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Cuomo May Sue Student Loan Company

Sep 5, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is preparing a lawsuit against Goal Financial, the student loan company that also runs the website eStudentLoan.com.  According to the New York Times, Goal Financial stands accused of misleading consumers about loans, and offering them gifts such as iPods to influence their choice in lenders.  While other lenders accused of dishonest practices have repented and agreed to follow a code of conduct outlined by Cuomo, Goal Financial has not, hence the pending lawsuit.

Goal is accused of misrepresenting loan terms to promote private loans over low-interest federal Stafford loans, as well as failing to disclose their ownership of eStudentLoan on the latter's website.  The company also allegedly failed to disclose that all lenders listed on the eStudentLoan loan rate comparison feature were companies that had paid a commission to Goal Financial.

While Cuomo's investigation of the student lending industry has undoubtedly made borrowing less risky, students should still proceed with caution and carefully vet the quality of the lender they choose to use.  If you need to take out student loans to help fund your education, be sure to do your research.  First and foremost, explore all federal student financial aid opportunities.  Start by completing the FAFSA on the Web and visiting with your school's financial aid office.  It would also be beneficial to conduct an extensive scholarship search at this point, as well, since you never know where you might find money for college.

If you do find you need to borrow a private loan, research several lenders, and if your college's financial aid office maintains a preferred lender list (which should consist of lenders that are actually preferable thanks to Cuomo's earlier investigations) take a copy. Begin evaluating your options, but be wary of anything that sounds gimmicky or too good to be true.  Carefully research any loan before you apply.

Find out which banks have the best rates and repayment options, and whether you'll need a cosigner to get approved.  Apply to one loan at a time and give yourself plenty of time for processing, since many student loans need to be approved by the bank and certified by your college before funds can be disbursed.  Many lenders will let you know within a day or two whether your has been pre-approved or rejected so that you can move on to the next application if necessary.

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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More Colleges Offer Financial Literacy Programs

Sep 4, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

For many students, the college experience can be a financial minefield.  Even if they manage to avoid the lure of blowing their financial aid check on a plasma TV or a brand new car, there are thousands of other potential pitfalls.  These include the credit card companies lining the main drag of campus offering free college t-shirts to anyone who signs up for their card; your first dorm or apartment to outfit and decorate; and then all of the opportunities for shopping, dining, and entertainment that a college town provides.  And we haven't even gotten to the actual act of paying tuition yet!  Even if your scholarship search was fruitful and you were able to find money for college, there's still the chance of overspending and winding up turning to less wise solutions to make it to the end of the term.

So how are students supposed to survive college without unnecessary credit card or student loan debt?  Many schools are offering money management courses and one-on-one financial counseling services to help students be more judicious with their college funds.  I can certainly think of some lessons I could've used as an undergrad, like "3 AM is not dinner time," its corollary, "espresso is not an adequate substitute for sleep," and of course, "you don't have to buy it just because it's on sale."  Being forced to budget out just how much that 10-block drive to class (plus the 15 minutes of circling the "good" parking lot for a spot) actually cost me that last year of school would've also been helpful.

Now students at numerous colleges in several states can choose to educate themselves and avoid learning similar life lessons the hard way.  Unfortunately, many of these programs go under-publicized and under-utilized, as budgeting honestly isn't fun, and many students may be afraid that setting a budget means giving up their college lifestyle, staying at home, and having to go on a budget diet.  However, the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that students can benefit immensely from financial literacy courses, and anecdotal evidence suggests these students take on less debt and have an easier time transitioning into the "real world" after graduation.  Courses are often offered to incoming freshmen or graduating seniors, with counseling services typically being made available to any students currently attending college.  If you're interested in finding out about how to stretch your college fund, student loans, or scholarship money further, check with your college to see if they offer any of these services.

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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College Living Expenses Can Add Up Quickly

Sep 3, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Don't forget about spending money when planning for college costs.  This advice comes from Alabama's Birmingham News, which spoke with some students, parents, and financial aid administrators in the state about dealing with expenses that fall outside of paying tuition and room and board.  However, Alabama students and families are by no means the only ones not sure how to deal with how much living at college will cost.

Financial aid offices typically figure a few thousand dollars into a student's cost of attendance estimate to cover such expenses as gas, car maintenance, toiletries, clothes, entertainment, and food and drinks not from the dining center, but actual experiences vary widely among students.  Some college students certainly choose the spartan lifestyle of staying in the dorm, using their meal plan, and biking around campus to attend free school-sponsored activities.  Others fail to resist the urge to splurge, doing their studying at the all night diner just a short drive from campus or swinging by the mall for some retail therapy and a movie after a particularly grueling week of class.  I was certainly in the latter category, despite my best intentions of being thrifty and only spending what I earned working at my work-study job (work-study, for those unfamiliar, is a campus-based aid program that is more easily used to cover living expenses than tuition).

But don't assume the worst and rush out to borrow an extra $10,000 to cover unforseen expenses.  Instead, practice some basic money management.  Take an honest look at your spending habits and how much you'll realistically want to scale them back to save money.  Then look at how much you can earn while in school without getting off-track for graduation, and start figuring out how to make up any differences between the two.  A summer job or an extra scholarship award or two could give you enough money to survive the next 9 months without having to resort to student loans to fix your car, get you home for Christmas, or feed you until you land a new job.  As a recent grad who looked to borrowing as the easy way out of tight financial situations, believe me, those little loan amounts add up.

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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Akron, OH Proposes Local Scholarship Fund

Aug 27, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The city of Akron, Ohio plans to introduce a scholarship fund to encourage its high school graduates to stay in the city for college.  Akron's plan follows in the footsteps of other cities with similar programs, such as Kalamazoo, Michigan, which gained national attention with the launch of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship in 2005.  An anonymous donor contributes to the Kalamazoo Promise fund, which offers free tuition to graduates of Kalamazoo high school attending college at local schools, such as Western Michigan University.  At least 19 cities have followed suit in the last three years, according to the Associated Press, with many relying on private donors to provide scholarship awards.

But no donors have come forth in Akron, so the city is trying something new:  leasing its sewage system to a private company, then using the money to establish a scholarship fund.  The measure, which has earned the somewhat derisive nickname "stools for schools," is up for a vote in November.  While any additional scholarships for high school students are welcome, this measure does come with some drawbacks.  Up to 100 city employees in Akron may find themselves without jobs in an already tough economic climate and many residents have issues with the city choosing to privatize public works.

Additionally, students may not be interested in the scholarship anyway.  Presently, only 600 Akron high school graduates attend the University of Akron, and the proposed tuition plan will only subsidize what's left of tuition after students' other scholarships are taken out, leaving them with the guaranteed responsibility of room and board. The scholarship committee is also throwing around the idea of attaching a thirty-year residency requirement to the scholarship money, converting the scholarships to  student loans for all students who choose to leave Akron before retirement.

While local scholarships are usually a great idea for students, they can stop being appealing if too many requirements are attached.  My guess is that few students will want to have their entire lives planned out for them in high school, especially if a change in plans carries a financial penalty of tens of thousands of dollars.  Whether or not this measure passes in November, many students from Akron will undoubtedly want to continue their scholarship search.  And Scholarships.com is a great place to start, with our database of 2.7 million college scholarships and grants worth over $19 billion, without a 30-year residency requirement in sight.

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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California Community Colleges to Offer New Scholarship

Aug 26, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

California's community colleges system plans to begin offering $1,000 scholarships to many of its students in 2009, according to an article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.  The schools received a $25 million endowment in May from a foundation that supports education and the arts, and will receive matching funds of up to another $25 million after fundraising efforts this fall.  These scholarship opportunities will help make college more affordable for anywhere from 1,250 to over 5,000 students annually, depending on the amount of money California community colleges are able to raise to contribute to the fund.

This is just one of several efforts being undertaken by California's community colleges in order to start tapping into alumni donations and building endowment funds to help students pay for school. The San Mateo Community College foundation has increased its staff and started publishing an alumni newsletter to solicit donations, and the Foundation for California Community Colleges, which will administer the new scholarship fund, is helping other schools devise strategies for fundraising.

As community college enrollment continues to increase and states continue to cut funding to community colleges in order to balance their budgets, it makes sense for community colleges to increasingly turn to philanthropic gifts to meet their students' needs.  If other states follow California's example, attending college at a two-year institute could become a more attractive option for many students who are strapped for cash or coming up short on financial aid at a more expensive institution.  In addition to scholarships administered by the colleges, community college students are also eligible to compete for many private scholarship awards.

To research community college options in California or other states, check out our college search tool.  To find out about additional sources of scholarship money, fill out a profile on Scholarships.com and conduct a free scholarship search.

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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Enrollment Up at Community Colleges

Aug 22, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're thinking about enrolling in a community college, it looks like you're not alone.  Community colleges across the country are reporting increases in enrollment of up to 10% for the fall semester, with registration still ongoing at many schools.  The present economic situation in the U.S. is prompting more and more people to consider attending college, while concerns about rising costs of living and potential difficulties finding money for college are causing more people to worry about how to pay for school.  Additionally, community colleges continue to ramp up their efforts to attract students and provide high-quality education at an affordable price.

All of these factors combine to make community colleges an attractive educational option for many students.  With new legislation in the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act requiring universities to make their transfer credit policies for undergraduate students more transparent, and a preliminary study being conducted by the Department of Education to identify some potential student concerns in the transfer process, it's also becoming easier for students to start at a community college, then later transfer to a four-year university.

There can be some drawbacks to community colleges, though.  According to one study, community college students may be less likely to have concrete plans for just how long they will attend school and more likely to leave college without attaining a degree, but a large part of this could be due to community colleges attracting a more diverse group of students.  Additionally, community college instructors are often not as experienced and credentialed as their peers at four-year schools, though students can still find themselves taking intro courses from adjuncts and graduate students at many state universities.

So if you're open-minded and willing to transfer, consider community colleges in your college search.  Community college students enjoy lower tuition, take many of the same general education classes as their peers at public and private universities, are eligible for federal student financial aid, and in some cases even have the option to live on-campus.  For many students they can be great ways to ease into college life without going too deep into student loan debt.

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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Poll Highlights American Attitudes About Education

Aug 21, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The results of a poll conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup were released today, revealing current American attitudes towards education, at both the high school and college levels.  The majority of respondents were in favor of increasing funding for and access to education at all levels.

According to the poll, 

     
  • Americans increasingly believe that young people should not only finish high school, but that many of them will need to go to college to be successful.
  •  
  • 87%  of respondents said they favor allowing students to earn college credits while still in high school.
  •  
  • Americans favor an increased use of federal funds to finance public schools and also to support young people who have the desire and academic ability to attend college.
  •  
  • 86% or respondents favored more state and federal student financial aid for students who have the ability and desire to attend college but not enough money.
  •  
  • Americans are losing faith in standardized tests and believe there are better ways to measure a child's academic and other skills.
  •  
  • Americans continue to have little faith in No Child Left Behind, with only 1 in 5 thinking it works well at is, and most respondents believing that American students continue to struggle to compete with other countries in terms of math, science, and reading ability.
  •  
 So if you wish your high school would offer more Advanced Placement credits and that colleges would place less emphasis on ACT and SAT scores, you are not alone.  The results of this survey serve to put more pressure on colleges, universities, high schools, and state and federal governments to provide more sources of financial aid to students, as well as to do more to ensure that students are attending college and getting the education they need.

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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Poll Examines How America Pays for College

Aug 20, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

The results of a poll conducted by Sallie Mae and Gallup were released today, painting a picture of where Americans across income levels find money for college.  The study found that sources of funding varied, with parent borrowing (16%), student borrowing (23%), and parent income and savings (32%) taking care of the majority of college costs.  Scholarships and grants followed closely behind, making up 15 percent of college funding.

The average grant and scholarship awards and student loan amounts were roughly the same for low income families (families making below $50,000 a year), while middle income families relied most heavily on parent income and student loans, and high income families (families making above $100,000 a year) predominantly used parent income and savings to pay for school.

While more students than parents were likely to rule out a school at some point in their college search based on cost (63% vs. 54%), two in five families said that cost was not a consideration in choosing the right college for them, and 70 percent of students and parents said that future income was not a factor when determining how much to borrow.

Additionally, 20 percent of families reported using either a second mortgage or a credit card to pay some portion of tuition, while only 9 percent of families reported using a college savings plan, such as a 529 plan, to pay for part of tuition (though those who did were able to cover nearly $8,000 of the cost of college with one).  The study also found that only 76 percent of students whose families made between $35,000 and $50,000 per year, many of whom may be eligible for state and federal grant programs, did not complete the FAFSA.  Only 73 percent of familes making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year completed a FAFSA, despite many families' reliance on loans to pay for college.

The full text of the report is available on the Sallie Mae website.

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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Social Networking, Your Professors, the Generation Gap, and You

Aug 19, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Maybe it's just the release of Beloit College's "Mind-Set List," a list of news items, pop culture references, and technological advances that happened 18 years ago and thus have always existed for incoming college freshmen, but the generation gap between the big desk and the little desks in the college classroom seems to be on everyone's minds this week.  As usual, social networking applications seem to be both a tool universities attempt to use to bridge the gap, and a reminder to students just how wide the gap is.

First off, Inside Higher Ed informs us that a new Facebook application called "Schools" is being marketed to universities as a way to allow their students to connect in a safe environment where their identity and school enrollment have been verified.  Included in the application are tools that professors can use in the classroom, such as a name game that allows students to learn their classmates' names.  Unlike other Facebook applications, the university has to purchase and implement "Schools," rather than allowing individual students to adopt it.

If this application takes off, and even if it doesn't, more undergraduate students (and probably some graduate students, too) are likely to experience Facebook and other social networking sites as a "creepy treehouse," a term the Chronicle of Higher Education shared with academia in its news blog yesterday.  That crawly feeling you get when your professor friends you on a social networking site, even though you don't have any incriminating photos or information on your profile?  That's the creepy treehouse, built to look like a place for kids to play, but really used by adults.

So, remember when you're attending college this fall that your professors come from a different world, a world where: 

     
  • Seinfeld was a new idea in television and The Simpsons was considered pretty daring, too. Referencing these shows might still seem like a good idea to appear hip.
  •  
  • The Harry Potter books might still be on their "to read" list and it feels like they only added them yesterday.
  •  
  • News that the SAT now has three sections hasn't quite made the rounds.
  •  
  • They can still remember when their school first got computers, when those computers first were connected to the Internet, and many can also remember school being the only place they could get online.
  •  
  • Online courses are a novel approach to distance learning, and social networking tools (like opening a campus in SecondLife) are a novel approach to virtual learing.
  •  
  • Socal networking is for work, not for play, and they have no idea why networking with people you work with is so creepy.
  •  

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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Bush Signs HEA Reauthorization

Aug 15, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Yesterday, President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the official reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which governs federal student financial aid for college, as well as other federal programs and regulations that pertain to higher education.

Under the new version of the HEA students can expect a number of benefits when it comes to finding money for college.  Some of the changes include: 

     
  1. Increased Pell Grant awards, as well as Pell funding available for summer school.  Pell Grants, currently capped at $4,731, will increase to $6,000 for the 2009-2010 school year, and will go up by an additional $400 a year, reaching $8,000 per year in 2014.
  2.  
  3. Increased Perkins Loan limits, going from $4,000 to $5,500 for undergraduate students, and from $6,000 to $8,000 for graduate students.
  4.  
  5. Expanded loan forgiveness programs for students pursuing careers in the following areas:  early childhood educators; nurses; foreign language specialists; librarians; highly qualified teachers; child welfare workers; speech-language pathologists; audiologists; national service; school counselors; public sector employees; nutrition professionals; medical specialists; physical therapists; and superintendents, principals, and other (school) administrators; occupational therapists; and dentists.
  6.  
  7. The creation of a FAFSA EZ form that will simplify the financial aid application process.
  8.  
  9. Within the next year, the Department of Education will need to create a tool allowing students to estimate the net price of an education at various institutions, taking into account costs of attendance and financial aid.  Schools will need to follow suit with similar tools within two years of the implementation of the federal net price calculator.
  10.  
  11. The Department of  Education will begin publishing lists of the top 5% of universities in each of the following categories:  the highest tuition and fees, the highest net price, the largest percent increase of tuition and fees over the last three years, the largest percent increase in net price over the last three years.  The Department of Education will also publish lists of the 10% of universities with the lowest tuition and lowest net price.
  12.  
 So in the coming years, students can expect to see it get easier to figure out the cost of school, pay for school, and possibly repay loans if they're going into a high need field.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also offers a point-by-point breakdown of the Higher Education Opportunity Act on their website.

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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ED Reports More FAFSA Filers in 2008

Aug 12, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Nearly 17% more students completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) between January and June 2008 compared to the same period in 2007 according to a report released last month by the Department of Education.  Several states, including California and North Carolina, have seen an even more marked increase, with at least 20% more students applying for federal student financial aid for college this calendar year.

This increase in applications for financial aid is largely attributed to the rising cost of a college education, the recent loan crunch, and the general economic downturn, which are all making it more difficult for families to completely cover the cost of tuition.  More people may also be applying for financial aid due to increased awareness of its existence, thanks to recent news coverage of financial aid issues.

Aside from longer lines at the financial aid office in the fall, this news is likely to have little impact on students attending college this year (although you may want to apply early for a work-study job lest you discover that the only available job is on the receiving end of that financial aid line).  Aid programs with limited funds, such as state grants and campus-based programs like Perkins Loans and work-study jobs, could potentially be exhausted a bit earlier this year, but students still procrastinating on applying for financial aid should still fill out a FAFSA if they haven't missed their school's deadline.  Federal aid, such as Stafford Loans and Pell Grants, is still available to late applicants, and as long as they haven't missed any deadlines, students could still manage to receive awards given on a first come, first serve basis.

For students considering financial aid for the 2009-2010 academic year, we recommend deciding early whether you intend to apply for federal aid (not sure?  Use a college cost worksheet to estimate your actual cost of attendance), researching your school's financial aid and scholarship application deadlines (especially since some institutional scholarships are need-based), doing your taxes as soon as possible, and completing the FAFSA on the Web in January or February (or as far in advance of the deadline as possible) to ensure that you're considered for all the aid for which you're qualified (to get an idea, you can use the Department of Education's FAFSA4caster).  Also, continue to conduct regular scholarship searches and to apply for scholarships, since scholarships continue to be the best way to make up the difference between what college costs and what you can afford 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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