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Financial Aid Expands at Three More Colleges

October 15, 2008

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.

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Presidential Candidates' Education Advisors to Debate October 21

October 17, 2008

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.

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College Affordability a Major Issue for Many U.S. Voters

October 16, 2008

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.

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Fewer Families Are Saving for College

October 21, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Just in case you haven't heard enough reasons to kick your scholarship search into high gear, an article appearing last week in The Boston Globe reported that one third of parents have cut back on or altogether stopped saving for college.  According to a study by Fidelity Investments, the current economic situation has left many parents less equipped to help their children pay for school.

The study found that parents have fewer resources to devote to students' college expenses due to drops in values of investments and home equity. To help make up this difference, 35 percent of parents reported plans to delay retirement in order to better help their college-aged children pay bills.  Parents are also asking more of college students, with 55 percent expecting their kids to work part-time, 44 percent hoping their kids will live at home while attending college, and 37 percent encouraging their children to attend less expensive state colleges.  Additionally, 62 percent of parents expect their children to take out student loans--a figure that makes sense coupled with the 16 percent increase in FAFSA applications reported earlier this year.

When coupled with anecdotal evidence, such as another Boston Globe piece highlighting Massachusettes families' increased interest in public universities for 2009, this study stresses the need for students to ramp up their efforts to find money for college.  While federal student financial aid and private loans are being turned to more and more, college scholarships are still options for students industrious enough to find them.  If you're already attending college or currently in the midst of the college application process and haven't yet started searching for scholarships, now is a good time to begin.  Between now and February, a great number of scholarship opportunities will open up for applications, so the sooner you know what's out there, the better a chance you'll have of winning scholarships.

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Survey Says Credit Crunch Has Affected Private Colleges

October 22, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities indicate that at least a few students at many private colleges and universities were unable to obtain enough private loan funding to pay their fall tuition.  The survey also indicates that the credit crunch may have steered a number of students away from private schools.

More than 500 NAICU member schools responded to the survey, which asked questions about the availability of Stafford loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the availability of private student loans, and unanticipated enrollment shifts.  Eighty-five percent of schools reported that they had lost at least one FFELP lender, but the vast majority had no difficulty replacing these lenders.  Additionally, most colleges lost at least one private lender, with 27 percent of those schools reporting that students had some difficulty finding a replacement lender.

More than half of colleges surveyed reported they had at least some students who were unable to secure private loan funds for the current semester, and 45 percent of schools reported students changing their enrollment status due to financial concerns.  Eighteen percent of colleges surveyed reported fewer returning students and 19 percent reported a smaller freshman class than anticipated.  While most colleges reported no significant changes in enrollment, it appears some private college students (who are typically the most likely group to qualify for student loans) are being forced to alter their educational plans due to the current economic situation.

Three quarters of private colleges surveyed also reported increased financial need among their student populations.  Coupled with the rise in FAFSA files across the board and preliminary reports of more demand for financial aid coming from state universities and community colleges, it appears competition is getting stiffer for need-based student financial aid.  This is just one more reason for students to ramp up their scholarship search and find money for college as soon as possible.

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Times Aren't Tough All Over

October 29, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

In the current economy, the outlook can seem pretty bleak for those just starting down the path towards a college degree.  Declining private loan availability, tighter credit requirements, soaring tuition rates, less money being saved for college, and cuts in higher ed funding make going to college tougher now than it's been in the past.  Students leaving school also face a tougher hiring situation and steep student loan debt.  And those trying to remain in academia permanently face hiring freezes and fewer available tenure-track positions.

This is the situation in most of the country, but a few states rich in oil and natural gas are now experiencing a different reality.  Texas, Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota, among other mineral-rich states, are updating, expanding, and generally improving their education systems in the wake of budget surpluses.  This means hiring more faculty, building better facilities, adding degree programs, and possibly even halting the steady advance of tuition increases.  North Dakota is even considering providing its students with more grant and scholarship opportunitiesTexas universities, in particular, are upping their recruitment of high-quality faculty according to an article appearing today in The Chronicle of Higher Education

So, if you're still wide open about where you'd like to attend college and you don't mind extreme heat, extreme cold, or a fair amount of isolation, maybe you want to direct your college search towards a state with a booming economy.  Attending college in Alaska or North Dakota is certainly an unusual move, but if you're paying less for tuition and gaining access to rapidly expanding university resources and job opportunities, it could pay off in the end.

 Looking for other unconventional educational opportunities in the recession? You could also move to Detroit and win a newly-established Kid Rock Scholarship to attend Wayne State University.  Of course, there's always the option of spending more time on your financial aid and scholarship search so you can more easily afford a wider range of schools.  But where's the adventure in that?

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Statistical Snapshot of College Costs and Spending

October 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Curious how colleges are weathering the recession?  Wondering just how different things are now than when your parents (or even your older siblings) went to college?  Reuters recently published a roundup of educational figures related to enrollment, endowments, student loans, and college costs.  Many of these statistics have already shown up elsewhere in the Scholarships.com blog. 

Tuition, fees, room, and board totaled $31,019 at private colleges, $16,758 for in-state students at state universities, and $24,955 for out-of-state public university students.  Two-thirds of students at four-year schools received some form of grants, averaging $3,600 at public schools and $9,300 at private schools. 

Federal student loans have become increasingly popular since the mid-1990s, with students borrowing a total of $77 billion to pay for school in 2007.  The class of 2007 carried 6 percent more debt than the class of 2006 upon graduation. 

Tuition and borrowing are likely to continue to increase, as endowments have taken a hit in the stock market and state support for higher education also continues to fall.  State funding covered 2/3 of public university budgets in 1998, but only covered half their budgets in 2007.  Tuition also accounts for a larger percentage of college budgets.  More students may also put their educational plans on hold due to increased difficulty finding money for college.

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State Governors Request Maintenance of Effort Waiver

October 31, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Remember that provision in the Higher Education Act that was supposed to help keep tuition down by requiring states to maintain their level of funding for higher education?  Since state governments are required to balance their budgets each year, the act included a provision that allowed the Secretary of Education to waive this "Maintenance of Effort" requirement in the event of "a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of a State or State educational agency."

Yesterday, the National Governors Assocation sent a letter to Margaret Spellings arguing that the current economic situation qualifies as such a circumstance.  The letter cites the budgeting crisis over half the country currently faces, with a budget shortfall of more than $26 billion spread across 27 states and expected to grow.  States are forced to make tough choices to balance their budgets, and the choice of cutting funding to higher education is certainly among these.

If the Maintenance of Effort requirement is not waived, states that fail to maintain required levels of higher education spending will lose out on some federal grant money designed to help low-income students prepare for and attend college.  Either way, students struggling to pay for school may find themselves struggling more next year.  So keep plugging away at those scholarship applications!

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Election Day Roundup: Education Issues at Stake in '08

November 4, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

It's November 4th, and that means election day for everyone in the U.S. If you haven't already cast an early or an absentee ballot, here's yet another reminder to show up at the polls today.  Education has become a major concern due to economic instability, decreasing availability of student loans, and the rising costs of attending college.  Today you can make your opinion on education known, and not only in the Presidential and Congressional races.

Voters in eleven states will pick a new governor, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, new governors in five states will play an important role in setting educational policies in coming years.  Voters in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Vermont, and Washington can check out coverage of what's at stake in terms of education here

State referenda in thirteen states also have the potential to affect educational policy on issues ranging from school funding to affirmative action.  The Chronicle of Higher Education provides info on these referenda here, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education also addresses them here

If you're just starting down the road to a college education, the people elected today and the measures passed today will have a direct influence on the shape of your academic journey.  Your ability to fund your education, your experience at college, your ability to meet your college goals, and even your chances of getting into the college of your choice could change based on what happens today.  So if you can, read up on the issues and get out there and vote.

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More Financial Ups and Downs for Schools and Students

November 12, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Colleges are continuing to face financial hardships due to the current global economic crisis.  Endowments have shrunken by an average of 30 percent this year, primarily in the last two months.  Numerous colleges and universities, both public and private, are cutting or freezing spending, and several institutions have been forced to implement hiring freezes, offer early retirement to employees, or lay off employees.  Even Harvard University has announced a more conservative approach to future spending.  An article appearing in the New York Times earlier this week shows some schools considering a move away from entirely need-blind admissions policies (which ignore students' ability to pay when determining who to admit) in order to ensure they receive enough tuition revenue to maintain their financial aid programs.

Meanwhile, families are in similarly rough shape.  Investments are in trouble, unemployment is up, and families are having trouble getting home equity loans or other lines of credit that they may have previously used to cover tuition529 plans have taken a hit, as well, and student loans have also tightened credit requirements.  All this means that students might face greater difficulty getting into and paying for school.

So that's the bad news.  Now for some good news: 

     
  • Congress has expanded the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA) to make it easier for banks to access enough funds to make loans.  The increases in unsubsidized Stafford Loan limits have also been renewed into the next academic year.  This could further shore up the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and make it easier for students to borrow what they need to pay for school.  A new economic stimulus package is in the works, as well, and part of the money involved may go to Federal Pell Grants.
  •  
  • Despite financial difficulties, colleges are pledging to maintain or increase their spending on campus-based aid for their students.
  •  
  • The Department of Education is planning to present its vision for simplifying and improving the federal student financial aid program.  One of the most notable aspects of the new plan is the proposal to shorten the FAFSA on the Web application.  Greater efforts to standardize federal aid among colleges are also being proposed.
  •  
  • A new study indicates that what you get out of a college experience might be less dependent on where you go to college than on how you choose to approach your education.  Researchers found more variance among learning outcomes and student satisfaction within institutions than among them.  In fact, 90% of the difference in quality reported by students occurs among individual students attending college on the same campus.  So if you do find yourself having to take a pass on your dream college, a positive attitude can make your experience at your safety school just as rewarding.
  •  

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