September 30, 2008
The U.S. Department of Education released a series of new statistical reports last week showing a dramatic increase in participation in the federal direct lending student loan program. Motivated largely by the economic downturn and the credit crunch of the last year, 400 new colleges joined the federal direct lending program. Overall, student borrowing through the program has increased by 50 percent in the last year.
The federal direct lending program provides students at participating schools with Stafford Loans directly, instead of going through the intermediary of a bank, as is done in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). In previous years, borrowing through FFELP could land students with lower interest rates, as well as significant repayment incentives, but that has changed significantly since 2007 as a result of subsidy cuts and economic difficulties faced by FFELP lenders. Since direct loans are serviced directly by the Education Department, they are largely exempt from the fallout of the credit crunch and are currently more appealing to many colleges.
There is good news for students at schools that continue to participate in FFELP, though. Lenders are participating in the loan buyback program enacted as part of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act passed earlier this year. About 40 percent of the student loans in the bank system have been sold to the Education Department, with paperwork being completed on much of the remaining balance. This move appears to have worked to allow lenders to fund loans for students, as the Education Department also reports that not a single student has had to participate in the federal "lender of last resort" program.
In other financial aid news, Congress recently approved $2.5 billion in Pell Grant funding, to help tide the program over through March 2009, at which point most spring semester grant awards should have been disbursed. All of this news suggests that students are highly likely to be able to continue to find federal student financial aid for college, at least for the forseeable future. Of course, finding scholarships and avoiding student loans is still a smart plan, but this news suggests that despite growing fears about the economy, federal financial aid will still be available to students who need it.
October 2, 2008
October 7, 2008
October 15, 2008
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.
November 18, 2008
Are you considering a career in public service, such as working for the government or a non-profit organization, but more than slightly overwhelmed by the thought of repaying your student loans with an often minuscule salary? Realizing that you may actually be taking a pay cut to transition from your summer job to your "grown up" career can be demoralizing, and dealing with debt on top of that certainly doesn't help. While many noble individuals certainly make this sacrifice, perhaps you were hoping to forget where the grocery store kept its "manager's special" items after you graduated. And who can blame you? The college budget diet, and the accompanying lifestyle of cramming half a dozen people into one run-down apartment, eventually does get old. Luckily, there are forms of financial aid out there to minimize or relieve your debt and help you stretch that public servant salary a little further.
Some of the most well-known career-based assistance programs are designed for teachers. The TEACH grant contributes $4000 a year towards the tuition of students who agree to teach a high-need subject at a low-income school for four years. Other programs such as Teach for America offer teaching certification, a stipend, and assistance with student loan repayment to individuals agreeing to teach in certain schools.
Teachers and other public servants can also qualify to have their Federal Perkins Loans canceled, saving up to $16,000. Nursing students and other medical students can get in on this program, as well. The federal government also launched a public service loan repayment program a year ago that will forgive qualifying federal student loan debt for those who commit ten years to public service. In addition, a variety of government scholarships provide incentives for students in various majors to consider federal work.
An article appearing in USA Today this week also mentions some university-specific programs to help steer students towards public service careers. Harvard Law School will waive tuition for one year for students who commit to five years in government or non-profit fields, and Princeton University will provide free master's degrees to eight 2008 graduates who first put in two years in federal jobs. Tufts University is also helping its undergraduate students pay down debt or pursue graduate degrees if they commit a few years to public service work.
If you're leaning towards a career with a government agency or non-profit organization, be aware of the scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships, and loan repayment programs out there. Include a free college scholarship search in your research to find out about many of your options for funding your education and minimizing your debt.
December 3, 2008
December 4, 2008
Providing incentives for good grades is an increasingly common policy for parents of elementary and high school students. In my household, report card day meant personal pan pizzas and a reprieve from the topping battle among my sister who didn't eat cheese, my sister who only ate cheese, and my own vote for a supreme pizza with extra cheese. After pizza ceased to be a point of contention, my parents switched to the popular plan of offering financial incentives for good grades. I don't remember the pay scale exactly, but I do remember missing it once I hit college. Many undergraduate students are probably in the same boat, thinking about how even $10 or $20 per A could mean fewer trips to the plasma bank or even an extra textbook or two next semester.Two brothers, who also happen to hold economics degrees from Harvard and Princeton, had a similar idea. Michael and Matthew Kopko launched the website GradeFund last month to apply a model similar to fundraising for a marathon, where sponsors pledge to donate a certain amount per mile completed, to finding money for college. College students' friends and family members, as well as corporate sponsors and others interested in donating money to help deserving students fund their educations, sign up on the site to give a certain dollar amount per grade earned to a particular student.Students create profiles donors can search, and are matched up with people interested in helping them finance their educations. Rather than agreeing to provide student loans or cover tuition in exchange for work, like in other peer-to-peer financial aid programs we've mentioned on our blog, donors on GradeFund, like scholarship providers, don't require anything in return for their donations. While it's unlikely that a student will pay for their entire university education this way (according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the current highest pledge per A is $400), they could easily pay for their books and possibly even a good part of other expenses that college scholarships or student financial aid might not cover. Plus, since these payments are linked to concrete achievements by students already attending college, donors may feel less apprehensive about the recipients of their philanthropy floundering once they face the academic challenges of their undergraduate studies.
December 5, 2008
December 10, 2008
Last month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation revealed plans for a new grant program that would focus on improving rates of college completion for low-income students. The first recipients of the grants were announced Tuesday, primarily consisting of organizations that either study or promote college preparedness and completion among the foundation's target groups. While few of the grants awarded will translate directly into college scholarships for first-generation, low-income, or minority students, many of the programs receiving funding are intended to help these students go to college and create success. Currently, only 25 percent of low-income students finish college, and each year high schools produce over 560,000 college-eligible graduates (most whose parents make less than $85,000 a year) who will fail to earn a college degree within 8 years, according to research cited by the New York Times. The Gates Foundation's stated goal for this grant program is to eventually double the percentage of low-income students completing a college degree or certificate program by the age of 26. The Chronicle of Higher Education explains that the grant initiative will have a three-pronged approach: "making the case to policy makers, educators, and business leaders about the need for increasing college-completion rates; accelerating success in remedial education; and ensuring that young people have the financial, social, and academic support to succeed in college." Coupled with the existing Gates Millenium Scholarship Program, which helps disadvantaged and minority students pay for school, these Gates Foundation grants have the potential to ultimately make not only attending college, but earning a degree and achieving college goals possible for the majority of American high school graduates.
December 17, 2008
Amid all the bleak news about college affordability, family finances, and the economy in general, it's nice to hear something good every now and then. And there is good news out there. Despite financial hardships, many colleges are not only continuing to offer generous financial aid packages, but are actually expanding scholarships, grants, and tuition waivers for needy and deserving students. As a taste of what's out there for students across the country, we're presenting a roundup of campus-based aid programs announced this week. Conduct a college search on Scholarships.com to learn more about these and other schools committed to helping students enroll and stay enrolled. While you're at it, be sure to start a free college scholarship search to find more ways to fund your education.
A number of cities, states, and universities offer promises, guarantees, or other commitments to cover four years' full tuition for financially needy or academically gifted students. While a wave of these scholarship and grant programs were launched in financially better times, more are still being unveiled in the current economic climate.
Manchester College in Indiana has rolled out a "Triple Guarantee" that promises to make college more affordable and less stressful for its students. Qualifying students are guaranteed a combination of federal, state, and institutional aid up to the total cost of tuition and mandatory fees for four years. Students with a 3.3 GPA or higher who qualify for the Pell Grant are guaranteed full-tuition grant aid. On top of paying tuition for four years for needy students, the college also guarantees four-year graduation for everyone who meets progress requirements, and will allow qualified students who need a fifth year to attend for free until they graduate. Finally, the school also guarantees a year of free tuition for additional coursework or certifications for students who fail to find a job placement or a spot in graduate school within six months of graduation.
In a similar vein, St. John's University in New York is also offering a substantial tuition discount to unemployed alumni. Graduates of St. John's who were laid off in the economic downturn can return to college to pursue a graduate degree for half-price. Alumni will also receive free career counseling services and see their application fees waived for graduate programs.
Finally, Texans get multiple pieces of good news. More students at Rice University will be able to graduate debt-free, as the university has expanded its no loan program to families making up to $80,000 per year. Students with family incomes over the $80,000 threshhold who still qualify for need-based aid will not be asked to borrow more than $10,000 in student loans for four years. Lamar University is also making college more affordable for Texans by unveiling the Lamar Promise, which will cover tuition and fees for all freshmen and transfer students who qualify as "dependent" students for federal aid whose families make less than $25,000 a year. Students who make more are likely to also receive substantial financial aid packages. Tuition assistance will come in the form of state, federal, and institutional financial aid.
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