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Fifth Third Bank Involved in Student Loan Scandal

Jan 8, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Fifth Third Bank could potentially lose its right to participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, the Department of Education's program that allows private banks to offer Stafford Loans and PLUS loans.  An audit by the Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General suggests that Fifth Third may have offered illegal inducements to third-party lenders.  Lenders that participate in FFELP, such as Fifth Third, are legally allowed to act as trustees for third-party non-FFELP lenders, allowing the non-FFELP lenders to make or purchase federal student loans.  Fifth Third's actions in some of these "eligible lender trustee" agreements have come under scrutiny, resulting in the audit and harsh recommendations from the Office of the Inspector General.

Fifth Third and the now-defunct Student Loan XPress entered into eligible lender trustee agreements with three lenders: MSA Solution Inc., Pacific Loan Processing Inc., and Law School Financial.  The two FFELP lenders then paid these three trustees premiums to generate higher volumes of student loans.  According to the audit, this violates federal law and could cost Fifth Third its status as an FFELP lender.  The Office of the Inspector General also recommended that the Department of Education further penalize Fifth Third through fines and the withholding of federal guarantees on the over $3 billion in loans generated through these agreements.

This is not the first time an FFELP lender has come under fire for lending practices.  Over the past two years, numerous lenders have been investigated by the Department of Education or New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for questionable actions ranging from bribing schools for places on preferred lender lists to recycling loans through a loophole to claim millions of dollars in federal subsidies.

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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2009-2010 FAFSA Available Tomorrow

Dec 31, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Though it's a day off from school and work, New Year's Day is often seen as a day to get down to business.  While you're starting in on your New Year's resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there's one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should consider doing.  The Department of Education starts accepting the 2009-2010 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1.  State application deadlines start happening soon after, beginning with Connecticut's February 15 priority deadline.  So while you might not be starting school until August or September, you want to be applying for financial aid right now.

What You Need

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following documents: 

     
  • your social security card
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  • a driver's license if you have one
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  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
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  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
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  • your 2008 tax return and W2s
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  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent (to determine dependency status, check here)
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  • a PIN number to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)
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 If you've applied before, you can fill out a renewal FAFSA, which will let you skip a few questions.  You will still need your tax, savings, and investment information for the new year, though.

If you do not have your tax information yet, and most likely you don't, you can use your 2007 tax information to estimate 2008.  That way, you have a FAFSA on file and once you've done your taxes for the new year, you'll be able to submit a correction online.  While that might seem like more work, it's the best recipe for maximizing your state and campus-based aid packages.  If things changed drastically for your family in 2008, apply for student financial aid with the information you have, then talk to your school's financial aid office to adjust your information accordingly.

Why You Should Apply

Completing a FAFSA is an important step in funding your education if you don't plan on paying for everything out-of-pocket.  The FAFSA is used by the Department of Education to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid for college.  This aid includes federal grant programs (such as the Pell Grant), federal work-study, and federal student loans.  It is also used by states to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs, such as state grants.  Colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the need-based aid programs they administer.  Finally, many scholarship opportunities request FAFSA information as part of their application process.  Even if you think that you won't qualify for free money in the form of need-based college scholarships and grants, you should still apply.  At the minimum, the vast majority of students qualify for Stafford Loans, low-interest federal student loans that represent one of the best deals in borrowing for school.

Where To Get More Information

Start on the FAFSA homepage and go through the links under "Before Beginning a FAFSA" to get started, especially if this is your first time filing.  You'll find information about application deadlines, required documents, applying for a PIN, and other things you need to know about to begin.  If you don't want to wait until tomorrow, 2009-2010 worksheets are already available on fafsa.ed.gov.  The ambitious among us can even fill out a worksheet now, then copy the information into their FAFSA on the Web beginning tomorrow.

We also offer a wealth of resources on financial aid at Scholarships.com.  Check out the financial aid section on our Resources page for further reading.

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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More Americans Applying to Canadian Universities

Dec 30, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Recent economic hardships have derailed many families' college plans, prompting some to stop saving and others to start considering less expensive colleges.  For students still determined to attend a prestigious university, another option has been gaining traction.  According to an article in The Boston Globe, applications from American students are up at many of Canada's top universities, indicating a new surge in an already growing trend. 

Since 2001, the number of Americans attending Canadian universities increased by 50 percent, and based on current trends in applications and increased recruiting efforts, growth is expected to continue.  Americans choosing to study abroad in Canada are still eligible for federal student financial aid, even if they attend college abroad for all four years.  And even international tuition in Canada ($14,487 on average) is cheap right now when compared to private college tuition ($19,337 on average) and even out-of-state tuition at some state colleges in the United States.

 Studying in Canada also removes many of the traditional barriers faced by international students.  Many Americans studying in Canada can cheaply and easily return home for holidays.  Students are instructed in English at the majority of Canadian colleges and universities, signs around town will also be in English, and for the most part, accents are not even very pronounced.  Despite their proximity to home, though, students still benefit from being immersed in another culture, and since many of Canada's top schools are situated in urban settings, Canadian universities also present an opportunity to experience life in a big city.

 However, the bargain is dependent on exchange rates.  When the American and Canadian dollars are approximately equal in value, studying in Canada becomes relatively more expensive, as does living in Canada.  Also, while some college scholarships can be applied to tuition at Canadian universities, many stipulate that applicants must be attending college in the United States.  While studying abroad in Canada is an option to consider when looking for ways to get the most educational value for your dollar, be sure to weigh all your alternatives.  Regardless of where you wind up, though, there are scholarship opportunities and other ways to help pay for school.

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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Early Applications Up, Regular Applications Down at Many Colleges

Dec 23, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

While there has been much speculation that economic woes would drive students away from more expensive schools, generous financial aid packages, such as those offered by many Ivy League schools, may be driving early applications up.  It's speculated that students whose resources have been reduced and whose options may be limited are vying for any college seat with a full-tuition scholarship attached.

Early action and early decision college application deadlines have now passed at the majority of competitive private colleges.  As the schools begin sorting through these applicants and making admission decisions, many are reporting that numbers are up, in some cases way up.  Stanford University has seen early action applications increase 18 percent this year, while early decision applications have increased by 23 percent at Duke University.  Other selective schools, such as Yale and Northwestern, have seen similar increases, as well.

While regular applications have held steady at Harvard University, other private schools that have seen a surge in early applications have heard from fewer regular decision applicants.  The regular admission pool may have thinned due to students paring down their lists or choosing less expensive state colleges as safety schools.  This could be good news for all of the early applicants who may find themselves bumped into the regular admission pool, though many schools are worried that fewer applicants could ultimately mean fewer enrolled students, especially if more students follow the money to the most affordable schools.

If you're a high school senior still in the process of applying for college, you may want to check out the articles appearing in The New York Times and The San Jose Mercury News this week and consider modifying your college search to take advantage of shifting application patterns.  If you're in the market for a private college and you have the time and money to put together a couple extra application packets, it could pay off, especially if you're able to wait until April or May to make your final decision as to where to go.

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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How Small Private Colleges Are Responding to the Recession

Dec 19, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

We've said it before and I'm sure we'll say it again.  Despite the economy, money for college is still available.  A scholarship search, a visit to your college's student financial aid office, and a quick perusal of recent college news should all confirm this.  But if you're someone who needs additional empirical evidence, a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a group representing private colleges (whose students typically rely more on institutional aid than state college students) also supports this conclusion. The results, which were published Thursday, show that only 8.4 percent of institutions surveyed have frozen or cut student aid for either this academic year or the next.

While not fantastic news, when taken in context with the rest of the survey's results, it is encouraging.  Nearly 68 percent of colleges reported a significant decline in their endowments and many colleges reported concerns over fundraising, tuition, and other sources of revenue.  Despite this, though, colleges seem to be putting their students' interests first when dealing with budget concerns.  For example, 31 percent of colleges surveyed don't yet have plans to increase tuition for 2009-2010, and at least two respondents specifically mentioned increasing student financial aid in their comments.  The most popular cost-cutting measures have been freezing hiring, restricting travel, and slowing construction.  Cutting student services, campus-based aid programs, and academic programs have been the least popular moves.

To find out more about how small private colleges are weathering the economic downturn, you can visit NAICU's news room.  To scope out private colleges near you, conduct a free college search on Scholarships.com.

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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Despite Economy, Many Colleges Still Give Generous Aid

Dec 17, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

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.

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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More Students Interested in Community and Career College, Fewer in Graduate School

Dec 11, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you're thinking of heading off to a community college next year to either pick up an associate's degree or save some money on your core credits for a bachelor's degree, expect company.  Similarly, if you're planning to attend a for-profit career college to up your chances of landing a decent job, you are definitely not alone.  During recessions, people typically flock to college, often choosing cheaper or quicker degree programs to help them get on their feet and be more competitive on the workforce.  Enrollment is up at career colleges and community colleges are expecting a similar increase.  While reduced state higher education funding and continued troubles in the private loan market are causing some problems at two-year and career colleges, both types of schools are expecting major increases in enrollment as more Americans deal with fallout from the faltering economy.  If you're heading off to college in 2009, you definitely want to take all of this into account.  Apply early for admission and financial aid, and register early for classes.  Several community colleges are also instituting programs to fill empty seats in classrooms with unemployed students, so if you typically wait until almost the start of the term to register for classes, you may have more trouble finding a seat than you have in the past.  While students enrolled in online degree universities won't have to compete for physical space, they may still notice some effects of increased enrollment.  With state universities and community colleges facing budget cuts and increased enrollment, you may face more competition for fewer resources as everyone searches for ways to save money.  One group of students may actually see less competition, though.  The number of students taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) this year is down, suggesting that fewer students may be planning to apply for graduate programs. Typically, like community college and career college applications, graduate school applications go up during recessions.  However, while MBA applications are up this year, many programs that require the GRE may see fewer prospective graduate students.  The effects of the credit crunch on student loans, the uncertainty of the economy and employment prospects, and the desire not to lose a source of income were all listed as possible reasons for this decrease in an article in Inside Higher Ed.

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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Gates Foundations Announces Grants to Improve College Completion

Dec 10, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

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.

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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College Board Settles with Cuomo

Dec 9, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Yesterday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced that they had reached a settlement with the College Board regarding the preferred lender list controversy that has been unfolding since early 2007.  The investigation revealed that the College Board had been offering discounts on its products to college financial aid offices that agreed to add their student loan service to a preferred lender list.  Discounts of more than 20 percent off the College Board's proprietary software were given in exchange for placement on preferred lender lists.  The College Board pulled out of private loans in 2007, but the investigations continued, culminating in yesterday's settlement, the latest of several with private student lenders.

 The College Board has agreed to adhere to a code of conduct if it ever returns to the private lending market.  The organization will be required to put $675,000 towards developing tools to help students and financial aid offices compare student loan offers.  The College Board will also be required to distribute its new student loan calcualtors and "requests for proposals" (the forms that will allow for comparison among student loans) freely to schools for the next two financial aid cycles. 

This news came as the Career College Assocation, an organization of private career-training institution administrators, released the results of a survey indicating the difficulty that students at two year, for-profit schools currently face finding money for college.  More students are registering but not attending classes, and having trouble finding a private loan without a cosigner.  The majority of schools report students needing to change lenders or facing higher interest rates.  Some students are unable to procure a private loan at all, while others are contending with delayed loan disbursements.  A number of these colleges have stepped in to offer institutional student loans, ranging from less than $1,000 to over $10,000, to students who are unable to meet the gap between their federal student financial aid and their cost of attendance.

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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Minnesota Colleges To Increase Online Course Offerings

Nov 21, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Interested in online courses?  You may want to look into attending college in Minnesota.  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and David Olson, the chair of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) board of trustees, announced a plan to make 25% of the university system's courses available online by 2015.  Other state universities, including the University of Minnesota campuses, are strongly encouraged to work towards this goal, as well.

Online courses can benefit students in multiple ways, most notably by saving students living off-campus the cost of commuting and giving them a more flexible schedule so they can more easily juggle work and family commitments in addition to coursework.  Additionally, in the cold Minnesota winters, being able to attend class from the comfort of your home is a definite plus (though still having class on those rare snow days could also be seen as a drawback).  While online learning requires students to be more self-motivated than those in traditional classes, more and more students are finding such courses appealing.

Online degree programs are gaining popularity across the country.  A recent study revealed that over 20 percent of American college students took at least one online course in 2007 and that distance learning enrollment continues to increase.  A number of colleges and universities are interested in increasing their online course offerings, and the MnSCU system hopes to beat them to the punch.

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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Fundraisers Focus on Financial Aid

Nov 20, 2008

by Scholarships.com Staff

Amid news of tightening budgets and declining endowments, several colleges and universities are putting a greater focus on shoring up financial aid programs and helping their students find money for college.  While reports of hiring freezes and halted construction plans has come from numerous institutions, keeping students in school has remained a priority.

This focus on student financial aid is reflected in recent fund raising shifts, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.  Several schools are introducing or ramping up fund raising efforts directed at providing college scholarships and grants for their students.  Among the private colleges increasing fund raising efforts are Cornell University and Barnard CollegeState universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, are also increasing effort to meet students' growing financial needs.

College presidents at multiple institutions are even dipping into their own salaries and savings to help their schools.  A recent news post in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis has taken a voluntary 10% pay cut to help reduce operating costs, and the president of the University of Pennsylvania has donated $100,000 to help fund undergraduate research at her university.

All of this goes to show that despite economic trouble, scholarship opportunities are still out there.  Keep plugging away at your scholarship search and you can still afford a college education.

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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