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by Paulina Mis

Faced with government subsidy cuts and a major slump in the mortgage loan market, Sallie Mae has decided to get picky about who they lend their money to.  For students, this may be either a scary setback or a much-needed lesson in wise financing. Most likely, it will be both.

Students who don’t receive sufficient financial aid from the government will soon find it more difficult to secure the funding they need to cover college expenses. This may force more students to opt for cheaper but not necessarily most desirable colleges and universities. If the problem becomes severe, a drop in the number of students who pursue a college education may be seen.

However, the rising number of student borrowers with overwhelming debt may make the news a benefit in disguise. Many students don’t realize the impact debt can have on their post-graduate lifestyles. Students who cannot quickly find high-salary jobs often find themselves either struggling to get by or sacrificing career goals for better-paid, less appealing jobs.

Because of Sallie Mae’s high standing in the business, their decision may be an early indication of what’s to come. Students who decide to take out loans frequently turn to Sallie Mae for help. The company manages almost $164 billion in student loans for 10 million borrowers and tops the list of most popular lenders. Troubles for Sallie Mae may portend ones for lesser-known student lenders.

This is not the first setback Sallie Mae has faced in the recent months. Over the past year, details of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal actions within the lending industry have placed Sallie Mae in hot waters.  Along with a number of other lenders, Sallie Mae has been accused of paying college financial aid officials to place the lender’s name on preferred lender lists, lists students heavily rely on when making important and difficult borrowing decisions.

Luckily, loans are not a student’s only option. Those who cannot afford a postsecondary education and have not received enough government aid should take advantage of the numerous scholarship opportunities available to them. By conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com, students can gain access to information about more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion. Just about everyone can find awards they will be eligible to receive.

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College News , Student Loans


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by Kevin Ladd

The investigation into policies at study abroad offices has deepened as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his decision to subpoena college officials. Now that codes of conduct and student lender subsidy cuts have addressed the student loan scandal, the attorney general is turning his attention to problems within the study abroad offices.

According to the Associated Press, the total number of schools Cuomo is seeking information from has now reached 15.  Among them are notables such as Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern and Brown University.  Fears about the effects that financial arrangements between schools and travel agencies have had on students are at the heart of the problem.

The issue was widely publicized last year when The New York Times ran a story about a Columbia student who was denied credit after studying abroad at Oxford University. The student, Brendan Jones, had decided to take advantage of the cheaper travel rates by using an outside travel agency. After completing the course requirements at one of the most prestigious and recognized universities, Brendan was denied his request for a credit transfer.

Concerns that study abroad advisors may be using such tactics to pressure students into traveling with schools have been on the rise. Also under investigation is the practice of awarding study abroad officials free travel opportunities and giving schools marketing funds after a certain number of student travelers have been secured.

Posted Under:

College Culture , College News


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FiSCA Scholarship

January 21, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The Financial Service Centers of America, Inc. (FiSCA) is sponsoring a scholarship for high school seniors who are ready to head off to college—with money in their pockets. Since 1986, this organization has been representing financial service centers from around the country and helping them with the regulations and politics of financial aid.

FiSCA will award scholarships to at least two students from each of five geographic regions in the U.S. The essay requirement is pretty short and straightforward, 100 words max about a person or event that has influenced the student’s life. After completing the essay, students will need to fill out a two-page application and send in their transcript along with two letters of recommendation to the regional administrator. That’s it!

Prize:

1. At least ten grants of $2,000 or more.

Eligibility:

1. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, national residents or permanent residents. 2. Applicants must be high school seniors. 3. Applicants may not be children or grandchildren of FiSCA employees, officers or owners.

Deadline:

Applications must be postmarked by April 3, 2008

Required Material:

1. A completed application 2. An essay of no more than 100 words about a person or event that has influenced the student 3. A transcript that includes first-semester senior grades and test scores 4. Two letters of recommendation

Further details, including information about applying for the award and contacting the scholarship provider, can be found by conducting a free scholarship search. Once a student has completed the search, this scholarship will appear in their "My Scholarships" section--provided the student is eligible.


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by Paulina Mis

Tuition hikes and complaints about illegal behavior on the part of financial aid officials and student lenders have put the pressure on colleges to dip into their endowment funds. With new reports showing that endowment returns are on the rise, these pressures are likely to increase.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a recently released statement by Commonfund, an endowment manager for more than 1,900 colleges and nonprofit organizations, has shown that returns were averaging 16.9 percent in 2007, up from 10.6 percent the previous year.

Unlike one-time student scholarships, endowments are used to annually award money to college students. These funds are kept intact by investing the original donation and using the returns to provide students with yearly scholarships.

News of funding bounty is likely to prompt legislators to put additional pressure on schools with large endowment funds. Wealthy colleges, some of which are said to have accumulated endowments in excess of $1 billion, are being criticized for keeping their money locked up during a time when student debt is at an all-time high.

The problem with spending more, argue schools, is a strict endowment use policy. Many scholarship providers donate money on the condition that it be used only to assist a designated group of students. For example, a donor may choose to set up an endowment for the sole purpose of helping female students who play croquet, major in English and have a GPA above 3.5 (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch). Point being, schools are legally bound to award scholarships to students that meet particular requirements.

It's hard to argue with that, but perhaps legislators can do something about the whole "legally-bound" part.


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by Paulina Mis

It’s no secret that student lenders have had a rough ’07. After an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo revealed that student lenders had been forming illegal agreements with colleges that promoted their services, the spotlight was cast on negative aspects of student borrowing.

Even though newly established ethics codes are likely force the lending industry to clean up its act, students are not likely to have better borrowing experiences.  The poor housing market has not only affected those looking for mortgages, but also those in need of student loans. To be eligible for loans and loan consolidations, students will soon need proof of greater savings and higher credit scores. According to a CNN report, even students who show promise may see their interests rates increase by an estimated 1 percent.

At the same time, the rewards they receive for paying on time are expected to decrease. After the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 minimized student lender subsidies offered by the government, numerous lenders minimized their student benefits. The savings students were used to receiving for good payment track records are expected to curtail or disappear altogether. 

As always, students have other options. Debt can pose a heavy burden on college graduates, so loans should be used as a last resort. Instead, students can use scholarships to diminish the costs of a postsecondary education. By conducting a free college scholarship search at Scholarships.com, students will have access to a database containing information on more than 2.7 million college scholarships and grants. Just about everyone can find awards they are eligible to receive.

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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by Paulina Mis

An audit released by the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General on January 9, 2008 points to problems in financial aid disbursements. Based on audit results, over $1.5 billion in financial aid was awarded to students whose FAFSA responses were either questionable or made them ineligible for aid.

Stated problems included Pell grant overpayments, awards exceeding loan eligibility, citizenship questionability, lack of Selective Service registration and awards offered to students with drug convictions.

Over $812 million was said to be disbursed to 86,246 students who had not resolved their citizenship confirmation problems. More than $447 was offered to males not registered with the Selective Service and over $3 million to students convicted for drug-related matters.

Officials from the Federal Student Aid Department responded by stating that the, “Risk suggested by the report is overstated.” They also claimed the audit had not taken into account additional security measures the department used to minimize errors.

Posted Under:

College Costs , College News


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by Paulina Mis

In the wake of a student loan scandal that has made families weary of financial aid officials, lenders and the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), the financial aid industry is eager to demonstrate a willingness for change--especially NASFAA.

The massive financial aid organization representing students and financial aid officials at more than 3,000 schools across the nation has made it clear that they are reevaluating the way their organization is run. Like numerous colleges, NASFAA has adopted a new code of ethics that will govern the way they work with student lenders and students.

In addition to the code, NASFAA has announced the appointment of a new president and CEO to replace Dallas Martin, the president who, after 32 years of work, retired amidst scrutiny of ill relations with lenders. Newly appointed President Dr. Philip R. Day has previously served as the chancellor of City College of San Francisco. He has also been the president of Beach Community College, Cape Cod Community College and Dundalk Community College. In a NASFAA news report, Dr. Day stated that he was, “committed to advancing NASFAA’s mission.”

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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by Scholarships.com Staff

If you’ve ever curled up with a worn copy of The Scarlet Letter or Great Expectations, you can attest to the fact that there is no cheaper, better way to travel. Now, some students will even be paid for their escapades. That's because Signet Classics, one of the publishers responsible for printing these great books, is sponsoring a scholarship competition for students. Those who participate can share their ideas about Robert Louis’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and hopefully, win money for college in the process.

Prize:

1. Five $1,000 scholarships. 2. Each winner’s school library (or public library) will also win a collection of Signet Classics books worth an estimated $700.

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a full-time high school junior or high school senior (or be home schooled) in one of the fifty U.S. states 2. Applicant must be a U.S. resident 3. Applicant must be between the ages of 16 and 18.

Deadline:

Entry must be postmarked by April 15, 2008 and received by April 22, 2008.

Required Material:

1. Three copies of a double-spaced essay discussing one of four proposed topics about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The essay should be between two and three pages in length. 2. The applicant’s English teacher (or parent if home schooled) must send the scholarship essay along with a cover letter on school/parent letterhead that includes: date, student contact (name, grade, address, email, and home phone), name of high school, teacher contact (name, email, and phone), school administration officer contact (name, email, and phone), the number of topic selected,  and certification that the essay is the student’s original work.

Further details, including information about applying for the award and contacting the scholarship provider, can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search. Once a student has completed the search, this scholarship will appear in their scholarship list, provided the student is eligible.


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by Paulina Mis

This year has not been a good one for college financial aid officials. The problems began when New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo spearheaded a seemingly endless number of investigations into whether student lenders and financial aid officials had been teaming up at the expense of students. Then there were the stories about study abroad advisors receiving trips by convincing students to travel, and then there were those of athletic departments allowing lenders to use their logos for profit. If the words “financial” and “college” were in the same sentence, the things in between weren’t good.

But a new year has arrived, and with it, hope for a better financial future in higher education-- which is exactly what’s expected. Based on new reports from Illinois State University’s Grapevine Project, state tax appropriations for higher education are expected to rise and give hope to students worried about high costs and low scruples.

North Dakota is expected to experience the greatest percentage change from last year, increasing their yearly state tax appropriations for higher education by 19.1 percent. Next on the list are Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arizona, each of which has raised their higher education appropriations by 14 to 15 percent. California, while not promising a particularly large percentage increase, is the one expected to appropriate most, over $11 million. With the exception of Rhode Island (which plans to lower appropriations), every state is creating this year's budgets with higher education in mind.

Posted Under:

College News


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by Paulina Mis

When word spread that Harvard would increase financial aid to both the middle and upper classes, tensions boiled at schools across the country. It was bad enough that Harvard attracted the best and the brightest from every nook and cranny—now they would be inexpensive too. Some guys have all the luck.

To be fair, Duke did beat Harvard in the financial aid race by being the first to announce their plan to pour an extra $13 million into the financial aid program, but their promise was simply not as impressive as the one offered by Harvard. When Duke capped their student loans to prevent debt, Harvard eliminated loans altogether—and replaced them with scholarships.

After Duke announced that parental contributions would no longer be expected from families who made less than $60,000, Harvard (which had already established that policy in 2006), announced that families making between $60,000 and $120,000 would only be required to contribute 0-10 percent of their income. Those making between $120,000 and $180,000 would only have to pay 10 percent of it. 

Shortly thereafter, Stanford jumped on the bandwagon by saying that they too would do more to make their school affordable. According to The Stafford Daily, the school made plans to increase their need-based aid by 15.2 percent. The change would save the average parent $2,000 each year.

The trickle down effect also influenced other schools. Among those with New Year’s resolutions involving financial aid boosts are the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Haverford and Swarthmore.

Of course, not everyone gets to benefit. It’s easy to be a philanthropist when you have large endowments in the bank, which not all schools can boast. Students at colleges and universities with less money or larger student bodies were not as satisfied with their financial aid offices.  According to The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor would not only leave their policies as they are, they would continue—like many other colleges—to raise their prices. So much for that financial aid revolution we've all been waiting for.


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