July 30, 2008
The new version of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is at last moving to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote. After seven years of waiting and debating, Congressional reauthorization of the HEA could finally happen in the next week, setting the stage for a number of changes in federal student financial aid for college students.
Among other things, the reauthorized HEA would:
Many other changes appear in the 1,158 pages of the bill, which has been a long time coming. The Higher Education Act is supposed to be reauthorized every 5 years, but it has been 10 years since the previous version passed. The new HEA should help financial aid programs adapt to the present situation students face, and should help students better assess and plan for the costs of a college education.
July 31, 2008
More students than ever are attending college. The economy's in a slump. Gas prices are through the roof. Rent keeps going up, especially in college towns. Everything is getting more expensive, including food. What does all this add up to? Housing shortages on college campuses, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. As many students opt to live in the dorms, as a way to save money in college by avoiding the cost of rent, gas, and food, as well as the time involved in getting to campus, many schools are running out of places to put all their students. For some students, this problem has been familiar for years--for example, during my sophomore year of college, my university wound up renting, and later purchasing, a hotel near campus to house some of their incoming freshmen--but for others, this phenomenon is new and surprising.
Many families are displeased at the thought of paying that daunting housing bill for their students to still be living off-campus and having to commute a mile or more to get to class. But placing students in a hotel or an apartment off-campus isn't the only makeshift housing solution being implemented by universities this fall. Other students will wind up in converted lounges, triple-occupancy dorm rooms, former office space, or recently reopened buildings. Still some undergraduate students, like 725 University of Missouri attendees, may wind up paying on-campus rates for swanky apartments with full kitchens and plasma TVs thanks to the housing shortage on campus.
While many of these housing arrangements can be just as good as or even be better than traditional dorm space at some institutions, students should be aware of the potential for on-campus housing crunches at their schools. Incoming high school seniors who are starting the college search should decide early whether they want to live on campus in 2009, should be sure to ask questions about housing on their campus visits, and should apply for housing at the earliest possible date. Students currently living on-campus should also be proactive in procuring living arrangements for future semesters. Familiarize yourself with your university's housing policies and housing situation, and be sure you're taking all steps necessary to get the best on-campus housing possible.
August 1, 2008
August 5, 2008
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August 8, 2008
Earlier this week, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick asked his state's wealthiest universities (such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to help bail out the Massachusetts Education Financing Authority (MEFA), which announced last week that it would not be able to provide loans to over 40,000 students this fall. However, as an article published today in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains, many parties regard this request as well-intentioned but highly problematic, mainly due to recent lawsuits and legislation regarding potential conflicts of interest in relationships between colleges and student loan providers. The Massachusetts state treasurer, who vetoed the governor's request to invest money in MEFA, stated that bailing out MEFA was not a good investment and could set a dangerous precedent for use of state funds. While several colleges said they would consider investing in MEFA to help them provide enough loans to be able to receive assistance from the federal government, none have yet said yes, and many express concerns about what people will think of their relationship with the lending agency once the economy recovers. When viewed in light of last year's preferred lender list scandal, such hesitation is understandable.
However, while both sides of this issue have adopted positions based on sound principles and the belief in doing what will ultimately be best for students, thousands of students are still left in a lurch when it comes to finding money for college. With the new Higher Education Act still sitting on President Bush's desk, and the school year fast approaching, many families, and not just ones in Massachusetts, may be struggling to find ways to pay for school. It's never too late to start applying for financial aid, though! Students who haven't yet done so should complete a FAFSA on the Web, which could potentially qualify you for federal grant programs. Once you've received your financial aid award letter, be sure to talk to your school's financial aid office, especially if you plan on receiving loans. Finally, students of all ages should also check out our free scholarship search, as there are scholarships being awarded year-round, and scholarship awards can be one of the best means of funding your education.
August 15, 2008
Yesterday, President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the official reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which governs federal student financial aid for college, as well as other federal programs and regulations that pertain to higher education.
Under the new version of the HEA students can expect a number of benefits when it comes to finding money for college. Some of the changes include:
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also offers a point-by-point breakdown of the Higher Education Opportunity Act on their website.
August 20, 2008
The results of a poll conducted by Sallie Mae and Gallup were released today, painting a picture of where Americans across income levels find money for college. The study found that sources of funding varied, with parent borrowing (16%), student borrowing (23%), and parent income and savings (32%) taking care of the majority of college costs. Scholarships and grants followed closely behind, making up 15 percent of college funding.
The average grant and scholarship awards and student loan amounts were roughly the same for low income families (families making below $50,000 a year), while middle income families relied most heavily on parent income and student loans, and high income families (families making above $100,000 a year) predominantly used parent income and savings to pay for school.
While more students than parents were likely to rule out a school at some point in their college search based on cost (63% vs. 54%), two in five families said that cost was not a consideration in choosing the right college for them, and 70 percent of students and parents said that future income was not a factor when determining how much to borrow.
Additionally, 20 percent of families reported using either a second mortgage or a credit card to pay some portion of tuition, while only 9 percent of families reported using a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan, to pay for part of tuition (though those who did were able to cover nearly $8,000 of the cost of college with one). The study also found that only 76 percent of students whose families made between $35,000 and $50,000 per year, many of whom may be eligible for state and federal grant programs, did not complete the FAFSA. Only 73 percent of familes making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year completed a FAFSA, despite many families' reliance on loans to pay for college.
The full text of the report is available on the Sallie Mae website.
August 21, 2008
The results of a poll conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup were released today, revealing current American attitudes towards education, at both the high school and college levels. The majority of respondents were in favor of increasing funding for and access to education at all levels.
According to the poll,
August 22, 2008
If you're thinking about enrolling in a community college, it looks like you're not alone. Community colleges across the country are reporting increases in enrollment of up to 10% for the fall semester, with registration still ongoing at many schools. The present economic situation in the U.S. is prompting more and more people to consider attending college, while concerns about rising costs of living and potential difficulties finding money for college are causing more people to worry about how to pay for school. Additionally, community colleges continue to ramp up their efforts to attract students and provide high-quality education at an affordable price.
All of these factors combine to make community colleges an attractive educational option for many students. With new legislation in the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act requiring universities to make their transfer credit policies for undergraduate students more transparent, and a preliminary study being conducted by the Department of Education to identify some potential student concerns in the transfer process, it's also becoming easier for students to start at a community college, then later transfer to a four-year university.
There can be some drawbacks to community colleges, though. According to one study, community college students may be less likely to have concrete plans for just how long they will attend school and more likely to leave college without attaining a degree, but a large part of this could be due to community colleges attracting a more diverse group of students. Additionally, community college instructors are often not as experienced and credentialed as their peers at four-year schools, though students can still find themselves taking intro courses from adjuncts and graduate students at many state universities.
So if you're open-minded and willing to transfer, consider community colleges in your college search. Community college students enjoy lower tuition, take many of the same general education classes as their peers at public and private universities, are eligible for federal student financial aid, and in some cases even have the option to live on-campus. For many students they can be great ways to ease into college life without going too deep into student loan debt.
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