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House Passes Higher Education Act Renewal

November 20, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives approved a renewed and altered version of the recently expired Higher Education Act. A similar renewal act was passed by the Senate in July, and it was also unanimous. Before the bill is sent to the president, it will have to be reviewed again, and one version must be created. The amended portion, otherwise known as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, addresses financial aid hardships faced by students attempting to afford a college education. Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney stated that, "Access for all Americans to a college education is a roadmap to a strong middle class."

Based on information provided by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act will:

1. Encourage colleges to lower or maintain costs by making sure that states provide them with sufficient funding. Schools that choose to increase tuition will have to provide reasoning for the change as well as plans to again decrease costs.

2. Lower the chance that lenders and schools will engage in inappropriate relations (such as the use of biased preferred lender lists) by requiring that lenders and schools abide by codes of conduct and by making more loan information available to student borrowers.

3. Simplify the FAFSA application process by creating a more straightforward FAFSA-EZ form for low-income families and by allowing families more time to create plans for tuition saving.

4. Assist students in affording textbooks by providing information about the costs of books in advance.

5. Improve education by creating programs that encourage students to act on their interests in the sciences and by providing financial assistance to graduates who work in the public sector.

6. Help low income, minority and disabled students afford an education by improving the effectiveness of the TRIO grant for low-income students, by helping colleges recruit and retain students with disabilities and by allowing students to receive Pell Grant scholarships aid year round.

7. Increase financial and social support for veterans and military families interested in receiving a postsecondary education.

8. Improve safety by helping colleges create emergency systems and by establishing disaster relief loan programs in case of disaster.

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The Debate Over College Tuition and Illegal Immigration

November 30, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

During the November 28th Republican Debate, presidential candidates addressed an illegal immigration issue affecting numerous students. Currently, students who are illegal immigrants may attend college. However, many are unable to do so because financial aid, both federal and private, is not readily accessible to them. While scholarships without citizenship requirements do exist, they are not common.

The Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) states that only students who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents or eligible non-citizens are eligible to receive federal aid. To assist these students, some states have passed laws permitting illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition fees. This has caused a great deal of controversy among people who feel that illegal immigrants should not be benefiting from the tax dollars of legal citizens.

The issue is a sticky one. Some illegal immigrants do pay taxes (the IRS does not discriminate when it comes to accepting tax dollars), but that does not apply to all. Also in question is whether the U.S. should be making it difficult for those who want to go to college to do so, especially when, in the end, it can benefit the nation.

During the debate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was criticized by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for having supported a bill that would provide merit-based aid to illegal students within the state (the bill was not passed). Romney stated that the bill was in essence supportive of using taxpayer money to assist those who had broken the law and that such money should be used to pay for scholarships available to students whose families did pay taxes.

Huckabee responded by saying that students should not be punished for the actions of their parents and that preventing students from attending college would just leave more of them on the streets. In reference to the importance of an education he stated, “ If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage." He also added, " I might be picking lettuce."

Lettuce? Nothing about his life as the son of a fireman points to lettuce picking, but the point was made. Thwarting student talents is the alternative to helping them get through school. This is especially the case when the bill in question is directed at academically accomplished students (which it is).

The debate over illegal immigration rages on without a solution in sight. In is not arguable that many students depend on financial aid to finish an education. The method for distributing this aid is.

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Legislators, Educators Clash on No Child Left Behind

December 4, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The No Child Left Behind act seemed like a great idea at first. The House and the Senate both agreed that the law would help schools pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In a you’ve got to see it to believe it moment, more Democrats than Republicans voted in support of President Bush’s proposal.

Rules mandated by the No Child Left Behind act were set up to pressure schools into living up to scholastic standards.  By 2014, students were to meet stated reading and math expectations, and gaps between students of different ethnicities and economic backgrounds were expected to close. These goals would be achieved by administering regular tests and by holding educators accountable for their students' performance. 

It has been five years since the bill’s passage, and feelings about the law’s success are more divided than ever. President Bush, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and supporting legislators believe the law to be near perfect, but many representatives side with educators in saying that an overhaul is in order. 

Cited faults include shortage of funding, lack of sliding scales and teacher compensation. Many educators were frustrated that score improvements rather than scores were not stressed. They argued that the government spends hundreds less per student each year in poor districts and that poorly-funded schools should not be expected to meet the same standards as better-funded ones. On the other end of the spectrum were those who argued that teachers with exceptional results should be financially rewarded, a thorny issue disputed during a recent Democratic presidential debate.

The No Child Left Behind act is a controversial topic, and Scholarships.com recognizes that. In an effort to assist students with their college funding efforts, Scholarships.com has announced its Resolve to Evolve $10,000 Scholarship for 2008. High school seniors can apply for the scholarship by writing about one of two topics, the No Child Left Behind act or the rising costs of a college education.

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Posted Under:

College News , High School



U.S. News College Ranking Report Gives Rise to High School Rankings

December 6, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

U.S. News may be a news source by name, but it’s the company’s annual college report that’s responsible for its celebrity status. According to a U.S. News representative, the 2007 College Ranking Report drew 8.9 million website viewers within the first three days of the date of release. The company also guarantees prospect advertisers that at least 2 million readers will read their in-print magazine. It is an undeniably attractive deal which, of course, costs an arm and a leg. The best ad position can cost a company as much as $232,992. (What ever happened to rounding?) For the price of one ad, a family can make a 100% down payment on their home.

The college rankings have become so popular that it only made sense for U.S. News to take things to the next level. Students who want to get a good education after high school can get a head start by doing well in one of the nation’s highest-ranked high schools. Right or wrong, the demand for this information is there, and U.S. News is jumping at the chance to capitalize on it.

The list is a great business for U.S. News and a boon for communities lucky enough to be in presence of these regal high schools. When searching for my first post-college apartment, I came upon a tattered place with a surprisingly high price, at least for me.  It was already above my optimal range, but I was curious—until I toured the residence.  I was both amazed and irritated with the owner for thinking he could get away with such consumer gouging. His excuse, as you may have guessed, was a good school district.  That was my cue to leave, but other families would have been more than happy to compromise. If I had kids, I may have been one of them.

There has been no lack of controversy surrounding the U.S. News college reports, and controversy about the high school reports is probably forthcoming. A number of schools, including Reed College and Dickinson University, have refused to participate in the college reports by not providing information, and time will tell how unranked high schools will react to the reports. Whether it’s for the highest paying career options, the joy of an excellent education or for membership in what Stephen Colbert referred to as a brie cheese elite, students and parents across the nation are drawn to prestigious schools. Until this is no longer the case, you can be sure that inside college scoop will be warmly received and heatedly debated.

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QuestBridge Offers Scholarships, Hand to the Underprivileged

December 7, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

The QuestBridge organization has been turning heads lately for its ability to match talented, underprivileged students with excellent schools across the country. It's something of a dating service for students and colleges. QuestBridge has sought after and found numerous exceptional high school students and paired them with some of the nation’s most prestigious, and expensive, colleges and universities. By participating, schools can diversify their campus, and eventually, the demographic of the nation's leading scholars. QuestBridge makes finding gifted and oftentimes overlooked teens look easy.

High school seniors who are nominated, or who nominate themselves, fill out one application that can then be sent to all participating schools. Their fee is waived, and an essay about the student's ability to overcome obstacles is also included. When selecting finalists, QuestBridge considers academics, finances, eligibility requirements and personal circumstances.

From there, applications are sent to schools which make the final decision. Accepted students are offered full four-year scholarships to attend one of the twenty participating colleges and universities. Among these are Notre Dame University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Amherst College. There were 103 QuestBridge students who received scholarships to leading schools last year, and the number is expected to increase this year.

Students who may not have otherwise considered expensive schools suddenly find opportunity within reach. A featured QuestBridge student who won a scholarship to Stanford stated, “I didn’t feel like I could get in to a top college. I filled out my application and lost my nerve to hit the ‘submit’ button. I will never forget receiving a call at my home from a Quest counselor, encouraging me to go ahead and apply.”

For more information about the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship, you can conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com.

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Sallie Mae Files Lawsuit against Buyers

October 10, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

On October 8, 2007, Sallie Mae announced its intent to file a lawsuit against the company’s potential buyers, a group of investors led by J.C. Flowers & Company. In April, the student lender agreed to a buyout offer of $60 per share. Since then, the buyers retracted their initial proposal, citing recently passed student loan legislation as reason. 

By signing the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, President Bush agreed to cut student lender subsidies by about $21 billion. Numerous companies, including Sallie Mae, threatened that the cuts would force them to eliminate borrower benefits such as, among other things, on-time payment reductions.

Following the bill’s passage, buyers lowered their initial buyout price to $50 per share. Sallie Mae rejected the offer and filed a $900 million lawsuit for contract termination. Albert L. Lord, the Chairman of Sallie Mae’s Board of Directors stated, “We regret bringing this suit. Sallie Mae has honored its obligations under the merger agreement. We ask only that the buyer group do the same.”
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Posted Under:

College News , Student Loans



College Board to Leave Lender Industry

August 23, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

Effective October 15, 2007, College Board will no longer accept student loan applications. College Board, best known for administering the SAT and AP tests, announced its decision to leave the lender industry on August 22nd. In a press release, College Board stated that legislation aimed at curbing unethical relations between lenders and colleges made it too difficult to cover costs associated with education professional meetings. 

The legislation was created as a result of findings that numerous lenders made payments to colleges in exchange for spots on college preferred lender lists. Legislation included a more concrete definition of a lending institution—which categorized College Board as a lender—and restrictions on lender payments to financial aid officials. Although College Board does not itself lend money to students, it receives payments from lenders for allowing students to sign up. As it is now considered a lender, it can no longer offer funds to the financial aid officials it works with.

The meetings College Board convenes for education professionals are now subject to strict regulations. Under new rules, College Board would no longer be able to reimburse members for travel and lodging expenses.  Edna Johnson, a College Board spokeswoman stated, “If we no longer reimburse the educators, then only those educators from schools, colleges and universities with the financial resources to pay for the travel and the accommodation would attend.” The meetings held by College Board include discussions of practices for assisting families in paying for an education and tactics for effective administration of financial aid programs.

The new decision is likely to affect lenders more than it does College Board and the students who search for financial aid. According to the Washington Post, College Board issued 74,000 loans valued at $400 million in 2007, and the year is not over. However, less than 1 percent of College Board’s revenue comes from the lending sector.

Students who signed up with College Board aren’t the losers in this decision either. Those who wish to take out loans with companies represented by College Board may still do so by contacting lenders directly. They may be forced to do some extra research, but that’s a good thing. 

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College News



Pell Grants Increase While Lender Subsidies Decrease

July 20, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

On Friday June 20, the Senate approved the Higher Education Access Act of 2007 by a vote of 78-18. The bill, if approved by the House, would increase Pell Grant eligibility and lower government subsidies to outside lenders. The House passed a similar proposal—the College Reduction Act of 2007—in June, making a compromise on both versions likely. The overarching theme of the bill was an increase in government aid to students and, at the same time, a decrease in aid provided to student lenders.

Lowered subsidies would likely result in increased interest rates for students who take out loans from lenders outside of the government. Government loans offer students the best interest rates, but such loans also have smaller borrowing limits. Many students end up looking to lenders subsidized by the government for additional aid. While interest rates on subsidized loans are not as favorable as those offered by the government, they are still more favorable than those offered by private, unsubsidized lenders.

According to MarketWatch, the new bill could save the government up to $15.4 billion by 2012. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, was enthusiastic about the approval stating, "The passage of the Higher Education Access Act tonight was a victory not only for students and their families, but for the American people. With this new congress we made education a national priority again, and we’ve given the next generation the tools they need to compete in the global economy."

Fortunately for student borrowers, the bill did address worries about lender rate increases. Cuts on outside lender subsidies were also accompanied by increased caps on government loans as well as by increased laxity on government loan eligibility requirements. These changes are likely to benefit students who don’t borrow much. For those that do, effects will depend on just how much more the government is willing to lend and on how much outside lenders will choose to charge after cuts.

Students still have a lot to cheer about. The biggest perk of the Higher Education Access Act is its proposal to increase government grant offers. Free money is the best kind. Like scholarships, grants provide students with aid that need not be repaid. If the bill is enacted, the government would increase the amounts of Pell Grants a student may receive to a maximum $5,100. It would also alter the formula used to determine grant eligibility in a way that would lessen restrictions on financial circumstances required for grant reception.

Additional bill provisions include loan forgiveness options for borrowers who work in areas of public service for ten years, a cap on monthly loan payments required of students, and the establishment of a program that would increase competition between lenders. If the bill passes, the enactment may be expected within the next few months.

Posted By Scholarships.com to Scholarships.com Blog at 7/20/2007 09:57:00 AM

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College News



SAT Under Scrutiny Again: Scores Drop Further

August 31, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

College Board has been dealt another big blow. Just days after it was revealed they had bought their way into spots on preferred-lender lists, College Board announced a drop in SAT scores. College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and AP tests, announced on August 28th that the average combined scores for 2007 graduates dropped by 1 point in critical reading and by 3 points in math and writing. Since 1967, average reading scores dropped by 41 points and math scores by 1 point (writing scores were not reported). College Board stressed the positive saying that more students, minorities in particular, were taking the test.

Earlier this year, the SAT was scrutinized after research released by the University of California revealed that the correlation between high school grades and SAT scores may not be as accurate as once thought. Although the test was a good indicator of first-year grades, the following three did not match up. Eventually, ambitious students adjusted to the University of California’s difficult curriculum, regardless of initial preparation.

The study was a continuation of a 2003 study which showed that SAT performance was better than GPA in predicting first-year college performance. Apparently, after catching up with the 80,000 students sampled, things had changed. In fact, findings showed that the longer students attended college, the greater the value in using high school grades as a means of predicting future performance. Such findings indicate that the strong correlation between SAT scores and socioeconomic factors is eventually watered down. The implications of this research are yet unclear. It is, however, becoming clear that the SAT may not be as good of an indicator of college performance as was once thought.

The question of whether the SAT & ACT tests should continue to be administered was one of two issues addressed in Scholarships.com’s annual Resolve to Evolve essay contest (the second dealt with the population’s effect on the environment.) To read what students had to say, you can visit the Scholarships.com 2007 Resolve to Evolve Award Winners page. To find sample questions and advice on preparing for standardized tests, you may visit the Resources section at Scholarships.com.

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President Obama Uses Executive Action to Push Student Loan Forgiveness

June 20, 2014

by Scholarships.com Staff

President Barack Obama reportedly issued an executive action on Monday in an effort to alleviate student loan repayment problems for those with large post-college debt and salaries that make their loan payments unaffordable.

The executive order issued by the president, pushing through a program known as the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan would cap loan payments at 10 percent of monthly income for the borrowers of federal direct loans. Federal law currently allows most students to do this already, but President Obama's order further extends this option to students who took out a federal direct student loan before October 2007 as well as those who haven’t borrowed since October of 2011. As many as 5 million more borrowers will reportedly be affected by this extension, which will begin in December of next year. You can determine eligibility by visiting the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator

Opponents of the executive order are concerned by the potential of students taking out enormous loans to attend expensive schools and majoring in subjects that are unlikely to prepare them for (or align them with) lucrative careers and the ability to repay the debt. This would result in taxpayers throughout the country bearing the burden of these loans, regardless of whether they or their children benefitted from a college education, let alone forgiveness of any of their debts.

For some, this is an opportunity to get out from under crushing debt, but at what cost? Where does the “forgiven” balance show up? Should the taxpayer at large shoulder this additional burden or should aspiring college students be seeking more affordable options for education and/or preparation for their professional lives?

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