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by Paulina Mis

Students who applied for financial aid in Louisiana may be worried to find that the company in charge of storing their personal information recently lost a large amount of financial aid data. Actually, a loss is the best-case scenario, the worst being embezzlement. The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) tried to assuage student fears by stating that the missing information was compressed and that special software was needed to access it—hopefully they’re not exaggerating the advanced technology of zip files.

Thousands of current students and college graduates (going as far back as 1998) could be affected by the loss. Among those at risk are any students who submitted a FAFSA in the state of Louisiana and out-of-state students who sent the form to a college within the state. Those who have a Louisiana College Savings account (START Saving Program) and those who have applied for or received a Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship—a Louisiana-based scholarship—may also be affected.

The information was lost on September 19, 2007, and although search efforts were initiated from the onset, the data has not yet been recovered. Colleges are now informing the public of the incident, and LOSFA has posted additional information on its site. According to LOSFA, the public was not notified earlier to avoid misinformation about data that was misplaced rather than lost. The non-misplacement occurred when the media storage company was loading the backup data into a truck. Social Security numbers and student names were among the missing data.


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by Paulina Mis

It’s difficult to read a national newspaper–your choice–for longer than a week without coming across at least one article dealing with the environment. Why should a blog be any different? Jokes and polar bears aside, the environment is in need of some true student TLC, and students have plenty of it to give. Here are some things each of us can do to help.

1. Get educated Change starts with education. When searching for potential colleges, take into consideration the variety of classes offered. The more options schools have, the more you can dabble in various interests, especially the environment. By educating yourself about environmental issues, you can learn about ways to improve the situation, and what’s more, inspire others with your newfound knowledge. When you let people see how the environment affects them personally, you are more likely to convince them that their efforts and time are worth the investment.

2. Turn off the lights Saving money and energy is a click away, or a clap clap. Remember to turn off lights and appliances when you are through with them. Pay extra attention to air conditioners—open windows and running air conditioners make mother earth cry.  

3. Live by the triple R’s Many of us already reduce, reuse and recycle to some extent, but most of us don’t really crack down on bad habits.  By making the three R’s your mantra, you can reduce emissions, save some tree lives and fatten your piggybank.

4. Write to Congress  This one is for the ambitious. Begin a petition in support of the Kyoto Protocol to be sent to Congress; or at least sign the one you make your friend create. So far, 172 countries and governmental entities have signed the pact limiting emissions. Somehow the U.S. is not one of them.

5. Take public transportation  A great benefit to most on-campus travel is the abundance of public transportation. Taking the bus or train to school can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and it can also free up some time to chat or study. It may not be the most convenient way of getting around, but improvement isn’t always convenient. For those who live close by, riding a bike, rollerblading or walking is also a good option.

6. Bring your own bags and mugs  Try stuffing your groceries into a backpack, and bring mugs to coffee shops. (Or visit ones that offer in-house cups.) Some stores and coffee shops will even give you discounts for doing so. 

7. Be laptop savvy in class  You won’t look like you’re too cool for school by bringing your laptop to lectures—really. Students can save much paper by appending and saving posted online notes on laptops.  By bringing a laptop to class, you can save trees and increase the likelihood of future legibility. Plus, editing is easier on a computer, and most students can type more quickly than they can write. If you’re not one of them, it’s about time you practiced.

There are plenty of things students can do to make a difference, and many are already hard at work. This year, Scholarship.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve scholarship prizes were awarded to students who wrote the best essays on problems dealing with standardized testing and the environment. See what the winners had to say on the topic, and check out Scholarships.com's new Resolve to Evolve $10,000 essay scholarship. You can also search our database for college scholarships and grants; begin finding money for college today!

Posted Under:

College Culture , College News , Tips


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by Paulina Mis

Students aren’t getting enough sleep—nothing new here. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of high school students reported extreme daytime sleepiness. And how can you blame them? Anyone with high ambitions knows what it takes to get into a good college. Balancing extracurriculars with school and a social life can seem like a juggling act, but many feel that it’s the only way to reach goals. 

Regardless of what teachers say, many students are certain that staying up to study will get them better test scores than extra zzzs would—myself included. Students are just too busy to study earlier. Okay, okay, maybe putting things off and surfing the net has something to do with it as well. But procrastination makes today’s students no different from those of generations past. Unfortunately, current generations feel that not studying must be followed by intense late-night sessions.  According to an article in New York magazine, kids today sleep one hour less than they did 30 years ago.

As you may imagine, nothing good can come of that. Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, weight gain, an increase in cases of ADHD  and, of course, poor school performance—even if we beg to differ. According to the article, studies of sleep-deprived students have consistently shown they don't perform as well as do student who get sufficient sleep. In a recent trial, a group of sixth-graders intentionally deprived of sleep performed as well on exams as average fourth-graders. That’s a two year decrease in cognitive ability. By one estimate, sleeping problems can hurt a child’s IQ as much as lead exposure! If that doesn't send us back to bed... well, let's just hope it does.

Posted Under:

College Culture , High School


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by Paulina Mis

It’s been a long year for colleges across the nation. Aside from the student lender and college study abroad fiascos, investigators are looking more closely at the handling of endowments by colleges.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, many schools have accumulated large endowment funds, some in excess of $1 billion. This is tax-free money, and if investments are well-planned, interest will lead to annual gains.

Despite this, college tuition rates have soared across the country, and students are increasingly left with debts that sometimes mirror mortgages. A proposal that could allay this problem involves forcing schools with large endowments to spend about 5 percent of their money each year, or be subject to taxes. After all, endowments are meant to aid, not hoard.

But some schools say that this is not as easy as it may seem. People who donate often leave specific instructions for endowment spending. Money may be set aside, for example, for students who are financially needy and epileptic, or for those who conduct research in the hearing sciences.

Based on the written testimony of four higher education associations, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, proposed legislation is based on inaccurate college endowment information.

According to the testimony, an average of 80 percent of endowment assets were restricted at public institutions in 2006, and 55 percent were restricted at private ones. That, of course, still leaves plenty of unrestricted funds that could be used to greatly relieve student needs. This, by the way, is what higher education associations already claim to do.

The issue is a bit of a slippery slope. Endowments could diminish if expenditure choices were left up to college officials. Plus, available money doesn’t necessarily translate into swimming pools of cash for directors to dive into. 

Then again, tuition is getting out of hand, and storing large amounts of money when students have little choice but to take out excessive loans seems a bit immoral. Perhaps additional information is needed on unrestricted money expenditures and on how much is needed to maintain interest that would keep funds afloat.


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by Paulina Mis

On October 8, 2007, Sallie Mae announced its intent to file a lawsuit against the company’s potential buyers, a group of investors led by J.C. Flowers & Company. In April, the student lender agreed to a buyout offer of $60 per share. Since then, the buyers retracted their initial proposal, citing recently passed student loan legislation as reason. 

By signing the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, President Bush agreed to cut student lender subsidies by about $21 billion. Numerous companies, including Sallie Mae, threatened that the cuts would force them to eliminate borrower benefits such as, among other things, on-time payment reductions.

Following the bill’s passage, buyers lowered their initial buyout price to $50 per share. Sallie Mae rejected the offer and filed a $900 million lawsuit for contract termination. Albert L. Lord, the Chairman of Sallie Mae’s Board of Directors stated, “We regret bringing this suit. Sallie Mae has honored its obligations under the merger agreement. We ask only that the buyer group do the same.”

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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by Paulina Mis

Check out the Courageous Persuaders video scholarship for a chance to win college money and, in the process, to make a difference in the lives of kids across the nation. Applicants will create commercials warning middle-school students about the dangers of underage drinking. In addition to wining scholarships, selected students will get to work with the McCann Erickson advertising agency. With a bit of professional polish, the winning commercial will be broadcast on TV.

Prizes:

1. $2,000 New York Festival scholarship 2. $1,000 USA Today scholarship 3. Michigan applicants will have the chance to win additional scholarships ranging between $1,500-$3,000

Eligibility:

1. Applicants must be high school students 2. Applicants must be U.S. citizens

strong>Deadline:

February 15, 2008 by 5:00 PM

Required Material:

1. A video commercial lasting no more than 30 seconds 2. Online entry form

For additional scholarship and grant opportunities, visit Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.


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by Paulina Mis

Buying Sallie Mae, the biggest lender in the business, may have seemed like a great idea at first, but doubts have been creeping up. A group of investors that includes J.C. Flowers & Company, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Friedman Fleischer & Lowe initially offered $25 billion for Sallie Mae, but has recently retracted the offer blaming new legislation for the decision. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act signed by President Bush last week entails, among other things, government cuts on subsidies given to student lenders. Over the next five years, about $21 billion would be cut from lender support and invested in student aid programs.

J.C. Flowers & Company stated that their decision abides by contract rules and that such legislation was considered when the contract was drawn up. A smaller purchase price was still proposed, and, if Sallie Mae performs well, the offer may increase.

The legislation will certainly not put the lender giant out of business, but Sallie Mae may feel some pressure. The lender has stated that the new law will force it to give up some student perks, and that won’t go over well with borrowers. Those who have financial needs will still be forced to borrow once government grants and loans are exhausted, but increased caps on both may decrease student needs.

Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans


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by Paulina Mis

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE administrators, will be making small changes to the GRE next month. After dropping their plans to vastly alter the GRE, the ETS decided to go for something smaller.

Instead of creating a new grading scale, different formats and a new time limit (as was originally planned), ETS decided to begin by introducing two new question types, one for verbal reasoning and one for math. The remaining questions will remain the same, and the students’ answer to new questions will not count towards their score—at least not yet. David Payne, Associate Vice President of Higher Education at ETS, announced that, “We will begin counting these question types toward examinee scores as soon as we have an adequate sample of data from the operational testing environment."

But for now, students are safe.  Those who encounter the new math question will be asked to type their answer in a box rather than to select it from a set of provided choices. Those who see the new verbal reasoning question will be asked to choose two or three, rather than the standard one, answers to complete a phrase. Each test taker will only be shown one new question, if any.

Both changes, once officially employed, will make the test harder for most. Because many graduate schools heavily weigh GRE scores when making admissions decisions, it is best to prepare as early as possible.

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by Paulina Mis

After an anxious wait on the part of students and lenders, President Bush finally signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act into law. And you know this is big if MTV reported on the bill even though partying at club Les Deux wasn’t involved.

According to the new law, the maximum Pell Grant offered to students will increase while the subsidies the government offers student lenders will decrease. This is the biggest boost in student aid since the GI Bill for veterans---and a fresh change from the 2005 $12 billion financial aid cut.

Among those who will benefit are needy students eligible for government grants and those who borrow from the government. Currently, students are eligible to receive a maximum $4,310 Pell Grant each year. This number will increase gradually, reaching a high of $5,400 by 2012.

Under the act, new subsidized Stafford loan interest rates will also be cut. A low point of 3.4 percent will be available to students who borrow between July 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. Unfortunately, students will have to wait until 2008 to take advantage of this change. Until then, they are stuck with the current fixed 6.8 percent loan interest rate.

Students who plan to teach in low-income neighborhoods after graduating may also benefit. Future teachers may receive a $4,000 TEACH Grant for each year they attend school (up to $16,000 for undergraduates and $8,000 for graduates), but a pretty detailed list of additional eligibility criteria must also be met.

The bill was largely a result of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into illegal actions within the $85 billion student loan industry. The investigation revealed that numerous financial aid administrators, including one from the Department of Education, received financial incentives from lenders who hoped to improve their standing with schools.

Some of the financial aid changes outlined in the act were previously considered, but Cuomo’s investigation provided much-needed impetus. Although Bush had initially threatened to veto the bill, he agreed to sign once recommended changes were made. In a White House photo, the president is shown signing the bill with four smiling college students, three smiling congressmen and a smiling Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings looking over his shoulder. A sign that read, “Making College More Affordable” hung from his desk.


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by Paulina Mis

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to receive a much contested Stanford University fellowship, and to offer one.

Much of Stanford University’s faculty as well as numerous students and alumni were outraged after it was announced that Donald Rumsfeld would be receiving a one-year fellowship from the school. The appointment would entail Rumsfeld examining and advising a university panel on issues of national security and the aftermath of September 11th.

Like most Ivy League schools, Stanford is known to be campus of liberal thinkers—the same can’t be said of its public policy research center that extended the invitation. It is unsurprising that a former high-ranking staff member of the Bush administration, one who resigned amidst accusations of Iraq war mishandling, was immediately deemed a campus misfit.

A petition with, as of now, 3,483 students, alumni and faculty signatures has been created in the hopes of withdrawing the offer.  As stated in the petition, “We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry, respect for national and international laws, and care for the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford is inalienably committed.”

Donald Rumsfeld also had something to say on the topic of fellowships—that he will soon be awarding them.  There are plans in store for a new Rumsfeld foundation that will shortly be awarding fellowships to students who plan to enter the field of public policy after graduating from college. Rumsfeld hopes that the award will encourage students to work for the government.

In addition to assisting graduates, the foundation will offer loans to micro-enterprises in developing countries and support Central Asian republics. It will likewise fund lectures on various topics, the kind of work Rumsfeld may be doing for Stanford.

According to the Washington Post, Rumsfeld has recently criticized both the press and Congress for “creating an environment that is not particularly hospitable to public services.” It was a comment in response to an advertisement that blasted Army General David H. Petraeus as one to, “Betray Us”.  But that was the press. Who is left to blame for student and faculty criticism?

Posted Under:

College News , Fellowships


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