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by Paulina Mis

GreenNote, a new peer-to-peer lending company has embarked on the business of pairing college students with familiar faces willing to lend them money. Stressing that the company itself is not a lender, GreenNote instead plans to help users obtain student loans from the people they know…officially.

To create a match, GreenNote asks that students contact their family, friends or community to find individuals who are willing to provide them with financial aid. GreenNote’s role in the partnership lies in the paperwork. For a 2% borrower loan fee and a 1% lender management fee, the company sets up a legally binding agreement, complete with tax work, credit bureau reporting and school disbursements. It’s like asking the people you trust for some assistance—with an official contract and interest fees at hand.

As uncomfortable as the concept of formalizing a friend’s aid may sound, it may be a consoling alternative to borrowing from private lenders at bloodcurdling rates. Though more lax than the typical federal or private loan process, GreenNote’s services are similar to those of other lenders.

Borrowers will be paying the standard Federal Stafford Loan 6.8% interest rate, will have the option of deferring payments while in school and will have a six month grace period upon graduating before their first balance is due. Luckily for them, they will not be required to pass a credit check and do not have to worry about the maximum federal loan cutoff. Then again, lenders are likely to know more about them than their credit checks can ever let on.

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by Paulina Mis

The National Center for Education Studies (NCES), the primary federal organization in charge of collecting, analyzing and reporting academic information, released a report on Tuesday detailing the latest statistics on college students. Included were college enrollment trends, graduation rates and information about the financial aid received by students who began college after 1999.

According to the report, a total of 18 million undergraduate and graduate school students were enrolled in a college or university during the fall of 2006. Based on analysis of these students, as well as of those who enrolled in a four-year institution in 2000 or a 2-year institution in 2003, it was found that:

  • 62 percent of college students attended 4-year institutions, 37 percent attended 2-year institutions and 2 percent attended institutions with programs of shorter lengths.

  • About 58 percent of first-time, full-time bachelor degree seekers completed their degree after six years; only 36 percent graduated after four.

  • Approximately 50 percent of full-time students seeking a bachelor’s degree at a private, not-for-profit institution graduated within four years; 29 percent of students at public universities completed school by this time.

  • During the 2005-2006 school year, 75 percent of first-time, full-time degree-seeking students received financial aid in some form (including federal loans)

  • Of those students receiving financial aid, 28 percent received assistance in the form of a federal grant. The average grant totaled $2,923.

  • During the 2005-2006 school year, 46 percent of first-time, full-time students who sought a degree took out student loans; of these, 60 percent attended a 4-year, private, non-for profit university and 44 percent attended a 4-year, public institution.

  • The average public, 4-year institution used about 25 percent of its income for instruction, 12 percent for research and 10 percent for hospitals. Private, 4-year institutions and public, 2-year institutions used about 32 and 39 percent of income respectively for instruction.


 

 

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by Paulina Mis

The House of Representatives plans to vote today on the latest version of the GI Bill, a law aimed at increasing the college financial aid awarded to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Associated Press stated that Congress and the White House have reached an agreement on the bill's provisions, and that approval by the House and the President is expected.

Initially, the members of the House expressed disapproval of a major provision that would pay for not only veteran needs, but also for the war in Iraq. Rather than pass both portions of the bill as was done by the Senate--based on its version--the House ignored the Iraq allocation and agreed to set money aside for veterans pursuing a college education.

When the bill came back to the House for revision, a new agreement was settled upon, and approval of Bush’s request for an additional $162 billion to pay for the wars is expected. As before, the House has agreed to offer veterans who participated in the war for at least three years enough money to cover the costs of tuition at the most expensive college or university in their state, with additional funds to cover living expenses. The value of maximum benefits will more than double the current contribution for each veteran's college education, reported the Associated Press.

Though most agree that some additional funding should be awarded to keep up with the increasing costs of a college education, ones that are rising at rates that outpace inflation, some worry that too much was being allocated for the cause. Conservative Democrats have expressed concern that the bill could not be covered by cutting funding to other sectors, and that the bill was irresponsible considering the nation’s financial circumstances.


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by Paulina Mis

On February 14, 2008, five students were killed in a shooting at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. It was the fourth-worst university shooting in the history of the United States, following the Virginia Tech massacre, the University of Texas Clock Tower shooting, and the California State University massacre. As surprising and mystifying as the crime was, donors from across the country have made one thing clear—the victims will not be forgotten.

To honor those who were killed, scholarship providers large and small have pulled together $500,000 to create a scholarship for students of NIU, and more donations are expected. The new scholarship fund will be called “Forward, Together Forward,” a line from the university's Huskie Fight Song, stated the Associated Press. Nearly 1,500 donors have pitched in to establish the fund—without solicitations.

The university plans to award five scholarships each year, to be granted on the annual anniversary of the shooting. The first scholarships will be awarded on Valentines Day of 2009. According to The Northern Star, Northern University’s student newspaper, winners are expected to receive about $4,000 each and will be selected by a provost-designated scholarship board.

The new scholarship fund will help students significantly decrease the costs of their education, especially now that an increase in NIU tuition has been announced. During the 2008-2009 school year, college rates will increase by about 9.5 percent.Those who receive the scholarships will be able to both meet and exceed the increase. Further details about the award are expected in the coming months.


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by Paulina Mis

Despite an initial House split over some of the bill’s provisions—an incident which nearly doomed approval by the House—an agreement on the veteran college aid bill was reached by both Congress and the President. On June 30, President Bush signed into law the bill which would, among other things, provide veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars additional assistance in affording a college education.

The new law—similar in content to the WWII GI Bill—will call for an increase in the college financial aid  awarded to troops who have served in either war for a minimum of three years. Sufficient assistance to pay for the most expensive public college or university in their respective states will be available to the veterans.  Those who are eligible will also receive a monthly stipend to offset housing costs and other college-related expenditures.

The legislation will more than double the federal funding veterans previously received for a postsecondary education. Even those who are not currently planning for college can benefit as the money may be transferred to a veteran's child or spouse. 

Perhaps the more controversial part of the bill was that which allocated $162 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to ABC News, the new funds would bring the total amount approved for war expenditures to about $850 billion over the last five years. In reference to the bill, President Bush stated that, "Our nation has no greater responsibility than to support our men in women in uniform - especially because we're at war."


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by Paulina Mis

The morose state of the lending industry, recent cuts in federal loan subsidies and a loss of interest in loan securities investing have caused chaos within the student loan market over past months. According to Forbes, Student Loan Corp., a previous division of Citibank, has become the latest victim in the student loan credit crunch, announcing plans to lay off 146 of its 523 employees.

On Wednesday, the company announced that the 146 Student Loan Corp. jobs, plus an additional 28 Citibank N.A positions, would be eliminated sometime in August. The affected employees will be offered counseling, assistance in finding new work, severance packages and, for some, the chance to take advantage of job openings in other parts of the country. Business has been so poor for the company that their stock has dropped by 48% over the past 52 weeks, reported Forbes

Student Loan Corp. is just one of many companies who have been forced to either cut jobs or to exit the student loan industry altogether. Other major lenders who have either stopped or suspended offering certain student loans include Bank of America, NextStudent, Brazos, and American Education Services. Even Sallie Mae, the largest student lender in the business has been struggling to stay afloat, suspending select loan services.


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by Paulina Mis

All entries have been cast, all information verified, and yes, a winner has been chosen. Matt D. of Newport, KY has been randomly selected as latest winner of the Scholarships.com $1,000 Tell A Friend Sweepstakes. By referring his friends to Scholarships.com, Matt was able to secure $1,000 towards a college education.

"Winning the sweepstakes was really exciting! It was the first scholarship I applied for and … I won,” he told us. Once again proving that financial aid is available to those who search, Matt was able to join the growing list of Scholarships.com Success Stories.  By giving them free access to our scholarship search, providing them with valuable college-funding resources and personally sponsoring numerous sweepstakes and scholarships, Scholarships.com has assisted myriad students in affording a postsecondary education.

Every three months a new Scholarships.com user is selected as the Scholarships.com Tell A Friend Sweepstakes winner. Applying couldn’t be easier—no essays and no recommendations required. For the chance to win $1,000, just visit our Tell A Friend Sweepstakes page. You can enter the names and email addresses of up to ten friends, and, if they join the site, you will both be eligible to win $1,000. The more friends you refer, the more entries you’ll receive. Submit now for the chance to win!


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by Paulina Mis

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted nearly $900,000 for work on four issues of The Future of Children , a biannually-released journal about effective policies and programs for children. Since its inception in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted nearly $16.5 billion to provide for the health and education of people living in the US and abroad. In addition to sponsoring numerous education-related initiatives, the foundation created one of the biggest, most lucrative scholarship programs in the country, the Gates Millennium Scholars.

Their latest donation will be used by the Brookings Institute and the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs—co-publishers of The Future of Children —to conduct research, disseminate information, host conferences and pay for additional efforts related to the four issues.  According to a Woodrow Wilson School news release, the proposed journal topics will include Children in Fragile Families, Children and Youth in Immigrant Families, Work and Family Balance and Postsecondary Education.

The Future of Children is aimed at identifying the research and policies that could assist families in raising their income and paying for school. To this end, researches will study the problems affecting individuals between the ages of 16 and 26, as well as those of their children. Their findings will be disseminated at no charge, and, once available, the results will be posted on www.futureofchildren.org. To encourage legislators to concentrate their efforts on bettering the circumstances of America's youth, journal contributors will also host numerous public awareness events.


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by Paulina Mis

According to West Virginia’s The State Journal, a recent poll indicates that Americans are prioritizing the affordability of a college education over other factors. Though criteria such as scholastic quality, distance and diversity were also critical, the cost of a school topped the list as most important.

With college costs continuing to outpace inflation and graduates finishing school with growing debt, families are beginning to realize that attending schools within their means may be more important than attending ones of greater prestige. A recent report from the National Center for Education Studies (NCES) stated that during the 2005-2006 school year, 46 percent of first-time, full-time students who sought a degree took out student loans, a few graduating more than $100,000 in debt.

The Chronicle of  Higher Education Gallop Poll indicated that, though there were conflicting views over whether the government or the public should be responsible for much of the cost, most agreed that colleges should contribute to the solution by spending a larger percentage of their endowment funds.

As the media focuses on problems of national debt, controversy has grown over the use of annually increasing endowment funds acquired through donations to colleges. Though endowment contributors frequently create stipulations about who may or may not receive their scholarship money, the public has pointed to the questionable nature of storing funds and increasing tuition, especially during a time when debt has become a growing problem for students.


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by Paulina Mis

During a conference held by the Department of Education this week, department commissioners, educators and business leaders alike expressed their disappointment with Education Secretary Margaret Spelling’s inability to improve the current state of postsecondary education. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education created by the secretary herself complained that, after three years of work, students were still unsure about which colleges best fit their needs, and employers were still dissatisfied with graduates’ lack of preparation for the workforce.

Furthermore, while steps to alleviate the burden of school expenses have been taken—most prominent of which was perhaps the increase in Pell Grant caps—the rising costs of a college education have made paying for school a struggle. During the 2005-2006 school year, more than 40 percent of first-time college students were forced to take out student loans. These factors, combined with the  declining value of a college degree, have made securing a sufficiently lucrative job difficult for those with debt, especially when searching for positions within the nonprofit sector.  

With only six months left in office, the secretary has little time to apply the suggestions of her peers. Complaining that colleges are not doing enough to prepare students for the business world, previous advertising executive Richard Holland stated, “We just talk about this all the time, and we don’t do anything about it.”  Added Education Department’s senior adviser Vickie Schray, “There’s still a lot that needs to be done.”


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