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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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Keeping it All in the Family

College President’s Family Members Make Bank

October 1, 2010

by Suada Kolovic

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what exactly is going on here, I’ll tell you: It’s called nepotism - defined as favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power or influence. And what I wouldn’t give to be a member of Paula S. Wallace’s family right now. Ms. Wallace co-founded the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 1978 with her parents and her then-husband. Since then, it has grown into one of the nation’s largest art schools and with that increase in success came an increase in compensation. According to her 2008 tax returns, Ms. Wallace made $1,946,730.

That amount tops the compensation of all but a handful of college chiefs. But SCAD, a relatively pricey and prosperous art school, is smaller than universities that pay in that range. Ms. Wallace, who is in her early 60s, became SCAD’s president in 2000. Her total compensation package grew by about $1.5-million between 2008 and the previous reporting period. But Ms. Wallace isn’t the only one raking in insane amounts of cash; she turned it into family affair.

Employee Current Title 2008 Compensation
Paula S. Wallace President and co-founder $1,946,730
Mother, May L. Poetter Trustee and co-founder $61,767
Husband, Glen E. Wallace Senior Vice President for College Resources $289,235
Son, John Paul Rowan Vice President, Hong Kong Campus $233,843
Daughter, Marisa Rowan Director of Equestrian Programs $101,493
Daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Rowan Director of External Relations, Hong Kong Campus $85,494

But where exactly does this money come from, you ask? Well, a large portion of the pay earned by Ms. Wallace and her husband comes from a for-profit entity called the SCAD Group Inc. This for-profit arm provides nonacademic services to SCAD—which has three branch campuses and a distance-education operation—including human resources, financial management, communication and student support. In 2008, its share of total income amounted to $111 million, or an amount equal to about 43 percent of the college's total expenses of $261 million. Did I mention this for-profit subsidiary also owns an airplane that administrators and trustees use for business, AND the pays for a personal assistant for Ms. Wallace? Guess I just did!

If you’re a SCAD student, were you aware this collegial family tree was in place? And for students everywhere, how would you feel knowing that your school was structured this way instead of with much more qualified individuals?


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Obama Extends an "Opportunity" to College Students

The American Opportunity Tax Credit, That Is

October 13, 2010

Obama Extends an "Opportunity" to College Students

by Suada Kolovic

The financial aid process can be a daunting one but if you’re planning on attending college any time soon, you should know that there are tons of federal student aid options out there – from Pell Grants to Perkins Loans to FAFSA – but your eligibility to receive aid depends on your level of need and, subsequently, how much aid you are eligible to receive. So, to the folks right in the middle: How does a tax credit sound? The American Opportunity Tax Credit, created in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, expires in 2010, but President Obama has proposed making it permanent, with a price tag of $58 billion over 10 years.

Now what does this mean to you? Because the Opportunity Tax Credit is more generous than its predecessor, the Hope Tax Credit, it provides a credit of up to $2,500 rather than $1,800 and it phases out at a higher income level – $160,000 for married couples filing jointly instead of $100,000. According to a report by the Department of Treasury, it’s also partially refundable so students and families with little or no tax liability can receive up to $1,000 of it as a tax refund. The report comes as lawmakers are debating a bill to extend several expiring tax credits. Recent versions would not extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit, but President Obama hopes lawmakers will reconsider.

"The president obviously feels strongly that this is an important relief for middle-class families," said Gene Sperling, counselor to the Treasury Secretary.


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GOP Congressman: Pell Grants are Becoming ‘The Welfare of the 21st Century’

by Suada Kolovic

The GOP is no stranger to controversy and Friday’s interview with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) was no exception. In a radio interview with Blog Talk Radio, Rehberg went on a rant in which he compared the Pell Grant Program – the nation’s largest financial aid program – to the likes of welfare and denounced the fact that students who receive them don’t have a graduation requirement. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.” Rehberg added under the federal program, a student could "go to school for nine years on Pell Grants and you don’t even have to get a degree."

Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation, took issue with Rehberg's comments. "I don't know if it's a fair characterization that someone has decided to go through the hoops of applying to college, getting enrolled and showing up every day because it's the welfare lifestyle," he said. "If the issue is people are being lazy and living off the dole, so to speak, I don't think their first step is to enroll in college."

For the 2012 fiscal year, the Pell Grant program is set to exceed $40 billion. Some lawmakers have been exploring ways to reduce the cost of the programs by lowering the maximum grant size – which is currently $5,550 – or restricting eligibility. In Montana, Rehberg recently voted for the House GOP budget resolution, which would reduce the maximum Pell Grant to $4,705 and narrow the eligibility of applicants. If you’re eligible for Pell Grants, what do you think? Are Rehberg’s assumptions out of line?


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What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

Possible Pell Cuts Could Mean Revised Financial Aid Offers

April 6, 2011

What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and have received your financial aid package from your dream school, listen up: Congress may cut the Pell Grant program’s budget this year and colleges may have to roll back a portion of the financial-aid offers they made to students for the coming academic year. Translation: You may receive a smaller financial-aid package than was originally offered.

According to the Chronicle, both parties acknowledge that some type of restructuring will be necessary to put the program on sound financial footing, but lawmakers disagree on the size and scope of the cuts. Some proposals suggest lowering the maximum award, ending the year-round program and changing the income requirements in order to reduce the number of people eligible for the grants.

At a news conference held by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a college administrator and student advocates agree that cuts in award levels this late in the admissions process would be particularly hurtful to the low-income families the program serves. "Families with the most unsteady income, or who don't have much financial flexibility ... need the most time to thoroughly plan out their expenses," said Misty Whelan, a Pennsylvania high school counselor. With most decision deadlines around the corner – May 1 at many colleges – how do you feel knowing these cuts could potentially dictate where you go? Do you think it’s fair for colleges to backtrack on their offers? What ever happened to no takesy backsies?


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Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

7 States Considering Legislation to Allow Guns on College Campuses

April 7, 2011

Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

by Suada Kolovic

What comes to mind when you think of guns on college campuses? If you’re like me, you think of the senseless tragedies at Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Pima Community College in Arizona and, most recently, Southern Union Community College in Alabama, where students lost their lives at the end of a loaded gun. And yet, despite those events, seven states across the country are considering loosening or changing laws when it comes to firearms on campus:

  • Arizona

    A bill that passed in the state Senate on March 14 would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
  • Nebraska

    A bill proposed by Nebraska Sen. Mark Christensen would allow professors at public universities to have guns on campus.
  • Nevada

    Nevada legislators are considering a bill that would bar colleges from banning firearms on campus. Amanda Collins, a University of Nevada student who was sexually assaulted on campus in 2007 and testified in favor of passing the bill.
  • New Mexico

    New Mexico officials are considering a law which would allow those with a concealed carry gun license to have guns on public college campuses.
  • Oklahoma

    A bill which would allow those licensed to carry concealed weapons to do so on campus has passed the state Senate, and is now under consideration by the Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee.
  • Tennessee

    Tennessee legislators are considering a bill which would allow professors to have handguns on campus.
  • Texas

    A bill allowing students to carry guns on the campuses of state universities is predicted to be voted into law, to the dismay of a number of Texan students.

According to Armedcampuses.org, an anti-gun site which lists postsecondary institutions that allow firearms on campus, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) said, “There is...a real concern that campus police officers responding to a situation involving an active shooter may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and others with firearms” at colleges that allow guns on their premises. We’ve witnessed the tragic outcomes guns can have on campus, so how do you feel about gun rights activists pushing for legislation in the other direction? And when it comes to students’ safety on campus, do you think guns are the answer?


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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Guns on Campus

by Suada Kolovic

The Arizona Republic reports Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would permit guns to be carried on “public rights of way” at public universities and college campuses. The bill, which would have applied to both concealed and openly carried weapons, originally required that weapons be permitted inside campus buildings, but it was eventually scaled back through the legislative process in the Senate.

Brewer, typically a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights, called the bill “poorly written” and said it lacked clarity. In her veto letter, she also questioned the use of “educational institution,” which she argued could be interpreted as applying to K-12 schools and would conflict with existing state and federal laws that do not permit weapons on those school grounds. "Bills impacting our Second Amendment rights have to be crystal clear so that gun owners don't become lawbreakers by accident," Brewer said.

With all the talk about allowing guns on campus and our constitutional right to bear arms, what do you think of Governor Brewer’s decision?


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DREAM Act Supporters to Obama: Quit Campaigning If You Won’t Deliver

by Suada Kolovic

Last week, national immigrant youth-led organization United We DREAM started a petition asking President Obama to remove discussions of the DREAM Act from his campaign literature and fundraising emails unless he is willing to use his executive power to block deportations for DREAM Act-eligible students. The petition is a result of President Obama repeatedly saying he supports the bill and that undocumented students are not the focus of his immigration enforcement plans, yet over 390,000 people were deported last year alone.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has denied that it could use its discretion to stop the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible students. "I am not going to stand here and say that there are whole categories that we will, by executive fiat, exempt from the current immigration system, as sympathetic as we feel towards them," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in April. "But I will say that group ... are not the priority [for deportation]."

As the deportations continue, DREAM Act supporters say it is disingenuous for President Obama to use his support for the bill to drum up support for his reelection. Let us know what you think.


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Ed Secretary Duncan: “DREAM Act Would Benefit Our Country”

by Suada Kolovic

From the get go, the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students, has faced an uphill battle. With it failing in the Senate last year and both sides expressing skepticism about the bill, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress yesterday that the Administration supports its passage.

According to Duncan, the students who could benefit if Congress approves the DREAM Act would fill 2.6 million jobs and would bring in $1.4 million more in revenue than it would cost over the next 10 years. Duncan also addressed several misconceptions about the DREAM Act: It does not create an amnesty program with an easy path to citizenship, it will not affect the availability of federal student loans or Pell Grants for citizens and it will not create incentives for an increase in undocumented immigration. “Simply put,” Duncan concluded, “educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country.”

Keep in mind that in order for undocumented students to qualify for the DREAM Act, they must prove they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school or received a GED, possess good moral character and been admitted to an institution of higher education or serve in the military. Do you hope the DREAM Act becomes a reality? Let us know what you think.


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by Suada Kolovic

With college on the horizon for high school seniors, students with political aspirations should understand that it's never too early to start making the right connections. And what better place is there to start than by attending the college that boasts 47 elected officials currently on Capitol Hill? (Curious as to which school I’m referring? None other than Harvard University, of course.)

With twice as many members of Congress counted as alumni, Harvard just might be the college for those with governmental ambitions. Georgetown University scores a distant second with 20 current members of Congress, followed by Yale University with 18. Check out the list below to see what other colleges might better your chances at making your political dream a reality:

For the complete list, head over to FindTheBest.


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