • Massachusetts: Priority deadline May 1, 2009
  •  
  • Michigan: March 1, 2009
  •  
  • Minnesota: 30 days after term starts
  •  
  • Mississippi
       
    • MTAG and MESG Grants - September 15, 2009
    •  
    • HELP Scholarship - March 31, 2009
    •  
     
  •  
  • Missouri: April 1, 2009
  •  
  • Montana: Priority deadline March 1, 2009
  •  
  • Nebraska: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Nevada: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • New Hampshire: May 1, 2009
  •  
  • New Jersey
       
    • June 1, 2009 if you received a Tuition Aid Grant in 2008-2009
    •  
    • All other applications - October 1, 2009, for fall and spring terms;
    •  
    • March 1, 2010, for spring term only
    •  
     
  •  
  • New Mexico: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • New York: May 1, 2010 (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • North Carolina: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • North Dakota: March 15, 2009
  •  
  • Northern Mariana Islands: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Ohio: October 1, 2009
  •  
  • Oklahoma: Priority deadline April 15, 2009 for best consideration
  •  
  • Oregon: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • Palau: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Pennsylvania
       
    • All 2008-2009 State Grant recipients and all non-2008-2009 State Grant recipients in degree programs - May 1, 2009
    •  
    • All other applicants - August 1, 2009 (additional forms may be required)
    •  
     
  •  
  • Puerto Rico: Check with your financial aid administrator
  •  
  • Rhode Island: Priority deadline March 1, 2009
  •  
  • South Carolina: Tuition Grants - June 30, 2009
  •  
  • South Dakota: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • Tennessee
       
    • For State Grant - Priority deadline March 1, 2009
    •  
    • For State Lottery - September 1, 2009
    •  
     
  •  
  • Texas: Check with your financial aid administrator (additional forms may be required)
  •  
  • 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
  •  
  • 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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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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