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Treasury to Aid Private Student Lenders

November 26, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve and Treasury announced a new program to further shore up the banking industry in the face of a recession that appears to still be worsening.  The program would devote $200 billion to shoring up consumer credit markets, including credit cards, car loans, and student loans.  The hope is that this new program will make these forms of credit more widely available to people who need them, including students who depend on private loans to help pay for school.

The New York Times explains that this is the first time the federal government has intervened to finance consumer debt and describes the program as " com[ing] close to being a government bank."  Coupled with recent efforts to expand and sustain federal student financial aid programs, namely the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the federal government has expended a fairly vast amount of resources on student financial aid.  However, some are questioning how the money is being spent.

The Project on Student Debt is one organization that has encouraged the federal government to exclude private student loans from rescue packages.  While the lending industry has been hit hard in the last year, this organization is one of several voices urging that students be steered towards more affordable means of financing their educations.  The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, while supporting the Treasury's decision, also called for a reevaluation of the role of private loans in paying for college.  Private student loans, which carry higher interest rates than federal loans, are intended to be used as a last resort after Federal Stafford Loans, campus-based aid programs, and scholarship money have been exhausted and students are still coming up short on their education expenses.

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Thanksgiving Week Checklist

November 25, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's hard to believe, but next week it will be December.  While it's tempting to train your eyes on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the accompanying problem of consuming enough homecooked food to sustain you through finals, the next few months will be busy, especially if you're planning to apply for any sort of financial aid.  Between your high school or college coursework and adjusting your schedule and budget to accommodate winter holidays, December and January tend to fly by.  Since many scholarship application deadlines happen in December and January, now is the perfect time to do a quick scholarship search and double check that you don't miss out on applying for scholarships while you're in Thursday night's turkey-induced coma.

A Thanksgiving week scholarship application checklist:

  • Search for available scholarships. See if anything new has come up since you last looked.  Many scholarship providers post new information in November, so if it's been a few weeks, now is the time to go back!
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  • Make note of approaching deadlines. While January deadlines may seem a long way off now, consider how many free days you're likely to have between now and then.  Probably not many if you have finals, family, and friends all demanding a large chunk of your time.  Also, several scholarship awards have November/December deadlines, including our own College Health Scholarship, which closes November 30.
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  • Take a hard look at your schedule. By now you should know what the rest of this semester looks like as well as how heavy your next semester will be.  Figure out times you'll be able to get those applications done.  Then take a look at your list of scholarship opportunities and prioritize accordingly.
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  • Do some drafting. You're going to be spending an entire day in a house with your extended family.  Defeat awkward silences and make your relatives feel smart by asking them for input on your scholarship essays.  You don't have to staple your rough draft to the turkey or refuse to let anyone sit until they've proofread a paragraph, but usually there's some downtime where the topic can successfully be brought up.  If nothing else, saying that you have essay writing to do can give you an out when the topic turns to your great aunt's new medication.
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Posted Under:

Scholarships , Tips



Burger King Scholars Program

November 24, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

High school students, you know that part-time job you have?  It turns out it might be worth more than minimum wage and the very first line on your resume.  Through programs like this week's Scholarship of the Week, part-time student employees can find money for college beyond what they see in their paychecks.

Burger King's Have It Your Way Foundation offers $1,000 college scholarships to high school seniors in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico who participate in co-curricular or volunteer activities (such as athletics or community service) and maintain their grades while working at least 15 hours a week.

Prize: $1000

Eligibility: Current high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.5 (out of 4.0) who work part-time and demonstrate community or extracurricular involvement and who plan to enroll in an accredited college or university the following fall.

Deadline: February 2, 2009

Required Materials: Completed online scholarship application, found on the Burger King website.

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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Minnesota Colleges To Increase Online Course Offerings

November 21, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Interested in online courses?  You may want to look into attending college in Minnesota.  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and David Olson, the chair of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) board of trustees, announced a plan to make 25% of the university system's courses available online by 2015.  Other state universities, including the University of Minnesota campuses, are strongly encouraged to work towards this goal, as well.

Online courses can benefit students in multiple ways, most notably by saving students living off-campus the cost of commuting and giving them a more flexible schedule so they can more easily juggle work and family commitments in addition to coursework.  Additionally, in the cold Minnesota winters, being able to attend class from the comfort of your home is a definite plus (though still having class on those rare snow days could also be seen as a drawback).  While online learning requires students to be more self-motivated than those in traditional classes, more and more students are finding such courses appealing.

Online degree programs are gaining popularity across the country.  A recent study revealed that over 20 percent of American college students took at least one online course in 2007 and that distance learning enrollment continues to increase.  A number of colleges and universities are interested in increasing their online course offerings, and the MnSCU system hopes to beat them to the punch.

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Posted Under:

College Costs , College News



Fundraisers Focus on Financial Aid

November 20, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Amid news of tightening budgets and declining endowments, several colleges and universities are putting a greater focus on shoring up financial aid programs and helping their students find money for college.  While reports of hiring freezes and halted construction plans has come from numerous institutions, keeping students in school has remained a priority.

This focus on student financial aid is reflected in recent fund raising shifts, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.  Several schools are introducing or ramping up fund raising efforts directed at providing college scholarships and grants for their students.  Among the private colleges increasing fund raising efforts are Cornell University and Barnard CollegeState universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, are also increasing effort to meet students' growing financial needs.

College presidents at multiple institutions are even dipping into their own salaries and savings to help their schools.  A recent news post in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis has taken a voluntary 10% pay cut to help reduce operating costs, and the president of the University of Pennsylvania has donated $100,000 to help fund undergraduate research at her university.

All of this goes to show that despite economic trouble, scholarship opportunities are still out there.  Keep plugging away at your scholarship search and you can still afford a college education.

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Connecticut Announces Low-Interest Student Loan Program

November 19, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

A struggling economy, shrinking endowments, turmoil in the student loan marketplace, and state budget cuts have all raised questions about students' continued ability to pay for school.  However, despite economic troubles, at least one state has plans to launch a new program to help its students find money for college in the form of low-interest student loans.

Connecticut students will soon have one more source of student financial aid, thanks to a new partnership between the state and its credit unions.  The loan program, announced yesterday by the governor's office, would provide up to $17.5 million in student loans for college students from Connecticut and students attending college in the state.

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell met with officials from the state's credit unions on Tuesday to discuss the partnership.  Under the proposed college loan program, students would borrow directly from the credit unions at interest rates of 5.75 or 6 percent.  Each credit union would be required to offer at least $100,000 in student loans to participate in the program.  The loans are designed to help families who don't have access to sufficient amounts of financial aid, such as federal Stafford loans, to cover their tuition bills.  The governor's press release did not make mention of borrowing limits or requirements.

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Posted Under:

Financial Aid , Student Loans



Financial Assistance for Public Service

November 18, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Are you considering a career in public service, such as working for the government or a non-profit organization, but more than slightly overwhelmed by the thought of repaying your student loans with an often minuscule salary?  Realizing that you may actually be taking a pay cut to transition from your summer job to your "grown up" career can be demoralizing, and dealing with debt on top of that certainly doesn't help.  While many noble individuals certainly make this sacrifice, perhaps you were hoping to forget where the grocery store kept its "manager's special" items after you graduated.  And who can blame you?  The college budget diet, and the accompanying lifestyle of cramming half a dozen people into one run-down apartment, eventually does get old.  Luckily, there are forms of financial aid out there to minimize or relieve your debt and help you stretch that public servant salary a little further.

Some of the most well-known career-based assistance programs are designed for teachers.  The TEACH grant contributes $4000 a year towards the tuition of students who agree to teach a high-need subject at a low-income school for four years. Other programs such as Teach for America offer teaching certification, a stipend, and assistance with student loan repayment to individuals agreeing to teach in certain schools.

Teachers and other public servants can also qualify to have their Federal Perkins Loans canceled, saving up to $16,000.  Nursing students and other medical students can get in on this program, as well.  The federal government also launched a public service loan repayment program a year ago that will forgive qualifying federal student loan debt for those who commit ten years to public service.  In addition, a variety of government scholarships provide incentives for students in various majors to consider federal work.

An article appearing in USA Today this week also mentions some university-specific programs to help steer students towards public service careers.  Harvard Law School will waive tuition for one year for students who commit to five years in government or non-profit fields, and Princeton University will provide free master's degrees to eight 2008 graduates who first put in two years in federal jobs.  Tufts University is also helping its undergraduate students pay down debt or pursue graduate degrees if they commit a few years to public service work.

If you're leaning towards a career with a government agency or non-profit organization, be aware of the scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and loan repayment programs out there.  Include a free college scholarship search in your research to find out about many of your options for funding your education and minimizing your debt.

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SPENDonLIFE Credit Blogging Scholarship

November 17, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Are you a college student?  Do you have a blog?  Are you concerned about your credit or the dangers of identity theft?  Do you want to win $2,000?  If so, this week's Scholarship of the Week is for you.  The SPENDonLIFE Credit Blogging Scholarship offers a $2,000 college scholarship to a student blogger who posts an entry on his or her blog about either credit or identity theft before December 1.

Blog entries should be original, interesting, and informative, using your creativity and research skills to address a topic within the broad categories of identity theft and credit.  Entries should be 400 words or less and should also inform readers of the contest and how they can participate.

Prize: $2000

Eligibility: Students aged 18 or over currently attending college full-time or part-time at an accredited college or university

Deadline: December 1, 2008

Required Materials: Completed online scholarship application, found on the SPENDonLIFE contest website.  Be sure to provide a link to your blog entry about credit or identity theft.

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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Three States Introduce Bold Changes to Public Education

November 14, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

For many high school students, graduation cannot come soon enough.  While admittedly, I was something of a nerd, going off to college was the single most anticipated event of my young life.  I couldn't wait for the academic challenges, the new people, and the more serious learning environment.  If someone came up to me when I was 16 and offered me the chance to start community college then, I would have definitely taken it.  So I am definitely a little jealous of students in New Hampshire who may soon get that chance.

New Hampshire is one of three states that have agreed to implement some of the policies outlined by the National Center on Education and the Economy's New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.  The commission released a report in 2006 calling for sweeping educational reforms to address America's slipping international standing in several measures of educational success and workforce preparation.  Utah and Massachusetts will also implement measures recommended to boost the performance of public schools, including raising teacher pay, giving teachers greater (in some cases, complete) control over schools, implementing more dynamic proficiency tests that provide a more accurate picture of students' abilities, and better monitoring and assisting students at risk of dropping out.  The policy New Hampshire is proposing will allow students the option of taking a test after 10th grade and either entering a community college or a college preparatory track if they pass, letting them prepare for college and gain college credits while still living at home, and keeping them from getting bored or coasting through the last two years of high school.

These are only a few of the suggestions found in the commission's report.  While there is some skepticism over how much change will actually take place, many states and schools are showing an eagerness for change. It's hoped that innovations in education will help make more students better prepared for attending college and entering the workforce.

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Online Enrollment Continues to Increase

November 13, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Enrollment in online courses continued to increase in 2007, according to a new study.  Nearly 4 million college students, over 20 percent of the total number of students attending college, took at least one online course in fall 2007, an increase of 12.9 percent over the previous year.  With all of the financial turmoil that 2008 has brought, the number of online students is likely to continue to increase, as online enrollment is seen as a cost-effective alternative to having to be on campus for class.

The majority of colleges and universities regard offering online courses or online degree programs as critical to their long-term goals.  Schools also reported a need to compete for online students.  Since physical proximity isn't a concern, students can take online classes through any school, meaning institutions need to do more to attract students to their distance-learning programs.

Some of this competition comes in the form of innovation.  After universities in Canada and Japan made online course material accessible via cell phones last year, Louisana's community colleges followed suit, unveiling a plan this week to centralize their distance learning programs on one website, allowing students to access and complete materials from any device with an internet connection.

As distance learning programs continue to become more popular among students and a greater priority among schools, budget-conscious students may want to look closely at taking some or all classes online.  Online courses allow greater flexibility for scheduling around employment or other obligations, save on commuting costs (and the money students spend gulping down cafeteria food, fast food, and expensive coffee while rushing between classes), and allow students to live where they want without worrying about having to get to school each day.  All of these things make it easier for you to pay your way through school as a distance learning student.  While online classes do require greater self-discipline and are offered in more limited quantities than in-person classes, they are still an option to consider when choosing a college.

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