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by Susan Dutca

Student loans made the list for the Top 10 Consumer Scams in Illinois, ranking 7th with 1,500 of the 25,094 complaints that are seen by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. As if the 40 million Americans who hold $1.2 trillion in debt wasn't bad enough, student loan scams joined the list of scams including abusive debt collection practices, mortgage lending, and payday loans, according to Gail MarksJarvis.

Most people know that one of the top consumers scams out there is identity theft. What's not as well-known is the large number of students who fall victim to student loan scams. Though they may be promised debt relief by making upfront payments of hundreds of dollars, with no relief to ever come, according to MarksJarvis. The scammers who once defrauded people with mortgage relief scams, according to MarksJarvis, now ventured into new territory: student loans. Madigan has targeted one of the scamming businesses based in Lombard, National Student Loan Rescue, and filed suit against them on Monday. They reportedly "advertised it would get student loans out of default, remove wage garnishments, lower monthly payments and secure loan forgiveness, but didn't deliver after accepting upfront fees."

What happens when government, income-based repayment programs aren't doing enough to help students with their debt? Borrowers turn to alternate options and fall victim to scam artists. Madigan blames the inefficient of such federal loan services for "keeping people in debt" and disabling them from contributing to the economy through purchases such as car-buying. Furthermore, she criticizes the quick relief forbearance which provides temporal relief with added interest charges to be paid later. This only perpetuates the cycle of debt, according to Madigan.

To "relieve" student loans, private companies are actually just filing paperwork to consolidate borrower's federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. That means they're charging more than $1,000 for services that the Department pf Education offers free of charge. Some fraudulent businesses will advertise on the radio, using titles such as "federal" or "national," even though they are private businesses. If they promise to relieve student debt outright or get you out of default, they're most likely scamming you. If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. For the complete list of top Illinois scam complaints, as well as options for helping borrowers on repayment options, read here.

Word of advice from Madigan: borrowers should never have to pay for information on paying back loans. A way to spot scams is "noting requests for upfront payments." Likewise at Scholarships.com., where we believe that no scholarship search or scholarship should ever cost a penny, as those are only the practices of sharks and scammers when it comes to the business of awarding money, not taking it.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Applying for scholarships can sometimes be dull, tiring, and time-consuming, especially if you're short on time. Of course winning a scholarship is always worth it. But for students who are pressed on time or seeking rewards for past accomplishments, current talents, and passionate interests, easy scholarships are a practical choice. Don't go mad this March with scholarship applications if you don't have the time or desire - simply check out these easy scholarship and begin applying today. Don't forget that the seemingly "too easy" scholarships may be scams, as well as scholarship searches that require a fee. Never pay for a scholarship or scholarship search - scholarship providers are in the business of giving money, not taking it. Avoid long, tedious application processes by simply completing a user profile that will already narrow down what scholarships you qualify for. After using our free scholarship, you might even decide that any scholarships you find on Scholarships.com are going to be easy to win.

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Register & Win $500 Scholarship

Deadline: Monthly
Available to: Scholarship.com Users
Maximum Award: $500

What's easier than filling out a complete profile at Scholarships.com to be automatically entered to win a monthly drawing for $500? Not much. The best part is, there is no lengthy essay or application packet required. Simply register and create a FREE profile at Scholarships.com. For more information and to apply, please visit Register & Win $500 Scholarship

Tell-A-Friend Scholarship Sweepstakes

Deadline: March 31, 2016
Available to: Scholarships.com Users
Maximum Award: $1,000

Spread the word about Scholarships.com to your friends for the contest and you'll have a chance to win money for college - $1,000 for you and $500 for one of your buddies. There's no limit as to how many people you can send your link to and if you win, one of your friends will be chosen at random to win $500. Not a member? No worries. Simply create a FREE Scholarships.com profile today. For more information and to apply, please visit Tell-A-Friend Scholarship Sweepstakes

Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Deadline: March 7, 2016
Available to: High school students
Maximum Award: $15,000

Learning to drive is one of the coolest times for a teen, but also one of the most dangerous. You have the power to inspire your fellow teens. Create a 30-60 second video for your fellow teen drivers that highlights the importance of safe teen driving and you could win $15,000 or one of 14 other prizes.

For more information and to apply, please visit Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Hood Milk Sportsmanship Scholarship Program

Deadline: March 11, 2016
Available to: High school seniors
Maximum Award: $5,000

If you are a New England high school student-athlete who have displayed a high degree of sportsmanship while participating in a varsity high school student-athlete who have displayed a high degree of sportsmanship while participating in a varsity high school sport, you may be one of 18 students to win a $5,000 scholarship towards a two- or four-year college education.

For more information and to apply, please visit Hood Milk Sportsmanship Scholarship Program

Jain Foundation LGMD Social Media Scholarship

Deadline:May 25, 2016
Available to:High school/college students
Maximum Award: $5,000

A total of four $3,000 scholarships will be awarded to students who teach others about Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophies, often referred to as LGMDs. Simply share a LGMD fact of your choice on a social media network and invite your friends to "vote," share, or "like" your post. Students may apply for either the Merit-Based Scholarship or the Social Media Scholarship.

For more information and to apply, please visit Jain Foundation LGMD Social Media Scholarship

MSUM #BeADragon Scholarship

Deadline: March 1,, 2016
Available to: Incoming freshman, transfer students
Maximum Award: $2,500

If you are thinking about attending MSUM, simply follow @AdmissionsMSUM on Twitter and display your Dragon Pride in a Tweet explaining why you want to be a #BeADragon. You could be one of four winners to receive a $2,500 scholarship; a $1,000 scholarship winner for tweets with the most likes or a $1,000 scholarship winner for the most retweeted tweets.

For more information and to apply, please visit MSUM #BeADragon Scholarship

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Tuition assistance from scholarships may be cut as much as 30 percent by fall 2017 for tens of thousands of New Mexico students. Proceeds from lotteries, including the January $1.6 billion Powerball, are not able to keep pace with higher education cost increases.

Ticket sales are down, college tuition costs are up, and state budgets are tight. As a result, lawmakers in eight states are considering cutting lottery-funded scholarship programs. New Mexico has one of the best lottery-based scholarships in the country, helping roughly 90 percent of all first-year, full-time students with full-tuition aid. According to an associate VP at the University of Mexico, students who normally qualify for such aid would have to pay nearly $1,700 out of pocket annually if the budget cut takes place, which will most likely necessitate taking out more in student loans. According to the Department of Education, only 60 percent of students would receive full-tuition benefits, instead of the current 90 percent.

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According to Susan Montoya Bryan, one reason New Mexico ticket sales have started to decline is that millennials tend to not buy lottery tickets; most likely because they opt to pay for gas at the pump instead of going into the convenience store. In several attempts to close the gap, New Mexico lawmakers have tried measures such as a "one-time appropriation to prop up scholarships and shifting $19 million in liquor tax revenue," moving unclaimed prize money to the lottery tuition fund, raising eligibility requirements to a 2.5 GPA, and having applicants complete at least 15 credit hours per semester at a four-year school.

Bryan reports that annual revenue from lotto ticket sales is about $40 million and tuition costs for eligible students are expected to surpass $65 million. Federal data already indicated that New Mexico has the highest student loan default rate. New Mexico is not the only state facing this financial dilemma. Tennessee tried a short-term goal by setting up an endowment to fund scholarships through interest and earnings. Georgia was the first to introduce lottery-based scholarships, nearly two decades ago, but had to make changes in 2011 which resulted in a 25 percent decrease of qualifying students. Republican state Rep. Jason Harper recommends that scholarships are used only after all financial aid is exhausted.

Lucky for you, we offer you tons of scholarship opportunities for which you may qualify that are not affected by the lottery system.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

What do you get when you combine Nike Co-Founder and Stanford alumni Phillip Knight with one of the world's most prestigious universities? A big name school with an additional $400 million donated graduate scholarships. As a gift to Stanford University on his 78th birthday, the endowment is intended to attract some of the world's brightest graduate and professional students looking to solve major global challenges.

The Knight-Hennessey Scholars Program is one of the largest scholarships to have ever been donated from an individual university. Stanford also claims that the program represented the "largest single increase in student financial aid in Stanford's history," and it will provide aid for a minimum of three years of graduate-level study, with 100 scholars admitted annually. The Stanford Daily reports that it "will be analogous to the Rhodes and Shwarzman scholarships." According to the press release, scholars will be nominated by their universities based on high academic achievement, leadership, and civic commitment. Nominees will be from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.

John Hennessey, Stanford's President of 16 years who is stepping down this year to run the new scholars program, claims that the program "will be the largest graduate scholarship program focused on all disciplines at any university in the world." The graduate and professional schools in which it will enroll scholars are law, business, medicine, engineering, humanities and sciences, education, Earth, energy, and environmental sciences. There is also an option for extended funding for scholars pursuing PhD or MD degrees. Leadership training and development, residential experiences, immersive educational opportunities, and additional degree opportunities focused on public policy and problem-solving will be incorporated into the program. More than 80% of the endowment will cover students' living expenses and education.

While the generous endowment would help educate some of the world's prospective leaders, some criticize the "megagifts" given to prestigious universities, claiming that "they are more about prestige and ego than academic excellence," as reported by Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times. Could this really just be an "arms race between the top schools with no connection to reality," as stated by New York writer and author Malcolm Gladwell?

Knight has supported Stanford since 2006, when he contributed a large gift to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. The Knight-Hennessey Scholars Program is actually Knight's second largest donation to a college or university, the largest being a 2013 donation of $500 million to the University of Oregon in which he challenged the university to raise $500M by offering to match the amount. Stanford will start accepting applications beginning in the summer of 2017 and admit its first brigade of scholars for fall of 2018. Knight and Hennessey "dream of a future 20, 30, or 50 years from now, when thousands of graduates - who can think outside the box as skilled problem-solvers - will be working together for a more peaceful, habitable world."

Would you apply for the scholarship program? Keep an eye out for more information to come on the scholarship and in meantime, see what other scholarship opportunities you are eligible for.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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Talk is Cheap. College Isn't.

New Policy to Eliminate Pell Grants, Federal Loans, Tuition Tax Credits

Feb 23, 2016

by Susan Dutca

Talk is cheap when it comes to politicians' promises, but one thing that remains expensive is a college education. From vetoing a scholarships bill that would free up $721 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students, to killing the Senate Bill 180 which would require the New Mexico Lottery to provide $41 million to a college scholarships fund there has been no resolution to the budget stalemate since July 1, 2015. New America Higher Education has one resolution: out with the old, in with the new. That means removing federal loans, federal tuition vouchers, Pell grants, and tuition tax credits.

In their policy paper, "Starting from Scratch: A New Federal and State Partnership in Higher Education," New America Higher Education expressed their vision to reconstruct and repair the "broken system of financing higher education." The team plans to scrap the archaic system and replace it with a "federal-state financial partnership" where the government would dole money to states, which would go to colleges and universities - taking into account important factors such as enrolled low-income students. Students would only have to pay their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the state would be held accountable for student outcomes such graduation rates and securing employment. In addition to lowering tuition, the cost of living expenses such as room and board, transportation, and childcare costs would be lowered.

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States would have to maintain their current funding as provided in their individual budgets, match federal funding by 25 percent, and be responsible for performance and costs. There would be a bonus to states that contribute more than expected and also, a bonus for colleges who enroll more than 25 percent of low-income students. What's the catch? The plan would cost roughly $38 billion annually, and states would have to contribute an additional $17.9 billion. The existing system has left about 7 million borrowers in default with their student loans and the report claims that "going to college has left them in a much worse position than if they had never enrolled."

The partisanship disaster continues as colleges and universities haven't received "operating money from the state since July 1," according to Celeste Bott of the Chicago Tribune. The MAP grant provides up to $5,000 in financial aid to students who demonstrate need, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Some claim the scholarships bill would snag money from social service providers who provide care for the state's "most vulnerable residents," or that states simply do not have the money to spend. Governor Rauner agrees that the school funding formula needs to be changed.

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Do you support New America's Higher Education proposal? Leave your thoughtful comments below. Don't wait another day - take advantage of the available scholarships and learn more about grants and financial aid today.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

There are scholarships, grants, and fellowships that reward students based on academic, athletic, music, and other types of achievements. But now there's one that encourages students who have enrolled to drop out. The Thiel Fellowship awards $100,000 to students who want to build and create things instead of sitting in a classroom. Founded by Peter Thiel, one of Forbes' top entrepreneurs, the fellowship encourages a non-traditional alternative to a college education, and some pretty bright students have jumped on board to learn before they get an education.

Naturally, the Fellowship struck a heated national debate upon its inception. Academics tend to believe that a college education is invaluable, including Stanford's President-to-be Marc Tessier-Lavigne. He was asked about the value of a college degree versus "folks like Peter Thiel telling people not to go to college." He responded, "the complexity of the world is in such a way today that the case for a liberal arts education has never been stronger." Some Ivy League students think differently. Harvard junior Grace Xiao dropped out after receiving the fellowship and her company Kynplex is now funded by the fellowship. Xiao states that, "Federal grants are harder to get which is pushing more researchers to explore early partnerships with industry."

According to The Wall Street Journal, college graduates only recently started earning a higher income than they had over the last decade, and unemployment rates are now declining. Unemployment rates dropped from 7% in 2010 to 4.9% in 2015. The top 25% of students in highly-desirable fields earn at least $60,000 a year. How successful are the Thiel Fellows? The Foundation's website boasts that since its first class, Thiel Fellows have started more than 60 companies that are together worth over $1.1 billion, and have created hundreds of jobs in the course of tackling problems ranging from telemedicine and human longevity to solar energy and clean water."

Spread over two years, the $100,000 grant is reserved for 20-30 young adults under the age of 23 who have strong entrepreneurial ambitions. Applicants do not need to have an incorporated company, a developed product, or even a pitch deck to apply. Fellows don't need to be programmers - others have started up non-profits, launched media companies, and built hardware. The Foundation provides grant recipients with a team of programmers, salespeople, and people with "in-house expertise in engineering, marketing, and design." Fellows are able to meet some of the industry's top leaders and investors for strong networking and business opportunities. The Foundation does not take equity in fellows' companies either. So what is the catch? If you win, you have to drop out of college to accept the fellowship.

In addition to co-founding PayPal in 1998, serving as a director at Facebook, launching Palantir Technologies, funding LinkedIn, Yelp, and other tech startups, Peter Thiel is also a partner at Founders Fund and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build a Future. His motivation for starting the fellowship? "College discourages students from trying new things and leaves them in horrendous debt." Would you apply for the fellowship? If yes, create a profile today to apply for the fellowship, as well as other scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

Between her coursework and political activism, Bernarda Elizabet Garcia actively fights for immigrants' rights, especially when it comes to funding higher education. As a scholarship recipient of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund's Young Activist Award, Garcia is a powerful and influential voice in her community through her advocacy for extending federal financial aid to undocumented college students by "improving the quality of life through immigration reform and education." Though there currently are not many government policies that give financial assistance to undocumented students for higher education, there are other organizations that are dedicated to helping those students pay for a college education.

There are roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, with 2.1 million potentially eligible for the most recently proposed federal DREAM Act. Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college in the United States. According to College Board, college tuition and fees for full-time students at a public four-year institution (in-state) was roughly $19,548 per year in 2015-2016. For out-of-state tuition at a public school, the cost was $34,031 and tuition at a private nonprofit cost, on average, $43,921 in the same year. Without financial aid, it is nearly impossible to afford a college education, especially when many undocumented students come from low-income households.

Though there is no federal or state law that prohibits undocumented students from being admitted or attending U.S. colleges, government policies pose a barrier, as undocumented students do not have access to federal financial aid or Pell grants. However, Georgia, along with Alabama and South Carolina, plan to implement a policy that would ban illegal students from being admitted to their colleges. Just earlier this month, Georgia's Supreme Court rejected an appeal for lowering the in-state tuition for undocumented students. According to Education Reporter Lauren Foreman, following Georgia's decision, eight students from Georgia State University were arrested after refusing to leave a protest. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress in 2001, failed to pass even after countless reintroductions and a big push in 2010. The goal of the act was to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the US. However, all state DREAM Acts are different and are not synonymous with DACA, which is a policy that was created in 2012 by President Obama to grant deferred deportation to those under 31 years of age who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16.

Another controversial topic is whether or not undocumented students should be eligible for lower tuition - tuition that state residents pay when attending in-state universities and colleges. Currently, the majority of schools charge undocumented students out-of-state tuition. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least twenty states have passed tuition equity bills that allow undocumented students to pay the same tuition as their classmates, regardless of their immigration status (certain criteria must be met to qualify). Based on the laws passed by these states, there is a general consensus that the state does not "lose revenue from the number of students who would otherwise pay out-of-state tuition," but rather, "it raises the percentage of high school graduates who pursue a college degree."

Organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and TheDream.US are dedicated to helping undocumented students earn scholarships to pay for college, regardless of immigration status. Be sure to check with your current or prospective university or college to see what funding opportunities you are eligible for, if you are an undocumented student. Check out our scholarships for undocumented students and scholarships for which you qualify today to help fund your college education.

And remember, there’s no need to rely on expensive student loan options to pay for your college education. For more information on finding free scholarship money for college, conduct a Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Comments (15)

by Susan Dutca

A new study reports that 2015/2016 college freshman embody an all-time high predisposition for civil engagement in the study's 50-year history. According to Mikhail Zinshteyn, political and social crime-fighting students hope to be the new brigade of community leaders and activists this year.

According to the Higher Education Research Institute, who surveyed 114,189 first-year students attending college full-time, 8.5% of students - regardless of race - said there was a "very good chance" that they would engage in student protests in 2015. HERI reports that this is the highest level recorded since its inception in 1967. Black students represented the largest increase in expected student activism with a 16% change from the previous year, where 10.5% of students expected to participate in campus-related demonstrations. Latino students represent a 3.2% increase from 2014 to 2015, where one in every ten Latino student (10.2%) reported a "very good chance" in student activism. 7.1% of white students - compared to the 4.6% in 2014 - also planned to be more involved in social-based demonstrations.

According to the study, every race has seen some level of increased desire to participate in student protests, demonstrations, and rallies. To what might we attribute this trend? Kevin Eagan, director of CIRP claims, "Student activism seems to be experiencing a revival, and last fall's incoming freshman class appears more likely than any before it to take advantage of opportunities to participate in this part of the political process...we observed substantial gains in students' interest in political and community engagement across nearly every item on the survey related to these issues." Another part of the survey records that 59.8% of incoming freshman were likely to vote in a "local, state, or federal election at any point during their college career," which is a 50.3% increase from 2014. According to Eagan, this could very well mean a strong interest and dedication to the community and political realm where college students' roles will "play a critical role in upcoming elections." Zinshteyn also notes the "political leanings" of these students as liberal or far-left, the highest percentage since 1973. Regardless of political affiliation, Zinshteyn notes the "emboldened political attitudes of these 18 and 19-year-olds mirror a rise in volunteerism and commitment to others...offering evidence disputing the view of younger Americans as narcissistic or incurious about the world."

Though the study focused on 2015, this group of individuals have the next four years to push forward their agendas and make an impact in the upcoming presidential election. This means a more politically-aware and knowledgeable body of students are scoping out their best candidate for social change.

Credit is attributed to Mikhail Zinshteyn, who is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and program manager at the Education Writers Association. He has also reported for The American Independent, where he covered state education policy, elections, and economics. Additionally, he manages the Education Writers Association's National Awards for Education Reporting.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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College Culture , College Life , College News

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by Susan Dutca

Some 200 years ago, attending Harvard may have cost roughly $600.50 a year ($8,371 if you adjust for inflation) in comparison to today's cost of attendance of up to $69,600, according to Greg Daugherty. College Board reports the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state students at public universities - that's not including room and board, books and supplies, personal, or transportation expenses. What accounts for the tuition increase? There seems to be no definitive answer. However, a new study points to federal student aid, or the pursuit thereof by colleges and universities as the culprit of rising tuition.

The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that between 1987 and 2010, student aid has been the leading cause for college tuition increase. Due to the increased availability of subsidized loans and the appearance of unsubsidized loans, colleges raised tuition knowing that "financial aid will cover the difference," according to Inside Higher Ed. An assistant professor at Indiana University states that "you have to somehow structure it so that colleges can't just increase tuition and capture that money." Some don't buy into this logic - rather they believe that the "college's sticker price is set by its wealthiest student's ability to pay - and the wealthiest students never take out loans." Others blame the lack of state funding or the expense of paying costly faculty salaries.

Some have criticized the study's "hypothetical college" model because it is based on "data from private and public nonprofit institutions" which is a "too-simple way to view a complex problem." In addition to why tuition has to increase, another important question to ask is where is that money going? Not all of endowment money goes towards student aid, and Congress is scrutinizing 56 colleges with large endowments who were "valued in excess of $1 billion as of the 2014 fiscal year." Letters will be sent to these colleges this week, demanding the last five years of financial data as to where the endowment money has been used since the two congressional committees "are not able to accurately assess how colleges and universities are using endowment assets to fulfill their charitable and educational purposes."

Though college tuition is not as low as it was in the 1800's one solution for lowering your college costs and expenses always remains true: scholarships.

Credit attributed to Greg Daugherty, an editor, writer, and editorial consultant with features in TIME Inc., Reader's Digest, Consumer Reports, and other publishers.

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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by Susan Dutca

What makes February so lovely? It is Financial Aid Awareness Month, and since filling out the FAFSA is stressful - much like taxes - several higher education institutions and financial aid organizations have jumped on board to provide informational sessions for families and students as they navigate through, and apply for financial aid through the 2016-2017 FAFSA. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of students applying for, and receiving financial aid for their college education at a four-year-degree-granting institution has increased from 80% to 85% from 2007-08 to 2012-2013. Because of this, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) will be hosting a new topic weekly through a social media campaign that allows parents and students to ask questions about the FAFSA. To participate, NASFAA asks families to send their questions via Twitter using the hashtag #FinAidFeb to receive tips and advice, as well as the common mistakes to avoid. The social media campaign will take place on Wednesday, February 3rd from 7-8 pm ET and Friday, February 5th from 1-2 pm ET. Those interested can simply follow @NASFAA on Twitter or visit them at their website for full schedule and details.

According to the Salisbury Post, help is on the way on "FAFSA Day" at Catawba's College Library, where financial aid officers and specialists are working with seniors and their families to complete the FAFSA. Between February 22 and February 26, local North Carolina State Employee Credit Union branches will also help students complete their FAFSA. Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL is holding a similar series of events throughout February. In light of "FAFSA Frenzy", the Missouri Department of Higher Education is calling for an effort to educate and assist prospective college students, and Webster University is offering sessions on February 28 on its home campus, as well as at its St. Louis region on February 6 and 20. According to the school's statistics, more than 80% of its student population receives financial aid. The college is providing incentive for attending the event by offering attendees the chance to win a scholarship.

When attending any FAFSA informational session, bring your 2015 W-2 forms, and copies of your 2015 tax forms, if they're ready. If you haven't filed your 2015 returns yet, bring any statements of interest earned in 2015, any 1099 forms and other forms necessary to complete your taxes. Later on you may need to go back to your FAFSA and make corrections once the tax returns are filed. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will help you make accurate corrections within a few weeks of your tax file date.

Tro Onink, CEO of Stratagee and an expert in financial planning, cautions parents about IRA contributions for 2015.Though it may lower tax bills for 2015, it affects the children's financial aid eligibility for the 2016-2017 year. As explained by Onink, individual retirement account (IRA) contributions is factored back to the adjusted gross income (AGI) when financial formulas are used to determine student's financial aid eligibility. When the expected family contribution is calculated, IRA contributions are factored into the adjusted gross income, plus HAS, 401k, 402b and other retirement contributions. He cautions that these formulas would "presume that they [parents] have used that money they're setting aside for retirement to pay for college instead." On the upside, you do not have to record the value of the IRAs as an asset. So what's Onink's main advice? If for example, you invest $10,000 into retirement plans in 2015, your children's financial aid amount could decrease by $2,500 in 2016-2017. Essentially, when you make an IRA contribution, you will be paying more than half the amount you save in taxes when it comes to college expenses. He advocates to save for retirement but be cautions that "just because your adjusted gross income is lower, your income for financial aid purposes will be inflated."

Read more on Financial Aid Information and Financial Aid tips this season as you fill out your FAFSA and don't forget to see how you can supplement federal aid with free money in scholarships.

Credit is attributed to Troy Onink, who has been featured by Forbes, InvestmentNews, myStockOption

Going to college doesn't have to break the bank or saddle you with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Check out the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search where you’ll discover you qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships in just a few minutes, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

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