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by Paulina Mis

Hey high school seniors (and superstar juniors), how would you like to have your school pay for your AP exams? I’m assuming there are no jeers in the crowd, at least not from students who know that College Board, the administrator of AP tests, charges students $84 for each exam.

Students lucky enough to belong to the numerous high schools in major North Virginia districts no longer have to worry about these rates. Since 1998, numerous counties in the state have been adopting the idea of helping students get an inexpensive head start on a college education. By paying for the students’ tests, these schools have been able to save students hundreds.

Those who take an AP class don’t always stop with one. Many students are taking on increasingly large loads, enrolling in two, three, four, even five college-level classes per year.  There are students who begin earlier than that, building up their resume during their junior year. The money they dish out for these tests adds up. Some students take advantage of the discount prices offered to low-income students, but most can't count on them.

Many North Virginia schools take care of this problem by entirely covering the cost of the exam. The testing fee policies do vary by school, and not all students can expect the same assistance. In return for the coverage, some schools require that all students  take the exams. Others do not. Some cover the whole cost, and others only pay a portion of the fee. Regardless, these schools deserve props for helping students meet their financial needs. It would be nice if the word spread to other states.


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by Paulina Mis

Yesterday New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his settlement with student loan consolidation company Student Financial Services Inc. (SFS) over offers of kickbacks to athletic departments. The lender had given money to school athletic departments in exchange for the right to use their official symbols on forms and advertisements.  The school contracts allowed for the use of school and team names, colors, mascots and logos, thereby creating the impression that SFS was the official lender of the school. According to the settlement, SFS agreed to break ties with these colleges and universities, most of which were Division 1 NCAA schools.

“Student loan companies incorporate school insignia and colors into advertisements because they know students are more likely to trust a lender if its loan appears to be approved by their college,” stated Cuomo.  “We cannot allow lenders to exploit this trust with deceptive, co-branded marketing.”

Under the new code, SFS agreed to end its loan-related contracts with 63 schools, including Georgetown University, Florida State University and the University of Kansas, as well as with five sports marketers, including ESPN Regional Television, Inc. The lender also agreed to tout the importance of informed loan decision making by organizing campaigns to be featured in the schools’ leading newspapers. The lender would no longer be able to pay for student referrals nor could it organize contests with financial prizes for students.

Cuomo’s settlement is part of an ongoing investigation aimed at ridding financial aid offices of illegal and immoral lender marketing tactics. So far, the attorney general has settled with twelve student lenders for such relations and collected $13.7 million in lender money to go to the National Education Fund, a fund dedicated to educating students about their financial aid options.

Posted Under:

College News , Sports , Student Loans

Tags: Athletics , Sports

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by Paulina Mis

The QuestBridge organization has been turning heads lately for its ability to match talented, underprivileged students with excellent schools across the country. It's something of a dating service for students and colleges. QuestBridge has sought after and found numerous exceptional high school students and paired them with some of the nation’s most prestigious, and expensive, colleges and universities. By participating, schools can diversify their campus, and eventually, the demographic of the nation's leading scholars. QuestBridge makes finding gifted and oftentimes overlooked teens look easy.

High school seniors who are nominated, or who nominate themselves, fill out one application that can then be sent to all participating schools. Their fee is waived, and an essay about the student's ability to overcome obstacles is also included. When selecting finalists, QuestBridge considers academics, finances, eligibility requirements and personal circumstances.

From there, applications are sent to schools which make the final decision. Accepted students are offered full four-year scholarships to attend one of the twenty participating colleges and universities. Among these are Notre Dame University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Amherst College. There were 103 QuestBridge students who received scholarships to leading schools last year, and the number is expected to increase this year.

Students who may not have otherwise considered expensive schools suddenly find opportunity within reach. A featured QuestBridge student who won a scholarship to Stanford stated, “I didn’t feel like I could get in to a top college. I filled out my application and lost my nerve to hit the ‘submit’ button. I will never forget receiving a call at my home from a Quest counselor, encouraging me to go ahead and apply.”

For more information about the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship, you can conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.


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by Paulina Mis

U.S. News may be a news source by name, but it’s the company’s annual college report that’s responsible for its celebrity status. According to a U.S. News representative, the 2007 College Ranking Report drew 8.9 million website viewers within the first three days of the date of release. The company also guarantees prospect advertisers that at least 2 million readers will read their in-print magazine. It is an undeniably attractive deal which, of course, costs an arm and a leg. The best ad position can cost a company as much as $232,992. (What ever happened to rounding?) For the price of one ad, a family can make a 100% down payment on their home.

The college rankings have become so popular that it only made sense for U.S. News to take things to the next level. Students who want to get a good education after high school can get a head start by doing well in one of the nation’s highest-ranked high schools. Right or wrong, the demand for this information is there, and U.S. News is jumping at the chance to capitalize on it.

The list is a great business for U.S. News and a boon for communities lucky enough to be in presence of these regal high schools. When searching for my first post-college apartment, I came upon a tattered place with a surprisingly high price, at least for me.  It was already above my optimal range, but I was curious—until I toured the residence.  I was both amazed and irritated with the owner for thinking he could get away with such consumer gouging. His excuse, as you may have guessed, was a good school district.  That was my cue to leave, but other families would have been more than happy to compromise. If I had kids, I may have been one of them.

There has been no lack of controversy surrounding the U.S. News college reports, and controversy about the high school reports is probably forthcoming. A number of schools, including Reed College and Dickinson University, have refused to participate in the college reports by not providing information, and time will tell how unranked high schools will react to the reports. Whether it’s for the highest paying career options, the joy of an excellent education or for membership in what Stephen Colbert referred to as a brie cheese elite, students and parents across the nation are drawn to prestigious schools. Until this is no longer the case, you can be sure that inside college scoop will be warmly received and heatedly debated.


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by Paulina Mis

The No Child Left Behind act seemed like a great idea at first. The House and the Senate both agreed that the law would help schools pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In a you’ve got to see it to believe it moment, more Democrats than Republicans voted in support of President Bush’s proposal.

Rules mandated by the No Child Left Behind act were set up to pressure schools into living up to scholastic standards.  By 2014, students were to meet stated reading and math expectations, and gaps between students of different ethnicities and economic backgrounds were expected to close. These goals would be achieved by administering regular tests and by holding educators accountable for their students' performance. 

It has been five years since the bill’s passage, and feelings about the law’s success are more divided than ever. President Bush, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and supporting legislators believe the law to be near perfect, but many representatives side with educators in saying that an overhaul is in order. 

Cited faults include shortage of funding, lack of sliding scales and teacher compensation. Many educators were frustrated that score improvements rather than scores were not stressed. They argued that the government spends hundreds less per student each year in poor districts and that poorly-funded schools should not be expected to meet the same standards as better-funded ones. On the other end of the spectrum were those who argued that teachers with exceptional results should be financially rewarded, a thorny issue disputed during a recent Democratic presidential debate.

The No Child Left Behind act is a controversial topic, and Scholarships.com recognizes that. In an effort to assist students with their college funding efforts, Scholarships.com has announced its Resolve to Evolve $10,000 Scholarship for 2008. High school seniors can apply for the scholarship by writing about one of two topics, the No Child Left Behind act or the rising costs of a college education.

Posted Under:

College News , High School


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by Paulina Mis

If you can name a city in the U.S. with no McDonald's, you deserve a scholarship. McDonald’s fast food restaurants are everywhere, and they offer more than three minute french fries. Since its founding in 1985, the Ronald McDonald House Charities has given away $29 million in scholarship money. Their financial aid program offers four different scholarship opportunities. There is one open to students of all races, one for Hispanic Americans, one for Asian Americans and one for African Americans. It's time to set aside the creepy feeling you get when looking at McDonald's odd characters. If the clown is offering scholarships, it's best to take him up on the offer. For more information about this and other scholarships please visit Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.

Prize:

Most local McDonald's chapters award a minimum of $1,000

Eligibility:

1. Applicant must be a high school senior 2. Applicant must be under the age of 21 3. Applicant must be a full-time student attending a two-or four-year college or university the fall following the scholarship receipt 4. Applicant must be a U.S. citizen or resident 5. Applicant must live in a participating RMHC Chapter geographic area

Deadline:

February 15, 2008

Required Material:

1. A completed scholarship application to be submitted online or by mail 2. Transcript 3. Personal Statement 4. Letter of Recommendation 5. Parent or Guardian IRS Form 1040 (financial need will be considered)

Further details, including information about the application form, can be found by conducting a free scholarship search or by visiting this page.


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by Paulina Mis

During the November 28th Republican Debate, presidential candidates addressed an illegal immigration issue affecting numerous students. Currently, students who are illegal immigrants may attend college. However, many are unable to do so because financial aid, both federal and private, is not readily accessible to them. While scholarships without citizenship requirements do exist, they are not common.

The Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) states that only students who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents or eligible non-citizens are eligible to receive federal aid. To assist these students, some states have passed laws permitting illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition fees. This has caused a great deal of controversy among people who feel that illegal immigrants should not be benefiting from the tax dollars of legal citizens.

The issue is a sticky one. Some illegal immigrants do pay taxes (the IRS does not discriminate when it comes to accepting tax dollars), but that does not apply to all. Also in question is whether the U.S. should be making it difficult for those who want to go to college to do so, especially when, in the end, it can benefit the nation.

During the debate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was criticized by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for having supported a bill that would provide merit-based aid to illegal students within the state (the bill was not passed). Romney stated that the bill was in essence supportive of using taxpayer money to assist those who had broken the law and that such money should be used to pay for scholarships available to students whose families did pay taxes.

Huckabee responded by saying that students should not be punished for the actions of their parents and that preventing students from attending college would just leave more of them on the streets. In reference to the importance of an education he stated, “ If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage." He also added, " I might be picking lettuce."

Lettuce? Nothing about his life as the son of a fireman points to lettuce picking, but the point was made. Thwarting student talents is the alternative to helping them get through school. This is especially the case when the bill in question is directed at academically accomplished students (which it is).

The debate over illegal immigration rages on without a solution in sight. In is not arguable that many students depend on financial aid to finish an education. The method for distributing this aid is.


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Financial Aid Glossary

November 28, 2007

by Paulina Mis

Understanding college aid jargon can be tough. Learning about college requirements, school testing and financial aid applications is difficult enough. Bring snooty words and acronyms into the picture, and you’ll find yourself rereading the same sentence ten times.

To get into the college game, you have to know how to talk the talk. That’s where we come in. Scholarships.com offers you free access to a college prep and financial aid glossary that will help you decipher “advanced” school vocabulary. Before you get into the nitty gritty details of college planning, you need an overview, and we can help you with that.

Those applying for federal financial aid will need to know what a Pell grant is, how the Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined, and what the federal work study program (WSP)  has to do with their student aid report (SAR). It can be a lot to handle at first, but these are words worth knowing. You are likely to come across them when applying for aid, and when you do, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

Such knowledge is particularly important for students who apply for loans. To make the best, most affordable choices, these students will need to know the difference between Perkins loans, Stafford loans, PLUS loans and private loans. Before signing anything, it’s important to know about Annual Percentage Rates (APR), accrued interest, loan deferment, loan defaulting and consolidation. The glossary will provide quick answers to these and other financial aid questions.

By taking advantage of the resources offered at Scholarships.com, you can feel confident about your financial aid and college planning decisions. Just breathe, and take things one step at a time. Sit down at the table with your financial aid documents and a glossary. Slowly things will begin to make sense. When you think you have the basics down, you can count on Scholarships.com for more in-depth information.


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by Paulina Mis

The government funds a number of financial aid and mentoring programs, and you are probably—no offense—unaware of most. It’s not your fault. Most students are not well-versed in matters of federal aid because they have not been informed about their options.  Aside from the best-known federal grant, the Pell Grant, most students know little about available federal aid.

The TRIO program (no, this is not an acronym) is one of the lesser-known federal financial aid and counseling programs. It was created to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as those facing circumstances that hinder their academic pursuits. The TRIO program is made up of six different student programs and a training program for TRIO program staff. It not only addresses financial obstacles caused by affording an undergraduate education but also those caused by affording graduate school.

To be considered disadvantaged, students must have an maximum annual income of $15,315 for a one-person family unit, $20,530 for a two-person family unit, $25,750 for a three-person family unit and $5,220 for each additional person. (The income cutoff is higher in Hawaii and Alaska.)

The student programs offered through TRIO include:

Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program- This program was created to increase the number of underrepresented students who obtain graduate and doctorate degrees.  Eligible students who demonstrate strong academic potential are assisted in their preparation for graduate studies with counselor support, financial aid, research and internship opportunities as well as tutoring programs.

Student Support Services (SSS) Program- The SSS program assists students in meeting their basic college requirements. The goal of the program is to increase student graduation rates and the number of students who continue their education. Eligible students will receive help in securing admission and financial aid to four-year colleges and universities, personal counseling, tutoring assistance, career planning and college scholarship information.

Talent Search- Students eligible for the talent search aid are assisted in completing their high school education and attending a college or university. Eligible disadvantaged students will be offered tutoring, career search aid, college information, counseling and mentoring services.

Upward Bound- The Upward Bound program assists high school students in preparing for college.  It awards aid to financially disadvantaged students, students whose parents did not obtain a bachelor’s education and low-income first-generation veterans pursing a college education. Upward Bound projects include tutoring in math, science, composition, literature and foreign languages. Students are also offering counseling, cultural enrichment programs and work-study programs.

The Upward Bound Math-Science Program- This program was created to improve the math and science skills of students and to encourage them to pursue a degree in the math and sciences. Participating students will receive aid with the help of summer programs, counseling, computer lessons and the opportunity to work with college faculty and graduate students on science research projects.

The Educational Opportunity Centers Program- The Educational Opportunity Centers Program is an assistance service for adults who need help in their pursuit of a postsecondary education. Eligible adults will receive personal counseling, information on college financial aid and tutoring aid.


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by Paulina Mis

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives approved a renewed and altered version of the recently expired Higher Education Act. A similar renewal act was passed by the Senate in July, and it was also unanimous. Before the bill is sent to the president, it will have to be reviewed again, and one version must be created. The amended portion, otherwise known as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, addresses financial aid hardships faced by students attempting to afford a college education. Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney stated that, "Access for all Americans to a college education is a roadmap to a strong middle class."

Based on information provided by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act will:

1. Encourage colleges to lower or maintain costs by making sure that states provide them with sufficient funding. Schools that choose to increase tuition will have to provide reasoning for the change as well as plans to again decrease costs.

2. Lower the chance that lenders and schools will engage in inappropriate relations (such as the use of biased preferred lender lists) by requiring that lenders and schools abide by codes of conduct and by making more loan information available to student borrowers.

3. Simplify the FAFSA application process by creating a more straightforward FAFSA-EZ form for low-income families and by allowing families more time to create plans for tuition saving.

4. Assist students in affording textbooks by providing information about the costs of books in advance.

5. Improve education by creating programs that encourage students to act on their interests in the sciences and by providing financial assistance to graduates who work in the public sector.

6. Help low income, minority and disabled students afford an education by improving the effectiveness of the TRIO grant for low-income students, by helping colleges recruit and retain students with disabilities and by allowing students to receive Pell Grant scholarships aid year round.

7. Increase financial and social support for veterans and military families interested in receiving a postsecondary education.

8. Improve safety by helping colleges create emergency systems and by establishing disaster relief loan programs in case of disaster.


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