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YFEN Film Contest

July 13, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is a video contest for undergraduate and high school students, ages 19 and younger, who are interested in issues of free speech and free expression in schools. The 2009 Youth Free Expression Network Film Contest offers students a chance to create a video response to the question "free speech in schools (does it exist?)" and compete for a $1,000 cash prize as well as a $5,000 film school scholarship. Videos can be any genre, including documentaries, music videos, experimental films, or animation. Entries will be judged on content, artistic and technical merit, and creativity.

Prizes First prize: $1,000 plus either a $5,000 scholarship to the New York Film Academy or a one-week digital filmmaking workshop; Second prize: $500; Third prize: $250

Eligibility: Applicants must reside in the United States or its territories (citizenship not required), and must be age 19 or younger on the day their film is submitted.

Deadline: October 23, 2009

Required Material:  A film of no more than four minutes in length that addresses the theme "Free Speech in School (Does It Exist?)" uploaded to YouTube and submitted along with a 250-word essay describing the film and your creative process.

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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U.S. Bank Exits FFELP

July 10, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Earlier this week, U.S. Bank announced that it would cease to act as a lender for Stafford Loans issued through the Federal Family Education Loan Program. U.S. Bank was the sixth largest participant in FFELP as of 2008, according to the Student Lending Analytics Blog, yet this news has caused barely a ripple.

This is partially due to the fact that the stream of lenders leaving FFELP has slowed considerably since last year and this particular student loan crisis seems largely to have passed. However, the news of another lender exiting FFELP seems less noteworthy or surprising in the face of increasing uncertainty about the future of FFELP as a whole. In what has been widely regarded as placing another nail in FFELP's coffin, the Department of Education has sent a letter to colleges currently participating in FFELP, detailing the steps being taken to ease their transition into issuing Stafford Loans through the federal Direct Loans program.

While Congress has not yet voted to move all federal student loans into the Direct Loan program, and while lenders and other organizations are still proposing alternatives to President Obama's suggestion of eliminating FFELP, many people seem to already regard the move as a done deal, regarding it as unlikely that any lenders will be around for much longer than the next academic year. Time will tell whether this proves to be the case, but for now students who were previously borrowing from U.S. Bank will still need to switch lenders at least one more time.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

We've previously blogged about the increase in student borrowing shown by the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics. As more think tanks and other groups begin to analyze this information, additional reports are emerging to provide more details on who is borrowing the most. The latest report comes from Education Sector and bears the title, "Drowning in Debt: The Emerging Student Loan Crisis." While the report has been criticized by some as alarmist in tone, it does provide insight into students' growing reliance on student loans.

In broad terms, the study showed that over half of undergraduate students (53 percent) borrowed money to attend college in 2007-2008, up from just under 50 percent in 2003-2004. Students also took out larger loans in 2007-2008. Adding to the report published earlier by The Project on Student Debt, this report also looked at the percentage of students borrowing private loans, showing a sharp rise in recent years.

The report also breaks down borrowing by type of institution and type of loan, as well as along other lines. Education Sector found that student loan borrowing is most prevalent among students at private, for-profit colleges, with nearly 92 percent taking out student loans in 2007-2008. For-profit colleges also had one of the highest average loan amounts in 2007-2008, with students borrowing $9,611. Private not-for-profit colleges actually had higher average loan amounts at $9,766, but the percentage of students borrowing was significantly lower, though still higher than at public two-year and four-year colleges.

Students at for-profit and not-for-profit private colleges also relied the most heavily on private loans, with 43 percent of students at for-profit and 27 percent of students at non-profit private schools turning to alternate loans. These schools tend to have the highest tuition, so the greater loan amounts and rates of borrowing are not entirely surprising. Rising tuition and a lack of sufficient need-based financial aid (including a shift in focus from need-based to merit-based scholarships at four-year schools) are cited as two of the main causes for high rates of student borrowing.

A more detailed breakdown, complete with charts, is available on the Education Sector website.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

While fall classes may still seem far off for many students, incoming college freshmen and transfer students are already attending summer orientation and registration sessions. Choosing classes leads directly to one of college's biggest sticker shocks: the price of textbooks for those introductory classes. With individual texts regularly carrying triple-digit price tags, a semester's worth of textbooks you may never touch again can seem an unreasonable expense.

Increasingly, students skilled in money management are finding an array of options to make acquiring textbooks less painful. Used bookstores abound just off campus at many colleges, giving the campus bookstore some competition and mitigating prices at least to some extent. Particularly on-the-ball students race to the university library or avail themselves of inter-library loan options to check out required reading for free. Other college campuses have begun renting popular textbooks for prices significantly lower than the cost of buying them new.

For other students, though, the Internet is the place to find discounted books for class. A number of popular retailers offer used textbooks, though students may run the risk of getting an outdated edition or an instructor's edition of any text they buy sight unseen. Students who buy books online also face the same problem as students who buy from the campus bookstore: after the semester's ended, you may well wind up stuck with an edition of a book you didn't really want to own in the first place.

A few companies are now offering services that combine the convenience of online textbook shopping and textbook rentals. The New York Times recently profiled Chegg.com, a website that allows students to rent textbooks online, similar to online video rental services. While paying $50 or more (plus shipping) for a book you don't even get to keep if you want it can be hard to swallow, online rentals do have advantages: Rental prices can be significantly cheaper than the price of purchasing a textbook, online rentals offer more selection and students don't have to worry about whether they'll be able to find a buyer for their unwanted books at the end of the semester.

Whether or not you choose to rent your books for class, it's nice to know that there are ways textbooks are becoming more affordable. Cheaper books mean your financial aid and college savings can be stretched further...and that's always a good thing.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Congress has passed and President Obama has signed a bill that provides "technical corrections" to the Higher Education Act, which Congress renewed last year. In addition to offering clarification on several points and correcting minor errors, the Technical Corrections bill also makes some useful changes to federal student financial aid.

Minor clarifications include:

  • Updating the list of veteran's benefits not counted as financial aid to include benefits from the new GI Bill that goes into effect this year
  • Stating that lenders can provide both entrance and exit loan counseling to students
  • Setting 2010-2011 as the year in which the EZ FAFSA will need to be implemented
More substantial changes include:
  • Authorizing the Department of Education to buy up rehabilitated student loans (loans that have gone into default and since had consistent payments made on them) under the provisions outlined in ECASLA--previously students who had defaulted on loans and since resumed payments would find their loans stuck in default status due to the credit crunch.
  • Creating a new grant program for dependents of soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001
  • Making Pell-eligible dependents of soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq after September 11, 2001 eligible for an automatic 0 expected family contribution on the FAFSA
  • Changing the information schools must provide to lenders when students apply for private loans

The Chronicle of Higher Education has more information on the HEA Technical Corrections legislation here.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Pursuing a career in education shows a commitment to increasing knowledge and improving the lives of others. However, in order to become an educator, you need a college education, and the prospect of a teacher's salary can make many students reluctant to borrow heavily to achieve this goal. Thankfully, there are a number of education scholarships that offer future teachers an alternative to student loans. One of them is this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Scholarships.com College Education Scholarship. High school seniors and current undergraduate students are invited to write a scholarship essay explaining what influenced them to pursue a career in education for a chance to win a $1,000 college scholarship.

Prize: $1,000

Eligibility: Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, a registered user of Scholarships.com, and an undergraduate student or a high school senior who plans to enroll in a college or university in the coming fall. Applicant must have indicated an interest in Child Care/Education, Education, Health Education, Music Education or Special Education.

Deadline: August 31, 2009

Required Material: Completed online scholarship application, including essay of 250-350 words answering the question, "What has influenced you to pursue a career in education?"

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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by Scholarships.com Staff

Earlier this week, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities released information on tuition increases at private colleges and universities for the 2009-2010 academic year. While tuition is increasing on average, the good news is that the tuition increase is the lowest in 37 years.

Tuition and fees are projected to go up an average of 4.3 percent at private colleges and universities nationwide, with some colleges managing to hold their increases even lower or freeze tuition rates to help students struggling to pay for school in the current economic climate. While it still greatly outpaces inflation, it's lower than the average increase over the last 10 years, which has been around 6 percent. The survey did not address changes in the cost of room and board.

Meanwhile, private colleges are also increasing institutional grant and scholarship aid. On average, schools allocated 9 percent more to college scholarships and grants for 2009-2010 than the previous academic year.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

When Michael Jackson died, the world lost not only a talented pop musician, but also a notable philanthropist. Over the course of his career, Michael Jackson donated over $300 million to at least 39 charitable organizations and also made generous financial contributions to numerous individuals, especially children and their families. While many of his charitable acts focused on helping sick or injured children around the globe, he also made substantial contributions to education.

One of the charities Michael Jackson supported most generously and publicly was the United Negro College Fund, which helps support African American students in their college goals. He first began supporting the UNCF in 1984 and participated in several fundraisers for the organization. One of his donations established the Michael Jackson Scholarship, which has existed as an endowed scholarship since 1986, supporting students attending college with the goal of pursuing careers in the performing arts. His generous contributions have allowed the UNCF to extend scholarship opportunities to hundreds of African American students over the last 25 years.

To learn more about the Michael Jackson Scholarship, you can visit the UNCF website. You may also want to do a scholarship search on Scholarships.com to find more scholarship awards for African American students and students interested in the arts. All Michael Jackson, a Michael Jackson fan website, has more information about Jackson's many charitable contributions.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Scholarship opportunities for international students can seem few and far between. However, money is out there. If you want to study in the United States but are having trouble finding money for college due to your citizenship status, this week's Scholarship of the Week is for you. The myUsearch International and Undocumented Student Scholarship will award $1,000 to one student who is not a United States citizen but plans to attend college in America. All you have to do is register on myUsearch and complete a short scholarship essay to be eligible.

Prize: $1,000

Eligibility: International students and other non-citizens planning to study in the United States. Must begin your first semester at an accredited undergraduate institution on or before October 1, 2010, either as a freshman or a transfer student.

Deadline: July 15, 2009.

Required Material: Completed myUsearch registration, plus an essay addressing how the completion of a U. S. degree will impact your life, your family, and your home community.

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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by Scholarships.com Staff

The Senate passed their version of the economic stimulus bill Tuesday, and by late afternoon yesterday it was announced that a compromise had been reached between the House and the Senate. The compromise bill includes less funding than either version--$789 billion as compared to $820 or $838 billion, and one of the areas that faced cuts was education.

While the final draft of the stimulus bill has not been released--or necessarily written--yet, some details are emerging in media coverage. It appears that a Pell Grant increase has made it into the final draft, though the exact amount is still unknown. Federal Work-Study also receives a funding boost, though it's also unclear whether it's the full $490 million appropriated by the House. The $2,500 tuition tax credit has also survived, as have several other tax credits not related to education. Proposed increases to Perkins Loans and unsubsidized Stafford Loans appear to have been axed from the conference committee's version of the bill. States will receive some money to offset educational expenses and aid in school construction and renovation, though not as much as the House had appropriated.

More details will likely emerge over the next couple days as the bill makes its way back through the House and Senate for final approval. The stimulus package could be signed by President Obama as soon as Monday. While the stimulus will provide some help to most people attending college, it's not too late to find other ways to boost the funding to your own college education. Conduct a free college scholarship search to see what financial aid is out there.


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