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by Scholarships.com Staff

While the U.S. Presidential debates have wrapped up for 2008, voters interested in hearing more about each candidate's plans for education policy have an opportunity to watch a debate between the candidates' educational advisors on Tuesday.  The debate will take place at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City and will be webcast live by Education Week

Due to the worsening economic situation in the United States, more and more families are having trouble finding money for college.  Lenders leaving the Federal Family Education Loan Program and discontinuing private student loans have required some families to look elsewhere for financial aid, while lost income and tougher credit requirements have made it harder for other families to come up with the funds required to pay for school.  While industrious students certainly can find college scholarships and grants, many voters would like to see schools and the federal government find ways to increase these sources of funding.  Simplifying the financial aid application process and curbing the rising cost of tuition are other issues many would like to see the next administration tackle. 

The quality of public education at the K-12 level also remains a concern for many voters.  With more and more families viewing a college education as essential, adequate college preparation has become increasingly important.  Yet many students require remedial education upon entering college, minorities are still are less likely to go to or finish college, and many voters are disenchanted with standardized testing and No Child Left Behind

This debate will likely provide voters with more complete information on each campaign's education plans.  If education policy is a major issue for you this election, consider tuning in to the webcast at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 21.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

Despite the relatively small amount of time spent on issues of higher education in the presidential debates, a survey by the National Education Association shows that many voters, especially college students and their parents, consider college costs to be one of the main issues in the upcoming presidential election.

Thirty-four percent of college students and parents of college students polled consider college affordability the single most important issue of the 2008 election.  70 percent of parents and 65 percent of students said that it was important that the next president making it easier for families to pay for school.  Additionally, the vast majority of those surveyed said that a college education is fast becoming a necessity, yet also espoused a belief that attending college is more of a financial burden now than it was 10 years ago.

Each candidate addressed educational policy directly in last night's debate, after touching on parts of their plans briefly in previous debates.  Senator McCain's proposal for college affordability centers around shoring up the federal student loan system and making it easier for students to borrow what they need from the government, especially through the FFEL program. He also put an emphasis on expanding the role of community colleges in training displaced workers.  Senator Obama, on the other hand, favors a $4,000 higher education tax credit for families to help with tuition costs, as well as efforts to improve college access and reduce students' student loan burdens, stressing the fact that many students alter their career goals due to debt.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

Texas A&M, Boston University, and Vanderbilt University have all recently announced expanded financial aid programs to help lower-and-middle-class students deal with the rising cost of college education and the tough economic situation the country currently faces. 

This news comes as many other colleges are announcing budget cuts and tuition hikes in order to break even in the face of declining state funding. Proposed cuts to higher education funding currently range from a one percent cut in Maryland to a reduction of funding by more than 14 percent in Nevada, according to a recent write-up in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Despite financial concerns, though, more and more schools are digging into their pockets to find additional scholarship and grant money for their students.  Texas A&M will provide free tuition to all freshmen with a family income below $60,000 and a GPA above 2.5.  Boston University plans to meet all financial need for every Boston public school graduate admitted to the university.  Vanderbilt will replace all need-based student loans with grants for its students starting next fall, though it still needs to raise an additional $100 million to fully fund the program.

U.S. News and World Report provides more information on these new financial aid programs.  You can find out more about these and other generous institutions by conducting a college search on Scholarships.com.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

While a report released Tuesday by the Department of Education shows relatively low rates of tuition increase over the last two years, other data and expert opinions suggest that the same will not hold true next year.  Between the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 academic years, tuition at four-year public and private colleges for in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students showed increases of 3.4 to 6.7 percent, adjusted for inflation. 

Out-of-state tuition at public state universities stayed relatively low, increasing 3.4 percent to $13,630.  In-state tuition at public universities went up 5.3 percent over two years to $5,749.  Non-profit private universities saw a 6.7 percent tuition increase, bringing the total amount of tuition and fees to $19,337, while for-profit private universities increased tuition 5.2 percent to $14,782.

However, the economic downturn of 2008 is likely to spur much larger tuition increases as states lose tax revenue.  A report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government warns that state tax collections may fall sharply this year, with revenues from sales taxes, corporate income taxes, and fuel taxes already falling in the second quarter of 2008.  Some states are already cutting budgets to deal with potential revenue shortfalls and increasing inflation, and the trend is likely to spread. 

This could hurt higher education funding and force universities to increase tuition, especially since they also must contend with inflation, with providing financial aid to students in tougher financial situations, and with other potential drops in funding caused by the credit crunch.  Announcements of tuition increases likely won't happen for months, but for high school seniors and other students in the process of choosing a college, potential tuition hikes are definitely something to keep in mind during the college application process.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

Many community college students who appear to be eligible for federal student financial aid don't apply, according to a report released Monday by the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

The report indicated three major reasons for not applying for aid, with 20 percent of students reporting other reasons.  The main reasons students didn't apply for aid were:\r\n
    \r\n
  • They thought they were not eligible (39 percent)
  • \r\n
  • They had sufficient funds to pay for college expenses (35 percent)
  • \r\n
  • They found the FAFSA too complicated (6 percent)
  • \r\n
\r\nAdditionally, many community college students, including 28 percent of students with family incomes below $10,000 worked more than 30 hours a week.  The report cites previous research that has indicated that students who work more than 15-20 hours a week while attending college full-time see a negative impact on their academic performance.  This stresses the importance of these students learning of their financial aid eligibility, namely their increased Federal Pell Grant eligibility under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

This is just the latest report stressing the need for students attending community colleges, especially those planning to transfer to four-year schools to complete a bachelor's degree, to investigate financial aid options thoroughly.  With lower rates of degree completion, higher rates of student loan defaults, and lower likelihood of applying for college scholarships and grants, community college students can easily find themselves in an unnecessarily difficult financial situation.

Hard work, perseverence, and a commitment to exploring all options for financial aid can keep community college students on the path to success.  If you're attending or planning to attend a community college, start by completing the FAFSA on the web, conducting a scholarship search, and meeting with a financial aid advisor to minimize student loans, avoid working yourself to death, and find money for college.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

So far colleges and college students have been weathering the credit crunch and financial troubles on Wall Street fairly well.  Students have been able to get student loans and pay for school, and colleges have been able to raise money for projects and provide students with needed services and even additional scholarship money in many cases.  However, events of the past few weeks appear to be starting to take a toll on colleges and universities.

Earlier this week, many universities saw their investments held in the Commonfund, which was run by Wachovia, frozen after the bank announced that it would sell its operations to Citigroup this week.  Schools were initially given access to only 10 percent of Commonfund funds in order to prevent a run on the bank.  While the amount has increased and crisis has largely been averted for universities depending on this money for regular operating costs, there was initial concern this week that some schools might not be able to make payroll.

Boston University announced a freeze on future hiring and construction projects earlier this week, and the University of Memphis announced a voluntary buyout plan for 115 positions within the university.  Other colleges are beginning to struggle financially, as well, as they face the prospect of smaller donations and less state funding.  The economic downturn may lead to more staffing cuts, fewer resources available to students, higher tuition, and even smaller or fewer financial aid awards (especially in the case of scholarship awards that rely on alumni donations for funding each year).

While students typically flock to colleges and universities when they can't find employment, the impact of the economic downturn and the continued (though still entirely theoretical) threat of a lack of student loan or federal aid funding for students may cause some students to decide against attending college, or to make their decision based entirely on which option is cheapest.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, in addition to offering a thorough description of the impact of the economic downturn on higher education, also gives a list of prospective winners and losers if the situation continues to worsen.  The top of the list of losers?  Middle class families.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

A working paper put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides new data on the learning outcomes of students who enroll at a community college with the intent to transfer to a four year school. The paper, discussed in detail in an article in Inside Higher Ed, suggests that even accounting for differences in educational goals, students starting at community colleges are less likely to earn a bachelor's degree in nine years than students who start at a four-year college.

The study tracked students who enrolled in Ohio's colleges and universities in 1998 and used a survey of incoming students from that year to determine career and college goals. Researchers then looked at the learning outcomes of community college students who took the ACT or professed an interest in ultimately getting a bachelor's degree.  The results showed that these students were 14.5 percent less likely than their counterparts at four-year colleges and universities to graduate.

The article stresses the difficulty in comparing students at the two different types of colleges.  Community college students tend to be from lower-income backgrounds and are more likely to be minorities or adult students, which can all be factors in students' likelihood to earn a degree.  The study also doesn't account for whether the difference is simply due to changes in plans.  Many students choose the less expensive option of community college because they are unsure of their educational goals, so it's likely those goals might change and students might decide to walk away with an associate's degree.

More research still needs to be done, but students who are considering starting at a two-year college then transferring may want to keep these numbers in mind.  While the study shows that students who do successfully transfer to a four-year state college do just as well as students who start in one, the transfer process can be difficult and daunting.  Students have to navigate the application process, degree requirements, and other hurdles at two institutions, and there's not always a guarantee that a student's credits will successfully transfer.  This can dissuade less dedicated students and students with fewer resources, as can the higher cost of tuition at a four-year university. Community college students also may not be sure what to expect in college at the baccalaureate level and may feel unprepared.

If you plan to put in a year or two at a community college then transfer, do your research thoroughly and make sure you're making the right college choice.  You'll need to have a clear sense of where you want to go and what you want to do, and find out as much as possible about what will be involved in transferring as early as you can. Learn about financial aid options available to you as a transfer student and make sure your plan will really make your bachelor's degree cheaper. Finally, don't get discouraged and keep your eyes on the prize.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

In the wake of the credit crisis of the past year, innumerable articles have been written about the impact on the student loan industry, as several student lending agencies have been forced to stop offering federal and private loans to students or at least scale back their operations considerably.  Credit requirements have gotten more stringent for students whose lenders are still in business, and taking out a student loan is an even more time-consuming and uncertain process now than ever.

At the same time, the economic downturn that's accompanied the credit crisis is highlighting the difficulty students are facing repaying all of these student loans--loans they're being told now that they're lucky to get.  Many students feel caught in a difficult position.  Do they take out student loans, go horribly in debt, but get to ultimately pursue a fulfilling degree and a potentially more fulfilling career?  Do they work full-time through school and take longer to get the degree and spend less time in their dream job? Or do they minimize debt by going to work sooner in a field that's easier to break into and requires less education?

According to the results of a survey published in the Boston Business Journal, that first option might not even be an option for many students.  An online poll of 336 recent college grads revealed that 47 percent said that their career pursuits were influenced by their need to make student loan payments, while 25 percent reported putting future education plans on hold in order to minimize debt.  While these numbers are the results of only one web survey, they still send a pretty clear message that avoiding student loans is a good idea when trying to pay your way through school.

Congress is advocating the wider adoption of college savings accounts, such as 529 plans, and more universities are retooling their financial aid packages to benefit more needy students and rely more heavily on scholarships than on student loans. Many of the nation's top colleges have made a commitment to helping all accepted students afford to attend, and other schools are offering larger scholarship awards to students who most need them, as well.  For example, Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia just launched the Starfish Initiative, where anonymous donations are used to cover the remaining tuition balances of deserving seniors who might otherwise need to take out a substantial private loan or leave college.

But institutional aid and college savings accounts aren't the only options available to students.  A vast number of scholarship opportunities are out there, and despite the scholarship myths you may have heard, you can fund a substantial portion of your college education with such sources.  So start your scholarship search early and be persistent.  While soaring college costs and a weak economy may make it harder to pay for school, they don't mean you have to stay home or be overwhelmed by debt.  Do your research and find out what resources are available to help fund your 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!

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by Scholarships.com Staff

A study abroad experience can be an important part of attending college.  Study abroad programs expose college students to other languages and cultures, giving them a valuable experience beyond mere tourism, and allowing them to gain a better sense of the wider world and their place in it.  For many students, trips abroad help shape their identities and their college experiences, typically for the better.  However, for many students, studying abroad is still seen as an option open only to white, well-traveled, and well-off students.

This stereotype has been highlighted both by popular media (the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a post in the popular blog Stuff White People Like, which humorously explains trends embraced by young, urban, middle-class, and predominately white people) and by academia.  Unfortunately, unlike other stereotypes and scholarship myths, it has some truth to it, as more white students tend to travel abroad while in school.  However, colleges and scholarship providers are struggling to change this and attract more minority and working-class students to study abroad programs.

Over the last few years, many schools have increased efforts to promote study abroad as something not only attainable but desirable for students who haven't yet traveled outside the US.  These efforts include making minority students more visible in promotional materials, making shorter and more affordable study abroad options available, and highlighting financial aid opportunities available to lower income students.

One such scholarship award, mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which helps fund semesters abroad for Pell Grant recipients.  Numerous other study abroad scholarships exist, and low-income and minority students, as well as any students unsure of their ability to afford to study outside the country, are encouraged to apply.  To find out more about study abroad programs, talk to the study abroad office at your college.  To find more scholarship money for study abroad, conduct a free scholarship search on Scholarships.com, where we list several awards applicable to studying outside the country, as well as other opportunities for need-based financial aid and scholarships for minorities.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

In order to reduce the amount their students have to spend on textbooks, more and more professors are using course material that can be found for free.  With the advent of sites such as Google Books, which serve as valuable and easily accessible sources of full-text works that are no longer copyrighted, students can get their course material for free, rather than having to shell out $15 or more for a brand new copy of a book originally published a century ago.  I noticed this trend gaining momentum throughout my academic career, especially in courses geared towards graduate students.

This option to access older literature online and save money is nice, but it still leaves students who don't want to spend hours hunched over their computers with the task of tracking down a hard copy of the book on their own, especially since my professors, at least, never seemed to place bookstore orders for texts they knew we could find for free.  Buying a copy requires forethought and printing the complete text of a 200-page essay can eat up a student's morning and their on-campus printing budget.  This scenario too often leaves students with less than a week to find, read, annotate, and understand a lengthy reading assignment for class.

The University of Michigan has just taken a step to make procuring books for class easier.  They have purchased and installed a machine, dubbed the "ATM of Books," that can print and bind a book in a few minutes at a cost to students of around $10 per copy.  This isn't much more expensive than buying a used paperback online or in the bookstore and is much faster and more convenient.

The Espresso Book Machine has access to the school's database of pre-1923 books, as well as websites that offer works that are not copyrighted, such as open-source textbooks.  Coupled with trends in making more course-related content available online, such as Stanford's recent move to place engineering and computer science course materials online, widespread use of the Espresso Book Machine could revolutionize the way students get textbooks.

This is nothing but good news for students: free digital course material, $10 bound copies of textbooks, and no worries about hunting all over for a book or printing a copy and losing pages.  With the prospect of eventually spending as little as $40-100 on textbooks for a semester, students at the University of Michigan will be able to stretch their financial aid dollars further and dip less into their college savings for books.  As online libraries of free textbooks continue to expand, hopefully other schools will invest in similar tools, cutting down on students' book expenses and making it a little bit easier to pay for school.

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 Scholarships.com Staff

Despite the student loan credit crunch that has been repeatedly making headlines this year, students and parents in several New England states had little to no trouble finding money for college this fall, according to a survey conducted by the New England Board of Higher Education.

The survey asked financial aid administrators at 214 colleges and universities to assess the level of difficulty students faced finding financial aid, as well as the effectiveness of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed by Congress earlier this year to ensure continued availability of Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) funds.

The survey found an increase in students borrowing unsubsidized Stafford Loans, as well as no major concerns over the availabilty of those funds through FFELP lenders.  It also showed that more families have borrowed Federal PLUS Loans this year, possibly due to recent changes that allow families to defer payments until after students graduate.  These changes seem to have mostly made up for the decreased availability of private student loans.  However, some financial aid administrators are still concerned over continued availability of student loans, and caution that families may face difficulties making tuition payments in future semesters.

Based on this information, it appears there's little reason to put your college plans on hold, but you might still want to devote an increased amount of time to finding scholarships.  While it looks like students are still able to pay for school, changes in the student loan landscape may still leave some students without a plan B for covering college costs if their initial plans fall through.

Really, though, financial aid advice hasn't changed much.  Now, as always, planning ahead is key.  As always, a good college financing strategy involves doing the following: conduct a scholarship search, take time to complete the FAFSA, learn about and take advantage of all possible federal student financial aid, apply for university scholarships and campus-based aid, and only then consider applying for a private student loan.

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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