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Groupon-NLU Deal Doesn’t Guarantee Admission to Graduate Program

September 14, 2011

Groupon-NLU Deal Doesn’t Guarantee Admission to Graduate Program

by Suada Kolovic

Last week, we shared Groupon’s “experimental” deal offered by National-Louis University which provided bargain hunters with the opportunity to purchase an introductory teaching course at a serious discount. A total of 18 students took advantage of the deal but hopefully they read the fine print: Purchasing the Groupon does not guarantee acceptance to the master’s program that the course is a part of. Whoops.

While the Groupon-toting students will take “Introduction to the Profession and the Craft of Teaching” for the discounted rate, they aren’t technically enrolled at the institution. Instead, each participant will be considered a “student-at-large,” said Nivine Megahed, NLU’s president. The students-at-large will get inside-the-class practicum experience early on in order to get the full effect of teaching prior to applying to the master’s program unlike their traditional counterparts, Megahed said. Often, when aspiring educators teach in a classroom for the first time, “they either love it, or they go running for the hills,” she added.

Once they’ve completed the course, at-large students who want to take part in the program will have to go through the traditional admissions process, which requires a passing grade on the Illinois Basic Skills test. If you bought the Groupon, would this be a deal breaker for you? Do you think NLU should have made such stipulations clear early on?

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Federal Mandate: All Schools Must Offer Net Price Calculators by October 29th

September 16, 2011

Federal Mandate: All Schools Must Offer Net Price Calculators by October 29th

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we understand that trying to figure out how much a college education will actually cost you and your family is pretty confusing. With everything that goes into your financial aid packagegrants, loans, scholarships, etc. – the real cost of a college education is muddled in there…somewhere. But fear, not college bound students! All that’s about to change thanks to a mandate by the federal government: All colleges and universities receiving Title IV federal student aid must have net price calculators by October 29th.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the U.S. Department of Education instated the mandate in order to “provide a clearer view of the difference between the total cost of tuition and fees – commonly referred to as sticker price – and the net price, an estimate of the cost subtracting scholarships and grants.” Most students generally receive some institutional aid so the better they understand how much an institution is offering as whole, the better prepared they are to compare the financial aid packages offered by different schools.

What do you think of the federally implemented net price calculators? Do you think it will be an essential piece of the funding your college education puzzle?

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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

August 17, 2011

University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.

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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

August 18, 2011

Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?

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Amazon Launches Digital-Textbook Rental Service

July 21, 2011

Amazon Launches Digital-Textbook Rental Service

by Suada Kolovic

Broke college students across the country have reason to rejoice: Amazon has unveiled an e-textbook-rental program which has the potential to save students up to 80 percent on textbooks!

The program will provide students with the opportunity to download temporary copies of textbooks from Amazon’s website for reading on a Kindle e-book reader, computer, tablet or smartphone running free Kindle software. The system allows customers to specify rental periods lasting anywhere from a month to a year. Students will have the option to purchase the e-book during or after a rental period, or extend a rental period in daily increments. Still not sold? Let’s use a real-life example: Intermediate Accounting retails at $197 in print and $109 as an e-book but with Amazon’s program, a student can rent the e-book for three months at the low price of $57!

And what about the students who scribble notes in the margins and saturate textbooks with fluorescent ink? Well, Amazon’s got that covered, too! Not only can students highlight and take notes in their digital textbooks but they’ll be able to refer to any margin notes and highlights made after the rental period is over. And with the cost of traditional print textbooks ranging in the thousands over the course of a college career, odds are rental programs like these will undoubtedly take off.

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Debt-Ceiling Deal Spares Pell Grant Program

August 1, 2011

Debt-Ceiling Deal Spares Pell Grant Program

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you’ve taken residence under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about the debt ceiling crisis. Thankfully, the White House and Congress have reached a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and shrink the federal deficit which avoids many of higher education’s worst-case scenarios, namely cuts to Pell Grants, the end of subsidized student loans or a government default that would leave student financial aid and other funding for colleges in limbo.

Here’s the breakdown: The agreement would cut $1 trillion right away and create a committee to reduce the deficit by another $1.5 trillion by November. If approved in Congress, it will avert default on the nation’s debts and ensure that the government has enough money for federal benefits, including student aid. In layman’s terms, the bill would provide $17 billion for the Pell Grant program but the measure would only be temporary. Because House conservatives oppose tax increases, it is likely that the committee charged with reducing the deficit will favor spending cuts over revenues increase, putting Pell Grants and other student aid programs at risk for cuts in the near future.

Do you think slashing funds for higher education is problematic? Let us know what you think.

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Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

August 2, 2011

Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a graduate student or considering graduate school, listen up: The debt deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Obama would make graduate school much more expensive.

According to the agreement, Congress would scrap subsidized federal loans for graduate students in an effort to trim the deficits. These loans don’t charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students have graduated; if they’re eliminated, some students will have to start paying back loans while they’re still in school. And if that isn’t bad enough, Congress will also ax a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments. The changes would take place July 1, 2012 and would save the government $21.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For graduate students who do qualify for the maximum amount of subsidized loans, this new agreement could tack on thousands of dollars to the already staggering cost of going to school. The reason behind the changes is the theory that the money saved by the student loan cuts would help pay to keep Pell Grants, which so far are maintained at a maximum grant of $5,550 a year for some 8 million poor students. “Full funding for Pell Grants is absolutely essential to fulfilling the president's goal of the U.S. once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Those considering graduate school, will these changes affect your decision to attend?

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UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

UC Board Approves 9.6-Percent Increase

July 18, 2011

UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

by Suada Kolovic

With the start of the fall semester just weeks away, University of California students can look forward to yet another tuition hike – a 9.6-percent increase, to be exact. On Thursday, the Board of Regents passed a $1,068 hike on top of a previously approved 8-percent hike for 2011-2012 school year. The regents voted 14-4 in favor of the second increase to cope with the $650 million cut in state funding for next year.

Undergraduate and graduate tuition for California residents will increase to $12,192 a year, not including room and board or campus fees. Now sure, that may not seem like much for college tuition but that’s a $1,890 (or 18 percent) increase from the amount UC undergraduates paid the previous year and more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Leigh Mason, a fourth-year student and student government activist at UC San Diego, said the timing of the tuition increase so close to the fall term has families scrambling. “For a family and student to find that, means it's not only hard but for some impossible,” said Mason, of San Jose. “Why not go to each UC and cut some overhead before coming to us for more revenue?”

According to UC officials, financial aid and tax credits will cover the increased tuition for many families earning less than $80,000 a year and the tuition increases won’t be imposed this coming school year on many families earning less than $120,000 annually. What do you think of the timing of the tuition hike approval? Is it fair for families to face another increase in tuition so close to the start of the fall semester?

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Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

May 4, 2011

Mork Family Donates $110 Million to USC

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Southern California has secured a major donation – the fourth of more than $50 million given to the university this school year alone – from Julie and John Mork. The couple donated $110 million to USC to fund the Mork Family Scholars Program, which will provide high school seniors “of extraordinary intellectual talent and capability full tuition and $5,000 living stipends,” the university said in a statement.

John Mork, a trustee who graduated from USC in 1970, is the chief executive officer of Energy Corp. of America, a private company that handles the exploration, extraction, production and transportation of natural gas and oil, based in Denver. “Attending USC is the dream of talented high school seniors from all walks of life,” said John Mork. “We hope this gift will help transform hundreds of young lives.” Julie Mork, who graduated from UCLA, is the managing director of the Energy Corp. of America Foundation, a charitable organization that focuses on children and education. According to the LA Times, about 100 undergraduates will benefit from the scholarships each year.

Now while this is the single largest donation in the university’s history for undergraduate scholarships, it isn’t the Morks first philanthropic gift to the school. In 2005, the family contributed $15 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that resulted in the naming of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science after the Mork family. And this time around, to show their appreciation, USC will place a plaque with the names and images of the Mork family at Bovard Auditorium.

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Sallie Mae to Cut Student Loan Interest Rates

May 17, 2011

Sallie Mae to Cut Student Loan Interest Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we love the idea of students going to college debt-free but the reality is that student loans, for the most part, are a necessity in today’s educational world. And while private student loans should be a last resort when paying for college, it can help bridge the gap for families who have maxed out federal loan limits. The silver lining: Sallie Mae is lowering its interest rates on student loans.

The new cap on Sallie Mae’s rate will be 9.875 percent plus LIBOR, which is the interest rate that banks charge each other for loans. The new lowest available rate will be LIBOR plus 2 percent, which reflects a half percent rate reduction. But remember, the exact interest rate Sallie Mae assigns to a specific loan will vary depending on the borrower’s credit score and repayment option. They’re also offering students the option to make $25 monthly payments while they’re in school to counter interest costs or defer payments until graduation. Another added bonus: For loans disbursed between July 1 and Oct. 1, Sallie Mae is offering free tuition insurance for a year.

All these perks aside, Sallie Mae can’t compete with federal loans that come with a fixed rate of 6.8 percent but a cut in student loan interest rates is still a win in my book.

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