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by Paulina Mis

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.

State Deadlines

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)


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by Paulina Mis

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.

Prize:

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

Eligibility:

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

Deadline:

May 1, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. ET

Required Material:

1. Online registration


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by Paulina Mis

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.

Posted Under:

FAFSA , Financial Aid , Student Loans


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by Paulina Mis

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.


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by Paulina Mis

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.


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Common Scholarship Myths

April 1, 2008

by Paulina Mis

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.


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by Paulina Mis

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.

 

Prize:

1. $5,000 2. $250 for the winning applicant’s class 3. $500 for the winning applicant’s school.

Eligibility:

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.

Deadline:

May 31, 2008 (postmarked or electronically received by this date)

Required Material:

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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by Paulina Mis

Just two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the US House Committee on Education and Labor about its fear of a federal lending program meltdown. To the best of her ability, she tried to qualm the legislators' fears and to convince them that negative speculations were exaggerated. “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL,” she said. “A small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped originating new loans.”

However, the Department of Education’s request for Lender of Last Resort (LLR) preparation painted a somewhat different picture. In a letter sent to 35 guarantee agencies, the Financial Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Warder laid out the basic LLR provisions and asked that the guarantee agencies quickly respond with plans for enacting the emergency program, should the need arise.

With lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program at increasing rates, both legislators and families have been feeling uneasy about college loan options. And while the department maintained that things were largely under control, the letters spoke for themselves.

The LLR provisions state that when a student eligible for federal aid is denied by at least two lenders, guarantee agencies and lenders who have signed agreements with them are responsible for awarding the loan. Being nonprofit entities, the guaranty agencies would use government funding to repay lenders for any student defaults.

To be certain that individuals have quick access to student loans, regardless of decisions made by cautious lenders, the department has asked that guaranty agencies submit their plans to put the LLR program in place.  Among other things, they were asked to prepare a timeline for issuing LLR loans to students, provide a method for informing students about LLR eligibility and plan for meeting the increased administrative requirements. Recipients of the letter were given up to 30 days to respond with a new outline for their LLR program.


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by Paulina Mis

The Republican candidates may have settled down, but there is no ceasefire in sight for Hillary and Barack.  Both candidates have been campaigning around the clock, scribbling in their calendars, visiting every nook and cranny.  When they couldn’t make an appearance, their families did. On Tuesday, Chelsea Clinton took her turn at the podium when she spoke to a group of students at Indiana’s Ball State University.

According to the Ball State Daily News, Chelsea took time to describe her mother’s plans for decreasing the costs of a college education. “My mother plans to double the Pell Grant to $10,800, expand the eligibility for a tax credit and develop Americare, and organization developed by my father to help college be more affordable,” she told the crowd.

For about an hour, Chelsea answered questions about Hillary’s plans for the presidency. She covered health care, the No Child Left Behind Act, the strengthening of hate crime laws and the war in Iraq. With the exception of a few poster-carrying Obama backers, most of the estimated 1,000 attendees appeared supportive.

If, as Chelsea suggested, Hillary were to increase Pell Grant awards, dangerous college lending habits could decrease dramatically. Currently, only $4,310 in Pell Grant money is available to eligible students each year. Even after Pell Grants reach their peak during the 2012-2013 school year (as mandated by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act), only $5,400 will be made available.

Students who do not receive sufficient money in the form of Pell Grants can still turn to scholarships for college funding assistance. For additional information about college scholarships and grants, students may conduct a free scholarship search.


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by Paulina Mis

The recipe for the No Child Left Behind Act seems simple: identify ineffective schools, and improve their student performance. Sprinkle in a dash of funds, a threatening environment for underperforming teachers, and melt away problems at 365°.

Unfortunately, most successful plans call for more than a dash of funds. And as was demonstrated by a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the No Child Left Behind progress, funding problems have been leaving states struggling to comply with the program’s requirements. Of particular concern were two NCLB provisions responsible for regulating the allocation of federal education funds.

As mandated by the No Child Left Behind, states are required to set aside 4 percent of the federal assistance they receive to help low-income students and use that money to improve schools that have failed to meet state academic expectations. No problem there. Because most poorly-scoring schools are low income, the 4 percent used to improve schools would indirectly help the low-income students.

The problem arises when another provision comes into the picture. According to the “hold-harmless” rule, states are not allowed to set aside more money for a poorly-performing school if it means having to cut back on other school district grants, reports the Washington Post. Because of this stipulation, numerous states have been finding it difficult to come up with sufficient money to help poorly performing schools while maintaining previous assistance levels to other school districts.

According to the GAO report, the “hold-harmless” provision has prevented 22 states from setting aside the required NCLB funds. Some states have made up differences by taking advantage of other federal and state funds, but not all have been able to do so successfully.

Insufficient funding is just one of many concerns cited by NCLB critics. Others have included a diminished focus on untested material and a decrease in attention paid to advanced students. High school seniors interested in voicing their opinions on the NCLB, both positive and negative, may do so by applying for the Scholarships.com 2008 Resolve to Evolve Scholarship. Seven applicants who submit the most thought-out and well-crafted responses will be awarded with scholarships ranging between $1,000 and $3,000. For additional information about this and other college scholarship and grants, students may conduct a free scholarship search.


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