June 11, 2008
Affording a college education is becoming increasingly difficult, but help is available. Students who demonstrate financial need can look to numerous sources for assistance in paying for tuition and living expenses. Even those who do not demonstrate exceptional merit can qualify. Below is a list of financial aid resources students may be eligible to receive based on financial need. Additional need-based awards may be found by conducting a free college scholarship search.
Federal Grants The Federal Student Aid office oversees programs that comprise the nation’s largest source of student aid. Each year, billions in aid are awarded to college students across the country. The best of these, federal grants, do not have to be repaid. Students can look to federally-run need-based grants such as the Pell and the FSEOG to help pay for college expenses. Grants that are based on both merit and financial need—the SMART and the Academic Competitiveness Grant—are also a good option.
Federal LoansThough less attractive than grants, federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and better, more flexible, repayment options than private loans. This holds particularly true for need-based subsidized Stafford Loans and need-based Perkins Loans. Students interested in taking out a federal loan will first have to submit a FAFSA.
Sallie Mae Scholarships The Sallie Mae Fund is one of the largest sources of non-federal college aid. All awards offered by the organization have a need-based component. Since 2001, the Sallie Mae Fund has given away $12.7 million in scholarships to more than 5,000 college students.
College Scholarships Students may be eligible for need-based aid offered by their college or university. Elite colleges such as Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford have been particularly gracious with their awards—Harvard students whose parents make less than $60,00 do not have to pay for tuition, room and board or expenses—but others are following in their footsteps.
June 13, 2008
Students who enter into loan agreements can be bombarded with unfamiliar terms and overwhelming agreements. The meaning of a student lender is obvious enough--it's the entity in charge of borrowing money--but the role a guaranty agency plays in the student lending process is a bit less obvious. The information below will give you a better idea of how guaranty agencies work, and how their work affects you.
What are guaranty agencies?
Guaranty agencies are state or private non-profit organizations in charge of administrating the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, one that subsidizes participating student lenders. Because lenders who participate in the FFEL program receive subsidies from the government, they must abide by certain rules. (e.g. they cannot charge an interest rate higher than that set each year by the government.) In return, the government agrees to insure them through one of the 35 existing guaranty agencies. If an individual defaults on a student loan, a guaranty agency will pay the student lender most of the remaining loan balance.
How do guaranty agencies affect me?
Students who enter into a loan agreement with an FFEL lender agree to pay their guaranty agency a maximum 1% default fee (also known as a guaranty fee) to cover insurance costs. Guaranty agencies with a sufficiently large reserve may choose to lower or eliminate the student default fee. Some may also reduce fees for students who sign up for direct bank withdrawal or for those who make a certain number of on-time payments.
If a guaranty agency is forced to repay a student lender for a student's loan default, they are also responsible for collecting the outstanding balance. Students who are unable to fulfill their borrowing responsibilities due to certain circumstances may be eligible to have their loans discharged (forgiven).
For additional information about the guaranty agency serving your state, you may contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID or visit the Department of Education website.
June 17, 2008
The government recognizes the dire financial circumstances of numerous undergraduate students, and slowly, steps are being taken to change things for the better. Three new federal grants have been created within the past two years, the maximum Pell Grant award has risen and interest rates on undergraduate Federal Stafford Loans will begin their gradual descent this fall. But…where does that leave graduate school students?
According the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of students seeking master’s and doctoral degrees is expected to rise by 12% between 2006 and 2014, and many of these students will need financial aid. While certain aid does not apply to graduate school students, plenty of assistance is available to those who know where to look. Here are just a few options:
Federal Aid Unfortunately, graduate school students are not eligible to receive federal grants, but federal aid in the form of federal work study and low-rate student loans (Stafford and PLUS) are still an option. And while the recently passed College Cost Reduction and Access Act will not lower loan interest rates for graduate school students, those who borrowed before July 1, 2006 will see a substantial drop in their bill. Variable interest rates on federal loans will decrease from 7.22%to 4.21 % this year.
Scholarships and Grants Numerous scholarships and non-federal grants are not just available to graduate school students, they are restricted to them. Companies and organizations frequently offer aid to graduate school students who display an interest in work that aligns with their goals. After all, these scholars can be the future innovators of their industry. To find scholarships you may be eligible to receive based on your year in school or major of interest, try conducting a free college scholarship search.
Employer Assistance Students who commit to working for a certain employer may be lucky enough to receive full or partial compensation for an additional degree. This is often the case with hospital staff, educators and employees who could help their companies profit through new skills and certifications.
June 26, 2008
On Tuesday, a Senate panel approved a budget that would increase, among other things, the Pell Grant funding for the 2009 school year. Currently, students who demonstrate financial need—as determined by a Department of Education's FAFSA calculation—can receive no more than $4,300 in Pell Grant money, but not all eligible students receive the full sum. For the upcoming year, the Pell Grant cap will be $4,731. If the Senate panel’s budget is approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and by the Senate, students could be eligible for up to $4,800.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Senate panel’s bill would also provide new funding for the TRIO program, a seven-part financial aid initiative created to aid students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those facing circumstances that might hinder their academic pursuits. Additionally, it would provide colleges and universities with more money to pay for the Perkins Loan forgiveness program, one wherein colleges cancel the loans of students who enter select public service fields.
Today, the new initiative will move from the Senate panel to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and, if approved, it will be voted on by the Senate. Any differences between the Senate and House versions will have to be ironed out, and, only then, will President Bush have the option of signing.
June 27, 2008
Kathy L. Hardy, her two daughters and two other associates are being charged for having allegedly taken out numerous fraudulent private student loans since 2005. The five women were accused of having received a combined sum of more than $690,000 by filling out over 70 student loan applications, reported U.S. News.
Though many of the loan applications were denied, a number of lenders, including Sallie Mae, the biggest student lender in the business, lent tens of thousands to the applicants. By using stolen Social Security numbers and the information of victims whose names resembled their own, the five women were able to slip by lender verifications.
The FBI's investigation into the matter began when one of the victims complained that someone had taken out a loan under her name. Upon further investigation, it was found that the women alleged to have been at fault had stolen numerous identities—including one that belong to a deceased person—to collect money.
The case raised concerns that the stealing of identities to obtain private student loans may be too simple. Because private student loans are easier to obtain than Federal Stafford and Perkins Loans, and because private student loans are not sent directly to colleges and universities, the potential for fraud may be considerable.
To minimize the chance that similar problems will arise in the future, a congressional provision that would force student lenders to forward loans directly to schools is being considered. The suggestion has received mixed reviews from lenders who, one hand, would like to eliminate the possibility of fraud, and, on the other, want to facilitate the borrowing process for potential customers.
July 1, 2008
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."
September 4, 2007
When combined with free scholarship and grant opportunities found at
Scholarships.com, government grants can significantly decrease, if not completely
cover, a student’s financial needs. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be repaid;
unlike federal work study and assistantships, there is no labor involved. When students
submit a FAFSA, they are
automatically in the running to receive government need-based grants. The most well-known
of these is the Pell Grant, but lesser-known government grants are also available.
Here is a breakdown of grants students may find on their FAFSA award letters:
The Pell Grant is the largest grant program in the United States, awarding undergraduates with
millions each year. The Pell Grant is the foundation of all government aid. Seeing
as Pell Grant money is free, awesome GPA or not, students should take advantage
of all offers before moving on to Federal Work Study and government loans. Unfortunately,
students don’t always get their fill with Pell Grants. During the 2007-2008 school
year, students may only receive up to $4,310 in aid from Pell Grants, and not all
eligible students receive this much. This may seem like a drop in the bucket for
those who need $12,000 or more each year, but every penny counts.
Students with extreme need may be eligible for the Federal Supplemental Educational
Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Like the Pell Grant, this is a grant for undergraduates.
It is intended to provide additional assistance to the neediest of students, those
with the lowest expected family contributions. Students may receive up to $4,000
each year in FSEOG funding, but awards may be as little as $100 per year. The award
received will depend on the time of application, the level of need, and the rules
at each school’s financial aid office.
This is a new grant introduced during the 2006-2007 school year. Students who felt
their merit-based aid opportunities were thwarted by grades that did not sufficiently
reflect their abilities may receive some compensation. Up to $750 will be awarded
to first-year undergraduates and up to $1,300 for second-year full-time undergraduates
who have completed a difficult high school program. The state or local education
agency is responsible for deciding which schools are deemed rigorous. For information
on high school eligibility based on state, visit the Department of Education. As this is still a need-based grant program at
heart, only students who were deemed needy enough for Pell Grants can receive Academic
Competitiveness Grant money.
The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART
Grant) is awarded to third and fourth-year college students. Students who major
in the physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology, engineering or a foreign
language determined to be essential to national security may be able to supplement
Pell Grants with SMART Grants. Up to $4,000 per year may be awarded to each recipient.
A more detailed list of eligible fields of study may be found here.
In addition to government grants, students may find school grants on their award
letters. These, unlike the government grants, usually take academic achievement
into account. Some may also consider a student’s financial need. To find out more
about institutional grants offered at each college, students should visit their
school website and conduct a scholarship and grant search at
Above is a list of grants students can receive by submitting their FAFSA, but students
don’t need to stop there. Myriad scholarship and grant opportunities are available
to them at Scholarships.com, and they aren’t restricted to undergraduates and those
determined to be needy by government standards. To conduct a free scholarship and
grant search, visit Scholarships.com,
and find money for college.
September 18, 2007
When students unfold their FAFSA award letters, they may find that in addition to loans and grants, they were granted Federal Work Study (FWS) awards. What does work have to do with government assistance? Good point.
Aid in the form of work may not be the ideal award, but students who need significant financial assistance may want to consider working part time. Undergraduate and graduate students may be able to eliminate, or at least decrease, their borrowing needs by conducting a free scholarship search and by accepting Federal Work Study (FWS) positions.
These jobs are administered by colleges and often require cafeteria work, administrative assistance and research help. The work is not always glamorous, and it is often low in pay—think minimum wage. Don’t worry; there are some benefits.
Although FWS income is taxed, students are usually refunded a good chunk of it, and their financial aid eligibility is not hurt in the process. Students who work outside of school may find their future financial aid to be in jeopardy because of earnings. Students who accept FWS positions won’t have to worry about this. Their earnings will not be considered when government aid is determined. This is a great benefit as personal income is counted against students at a much larger rate than is that of parents.
Students who are interested and eligible for Federal Work Study are bound to find a job, and a flexible one at that. And because the jobs are created with students in mind, they tend to offer convenient schedules. The same can’t always be said for stores and restaurants which offer the finest of hours—late nights and weekends. When finals and class schedules changes come into play, flexibility will matter.
Like other FAFSA awards, Federal Work Study money is limited. If an award letter states that a student is eligible for $2,000, they can only work until they reach that point. This may or may not be enough. Eligible students looking for work will have to decide whether FWS jobs or outside positions are right for them. Depending on schedule flexibility, pay rate and interest, one, the other or neither may be the best option.
September 21, 2007
Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is kind of like filling out a super complicated Christmas wish list. You write it, you hand it over and you cross your fingers when the time to open approaches. A lot of times you’re disappointed with the results. Students should never dismiss the prospect of government aid. Even if they are not eligible to receive need-based grants, they will still have unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS Loans options. Receiving award letters with little or no aid options is frustrating, and it’s all because of that stupid Expected Family Contribution (EFC) formula.
How much government aid a student receives is largely dependent on how much the government thinks a family can contribute to the education of their child. This is what is known as the Expected Family Contribution. Based on the income and asset information students provide on their FAFSA, the government determines a student’s EFC number. The number is then sent to the student’s school of choice which subtracts it from their estimated Cost of Attendance (COA). What’s left over is used to determine if a student is eligible to receive federal or nonfederal aid.
The problem with the EFC is that it often overestimates how much a family is really able to contribute to a child’s education. Although factors such as a (dependent) student family size and the number of family members attending college are considered, the expectations can still seem high. According to a 2004 Department of Education report, a family making between $45,000-49,000 per year was expected to contribute $6,000 to their child’s education. One making between $50,000-54,000 was expected to contribute $7,000 and one that made between $95,000-99,000 was expected to contribute $18,900. It is doubtful that the average family can afford to contribute that much after paying all bills. Those with particular need, families with an EFC lower than $4,110, are eligible for free Pell Grant money this year, but only up to $4,310. That is not the average grant aid a student receives.
Recently released government data shows that, based on the average cost of an education at a public college, a family who sends one student to school is expected to contribute about 25% of their median household income. Those families who send their child to a private school are expected to contribute about 57% of their median household income. Even if students receive the maximum Pell Grant award, $4,310, the family may be nowhere near meeting the costs associated with a college education. If students are lucky, the new Congress-approved Pell Grant increase outlined in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act will be signed by President Bush. Based on White House reports, the president is expected to sign the legislation, but some doubts are still present.
Students who have been offered little or no financial assistance from the government can always look to scholarships and grants for financial assistance. Conducting a free scholarship search will allow students to find myriad awards they are eligible to receive. By using Scholarships.com’s resources, students can find the scholarship and financial aid information they need to fund their education.
November 30, 2007
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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