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GOP Congressman: Pell Grants are Becoming ‘The Welfare of the 21st Century’

April 4, 2011

GOP Congressman: Pell Grants are Becoming ‘The Welfare of the 21st Century’

by Suada Kolovic

The GOP is no stranger to controversy and Friday’s interview with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) was no exception. In a radio interview with Blog Talk Radio, Rehberg went on a rant in which he compared the Pell Grant Program – the nation’s largest financial aid program – to the likes of welfare and denounced the fact that students who receive them don’t have a graduation requirement. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.” Rehberg added under the federal program, a student could "go to school for nine years on Pell Grants and you don’t even have to get a degree."

Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation, took issue with Rehberg's comments. "I don't know if it's a fair characterization that someone has decided to go through the hoops of applying to college, getting enrolled and showing up every day because it's the welfare lifestyle," he said. "If the issue is people are being lazy and living off the dole, so to speak, I don't think their first step is to enroll in college."

For the 2012 fiscal year, the Pell Grant program is set to exceed $40 billion. Some lawmakers have been exploring ways to reduce the cost of the programs by lowering the maximum grant size – which is currently $5,550 – or restricting eligibility. In Montana, Rehberg recently voted for the House GOP budget resolution, which would reduce the maximum Pell Grant to $4,705 and narrow the eligibility of applicants. If you’re eligible for Pell Grants, what do you think? Are Rehberg’s assumptions out of line?

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What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

Possible Pell Cuts Could Mean Revised Financial Aid Offers

April 6, 2011

What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and have received your financial aid package from your dream school, listen up: Congress may cut the Pell Grant program’s budget this year and colleges may have to roll back a portion of the financial-aid offers they made to students for the coming academic year. Translation: You may receive a smaller financial-aid package than was originally offered.

According to the Chronicle, both parties acknowledge that some type of restructuring will be necessary to put the program on sound financial footing, but lawmakers disagree on the size and scope of the cuts. Some proposals suggest lowering the maximum award, ending the year-round program and changing the income requirements in order to reduce the number of people eligible for the grants.

At a news conference held by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a college administrator and student advocates agree that cuts in award levels this late in the admissions process would be particularly hurtful to the low-income families the program serves. "Families with the most unsteady income, or who don't have much financial flexibility ... need the most time to thoroughly plan out their expenses," said Misty Whelan, a Pennsylvania high school counselor. With most decision deadlines around the corner – May 1 at many colleges – how do you feel knowing these cuts could potentially dictate where you go? Do you think it’s fair for colleges to backtrack on their offers? What ever happened to no takesy backsies?

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Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

Colleges with the Highest Return on Your Investment

April 8, 2011

Which Colleges Are Worth the Sticker Price?

by Suada Kolovic

With all this talk about possible Pell Grant cuts, acceptance rates plummeting and universities facing serious tuition hikes – Arizona universities could face hikes of up to 22% – which schools are worth the outrageous sticker price of about $200,000? According to PayScale.com’s annual survey of colleges with the highest return on investment rates, the California Institute of Technology tops the list with a 12.2% annual return. PayScale’s data is pulled from 1.4 million pay reports from persons who obtained bachelors degrees in the last 20 years, for more on their methodology click here. Check out who made the cut below:

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UCs Out-of-State Solution

UCs Accept Highest-Ever Rate of Non-Residents

April 20, 2011

UCs Out-of-State Solution

by Suada Kolovic

With California universities facing massive budget cuts in the upcoming year, the state has turned to a creative way to fill the void: According to data released by the University of California, out-of-state and international student admissions are at an all-time high and these students are paying pay about $23,000 more a year than their in-state counterparts.

The LA Times reports that applicants from other states or countries made up 18.1% of the 72,432 students admitted to at least one of the nine undergraduate UC campuses, up from 14% last year. At UC Berkley and UCLA – two of the most selective colleges in the UC System – the trend of accepting out-of-state and international students was most dramatic at 31.2% and 29.9% respectively. Why? The UC system is dealing with a crippling decline of investments from the state of California. Bloomberg reports that the state's current UC funding is back at 1998 levels, despite an additional university campus and 70,000 more students.

So where does this leave Californians who were looking forward to the affordability and convenience of a state school? With a slim chance that there’s a fat envelope headed their way. The fact is that higher acceptance rates for non-Californians means that more state residents were denied admissions at their first- and second- choice state campuses. Do you think it’s reasonable for schools in such serious financial strains to accept students based on their home addresses?

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Scholarship of the Week: STOP Hunger Scholarships

January 31, 2011

Scholarship of the Week: STOP Hunger Scholarships

by Suada Kolovic

The Sodexo Foundation seeks applicants for the STOP Hunger Scholarships to recognize students in the fight against hunger in America. More than 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger and Sodexo, Inc. is committed to working toward a hunger-free nation. The STOP Hunger Scholarships recognize and reward students who have made a significant impact in the fight against hunger and its root causes in the United States.

Each national STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient receives a $5,000 scholarship and a matching $5,000 donation to their affiliated hunger relief organization. Added consideration is given to those students working to combat childhood hunger.

Applications are available to students from kindergarten through graduate school. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarship opportunities, conduct a free scholarship search today!

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Top Priority for Americans: Affordable College

February 4, 2011

Top Priority for Americans: Affordable College

by Suada Kolovic

A recent survey suggests more Americans believe that making higher education more affordable would be the most effective means of helping those who are struggling financially. The Public Agenda study, “Slip-Sliding Away: An Anxious Public Talks About Today’s Economy and the American Dream,” revealed reducing college costs was most important to the 1,004 Americans surveyed at 63 percent, beating out preserving social security (58 percent), cutting taxes (48 percent), reducing the deficit (40 percent), “providing financial help to people who owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth” (22 percent) and others as the best solution.

Why do Americans have so much faith in the higher education system? According to the study, “One reason for the faith in education may be the public’s perception of who’s struggling most in the current economy. Three-quarters of Americans say that people without college degrees are struggling a lot these days, compared to just half who say college graduates are struggling.” Of those respondents who identified themselves as “struggling a lot” financially, 77 percent said they were very worried about having trouble paying for their children’s college educations. In addition, nearly one-third of those who are employed (32 percent) said they were "very worried" about losing their job, while 45 percent said they were “very worried” about paying back debt.

With the economy slowly turning around, are you concerned about the cost of college? If you’re stressed about finding financial aid, you don’t have to be: Check out our free scholarship search and get matched with scholarships just for you today!

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Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

Northeastern Grad Starts Website to Help Make Payments

November 23, 2010

Student Loans Leave Student $200,000 in Debt

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out how to pay for a college education can be complicated, but what happens once you’ve graduated and your loans become so overbearing that even with a full-time job, monthly payment are implausible? A few weeks ago, we blogged that the average college student leaves school with $24,000 in debt, but what about the student who’s debt is about eight times that amount? Northeastern alum Kelli Space, 23, found herself in that exact predicament: With $200,000 in debt, Space was unable to pay her stifling student loans – her monthly payments to Sallie Mae are $891 and by next November that figure will nearly double – so she started a website, Two Hundred Thou, in order to solicit donations from the public.

The site is devoted to sharing her story about the naivety of an 18- year-old, who was the first in her family to attend college and her reliance on readers to foot the bill. Space explains, “At the moment, I like to think I have great things going for me! A job, an accommodating family, loyal friends, etc... but these loans are crippling my ability to enjoy these things – or pay rent. Can I live?” She goes on to explain that by donating to her cause, you’ll also be helping the country as a whole.

Two Hundred Thou also tracks Space’s progress and so far she’s raised $1,726.50, leaving a mere $198,273.50 to go. Space ends with the notion that once her student loans are paid off she’ll spend her money elsewhere, “probably single-handedly spurring the economy.” To think you’re just a click away from cleaning up the mess of a recent college graduate, while fixing the economy and helping the country as a whole – and at $200,000, that’s a bargain.

However, we should point out – before you lend a helping hand – that we really don’t know who this person is or even whether this story is embellished or even entirely fabricated. The domain is registered privately, hiding the identity of the registrant, and the email address is just a gmail account anybody could have created. Sure, maybe this is on the up-and-up, but there’s really no way of knowing. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a bunch of these sites spring-up if this idea gains traction and exposure.

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Credit-Card Companies Paid Colleges Almost $84-Million

Payment Based on Cards Issued to Students and Alumni

October 27, 2010

Credit-Card Companies Paid Colleges Almost $84-Million

by Suada Kolovic

As a college student, I must admit I was duped into opening a credit card my freshman year. I was lured in by the fact that all my friends were rockin’ their free TCF sweaters and, of course, the concept they pushed of “buy now, pay later.” But credit-card companies marketing themselves heavily on college campuses isn’t new: It’s the perfect place to find new customers who are low on cash and looking for a sweet deal. But have you ever wondered why some colleges allow TCF on campus as opposed to Bank of America- they pay to be there. That may not be the shock of the century but with payments hovering at almost $84 million, you have to question the ethics of it. According to a report released by the Federal Reserve Board, credit-card companies paid $83.5 million to colleges, their foundations and alumni organizations last year under agreements that allow them to market credit cards to students and alumni. Under the agreements, schools and affiliated groups were generally paid for each account opened.

Why were credit-card companies willing to disclose such details? Under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, credit-card issuers are required to submit their agreements with colleges and related organizations to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; they must also disclose the total number of opened accounts. Of the agreements reported, about 40 percent were with colleges and 33 percent were with alumni associations. The agreements resulted in the opening of 53,000 accounts in 2009.

The college with the most accounts was Penn State Alumni Association at 1,600 and they were paid $2.8 million by the card issuer FIA Card Services, a subsidiary of Bank of America. The University of Illinois Alumni Association received the most money at about $3.3 million. If you’re interested about your school’s agreement with credit card issuers, check out the Federal Reserve database.

The agreements, certainly ones that involve marketing credit cards to students, can be considered predatory in nature. An examination of this year’s contracts found that they required colleges to provide personal information about their students and, in some cases, even paid the institutions extra when students carried a balance on their cards. And with what sounds like colleges profiting from student debt, it would seem that “free sweater” doesn’t seem like such a sweet deal after all.

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College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Billions

October 12, 2010

College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Billions

by Suada Kolovic

Dropping out of college would surely ruffle a few feathers at home, but it seems mom and dad may not be the only ones affected. While dropping out after a year can translate into lost time and a mountain of debt for the student, now there’s an estimate of what it costs taxpayers: billions.

According to a report released Monday, states appropriated almost $6.2 billion for four-year colleges and universities between 2003 and 2008 to help pay for the education of students who did not return for year two. The report takes into account spending on average per-student state appropriations, state grants and federal grants – such as Pell grants for low-income students – then reaches its cost conclusions based on students retention rates. It’s worth mentioning though that the report’s conclusions are considered incomplete: Because it’s based on data from the U.S. Education Department, it does not take account of students who attend part time, who leave college in order to transfer to another institution, or who drop out but return later to receive their degrees.

And with figures in the billions, critics agree that too many students are attending four-year schools – and that pushing them to finish wastes even more taxpayer money. Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor, questions promoting college for all. He said the reports fleshes out the reality of high dropout rates. But it could just as easily be used to argue that less-prepared, less-motivated students are better off not going to college."Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money," Lerman said. "Who knows?"

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Community Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams

Schools Try to Keep Lines of Communication Open with Alumni

September 27, 2010

Community Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams

by Suada Kolovic

College is expensive - no one would argue that. That being the case, attending community college is an option students are turning to. But with the economy in a slump, community colleges across the country are faced with booming enrollment amid decreasing financial support from the state government.

State appropriations for community colleges have taken a hit in recent years. In the past decade alone, state funding per full-time equivalent student fell to $3,150 from $4,350. Accordingly, the state’s community colleges turned away about 4,000 applicants this fall alone because of lack of capacity, turning away a similar number last fall.

The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges, a newly created development organization courting donations for the state’s seven two-year institutions, has begun a $10 million fund-raising campaign to help with the slumping state’s support. Foundation officials note that they expect the majority of the funds to come from state businesses that see community colleges as serving them, in contrast to the development work many four-year institutions do among alumni.

But as state budgets continue to dwindle, experts expect more community colleges to look to private donations in the future.

"Most donors to universities are alumni who have been carefully cultivated and served," said Linda Serra Hagedorn, professor and interim chair of Iowa State University’s Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies. Community colleges typically do not keep communications open with their alumni. Most do not keep any contact with their alumni. As a result, most CC graduates do not identify with the CC as an alma mater. I think we will see this changing with time."

Hagedorn acknowledges that donors can be very helpful to providing the funds necessary to serve their students and many community colleges have yet to explore the options of naming their buildings or providing endowed professorships.

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